Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review - The Night Gardener

Title: The Night Gardener
Author: George Pelecanos
ISBN: 978-0-316-05650-2
Pages: 372
Release Date: August 2006
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

: Gus Ramone is "good police," a former Internal Affairs investigator now working homicide for the city's Violent Crime branch. His new case involves the death of a local teenager named Asa, whose body has been found in a local community garden.

The murder unearths intense memories of a case Ramone worked as a patrol cop twenty years earlier, when he and his partner, Dan "Doc" Holiday, assisted a legendary detective named T. C. Cook. The series of murders, all involving local teenage victims, was never solved. In the years since, Holiday has left the force under a cloud of morals charges, and now finds work as a bodyguard and driver. Cook has retired, but he has never stopped agonizing about the "Night Gardener" killings.

The new case draws the three men together on a grim mission to finish the work that has haunted them for years. All the love, regret, and anger that once burned between them comes rushing back, and old ghosts walk once more as the men try to lay to rest the monster who has stalked their dreams. Bigger and even more unstoppable than his previous thrillers, George Pelecanos achieves in The Night Gardener what his brilliant career has been building toward: a novel that is a perfect union of suspense, character, and unstoppable fate.

My Thoughts: George Pelecanos' The Night Gardener is not your typical crime drama. Pelecanos, a contributing writer on HBO's critically-acclaimed series, The Wire, doesn't just write crime dramas. He writes character studies set against the back drop of crime. What makes The Night Gardener so engrossing is Pelecanos' understanding of human nature, his awareness that people are both good and bad, and his ability to portray these qualities in his characters whether they are perpetrators, victims or investigators. It is this skill that makes The Night Gardener a book that people from all walks of life can identify with and enjoy.

We see this dichotomy in the main character of Gus Ramone, for example, who has his share of dilemmas (moral, professional and otherwise) at work and at home. As a cop, Ramone prides himself on doing his job by the book but struggles over what to do when his usual ways won't get him the results he needs. He's never respected cops who he considered "loose cannons" like former police officer Dan Holiday, whom he believes, willingly and easily stepped over the line to solve. But the day Ramone works a case that's become personal, more to him than just the job, he begins to see things differently. He finds himself questioning whether things really are as black and white as he believes or if, sometimes, passion and desire dictate approaching things from a different angle.

On the home front, in his role as parent, he faces a dilemma regarding his son's education. He loves and trusts his son, Diego, but knows it's hard out in the world beyond the family home's front door. Dangerous elements, bad influences and temptations abound - all the things every concerned parent worries about. So Ramone, after he and his wife discuss it together (while Ramone agonizes over it alone), places Diego in a "better" private school. There he discovers a different set of problems that may be far worse than his son faced while in DC's public school system. Such life changing choices leads Ramone to be constantly second guessing himself. And who among us hasn't undergone that kind of inner struggle, that personal turmoil that makes us wish life wasn't so hard? Ramone's wife is there with him, a constant companion and source of moral support. A confidante. But Ramone, it seems, is ultimately the one on who's shoulders many of these burdens rest, and we hope he eventually finds some peace of mind while trying to achieve the American dream - to be a success at his job and raise a law-abiding, well-educated family in the face of an increasingly hostile and often indifferent society.

When it comes to Ramone's wife, who happens to be a former police officer, and his partner, also a woman, Rhonda Willis, one wishes Pelecanos would have devoted more time to fleshing them out. Since the book comes in at a taut 365 pages, (which goes by at nearly light speed anyway), spending an additional few chapters providing insight into their psyches, their hopes, fears and inspirations, would have been refreshing. Though they offer well-needed and well-timed comic support and witty dialogue, it sometimes seems that's the only reason they are there. Unfortunately, as such they come off as ancillary to the story. They deserve more and we deserve to see Pelecanos turn his knack for writing introspective, distinctive and keen characters to women.

That, I feel, is about all that is warranted by way of criticism for this otherwise exciting and engrossing book. The high points heavily outweigh the shortcomings, and the dialogue, which makes up much of The Night Gardener, is clearly one of its major strengths. Pelecanos excels at subtly introducing ideas and themes through the characters' discussions. The brutally honest way in which Pelecanos' characters communicate and the often "colorful" language used is bound to cause discomfort for some readers. But without it, the book would not ring as true. In cities everywhere, (and why should D.C., the setting, be any different?), for many of the cops and criminals, peppering their language with curses, crude words and expletives comes as natural as breathing. This allows for the graphic dialogue in The Night Gardner to be employed as a tool that makes people confront some bitter truths about the way things really are. If this comes at a cost of discomfort to some readers, all the better as it then serves as a sort of wake up call to some of life's harsher aspects.

In summary, don't make the mistake of pigeonholing this book as "just" a crime drama. As I said earlier, the crime is really just the background for the people in the story. Not just good guys and bad guys. But people with relationships to each other, family members, friends, co-workers and more. It's about people and how they live, what they say and how they try and survive in today's society, rife with all the hard hitting and often ugly pitfalls that come with it. So, if you like crime dramas, if you like character studies, if you like novels that read like factual accounts, read Pelecanos' books especially The Night Gardener.

