Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 3/1/2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I got The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes as part of a TLC book tour.  I can't wait to read this one.  I first saw a review at Misfit Salon and I've been dying to read it ever since.

I bought Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France by Lucy Moore for $1 from The Dollar Tree, so this does not break my book buying ban.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Plug it in, walk away-and cook like an Italian grandmother. 

Yes, it's that easy.  Michele Scicolone, a best-selling authority on Italian cooking, shows how to re-create the traditional flavors Italian food in your slow cooker.  Meat and Mushroom Ragu, Milan-Style Pasta and Beans, Sicilian-Style Orange Chicken, "Big Meatball" Meat Loaf, Osso Buco and Red wine-with just a few minutes of prep time in the morning, you can come home to an authentic Italian meal that you'll be proud to serve to family or company.  Simmered in the slow cooker, these dishes are as healthy as they are delicious.  Risotto and polenta are effortless-no need for all the usual stirring-inexpensive tough cuts of meat turn luxuriously succulent, and cheescakes emerge silkily flawless.  Just one question:  Why didn't someone think of this before?

I tried a few of the dishes in the book and for the most part I really enjoyed them.  I'm sorry to say that once again I'm having to do this review without pictures because I've been a lazy little boy and have not replaced my digital camera yet, so I apologize for you not being able to see how good the food looked once it was done.  The only thing that was better than the look was the smell and the taste of it.  One note I will say, and one I almost missed in the book, is that the recipes are for a slow cooker that is 5-7 quarts.  I'm going to share two of the recipes I tried out and I encourage everyone to give them a shot.

Calamari Soup

1  medium green bell pepper, chopped
2  large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4  cup olive oil
1 1/2  pounds cleaned calamari, cut into 1/2 inch rings
1  cup peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1  large carrot, chopped
2  medium celery ribs, chopped
2  medium potatoes, diced
1  8-ounce bottle clam juice
5  cups water
2  cups fresh or thawed frozen peas
1  cup white rice
Salt and freshly groud pepper
2  tablespoons copped fresh basil or parsely

In a large skillet, cook the bell peppers and garlic in the oil over medium heat until tender, about 15.  Scrape the mixture into a large slow cooker.

Add the calamari, tomatoes, carrot, celery, potatoes, clam juice and water.  Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.  Add the peas, rice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes more, or until the rice is tender.  Stir in the basil or parsley and serve hot.

Because I'm allergic to green bell peppers I did use red bell peppers instead, other than that I did it exactly the way the recipe is written and I loved it.  I had my first bowl with parsley and while I like it, I tried it the next day for lunch and used basil instead and enjoyed that better.  I ate this with a arugula salad and some toasted Italian bread.  The recipe said this serves 6, though we got 7-8 servings out of it.

Pears in Marsala

1/4  cup packed brown sugar
1/4  cup Marsala
1/2  cup organge juice
1  cinnamon stick
6-8  firm ripe pears, such as Bosc or Anjou

 In a slow cooker, stir together the sugar, wine, orange juice, and cinnamon stick.  Place the pears upright in the cooker and spoon some of the liquid over them.  cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or unitl the pears are tender when pierced with a knife.

Uncover and let the pears cool in the cooker, basting them from time to time.  Carefully transfer the pears to a serving dish.  Discard the cinnamon stick.  Pour the juices over the pears and chill until serving time.

Loved, loved, loved this one.   I love pears, love Marsala so it was a perfect combination for me.  The book suggested serving with a blue cheese like Gorgonzaola and since I enjoy the cheese I tried it and found it to be a nice contrast in flavor.  I also tried it with a Havarti, which I enjoyed as well.

I was sent this book from the publicist for review and I'm thanking them every day for it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sorry Everyone, About Balderdash Today

I apologize to those of you who participate and read the Balderdash meme posts but I've been sick the last few days, today being the worst actually, so I really haven't written down any words or used the brain power to come up with cool meanings.  I promise it will be up next week and I ask that you forgive me for this lapse.

