Archives for category: Book Review

Italian LessonsItalian Lessons by Peter Pezzelli
Jeanne introduced me to this author with Every Sunday and I think I have now read all of his books except Villa Mirabella. I am thinking I will have to go back, now, and read Every Sunday again, since it has been awhile.

The ending of this book is the best, because it shows how people act when the chips are down. The beginning is a little slow, but the characters act like real people and not characters being manipulated in a book.

I also like the description of how emotions affect other parts of the characters’ lives.

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Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs

I have so many quilt and craft books to review that sometimes I just flee to a good a murder mystery. This was an interesting book to read. It is the first in the series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. I have been a long time fan of the TV show, Bones, and finally decided to read the book that was the seed of the show.

This Temperance Brennan is very different from the TV show’s Temperance Brennan, who seems slightly towards the Aspberger’s range. The TV show’s Temperance Brennan also has Booth. This book’s Temperance Brennan has a lot of feelings, definitely feels the social impact of being around other people, is not the boss and makes bad decisions. In short, she is human while the TV Temperance Brennan is vastly different.

Once I settled into that difference, I was impressed by the intelligence that the book’s Temperance Brennan showed, because it reminded me that a person doesn’t have to have Aspberger’s to be highly intelligent. The book is well written and has a good storyline. It was interesting to visit the early 1990s with no cell phones and email availability through universities only.

Like Terri Thayer‘s writing, some of the end parts go too fast and need to be read again. I get that feeling of NEEDING to know what is going to happen and skipping through so fast I miss the details, so I can’t really blame Kathy Reichs.

The other thing I liked about this book is that the author did not pander to the lowest common denominator. This is a book that smart people can sink their teeth into.

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Starting OverStarting Over by Robin Pilcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was ok. I liked it because it has elements of Rosamunde Pilcher‘s writing in it. The characters are similar, but the sentences are not as carefully constructed and the descriptions tended to make my mind wander. I liked the story and thought the ending was a good one – not a typical and expected fiction ending.

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The God of the Hive (Mary Russell, #10)The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked this book better than the previous book, The Language of Bees. The “two books as one story” concept, however, did not work for me, simply, I think, because they were not released at the same time. Once I got my hands on this book, some time since I read the previous book had passed. I had forgotten some of the story and much of the detail from The Language of Bees. This book seemed obtuse, and unnecessarily complicated to me. I really enjoyed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and, especially, Locked Rooms, but am worried that Laurie R. King is using some gimmicks to sell books. Alternatively, perhaps she is mimicking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s style rather than developing her style further.

I was very glad to see Mycroft show up in Chapter 60. What a relief! The story began to make more sense and I could see the resolution coming once he was back in the saddle.

I did enjoy the character of Robert Goodman. I am glad his body wasn’t found, because that means he may show up again. I didn’t understand the Peter James West character. He was spooky and dangerous, that was clear, but to what end?

I really hope Ms. King gets back to the style of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

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The PearlThe Pearl by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the interesting parts of this book is the length. It is a really short book, but the story moves at a different pace than books to which we are accustomed today. I am more than 3/4s of the way through the book and I have the sense that the actions happening now would be in the first or second chapter of a modern book.

I always think of reading classics as something I should do because it is good for my mind rather than being entertaining and relaxing. This book is really beautifully written and, while tense and sad, is not a slog at all.

This book talks about consequences, discrimination, the sadness of life, the futility of non-conformity and how some people will go to any length to get what they want.

One interesting thing about this book is the inclusion of the ‘songs’ – the Song of the Family, the Song of the Pearl, etc. It occurred to me that we all must have songs of these types going on in our head, especially in that space where suddenly we pull back from being in our body and observe the world around us with our minds, like an impartial observer.

