Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone Series #4) by Steve Berry

As a child, former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone was told his father died in a submarine disaster in the North Atlantic, but now he wants the full story and asks his ex-boss, Stephanie Nelle, to secure the military files. What he learns stuns him: His father's sub was a secret nuclear vessel lost on a highly classified mission beneath the ice shelves of Antarctica. But Malone isn't the only one after the truth.

Twin sisters Dorothea Lindauer and Christl Falk are fighting for the fortune their mother has promised to whichever of them discovers what really became of their father - who died on the same submarine that Malone's father captained. The sisters know something Malone doesn't: Inspired by strange clues discovered in Charlemagne's tomb, the Nazis explored Antarctica before the Americans, as long ago as 1938. Now Malone discovers that cryptic journals penned in "the language of heaven," inscrutable conundrums posed by an ancient historian, and the ill-fated voyage of his father are all tied to a revelation of immense consequence for all humankind.

In an effort to ensure that this explosive information never rises to the surface, Landford Ramsey, an ambitious navy admiral, has begun a brutal game of treachery, blackmail, and assassination. As Malone embarks on a dangerous quest with the sisters - one that leads them from an ancient German cathedral to a snowy French citadel to the unforgiving ice of Antarctica - he will finally confront the shocking truth of his father's death and the distinct possibility of his own.


This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (13 CDs/16.5 hours).

This was one long audiobook at 16.5 hours! But, it was well worth it, and the reader, Scott Brick, was excellent. He made the time just fly by.

The story was the usual Cotton Malone combination of obscure intellectual material mixed with a generous amount of action in exactly the right amounts. It was nice to be able to revisit a familiar friend in Cotton for another chapter of his life.

This one gets eight stars. It wasn't my favorite Cotton Malone novel, but it was still very, very good. It had an excellent, if intellectual story, and well rounded characters. The situations were a combination of suspense and human weakness mixed with heartbreaking truths. I'd definitely recommend it to any mystery or suspense fan!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆



Library Loot - May 24 - 30th


Here goes this week's Library Loot!



In 2000, Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, Italy, fulfilling a long-held dream. They put their children in Italian schools and settled into a 14th century farmhouse in the green hills of Florence, where they devoted themselves to living la dolce vita while Preston wrote his best-selling suspense novels. All that changes when he discovers that the lovely olive grove in front of their house had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known only as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, joins up with the crack Italian investigative journalist Mario Spezi to solve the case. THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE tells the true story of their search for--and identification of--a likely suspect, and their chilling interview with that man. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation into the murders. Preston has his phone tapped and is interrogated by the police, accused of perjury, planting false evidence and being an accessory to murder--and told to leave the country. Spezi fares worse: he is thrown into Italy's grim Capanne prison, accused of being the Monster of Florence himself. THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE, which reads like one of Preston's thrillers, tells a remarkable and harrowing story involving murder, mutilation, suicide, carnival trials, voyeurism, princes and palaces, body parts sent by post, séances, devil worship and Satanic sects, poisonings and exhumations, Florentine high fashion houses and drunken peasants--and at the center of it, Preston and Spezi, caught in the crossfire of a bizarre prosecutorial vendetta.



"Our lives are so filled with junk from the past-from dried up tubes of glue to old grudges-that it's a wonder we can get up in the morning," exclaims motivator, best-selling author, columnist, and life coach Gail Blanke.

"If you want to grow, you gotta let go," is Blanke's mantra; and that means eliminating all the clutter-physical and emotional-that holds you back, weighs you down, or just makes you feel bad about yourself.

In THROW OUT FIFTY THINGS she takes us through each room of the house-from the attic to the garage-and even to the far reaches of our minds. Through poignant and humorous stories, she inspires us to get rid of the "life plaque" we've allowed to build-up there.


  • Those old regrets? Throw 'em out!
  • That make-up from your "old" look? Toss it!
  • That relationship that depresses you? Dump it!
Once you've hit fifty-you'll be surprised how easy it is to get there-and once you've thrown out that too-tight belt and too-small view of yourself, you'll be ready to step out into the clearing and into the next, and greatest, segment of your life.



The element referred to in the title is the place where natural talent and personal passion converge. The author, a respected speaker on creativity and self-fulfillment, persuasively contends that identifying this sweet spot is not as difficult as it may sound. To prove his point, he tells the stories of creators as disparate as Paul McCartney, Paolo Coelho, and Vidal Sassoon. However, the author doesn't pretend that we can make it alone; he emphasizes the central role that mentors and creative communities can play in nurturing our talents. A refreshingly un-gimmicky approach to a cherished subject.











Gina Barreca is not bitter about the way Sarah Palin played the “Cute Hockey Mom” card, but she wonders why a woman like Hillary Clinton still has to worry about her highlights while deciding whether or not to bail out Wall Street. She’s still confused, years later, about why Anne Bancroft, thirty-six when The Graduate was filmed, was cast as “the older woman.” In It’s Not That I’m Bitter...,Barreca ponders these questions and many others by giving women a hilarious antidote for the toxic “musts” they’ve been fed over the centuries. In essays that mull everything from the horror of chin hairs to why the “glass ceiling” is better described as a thick layer of men, Barreca tells women to stop believing the lies and conquer the world---and she does it with a sharp wit, good shoes and remarkably little eye cream.



Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Deadly Dance by M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin #15)

Agatha Raisin has finally opened her own detective agency. But when it seems like all she's doing is looking for missing cats while being outclassed by her sixty-seven year-old secretary, she wonders if she has finally bitten off more than she can chew? When the wealthy Mrs. Laggat-Brown walks in, claiming that her daughter is receiving death threats, Agatha realizes that this is the chance she's been waiting for. But as she careens through the case, flirting with the chief suspect and alienating her friends, Agatha herself begins to wonder if she will be able to solve this case.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 CDs/5.75 hours).

