Thursday, August 31, 2006

#9 - The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Any true-blue fan of Jane Austen will enjoy this book. The main characters form a book club that meets once a month to discuss Austen's novels. Fowler craftily ties the book club members' past and present lives to Austen's plots and characterizations.

A quote on the back of the book really sums it up. David Kipen of the San Francisco Chronicle said, " The Jane Austen Book Club amounts to a witty meditation on how the books we choose, choose us too.''

"The Jane Austen Book Club'' is an enjoyable read. Fowler's writing is a modern comparison to Austen in wit and subtle humor. The book also has a lot of extra information for those who haven't read Austen's works -- including book synopses , quotes on her work, and suggested discussion questions for reading groups.

Other books by Karen Joy Fowler are:

Sister Noon
Sarah Canary

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

#8 - Tamsin by Peter Beagle

"Tamsin'' was originally a story-idea pitched to Disney for a movie. The movie never happened, so Peter Beagle wrote a novel instead. I'm glad he did -- this book is excellent! Some stories are just fun to read, and this book belongs in that category.

13-year old Jenny Gluckstein moves from New York to England. She is unhappy about her mother re-marrying. She's unhappy about the move. She's just unhappy about everything and everyone. But teen angst turns to intrigue when she discovers that the farm they live on is haunted.

What led me to buy this book was the cover art -- it really caught my eye in the store. Then I read the back cover. Who can resist a good haunting? I'm glad I bought the book on was an excellent read.

Other books by Peter Beagle include:
The Last Unicorn
A Dance for Emilia
A Fine and Private Place
The Folk of the Air
The Innkeeper's Song
The Unicorn Sonata

Saturday, August 26, 2006

#7 - Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown

I have read all of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown. In fact, most of the books in this series are "keepers'' that will be staying on my bookshelf.

But......I was very disappointed in this book. It just wasn't enjoyable to read.

The light-hearted innocence and fun in prior books of this series was absent in this latest book.

Mary Minor "Harry'' Harristeen is still the main character who sleuths and has adventures with her pet cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and corgi dog Tucker. But this time Brown just interjected too much information that had nothing to do with the mystery plot of the book. Brown seemed to be using the book to voice her political and cultural opinions and interests, and it detracted from the story.

Although it is interesting that Harry is going to start a vinyard on her farm, several chapters delved more into the realm of how to grow grapes and what farming practices to use, rather than furthering the mystery plot. And I realize that Brown is an outspoken proponent of gay and lesbian rights, and is herself a lesbian. But, the sub-plot about two main characters dealing with the possibility of beginning a gay relationship seemed forced, and just didn't interest me.

The light-hearted coziness of this series that I liked so much just isn't in this book. I didn't like it at all. And I've read several other reviews of die-hard Mrs. Murphy fans that have said basically the same thing.

I will happily take this book back to the library.

#6 - Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

If you like Cozy mysteries and have a crafty side, you'll enjoy this book!

Knit One, Kill Two is the first book in a Knitting Mystery series by Maggie Sefton. The main character, Kelly Flynn, returns home to Colorado to handle her aunt's estate. Her aunt was murdered, and Flynn discovers that the person arrested for the crime might not be guilty.

The story is interesting, and the knitting/yarn shop angle is enjoyable. The book also contains a yummy cinnamon roll recipe, and two easy knitting patterns.

I wonder if this book series will inspire knitting pattern books like Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street books? I would definitely buy one!

Other books in the series are:

Needled to Death

A Deadly Yarn

Knit One, Kill Two is an excellent book to curl up with on a fall evening with a cup of steaming hot tea and some chocolate. :) Great cozy mystery!

I look forward to reading the other two books. :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

#5 - Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

"Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor" is the first of nine novels that portray Jane Austen as a sleuth. The novel is written as if Jane is writing a journal about events surrounding the suspicious death of an Earl. Stephanie Barron superbly mimics Austen's style, and also includes wonderful footnotes that give background information on English titles and estates, the culture and etiquette of the time, and information on Austen herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was a bit hesitant to try it at first, having read some lame attempts by other authors at continuing "Pride and Prejudice.'' But, I was pleasantly surprised.

There are a few lines recycled from Austen's works such as "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'' Barron uses well-known quotes sparingly to add a flavor of authenticity to the book, but the story is not bogged down with excessive recycled wit.

After reading this first book in the series, I will definitely be reading the other 8. The other books in the series are:

Jane and the Man of the Cloth
Jane and the Wandering Eye
Jane and the Genius of the Place
Jane and the Stillroom Maid
Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley
Jane and the Lordship's Legacy
Jane and the Barque of Frailty (Coming out in Nov 2006)

More information on the book series can be found at

#4 - The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Neffenegger

I was totally hooked by this book ..... so much so that I couldn't stop reading it until the last page. It's been years since I spent all day reading a book because I couldn't put it down. What an imaginative and interesting story!

The Time Traveler's Wife is a tale about Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic disorder that causes him to travel in time unexpectedly. And Clare is the one that's always left behind, waiting on Henry to come back from his time travels. The development of their relationship is just mesmerizing.

I really enjoyed this book. At first, I was a bit skeptical because the basic premise seemed ridiculous. But, the story just sucked me in and I just couldn't stop reading. It's wonderful to read a book that is a totally fresh approach. This story is totally different from anything I've read before, and that's what kept me engrossed today.

The story switches back and forth from Henry to Clare's perspective. Henry is always worried he will disappear in front of people, and stresses about where he will find himself. Clare meets Henry as a child, and gets to know him as a time traveler that pops in and out of her life, and as her future husband once they actually meet up in "real-time'.

This book is definitely worth reading! I can see why it has 60+ people waiting in line for a copy on PaperBackSwap. When I finished it, I listed it right away.....I will definitely send my copy on so that someone else can enjoy the story like I did! :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

#3 - Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Sometimes when I finish a book, I'm really not sure at first whether I liked it or not. I have to ponder the storyline for awhile before I can make up my mind. Blackbird House was one of those books for me. When I read the last page, I just shut the book, put it down, and all I could say was "wow.'' I'm still trying to figure out if I enjoyed the book, or whether it was merely a written attack on my female sense of empathy.

Blackbird House is essentially a book of short stories centered around people living on a small Cape Cod farm over a period of more than 100 years. The book started out as a short story the author wrote for a magazine, and she expanded the work into a novel. Hoffman's prose and story building are superb -- she is a very talented author. But, this book has such a grim tone. All of the families, especially the women and children, that inhabit this farm house have very unhappy lives, or have seemingly unrealistic bad things happen to them. Life is filled with pain and suffering, that is true. But everyone's life also has moments of happiness, but those aren't brought out in this book.

Most characters appear in only one chapter. A few are lucky enough to get more story time. For me, the characters were introduced and hit adversity...and then their story was over, and the book moved on. It felt disjointed and without any resolution or hope for most of them. There was no resolution....just the anticipation of what horrible things could possibly happen to the next set of characters.

So, I guess my final opinion would be that the writing itself was very good, but the overall story tone was just too depressing for me. I do have to applaud Hoffman for a unique approach to story writing in this novel. I'm just not a big fan of books that leave me feeling depressed. I just felt emotionally drained as I read the last page.

Hoffman has written several other novels, including Practical Magic and Turtle Moon. She's also written several children's books.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

#2 - Cat on a Winning Streak by Lydia Adamson

This book is part of a 21-book series by Lydia Adamson. "A Cat on a Winning Streak'' is the 10th book in the series. Usually, I like to read a series starting from the beginning, but I found this book at the thriftshop and couldn't pass it up!

The main character in the series is Alice Nestleton, a part-time actress and pet sitter. She has two cats of her own, and in this book she gets a visit from a mystery cat. :)

The plot of "Winning Streak'' centers around a murder at an Atlantic City hotel, and the discovery of a very pretty white and black cat that just might be a key to solving the crime.

I enjoyed Adamson's writing style, and the story was entertaining. She doesn't get too bogged down in background details as some authors do....the story line flowed smoothly with just enough back-story on Atlantic City and casinos to make it interesting. It's a short book -- about 220 pages -- so it's perfect for an evening of light reading, curled up with a nice cup of tea. :)

Here's a list of the books in the series:

A Cat in the Manger (1990)
A Cat of a Different Color (1991)
A Cat in Wolf's Clothing (1991)
A Cat in the Wings (1992)
A Cat by Any Other Name (1992)
A Cat with a Fiddle (1993)
A Cat in a Glass House (1993)
A Cat with No Regrets (1994)
A Cat on the Cutting Edge (1994)
A Cat on a Winning Streak (1995)
A Cat in Fine Style (1995)
A Cat in a Chorus Line (1996)
A Cat Under the Mistletoe (1996)
A Cat on a Beach Blanket (1997)
A Cat on Jingle Bell Rock (1997)
A Cat on Stage Left (1998)
A Cat of One's Own (1999)
A Cat with the Blues (2000)
A Cat with No Clue (2001)
A Cat Named Brat (2002)
A Cat on the Bus (2002)


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

#1 - Cat's Eyewitness by Rita Mae Brown

I enjoy Rita Mae Brown's books -- especially the Mrs. Murphy series co-authored with her cat Sneaky Paws.

For those of you not familiar with the Mrs. Murphy series, Brown's main character, Mary Minor Harristeen (Harry for short) solves mysteries with the help of her Corgi dog and her cats. There was also a movie "Murder she Purred'' based on this book series.

When I started this reading challenge, I new the first book I read had to be a Mrs. Murphy mystery! I chose "Cat's Eyewitness'', since it was one of two in the series I hadn't read yet.
I really enjoyed the book! This one was a bit different than the prior books in the series. There was more commentary on politics, religion, and social issues. But it was not over-done. Brown's books always have social commentary from the characters, both human and furry. This time, it seemed more pronounced, and more serious. For me, the serious tone made the characters seem more human and realistic. Over the course of the series, Brown has done a wonderful job developing the main characters. I enjoy this series so much, and look forward to each new book!
The mystery in this book centers around a statue of the Virgin Mary at a local monastary that starts crying tears of blood. A monk is discovered dead near the statue, and the investigation begins!
I finished the book in record time, and went back to the library today to check out "Sour Puss,'' the latest Mrs. Murphy mystery.
If you like "cozy'' murder mystery books and are an animal lover....give this series a try! There are 14 books in the series. Plus, Rita Mae Brown has written other books about a range of subjects. "Outfoxed'' is another book that animal lovers will enjoy.

Brain Candy

Books to the Ceiling,
Books to the Sky,
My pile of books is a mile high
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them!
~Arnold Lobel~

I have decided to challenge myself to start reading more. At one time, I was an avid reader...I was always in the library picking out new novels to peruse. But then I got married, had got busy....and for a few years, I didn't have much time to read.

I still have a busy life, kids, a husband....but I'm going to MAKE time to expand my horizons and exercise my brain.

My challenge to myself is to:

Read at least half an hour every day
Keep track of the books I read with blog entries
Visit the library at least once a week
Start reading more to my 2-year old
Try new authors and new genres
Re-visit some books I enjoyed as a kid
Cut down on the time I spend watching television