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun (please do!) Be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

The first two words are from The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman.

1.Kythe (also kithe) [kayth] {verb, Scot., or North England}
To make known by action; show; demonstrate; prove.
To make known by words, announce; declare; proclaim

"The main character's could kythe each other's thoughts, a form of mind communication without words."

2. Iconoclast {ahy-kon-uh-klast}-noun
A person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions etc., as being based on error or superstition.
A breaker or destroyer of images, esp. those set up for religious veneration.

"It's too easy for me to picture Maya as the kindergarten iconoclast, insisting on an empty little chair permanently positioned next to hers, the teacher calling me at home to discuss a "little problem"."


This word is from The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

3. Talus {tey-luhs, tal-uhs} -noun
A slope.
A sloping mass of rocky fragments at the base of a cliff.

"A moment later he is snatching a coiled rope from one of the men on the bank and then running along the shoreline, scrambling over the rocky fragments of the talus slope, avoiding boulders too large to leap, keeping pace with the ice cake floating the boy down the river."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

*Grab your current read

*Open to a random page

*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their
TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"She clings to my neck for one last hug. "Goodnight, Mommy," she says. There's no sign of the disorientation I saw in her room two hours ago, no evidence she even remembers what happened.

p. 61 The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman

If you'd like to join in (please do!) don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, share your "teasers" in a comment.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Introducing Betsy!!

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.
~ Leonardo da Vinci
Here she is....Betsy! I wish the picture quality was better. My digital camera isn't working properly so I used a disposal. I will be getting better pictures in the future. But you can see she's small and skinny with BIG eyes and a BIG nose and very long front legs with cute, white booties! She's absolutely adorable (not pretty really) with a wonderful personality - crazy energetic kitten and super, mushy loud purring kitten!
I'm a little embarassed. Betsy's surroundings are messy, cluttered and covered with cat-nip and the cat bathroom is a mess, has definitely seen better days! I have plans to make changes, decorate etc. but for now it is what it is and, most importantly for Sam and I is that the cats are happy and comfortable! I didn't clean or pick-up around her before the pics, just wanted to get them while she was sitting there. Betsy doesn't really like the camera much.
I hope you're having a fun Saturday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun (please do!) Be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog!

All of my words come from The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan.

" The builder had not skimped and mother likes to recite the evidence-the raised quoins of each corner, the hood moldings over each window and door, the keystones cut from single pieces of stone."

1. Quoin {koin, kwoin} [noun] external solid angle of a wall or the like.
2.One of the stones forming it; cornerstone.
3.Any of various bricks of standard shape for forming corners of brick walls or the like.
4.A wedge-shaped piece of wood, stone or other material used for any of various purposes

2. Keystone {kee-stohn} [noun]
the wedge-shaped piece at the summit of an arch, regarded as holding the other pieces in place.

"She holds up a delicate tulle, a coil of rouleau, and another of soutache, all of the same luminous gray."

3. Rouleau {roo-loh} [noun, plural: -leaux, -leaus]
A roll or strip of something, as trimming on a hat brim.

"Beneath the gardens canopy of foliage, purslane spreads its weedy tendrils."

4. Purslane {purs-leyn, -lin}[noun]
A low trailing plant, Portulaca oleracea, having yellow flowers, used as a salad plant and potherb

The Giveaway Winner is....

The winner of an ARC copy of The Way Home by George Pelecanos is

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

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

*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

"I find a feather at our roadside spot, held upright there by a ring of supporting stones. The shaft of the feather in one hand, I pull the flattened mesh of the vane through my fingers, mulling over the gift."

~ p. 74 The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

If you'd like to join in (please do!)don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should be Reading. If you don't have a blog, share your "teasers" in a comment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Salon!