Thank you everyone for your kind words.  I found out tody I'm dealing with a case of bronchitis.  Hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and I'll get better soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The High House by James Stoddard

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Some say that Evenmere was built by God to run the universe.  That without it's loyal servants-Brittle, the butler, Enoch, the clock-winder, and Chant, the lamp-lighter-it will all run down.  To young Carter Anderson, scion of the Master of Evenmere, the High House is home, and the servants his friends.

But Carter has an enemy, too: the Bobby, a devil in constable's clothing, who tempts him to an act that puts the house-and the universe-at risk, and which brings exile from the place he loves.

Now, ten years after his father's disapperance, Carter has been summoned back, for the house has been besieged by the Bobby and his anarchists, and Carter, though relectuant and unrepared, must assume the responsibilites of Master.  Yet before he can become Master, he must learn the Seven Words of Power, reclaim his father's Lightning Sword and Tawny Mantle, and regain the Master Keys lost years ago.  To do all that he will have to undertake, not one, but several perilous journeys through corridors, to kingdoms from which there may be no return...

I enjoyed this one.  It's a far flung fantasy that takes place in one house that takes you days to travel from one hall to the other and along the way you discover kingdoms growing out of the rooms, halls, and terraces througout.  In one section you could fnd yourself fighting changeling creatures that may resemble a love seat one second then a horrific alligator like creature that is trying to devour you, by the way you are fighting along side of talking tigers.  You can travel to the edge of a vast sea that is both beautiful and deadly or talk to a dinosaur like creature living in the attic.  It's a story of intrigue and deception but one that retains a sense of redemption and homecoming.

Now with that being said, I think I would have loved this book when I was 13/14 years old.  I have to admit that I found myself getting lost at times, the large sections of traveling were so detailed and a little dry at times, that I found my attention wandering a bit and when something brought me back to the story I would realize I had no clue what had just happened so I would go back and reread a pharagraph or two..  This was the stuff I loved as a teenager, or maybe I just had the patience back then. 

I do have to say that I enjoyed this book enough that I will have to pick up the sequel, The False House, which I didn't know about until I visited the author's website.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Waldorf and Statler

For some reason I'm in an oddly nostalgic mood right now so when I started thinking of characters to use for this weeks post, my mind wandered to The Muppet Show.  Now there were a lot of great characters on the show; Ms. Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie, Beaker, Gonzo, and Animal to name just a few.  My favorite characters though were Waldorf and Statler, those two cranky old guys who never missed a chance to heckle and jeer as much as they wanted to.

They brought a sense of lightness and fun to the show that I loved so much.  I always imagined, and still do, that I'm going to be one of those old guys who are so cantankerous that you can't help but love them no matter what they do.  I'll be the one sitting in the park, tripping people with my cane and sneering at them when they sit next to me on the park bench.  I may even chase the neighbor kids off my yard when they come over to pick up their ball they threw over the fence.  If I do become that old guy, I owe it all to Waldorf and Statler who did it with style.

They were so good with the one liners and could send out a quip in the blink of an eye. I admired the skill as a kid to be able to think on your feet and the ability to get away with it everyday.  Here is a youtube video with quite a few examples of their greatness.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rick Astley sings "Never Gonna Give You Up"

This is for all you Rick Astley haters out there (and you know who you are), Enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dream House by Valerie Laken, Book Tour and Review

When I was asked to participate in the TLC Book Tour for this book I jumped at the chance as soon as I read the synopsis:

When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down historic home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they're hoping their grand renovation project can rescue their troubled marriage.  Instead, they discover that years ago their home was the scene of a terrible crime-and the revelation tips the balance of their precarious union.

When a mysterious man begins lurking around her yard, Kate, now alone, is forced to confront her home's dangerous past.  Hers is not the only life that has crumbled under this roof.  This man's family also disintegrated here, as the result of one brief act of rage that may haunt him-and this house-for years to come.

