Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Fun and Fluffy

Janet Evanovich is back with her latest novel Notorious Nineteen, and not a moment too soon! When all the news is bad, and you are completely holidayed-out, it's time to take a break from reality.

In her latest adventure, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is on the hunt for Geoffrey Cubbin, a high bond skip. He has a really good reason to disappear, considering he embezzled 5 million dollars from the local retirement home.  So, when he is out on bail, has emergency appendectomy surgery and then vanishes from the hospital, it seems that all of his problems have conveniently been solved.  Or HAVE they????  It seems Geoffrey is not the first patient to disappear in the middle of the night from Trenton's Central Hospital, and Stepanie soon finds herself in the cross-hairs of some real meanies.  Now add in the steamy Ranger and hot Morelli, a supposedly telepathic Tiki statue and a psychotic ex-special forces munitions specialist, and Stephanie is up to her neck in peril.  And she'd like to keep her neck.

Janet Evanovich is my go-to gal for escapism, and boy do we all need to escape!  That doesn't mean she writes about puppies and teddy bears, quite the contrary, but the good guys are sure to come out on top at the end.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy a happy New Year!
Mary Kay

Friday, December 21, 2012

One of My Favorites

Joan Walsh Anglund
I loved her growing up!
I practiced drawing her sweet characters.
She makes me smile:)
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Heaven Is Here

Why do bad things happen to good people?  I am sure today we are all asking ourselves that question, as have countless people countless times before.  Bad things happen to good people everyday, making us realize just how fragile this life and these bodies really are.

Heaven Is Here is a memoir by Stephanie Nielson.  By her own admission she had a pretty perfect life, with a loving husband, four beautiful children, a large extended family and an unshakable faith in God.  She started her blog (nieniedialogues.com) in 2005 when she was living in New Jersey and missing her family in Utah.  It quickly drew a large and loyal following attracted to her positive outlook and eclectic sense of style. Then they moved back to Mesa, Arizona, close to her in-laws, and life couldn't have been better.  Until the small plane Nie and her husband were flying in crashed, and she was burned over 80% of her body.  

What followed was a journey of body and mind: three months in a drug-induced coma, innumerable surgeries and excruciating procedures followed by physical therapy to learn to walk, eat and even lift her arms on her own again.  But the hardest part was finding the courage to see her children, and to see herself for the beautiful person she still was.

Heaven is Here is a testament to the power of love and the strength of the human spirit, and a reminder that a person who isn't beautiful on the inside, won't ever be beautiful on the outside.  So hug your children, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, cat, etc. Remember how lucky we all are and count your blessings, for no matter how bad things seem, someone else has it worse.

So read Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson!  And check out nieniedialogues.com.  You will fall in love with her adorable family.  I'm off to hug mine!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What I've Been Doing...

I have been shopping, making, mailing, light hanging, tree decorating, wrapping and planning.  I have also been reading these:

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  If you have a daughter between the ages of 12 and 20, you have probably heard of this series.  If not, you will soon...

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones comes out August 2013.  Get ready!!  Also, read the books.  They are a great story and a great escape.

My brain is full of jingle bells.
More later....TBC

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something I Found in My Pile of Books...

From an old Mary Engelbreit card I bought years ago.
Love this!!

OOPS...Forgot to Add a Photo of Twelve Drummers Drumming!

Here is is!!

Twelve Drummers Drumming

If you just looked at this title and didn't read my post, you'd be sure to think that this is a Christmas book.  After all, outside of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" you would not hear much about twelve drummers drumming.  However, this is NOT a Christmas book in the traditional sense.  It IS a book about Father Christmas, Father Tom Christmas, that is, who is the new vicar of St. Nicholas' Church in the small village of Thornford Regis.  For obvious reasons he prefers to be called "Mr.", or Vicar, or Tom.

Tom and his nine-year-old daughter Miranda have come to Thornford Regis to find peace after the violent death of wife and mother Lisbeth.  But he soon discovers that a gossipy little village can harbor the same dangers as the inner-city when he is drawn into the mystery of his missing predecessor and the murder of a teenage girl. Colorful suspects abound, and in true Agatha Christie/Miss Marple fashion, Tom plows through red herrings and false trails to eventually arrive at the truth.

C. C. Benison has created a character and place that is mystery at its finest.  Good lives right next door to evil, black and white merge with shades of gray and things aren't always as they appear. Lucky for us Benison has followed up Twelve Drummers Drumming with Eleven Pipers Piping, and is working on Ten Lords A-Leaping.  All of a sudden I have a hankering to listen to that song...

Now, try to get THAT out of your head!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment

One of my favorite recent reads was Miss Bunkle's Book by D. E. Stevenson.  She published Miss Bunkle in 1936, but this was not her first book.  Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was introduced in 1934, but what makes Mrs. Tim so interesting is that she is based on Dorothy Emily Stevenson herself.

Dorothy Stevenson married a British Army officer in 1916.  Throughout her married life she kept a diary of their adventures as a family in the military, so when a good friend's daughter was set to marry an officer in the Highland Regiment and wanted to know what it would be like, she lent her the diary to read.  Well, her friend howled over her exploits and begged her to publish it as a book.  Thus Mrs. Tim was born.

The first part of this book is an absolute riot!  Mrs. Tim (Stevenson) has a wicked wit and a terrific sense of humor, which she must put to use when dealing with her husband, children and army life in general.  It is published just as a diary would be, with daily installments that were taken straight from Stevenson's jottings.  I LOVED it!  The second part of the book is a little different.  In order to expand the story of Mrs. Tim, Stevenson gave her a vacation in Scotland, an unwanted suitor and a friend's family dilemma to solve.  All very sweet, but obviously NOT original diary material.  I liked the first part better.

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was a great success and was soon followed by Mrs. Tim Carries On,  Mrs. Tim Gets a Job and Mrs. Tim Flies Home.  They are filled with Stevenson's own experiences as a British Army wife during WWII.  I'm putting them on my "to read" list.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  TBC

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My "To Read" Pile

Trying to get to it between Thanksgiving and Christmas!

A Couple of Thoughts for Thanksgiving...

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” 
― Oscar WildeA Woman of No Importance

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” 
― Erma Bombeck

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Infernal Devices

Are you feeling a little bruised?  Are you ready for an escape?  Especially from reality?  Would you like to meet some people who have bigger problems than you do, as in the-world-as-we-know-it-might-come-to-a-nasty-end kind of problems?  Well, thrown in some world class romance while saving humanity and you have Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, both by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Angel begins with the story of orphan Tessa Gray, who is crossing the Atlantic to Victoria's England to reunite with her brother Nate. Upon arrival at Southampton she is kidnapped by the horrid Dark Sisters and thrust into a world of darkness and vile magic she never knew existed: London's Downworld. Unwillingly discovering that she herself is a Downworlder with incredible powers, Tessa is rescued from the clutches of evil by Jem and Will, half angel, half human Shadowhunters.  Confused yet? Don't be! For thus begins a classic romantic love triangle between the beautiful Tessa, the tortured but gorgeous Will, and the fragile and handsome Jem.  Clockwork Prince continues this story of good vs. evil, vampire vs. werewolf, and demons vs. angels, but it's a story like you've never read before.