The New York JETS just beat the New England Patriots in football! It was a fantastic game. It looks like the Jets new quarterback , Mark Sanchez, is handling his role better than some expected. He looked very good on the field today and wow, can he throw that football! It was a fun, a really fun game to watch.
Mr. Magoo and little Betsy watched with us! They're the two cats who most like sitting & sleeping wherever we are. Huxley, the sleeping white cat in the picture from yesterday's post, he usually plops down sometime in the afternoon for a nap. He's a very solid sleeper and his position in that picture is one of his favorites!
The pretty calico cat with no tail (we've been calling her Belle) Sam and I have been trying to befriend has come around the last 4 or 5 days straight. We feed her and now she lets us pet her! Some of our neighbors think she's pregnant. I hope not for her sake. She's been pregnant several times already and had litters of adorable kittens. But it's hard to tell if she's pregnant now - she eats like she's pregnant. She easily polishes off 2 large cans of cat food and an hour later will eat a small can. Some of our neighbors feed her too! This week Sam and I are going to try to get Belle to the vet either using a Have-a-Heart Trap or a regular cat carrier. We don't have to pick her up and put her in the trap which is the advantage since we don't know how she'll react if we pick her up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this all works out!
Did I mention some of my neighbors are also "crazy cat people"? The people 3 or 4 doors down rescue cats and adopt many. They have 12 or 13 cats! We're thinking about taking a class together that's offered by the ASPCA. Once you take it, the ASPCA will help us get stray & homeless cats neutered and get them to a veterinarian. It's only 1 day so it seems worthwhile.
I haven't been reading much this weekend or not so much books. I read the newspapers and several magazines. I started The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. It's written very well and I'm enjoying it, it's just taking me a little time to get into it. I'm not sure what else I'm going to read this week, maybe Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea which I got from Sarah at what we have here is a failure to communicate or The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman. I read Motherless Daughter's and really loved it, I was able to relate to so much of what Edelman wrote and I'm looking forward to The Possibility of Everything.
The New York Times Book Review has interesting reviews of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood , Joyce Carol Oates Little Bird of Heaven and Love and Summer by William Trevor among several others.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Saturday!

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
Spanish Proverb

It's been a long, wonderful, tiring week. Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, September 18, 2009

BBAW #5 Goals for my Blog

Hopefully this week you’ve been visiting a bunch of new book blogs and maybe noticing some things about them you’d like to try yourself. Or maybe you’ve just had some ideas for improvements to your blog you’d like to put into place or new ideas for content. But there’s also probably something you really love about your blog, too, something you’re really proud of. It’s time to show off! Tell us and this is really important, in 50 words or less what you love best about your blog! And then in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW! Ready? GO!

My favorite part of my blog is the pictures of my cats and the little pictures of my followers. I want to make several changes and additions to my blog in the near future and hope to expand to 3 columns soon. (Vicki from Reading at the Beach gave me great instructions on doing this, I just haven't had the courage yet!) The majority of changes will be book related and probably some more cat pics. I plan to add more book reviews and I have seen great sidebar images and lists on many blogs, some of which I'd like to add here such as a list and pics of my TBR books, maybe a book or cat quote of the day, blog buttons and other book logos etc.

I have learned in my life that it's best for me to take things slowly when doing something new, to research and plan what I want to do because anytime I've gone into something "guns a-blazing!" I've wished later on that I'd been more careful, taken my time and eased into it. I plan to be here for a long time and to make this place great! I'm not well-versed in html (not versed at all in fact lol) so I could use some help! (please, oh please! lol) If I start asking too many questions or for advice too often about how to add or link things to my blog (I have a list or two somewhere! heee, hee) just send me to a time-out. lol BBAW has definitely shown me that bloggers are a great group of people!

So, how do I get a script-type signature instead of just typing my name?! (no time like the present, uh?!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BBAW #4: I've Been Influenced!

Today's the day to blog about a book you read only because you discovered it on another book blog and you realized you couldn’t live without it! And then you read it and you loved it! Tell us about it and about the blogger (or bloggers!) that introduced the book to you!
I haven't yet read any books I discovered in the blogs I read because since I started my blog in July, I received several ARCs for review and I already had several other books I wanted to read or I was already reading. So I can't actually talk about a book I've read after discovering it on a blog (sorry!). But I can talk about my very tall TBR pile (this pile is Tall, I'm short...yea, okay, I'm really short...and this pile is almost as tall as me!) This pile is totally the fault of all of you bloggers out there with your book blogs writing such great reviews of wonderful books that I'm just itchin' to grab up and start reading...and I will soon! And my TBR list of books I still need to get, well, let's just say Santa's got nothing on me, his list is paltry compared to mine! lolol
Reading the different blogs and bloggers reviews of books, I have started to branch out and try some new genres (new for me) and this really excites me. I've never read historical fiction because I didn't know anyone who did, I didn't have anyone to discuss it with and, honestly, it intimidated me. I discovered Amy's blog, Passages to the Past and that all changed. Amy was hosting a giveaway of the book The King's Grace by Anne Easter Smith when I first started reading her blog. I really liked her review of the book and it sounded so interesting and exciting. I didn't win the book but I bought it! I'm looking forward to reading it. Amy's blog also introduced me to Georgette Heyer and the many wonderful books she has written. I also read about Heyer at Jane Austen Today a fantastic blog for anyone who loves Jane Austen's and similar books.
I discovered and started reading Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books just last week, another wonderful blog for historical fiction. Heather's reviews are fantastic and I will be buying several books I read about in her blog. Congratulations on winning Best Historical Fiction Blog, Heather!
The other genre that is new for me is YA Fiction. I had a mistaken notion of YA and have since discovered that although some YA books may be too young for adult readers, most are not. I began to realize this when I received an ARC of Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Bennett. After I read and reviewed it, I searched for some blogs that review YA. I discovered a fantastic blog, Mrs Magoo Reads. I am happy to have added Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Miles Between by Mary E Pearson and North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley to my pile/list. I read reviews of these books on several other blogs but I cannot seem to find my list right now (sorry! keeping track of which blog/blogger I get a book recommendation from is something I'm working on doing much better, promise!)
One other blog that I forgot to mention on Monday and will mention now because many of the books in my pile and on my list I read reviews of on Book Addiction. Heather reads and reviews a wonderful variety of books - contemporary fiction, classical literature, romance, historical fiction. I read reviews of several Sarah Dessen books (I kept seeing her name in blogs!) and of many of the books I listed above. Blue Water by A Manette Ansay, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller (a favorite author of mine) made my pile/list!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reading Habits!

