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Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Beginnings: Ready Player One

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

"Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest."

Sounds like when Kennedy was shot or September 11 for a future generation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Manor

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island by Mac Griswold

Goodreads synopsis:
Mac Griswold’s The Manor is the biography of a uniquely American place that has endured through wars great and small, through fortunes won and lost, through histories bright and sinister—and of the family that has lived there since its founding as a New England slave plantation three and a half centuries ago.

In 1984, the landscape historian Mac Griswold was rowing along a Long Island creek when she came upon a stately yellow house and a garden guarded by looming boxwoods. She instantly knew that boxwoods that large—twelve feet tall, fifteen feet wide—had to be hundreds of years old. So, as it happened, was the house: Sylvester Manor had been held in the same family for eleven generations.

Formerly encompassing all of Shelter Island, a pearl of 8,000 acres caught between the North and South Forks of Long Island, the manor had dwindled to 243 acres. Still, its hidden vault proved to be full of revelations and treasures, including the 1666 charter for the land, and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson. Most notable was the short and steep flight of steps the family had called the “slave staircase,” which would provide clues to the extensive but little-known story of Northern slavery. Alongside a team of archaeologists, Griswold began a dig that would uncover a landscape bursting with stories.

Based on years of archival and field research, as well as voyages to Africa, the West Indies, and Europe, The Manor is at once an investigation into forgotten lives and a sweeping drama that captures our history in all its richness and suffering. It is a monumental achievement.

Publishing July 2, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

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!

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel by Matthew Dicks p. 33

"It's not that she doesn't believe in me. She doesn't need me anymore."

This is a problem. When people stop believing in--and not needing is the first step in
that direction--imaginary friends no longer exist.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Up next:
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School, A Glimpse into the Heart of a Nation by Meredith Maran

Book Review: Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything by Kevin Cook

I was at the wonderful Library Center in Springfield, Missouri, perusing their gift shop before settling in to the coffee shop to read for a bit, when I ran across this book. I had taken note of it when it first came out because "Titanic" Thompson was the inspiration for Sky Masterson, a role my brother once played in the musical Guys and Dolls. What I did not know was that he was from the Missouri Ozarks, which makes sense why they would have bought a lot of this book in their library system when it was first published. And since my boyfriend occasionally gambles (in fact, had lost a lot but won it all back and then some just two nights earlier in St. Louis), I thought it would be a perfect book for him. And I thought I'd just take a quick look at it. And I didn't put it down for two hours. My own book never made it out of my purse that day.

Just reading the flap copy is eye-poppingly unbelievable. As an example: "He killed five men and married five women, each one a teenager on her wedding day." That's enough to base most books on right there, but no, there's more: "Dominating the links in the pre-PGA Tour years, Thompson may have been the greatest golfer of his time, teeing up with Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, and Ray Floyd. He also traded card tricks with Houdini, conned Al Capone, lost a million to Minnesota Fats and then teamed up with Fats and won it all back." Thompson never drank, only killed in order to not be killed himself, and with one exception never placed bets he didn't know he could win. It's bizarre to fathom how this can be true of a professional gambler but he did mark cards, and he was creative at figuring out how to win something things, and a maniacal practicer at others. The one exception was horses. He once bribed and threatened all the jockeys of the other horses in a race, and yet his horse managed to break a leg mid-race. All the other jockeys reined in their horses and refused to cross the finish line, fearing for their lives and their bribes. The horse that finally did win, was rider-less. He really couldn't win at horses.

Inveterate gambler, trickster, charmer, and raconteur, Thompson crossed paths with everyone of note in his era, in his trade. Utterly fascinating, this story wouldn't be remotely believable as fiction if you took out half of what he did. A one-of-a-kind and wildly interesting guy, while I'm glad I never crossed paths with Thompson (for even I, a never-better, likely would have been tempted by a few of his seems-like-you-can't-lose bets that were truly can't-wins), I could read about him all day long. And I did.