Sounds good, right?  Thankfully I can report that it was good, and not what I was expecting at all.  For some reason I was thinking there was actually going to be a  haunted house, don't ask why, I'm not really sure where I got that impression from.  I think I was a little tired when I first read the description. 

A lot of the reviews I've read have tended to focus on Kate, and while you would probably consider her the "main" character, I found myself connecting to and understanding Stuart way more that it seems others have.  Here was a man, who's biggest flaw was the lack of any real sense self esteem.  He never thought he was good enough for Kate, he was always thinking that someday she would realize the truth and disappear.  How any man can be expected to function on a real level, when that thought is eating away at you, is beyond me.  So of course he wouldn't want their life to change in any real way, because if it did, she may realize that she's moved beyond him.  She would find out that she would be better off without him.  So I understood why he was so unhappy with buying a house and moving away from their apartment, which was near the campus they first met.  The relationship, while it may be slowly dying, was stable there.  It was home.

So when Kate throws herself into remodeling the home, he never wanted, he feels her pulling away from him.  Of course he never thought about this being her way of trying to not only reconnect their slowly dying marriage, but as a way to find a place where she truly belonged.  I found Kate to be pretty emotionally closed to almost everyone in her life, she simply doesn't let anyone in, even when she thinks she has.  Now that doesn't help Stuart's issues because he sees this as a validation of his fears.  And like all fears they just keep feeding in on themselves.  So when he loses his job, his sense of self is obliterated.  Any sense of being the man Kate needed walked out the door, so he followed.  I'm not sure how many men or women in his place wouldn't do the same thing.  When every fear you've ever had comes true, your first response is to run.  I'm not saying it's the right choice or the morally correct thing to do, but I understood it.

This was a intimate look at people who are struggling to find themselves and a place to call home, both physically and emotionally.  The backdrop of the "murder" years prior to Kate and Stuart moving in and how the players in that initial tragedy interact and influence current events was expertly meshed together and added a dimension to the book that I would have missed had it not been there.

Now everything I just typed could be the exact opposite of what Valerie Laken was trying to get across in her beautifully written book, but it's what I took away from it and I'm very happy that I was given the chance to read it.  I am looking forward to reading more by her in the future.  Please stop by and visit Valerie Laken at her website. 

I would like to thank Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book and I am looking forward to future tours.

You can check out other stops on the tour by clicking on the links:

Monday, February 1st: Stephanie’s Written Word

Thursday, February 4th: One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books

Tuesday, February 9th: lit*chick

Wednesday, February 10th: I’m Booking It

Monday, February 15th: Devourer of Books

Wednesday, February 17th: Educating Petunia

Thursday, February 18th: Dolce Bellezza

Monday, February 22nd: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, February 24th: The Book Zombie

Thursday, February 25th: All About {n}

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 2/22/2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

I'm going to say right up front, that this last week I went a little crazy on the books and DVDs.  I know have too many books on my TBR pile and more movies/television shows on DVD to watch than I have time to get to.  Because of that, I am going on a two month buying freeze, the only books I will buy will be dollar books from The Dollar Tree or The Friends of the Library Book Store.  All other purchases, books or movies, will be froze until 5/1/2010.

I was at fye the other day and I found all 3 seasons of Wonder Woman on DVD for $9.99 each.  I had to get them and I can't wait to get started on them.

From a trip to Target, I picked up the new 2 disc edition of Snow White and when I saw Poltergeist for $5 I had to get that as well.  For those of you who didn't know, Zelda Rubinstein who played Tangina, passed a way a week or so ago.  I loved her in Teen Witch as well and when I find that one, I will have to pick it up.

The same night I was at Target, I had to run over to Wal-Mart and naturally I check out the bargain DVDs every time I'm there and when I found this, a 2 disc edition of Mannequin and Mannequin 2: On The Move for only $5 I let out a little squeal, which nobody else heard, and it went into the cart.