Reading Habits Meme:
Today’s it’s all about the creativity. Today is all about a fabulous reading meme. What are your reading habits? Answer as many questions as you'd like in as few words as possible! Brevity is the goal Be creative, have fun, stand out! That’s all!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? If I do, it horrifies me when I look back at the page & see the mark(s)!

How do you keep your place while reading a book?

Fiction YES! Non-fiction Often but not always!

Hard copy or audiobooks? I love the feel of a book in my hand, and pages to turn but audiobooks are great when I'm doing laundry, traveling- problem is sometimes I space-out & my mind wanders. LOL

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are yo uable to put a book down at any point? How can I put this...when one of the cats wants my attention they get it ...they'll just sit on the book, or in front of it while I'm reading!!

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? Since there are little bits of paper floating around everywhere with a few words jotted down or a whole list of 'em I'd say many of them end up being words I know too but I second-guess myself sometimes or forget I actually know the word!

Last book purchased

I always, always, ALWAYS recommend Wallace Stegner and Richard Russo.

Favorite place to read is my comfy bed with my legs up!

Any time of the day or night, 24/7 is good for reading so long as I'm awake!

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share new words previously unknown to us that we have encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun , just leave your link over at Bermudaonion's Weblog!
The first word comes from In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
1. antipodean (adj. or noun) - "So there is a certain sense of achievement in just arriving in Australia - a pleasure and satisfaction to be able to step from the airport terminal into dazzling, antipodean sunshine and realize all your many atoms, so recently missing and unaccounted for, have been reassembled in an approximately normal manner..."
antipode means the parts of the earth diametrically opposite —usually used in plural —often used of Australia and New Zealand as contrasted to the western hemisphere;
the exact opposite or contrary
The following two words come from The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly.
1. Colocation (noun) - "The web hosting center with all of the designers and operators was on the surface as well. The high-security colocation farm was below the surface in the so-called bunker."
Colocate means to locate or be located in jointly or together, as two or more groups, or the like; share or designate to share the same place.
The interesting thing about this is that Merriam-Webster on-line didn't have colocation or colocate (I used but it did have collocation (with 2 "ll"s) defined as the act or result of placing or arranging together; specifically : a noticeable arrangement or conjoining of linguistic elements (as words).
2. abasiophilia - "It even has a name. It's called abasiophilia. A psychosexual fascination with leg braces.
This term wasn't in Merriam-Webster or so I went to Wikipedia which defined abasiophilia as is a psychosexual attraction to people with impaired mobility, especially those who use orthopaedic appliances such as leg braces, orthopedic casts or wheelchairs. The term abasiophilia was first used by John Money of the Johns Hopkins University in a paper on paraphilias in 1990.
This is very interesting to me and a little disturbing. The rare bone and endocrine disease I have, which is called McCune-Albright's Syndrome has caused me to need many, many surgeries and, as a result, I have been in numerous orthopedic casts, worn long leg braces many times and have used a wheelchair and crutches for mobility my entire life. Fortunately, I have never met anyone with abasiophilia or been the subject of fascination or obsession by anyone with it. Whew! LOL

Monday, September 14, 2009

BBAW Giveaway!

This is an ARC of The Way Home by George Pelecanos that I won from Thoughts from an Evil Overlord on the condition that I offer it as a giveaway during BBAW. I am happy to do so. This will be my first giveaway. I wasn't aware of all of the giveaways the blogs offer during this week but I will be well prepared for next year!

Title: The Way Home
Author: George Pelecanos
ISBN: 978-0-316-15649-3
Pages: 323
Release Date: May 2009
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Genre: Literary Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Hidden beneath the floorboards in a house he's remodeling, Christopher Flynn discovers something very tempting-and troubling. Summoning every bit of maturity and every lesson he's learned the hard way, Chris leaves what he found where he found it and tells his job partner to forget it, too. Knowing trouble when he sees it-and walking the other way-is a habit Chris is still learning.
Chris's father, Thomas Flynn, runs the family business where Chris and his friends have found work. Thomas is just getting comfortable with the idea that his son is grown, working, and on the right path at last. Then one day Chris doesn't show up for work-and his father knows deep in his bones that danger has found him. Although he wishes it weren't so, he also knows that no parent can protect a child from all the world's evils. Sometimes you have to let them find their own way home.