I bought this book at The Library Center.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Normally I don't read legal thrillers. I'm much more of a literary novel/memoir kind of reader. But I have my guilty pleasures (as we all do) and I thought the premise of The Lincoln Lawyer sounded mighty intriguing. Also my father is an enormous reader of thrillers and would like me to read some of the books he loves from time to time. So when I asked to borrow The Lincoln Lawyer last year, I think he was quite happy about it. And I was happily surprised to find myself staying up well past my bedtime, picking it up first thing in the morning before even getting out of bed, and pretty much reading it every available moment. I was sold. And although Dad likes the Harry Bosch series by Connelly better, I decided to read all of the Mickey Haller series. (And nicely, they actually do cross over. This book is the #2 Mickey Haller book and also the #14 Harry Bosch. I believe the third book has Bosch in it, too.)

Mickey has had some repercussions from the events of The Lincoln Lawyer, most of them not great. But he's going to start back to work soon, slowly. Then, a colleague of his is murdered, and Mickey is given all of his cases, which can be both a boon and a bust, depending on how it turns out. Also, was the other lawyer murdered because of something having to do with one of these cases? If so, which one, and how can Mickey figure out what the crucial information is that could be endangering his life? He needs to quickly get up to speed on a prestigious capital case among others, worry about the other lawyer's murder, and also figure out if this cop Bosch is leveling with him and why he's being cryptic.

The book rocketed along, although a little slower than some people might prefer due to the details of mundane defense lawyer life that I like, and a difficult and believable murder mystery. It was quite fun across the board and I have picked up the third book in the series.

I borrowed this book from my father.

Book Beginnings: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

"Here is what I know: My name is Budo."

This is actually the beginning of a short list of things Budo, Max's imaginary friend, knows about his world. The last thing is pretty neat: "I am not imaginary."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Millionaire and the Mummies

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in Egypt by John M. Adams

Goodreads synopsis:
Egypt, The Valley of the Kings, 1905: An American robber baron peers through the hole he has cut in an ancient tomb wall and discovers the richest trove of golden treasure ever seen in Egypt.

At the start of the twentieth century, Theodore Davis was the most famous archaeologist in the world; his career turned tomb-robbing and treasure-hunting into a science. Using six of Davis's most important discoveries--from the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut's sarcophagus to the exquisite shabti statuettes looted from the Egyptian Museum not too long ago--as a lens around which to focus his quintessentially American rags-to-riches tale, Adams chronicles the dizzying rise of a poor country preacher's son who, through corruption and fraud, amassed tremendous wealth in Gilded Age New York and then atoned for his ruthless career by inventing new standards for systematic excavation. Davis found a record eighteen tombs in the Valley and, breaking with custom, gave all the spoils of his discoveries to museums. A confederate of Boss Tweed, friend of Teddy Roosevelt, and rival of J. P. Morgan, the colorful "American Lord Carnarvon" shared his Newport mansion with his Rembrandts, his wife, and his mistress. The only reason Davis has been forgotten by history to a large extent is probably the fact that he stopped just short of King Tutankhamen's tomb, the discovery of which propelled Howard Carter (Davis's erstwhile employee) to worldwide fame just a few short years later.

Drawing on rare and never-before-published archival material, The Millionaire and the Mummies, the first biography of Theodore Davis ever written rehabilitates a tarnished image through a thrilling tale of crime and adventure, filled with larger-than-life characters, unimaginable treasures, and exotic settings.

Publishing June 25, 2013 by St. Martin's Press.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

I wanted to love this book. I love Laura Ingalls Wilder and I read it just as I was leaving to go on a trip during which I'd go to two Laura houses - her and Almanzo's home in Mansfield, MO where she wrote all the books, and THE Little House on the Prairie (reproduction) near Independence, KS. But while it was sweet and hopeful and the height of Laura-fandom, in the end it was a little disappointing. It just wasn't special enough.