I just love Agatha's new detective agency setup! She certainly knows how to go all out on something! And all the new characters will be lovely! It was also good to see some old regulars, like Charles and Roy, back too.

I initially quite liked Emma and her subsequent behavior was certainly a surprise.

The Christmas dinner was typical Agatha and absolutely just perfect!! Charles and his assistance were just wonderful too. He really does seem to be there just when Agatha needs him.

This one gets seven stars. While not my favorite Agatha Raisin, the story was a nice introduction to her new agency and hopefully a solid stepping stone to future interesting adventures. Donada Peters did an exceptional job, as always, with the reading.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Builders of the Pacific Coast by Lloyd Kahn

In 2004, Lloyd Kahn discovered a group of unique carpenters along the Pacific Coast of North America. Over a two-year period, he made four trips from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. up the coast, shooting the photos that appear in this book.

To preserve the homeowners' privacy, specific locations are not given, but suffice to say this book focuses on the Pacific Coast north from San Francisco up to and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia, latitudes 37 to 49 degrees.

There's been a vortex of creative carpentry energy in this part of the world over the last 30 years. Many of the builders shown here got started in the countercultural era of the '60s and '70s, and their work has never been shown in books or magazine articles.

As in the author's previous books Shelter and Home Work, there are three featured builders: Lloyd House, master craftsman and designer who has created a series of unique homes on a small island; Bruno Atkey, builder of a number of houses and lodges built of hand-split cedar on "The Wild Coast" (the Pacific Ocean side of Vancouver Island), and SunRay Kelley, barefoot builder tuned into Nature, who has designed and built wildly imaginative structures in Washington, California, and other parts of the country. In addition, there are working homesteads, sculptural buildings of driftwood, homes that are beautiful as well as practical, live-aboard boats, gypsy-type caravans, and examples of stunning architectural design.

The two predominant features of the landscape here are water and wood. Most of these buildings are on or close to the sea. Islands are reached by ferries; it's a marine environment. And, there's an abundance of wood. Trees grow fast and tall in rainy Northwest forests; many of these buildings were constructed entirely from logs off the beach or trees from adjacent land.

You're invited to come along on these trips up and down the coast: going down these roads, riding the ferries, camping on the beaches, meeting these builders, and seeing their unique creations.



Lloyd Kahn, the author, generously provided a copy of this, his newest book, for review. I was really looking forward to it after reading Home Work and I was not disappointed!

What struck me immediately was how different, and yet similar, the Pacific coast feels from my own New England coast. The photos are all so lovely that you almost feel as if you are there, and can smell the sea air.

Every time I thought I'd found my favorite home in the book I turned the page and there was my new favorite! Each of the houses featured had that warm, welcoming feeling to them that no amount of money spent on professional interior decorating can buy. Their homeyness came through in the pictures perfectly.

My favorites from Lloyd House were his caravans, they just had a great feel to them, and the Baird House (pages 28 - 31). I especially liked the openness of the round main room in the Baird House.

SunRay Kelley's Temple (pages 64 - 71) was simply stunning in its beauty and grace. I love the idea of radiant heating in the sand, clay, and straw floor. The idea of a non-concrete floor seems so welcoming.

The Cordwood Cabin on page 207 was absolutely adorable and made me immediately want one! It was, as are most of the homes featured, immediately homey feeling.

I must also mention that the book is printed in the US on recycled paper which, according to the copyright page, saved the following over traditional printing: 14,000 lbs wood, 30 million BTUs of energy, 4,833 lbs greenhouse gasses, 2,654 lbs solid waste, 16,040 gallons water.

This one gets eight stars. It was simply stunningly photographed, as are all the author's books, and when I finished reading I felt like I almost knew these people. One thing that stories of the builders really illustrated was that everyone seemed so at peace and relaxed and joyful about their lives and their homes. You truly felt that all the hard work that went into these structures was worth every moment. The blood, sweat, and tears expended really gives them all a special something that McMansions just can't compete with. I can't wait for another release from the author!

Rating: ★★★★★★



Monday, May 25, 2009

The Blue Pen by Lisa Rusczyk

Parker didn’t expect to find his next great magazine story sleeping off a hangover in the back seat of his car. The homeless woman, Cleo, says she never wakes after dawn, which makes Parker curious. His intuition for finding a unique story is buzzing after meeting Cleo, and he decides to interview her to find out what drove her to live on the streets. Cleo explains how the early death of her first love set the path for her life. She withdraws from the world after he dies, only to re-enter it by going to a strange club called the Beacon. At the underground club, the patrons channel spirits on the improv stage and share psychic readings in the room behind the beaded curtain. While Cleo describes her spiritual awakening, Parker wonders if she actually fell prey to mental illness. Because of a first article Parker wrote about Cleo, another reporter is after the story, blackmailing Parker to give it up. Parker must decide how to keep his story and not let Cleo down in the process.



E-book received from the author for review.

The book was just the right length and really did draw you into the mysteries of the characters. The story was so strange at times that it was almost hypnotizing or trance inducing.

I must say that I didn't really like the characters as people. Parker seemed to be the quintessential ass reporter slime, and I really don't know why he was such a cat hater. I did like Cleo a bit better. She was interesting, but not particularly likable. I just didn't understand the motivations behind her selfish, alcoholic behavior. She just struck me as a "poor little rich girl" whining about "problems" that other people yearn to have.

This one gets six stars. I found in interesting and completely different from anything else I've ever read. The characters, while not likable in the traditional sense, did draw you into their worlds. The book perfectly illustrated a bizarre underground world at The Beacon and introduced the reader to a whole new world. The e-book format was also very easy to read and it was quite enjoyable to be able to read it on my iPod.

Rating: ★★★★★



Mailbox Monday - May 17 - 23


Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page and is where we share all the books we received in the mail over the past week.

