Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Cloud Atlas

I have never gotten as many comments about a book I have bought or checked out of the library than Cloud Atlas. I'm not talking about comments on my review of a book, but comments on a post where I said I was planning on reading a book. Now that I've actually read the book, I can see why.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is incredibly strange, totally different, and really wonderful.

Cloud Atlas is six loosely connected stories - the first a journal of a sad sack clerk crossing the Pacific in 1850, then jumping forward in time to a bisexual grifter/composer in post-WWI Belgium, jumping again to a journalist in 70's California, to a hapless vanity publisher in England, to a condemned clone in futuristic Korea, and ending with a man in post-apocalyptic Hawai'i. Then, wonderfully, we begin to go back again, finishing each story, and learning a bit more about what connects these characters.

Some of the stories have a happy ending, some left me teary-eyed. Each was markedly different from the next in tone and setting. Despite the fact that I usually don't like short story collections (which this is not, but it resembles), I loved this book. I highly recommend it.

Buy Cloud Atlas: A Novel on Amazon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Update 5/28

Most Fridays, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

It's Friday! Again! How did that happen?


I bought a couple of things online this week, but only one has arrived so far: The World Is Mine by Lyah B. LeFlore. This is one of the books I'll be judging, with Bookish Blather, for the Nerds Heart YA tournament.

I'm so excited that this is a long weekend for me. Yay! Husband and I have some fun plans for this weekend, including a trip to California Carnivores to buy some new carnivorous plants and massages on Monday.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black is the first book in a new young adult fantasy series.


After her alcoholic mother embarrasses her one last time, Dana Hathaway runs away to Avalon to meet the father she's never met. Avalon is the only city on Earth that exists in both the human world and the magical world of Faerie. Dana's dad is a big deal Fae there and is in the running to be part of the city council. But Dana has no idea that in Avalon, she's not just some teenager - she's a powerful being in her own right, a Faeriewalker, and possibly the key to anyone hoping to gain power in Avalon.

I really loved the world Black has created in this book. Who wouldn't want to visit Avalon? The idea that there is just one place in the world where magic and technology overlap is really quite delicious.

Dana was a bit of difficult character to click with, but I can't fault her for that. She's going through a lot and I think she's doing her best to handle it all. She certainly notices the cute boys, though, even in the middle of a bad situation.

At the end of the book, though, I was just left with such an "oh, that was it?" feeling. The whole book really just felt like the lead up to something else, presumably the next book in the series. This isn't too say that there's no action in the book. A lot happened, actually, but it just didn't seem to go anywhere.

In the end, I'll just say that Glimmerglass was a fun book, but it could have been much more. I look forward to the next book in the series, though and hope that it lives up to the promise of the setting.

Glimmerglass was released yesterday (5/25).

Buy Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 5/25

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Today's teaser is from Glimmerglass by Jenna Black:
I rounded the corner in time to see her pour some Cheerios into a bowl, and had to swallow a laugh. Who knew a Fae ice princess would eat something as mundane as Cheerios for breakfast?
Glimmerglass comes out today. Please stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'll post my review.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Bloodhound

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce is the sequel to Terrier, part of the newest series set in Pierce's fantasy world of Tortall. Like Terrier, Bloodhound is written as the journal of Beka Cooper, now a first-year Dog in the Provost's Guards (basically, a police officer). In this story, she and her partner have been sent from Corus to Port Caynn to try to discover the source of the counterfeit money flooding their city.


Just as I thought after reading the first book, I liked spending time with Beka. She is a sweet person, though maybe a little dense when it comes to matters of the heart. She's not, I think, a terribly complicated person. Beka is happy when her friends are happy, her family is safe, and she is working very, very hard. It shows in her journal - there are a lot of details about her work and a genuine concern for the well being of everyone around her. Luckily for Beka, there's a bit of fun, too, some of it with a handsome gambler who agrees to show her around town.

Younger readers (say, sixth grade and up) and longtime fans of Pierce's (like me) will definitely enjoy Bloodhound. And for those of us who have read the Song of the Lioness quartet, there are some interesting snippets of information that make me very curious about how we get from Beka's world to Alanna's.

Bloodhound is out tomorrow 5/25 in paperback.

Bloodhound: The Legend of Beka Cooper #2 on Amazon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Update 5/21

Most Fridays, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

Sorry for the light posting this week. I have been hit by some sort of a flu bug and have been feeling terrible. I don't know about you, but I actually don't read much when I'm sick. I tend to watch TV or movies or just nap. But when I am reading, I'm reading some great books right now, so I look forward to reviewing them here.

As for what books I've gotten since my last Update:


I was fortunate enough to win Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker, Book 1) by Jenna Black from the Librarything early Reviewers program.

I also picked up a few books at a library book sale last weekend. I got:

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King: I really enjoyed his book Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture.

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman: I've enjoyed her nonfiction books over the years and I even got this one for my mother for Christmas. She enjoyed it, so I thought I'd get a copy for myself.

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer: I thought her House of the Scorpion was really interesting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 5/18

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
The first lines of the book I recently started: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
The day I laid Robert Morgan to rest was remarkable for two reasons. First, even though it was August, the sky overhead was as rough and cold as a January lake; and second, it was the day I started to shrink.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue

As the weather gets warmer, in my house, we start pulling The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue down off the shelf more and more.

