Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Evan Help Us

"Evan Help Us"
-Rhys Bowen, 2000
ISBN: 0749003692
From: Library
Rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

From Amazon: An archaeological find in the town of Llanfair sparks an age-old rivalry with the neighbouring town of Beddgelert. When Llanfair's prodigal son, Ted Morgan, announces his plans for an amusement park, the rivalry turns deadly, drawing Constable Evans into a whirl of pride, deception and greed.

Thoughts: I liked this book, #2 in the Constable Evans series. Cute, quaint, with a few dead bodies thrown in for good measure. Reading these books is a pleasure, and I look forward to book #3 at some point in the near future. Picking out the murderer wasn't too hard, but it's a nice and easy ride to the end of the book, again with some nice secondary character development. I tried not to read this too fast, making deals with myself that I had to reach a certain page number in the other book that I'm reading and stuck in, but that didn't work. Hopefully I'll get somewhere in the other book tonight, instead of reading the next library book that's due, but I'm not holding my breath.

A good book set in lovely Wales with eccentric townfolk and murder. A nice series if you're looking for something enjoyable to spend a few hours reading.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Viola in Reel Life

"Viola in Reel Life"
-Adriana Trigiani, 2009
ISBN: 9780061451027
From: Library
Rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

From front flap: Viola doesn't want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world.
There's no way Viola's going to survive the year - especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera.
Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life.
But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in.

Thoughts: This was the first physical book of Adriana Trigianis' that I've read (I've listened to a fantastic reading by Stephen Hoye of "Rococo" before), and I liked it. Didn't love it, but liked it.
I liked Viola - she was real, complex, selfish, and very teen-y. Then again, she is 14 years old. While she eventually stops whining about being in Indiana and learns to love it, she has huge "understanding" swings, going from a narrow viewpoint and being totally selfish to a total adult understanding of a situation in a page or two. Um, what? There didn't seem to be a lot of description about her comprehension of things, or even an "easing into" or "slowly dawning awareness" of things. Nope, just go straight from "Why isn't it about me" to "I totally understand my parents are adults who have faults". Um...okay then. Her very first boyfriend, Jared, was great, supportive, seemed realistic for almost the entire book, and then at the end he suddenly became some completely jerky douche. Again, what? It seemed like a weird "development" of his character. On the other hand, her roommates, and their respective families seemed more fleshed out and real, as did Viola's parents and Grandmother.
I did like that Viola was an only child, like me. There don't seem to be many only children in books, so that was kind of nice. There were a couple of times (especially one in particular) that were so accurate about what it's like to be an only child, that I wonder if Adriana is an only, or if someone she is close to is.
To be honest, I first picked up this book because of the cover. It's nothing special or fancy, but her shoes caught my eye. Well, that and the fact that the word "Viola" is pretty big and I played the viola for 13 or so years - you hardly ever see or hear much about the instrument, so I thought that maybe it was about the orchestra or something...it's not. All in all, I liked this book. Didn't love it, but I liked it. I'll certainly read Ms. Trigiani's work again ( I have "Big Stone Gap" sitting on my shelf to read), but I'm not going to rush into it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday

This is my first ever Mailbox Monday! It's also a slightly sad one because I only received 2 books, but still... it's 2 books!

I received "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie King through Paperback Swap (received a book in the middle of this series as a gift and since I'm kind of obsessive about reading things in order I had to get this), and I got "Jane Bites Back" by Michael Thomas Ford from the publisher. I won JBB through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and I'm so glad I did!

Also, I've just realized that I haven't read one single word in a book in a week! That's horrible!!! I can hardly believe it myself. I did spend almost 6 days on the couch with that terrible cold, and then my first day up and functioning was spent at Job #1 and then at a party... and then I spent most of the next day on the couch again. Not good.

However, today I had a really good day. My parents came over to help me get a little more organized. (It might sound strange, but I had bags and boxes of paperwork that I needed to get through and I do a much better job if someone is watching me and helping me sort through it all.) I got my bills in order - whew! And, I found my new planner! Hallelujah! I was getting ready to buy a new one, too. All in all it was a good day.

I'm looking forward to reading (a lot) tomorrow and to more cleaning and sorting. Here's hoping I can finish this book and move on to the next one in the stack by the end of the week!

p.s. Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: Evans Above

"Evans Above"
-Rhys Bowen, 1998
ISBN: 0425166422
From: My shelves
Rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

From Amazon: Constable Evan Evans expected idyllic Llanfair to be a calm oasis far away from the violent crime of the big city. That was, until a string of murders erupts in the town, putting every "charming eccentric" under suspicion...

Thoughts: I stumbled upon the first book in her "Royal" series at the library last year, really liked it, and wanted to give this series a shot. Set in Wales, it's full of mystery and gentle humor. Evan Evans is a good, congenial character, and a reliable narrator. The other characters in the village are mostly that - characters - with an amusing sub-plot dealing with a missing apple pie and a neighbor jealous of anothers' prize-winning veggie patch.

As with most mysteries, some things are predictable and some are not. Admittedly, I might have missed some hints about the big twist at the end (having read most of this in the wee hours of the morning while dealing with this heck of a cold) but it was kind of shocking. I also didn't remember the names of some of the minor character, but I'm thinking that's the cold talking as well.