I get an absolutely insane number of books for myself, my aunt, and my friends abroad each week, but I'm going to try to give this Mailbox Monday thing a chance for a couple weeks. :)


Parker didn’t expect to find his next great magazine story sleeping off a hangover in the back seat of his car. The homeless woman, Cleo, says she never wakes after dawn, which makes Parker curious. His intuition for finding a unique story is buzzing after meeting Cleo, and he decides to interview her to find out what drove her to live on the streets. Cleo explains how the early death of her first love set the path for her life. She withdraws from the world after he dies, only to re-enter it by going to a strange club called the Beacon. At the underground club, the patrons channel spirits on the improv stage and share psychic readings in the room behind the beaded curtain. While Cleo describes her spiritual awakening, Parker wonders if she actually fell prey to mental illness. Because of a first article Parker wrote about Cleo, another reporter is after the story, blackmailing Parker to give it up. Parker must decide how to keep his story and not let Cleo down in the process.

E-book received from the author for review.



Fred the Mermaid has taken the bait and chosen to date Artur, Prince of the Black Sea, over human marine biologist Thomas. And just in time. The existence of the Undersea Folk is no longer a secret, and someone needs to keep them from floundering in the media spotlight. Fred has all the right skills for that job, but has a hard time when her real father surfaces and tries to overthrow Artur's regime.

From BookMooch for my TBR.












Diana Abu-Jaber’s vibrant, humorous memoir weaves together stories of being raised by a food-obsessed Jordanian father with tales of Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts and goat stew feasts under Bedouin tents in the desert. These sensuously evoked repasts, complete with recipes, in turn illuminate the two cultures of Diana's childhood–American and Jordanian–while helping to paint a loving and complex portrait of her impractical, displaced immigrant father who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children. The Language of Baklava irresistibly invites us to sit down at the table with Diana’s family, sharing unforgettable meals that turn out to be as much about “grace, difference, faith, love” as they are about food.

For a friend abroad.





Sarah Moon tackles life's issues with a sharp wit in her syndicated comic strip, Just Breathe. With both Sarah and her cartoon heroine undergoing fertility treatments, her fiction often reflects her reality. However, she hadn't scripted her husband's infidelity.

In the wake of her shattered marriage, Sarah flees to the coastal town in California where she grew up. There, she revisits her troubling past: an emotionally distant father, the loss of her mother and an unexpected connection with Will Bonner, the high school heartthrob skewered mercilessly in her comics. But he's been through some changes himself. And just as her heart is about to reawaken, Sarah makes a most startling discovery. She's pregnant. With her ex's twins.

The winds of change have led Sarah to this surprising new beginning. All she can do is just close her eyes…and breathe.

For my aunt.



Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

For my aunt.



Rachel has always been a good girl--until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend Darcy throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiancé Dex. Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for Dex. She prays for fate to intervene, but when she makes a choice she discovers that the lines between right and wrong are blurry, endings aren't always neat, and you have to risk all to win true happiness.

Received from GoodReads for a review.










When her last two plays are dismal failures and her relationship with her temperamental mentor falls apart, writer Bree O'Brien abandons Chicago and the regional theater where she hoped to make a name for herself to return home. Opening Flowers on Main promises to bring her a new challenge and a new kind of fulfillment.

But not all is peaceful and serene in Chesapeake Shores, with her estranged mother on the scene and her ex-lover on the warpath. Jake Collins has plenty of reasons to want Bree out of his life, but none of those are a match for the one reason he wants her to stay: he's still in love with her.

Jake might be able to get past that old hurt if he knew Bree was home to stay, but is she? The only way to know for sure is to take a dangerous leap of faith.

For my aunt.



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Library Loot - May 17 - 23


Here goes this week's Library Loot!



As mayor of the broke New England town of Cobb's Landing, Peggy Jean Turner is thrilled with the idea of creating "Colonial Williamsburg in Cobb's Landing." All goes swimmingly, until the town tart turns up dead--and Peggy must risk everything to solve the crime.
















Burton opened her bookstore in Salt Lake City in 1977, dedicated to her passion for books and to making them available in a welcoming, comfortable space. Little did she know what would follow in the next few decades: vicious competition from national chains and the net, censorship under the Patriot Act, strange twists in reading tastes, and even stranger tastes in visiting authors whose lists of demands read like those of rabid rock stars. With each chapter she includes innovative book lists, such as a list of "psychology and self-help books paired with fiction dealing with like concerns." Although written with an eye to those in the book selling business, Burton also keeps in mind the reason why any books are sold at all: readers with money in hand who are as passionate as she about books.



Friday, May 22, 2009

My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath

Adventures. Jane is twelve years old and she is ready for them. She yearns to move beyond the world of her younger siblings and single mother and their cozy house by the sea and to step into the "know-not-what" - the place where your heart buzzes with excitement and things happen.

And over the summer, whether she loos for them or not, adventures keep finding Jane. There's the thrilling solo ride in a hijacked hot-air balloon, the out-of-the-blue appearance of a slew of possible fathers, a weird new friendship with Nellie Phipps, preacher and wannabe psychic, the accidental crime Jane may have committed involving a Bible and a baby named Gourd, and finally, her discovery of the truth that lies at the heart of all great adventures: that it's not what happens to you that matters, but what you learn about yourself.

National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner Polly Horvath has written her richest, most spirited book yet, filled iwth characters that readers will love and never forget.



This seemed to be rather literary for a children's book aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. Maybe pre-teens have excellent vocabularies a la Clueless, but it still felt off to me. Sort of how the edited for television version of an R rated movie just isn't the same.

There was also an unnecessary religious tone to the book, with constant talk of God, church, and Hell. It was rather disconcerting to find in a children's book. The incessant talk of prayers and greed and sin were just uncalled for in what I thought was supposed to be a light children's book about adventures.