My daughter BEGGED me to read these books, and I must say I am glad that I did.  Part gothic romance, part fantasy and part science fiction, they have something for everyone.  I understand that the third book in this series will be out next year.  I will be buying it for my daughter, but we may be fighting over who gets to read it first!

(Oops! I don't know how to fix this once it's on my blog!!)

Footnote: Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince belong to a series called The Infernal Devices.  This series is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments Series, of which my daughter has been raving about for several years.  All are by Cassandra Clare.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


"The country demands bold, persistent experimentation.  It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.  But above all, try something."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Oglethorpe University, 1932

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery

Louise Penny has returned with another Chief Inspector Gamache mystery, and this one really is a beauty!

The Gilbertine order of Catholic monks was thought to have been extinct for 400 years, but then a mysterious recording of Gregorian chants appears and soon becomes a popular sensation.  Fans and pilgrims track down the chanting monks to a remote monastery in the Quebec wilderness, only to be politely but firmly turned away by the Abbot.  You see, these cloistered monks did not want to be found.  But the recording they made in hopes of earning much needed money to care for their crumbling fortress has brought them much more than they realized.  Yes, money from sales of the wildly popular chants was pouring in, allowing for updated heating, electrical and plumbing, but the allure of fame and recognition was creeping into the hearts of some of the brothers.  In essence, the recording had spawned a civil war between the Abbot, who wanted to remain cloistered, and the Prior, who believed the recording and its benefits were a miracle from God, meant to be shared with more recordings.  Conflict is not good in a group of 24 isolated men, and murder is the result.

Chief Inspector Gamache and his right-hand man Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel into the wilderness to the abbey, becoming the first lay people to cross the threshold.  Once inside they find peace and chaos, angels and demons, and the answers to an almost perfect crime.  I love Louise Penny's books because they take me into a world very different from mine, and The Beautiful Mystery takes us one step beyond different to otherworldly.

Au revoir, mes amis!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shadow and Bone

Get ready, we may have a new movie franchise on our hands.  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo has already been picked up by David Heyman, the producer of, wait for it, HARRY POTTER. Yes, you read that correctly.  Shadow and Bone only came out last June, and the second book of the planned trilogy isn't going to be available until 2013, but Dreamworks is already dreaming BIG about this unique and powerful story.

Set in a Russia-like world, children here are tested at a young age to determine if they are Grisha, those born with magical elemental powers.  If so, they are separated from their families and trained at the Little Palace in the capitol city of Os Alta to become soldiers of the Second Army.  The remaining children are drafted into the regular army to fight for their king and war-torn country, a country fighting not only its neighbors, but the "Fold", a swath of darkness bisecting the country and filled with man-eating creatures. Orphans and life-long best friends Alina and Mal are in the regular army, but a crisis in the mysterious and dangerous Fold brings out Alina's astonishing hidden talents.  She is spirited away by the Darkling, leader of the Grisha, convinced she is the answer to his prayers and the secret to controlling the evil Fold.  Thrust into a world of luxury and excess and still pining for Mal, Alina must learn how to control her power and who she can trust to use her power for good.

Shadow and Bone is a young adult novel, but like so many others labelled as YA it has universal appeal.  I eagerly await the next book, and can't wait to see what they do in the movie. Yeah, David Heyman!  And hooray for Leigh Bardugo!!  Thank you for inventing this fascinating world.

The Pigeon Pie Mystery

The setting:  Victorian England
The protagonist:  The daughter of the Maharaja of Prindur, Princess Mink
The quandary:  How do you live like a princess when you find yourself penniless?
The solution:  Accept an offer to live in Hampton Court Palace for free!

When the sudden and scandalous death of her father leaves Princess Mink destitute, she realizes that the lavish lifestyle of her past would be coming to an end.  But luckily for Mink, Queen Victoria had a soft spot for her larger-than-life Maharaja father, so she offers her a "grace and favor" home at Hampton Court Palace.  Having no other options, Mink accepts the offer despite the protestations of her maid Pooki, who is convinced the palace is haunted.  But when one of the other residents of Hampton Court dies after eating Pooki's pigeon pie, ghosts become the least of their problems.  Mink takes on the role of detective to save her beloved maid from the gallows, and uncovers more than a few secrets and lies hiding in the sprawling halls, apartments and gardens of Hampton Court.

Part mystery and part history, The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart is a delightful period piece with timeless and endearing characters.  I loved learning about life in this historic estate on the Thames.  But I think I'll stay away from pigeon pie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

If you thought Lord Voldemort and his cohorts were frightening, you haven't met the residents of Pagford, England.  A tiny and picturesque English village, Pagford would be idyllic if not for the huge egos and lifelong feuds of its residents.  So, when one of the members of the Parish Council drops dead from a brain aneurysm, the vultures immediately start circling to fill his seat.  What follows is the story of small town politics with big time consequences.

Rowling's ability to bring characters to life for her readers is unparalleled. From the self-satisfied and self-appointed King and Queen of Pagford, to the underprivileged children from the reviled public housing tract, she perfectly captures the petty grievances of petty people. And although the story shows us that long held resentments infect a community with a culture of intolerance and hate, we still find sympathy for both sides of the fight.  For who amongst us doesn't have a little bit of the NIMBY residing inside?  (FYI:  "Not In My Backyard!")

The Casual Vacancy shows us that the terror of an evil wizard is scary, but the real problems of real life are even more so. I can't wait for her next book.  (Hint, hint, J.K.!!)

The Book Chick

Paper Towns

A few books ago I read Looking for Alaska by John Green.  (See post on June 9, 2012) Also written by John Green, Paper Towns is a very interesting story of teenagers coming of age.  Both books have similar themes, and both books are quite good, but I have to say that Looking for Alaska is a classic.  So, read Paper Towns if you'd like, but you MUST read Looking for Alaska.  That's all I have to say about that. (Forrest Gump!)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Book Thief

I just finished The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak.  Wow.  This is a book that EVERYONE should read.  This is why:

1.  It is about a young girl in Nazi Germany, but she is neither a Nazi nor a Jew.  Her name is Liesel.

2.  Liesel's foster parents are German, but they have no love for the Nazis.

3.  Her foster father has silver eyes, is a house painter and plays the accordion.  He is a really good guy.  It's hard to be a good guy in Nazi Germany.