Kelly went to a good college and graduate school, but ended up waiting tables for years in her college town without any prospects, either career-wise or relationship-wise. And so she decides to move to Montana. And she decides to trace the path of Laura Ingalls Wilder in her immortal books, The Little House Series. And she decides to do this while wearing a "prairie dress" which she buys at the last minute so it's short-sleeved, with a hot-pink hem and doesn't quite fit. While traveling she gets over her fear of going out in public in a prairie dress and becomes a little more comfortable talking to strangers. But there are no big revelations. Her relationship with "her Almanzo" fizzles out. I don't really learn anything about Laura that I didn't already know. My enthusiasm for Laura is in no way dampened (as Kelly's isn't either), but overall, the book was just rather... bland. It was easy to read and I think I would like Kelly, but the book didn't stick with me and I think any book about a solo road trip is inevitably going to be a tough one to make sing. When there is no one to talk to, to act as a foil, an ally, a confidant, you lose a lot. Ms. Ferguson had her work cut out with the book she set out to write.

That said, I did love her enthusiasm, her perseverance, and her optimism. All traits we both love in Laura Ingalls.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

Teaser Tuesdays: Titanic Thompson

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

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!

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything by Kevin Cook p. 24

"After that, Beanie and Hickory refused to bet with Alvin. If he had offered one-to-two that he could eat sugar and flour and crap a birthday cake, they would have bought candles."

Alvin "Titanic" never (except with horses) bet on something unless he knew he could win. No matter how unlikely the bet seemed. In fact, the more unlikely, the more sure you could be that Alvin had figured out a way to make it work, whether through practice, trickery, or skill.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim

Like all little girls in the 1970s, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder and I hated Nellie Oleson. Unlike a lot of little girls, I had read all the books and wasn't allowed to watch the TV show. Luckily, a neighbor didn't know I wasn't allowed to watch it and I watched in horror - and glee - as Laura pushed a fake-paralyzed Nellie's wheelchair down a very steep hill. It was awesome.

Nellie on the TV show wouldn't have been half as wonderfully awesome to hate if it hadn't been for Alison Arngrim who truly endowed her with a bitchy, spiteful, snottiness that isn't easily carried off. I wasn't sure if I'd like a book by her, but I'm ever so glad I picked it up!

Alison's home life wasn't great. While her parents were pretty cool - perhaps even too cool (her father was gay and it wasn't much a secret) - her older brother was molesting her. She decided at a very young age that she wanted to move out of the house to get away from him, and she knew that meant she needed money and the only thing she knew that a kid could do to make that kind of money was act. Her mother did the voice of Caspar the Friendly Ghost, her father managed Liberace, her brother starred a TV show, so it made sense. And while she didn't end up moving out of the house early, she did develop enough backbone through playing Nellie to finally tell her brother (successfully) to bug off.

This memoir was extremely well-written, smooth and peppy. Alison embraces Nellie's obnoxiousness and finds that at times, it even works to her advantage in the real world. The cast of the show were very much like a family to her, especially Melissa Gilbert who was a true friend, and the show continued to have an impact on her decades afterward. Instead of just being a blip in her life, it still influences her to this day. About to appear in an interview about her charity work, she finds out minutes beforehand that Michael Landon has died. And she uses her fame to push her pet projects, particularly in regards to molestation. She managed to book herself onto The Larry King Show for a full hour, to talk about state laws (particularly California's) which at the time exempted family members from being charged for molestation or rape!

I loved hearing how playing Nellie Oleson helped Ms. Arngrim learn to have gumption, stand up for herself, laugh at herself, and lay claim to her own quirky self in a way you rarely hear in a Hollywood bio. Anyone who was a fan of the TV show should definitely read this fast, fun, but not insubstantial memoir.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:

Books I am currently reading/listening to:

Up next:
The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History by William K. Klingaman, Nicholas P. Klingaman
No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried To Make It Better. by Elizabeth Weil
Diamond in the Rough: A Memoir by Shawn Colvin

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss

Up next:
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Beginnings: Titanic Thompson

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything by Kevin Cook

"He blew into town like a rogue wind that lifted girls' skirts and turned gamblers' pockets inside-out."