I did find one good passage in the entire book, which came in the first chapter:

"The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don't, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper."

This one gets five stars. I certainly did not find the book "...filled with characters that readers will love and never forget.". I actually did not really like the characters and forgot about them almost as I was reading about them. They were totally forgettable and boring! This was one of those books that I kept reading even though it wasn't even that good and I didn't even particularly like it. I kept wondering if I should just five up on it, but decided that since I'd made it so far and it was a fast read that I may as well suck it up and finish it. I was not impressed at all with the book in general and I will certainly not be reading any of the authors other books in the future. I really cannot recommend this to anyone.

Rating: ★★★★★



Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Truth about the Drug Companies by Marcia Angell, M.D.

During her two decades at The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell had a front-row seat on the appalling spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies stray from their original mission of discovering and manufacturing useful drugs and instead become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes. She saw them gain nearly limitless influence over medical research, education, and how doctors do their jobs. She sympathized as the American public, particularly the elderly, struggled and increasingly failed to meet spiraling prescription drug prices. Now, in this bold, hard-hitting new book, Dr. Angell exposes the shocking truth of what the pharmaceutical industry has become–and argues for essential, long-overdue change.

Currently Americans spend a staggering $200 billion each year on prescription drugs. As Dr. Angell powerfully demonstrates, claims that high drug prices are necessary to fund research and development are unfounded: The truth is that drug companies funnel the bulk of their resources into the marketing of products of dubious benefit. Meanwhile, as profits soar, the companies brazenly use their wealth and power to push their agenda through Congress, the FDA, and academic medical centers.

Zeroing in on hugely successful drugs like AZT (the first drug to treat HIV/AIDS), Taxol (the best-selling cancer drug in history), and the blockbuster allergy drug Claritin, Dr. Angell demonstrates exactly how new products are brought to market. Drug companies, she shows, routinely rely on publicly funded institutions for their basic research; they rig clinical trials to make their products look better than they are; and they use their legions of lawyers to stretch out government-granted exclusive marketing rights for years. They also flood the market with copycat drugs that cost a lot more than the drugs they mimic but are no more effective.

The American pharmaceutical industry needs to be saved, mainly from itself, and Dr. Angell proposes a program of vital reforms, which includes restoring impartiality to clinical research and severing the ties between drug companies and medical education. Written with fierce passion and substantiated with in-depth research, The Truth About the Drug Companies is a searing indictment of an industry that has spun out of control.



I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed by this. It left me feeling vaguely like I'd heard it all before, which I have, really. There was no real, startling new information that one couldn't find out from Sicko. It was a comprehensive, academic discussion of the situation and what could be done to fix it.

I felt almost completely neutral about the book. I wasn't in any rush to finish it, but it wasn't bad enough to turn off either.

This one gets five stars. It was really mostly common sense and a more academic version of what the news already tells us about the broken FDA system and thieving drug companies. Kate Reading did a wonderful job with the reading. She is just so intellectual sounding!

Rating: ★★★★★



Monday, May 18, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M.C. Beaton

Gloomy skies, torrential rains, and the feeling of familiar boredom setting in are not the only things that greet Agatha Raisin upon her return from London. Her handsome new neighbor Paul Chatterton, who has heard about her reputation as the Cotswold village sleuth, shows up on her doorstep asking for help: the police have so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to solve the case of the elderly Mrs. Witherspoon who is hearing whispers and footsteps inside her house. Is it really just a desperate ploy for attention as her neighbors claim, or is someone trying to make her believe the house is haunted? Agatha and Paul believe that someone is up to something. When Mrs. Witherspoon is suddenly found dead - under suspicious circumstances - adventure-prone Agatha finds herself involved in yet another puzzling murder mystery.



I love that Agatha was disgruntled with the tiny portions at the French restaurant and complained about the French, and when Paul was shocked, she said that the French were the only ones you could insult these days because they don't care what anyone thinks. That certainly sounds like them!

Paul felt vaguely off to me. There was something just not quite perfect to me. Roy and Charles are so well-developed, but Paul just felt off. Perhaps it is because I've known the others for so long and Paul was new. Although, this didn't happen with John Armitage. Maybe it was more that I didn't really like Paul.

It was nice to see Charles again, but I swear his situation has changed dramatically since the end of the last book. I'd thought that it was all resolved and the paperwork completed because of an incriminating telephone call recording. Very odd.

This one gets seven stars. It was a nice story, but I definitely do not like Paul, or Juanita for that matter. Charles was a nice addition, even with his confusing situation. The culprit was either quite obvious, or I"m getting better at figuring out who it is! And Agatha's decision at the end of the book will certainly open up all sorts of new adventures! Donada Peters did a lovely job with the reading, as always.

Rating: ★★★★★



Mailbox Monday - May 10 - 16th


Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page and is where we share all the books we received in the mail over the past week.

I get an absolutely insane number of books for myself, my aunt, and my friends abroad each week, but I'm going to try to give this Mailbox Monday thing a chance for a couple weeks. :)


Young Galen Wayloc is the last watchman of the Dream Gate, beyond which the ancient evils wait, hungry for the human world. But the warning bell has sounded in the dream world, unheeded. Now, the minions of Darkness have stirred in the deep and the long watch is over.

An army of mythic monsters has invaded our world. To join the battle with universal darkness, the forces of light have gathered in Castle Everness, which must stand, or all is lost.

For a friend abroad.







Connor is sure his best friend, Branwell, couldn't have hurt Branwell's baby half sister, Nikki. But Nikki lies in a coma, and Branwell is in a juvenile behavioral center, suspected of a horrible crime and unable to utter the words to tell what really happened.

Connor is the only one who might be able to break through Branwell's wall of silence. But how can he prove Branwell didn't commit the unspeakable act of which he's accused - when Branwell can't speak for himself?

For a friend abroad.