4.  Her best friend's idol is Jesse Owens, and he covers himself with charcoal dust to prove it.  This is a bad idea.

5.  Her  parents hide a Jewish man in their basement.  This is also a bad idea.

6.  Liesel does steal books.  One of them from a Nazi book burning.  Again, this is a bad idea.

7.  She also steals from the mayor's wife, but this turns out to be a good idea.

6.  The narrator is an unexpected and unwanted guest, but oh so appropriate.

The Book Thief is an amazing accomplishment.  It is funny, heartbreaking and horrifying, but it also shows the human side of a terrible time in history.  Please read it!  A little or a lot, it will change you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Miss Buncle's Book

My dear friend Karen gave me a book for my birthday, and I am so glad!  Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson was first published in 1934, but it is totally new to me.

Miss Buncle lives in a tiny English country village in the early 1930's.  No one really notices her, but she notices everyone.  So, when her dividend checks stop coming, she decides to write a book...about her neighbors...anonymously.  The uproar that ensues is entertaining to the extreme!

I found it hard to believe that Stevenson wrote this book so very long ago.  The prose, the characters and their reactions could easily translate into our world today.  Imagine how you would react if the setting and characters of a best selling book seemed to mirror your neighborhood, your friends and your enemies.  To what lengths would you go to find out who the author really is?  Who would you suspect? More interestingly, would someone else's version of you change the way you view yourself?  In writing her book Miss Buncle finds that you can make a different life for yourself, and what you imagine can become real. Those are pretty powerful discoveries.

I'm glad my friend discovered Miss Buncle for me.  I hope you enjoy her as much as I did!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Importance of Being Seven

Of all the Alexander McCall Smith series, I think my favorite is 44 Scotland Street.  McCall Smith writes these stories as a daily column for the Scotsman newspaper, and then proceeds to publish them in book form for all of his lucky readers.  Filled with quirky characters, the reader gets to eavesdrop on the daily trials and tribulations of the residents in and around this Scotland Street address. If you have NOT read any of these books, here are a few reasons for you to start:

1.  Poor Bertie.  It seems he will never be free of his interfering, domineering and oh-so-annoying
     mother, Irene.  I so root for Bertie.            

2.  Ulysses, Bertie's baby brother, screams and barfs whenever Irene picks him up.  Smart boy.

3.  Domenica, Antonia and Angus go to Tuscany.  Domenica wins.

4.  Bruce is back in all of his narcissistic glory.

5.  Cyril the dog still winks at people.

6.  Bertie is still in Cub Scouts.  Unfortunately, so are Tofu and Olive.

7.  Bertie's dad defies Irene.  It's awesome.

The Importance of Being Seven is the sixth book in the 44 Scotland Street series.  Read and enjoy!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken

Vish Puri, aka "Chubby", is back in The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall.  I devour these books, much like the unlucky victim in the book devoured the butter chicken, because they are just SO GOOD!

The Delhi Cowboys are taking on the Kolkata Colts at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, where Vish and Rumpi Puri are about to take their seats among 50,000 screaming cricket fans.  At the risk of stating the obvious, cricket is extremely popular in India.  What I didn't know was how popular gambling was, especially gambling on cricket.  But gambling on cricket is illegal in India, which makes it all the more attractive to dishonest and unsavory characters.  Making things even more interesting is the inclusion of eight Pakistani players on the Colts' team.  India and Pakistan don't really get along. (Google 1947 Partition to learn more from experts!)  So when the father of the Pakistani star of the Colts keels over dead in his butter chicken, Vish Puri finds himself right in the middle of a tense and dangerous game.  Amazingly the key to the mystery seems to lie with Vish's Mummy-ji.  Now, Vish believes that Indian mothers have no business being private detectives, just don't say that to Mummy-ji!  Together they uncover mysteries and lies hidden for over 50 years, and Vish discovers that even those closest to him can have unimaginable secrets.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these books!  I have never been to India, but Tarquin Hall brings India to me with all of its sights, sounds, triumphs and failures.  He obviously embraces his adoptive home, and passes that affection on to his readers.  I hope you enjoy The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken as much as I did, and you can even enjoy the title dish...there's a recipe in the book!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Murder in the Marais

When you buy something on Amazon they will recommend books they think you might like.  A brilliant marketing ploy, as I will often give those suggestions a try.  Most recently I decided to order Murder in the Marais by Cara Black.

Murder in the Marais was published in 1999 but set in 1993 Paris.  This is the first book featuring private investigator and computer expert Aimee Leduc, and she is dropped into a doozy of a case.  The Marais is the historic Jewish Quarter of Paris, a place that saw terror and tragedy during the Nazi occupation.  When Aimee is hired by an elderly Jewish man to decode a secret photo for a woman in his synagogue, she has no idea what a can of 50 year-old worms she has just opened.  And when the woman is found dead with a swastika carved on her forehead, she realizes that this case has become much more than a simple decoding job.  Soon agencies on all sides are trying to stop her from uncovering clues, but just how high up does this mystery reach?

I liked Murder in the Marais.  I have not yet been to Paris, but Cara Black made it easy for the unfamiliar reader to navigate its celebrated streets.  Maybe that is because Black lives in San Francisco, so she doesn't assume her readers are intimates of Paris or France. This is the first in a long series of books featuring Aimee Leduc.  I think I'll try the second.

Au Revoir!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Love the name of this book, also that I found it at the airport and it looked short enough to finish on a plane ride.  Looks can be deceiving.  Tinkers is a Pulitzer Prize winner by Paul Harding.  Now, sometimes I appreciate and love Pulitzer winners, and sometimes not so much.  This one falls somewhere in between.

Tinkers follows the memories of George Washington Crosby as he lays dying at home in New England.  He has much to remember, and his memory is VERY detailed.  These memories morph into the memories of George's father, who has memories of George's grandfather.  Sometimes it gets a little confusing.  However, if you want to know how to write a brilliant descriptive sentence, or learn about imagery in literature, then this book would be the perfect study tool.

I can see this book assigned for summer reading in high school.  I'm glad I'm not in high school.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Pilgrimage: "any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage"

When Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessey telling him she is dying he knows he must reply.  Queenie was a very important part of his past, one filled with joy as well as sorrow and missed opportunities.  As he sets out to mail his letter a chance encounter makes him realize he must not only send her a letter, he must go see Queenie.  So he begins to walk.  Oh, by the way, Harold lives at the very bottom of England, and Queenie is 600 MILES AWAY at the very top of England.  Harold left his house in yachting shoes.  He forgot his cell phone.  He also didn't tell his wife where he was going.  All that seems unimportant as Harold has decided that as long as Queenie knows he is walking to her, she will live.  So begins The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

The beautiful thing about Harold's journey is not only how it changes him, but how he affects the people he meets along the way.  A humble and unassuming man, Harold does little more than listen to those he meets, but listening is a great skill and a great gift.