For those of you doubting that I actually got ahold of some books this last week, here is the first batch.  I walked into Barnes & Noble to pick up The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Chrsitie which is the next book in my Agatha Christie self challenge and I ended up picking up 3 bargain books in the process; a trade paperback of Light Before Day by Christopher Rice and hardcovers of Blind Fall by Christopher Rice and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

A trip to the flea market, this afternoon actually, landed me these three books.  I found a beaten up paperback of The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz, and when I say beaten up it really is.  See that scary looking guy in the middle of the white circle?  I'm missing that title page that has that on it, so when I look into the circle I see yellowing paper with words on it.  I've never read the book, and can never find it so when I saw it for $1 I had to even if I only read it once.  I also picked up Clan Novel: Tremere by Eric Griffin for $2 (GOOD shape) which is the 12 book in a series of 13, and a series I'm trying to find all the books for.  Then I found a hardcover of Leap of Faith by Queen Noor is top notch condition for $3 and since I admire her quite a bit I had to get that one as well.

Earlier in the week I stopped in a used book store and found two more of those Clan Novel books and since I still had credit there I was able to get them both for $3.  Clan Novel: Malkavian by Stewart Wieck is the 9th book in the series and Clan Novel: Nosferatu by Gherbod Fleming is the 13th book in the series.

I got a ARC of Watermark by Vanitha Sankarah for a TLC Blog Tour and just skimming through it, I'm really looking forward to it.

Last week Best Buy had a great sale and I picked up season 1 of Fringe and season 4 of Supernatural for $9.99 each.

And last but not least, I picked up The Graving Dock by Gabriel Cohen from The Dollar Tree.  Since I'm on a mystery kick right now, I thought this one would be a good addition.

Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

When Goldy Schulz is offered a temporary stint hosting a cooking show for PBS, she jumps at the chance.  After all, she could use the money-not to mention the great exposure.  Her catering business is in shambles, and publicizing her new venture as a personal chef will help get her back on track.  Plus taping the shows at Colorado's posh Killdeer Ski Resort will be fun.  A little cooking, a little chitchat.  What could go wrong?

Unfourtunately for Goldy, a lot could go wrong.  Horrible snow storms covering the land which makes her driving back and forth between home and work hazardous to her health, and the job isn't quite doing what she needed it to do to begin with.  She's only booked one client for her personal chef buisness, and that her boss at the PBS station.

Add on a murder, attempted murder via car plunging down side of a mountain, and threats against her family and you have a fun little mystery set in the moutains of Colorado.  I don't want to give too much away but I was able to figure this one out about halfway through the book, but the way it's delivered more than makes up for it.  The ending is a hair raising chase full of action and danger.  This is the second book I've read in this series, not in order, and I highly enjoy them.  Goldy is well written and her policeman husband and bratty yet sweet teenage son, help ground her as a character.

One of my favorite things about the Goldy Schulz series are all the great recipes that are included within each book.  This book serves up 10 delisciously sounding dishes that I'm going to have to try out.  As soon as I make the Snowboarder's Pork Tenderloin and the Chocolate Coma Cookies I will let you know how they turn out.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City and the Cozy Mystery Saturday feature that Deb of Bookmagic hosts every week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Word Verification Balderdash

For those of you unfamiliar with the greatness that is Balderdash, here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are commenting on other people's blogs. Then you play balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition of it. Do this for a week and post your best ones on Thursday.

Come back and leave a link to your post and I will add it to the bottom of the post.

Here are mine for this week:
Raich:  Slang term for people who are so rich they are "raking" in the money.
Polaha:  Slang term for that "aha" moment in politics.  Normally happens when a strategist finally come up with a brilliant idea to get a candidate out of a tough spot.
Gaspin:  Car racing term for a complete spin, done while pressing down the gas pedal all the way.  This is a dangerous maneuver that can result in horrific crashes but when done at the right time, it has the effect of confusing the other drivers and guaranteeing you victory.
Frobby:  Horrific slang term used by the tabloids in England for the Bobby that was found frozen under a pond.  He was missing for 15 days before his body was discovered by two young children ice skating on a Sunday afternoon.  No one knows who is responsible for this tragedy, but it does appear to be the result of foul play.
Other Players This Week:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Erica Kane

Maybe it's the fact that the book I just reviewed took place in the wonderfully campy world of soap operas, but when I sat down to do my FFC post this week my mind went directly to the wonderful Erica Kane.