For over a century, the people of Clam Island, Washington, have enjoyed barbecues and baseball games and Summerland, on the Western tip of the island, where it never rains. The small beings -- known as ferishers -- who ensure this perfect weather, however, are threatened by an ancient enemy, and need a hero -- a baseball star, in fact -- to vanquish their foe. Summerland is the story of Ethan Feld, the worst ball player in the history of the game, recruited by a hundred-year-old scout called Ringfinger Brown, himself a Negro League Legend. Accompanied by his determined friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, and guided by a friendly werefox, Ethan struggles to defeat giants, bat-winged goblins, and one of the toughest ballclubs in the realms of magic, to save all the Summerlands, and ultimately the world.

For a friend abroad.



In 2004, Lloyd Kahn discovered a group of unique carpenters along the Pacific Coast of North America. Over a two-year period, he made four trips north from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, up the coast, shooting the photos that appear in this book." "To preserve homeowners' privacy, specific locations are not given, but suffice to say this book focuses on the Pacific Coast north from San Francisco up to and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia, latitudes 37 to 49 degrees." There's been a vortex of creative carpentry energy in this part of the world over the last 30 years. Many of the builders shown here got started in the countercultural era of the '60s and '70s, and their work has never been shown in books or magazine articles.

Received from the author for review.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Houses by Mail by Katherine Cole Stevenson

Americans have ordered from Sears, Roebuck just about everything they have needed for their homes for 100 years - but from 1908 to 1940, some 100,000 people also purchased their houses from this mail-order wizard. Sears ready-to-assemble houses were ordered by mail and shipped by rail wherever a boxcar or two could pull in to unload the meticulously precut lumber and all the materials needed to build an exceptionally sturdy and well-designed house. From Philadelphia, Pa., to Coldwater, Kans., and Cowley, Wyo., Sears put its guarantee on quality bungalows, colonials and Cape Cods, all with the latest modern conveniences - such as indoor plumbing.

Houses by Mail tells the story of these precut houses and provides for the first time an incomparable guide to identifying Sears houses across the country. Arranged for easy identification in 15 sections by roof type, the book features nearly 450 house models with more than 800 illustrations, including drawings of the houses and floor plans.

Because the Sears houses were built to last, thousands remain today to be discovered and restored. Houses by Mail shows how to return them to their original charm while it documents a highly successful business enterprise that embodied the spirit and domestic design of its time.



The introductory text was extremely dry, like a poorly made scone, reminding one of a college textbook. The book itself is physically unwieldy and rather difficult to hold while reading - partly due to the heft from its 365 pages.

While looking through the houses it was a bit surprising to see that bathrooms were not included in some of the houses as late as 1918 and 1919! I guess outhouses were still in use then. Very odd to build a new house but not put in a bathroom! It was amusing to see that what was considered essential then is no longer acceptable for most average homeowners now.

It is a amazing how much floorplans have changed, yet still stayed the same in many ways. I think the most surprising discovery for me was the sample kitchen illustrations! They were so empty with no refrigerators or other appliances except stoves! And they were quite open and roomy, but had virtually no countertops! It's amazing how the wives who lived in these homes cooked dinner parties! No Martha Stewart kitchens there!

This one gets six stars. It was obviously meant to be a manual and as such, was quite dry. The information presented, such as illustrations and floorplans of the homes were very interesting. It was also quite interesting to see that several of the homes featured were built in areas fairly near me. It makes me want to go track them down!

Rating: ★★★★★



Library Loot - May 10 - 16th


I saw this feature on another blog and found it really cool so I figured I'd give it a try. Although, to keep up with all my library books is a chore! Most of them I don't read all the way through, but they're fun to skim, nonetheless.

So here goes this week's Library Loot!

Americans have ordered from Sears, Roebuck just about everything they have needed for their homes for 100 years - but from 1908 to 1940, some 100,000 people also purchased their houses from this mail-order wizard. Sears ready-to-assemble houses were ordered by mail and shipped by rail wherever a boxcar or two could pull in to unload the meticulously precut lumber and all the materials needed to build an exceptionally sturdy and well-designed house. From Philadelphia, Pa., to Coldwater, Kans., and Cowley, Wyo., Sears put its guarantee on quality bungalows, colonials and Cape Cods, all with the latest modern conveniences - such as indoor plumbing.

Houses by Mail tells the story of these precut houses and provides for the first time an incomperable guide to identifying Sears houses across the country. Arranged for easy identification in 15 sections by roof type, the book features nearly 450 house models with more than 800 illustrations, including drawings of the houses and floor plans.

Because the Sears houses were built to last, thousands remain today to be discovered and restored. Houses by Mail shows how to return them to their original charm while it documents a highly successful business enterprise that embodied the spirit and domestic design of its time.


Everyone dreams of having a cabin in the woods-a wood-hewn structure with all (or, at least, many of) the amenities of home tucked away on a mountaintop with an awe-inspiring view, or nestled on the shore of a trout-filled stream or bass-laden lake. Most people also believe that such a dream house is just that-the stuff of dreams, not affordable, not buildable without hiring a construction crew.Author J. Wayne Fears is here to tell you that such a dream cabin can be yours-at a price that won't break the bank. And he knows, because he has done it himself. In this, a guidebook to make dreams become reality, Fears covers-in words, photos, diagrams, and blueprints-all the important points, from buying the land, to planning your structure, to actually doing it-either on your own, or with some help. With special chapters on keeping your cabin clean and pest-free, as well as with valuable information on maintenance and repair, this book is one that every cabin owner - or potential owner - will keep as a reference for years to come.