"Harold walked with these strangers and listened.  He judged no one, although as the days wore on, and time and places began to melt, he couldn't remember if the tax inspector wore no shoes or had a parrot on his shoulder.  It no longer mattered.  He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other;  and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

Read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  You may not be walking 600 miles in yachting shoes, but you can share in Harold's quest and pay homage to Rachel Joyce for her amazing story.

Be back soon!
The Book Chick

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

State of Wonder

I've just finished State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and the fact that I've come to the end of this book has put me in a state.  But don't worry, it's just a state of disappointment that the story has come to an end.

Dr. Marina Singh is a researcher for a drug company in Minnesota, the state where she was born and raised.  Her lab partner and friend, Anders Eckman, has been on assignment at the company's drug research station in the Amazon, but he has suddenly died. Marina is asked to go and investigate. Two places and cultures could not be more diametrically opposed than Minnesota and the Amazon, and from the moment she lands in Manaus, Marina is assaulted by the heat, the bugs and the crowds.  But when she finally makes contact with the head researcher and heads down the river into the jungle, she finds herself pulled into a mysterious world made of equal parts wonder and danger.  Marina, quite literally, will never be in the same state again.

Seldom can a book truly take you mind and body to a completely different place, a place totally foreign, beautiful and frightening, but State of Wonder does all that and more.  I loved this book, and I hope you agree.

mk, tbc

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I've been busy, but also procrastinating.  Truth.  And I've realized that the longer I wait to post the harder it gets. Therefore, I vow to post IMMEDIATELY after reading a book in the future.  Well, I'll give it a try.  Maybe. That concludes the confessions portion of our agenda.  

You MUST read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie because:

1.  It is a GREAT story.
2.  It's based on a true story.
3.  That is the story of Sherman Alexie himself.
4.  Sherman Alexie is a Spokane Indian.
5.  Everything you think you know about life on a reservation is probably false.
6.  You'll find out what happens when Sherman leaves the Rez to go to a non-Indian high school.
7.  It has terrific illustrations.
8.  It was a National Book Award winner.
9.  It's perfect for summer because it's an entertaining and quick read.
10.  Thus, you won't miss much of the Olympics.
11.  The Olympics are the reason I'm procrastinating.

Order it, read it, enjoy!
Go USA!!!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A MOST Uncommon Book

I just finished  The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.  I can't remember now where I read about it, but I'm glad my interest was piqued. It is quite an appropriate little read considering recent and soon to be current events in London.

This is the story of Queen Elizabeth II and books.  Not accustomed to reading for pleasure, as One simply does not have time in One's schedule, the Queen is led by her wayward and noisy corgis to the traveling library parked outside Buckingham Palace's kitchens. Not wanting to offend the elderly driver, she checks out a book, and a whole world she had never before known opens up for her.  Unfortunately, her new hobby soon becomes something of an addiction, her royal duties suffer, and her equerries are alarmed.

I think this book was first published in England in 2006, but it was re-released for the Queen's 60th Jubilee. (I found it on Amazon.) It is filled with very English and royal minutiae, and the literary references are a tad high brow,  but I really enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek fantasy.  If the thought of putting down your current book to do almost anything else distresses you, you must try The Uncommon Reader.  And let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Hobbit

My kids and I went to see Brave, (LOVED IT!!  Go see it NOW!!!), and I thought my 23 year old son was going to have a seizure when the preview for The Hobbit appeared on the screen.  This was a matter of extreme excitement, as he loves ALL things J. R. R. Tolkien.  He has nagged me for many years to read The Lord of the Rings, which I have to admit I'm not all that keen on, but I DID read The Hobbit many, many years ago.  So, in preparation for the upcoming film I thought myself duty-bound to read it again. This was an interesting experience.

I was probably 12 or 13 when I first read The Hobbit.  I remember it being exotic and challenging, and I'd probably never read anything remotely like it before.  Nancy Drew and Little House on the Prairie aren't in the same league. Naturally, I was looking forward to once again venturing forward into the edge of the Wild with Mr. Bilbo Baggins, Gandolf and friends.  I DID enjoy it, but I was surprised to find that it was not as sophisticated as I remembered, and maybe I SHOULD read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Anyway, if you haven't read The Hobbit, you must.  If you have an 11+ year old in the house, they should!  The only thing that I found a little freaky was the spiders, but that may have been because I just found an infestation of Black and Brown Widows under my outdoor patio furniture.  But that's another story all together.

"Far over the misty mountains cold
 To dungeons deep and caverns old
 We must away to break of day
 To seek the pale enchanted gold."

I'm off to the ever changing adventure of figuring out what to make for dinner...wish me luck!

The Book Chick

The Book of Stillmeadow

This is the story of Stillmeadow, a farmhouse and the 40 acres it stands on, give or take a few acres.  It was built in 1690 in Southbury, Connecticut, and when Gladys Taber bought it in 1933 it was almost 250 years old.  Gladys Taber was a writer, not a farmer.  She graduated from Wellesley in 1920, and then received her masters at Lawrence College.  She went on to write over 50 books and was a long time contributor to The Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle magazines.  She also taught creative writing at Columbia University. She was quite an accomplished woman. But as a resident of New York City she dreamed of weekends in the country with her husband and daughter, lounging about on the sun soaked grass. The Book of Stillmeadow is filled with Gladys' musings of her time in the country and the bigger picture of life before and after WWII.  It is funny how little things really change...

"I know of nothing to compare with the welcome a dog gives you when you come home.  If I go to the village for half an hour, I am welcomed with a regular silver jubilee on my return. And there's never any reproach for my having gone.  None of the 'Well, I thought you never would get back; you certainly were gone a long time--we nearly gave you up.' Only joyful excitement as the spaniels say, 'How marvelous you are! Look, she's back again! Let's celebrate!'" (Sounds like my dogs!)

"I sometimes wonder what women do who never can work at a simple, humble physical task when they are sad.  What do they do in the Waldorf-Astoria when life hurts them?" (Self-medicate?)

"There are two distinct schools of thought about Christmas gifts. One school believes gifts must be luxuries, never anything you need.  The other believe people should get what they actually and badly need.  I veer wildly between the two schools. I indulge in a useless gadget like a box of sachet, and proceed to stockings and underwear.  Books go to my head like strong drink, because books belong in both categories.  Who could live without them?" (SO TRUE!!)

"We don't have much to say about what the new year will bring.  We have learned to go on the best we can, and be thankful for whatever we have.  Nothing, I thought, looking around the fire lit circle, can take away from anyone on earth the love of his or her dear ones.  You can't blow up love with a bomb, or shoot it down with a machine gun.  Courage remains stronger than fire or sword.  Loyalty lies too deep for depth charges to shatter it...The real things go on." (Appropriate for the 4th of July!)