My brief review: This is not a thriller or a traditional whodunit but a story about a boy growing up, trying to find his way in the world and his place in his family. There is a crime committed in the course of the story but it is more of a vehicle to illustrate several points including that of the role and result of punishment as doled out by the juvenile justice system. Arguably for some it is a deterrence, but for others it is not.

At the heart of this novel is a father son relationship. It's a fractured relationship that was once strong and invigorating tfor father and son. Thomas Flynn and Chris love each other but lost respect for each other as Chris grew into a teenager and they are no longer able to communicate. Growing up is a difficult time in a young person's life. There are a myriad of pressures to contend with from parents, friends, school and society. Chris rebels against the rules, authority and his father's expectations. Poor judgment and stupid decisions made under the guise of being cool eventually land him in Pine Ridge Juvenile Detention. This might end up being one of the best things that happens to Chris. But not his dad. Thomas Flynn is too concerned with what the neighbors will think and too blind-sided by his determination to make Chris into the son he thinks Chris should be. But even after Chris sheds his bad boy image, starts working for his dad and maintains a low profile, Thomas isn't happy. Chris doesn't understand his father and finds it easier to stay away from his family despite wanting to be able to talk to his father. But he's also thinking about starting his own family.

The values and beliefs both Thomas and Chris hold tightly will be tested. They will be forced to reconsider their views of life, each other and human nature. Chris is still young and may be able to build a life he can be proud of that includes his mother and father.
Thomas needs to reconcile the things that desperately upset him and come to terms with life before it is too late. And father and son will soon realize how important are the small and large decisions you make for yourselves, your family and your friends. George Pelecanos has given us a captivating story about life and relationships and how the decisions we make in our own lives will effect the lives of those we love.
If you would like to win this copy, which is still in very good condition, please comment recommending a favorite book. Please include your email in the comment so I can contact you when the contest is over. This giveaway is not international, just U.S. and Canada. I'll accept entries until 9/20.
(I hope I did this right!)

Some Wonderful Blogs!

Today is the first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW). When I started my blog I wasn't aware of the extensive book loving & reading community of bloggers and blogs that exists in the blogosphere. I was thrilled when I discovered a large, supportive and enjoyable community of bloggers who read books, recommend them to each other, review many of the books they read, participate in varied discussions pertaining to books, post daily about various topics related to books and so much more. Several blogs were short-listed for awards as part of BBAW but there are many great blogs out there for your reading pleasure.
Here are a few I would like to highlight because they have been invaluable in helping me to acclimate and feel comfortable here.
Chocolate & Croissants. Esme is an intelligent, very well-read and sweet blogger with a blog that combines books and food! What could be better? Esme writes thoughtful, comprehensive reviews of a variety of interesting books hosts great giveaways, posts delicious recipes, many French origin as she loves all things French and has two adorable kitties. Esme reached out to me after reading a comment of mine and ever since she has helped me navigate the blogosphere and provided me with countless book resources and she's become a good friend.
Reading at the Beach. Vicki has answered countless questions from me about how to do this or that with my blog. Her blog overflows with book reviews and wonderful memes, numerous giveaways of great books and thoughtful posts. She is sweet and very patient and so willing to help. When I follow all of the great instructions she's given me, my blog will be big & beautiful!
A Lovely Shore Breeze. Caite has a wonderful, dry wit and occasional sarcasm that makes me laugh. Her blog contains great book lists, many interesting discussions on various book related topics and strong, thought-filled reviews. She's a fan of thrillers and crime fiction but is willing to give any book a chance even if the write up doesn't thrill her! Caite is also supports and loves lighthouses.
Missy's Book Nook. Missy's blog is full of light and fun. I always smile when I visit her blog. She has a wonderful list of books on her sidebar, writes terrific reviews on a variety of books and is full of positive energy. I'm always happy when I see her name in my comments. oh, yes! She loves cats!
Reading Extravaganza Lilly shares my love of words. She reads a wonderfully eclectic mix of books and I have learned to expand my tastes and try new genres through reading her blog. Lilly also loves quotes and posts some wonderful ones in her blog from a varied group of in remarkable human beings. I know I'll always find something intriguing and interesting in Lilly's blog. And she hails from my neck of the woods just a little farther down the road!
There are so many great blogs out there that I wish I could sit and visit them all day in and day out for as long as I choose but life doesn't work that way! A lot book bloggers have commented on many of my posts, particularly the reviews I've posted and other book-related posts and have made me feel welcome here and supported. I want to say Thank you! to those bloggers and to all of you for this wonderful community!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Brutal Telling Book Review

Title: The Brutal Telling
Author: Louise Penny
ISBN: 978-0-312-37703-8
Pages: 372
Release Date: October 2009
Publisher: Minotaur Books, St. Martin's Press
Genre: Crime Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher: Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My review: Louise Perry has written a compelling tale of murder that confounds and confuses the reader until the very end. Nothing is as it seems in this story and many characters are not wholly who they purport to be.. The major themes of Louise Penny's fifth novel in her Inspector Gamache series turn the world of Three Pines on its head, revealing long held secrets and proving just how deceptive people can be. By the end of this scintillating thriller, the author leaves us wondering if we can ever truly know another person.