During her two decades at The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell had a front-row seat on the appalling spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies stray from their original mission of discovering and manufacturing useful drugs and instead become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes. She saw them gain nearly limitless influence over medical research, education, and how doctors do their jobs. She sympathized as the American public, particularly the elderly, struggled and increasingly failed to meet spiraling prescription drug prices. Now, in this bold, hard-hitting new book, Dr. Angell exposes the shocking truth of what the pharmaceutical industry has become–and argues for essential, long-overdue change.

Currently Americans spend a staggering $200 billion each year on prescription drugs. As Dr. Angell powerfully demonstrates, claims that high drug prices are necessary to fund research and development are unfounded: The truth is that drug companies funnel the bulk of their resources into the marketing of products of dubious benefit. Meanwhile, as profits soar, the companies brazenly use their wealth and power to push their agenda through Congress, the FDA, and academic medical centers.

Zeroing in on hugely successful drugs like AZT (the first drug to treat HIV/AIDS), Taxol (the best-selling cancer drug in history), and the blockbuster allergy drug Claritin, Dr. Angell demonstrates exactly how new products are brought to market. Drug companies, she shows, routinely rely on publicly funded institutions for their basic research; they rig clinical trials to make theirproducts look better than they are; and they use their legions of lawyers to stretch out government-granted exclusive marketing rights for years. They also flood the market with copycat drugs that cost a lot more than the drugs they mimic but are no more effective.

The American pharmaceutical industry needs to be saved, mainly from itself, and Dr. Angell proposes a program of vital reforms, which includes restoring impartiality to clinical research and severing the ties between drug companies and medical education. Written with fierce passion and substantiated with in-depth research, The Truth About the Drug Companies is a searing indictment of an industry that has spun out of control.
Homing Instinct

"This is the only book to show you how to approach the design and construction of a home that's affordable, durable, environmentally sound, well-sited, beautiful, and, above all, specifically tailored to your needs."—Michael J. Crosbie, Senior Editor, Architecture magazine (from the Foreword).

A uniquely personal, state-of-the-art guide to designing and building a home, Homing Instinct considers not only the roof, but the sky ... not only the placement of plumbing, but where the first light of dawn will enter the building ... not just ease of maintenance, but your home's impact on the planet.

Written by leading architect John Connell, founder of Yestermorrow Design/Build School, this richly detailed, forward-thinking book can help you create a house that perfectly expresses who you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The only book available that expertly combines both design and construction how-tos, Homing Instinct helps you: See how things really work, from foundation and framing, to plumbing and electricity, to selecting the right materials and products; Understand the latest construction options; Resolve questions of cost, durability, design, intent, and self-expression; Master architectural fundamentals and effective building techniques.
In the tradition of Rizzoli’s Historic Houses of the Hudson Valley and The Houses of McKim, Mead & White, Great Houses of New England features a stunning array of newly photographed houses that range over four centuries and are distinctive examples of the architecture of the region—from the mid-seventeenth-century New England Colonial Judge Corwin House (Witches House) in Salem, MA., and the eighteenth-century Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, MA., to the late-nineteenth-century McKim, Mead & White Shingle-Style Isaac Bell House in Newport, R.I. With lavish photography of sumptuously appointed interiors including many rarely seen rooms, wonderfully detailed house exteriors and gardens, and authoritative text by architectural historian Roderic H. Blackburn, Great Houses of New England comprehensively considers the magnificent building styles of the region—including Early New England Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, and Tudor. Great Houses of New England is a landmark work of enduring interest to homeowners, architects, architecture historians, and all those who love fine architecture and interiors.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp

Because looking great is critical to every woman's personal and financial survival, Charla Krupp offers a comprehensive plan to keep you in the game. Acclaimed by the press, her runaway bestseller has already help hundreds of thousands of women. Now updated with new product and salon recommendations, as well as lists of go-to experts, her book, more than ever, teaches you how to look younger and hipper - and still appropriate. Discover:

  • 10 things you can do in the next 10 minutes to take off 10 years
  • What's too young, what's too old, what's just right
  • When you should (and shouldn't) spend the big bucks
  • The top 25 clothes that just gotta go
  • High-, medium-, and low-price options
  • "Brilliant Buys" - shopping lists of products that really deliver
... and advice from Charla's A-list of hair pros, makeup artists, designers, dermatologists, cosmetic dentists, and personal shoppers.


I was not particularly impressed by this. The majority of the tips are common sense, really. There is no real new information. That said, the information is presented well and the tips are grouped into self-explanatory sections.

Although this proposes to be for all women, it is definitely written by a WASP for other WASPs, which is actually quite odd, considering that they probably already know it all. The author obviously has no clue about life outside upper middle class New York.

This one get six stars for at least organizing all the information in a single volume. It may be helpful to some people, but most of the fixes are moderately to extremely expensive (at least $50).

Rating: ★★★★★



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M.C. Beaton

The delightfully cranky amateur detective Agatha Raisin returns in this mystery about a murdered curate. When Agatha Raisin's ex-husband James abandons her and she is humiliated by an unseemly proposition from her handsome neighbor John Armitage, she gives up on make-up and takes to waring the loose cotton dresses and flat sensible shoes that she has always abhorred. But then along comes Tristan Delon, Carsley's blue-eyed, blonde-haired new curate, beloved of the lady parishioners. And to Agatha's surprise, he even seems to take a special interest in her. But despite his many charms, there's something odd about the curate. When he turns up dead in the vicar's study, Agatha and John must join forces to investigate. Move over, Miss Marple.



This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 CDs/5.75 hours).

For once I finally figured out who the culprit was before the book told me. It was rather obvious though, so perhaps my deductive skills aren't due that much credit!

John was a nice addition to the story and I will miss him if he does not return. He and Agatha seemed to make a rather good team, even if John's overactive tongue got them into an interesting situation! And even though I thoroughly dislike James I would like to find out what has happened to him!

And poor Bill with his lady troubles! If only Agatha were a bit younger, or Bill a bit older. Hmm. :)

And Tristan was a thoroughly disagreeable fellow. Really, he had no shame whatsoever with his behavior!