For those of you not familiar with Erica, she is the grand diva of All My Children, which happens to be my favorite soap opera, one that I've been addicted to since I was a kid and my mom would make me watch it with her when I was home sick from school.  She is played by Susan Lucci, who happens to be a fabulous actress that brings to life one of the funnest characters ever created.

Erica has done it all; modeling, acting, TV hosting, Magazine Publishing, Cosmetics mogul, and has been married more times than Elizabeth Taylor.  She is fiercing protective of her family and will do anything, including posing as a nun to get what she wants.  She's not above being dirty and underhanded to reach her goals, but even then her heart is in the right place and it all makes great television.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Daytime Drama by Dave Benbow

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

At twenty-eight, Clay Beasley is one of the thousands of young, handsome actors trying to get that "big break" in L.A.  And with his warm brown eyes, incredible body, and aw-shucks Texas charm-plus talent-he's getting close, even if he is stuck taking extra work on daytime TV's hottest soap opera, Sunset Cove.  Spending time on the set is a real eye-opener for Clay, as he gets to see the soap world's most gorgeous, egocentric men and women at their conniving, clawing best (or worst), along with a parade of bitchy producers, weary directors, insane writers, put-upon casting agents, and ruthless network hotshots.

Even among the young and the restless of the Sunset Cove cast, certain larger-than-life characters stand out.  Like Jack Benz, a.k.a Stone Coltrane, the hottest man in soaps, whose square jaw and full lips have launched a thousand housewive's fantasies, even though his preferred fantasy involved rough trade with gorgeous young men.  And Travis church, the show's star bad boy.  With his long, dark hair and a mouthwatering physique, he's the one person on the set Clay would like to get to know much better.  It just so happens that Travis welcomes the chance to show Clay what passion is all about, igniting an explosive, secret affair.

But everything changes when Jack Benz meets a tragic end just before sweeps week.  Suddenly, Clay has his chance at the role of a lifetime, pushed ino the spotlight and possibly into danger-because Jack's death was no was murder.  Now, the set of daytime TV's hottst soap is nothing compared to the diva-drama going on behind the scences...

This a a fun, quirky murder mystery set in the sex filled world of soap operas.  Now I'm addicted to the shows I watch, All My Children and One Life to Live, so any book or movie that takes place in that world always holds my attention.  The fact that this book is full of sexy guys, hot sex scenes, both gay and straight, and a growing body count, makes it all that much better.

Other than Travis and Clay who make a great couple and have to deal with the added pressure of trying to hide their relationship from the public the are some wonderfully over the top characters that make this book wonderful to read.  There is the sexy, rich detective, Dave Paker who starts an affair with the gorgeous VP of Daytime Dramas, Drusilla Gordon who may be a suspect in the case.  We have Cissis Stanton, the assistant casting director who may be taking too much interest in the personal lifes of certain cast memebers as well as a embezelling bitch of a producer and a cross dressing executive who wants to become a lesbian.  Of course there are a few other characters, both major and minor, who play their roles in this well staged murder mystery.

This is a story of obsession gone wrong and of secrets that shouldn't be kept.  It's what happens when those obessions start to control your life and when those secrets start to tear you apart. I recomend this one to anyone who wants a quick mystery to read that is both sexy and fun.

This will qualify for the GLBT Challenge 2010 and the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 2/15/2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page

I bought a hardcover of A Betrayal In Winter by Daniel Abraham, a trade paperback of Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright, and a hardcover of The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt for $1 a piece at The Dollar Tree.