There were a couple of passages that really moved me as well. One was about the relationship between men and women. The passage is preceded by Kino striking Juana. “There was no anger in her for Kino. He had said, ‘I am a man,’ and that meant certain things to Juana. It meant that he was half insane and half god. It meant that Kino would drive his strength against a mountain and plunge his strength against the sea. Juana, in her woman’s soul, knew that the mountain would stand while the man broke himself; that the sea would surge while the man drowned in it. And yet it was this thing that made him a man, half insane and half god, and Juana had need of a man; she could not live without a man. Although she might be puzzled by these differences between man and woman, she knew them and accepted them and needed them. Of course, she would follow him, there was no question of that.”

This passage shows an understanding of people that is gorgeous and sophisticated. Also, John Steinbeck‘s writing captures feelings and understanding in a taut few paragraphs of writing.

Another passage that was very sensible and beautiful started “All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. And knowing this she abandoned the past instantly. There was nothing to do, but to save themselves.” Juana is a practical woman in a lot of ways. Her strength lies in giving wise counsel and knowing when to say nothing. She is a wise and elegant character.

Steinbeck’s descriptions are wonderful. He uses adjectives skillfully and artfully.

I think I probably read this book in school at some point, but I really don’t remember reading it. I attended a school that loved to not assign the classics, so it is possible that I didn’t read it. I am glad I found it again.

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Rebecca's Tale Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman


My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier was on my mind for awhile. I thought I would look up some scholarly articles and read analyses about the book. Before I could do that this book came to my attention.
The books starts out with very intense emotion in the voice of Colonel Julyan. I had a hard time reading the first part, because it was so intense, and I really thought I would have to abandon Rebecca’s Tale entirely. The voices, however, change as the book progresses and I found that the text became easier to read as they changed. It is interesting to see the different points of view as all the characters speak.

I enjoyed the book, but found that I needed more information about post-war England or there were parts of the book that were a little too unbelievable.

I liked the section where Ellie speaks and would love to see another book about her and her life before this book and then after. I thought she was a good character.

The tone has a bit of the confusion that I find in Rebecca, which, I suppose, is a link between the two books. This book is a bit clearer in what happened, but not completely clear.

There are some parts that are unnecessary like references to Tom’s, and Rose’s, personal situations. I suppose they explain why Tom acts the way he does towards Ellie, and explain the choices that Rose made in her life, but I found them to be unnecessary. These and Colonel Julyan’s end seemed overly dramatic and out of place.

Dumaurier.org has an enlightening description of Rebecca, mentions of sequels and further reading at the website of the organization

The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss


My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was a hard book to get through. I persevered. The writer overuses a very dry humor and didn’t let up to the point where it became a constant haranguing drone. The tone got old after a few chapters. She would have done well to employ it in a few places throughout the book.

The reason I stuck with it had to do with the definitive lists of when to use apostrophes, commas, ellipses, dashes, etc which I found to be quite useful. I also found that her points about the changes in the way we use language, and punctuation in particular, to be quite interesting.

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I found this book review on LLRX. Julia Wotipka writes an excellent review about a book that tells you how to do everything on the web and even more. The book focuses on the creative, productive and engaging ways to leverage all aspects of web publishing. One thing I found interesting was a mention of a companion website with additional materials including podcasts, tutorial videos and chapter updates. This is an interesting concept to me. Lately I have been thinking of ways that people/companies link information. I think that iTunes does it pretty well with their ‘playlists’ feature. In that program once you download a song, you can include it in many different playlists without storing the song multiple times. Flickr does something similar with photos. Once your photos are uploaded you can include them in different ‘sets.’ So far, I have only seen applications that can do with the same kind of data, eg MP3s or photos or text. I haven’t seen an application where you can store and arrange different types of information in the same application in a display that is pleasing to a human. I am looking for it, though.

AMISH INSPIRED QUILTS by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins

Piece O’Cake Designs creates quilts with lots of cheerful and fun fabrics. I don’t usually buy their books, because there are a small number of pages with photographs of quilts in a book mostly taken up with patterns. Someone gave me this book as a gift and I read a bit of the introduction (before the patterns). I was pleased to have done so, because they had written some really interesting information on using solid fabrics more effectively. Reading the bit in the front also made me examine the photos of the quilts more closely. I learned some great information about using solids in a more interesting way than I have done in the past.

DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS by PD James

At a small training college for Anglican priests, the son of a high powered businessman is found dead on the beach. The father is not satisfied with the results of the inquest and demands that Scotland Yard send an investigator out to look into the situation. The death hastens the ongoing discussions about closing the college. As a result, other issues cloud the situation surrounding the first murder, including the fact that other murders follow. This is the first Adam Dagliesh mystery that I read and I really enjoyed the character. I liked the way James writes as well as her weaving of a complex story, which makes sense at the end. Throughout the story, the author continues to contribute to the information as if she were part of the investigation team feeding you information. Numerous twists and unexpected turns.

DENYSE SCHMIDT QUILTS by Denyse Schmidt.

Denyse Schmidt seems to be on a mission to single handedly engage young people’s interest in quiltmaking. Her designs are simple and elegant and have interesting color combinations. The emphasis is not on matching points precisely, but making quilt projects with a lot of movement and fresh color choices. She also has a variety of different projects, one of which made me think that I actually could make a tote bag. Her writing style is fun. While some of the directions are a bit confusing, I think a beginner could walk away from this book with some nicely completed projects. I don’t usually buy project based quilt books, but I bought this one, because the designs stuck in my mind. And it is proving to be a good investment as I keep looking at it over and over.

THE EDGE OF EVIL by J. A. Jance

I was inspired to read this book after hearing Jance speak at Internet Librarian last year. The book is a about an “over 40” news reporter who is fired from her job for being too old and subsequently finds herself with her life falling apart: husband sleeping around, no job prospects, injured father and embroiled in the aftermath of the death of her friend. I enjoyed the story, but thought that it was really complicated and not going anywhere until 7/8ths of the way through the story when suddenly all the pieces fell into place. The interesting part [from a librarian’s point of view] was that the main character starting blogging. This element introduced a variety of random voices into the story, something ,I think, that all who engage in the Internet experience on a daily basis. It gave the book a level of reality that I haven’t experienced in other books thus far. I do hope the author writes about the character again.

FORTUNE’S ROCKS by Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve has become one of my favorite authors. She captures the feelings of new love so accurately that it was almost painful; the sensation of being in complete control until you realize unexpectedly that your whole life is out of control. The descriptions of a young, wealthy girl who engages in a completely unsuitable lover and then stands up for her rights and what she wants with compassion and feeling for others is extraordinary. Shreve has a gift for descriptions.

IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY by Bill Bryson

I listened to the audio version, which Bryson narrates. It is a great book and will make you laugh out loud. Although from Iowa, he has an interesting accent, which is vaguely English (where he spent many years) and vaguely indefinable. This book is VERY VERY funny. I thought that I should immediately give it to my brother-in-law, who is Australian, but then it occurred to me that it may not be quite so funny for Australians. A lot of Aussie history is included, which was completely unfamilar to me. The sights, both famous and not so famous, are analyzed quite well. This allows the reader (or listener) to get a good idea of the scope of Australian history, geography and landscape as well as the wonders, manmade and natural, which come across as well worth visiting.

LOCKED ROOMS by Laurie King

Another in the Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes mystery series. I wasn’t that enamored with the last book and it took me a long time to get through. This one, however, was fantastic. First, it is set in San Francisco and I always enjoy reading books about The City. Second, the book delves into Mary Russell’s past and resolves some issues that make her character prickly in the other books. In most of the previous books, Holmes comes across as not really caring about his wife and this book starts out that way as well, but the reader finds, as the book continues, how he really feels about her. The 1906 earthquake and fire are mentioned in great detail, as are various figures in San Francisco history, which all come together to make a good story. This is definitely a book I would read again.