This one gets seven stars. I did enjoy it quite a bit, but I felt there was something lacking. I quite enjoyed John Armitage, and Bill's latest girl troubles, as well as Mrs. Bloxby's usual calm self. Donada Peters did a lovely job, as always, with the reading.

Rating: ★★★★★



Sunday, May 10, 2009

Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston

Bizarre illnesses and plagues that kill people in the most unspeakable ways. Obsessive and inspired efforts by scientists to solve mysteries and save lives. From The Hot Zone to The Demon in the Freezer and beyond, Richard Preston's best selling works have mesmerized readers everywhere by showing them strange worlds of nature they never dreamed of.

Panic in Level 4 is a grand tour through the eerie and unforgettable universe of Richard Preston, filled with incredible characters and mysteries that refuse to leave one's mind. Here are dramatic true stories from this acclaimed and award-winning author, including:

  • The phenomenon of "self-cannibals", who suffer from a rare genetic condition caused by one wrong letter in their DNA that forces them to compulsively chew their own flesh - and why everyone may have a touch of this disease.
  • The search for the unknown host of Ebola virus, an organism hidden somewhere in African rain forests, where the disease finds its way into the human species, causing outbreaks of unparalleled horror.
  • The brilliant Russian brothers - "one mathematician divided between two bodies" - who built a supercomputer in their apartment from mail-order parts in an attempt to find hidden order in the number pi .
In fascinating, intimate, and exhilarating detail, Richard Preston portrays the frightening forces and constructive discoveries that are currently roiling and reordering our world, once again proving himself a master of the nonfiction narrative and, as noted in The Washington Post, "a science writer with an uncommon gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners".


This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (7 CDs/7.75 hours).

In The Mountains of Pi story I kept thinking that the brother's apartment sounded like a giant fire hazard with all those wires and exposed PC contents. And just thinking out renting the supercomputer for $750 an hour made my skin crawl. All that wasted money just to beat the Japanese and get multiple billions of pi digits seemed indicative of our world today. Just think what all that money would do if spent on medicines for people who can't afford them, or spend $750 at Heifer International! The waste of our culture is just obscene!

The Search for Ebola section certainly turned off any slight amount of desire I had to visit Africa!! It also really angered me to hear about all these poor people infected with Ebola who were forced to hemorrhage and slowly and painfully die (in horrible conditions, no less) when the medical staff knew that there was nothing they could do for them. It really made me wonder why the medical staff didn't take any sort of mercy on these people and euthanize them? Why should they have to suffer like that? It's just unconscionable and sadistic to do that to any living thing.

The section about the self-cannibals was quite moving and you really felt for the men interviewed, but I felt as if it didn't really fit with the "Edge of Science" theme. Yes, it's a horrible, horrible disease, but it's a genetic disease, which nothing particularly new. I really wish the author had interviewed the parents who had more than one child with this disease. I'd like to hear their reasoning on why they had more children after learning that they were carriers of the genes. Did they enjoy playing Russian Roulette with their children's lives?

In the Human Kabbalah I immediately intensely disliked Craig Ventor and found myself wishing he'd fail. What a vulture! The companies making money off the Human Genome Project just make me sick. This is yet another example of how sick our nation, and world, has become. I was quite pleased to hear that his company tanked, the stock bottomed out, and he was fired. That's karma for you.

This one gets six stars. It was okay, but rather dry in spots. James Lurie was quite good as the reader though. This was certainly not something you would want to read while eating! It was also rather slow moving at points. I kept thinking that they should pick up the pace and leave out most of the background information that rather seemed like filler. I also didn't quite get how The Mountains of Pi or A Death in the Forest stories were actually about "the Edge of Science". The Pi thing was more of a giant waste of time and money than anything, and the Forest story was rather more of an ecology lesson.

Rating: ★★★★★



Friday, May 8, 2009

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America by Christopher Hitchens

In this unique biography of Thomas Jefferson, leading journalist and social critic Christopher Hitchens offers a startlingly new and provocative interpretation of our Founding Father. Situating Jefferson within the context of America's evolution and tracing his legacy over the past two hundred years, Hitchens brings the character of Jefferson to life as a man of his time and also as a symbolic figure beyond it.

Conflicted by power, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and acted as Minister to France yet yearned for a quieter career in the Virginia legislature. Predicting that slavery would shape the future of America's development, this professed proponent of emancipation elided the issue in the Declaration and continued to own human property. An eloquent writer, he was an awkward public speaker; a reluctant candidate, he left an indelible presidential legacy.

Jefferson's statesmanship enabled him to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase with France, doubling the size of the nation, and he authorized the Lewis and Clark expedition, opening up the American frontier for exploration and settlement. Hitchens also analyzes Jefferson's handling of the Barbary War, a lesser-known chapter of his political career, when his attempt to end the kidnapping and bribery of Americans by the Barbary states, and the subsequent war with Tripoli, led to the building of a U.S. navy and the fortification of America's reputation regarding national defense.

In the background of this sophisticated analysis is a large historical drama: the fledgling nation's struggle for independence, formed in the crucible of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and, in its shadow, the deformation of that struggle in the excesses of the French Revolution. This artful portrait of a formative figure and a turbulent era poses a challenge to anyone interested in American history - or in the ambiguities of human nature.



The author bio describes him as "one of the most controversial and compelling voices in Anglo-American journalism..." I should have known right there what sort of book this was going to be! The intellectual superiority fairly screamed at me from the dust jacket!!

There was an interesting quote from Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" stating that "American agricultural inferiority resulted from our having such quantities of land to waste as we please. In Europe the object is to make the most of their land, labor being abundant; here it is to make the most of our labor, land being abundant." I guess not much has really changed in the past two hundred years. The short-sightedness of short-term agricultural profits still rules, unfortunately.