The Book of Stillmeadow is filled with timeless observations about life, whether you find yourself in the country or in the city.  It is currently out of print, but I found mine on Amazon.com for about $9.00. (It was an old library book!)  I hope you can find it without too much trouble, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Thanks for the recommendation, Rosemary!

Wicked Business

After a visit to Hitler's Germany a little frivolity is called for!  Janet Evanovich's Wicked Business is just the ticket.  I am not ashamed to admit that I'm a HUGE Stephanie Plum fan, and I even went to see One for the Money in the theatre. Lucky for me Evanovich is a prolific writer with several different series to choose from.

Wicked Business is the third book in the Lizzy and Diesel Novels.  Lizzy is a pastry chef in Salem, Massachusetts.  Diesel is....well, how to describe Diesel...hot, mysterious, scruffy and gifted in a paranormal sort of way.  Like it or not, Lizzy also has certain abilities that Diesel is bound by certain powers-that-be to protect, so she's kind of stuck with him and all the mayhem that follows in his wake. Throw in Diesel's dark and devilish cousin and you have a threesome worth reading about.

So, my advice to you is eat dessert first!  Read Wicked Business, and have some FUN!

In the Garden of Beasts

Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin is NOT a novel.  It is the true story of the American Ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. But truth can be stranger than fiction, and perhaps nothing was stranger than Germany in the 1930's.

William Dodd was the chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago, but his true love was writing.  He had political connections and believed that a diplomatic post in some quiet little country would allow him to write to his heart's content. But Germany was the post that none of the usual candidates wanted, so it was offered to Dodd. Hesitant but honored, Dodd agreed, soon realizing that he would have little time to call his own.

When Dodd, his wife and grown son and daughter arrived in Germany on July 13, 1933, they had every intention of remaining carefully neutral. In fact, Berlin at this time was beautiful and exciting, effectively lulling visitors into convenient denials and rationalizations of the horror hidden behind the rising prosperity. Dodd and his family found the reports of violence and persecution of Jews and many others hard to believe, but their first hand experiences would soon convince them.  The problem would now be to convince the isolation-loving American politicians that Germany was going to be a BIG problem for all.

Stepping off the boat in Hamburg at the start of Dodd's four year post could be compared to Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  Hitler was twisting logic and reason to fit his own sick agenda, in the process convincing millions of otherwise rational Germans that HE was the answer to all of their problems. Common sense had taken an extended vacation, and people all over the world were hiding their heads in the sand. Reading this book 80 years after the events is like watching a train wreck. You know how it is going to end, you know you can't stop it, but you can't turn away.  Through William Dodd, Erik Larson has given us the engineer's view of the tragedy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Have 3 Posts to Write, but It's SO Beautiful Outside....So Here's a Quote for you:

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience:  this is the ideal life.  ~Mark Twain

Here's another...

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And one more...

Books are a uniquely portable magic.  ~Stephen King

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Looking for Alaska

Some of the most wonderful authors can be found in the young adult section.  Once you fight your way past the wall-o-paranormal, there is a veritable buffet of literary yumminess just waiting to be devoured.  Luckily, our local Barnes and Nobel has a terrific salesperson who gives me great recommendations, and thanks to her I've added a new favorite author to my menu.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is NOT about Alaska the state. It is set in present day Alabama, where Miles Halter travels to attend Culver Creek Boarding School.  He is tired of the invisible life he has been living at his Florida public school, and decides to attend his father's alma mater at the start of his junior year.  It is the place where he hopes to shake things up, do something exciting and find his "Great Perhaps". What he finds is Alaska Young, a beautiful, fascinating and troubled dorm neighbor, who along with Miles' roomate "The Colonel" introduces him to the labyrinth that is life. Now, for all of you who are thinking that this is kind of Catcher-in-the-Ryeish, don't worry.  It is SO MUCH BETTER.  And it has a point. And you don't have to be in high school to relate to the characters; they are ageless and universal.

John Green is not a new author, he's just new to me.  Looking for Alaska was published in 2005, when it won the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.  He's written several since then, and I plan to read them all.  Stay tuned...

Mary Kay

Monday, June 4, 2012

These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901, Arizona Territories

Nancy E. Turner wrote this novel in 1998.  I have just finished reading it, and my question is:  Why didn't I know about it before now?! Anyone who lives in the southwest, or anyone ever curious about how people settled in the southwest, or anyone who loves cowboys and Indians and romantic calvary officers should read this book.

Sarah Prine is a teenager when her family pulls up stakes and travels from the southwest to the east and then back to the southwest again. Along the way they encounter very unhappy Indians, whiney eastern tenderfoots, (tenderfeet?), unsavory and unwashed bandits and fellow travelers good and bad, all documented in the diary that young Sarah starts on the trail.  More than just a travel log, this is the story of Sarah, her family and her education in letters and in life.  It is a charming and terrifying story, and it will make you happy that you can sleep safely in your varmint-free beds at night. It is also the story of how a rough and dangerous frontier becomes a state with cities and universities, something I think we all take for granted.

Nancy Turner won the Arizona Author Award for this book.  She wrote two sequels to These Is My Words, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden, so we get to follow Sarah's adventures beyond 1901.  This book was a sweet surprise.  I hope you agree!

Mary Kay

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Long Walk

The Long Walk, The True Story of a Trek to Freedom is the first hand account of Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish calvary officer at the start of WWII. After Poland fell to the Nazis, many Poles who lived near the Russian border fell into the hands of Soviets who then accused them of spying for the Nazis.  The Polish people found themselves literally between a rock and a hard place.  In the case of Slavomir, it is a miracle that the rock did not crush him.

Slavomir was arrested in November of 1939 when he was just 24.  He spent 12 months in solitary confinement, taken out only to be interrogated and tortured by the NKVD, the Soviet Secret Police.  After a sham of a trial, he was sentenced to 25 years hard labor in Siberia for "espionage and plotting against the people of the USSR." It seemed that his life was over, but the journey had just begun.
3000 miles later he started his sentence in Camp 303.  Almost immediately he began planning his escape, a difficult enough task in the Siberian winter, but which he and 6 other inmates accomplished in April of 1941. Getting out of the labor camp was just the first step in this journey. They now had to escape south on foot through Siberia, China, the Gobi desert, Tibet, over the Himalayas and into the safety of British India. This is a story of superhuman endurance, and proof that the fight for freedom makes any obstacle seem surmountable.

Here's a little piece of advice.  When you are reading a non-fiction book, wait until you finish before Googling the subject matter.  I didn't, so I had to finish the story knowing that there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding Slavomir and his trek.  I'm not going to say anymore.  It is an amazing tale, and a look back at a time in history as told by an eyewitness. I was reminded once again of how lucky we are to live in the USA. I'll let you make up your own mind about the rest.