Titanic did do both of these things, not literally, but figuratively. A gambler who never bet unless he knew he could win (except on horses), he is a fascinating figure.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Claudia Silver to the Rescue

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Claudia Silver to the Rescue by Kathy Ebel

Goodreads synopsis:
In this gutsy debut novel, flawed but unsinkable Claudia Silver cuts a wide comic swath through 1990s New York City in her misguided attempts to find love and happiness.

Estranged from her bohemian Brooklyn family and fired for an impropriety at work, Claudia Silver is officially in over her head. When her younger sister lands on her doorstep urgently in need of help, twenty-something Claudia desperately wants to offer the rescue that she herself has longed for. But Claudia missteps dramatically, straight into a disastrous love affair that disrupts three very different New York households. Ultimately, she discovers the resilient nature of love where she least expects it—among her own family.

Claudia Silver to the Rescue is the firece yet tender chronicle of the many humiliations and occasional triumphs of a young woman determined to wrest her identity from the spectacular wreckage of her mistake. Uncomfortably hilarious, quintessentially human, Claudia is an unforgettable heroine who shoots for the stars and hits the ceiling.

Publishing June 18, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: The Brass Verdict

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

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!

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly p. 68

"'He could've put the window down because he liked the chill, or he could've lowered it for someone coming to the car.'
'Somebody he knew.'"

It's interesting that even though it makes a murder less random, it's still unnerving to realize someone killed someone they knew.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
An Age of Madness by David Maine

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely (audio)

Up next:
The Reversal by Michael Connelly
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:

Books I am currently reading/listening to:

Up next:
The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and his Mysterious Disappearance by David V. Herlihy
The Way Men Act by Elinor Lipman

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Beginnings: The Brass Verdict

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

"Everybody lies."

This reminds me of the TV show, House, who agreed with this theory. Personally, I don't know about everybody, but I do agree a lot of people lie.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Bootstrapper

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm by Mardi Jo Link

Goodreads synopsis:
Poignant, irreverent, and hilarious: the memoir of a woman who, after ending her nineteen-year marriage, staves off a perpetually empty bank account, saves her century-old farmhouse from foreclosure with the help of her three young sons, and reclaims her life.


It's the summer of 2005, and Mardi Jo Link's dream of living the simple life has unraveled into debt, heartbreak, and perpetually ragged cuticles.

Still, when she and her husband call it quits, leaving her more broke than ever, Link makes a seemingly impossible resolution: to hang on to her northern Michigan farm and continue to raise her boys on well water and wood chopping and dirt. Armed with an unfailing sense of humor and her three resolute accomplices, Link confronts blizzards and coyotes, learns about Zen divorce and the best way to butcher a hog, dominates a zucchini-growing contest and wins a year's supply of local bread, masters the art of bargain cooking, deals with rampaging poultry, and finds her way to a truly rich existence. Told with endless heart and candor, Bootstrapper is a story of motherhood and survival and self-discovery, of an indomitable woman who, against all the odds, holds on to what matters most.

Publishing June 11, 2013 by Knopf.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: My Life as Laura


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

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!


My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson p. 17-18

"I girded up my loins and stepped outside, half-expecting Willie Oleson to jump out and yell, 'Long-legged snipes!' but all I saw was the desk clerk of the Lake Pepin Inn glance up from her paper, blink once, and look right back down. I would learn this about Midwesterners: They might live in a town with a Subway, one gas station and an old barrel, but that doesn't mean they are easily impressed."

I loved this observation about Midwesterners and not only do I agree to it, I aspire to it (although I am not a Midwesterner either by birth or geography.) But pretty much no one at nay of the Laura Ingalls sites so much as bats an eye at Kelly's attire (the prairie dress).

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
An Age of Madness by David Maine
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely (audio)
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach (audio)

Up next:
The Reversal by Michael Connelly
Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman