The Sunday Salon – Sharing Books

Every so often, I exchange books with some of my co-workers.  This week, I shared a few new favorites (The Girl Who Chased the Moon and The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen) and an old favorite (Good Omens by Neil Gaiman).  The person I loaned Good Omens to had never heard of Neil Gaiman.  It took every last bit of restraint I had to not say what was in my head — “What?!  How have you never heard of the most wonderful writer who goes by the name of Neil Gaiman?  What?!”  I thought everyone knew of Neil Gaiman.  Ah, the book bubble I live in some days.

My mother will also be the recipient of several books I liked and re-discovered while doing my semi-regular clean of the shelves.  She cracked me up when I was telling her about the books though and as it turns out, a good friend of her’s will also be getting some books because she said, “Ooo, that sounds like something Peggy would read.”  Guess what Peggy, you’re getting’ some books!

I know some of these books may not make it back to me, some many take months before I see them again, and I’m good with that.  I’ve read them all and enjoyed them and it makes me happy to be able to share with friends and family stories I liked.  I’m also interested to hear what people think of the books.  A small part of me wonders if they will love them as much as I do.  That’s what sharing is all about and I’m sure my mom is glad to hear I’ve retained my skills.  🙂

And now for some link love…

Want to read reviews of the worst book ever?  This made me giggle it was so strange.

Fictional character quiz.

I don’t belong to a book club but this profile has me intrigued. I think one of the reasons I never enjoyed book clubs was because they always turned to gossip, nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to talk about the book and that never happened.  Do you belong to any book clubs?  How does it work for your group?

This is completely unrelated to books but I can’t help sharing.  SHARK WEEK starts today! I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Happy Sunday.  I’m off to spend another day indoors hiding from the heat.

The Sunday Salon – My Books

I thought I’d take a moment today to talk about my books.  More specifically, where the books I review on this blog come from.

There are several sources to draw from:

  • Personal books I’ve bought (this category does include ebooks).  This is how I acquire most of the books I read and review here.
  • Personal books that have been bought for me.
  • Library books.  Although, thanks to a little tiff with the library and its amazing ability to constantly misplace books and sometimes misplace them permanently so as to make them lost, I haven’t taken any books out in a while but it might be time to get over it on my part.
  • I do also, from time to time but not on a regular basis, request advanced review copies of books I’d like to read.  These books, for the most part, make up a relatively small portion of my reading since I don’t ask for many.
  • I’m also a reviewer for The BookReporter website.  I reviewed books for this website before starting my own blog and usually read two or three books for the group every two months.  I do include some of these reviews here and tag them as BookReporter reviews.
  • Finally, NetGalley.  I joined a while back and then did nothing with it.  I decided to take another look and have downloaded about four books.  Not many I know.  It’s not that the book selections aren’t interesting, they are, but considering the stack of books already leaning precariously to the right on the small table I consider my TBR pile, I’m trying not to add a virtual stack as well.
  • Books that authors and publicists pitch me.  I get these emails every once in a while and in most cases, I do not accept the books mostly because the books are not the type I read and I don’t feel I can do them justice.  In some cases, I have accepted the books.  It’s rare but it happens.

Why bring this up?  A person who sees me often, and almost always with a book, asked me where I get my books from.  If he wondered, then maybe some of the people reading my ramblings here might also wonder and I thought it might be a good time to mention it.  So there you have it.

Some links this week —

Bookshelf Porn has this lovely beauty to share this week.

On Flavorwire, you can learn how to drink like a famous author.

The Los Angeles Times Book Blog, Jacket Copy, has some French reading for the summer.

The Guardian has a list of the best 100 non-fiction books.  I’ve read about five books on the list.

Happy Sunday.

Short Story Quick Reviews – The Gauntlet and The Queen’s Witch

The Gauntlet: A Kit Marlowe Short

By Karen Chance

Smashwords Edition – Free Nook download from Barnes & Noble

3.75 stars

Kit Marlowe is a vampire working for Queen Elizabeth I.  He’s sent to the Queen’s prison in search of a witch to help with his work.  He finds the woman he needs at the prison, a powerful witch named Gillian, and decides she’s fit for what the Queen wants but before he can get out with her, a magical battle takes place between coven witches and mages, and Kit is forced to fight alongside Gillian to get out alive.

Witches, mages, and covens battling it out for the right of survival and throw in a vampire for fun and well, just call it fun.  Why not?  When I read this book I was on a fantasy bender and also a short story run which is not my usual preference but something was really appealing about this.  An hour’s worth of reading for a magical battle was just what I needed.  Chance didn’t skimp on the magic and while it would have been great to have more information on how the magical system worked, there wasn’t much time for that but I was OK with it.  Kit and Gillian carry it off and though much is left unexplained, it was still entertaining.