The Book Chick

Friday, June 1, 2012

Elegy for Eddie

Fans of Maisie Dobbs rejoice!  Elegy for Eddie is Jacqueline Winspear at her finest, and once again my only disappointment is having to wait for the next one.

In 1933 London the costermongers of Covent Garden still rely on horses and wagons to sell their fruits and vegetables. Any good mechanic can fix a car, but the costers know that only Eddie Pettit can be counted on to fix an ailing horse.  Gentle Eddie is loved by all, and when he is killed in a suspicious accident his coster friends reach out to Maisie for help. How, you may ask, do these rough, working-class men know a highly educated psychologist/investigator such as Maisie? Because her father was a costermonger, that's why!

One of the many things I love about this series is the character development of Maisie Dobbs herself.  She started life in a place that is light years away from her current social position.  Her first job was as a maid in the London home of the Comptons, and now she is engaged to the son of the house.  She has inherited her mentor's country home, but her father insists on living in the stable house, and he is "paying calls" on her housekeeper. None of this would seem too extraordinary now, but the social norms of 1933 were still very strict. Reconciling her life now with her life growing up as a costermonger's daughter is a constant struggle for Maisie, and we get to see how she continues to figure things out. Now throw in the threat of war and powerful people manipulating public opinion for the greater good, and you have another great Winspear novel.

Now, go put on the teapot and settle in for a good read.
Cheerio for now!

Mary Kay

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Calico Joe

I am not a huge fan of John Grisham, but I wholly recommend Calico Joe.  My husband picked it up at the airport a couple of weeks ago and has yet to crack the cover.  I hate to see a book sitting all alone and neglected, so I picked it up this morning and just finished it.  (Yes!  I have a life besides reading, but it's a short book and a quick read.)

Now you don't have to be a baseball fan to like this book.  It's historical fiction, so there are a great many famous names, places and events portrayed, but the main story is completely imagined.  It IS about baseball, but it's also about family dynamics and betrayals, lost dreams and redemption.  In short, it has something for everyone.  My husband will LOVE it, because he is a huge baseball fan.  I just have to get him to read it.  (He's more of a vacation reader.)

If you like this you'll also like John Grisham's Playing for Pizza.  That one is about American football in Italy, plus parmesan cheese.

Ciao, for now!  I'm off to find something else to read...Mary Kay


Whatever you have planned for today, forget it!  Go out and buy Wonder by R. J. Palacio, and read it.  Today.  Avoid all interruptions if possible, because once you start this incredible book, you won't be able to stop.

Wonder is the story of Auggie Pullman.  He would be just like any other boy about to enter the 5th grade except for one major difference:  Auggie was born with extreme facial abnormalities.  He has been home schooled up to now, but his parents have decided that it is time for him to go to the private school just down the street from their New York townhouse, and Auggie is terrified.  You see, people who don't know him tend to gasp at surprise when they see him, or even run away in fear.  Now imagine going into a school full of middle school kids with a face like that.  It's bad enough for average, regular, "normal" kids, but everyone is about to find out that Auggie is NOT your average kid.

Wonder is written from the perspective of several different characters, each lovingly developed.  We hear from Auggie, his sister Olivia, her friend Miranda.  We learn how Auggie's health has shaped all of their lives, and how it has defined them for good and for bad.  Palacio has created characters that speak to the reader's soul, and in the end it's not just a story she has given us, but a question she is asking us: "How kind are you?"

I believe that R. J. Palacio has created a classic.  Wonder is a book that everyone who can read, should. It should definitely be on the curriculum of every fifth grade in the country, and probably should be read again in the ninth grade.  Maybe even every few years after that just as a reminder that "Everyone born of God overcometh the world." Now, hurry up and read it, and let me know what you think!

Mary Kay

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Peach Keeper

Do you need a break from your reality?  Would you like to wander a misty forest trail leading to a most unexpected destination? Do certain sights, sounds and scents transport you back in time? Do you believe, at least a little bit, in magic? Then you need to read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.

The little town of Walls of Water, North Carolina has its secrets, and they are about to be unearthed. Willa Jackson's ancestors built Walls of Water, but the depression took all of their money and the finest home in town, the Blue Ridge Madam.  Now Willa's high school classmate, Paxton Osgood, is restoring the old Madam, and she unwittingly awakens the long buried memories of her grandmother Agatha and Willa's grandmother Georgie.  Soon the scent of peaches and regret will permeate the air in this mountain town, and the unbreakable bonds of true friendship will conquer all.

This is Southern Gothic with all of the atmosphere and none of the creepiness.  I loved Allen's book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and The Peach Keeper completely lived up to my expectations.  It truly was...wait for it...A PEACH!! (Come on, you knew that was coming!)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What in the World Do I Do Now????

I've just finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, right after I finished The Girl Who Played with Fire, both by Stieg Larsson.  I am now at loose ends.  I initially resisted starting this series, admittedly because I am a wimp.  Now I am pining for more.  I need help.

Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Sander are in the thick of things once again.  She is falsely accused of murdering two journalists working for Blomkvist's magazine Millennium, just as they were set to publish an expose of the Swedish sex trade.  Lisbeth soon realizes that evil forces are lurking behind the killings, and she sets out to clear her name.  In the process she faces a giant genetic mutant, an evil-to-the-core so-called psychiatrist, and a sociopathic former Russian spy, who also just happens to be her estranged father.  But lucky for Lisbeth she has Mikael and friends on her side, not to mention her genius computer hacking skills.

Needless to say I LOVED these two books.  You can read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on its own, but don't even start The Girl Who Played with Fire unless you have Hornet's Nest on deck.  Another thing, make sure you have large blocks of undisturbed time to read the combined 1285 pages of these books.  Or, you could just let life fall apart around you until you're finished.  It will be well worth it!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome back, Precious!

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection is the 13th book in Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  This makes me very happy.  I love this series, and I ADORE the main character and first ever lady detective in Botswana, Precious Ramotswe.

In this latest installment injustices abound, and Mma Ramotswe must prove the innocence of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors' best apprentice, (wrongfully accused of dealing in stolen cars), tackle corruption at the local orphan farm, and solve the mystery of too many bricks ordered for Grace and Phuti's dream house. In the midst of all this turmoil arrives an uninvited but much welcome guest, who proves to be a timely blessing to all.

It is a talented writer who can take you back to the same place multiple times and leave you with the same feelings of regret when the story comes to an end.  I never tire of visiting Precious Ramotswe's beloved Botswana, a place I now feel at home, even though I have never actually been. Thank goodness for Smith's beautiful and charming writing. I know I won't have to wait long for the next one!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Descendants

If I was handed an open-ended plane ticket to any destination in the world, I would choose Hawaii every time.  I've been to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and I know there are many more beautiful places to visit, but there is something special about Hawaii.  The comparatively easy 5 hour direct flight from San Diego to Maui may be part of its appeal, but the soft tropical air, gorgeous scenery, beautiful music, delectable dishes and the lovely Hawaiian people speak to my soul.  (I'm NOT being over-dramatic. I really do love it!!) In fact, unlike most vacations when I'm anxious to get back home at the end, it's the one place I am never ready to leave. But that's the thing about vacations: they are not reality, and if I lived in Hawaii I might feel a little differently.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings is the story of regular and not-so-regular people making difficult decisions in the middle of this paradise. The King family has had the good luck to be the descendants of Hawaiian royalty, and the heirs to the last large parcel of undeveloped land on the island of Kauai. Matt King has been given sole control in deciding how the land will be used and who the buyer will be, and his large extended family is anxiously awaiting his decision.  The problem is Matt is just a little distracted.  His wife is in a coma caused by a speed boat accident, his ten-year-old daughter is cyber-bullying her friends, and his 18-year-old daughter is at boarding school in lieu of detox. Not to mention he suspects his wife was having an affair. Obviously he is not feeling the "Aloha Spirit"...

"Shut this off,"  I tell Scottie.  She finishes pasting the picture into her book then turns off the television with the remote.  "No, I mean this."  I point to the stuff in the window-the sun and trees, the birds on the  grass hopping from crumb to crumb thrown by tourists and crazy ladies.  "Turn this off.  It's horrible."  The tropics make it difficult to mope.  I bet in big cities you can walk down the street scowling and  no one will ask you what's wrong or encourage you to smile, but everyone here has the attitude that we're lucky to live in Hawaii; paradise reigns supreme.  I think paradise can go #@$% itself.

But life goes on for Matt and his girls, and big and little tasks must be tackled amongst the flotsam and jetsam of their lives.

I LOVED The Descendants, both the book AND the movie.  It very deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it should have won Best Picture.  Oh, and George Clooney got robbed.  That's all I have to say about that, Forrest Gump.

Aloha for now...
Mary Kay

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Three More From Rhys Bowen

After reading Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen I immediately picked up the next three books in the series.  A Royal Pain, Royal Flush and Royal Blood fit into my schedule perfectly, which currently does not allow for the time or the energy to think too hard.  So, if YOU are looking for easy/breezy/lighthearted reading, these are the books for you.  I plan on reading her latest book, Naughty in Nice, but I'm going to wait for the paperback.

Cheerio for now!
The Book Chick

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


...is necessary for my sanity.  I don't often read pure fluff, but I have to say that my recent discovery is a tad on the fluffy side, and I liked it!

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen is a lighthearted mystery set in 1930 England.  Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is 34th in line for the throne, and she is also flat broke.  Unfortunately, it is inappropriate for a member of the Royal Family to work for a living, but if she doesn't find a way to support herself soon HM the Queen will be shipping her off as Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria's only surviving daughter. (Think very old and very boring.)  So what is a young royal to do?  First, learn to light a fire in her family's frigid London house.  Second, clean other people's homes, incognito of course.  Third, go to house party in country to spy on Wallis Simpson and the Queen's playboy son, on secret orders of Her Majesty. If that isn't enough, someone seems determined to remove her from the list of Who's Who, permanently.

Her Royal Spyness is the first in this Rhys Bowen series.  A Royal Pain, Royal Flush, Royal Blood and Naughty in Nice are next in my queue. Expect a report soon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Angel with Two Faces

Playwright Josephine Tey is back in Nicola Upson's Angel with Two Faces. Huzzah! It is 1935, and Josephine has escaped to Cornwall for a much needed rest from the world of London theatre. She is staying on the country estate of her friends Lettice and Ronnie Motley, who also happen to be cousins with Archie Penrose, Josephine's Detective Inspector complicated-sort-of-love-interest.  Archie has also come to his ancestral home for summer vacation, but of course, murder gets in the way. Will Josephine be able to help Archie sift through the secrets, lies and red herrings perpetuated by the tight-knit community of the Penrose Estate?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

What I find so interesting about Nicola Upson's work is that it has such a basis in real life events.  Josephine Tey was the pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh, a successful author and playwright.  This book is set on the Penrose Estate, which is a real estate in Cornwall now run by the National Trust.  The outdoor Minack Theatre featured in the story is also a real place, which actually did produce a 1935 production of The Jackdaw of Rheims, also part of this novel.  Nicola is an expert in weaving together fiction and non-fiction, leading the reader deep into a story of her own.  I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Dog Who Knew Too Much

Chet and Bernie are back!  Yeah!!  Actually, they came back last fall, but I just now caught up with their latest shenanigans.  What?!  You say you don't know who Chet and Bernie are???? Well, let me fill you in...

The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn features one of my MOST favorite teams of crack private investigators.  Bernie is ex-military, and he's an ethical, honorable and capable PI.  Chet is his dog.  Now, he's not just any dog, he is definitely Bernie's right hand man.  (Or right canine paw, if you will.) In fact, Chet is SO important that he is the one who tells the story, but sometimes he gets distracted by squirrels, other dogs, shiny things, smelly things, cats, people food, kibble...perhaps he has ADD.  Despite the obvious disadvantages of being a dog in a human world, he usually does have his hyper-sensitive nose pointed in the right direction, if only he could get Bernie to pay attention.

The Dog Who Knew Too Much finds Chet and Bernie in the mountains searching for a young hiker who's disappeared from the Big Bear Wilderness Camp. But a simple search and rescue mission soon turns into a rotten stew of greed, gold, drugs and dirty small-town cops. Things start to look grim for our heros, but Chet helps Bernie find his way out of the stickiest of situations. And then he'd lick that stickiness right off, because that's what dogs do.

Enjoy Chet and Bernie!  Can't wait for the next one...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Circus Arrives Without Warning...

No, I an NOT talking about an invasion of teenagers, relatives or scary clowns.  In fact, in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern there is not a clown to be found.  What you will find is a completely original and imaginative story about magic, manipulation and dreams coming true.

Everything about The Night Circus is mysterious.  There are no advertisements announcing its impending arrival, and no one knows how long it will stay or where it will go next.  Its tents and performers are clad exclusively in black and white, and the performances are beyond anyone's wildest dreams.  Oh, and it opens at nightfall and closes at dawn, which explains the whole Night Circus thing. If you are beginning to think that this is no ordinary circus, you would be correct.  Just like the black is balanced against the white, darkness is pushing against the light in this "Circus of Dreams".

Now, I could be more specific, but I think saying anything more will ruin the complete surprise of this fascinating tale.  This is Erin Morgenstern's first novel.  I hope she writes more!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Here's Another One...

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.  ~Oscar Wilde

It's an "I AM Reading but Life Is Getting in the Way SO Here Is a Quote" Day

I know every book of mine by its smell, and I have but to put my nose between the pages to be reminded of all sorts of things.  ~George Robert Gissing

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Peter Abrahams ROCKS!!!