Some highlights (adapted from Publisher's description):
  • The 12-page introduction to grilling, "Outdoor Cooking 101," a step-by-step guide to the essentials of grilling using both charcoal and gas grills.
  • A buyers guide, "Equipment and Tools for Outdoor Cooking," where charcoal grills, gas grills, accessories, etc. are rated.
  • Over 450 recipes for all your favorites — steak tips, ribs, and barbecued chicken as well as some that will expand your repertoire.
  • More than 300 step-by-step illustrations that walk you through the basics of food preparation, such as how to cut beef for kebabs, trim beef tenderloin, and grill-roast a turkey.
What I like best about this book are the how-to guides. The recipes are great (the Pork Loin recipes alone are worth the price of the book, in my opinion) but the guides will show you how to cook anything on a grill. Not just burgers and chicken, but veggies, roasting, anything, though the meat directions are the highlight. Anyone who wants to spend their summer cooking outside (and not heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven!) will love The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue.

Buy The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 5/11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From the same book as last week, Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell, now that I'm actually reading it.
I questioned if such an ill as "too much civilization" existed or no? Mr. D'Arnoq told me, "If there is no God west of the Horn, why there's none of your constitution's All men created equal, neither, Mr. Ewing."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits is a book of short stories, half by Robin McKinley (author of The Hero and The Crown, etc) and half by Peter Dickinson (author of Eva). The stories are linked in that they are all about water and about fantastical creatures that live in water. The stories were otherwise, though, not related to one another and were stylistically different. I could tell without even looking, though, which ones were McKinley's, as I think she has a very strong voice (I've mentioned this before, in my review of Sunshine).

Mermaid Song by Peter Dickinson: Great little story about a Puritanical village whose women have been keeping a secret for generations. Sad, but has an ultimately hopeful ending.

The Sea-King's Son by Robin McKinley: A fairy tale about a young woman who falls in love.

Sea Serpent by Peter Dickinson: My least favorite of the stories, as I just didn't quite get what was going on, to be honest.

Water Horse by Robin McKinley: A girl is apprenticed to learn how to be Guardian, one who keeps her island home from being taken back by the water. Reminded me, for some reason, of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books.

Kraken by Peter Dickinson: Loved the dual nature of this story, about young lovers and the mermaid who helps them.

A Pool in the Desert by Robin McKinley: Fans will be pleased to note that this story takes place in Damar, home of Aerin and Harry (although neither of them appear).

Buy Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits on Amazon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Update 5/7

On Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

Just one new book to add to my library this week: Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4) by Jasper Fforde. I haven't read a Fforde novel in a while, so I thought it would be fun to get back into them.


I also visited the library and checked out two books: Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell and Bloodhound: The Legend of Beka Cooper #2 by Tamora Pierce (which comes out in paperback in a few weeks - finally!).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: Happy Hour


Happy Hour by Michele Scott is the story of four women - good friends living and working in Napa County, California, who meet for a monthly Happy Hour to drink wine, eat good food (recipes included!) and share their lives. The group reminded me a bit of my own book club (which is more of a "eat, drink, talk about our husbands club" at times). So I'm not sure what it is that is holding me back from unabashedly loving this novel.

Despite all that happens in these women's lives, the book was a quick read. And that may have been part of the problem, for me. I think Happy Hour may have actually been better as a series of four books, each focused on one of the women. Instead, I don't think we got to know the characters as well as I would have liked and the action felt a little rushed.

Now, this isn't to say that I didn't enjoy reading Happy Hour - I did. But this novel won't stay with me. I think the material is there. It just could have been better.

Buy Happy Hour on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 5/4

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
Today's teaser is from Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell. It is my next book club book, so I just picked it up at the library, but I haven't started reading it yet. Here are the first two sentences:
Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened upon a trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a White man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shoveling & sifting the cindery sand with a teaspoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away.
I love the word kempt - one hears it so rarely, especially to how much we hear in comparison to unkempt.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel

I love medieval murder mysteries. That's not surprising - I've written about several in the past here, including the Dame Frevisse series, the Brother Cadfael series, and mysteries by Ariana Franklin and Sharon Kay Penman. So it is with much happiness and not much surprise that I really enjoyed this new one: A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel: The Second Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon by Mel Starr.


Publisher's Description:
Alan, the beadle of the manor of Bampton, had gone out at dusk to seek those who might violate curfew. When, the following morning, he had not returned home, his young wife Matilda seeks out Master Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff of the manor.

Two days later Alan’s corpse is discovered in the hedge, at the side of the track to St. Andrew’s Chapel. His throat has been torn out, his head half-severed from his body and his face, hands, and forearms lacerated with deep scratches.

Master Hugh, meeting Hubert the coroner at the scene, listens carefully to the coroner’s surmise that a wolf had caused the great wound. And yet ... if so, why is there so little blood?
From the title, you can see that this is the second book in a series. Don't let that put you off - I had no trouble diving into it. Master Hugh was a great character - sincere and intelligent but with a good sense of humor. I liked getting to know him and rooted him on in the hint of a love story that ran as a sub-plot in the book.

After reading this book, I found out that the books publisher is a Christian publisher. If I had know this beforehand, I am fairly certain it would have discouraged me from requesting it. I'm glad I had no idea. For faith-phobes, don't worry: there is no evangelism or overt preaching. Personally, I found that the small amount of religion present in A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel to be more of an acknowledgment of the prominent role the church played in people's lives during this era than anything else.

If you, like me, enjoy medieval mysteries, you will like A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel. I highly recommend it.

Buy A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel: The Second Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon on Amazon.

I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.