This one gets six stars. The reader really needs to be wide awake while tackling this one as is can be rather snooze inducing - somewhat like reading a textbook. Thankfully it was a reasonably slim volume. The rants on slavery were annoying, and complete overkill. The book
was mostly enjoyable and informative, but I couldn't really recommend it as there simply must be better biographies of Jefferson out there.

★★★★★



Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came by M.C. Beaton

M.C. Beaton's indomitable heroine, Agatha Raisin, is feeling miserable and rejected by the world. She has recently lost her husband, not to another woman, but to God. At this very moment James Lacey is in France, training to take holy orders at a monastery. To escape the dreariness of her Cotswold cottage, Agatha takes a plane to a remote island in the South Pacific. There she observes a couple - a bearded man and a blond girl - but senses something is wrong, and the girl later turns up drowned. Upon returning home, Agatha comes upon another strange drowning of a pretty young blonde. The police say suicide, but Agatha suspects murder. With the help of her handsome new neighbor, she sets out to prove the police wrong.



This was the unabridged audiobook on cassette edition (4 cassettes/5.5 hours).

Charles's new situation was quite surprising and totally out of the blue! I did quite like the resolution to it though - typical Charles!!

Kylie didn't seem to be a particular loss to the gene pool. She certainly was a nasty little thing. I did find the culprit to be a bit more obvious than I wold have liked. Perhaps I've seen too much Dexter. In any case, it was quite interesting as there were so many potential suspects!

John Armitage was a lovely addition to the cast and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more of him. He's infinitely better than James, but who wouldn't be, really.

It was also rather nice to see Roy again. He is tolerable in small doses, and his ever changing hair and wardrobe are certainly amusing!

I think Agatha is affecting my language! I found myself muttering "stupid cow" at some woman who cut me off the other day. While it is an improvement over what I probably would have said, it still wasn't exactly nice! :)

This one gets seven stars. It was a good, solid read. It was nice to have Charles around, if briefly, and to see a bit of Roy as well. And it was so nice to finally (I hope!) be rid of James. John was a lovely addition. Donada Peters did a lovely job with the reading, as always.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

The Power of Less is a blueprint for taking our lives back from the clutter, noise, and unnecessary work that fills a modern day. Leo Babauta offers simple, concise steps for increased productivity and efficiency while teaching the art of working simply.

From streamlining your e-mail to managing your daily tasks to developing specific steps to achieve your goals, The Power of Less is the user manual to the work life you deserve.

In the tradition of The 4-Hour Workweek, Babauta's lessons enable you to do less, be more effective, get more done, and simplify your life.



This was a nice little book. It was full of great information, and presented in an easy to digest format.

The author advocates single-tasking instead of multi-tasking for maximum impact, which completely makes sense if one thinks about it and tries it.

This one gets eight stars. It had a great, easy flow to it, making it super easy to read. The pages were clean, with no extraneous information to interrupt the flow, adding to the reading pleasure. The book itself was just the perfect sized hardcover to read without it being too cumbersome. The author did an excellent job presenting the information in a clean, concise format. The information itself was helpful and easy to implement.

Rating: ★★★★★★



Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Moses Code by James F. Twyman

Is it possible that nearly 3,500 years ago, Moses was given the secret for attracting everything you've ever desired? The Moses Code was first used to create some of the greatest miracles in history, but then it was hidden away, and only the highest initiates were allowed to invoke it. In this book, James Twyman reveals the Code for the first time, showing how it can be used to change your life ... and even the world. But utilizing the techniques presented within these pages, you'll discover how to integrate the most powerful manifestation tool in the history of the world into your own life.

At the very heart of the Moses Code is the true function and practice of the Law of Attraction. You may have been told that this Law is all about "getting" the things you want - things that you think will make your life more satisfying. But what if that's just the first step, and cracking the Moses Code depends more on what you're willing to "give" rather than "get"? If would mean that you already have everything you've ever wished for right now! It would also indicate that you have the ability, even the responsibility, to use that Divine Energy for more than just attracting money, a better car, or the perfect relationship. You're here to harness the power of Divinity itself to create a world based on the laws of compassion and peace. That's the task that lies before you.

Welcome to the Moses Code!



I almost didn't make it past page 15, where the book falsely claimed that it was Israelite slaves who built Egypt's cities. Um, hello! Really, do a little freaking research in actual scientific and archaeological texts before writing crap like that and perpetuating deliberate lies! And, for anyone reading this who doesn't know already, Egyptian citizens built the temples, etc. Read one of Zahi Hawass's books, it will cure you of all the propaganda images perpetuated by Hollywood of pyramid building slaves being whipped by cruel overseers. Seriously, this entire section irritated me enough that I actually wrote to the publisher to complain about the lack of research. It was that offensive.

There was one section that I did resonate with: "Do you remember the story of the astronauts who first saw our planet from outer space? Their perspective of the world changed when they gazed upon it, seeing past the boundaries and divisions that rule our lives. Borders that separate countries mean very little to one who views Earth in its entirety..."

I would really love to see the author interviewed by Bill Maher. That would certainly be highly amusing!

This one gets five stars, it would have gotten six but for the nasty slave propaganda. The author seems to be quite bent on promoting his other books and products, as well as those of his friends, through this book. It seems like his intent was to write this and then when readers say that the process doesn't work, to say that they really need to buy products X, Y, and Z as well. The author was annoying and repetitive and more than a bit threatening. I would certainly not recommend this book to anyone! Which is unfortunate, since Hay House does publish so many other good books.

Rating: ★★★★★



Friday, May 1, 2009

April Giveaway Winners!

And the winners of the April Giveaways are:

  • The Matzo Ball Heiress: scottsgal
  • Inappropriate Men: Sue W.
  • The Help: olympianlady
  • Sundays at Tiffany's: Sue W

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you to all who entered!