I discovered Peter Abrahams several years ago when my daughter was still in grade school.  I've always loved young adult and children's books, but her fantastic 3rd AND 5th grade teacher, Mr. Singley, introduced us to books we probably never would have read without him.  One of these was Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams.  This was the first book in his Echo Falls Mystery series, and I was hooked.  If you haven't read them, hop on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com to order, or run to the library.  Today.  What I didn't realize until recently was Abrahams is also an acclaimed adult mystery writer.  Even better, and now things in my world make complete sense, he writes the Chet and Bernie mysteries under his pen name Spencer Quinn!!!  I LOVE Chet and Bernie!!!!  (See my post from 1/28/2011)  So now I have just read the first book in another series by Abrahams, and I love him even more.

Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street is the story of Robbie, a 7th grader in a private school in Brooklyn.  Her father is a writer, and her mother is a Manhattan lawyer.  She has a big, lovable but cowardly dog named Pendleton.  All should be idyllic, but of course, things are not always what they should be.  Someone big and powerful is forcing longtime businesses and tenants out of their Brooklyn homes, and Robbie and her friends find themselves in the middle of big trouble. Injustice is in the air, and with the help of a mysterious homeless woman the rich begin to give to the poor.

Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street is everything I love in a book.  It has great characters, atmosphere and imagination, and the potential for many more stories to come. I can't wait for the next one!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran has recently been released as a movie starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.  It is the story of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who is trying to find the lock that fits a mysterious key, hoping when he does to find a message from his father who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.  However, Oskar's is not the only journey we follow in this book, and none of them are easy.

Things I liked about this book:

1. Oskar.  His emotions are relatable and realistic, and he is also an endearingly quirky kid.

2. Oskar's father Thomas.  What a great dad.

3. Mr. Black, Oskar's upstairs neighbor.  I'd love to interview him!

4. Stan the doorman.

5. The ending.

I read this book because I'd heard from a couple of people how they couldn't put it down.  I LIKED it well enough, but I think I would change the title to Extremely Weird and Sort of Unsettling.  I am definitely NOT going to see the movie, but if you've read the book or seen the movie, I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This Just In...

Two of my very favorite authors are coming out with their latest books!

Jacqueline Winspear's newest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Elegy for Eddie, will be released on March 27th.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith is coming out on April 3rd.

I just pre-ordered both on Amazon.com.  I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house. ~Joe Ryan

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It seemed to be everywhere I turned.  Every bookstore, every market, on every bookshelf, and now in the theaters. I couldn't avoid it any longer. But I'd heard it was rather grim and disturbing, and I don't do disturbing, as it tends to disturb my sleep.  However, when my husband's 89 year-old godmother told me what a great book it was, I decided to put on my big girl panties and deal with it!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson IS disturbing in parts, but it is also one of the most interesting, unique and well written books I've ever read.  The main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is hired to solve the disappearance of 16 year-old Harriet Vanger in 1966. He brings in  brilliant, but anti-social, tattooed and body-pierced Lisbeth Salander to assist him in the investigation. What they find is corruption and dysfunction that put Mikael in the middle of a moral dilemma. I guess you have to call it a crime mystery, but the book is woven with psychological and social commentary sub-plots that all contribute to this incredible tapestry of a story.  Plus, all the loose ends get tied up.  Loose ends are one of my pet peeves.

Read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  My only advice to you is make sure you don't have to do anything else very important before you start, because you won't be able to stop.  Also, you'll soon get used to the Swedish names and places, which were literally all foreign to me.  Finally, if you've seen the movie let me know what you thought.  I LOVE Daniel Craig, and Rooney Mara seems like an amazing actress, but again, I am a wimp when it comes to disturbing, especially on the screen.

Now on to something light and fluffy...
Mary Kay

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Bought It, I Read It, and I Won't Apologize!

I admit it, I am a sucker for all things Evanovich.  So when I saw In a Nutshell at the grocery store I only hesitated a moment before putting it in my cart.  Normally I wouldn't hesitate at all, but this book was written by Janet Evanovich AND Dorien Kelly.  Now, I swear I'm not a book snob, but it has been my experience that twice the authors does not mean twice as good.  Happily, this time that was not the case!

In a Nutshell takes place in the vacation destination of Keene's Harbor, Michigan.  Kate Appleton spent summers there as a child, and now she is desperate to turn her family's ramshackle lake cottage, the Nutshell, into a viable bed and breakfast inn.  She just needs money to do it.  She lands a job at the local micro brewery, which of course is owned by the most available bachelor in town.  And, of course, the chemistry is immediate!  But mischief is afoot in Keene's Harbor, and the only way for Kate to save her home and future is to find the culprit.

This story is full of interesting characters and a 3 legged dog.  Plus beer.  So, abandon the Tolstoy and pick up In a Nutshell.  You're brain will thank you for the break!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I agree

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” 
 George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Once Again, My Guilty Pleasure

Janet Evanovich is back with Explosive Eighteen!  I can't get enough of her books, they are just so much fun!  They really do make me laugh out loud.  Literally.  Anyway, this latest Stephanie Plum romp includes all the usual suspects.  Joe Morelli and Ranger are still hotties, Vinnie is still a weasel and the FTA's are still uncooperative. The really big news is Evanovich's first book has been made into a movie! One for the Money comes out on January 27th, starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie and Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur. I can't wait!!

I'll see you at the movies...Mary Kay

Happy New Year!

OK, I know I'm a little late, but I've been playing catch up.  But, now that I'm MOSTLY caught up, I can  start reading again.  Hurray!

Sue Grafton is one of my favorite authors, and her latest book, V is for Vengeance, does not disappoint.  For those of you who don't know her, this is the 22nd book in her detective/mystery series.  Her first book is A is for Alibi, and she has worked her way through the alphabet to the current V.  That is good news for all who are just starting to read her books, but bad news for her legions of fans...ONLY FOUR MORE TO GO!!!

Kinsey Millhone is a private detective in Santa Teresa (Santa Barbara) where, surprisingly, there is never a  shortage of illegal mischief for her to investigate.  Even the most beautiful of settings can hide a seedy underbelly, and Kinsey's accidental witnessing of a shoplifting thrusts her right in the middle of murder and mayhem.  And I don't think she has Allstate.  (Get it?!)  When a grieving widower hires her to investigate the suspicious death of his new fiancĂ©/above-mentioned-shoplifter, she begins to unravel a sinister web of mobsters and dirty cops, none of whom want her to uncover the truth.

I fell in love with Kinsey Millhone when I met her in A is for Alibi.  She is smart, tough, vulnerable and lovable.  If you know her, I'm sure you feel the same.  If you don't, start reading NOW!!  I just wish our alphabet had more than 26 letters.