The Brutal Telling is set in the bucolic town of Three Pines, as are three of Ms. Penny's four previous Inspector Gamache stories. Quaint cottages with wide porches and pretty brick homes surround a common along side a small group of stores. The village green attracts resident and tourist alike with an inviting bench set beside a pond ringed with beautiful flowering plants all anchored by the three towering pines that give the town its name. But evil lurks in the far corners of Three Pines turning the idyllic haven into a dark place of murder and deceit when Inspector Gamache's investigation determines that the murderer may live among the inhabitants of Three Pines. Fear and suspicion grow and distrust sets in as tensions rise among the townspeople unsure of who can be trusted. In this pretty little town, superficialities are stripped away as the truth, hidden for years, is confronted and good and evil are juxtaposed in this captivating thriller.

Louise Penny convincingly writes characters we feel we know or wish we knew. Inspector Gamache is one of the most intelligent, gentle and well-educated investigators in crime fiction. His innate interest in people enables him to understand what makes them tick and to see who they really are. He is well aware, through his work, that good and evil co-exist in most human beings and he knows not to be deceived by appearances. Often times this seems to sadden him and I felt like he wished he didn't always understand people so well. He's very different from his right-hand man, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who expects people to lie, manipulate and cajole to get what they want. He's a fact man , unlike his boss, with no concern for the human psyche. Beauvoir is quick to judge what he sees in front of him and initially distrusts Agent Moran who appears to be bumbling and unintelligent. But Gamache understands the folly of judging people, places and things based on appearances. He recognizes Moran's willingness to work hard and take risks, qualities Beauvoir initially fails to see. Louise Penny's ability to create a variety of different characters with distinct personality traits and unique idiosyncrasies provides for a compelling and interesting story.

I enjoyed so many of the characters with which the author filled this engrossing book. But my favorite was Ruth. the older curmudgeon and poet with the strange personality who delivers wisecracks loudly and whispers intelligent comments. She intrigued me, made me laugh and I know I'll never again respond "Fine" to a question without chuckling. Ruth understands human beings almost too well and, unlike Gamache, she likes them less because of it, herself included. I thought Paul and Clara Morrow were very interesting and hope to get to know them better in future Inspector Gamache books. Clara seems friendly and extremely kind but I have an uncomfortable feeling that lurking beneath Paul's nice exterior are threads of greed and selfishness particularly in regards to his wife's talent. Louise Perry illustrates how pervasive the themes of this story are through her many and varied major and minor characters. Without all of them, The Brutal Telling wouldn't be the captivating, enjoyable read that it is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Covers!

"Don't Judge a Book by its Cover". We've all heard this phrase. I heard it when I was very young and many times while growing up. I heard it applied to people and was taught not to judge them, I learned not to assume I knew how a particular situation was going to play out and not to judge somwething, anything strictly by apprearance. I mentioned in previous posts, my mother was an avid reader and she showed me that a pretty book cover or a plain, somewhat boring book cover wasn't necessarily an indication of the story behind it. I was told, literally, not to judge a book by its cover. I don't but, in all honesty, covers can influence my initial interest in a book. Pretty or interesting covers (like the one above for Swimming Towards the Ocean or several of the covers for Jane Austen's books) draw me to a book and I hope there's a good story inside, plain or boring covers disappoint me a little bit but don't deter me from reading the book. I've discovered that a scary or unnerving cover (like Kafka's The Trial above) usually means the story is a thriller or horror tale or contains spine-tingling elements. I like book covers because they excite me about the writing inside. They're our introduction to the book and, as such, I think they are an important part of the book. I have read some books and I have viewed the cover in a different light than I did before reading the story! (The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny is such an example!)

There's an interesting article about designing book covers and the importance of a good book cover in Smashing Magazine along with some great examples of eye-catching covers.

There is a wonderful blog for the Book Cover Archive Blog and it includes a link to the Book Cover Archive with pages and pages of book covers. There are beautiful covers, funny covers, disturbing covers, scary covers and basic ones. If you want to try your own hand at fashioning a cover yourself or maybe you have a book with a cover you just don't like, check out My Penguin Design Your Own Cover. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking about it as a gift for someone!

Are there book covers that you specifically liked or disliked or that caused you to read or not read a book?
My computer is getting irritated at me and almost deleted my post (it's pouring rain here so maybe that's why?!) so I better stop here if I want this to make it into my blog today!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


There a many great books being given away and several bookshelves! Have fun!!