 

The Queen’s Witch: A Kit Marlowe Short

Karen Chance

Smashwords Edition – Free Nook Download from Barnes & Noble

3.75 stars

The Gauntlet’s follow-up.  Having recently escaped from a prison stronghold with a vampire named Kit, Gillian is now a witch with a price on her head.  Kit, however, needs her once more promising to take Gillian and her daughter to safety after she helps him procure a jewel meant to poison the Queen.

I have a Nook and while browsing the Barnes & Noble online store one day I found these free downloads.  Both looked interesting enough so I took advantage.  Really, free books, how could one not.  🙂  This one is short, only 37 pages, but it was fun.  Gillian and Kit have an entertaining relationship and it being so short there isn’t much background here — more is in The Gauntlet which preceded this one — but I found myself liking the two characters more and more and wondering if I could find more shorts.  And then I thought I would even be willing to pay.  Gillian and Kit feel like fully developed characters and while the story does feel as if there should be more, it was a good few page for me.

Sunday Salon – Why I Shouldn’t Go to Going Out of Business Sales

Yesterday, while out enjoying the lovely weather (it’s raining today so getting out yesterday was imperative) we crossed paths with the Borders that’s closing in our neighborhood.  We decided to browse a bit and that’s how I came home with six new books.  In bookstores, browsing and buying are the same thing for me.  My TBR pile is officially out of control but it’s all good because I managed to pick up several books on the mighty big list so I’m considering it a win-win.

The Gates by John Connolly – a young kid goes trick or treating a few days early and finds out his neighbors have managed to open the gates to hell.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley – a writer using history as inspiration starts to wonder is she’s dealing with an ancestral memory.

Poison by Sara Poole – a young woman searching for her father’s killer finds herself in the position of poisoner for Cardinal Borgia.

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – a man traveling in the French Pyrenees during a snowstorm crashes his car and ends up at a small tavern where he meets a woman with a tragic story to tell.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger – a lady’s maid finds a new life but also finds out it’s not one meant for her.

Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman – the last days of the marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Recently, these books also made it into the house:

Livia: Empress of Rome by Matthew Dennison – present from my husband who knows how much I love ancient Rome.  It’s my next non-fiction read.

Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon – LibraryThing Early Reviewers Give Away.

Twice a Spy by Keith Thomson – from the publisher.

And from the library:

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – for the Time Travel Challenge.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick – other than being fantasy, I don’t know much about it.  I found it searching but it looks interesting.

Busy the next few weeks?  I will be. 🙂

Last week I had the chance to read an ARC of The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen and if I had to describe it in one word it would be wonderful.  I’m planning to finish Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran today — another favorite author — and from there I have no idea what’s next but at least I have options.

A few fun things to share this week:

Harry Potter Quiz at The Guardian.

Life instructions, Jane Austen or JWwow (she’s on MTV’s Jersey Shore  if you don’t know who she is and since I had to Google that I wanted to share that bit of knowledge so others don’t have to look it up).  Trust me, you’ll go with Jane Austen.  Somehow this one made me feel old but smart then vindicated.

Minis Tirith out of toothpicks.

What your books do when you aren’t home.

New David Foster Wallace story to appear in The New Yorker. It’s been a few years since I’ve read one his books but I still don’t think I’m ready to tackle Infinite Jest.  I may never be but it will always be on my list.

Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – Sharing is Fun

While browsing the internets this week, I came across a few things that made me want to share.  My mom is probably bursting with pride to know I’m using my sharing skills.  🙂

The first is an article that appeared in The Washington Post earlier this week – ‘Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen Brings Middle-Earth to iTunes Via Podcast.  His website, The Tolkien Professor, is even more interesting and I’ve already found a few books on Tolkien criticism that will be added to my list.  I haven’t downloaded any of the lectures from iTunes, only because I’m hopeless when it comes to that and somehow always mess something up that confuzzles my husband, so I’m holding off but it will happen at some point.

This I found on BBC News – Divided Attention Disorder? Log off and read a book.  I laughed while reading it (it’s written by a comedian so it was intended) because this is something I do.  Feel overwhelmed?  Read.  The part about googling the plot though is something I’ve done, but I won’t hang my head in shame.  I like to know the end.

I had a good week of reading too.  I finished Spook by Mary Roach, Autumn: The City by David Moody, and started A Conspiracy of Kings by Meghan Whalen Turner.  I even managed to sneak in the writing of a few reviews this week too so I’m feeling very accomplished on the book front.

I’m planning to make a four course meal tonight for Valentine’s Day.  We’re celebrating a day early thanks to crazy Monday schedules so I’m off to start cooking.  Happy Sunday.

The Sunday Salon – Long Books and Loot

For the second week in a row, I’ve been in a one week, one book relationship.  The first was a non-fiction book that I was having some issues with (I wasn’t liking it so much and found some of it annoying so it took me longer, even longer than my normal slow pace associated with non-fiction books because there were times I thought about winging it far from my being.) and the second week was consumed by an almost 800 page historical fiction tome that, well, it just took me a long time to read.  I did enjoy it though so there are no complaints.  🙂

So what book was it?  The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick.  Last year, I read her Arthurian legend trilogy, Pendragon’s Banner, loved it so much I knew I needed to read more and when I saw this one, I bought it.  Lately my restraint tactics which I practiced all last year in regard to buying books have been tossed casually into a black hole from which they will never ever return.  Although, the new books are all ebooks so they aren’t taking up any physical space which is probably why I’ve kept at the buying the last few days with little regard for anything other than how much money is left on my gift cards.  The answer to that is not much.  I also picked up A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin (can’t wait for it!) and Un Lun Dun by China Mieville.  I read two of his books last year and he’s becoming a favorite.

To show there’s more to me than just hitting the download button, I also stopped by the library (thanks honey for double parking and deftly avoiding a ticket) and picked up two books that I’m looking forward to reading.  OK, one I already started…

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach.  Mary Roach writes the funniest and most entertaining non-fiction books I’ve ever read and this is going to be the perfect one to get me back on the non-fiction wagon which I jumped off of in January.  My second book is A Conspiracy of Kings by Meghan Whalen Turner.  I thought, really believed, that I had finished this series last year but I didn’t and well, that needed to be fixed and now I have the final book and all is well.

I’m off now.  My husband has informed me there is football stuff to be watched.  Happy Sunday everyone and enjoy the game!

It’s Monday and I got nothin’

Ok, not entirely true but somewhat.  I’ve been hoping to get back to a regular blog rhythm this year but I seem to have turned into a cold and flu magnet and I haven’t felt like doing much writing.  After two rounds of antibiotics and a few days on the couch, I’m finally feeling good enough to sit up and thought I’d take a minute (a short one) to talk about a few of the books I read last week.

The Last Pendragon: A Story of Dark Age Wales by Sarah Woodbury — This was a Nook read.  I found it while looking at my Nook library online and downloaded it.  My love of Arthurian Legend always compels me to do these things.  It won’t top my best of list but it did help me get out of a slump.  There are some supernatural elements in this one that most Arthurian stories don’t have and while I’m not a huge fan of those additions to this story, it worked here.  It adheres to the basic story and many of the required elements are present — the sword in a stone, love, a merlin-like character, etc.  It was more character than plot driven but I’m all right with that.  All in all, interesting.

 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill — I love ghost stories and when I found out my library had this one, I wanted it.  It delivered on the creepy front.  It’s tension filled and can make you want to turn the lights on in every room of your house.  On the surface it might seem a bit tame — a young lawyer is sent to handle the affairs of a deceased client who lived on a small, isolated island in the north of England.  What he finds is a town unwilling to share information about the woman whose affairs he’s handling and even less willing to talk about the house and property she owned.  Nothing is explained at first and that adds to the story being this dark spot in a small town’s history.  I loved it.

 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness — As soon as this book entered my house I wanted to read it.  I put it off at first but then gave in as soon as possible.  I don’t really know what to say about this one because I loved it so so much.  Being sick makes it hard for me to read sometimes but I couldn’t put this book down.  The characters all worked for me, the story was complicated, it mixed science and history, and it was a book about a book.  Books about books always entice me.  It was also about witches, vampires, and daemons.  I thought I was sick of the vampire thing but they worked in this book.  I adored the cover too and yes I mentioned that in another post already.

I think my next book is going to be Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDivitt.  I have a non-fiction book about Jamestown but I don’t think I’ll be able to comprehend that one in my current condition.  I also have Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen so my next few days are happily covered.

Re-Read Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Since I read the final two books in my Harry Potter Re-Read back to back I thought it would be a good idea to put my thoughts together because the books sort of melded in my head.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By JK Rowling

Scholastic Inc.

ISBN: 0-439-78454-9

The short re-cap: Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year.  His hopes are high after learning he will be having private lessons with Dumbledore, finds he has feeling for Ginny he never imagined, and realizes his life is about to change forever.

Spoilers below; I’ve warned you so no complaints.

I love how book six begins with a visit to the Muggle Prime Minister.  I don’t know why but the scene where the Muggle Minister gets annoyed by having to wait for the Minister of Magic to appear just makes me laugh.  I love, love, love Fred and George and the new joke shop.  U No Poo!  How can you not chuckle at that?  Also, the Fleur and Mrs. Weasley testing of the waters of the in-law pool is a nice aside in a book that can otherwise be full of tension.  The pensive is probably one of my most favorite of Rowling’s magical inventions and the ways she uses it to tell Voldermort’s story makes it all the more interesting.  And then, there’s the romance.  I don’t care much for teen angst but here it’s not annoying.  Ron and Lavender are amusing but poor Hermione getting stuck with Cormac McLaggen is just mean.  And yes, I know she’s doing it to hurt Ron but she could have picked better.  Harry and Ginny — I love that these two get together but I hate that they break up.  Harry, can you be more stubborn?  Yes, he can but I won’t go there now.