I won a hardcover of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova from Jen at Devourer of Books

I bought hardcovers of Vanish With The Rose by Barbara Michaels and Labyrinth by Kate Moss for $1 a piece at the Friends of the Library Bookstore.  The cover for Vanish With The Rose is diferent but this was the only picture I could find, I like the one my hardcover has a lot better.

I was sent a ARC of Venom by Joan Brady from the publisher.  Carolyn of Book Chick City made all the arrangements as a extra incentive for all those particapating in her Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Shadow In Summer by Daniel Abraham

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The city-state of Saraykeht dominates the Summer Cities.  It's wealth is beyond measure; it's port is open to all the merchants of the world, and it's ruler, the Khai Saraykeht, commands forces to rival the Gods.  Commerce and trade fill the streets with a hundred languages, and the coffers of the wealthy with jewels and gold.  Any desire, however exotic or base, can be satisfied in the soft quarter.  Blissfully ignorant of the forces that fule their prosperity, the people live and work secure in the knowledge that their city is a bastion of progress in a harsh world.  It would be a tragedy if it fell....

I briefly considered adding in the rest of the synopsis that the book gives but it would have been 4 more pharagraphs before I got to what I thought of the book.  I wish that publishers would keep some of the secrets of the book off the dust jacket, if they want us to read everything in the synopsis, they they shouldn't publish the entire book.  So now that I got that off my chest, I will let you know what I'm thinking after finishing this a few weeks ago.

This was a fantasy series and an author I was not familiar with but I found the hardcover at The Dollar Tree for $1 so I thought I would at least give it a try.  The worst that could have happened was that I wasted a dollar.   Well I'm glad to say that while I may not have loved the book I don't think my money was wasted.

I'm not sure you could call a story that mainly takes place inside the bounds of one city to be epic fantasy but it did have all the other elements.  A strong cast of characters that you really do end up liking, even the "bad" ones and a unique magic system that I found to be an intersting take on a society with limited magic. 

I guess I should explain the "magic" first.  The book takes the premise that all magic is put towards capturing an idea and turning it into human form.  One of the oldest andats, what they call the captured ideas, was Rain, but when she escaped she was recaptured as Falling Water and so on and so on.  Each idea can only be captured once by any given name.  Hence the poet is trained to verbalize that idea in a different way.  The current adant in this book is named Seedless, because the concept they turned into a andat was taking what makes something reproduce away.  Hence cotton seeds can be pulled out of large bales of cotton with one command or an entire nation of pregnant women could have their babies pulled out of their wombs.  You can see why each city-state has a poet-sorcerer who has command of one of these andats.  With that much power you can assure the peace and tranquility of your city.  It's a brilliant idea that I'm really interested in exploring further in the rest of the books.

The main protagonists are two young men, Otah and Maati, who were current and former "apprentices" to the poet-sorcerers and Amat who was the buisness manager of one of the major trading houses along with her assistant Liat who is involved with both of the young men.  Their role is to save the city from being destoryed by those who want to see Seedless disappear for forever and want to conqueor the city.  They are an interesting group of characters and for the most part they are believable in thier roles and you find yourself cheering for them without even realizing that you liked them. 

The only other thing I wanted to touch on with this book was the very Asian feel the characters had in name and in title.  Appearance is never really discuess within the book but between the characterization, the formal bowing and hand posing which they use to convey emotion or intent, and the formal tea taking all lend that "Asian" feel as well as a sense of refinement to the book that I was not expecting.  Now this could be the fact the book I read before this one was set in Ancient Japan, but I think it was intentional on the authors part, at least I hope it is.

This is the first book in a quartet and I am looking forward to the rest of the books to find out how their journey finishes.

Billie Myers sings "Tell Me"

I've always liked this song more than "Kiss the Rain" which was her big hit of the album.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Start of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

Today marked the begining of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and I couldn't be more excited.  I have been an Olympics junkie since I was a kid and I still feel like  I'm my son's age when I sit down in front of the TV and watch some of the best atheletes in the world compete in some amazing sports.