Reading at the Beach
Friends Like These 9/21

At Home with Books
Bookshelf Clearing - choice of 4 different books 9/29

Books Like Breathing
The Pemberley Chronicles & My Cousin Caroline 9/10

Lori's Reading Corner
The Lost Song 9/11

Pudgy Penguin Perusals
CSN Office Chair 9/20

Princess Bookie
Choice of 6 ARCs 9/12

Chick with Books
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much 9/16

Park Avenue Princess
Bookshelf 9/25

Literate Housewife
Remarkable Creatures 9/12

Missy's Book Nook
The Girl in Times Square 9/12

A Novel Menagerie
The Lost Song 9/15

The Book Connection
CSN Four Shelf Bookshelf 9/13

Bookin' with "Bingo"
New Tricks 9/14
Cleopatra's Daughter 9/14
Confections of a Closet Master Baker 9/21
The Lace Reader 9/22
CSN Bookshelf & box of 10 Books 9/26
A Change in Altitude 9/30

Wrighty's Reads
Cleopatra's Daughter & The Heretic Queen 9/10

Peeking Between the Pages
Cleopatra's Daughter & The Heretic Queen 9/10
Time of My Life 9/12
The Smart One and the Pretty One 9/26

Cleopatra's Daughter is a giveaway at the blogs listed below:
The Clock Monkey 9/23
Booking Mama 9/15
Chocolate & Croissants 9/13
Luxury Reading 9/10 ( & The Heretic Queen )
Bookin' with "Bingo" 9/14

Bookcase Giveaway!

BOOKIN' WITH BINGO is having an EXTRAVAGANT BINGO BOOKCASE GIVEAWAY sponsored by CSN STORES who sell everything from fireplaces to office furniture. Stop by and enter by 6 PM, EST, on September 26th.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thoughts over coffee

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie

I have read many of Melody Beattie's writings over the years, more in my high school, college and law school years than recently. They often gave me a different perspective on things that were happening in my life and on the behavior of people in my life. I also learned about being grateful for the things I had in my life. But I didn't always feel grateful for everything. Then I met a wonderful group of women who taught me about gratitude. For the past ten years, I have learned from these friends what it means to be grateful and how to be grateful for the things in my life, even the little things, like homemade chocolate chip cookies! It's easy for me to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, which differs for each of us, and to forget to be grateful but most days I remember to be grateful for at least one thing. Sometimes it's not until I'm crawling into bed at night that I remember I don't want to close out this day without being grateful for something. Usually on days like that the something is the warm, furry cat lying nearby or that my husband isn't snoring...yet! lol Whether it's a good day filled with things to be happy and grateful for or a trying, tiring day when gratitude is more difficult to muster,it's a reminder, for me, that no matter what life brings, I still have many things to be thankful for.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Sunday Salon!

What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....

That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one an other's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.

I'm new to the Sunday Salon, in fact this is my first Sunday Salon post! I think it's a great idea. I finished Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons the beginning of this week. I liked it but it wasn't my favorite of hers. I still think about Colony. I loved that book! I read The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny. It's such a fantastic book. I cannot wait to read the rest of her Inspector Gamache books! I'll be reviewing this book, hopefully sometime this week. I received The Way Home by George Pelecanos in the mail early this week. It's a win from Thoughts From an Evil Overlord
I'm still reading Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country. It's a great book like so many of his and I'm reading it very slowly and really enjoying it. I also read another couple of stories in Come to Me by Amy Bloom. I love her writing and sometimes a short story just fits the bill!

This week after I finish The Way Home, I want to read The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, an ARC I received, and Stand the Storm by Breena Clarke, a win from Chocolate & Croissants.

The kitten is wonderful! She is making herself at home and, as we speak, she is stretched out on her side in the middle of our bed sleeping with her head twisted about so that her chin is pointed to the ceiling and her paws are over her little face! It's so cute. I will have pictures in about a week and, hopefully not long after that, a working digital camera. Some of our other cats are having difficulty adjusting to Ruby but, hopefully, they'll come around. Sadie, the former baby, is really ticked off. It's kind of funny to watch her act all mad but I feel for her too. Sam and I are giving her as much extra TLC as she'll let us (and a little more).. I'm hoping she'll accept Ruby soon and maybe become buddies (I hope that's not too much to wish for!)

Thank you for all of your name suggestions and choices. I loved them. I'm still a fan of Betty or Zooey but I think we might be going with Ruby which came up after my last post. Usually Sam or I suddenly hit on the perfect name after spending some time with the kitty, but so far that inspiration hasn't really happened. I like the name Ruby, though, I'm just not sure it fits her.

We are having a very enjoyable, quiet weekend because of our new kitten. We like to stay close to home until we know the new fur baby is acclimated. Sam and I watched the movie I Love You, Man yesterday. It was very good and really funny! Paul Rudd and Jason Segal star. They're great together. I definitely recommend it for an entertaining, comedy that will make you laugh!

I hope you're all having a great Labor Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cute New Kitty!!

We have a new kitten living with us! Several days ago, I kept hearing a plaintive meowing outside. But every time I looked out the window I didn't see a cat anywhere. At first I thought it was my cat, Jazzy, but she was home so I knew it wasn't. Sam (Hubbie) went out looking for the meowing kitty but couldn't find her. After running a few errands, we returned home and soon heard the meowing again. Sam went out looking again and I stayed at the window. Suddenly, I noticed this small tree directly across the street shaking & waving around but there's wasn't any wind! So I looked really carefully at the tree, calling to Sam at the same time. And then I saw her - a little black & white shape at the very top of the tree! Sam used a near by chair to climb on, grabbed her before she fell and ran home with her. And she made herself right at home, her big eyes growing to saucer size when she saw all the different cat food choices! She loves to eat!

She's black & white (obviously!). My digital camera isn't working properly so I don't have her picture to show you right now but she looks like these kittens, especially the one on the right. She has adorable white booties on her front paws, big eyes, an almost completely black face with a little white below her mouth, her chin, neck and chest are all white with one cute little black spot, like a polka-dot, under her chin. You can only see it when she lifts her head! Her body is all black except for a white belly and her back legs are white. She has a wonderful purr like a little motor. When Sam or I scratch her cheeks or the top of her head, we hear the motor start up and build to a full-blown rumbling purr! She has a very lively, fun personality and doesn't seem fazed by the other cats at all. They, on the other hand, are having some difficulty adjusting to the new kitten. Several feline noses are out of joint in this home right now. But as the days go by, the cats are slowly, grudgingly accepting the little one.

We need to get her to our vet and get her checked out, start her shots etc. Sam and I have talked about putting out feelers to get her adopted. But as each day, hour, minute goes by, we fall more in love so..... I'm not sure how serious we are about the adoption issue.

We heard a very disturbing story from our neighbor. After Sam brought kitty home and we made sure she was okay, fed her, gave her water and TLC, Sam went out to see if any of our neighbors knew anything about her. There are a lot of stray and feral cats in this neighborhood and in much of Brooklyn. One of our neighbors, who has cats of her own, told Sam that there's an abandoned house on the block where a man is living illegally and kitty was living there but the man wasn't claiming her and really wasn't caring for her. The neighbor said that she thought kitty's mother might be this beautiful long-haired homeless calico. We have fed this cat a few times but we weren't able to get her to stay with us. The neighbor told Sam that the calico was one of at least 2 cats in our neighborhood recently tortured and abused. This neighbor and others think it's some kids who are being cruel to the animals. We recently saw this beautiful calico and she no longer has her gorgeous tail. She ran from us before we could get really close to her. My heart broke when I heard this, it's just awful, awful that this is happening. Tonight there is a neighborhood watch meeting and we are going and with some of the neighbors will speak about the animal cruelty and discuss what to do to make sure it stops. I'm going to call the ASPCA for advice as well as the animal cruelty bureau at the DA's Office which was started the year I began working as a prosecutor.

So this morning I was thinking about this situation and cruelty to animals and children in general. I was raised in a roman catholic home, went to Sunday mass for years, attended a catholic grammar school and high school and a Jesuit college. I questioned a lot of what I was taught about my religion and there's much I don't believe and I have thought about God, the tenets of the catholic church and what I was taught for a long time and I have my own ideas and beliefs about faith, religion, God that work for me. Forgiveness is a concept I have read about and thought about a lot for very personal reasons. I believe in forgiving others if, for no other reason, than it eases my conscience and makes me feel better because I don't like to judge or feel like I am judging other people and, generally, I like people. But I don't know if I can forgive something like this, cruelty to animals like the cruelty, abuse and neglect of children, it's evil on a whole different level. My first reaction, my gut reaction is to punish them, do to them what they did to these animals, or to the children who are abused all the time. But now that I have said that "out loud", it feels wrong, I feel bad. Hhmmmm...I need to think about this.....

I am sorry to get so heavy/deep this morning. On a much lighter, much more fun note We have an adorable, spunky, playful and loving kitten to name!! Any ideas? Some of the names Sam and I have been throwing around.... oops!

{ po0555555555555555555555555555]\} <------ speaking of kitty, that's from her saying hello, dancing briefly on my keyboard! lol

Okay, back to names! Any ideas you have we'd appreciate, I'm not asking you to pick from these unless you really like one of them!

Faye Wray, Betty, Mabel, Zoey, Meliae, Bronte, Miso, Lexi, Una, Pinky, Eden, Mazey, Lola, Violet, Phoebe....

I hope you have a great day!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun - be sure to leave a link over at Bermudaonion's Weblog!

1. From Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons: "There would have been no end of ersatz agony and preening."

Ersatz [er-zahts, -sahts] –adjective
serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial.

2. From Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons: "The air was plangent with silent laughter."

Plangent [plan-juhnt] –adjective
resounding loudly, esp. with a plaintive sound, as a bell.

3. From The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny: "You wouldn't know it, but there's burled wood under there. You have to know what to look for. The tiny imperfections."

Burled (adj.) having burls that produce a distorted grain: burled lumber.

Burls - a dome-shaped growth on the trunk of a tree