I can’t escape it so I’ll mention it — Dumbledore’s death.  It’s sad and it makes the ending of this book seem so final.  Each time I want it to end differently and it doesn’t but I appreciate that Rowling has people die in this series.  It’s necessary for the story and adds much more weight to it.

The Half-Blood Prince is one of my favorites in the series.  This is probably my second favorite followed by the Prisoner of Azkaban.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By JK Rowling

Scholastic Inc.

ISBN: 0-545-01022-5

The short re-cap: Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave Hogwarts and their families behind to search for the horcruxes hidden by Voldermort.  Camping ensures, fighting begins, and life as Harry knows it will never be the same.

OK, folks, spoilers drill remains in place.

The Deathly Hallows is a sad book for many reasons but for me it’s sad because it’s the end.  There’s no more to look forward to.  Also, the first time I read this book I didn’t so much mind the epilogue.  This time it didn’t feel necessary for me to know that Ginny and Harry marry and have three children or that Ron and Hermione stay together.  But, that off my chest now, let’s move on.

The camping is slow and the first part of this book does feel like it drags a bit.  While the searching for the horcruxes bit is a necessary part of the plot, it’s slow and the in fighting with Harry, Ron, and Hermione gets tired.  Although, this is the book in which I fall in love with Neville and Luna.  They both shine brightly doing more to help Harry that he could or would have ever asked them to do.  They’re stand up people and I couldn’t be happier that it’s Neville that chops off Nagini’s head!  Luna is still loopy but she gets people so well, that in the end, when she sees Harry sitting on a bench in the Great Hall after the battle, she’s the one that provides him his means of escape.  Ginny is pure fire and the way Harry looks for her dot on the Maurader’s Map is sweet, if still a little creepy.

Snape.  I skipped mentioning him in my thoughts on the Half-Blood Prince even though he plays a large part there because I wanted to talk about him here.  No, I didn’t have a change of heart.  I still dislike him greatly.  He does redeem himself, in Harry’s eyes, but not mine.  My dislike of him has been cultivated for far too long for me to like him now even after knowing what he has done to help Harry.  Snape harbors too much hate for Harry’s father James to really care much about him the end.  Yes, I know he does care but for me it feels forced and I can’t go along.

Earlier I said I found this book sad.  There are a number of reasons but the one that stands out is Dobby’s death.  I got a little teary when reading it.  Dobby has been there for Harry and to have him die now is heartbreaking.  Harry finds resolve in his death but I don’t.  For me, it’s sadder than Dumbledore’s death.

There are some amazing moments:  Mrs. Weasley taking on Bellatrix.  How fabulous is Molly!  Ron finding he cares about house elves, at least for Hermione’s sake.  Hermione’s quick thinking that gets them out of several incidents.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s escape from Gringotts on a dragon.  Neville becoming the man!

My re-read may have started on a whim and took a lot longer than I thought it would to finish the seven books but I’m glad I made the time.  These aren’t books I pull off my shelf often, in fact, it’s been years since I’ve read any of them but it was fun to re-live this story.  Even knowing what happens and how it will all end, there were still a few surprises here.

Final thoughts on all the books:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — It must have been at least 10 years since I read this one and it was a lovely surprise.  The story is full of wonder at the beginning and I forgot how easily Rowling can pull a reader into her world.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — I wanted to pace myself for the re-read because I didn’t want to burn out.  I did rush into this one and while I loved it, I was really looking forward to book three.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Undoubtedly, my favorite.  I loved it the first time I read it and fell in love all over again on page one.  The story takes a little bit darker turn but it also re-introduced me to characters like Lupin and Sirius that I heart.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — I have to say that I enjoyed this one more on this reading.  Why, I can’t really say but I discovered many things this time around that I forgot.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — While I didn’t find as much joy in book five as I did in the previous four, I still liked it.  Harry gets very moody in this one and my tolerance for teen angst is low so I was annoyed a bit but nowhere near enough to stop!  Besides, I get to intense moments of Snape dislike in this one and that’s totally worth it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — Again, more Snape disliking and that’s good.  Also, while the teen angst gets to me, the teen romance got me in this one.  I think it’s because I love when Harry and Ginny together.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — It’s sad because so many people die in this one but there’s something so wonderful about seeing it through to the end.  While I can do without the epilogue, the ending seems just right for me.

Well, after several months, my re-read is over and all I have to say is the end.