PATHS OF DESIRE by Dominique Browning

The editor of Home and Garden has written this book about redoing her garden. Some of it is interesting and some of it is hard to read and/or a little too self indulgent. Lots of references to different kinds of plants and relations with neighbors. It is an excellent description of how a defined project can grow from “adding a few plants to the garden” to taking out trees, repaving the driveway, replacing bricks in the front walk, etc. I didn’t finish the book, because I got tired of the stream of consciousness style of her writing. I enjoyed her first book much more.

PLAYING THE FOOL by Laurie King

This book was interesting, but I didn’t find it to have as smooth a transition from the first book in the series to this one. The book starts with a funeral pyre in Golden Gate Park and the death of homeless people. It is an interesting look at the way homeless people survive and the communities they make among themselves, though I have no idea how accurate King’s descriptions are. In these descriptions, it highlights how everyone is the same regardless of their financial circumstances. The central character, Kate, is getting back into the swing after the near death of her lover int he first book and an, apparent, disastrous case between the cast in the first book where we met her and the case that makes up the plot of this novel. The descriptions are not as complete as in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books and this particular volume came across as choppy.

SORCERY & CECELIA OR THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

I am constantly on the hunt for new and interesting books to engage my 10 year old, especially if they have nothing to do with Yu-gi-oh or Pokemon or Shonen Jump, Avatar, Goosebumps, Animorphs, Lemony Snicket or Naruto. This book is based on a game called the Letter Game, where two people take on different personas and write letters as that persona for a defined period of time. It works better if there are some agreements on time, place, era, etc. I don’t think that the authors intended to write a book, but found one at the end of their game. The authors (letter writers) write about cousins just after the Napoleanic wars in an England where sorcery and magic are part of every day life. The story tells the trials and tribulations of two teenaged girls who are trying to save people they care about from death by magic. One is in London having her “Coming Out Season,” while the other is left behind in the country. The book was a little hard to follow in the beginning, but I came to care about the characters and their adventures. The authors tidied up the ending very carefully and not-too quickly.

VENETIAN AFFAIR by Andrea Di Robilant.

Another story of forbidden love between a Venetian patrician and an English girl of “unsuitable” parentage. This book is also told through letters and the amazing part is the things the lovers put down on paper. When they were angry at each other, they didn’t hem and haw around the subject, they told it like it was. It was an interesting book to learn about the singular Venetian culture (did you know they wore masks much of the year?), but it was a little bit hard to get through, because much of it was repetitive.

These book reviews were first posted at NOCALL News, March/April 2007 issue with slight variations. For more reviews, visit the newsletter.

I spent a few days in Monterey at a conference and had it on my list to go to Back Porch Fabrics. I missed them by a few minutes on Sunday after my drive down, but went on a lunch break on Tuesday and, even though I only had a few minutes, it was great. What a wonderful store! It is light and airy with bright, bright colors. So different from the dreary browns I have been subjected to recently.

Additionally, Jean, a CQFA member was there working. We were able to have a nice little chat while she cut my fabrics. I got some great fabrics.

I also bought the relatively new Sandra Meech Book, Creative Quilts. It was an impulse buy, but the displays were so good at Back Porch that I couldn’t help myself. I almost bought another as well, but restrained myself.

Before I left on my trip, I ordered some more additional pieces of the Serendipity fabrics (these are the Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins fabrics from P&B not the new Robbi Joy colelction) from Joyce at Quilting Adventures. I am gearing up to make the quilt out of the whole line and want to use the turquoise as the sashing and some of the border. Most of these fabrics you have seen before. You can see them in one of my August posts. They were waiting for me when I returned.

She sent them along with a nice little note. What a pleasure to work with her. If you have not been to Joyce’s store, go there on your way into or out of Washington DC. If you can’t go to the shop, at least take a look at the shop blog. It will give you a sense of the shop. You can also take a look at the Artquiltmaker Blog Archive to get a sense of my experience there. I did take some photos of the shop, but can’t find them now. If I come across them, I will edit this post, so check back. QA will be moving in December, so any photos I post will be archival footage anyway.