Sadly with the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, during a training run today, they are getting off to a depressing start but I know the rest of the athletes will, in part, dedicate their own competitions to the memory of a young man who paid the ultimate price to fullfill his dreams.

I'm getting ready to watch the opening ceremony with my son and hopefully I will get to watch a few games of curling, don't ask.  So for the next 16 days I will be spending all my free time, watching some of the best athletes in the world go for their dreams and hopefully my son will learn that reagardless of where the athletes place, it's the journey and dedication that counts most. 

Besides, the mascots this year are awfully cute.

Sumi: a thunderbird that enjoys alpine skiing in Whistler

Quatchi: a Sasquatch, and a cute one at that

Miga: a cute, huggable, dance-crazy, flying sea bear

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Dragon Scroll by I.J. Parker

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In eleventh-century Japan, Sugawara Akitada is an impoverished nobleman and earnest young government clerk in the Ministry of Justice.  On his first official assignment, he is sent from the captial city on a nearly impossible mission to the distant province of Kazusa to discover why tax convoys are disappearing.  In the politically murky world of the Japanese court, he has been set up to fail.  However, the ever-resourceful Akitada, his elderly servant, Seimei, and his impudent bodyguard Tora, are determined to fulfill their mission and discover the truth in a town of dangerous secrets.  In an adventure filled with highway bandits, unscrupulous politicians, and renegade monks, The Dragon Scroll introduces readers to the captivating world of ancient Japan and an irrepressible new hero.

Now after reading that synopsis you would think this is a book full of wonderfully fun characters set in a totally unfamiliar world to most readers, and you would be half right.  This is an unfamiliar world to most of us and because of that I find myself not really caring for the characters all that much.  The men tend to be sexist and overly hung up on "class" and how people fit into categories that are neither flexible or forgiving.  The women are either meek and seeking protection from the men or devious vixens bent on eliminating anything in their way.  Now there is one exception to that last part and for that I'm honestly grateful to the writer. Ayako is actually a fearless "warrior" woman who teaches martial arts and sleeps with whoever she chooses to, but in the end she is still forced to play by the rules and marry a man that is acceptable class wise as opposed to who she might really want to be with.

Now this isn't the fault of the charcters, the time the story is set in is to blame.  This was a time period where women had their place and class was so culturally ingrained that it's part of who they are.  It's not fair to read a book, set in another time and place, and judge it by todays' standards equality and social justice.  Of course it's always easy to say that, then to actually, on some level, not react to what you are reading using your own moral compass.

Now, after all that, if you think I didn't enjoy this book, then you are very much mistaken.  Regardless of what I think of Akitada as a person, I found this to be a wonderfuly crafted mystery filled with missing gold and murder all around.  The author has crafted a wonderfully intricate story with so many layers, you aren't really able to see how they work together until the story is over.  Once the "solution" is sprung on you, you may just end up kicking yourself in the ass for not figuring out why the prologue was important or relevant to the rest of the story.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series, one of which I've already read, but will be reading again in order.  Because of that unfair advantage I can tell you that Akitada does become more likeable as the books go on and as he matures.  I would recomend this series to anyone who enjoyes a well crafted mystery set in a beautifully imagined world.

This will fall under the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Word Verification Balderdash

For those of you unfamiliar with the greatness that is Balderdash, here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are commenting on other people's blogs. Then you play balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition of it. Do this for a week and post your best ones on Thursday.

Come back and leave a link to your post and I will add it to the bottom of the post.

Here are mine for this week:

Cryptoy:  New line of desinger toys marketed to the Goth demographic.  Some of the first ones are a remote control coffin with rattling bones, a Graveyard version of Monopoly, and a fortune telling shrunken head.  The will be hitting the shelves of the retailer Hot Topic within the next few weeks.

Shashaw:  The prison where deposed Shas are held while waiting execution.  Their cells are well furnished with all the food and concubines they can desire in order to make their last days as pleasent as possible.

Lovdom:  Pleasure domes where all you romantic fantasies come true.  They were built by the Ronsom corporation a few years ago as a way to control an ever disruptive population.  The domes are filled with all the romance that anyone would desire.  Candelight dinners, long walks on the beach, picnics in a field of clover, or even a wonderous Summer time hot air balloon ride with the man or woman you want.  There is a darkside to them as well.  Once the romance fades, which it often times does, the client normally ends up in a deep state of despair and unhappieness.

Barwat:  New bar stool designed to send a small electric shock up the back of the patron once the bartender thinks they are drinking too much.

Here are some other players this week:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Flipper

How could you not fall head over heels in love Flipper or want to be those two boys who got to grow up around a dolphin that was not only highly intelligent but a lot of fun. 

This was one of my favorite show growing up eventhough it only lasted for 3 seasons, it has left a lasting impression on me.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, the basic premise was a single father who was a game warden raised his two sons by himself.  Flipper was a cross between friend, pet, and mascot.  He helped them out with their adventures and was always there to lend a helping flipper (yes the pun was bad, sorry). 

I always wanted to join in on the adventures and swim with this amazing animal who almost seemed human at times.  I find myself wishing they made more shows where an animal was the central character.  There was an innocence about them that is missing in today's television, and it's sorely missed.

Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

When young professor of English Karen Holloway happens on a privately printed volume of verse dating from the early nineteenth century, it's all in a day's work.  But when a battered manuscript bearing the same mysterious attribution, "Ismene", turn ups, Karen realizes that it is an important discovery that could be the makin of her academic career.

Karen immerses herelf in a headlong search for the true identity of the unknown author, tracking the provenance of the manuscript to Virginia's historic Tidewater region.  She is not alone in her quest; academic rivals shadow her steps, trying to gain possession of the valuable manuscript, and the locals are more inquisitive about her activities that seems natural.

Fortunately, Karen has the help of her eccentric and able mentor, Peggy, whos historical expertise proves to be invaluable.  And, as she painstakingly deciphers the crabbed, charred pages, she begins to wonder whether she has the assistance of Ismene herself.  Is the tale of Gothic horror that Ismene tells not a novel but a memoir, the very possession of which may jeopardize Karen's life?  Ismene's legacy calls out from the past, form an eerie world fraught with terrifying impressions of fire and ice that will not die until the painful truths that inhabit the houses of stone are revealed.

This was my first Barbara Michaels book and I'm so mad at myself for not reading her earlier.  This book hit all the right notes as far as atmosphere and character development.  While I was reading the book I found myself getting lost in the serach for Ismene's real identity.  I found myself jumping at the wailing heard in the woods, my heart started to beat a little faster when Karen's aparment caught fire and she had to jump for it.  I anticipated every clue that Karen dug up about Ismene and her life and I cheered when she finally solved the identity of the author.

Barbara Michaels is a wonderfuly descriptive writer who manages to capture every nuance of a rundown manor house, the cut throat world of academia, and the all too difficult paths that two people can take to find eachother.  The only quibble I have is that I found the ending rather rushed as if the author ran out of space to fully flesh it out.  Overall though I found this to be a wonderfuly written mystery and I'm now a Barbara Michaels fan for life.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 sponsored by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 2/08/20010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page

I won a signed hardcover of The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl, a hardcover of The Eyeball Collector by F.E. Higgins, and a paperback of There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya from Stephanie at The Misfit Salon.

Beth from the fabulous Beth's Book Review Blog forwarded a paperback of The Calling by David Mack.

I bought hardcovers of Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins for $1 each from the Friends of the Library Bookstore.  The Wilkie Collins book has a different cover but I couldn't find a image of the cover I have.

I got a signed copy of The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff in paperback for a TLC Book Tour.