All in all, I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next book in the series. Unlike some other series of books I've read before, I don't feel the need to run out and buy them so I can read them all right away. But if I'm ever in the mood for a book that doesn't require huge amounts of concentration or for something that's gentle, interesting, and a fairly quick read, I'll happily come back to Evan Evans and the town of Llanfair, Wales.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goals for 2010...

I'm not really a fan of the word "resolution", so I'm going with "goal" instead. I've spent quite a bit of time (more than I'd like to admit to) in the last week reading other blogs and thinking about what I'm shooting for this year. And, now that I've been up for almost 30 hours with one heck of a cold, I think I'm ready to commit to a few things and get them out there. In no particular order...

1. Work less
I need to clarify that a little more. I spend a shocking amount of time working for absolutely free. With Job #1, there are between 2 and 4 hours every week that each of us work without being paid. (It might sound ridiculous, but I swear it's honest and makes sense for the job and where I work.) But, me being me, I don't seem to be content just putting in the time I'm supposed to. No. I like to really overachieve, without much thought being put into it, and I average 26 hours a week working unpaid. This has got to stop. No one else in the world would be okay with working that much for zero pay... now that I'm aware of it, it's ending. It's made quite a big difference in the last week alone.

2. Have more money coming in
Between both jobs I should theoretically be making a livable wage. In actuality, it's totally not true. Whether this means cutting back on Job #1, doing more for Job #2 or getting rid of it altogether, I don't know. What I do know is that I need to not make myself available at all hours for anyone who calls, be mindful of my daily schedule and consider my income/expenses each day. This sort of dovetails into...

3. Make myself a priority
I have some health issues that I generally ignore and this also holds true for my time. I spent a lot of last year working 6 or 7 days a week, and even on my "off" days I still worked from home. I'm going to have more than 1 day every week where I do absolutely no work whatsoever. I spend so much time and energy directing myself toward anything and anyone else. It's time I turn that geyser down a few notches and save something for myself.

4. Read more
If I'm reading that means I'm still and focused on one thing. Plus, I have a bajillion books on my shelves (not to mention in stores and libraries) that I really do want to read. This should help.

5. Not read more than one book at a time
Two if I'm nearing the end of one/it's a heavy, thick hardcover that doesn't travel easily. I normally read 7 to 15 at a time. This is going to be a serious challenge.

6. Pay attention
This one applies to all areas of my inner and outer life. I spend so much time unfocused and running on automatic. I'm certain I'd have a fuller, happier, just generally better life if I was aware of what was going on and paid attention!

Well, that's it for now. I know they probably sound kind of generic, but they're biggies for me. Here's hoping that this time next year I can check all of these off! Speaking of off, I'm going to try to doze off for a nap here, with a little "Antiques Roadshow" in the background. Be back later for my first review of the year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

This is getting a little ridiculous. But I mean COME ON, how could I not do this challenge?!? Any fiction by a British author counts, as do crossovers. There are such great titles for the levels - Put the Kettle On, Gordon Bennet, Bob's Your Uncle - and since I'm fairly certain that at least a quarter of the books I own are "British-born", I should be able to complete this challenge fairly easily. (Of course, I say that now, when the year has barely begun.) The lovely host is Book Chick City - please join the TBRC here and read with me!

I'm joining at the top level, Cream Crackered, reading 8 Typically British novels.

1. "Royal Flush" by Rhys Bowen (January)

2. "Mr. Darcy, Vampyre" by Amanda Grange (March)

3. "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" by Louise Rennison (March)

4. "The Minpins" by Roald Dahl (March)

5. "Pride Prejudice & Jasmin Field" by Melissa Nathan (December)

6. "The Frozen Deep" by Wilkie Collins (November)

7. "Agnes Grey" by Anne Bronte (November)

8. "Cheerful Weather for the Wedding" by Julia Strachey (October)

Completed: December 2010!

Reading From My Shelves 2010

I've been looking for a challenge like this one for the last couple of weeks and I'm so glad I've found it! One of my goals for this year is to read as many books as possible that I've already shelled out good money for and get them out of here! (You can only rejigger your shelves so many times before you have to accept that book piles are going to be a way of life for awhile until you get rid of a few.) This helpful challenge is being hosted by Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea. The only rule is that you have to own the book, read it, and then get rid of it (passing along to a friend, donating to charity, reselling, etc...), and crossovers are allowed!

My goal for 2010 is to lose 40 books from my shelves. Even though I have 500+ unread (I know, it's crazy!), and I only read 75 books in 2009, I'm hoping to get 100 total read and I figure a 40% goal is pretty good. Of course, any book that leaves my shelves is a step in the right direction!

1. "Evans Above" by Rhys Bowen - given to my mother - January

2. "Scandals, Vandals, and da Vincis" by Harvey Rachlin - PaperbackSwap (PBS) - February

3. "Living Well with Hypothyroidism" by Mary J. Shomon - PBS - February

4. "Heat Wave" by Richard Castle - given to my mother - February

5. "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo - PBS - March

6. "The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland" by J. Stirling Coyne - PBS - March

7. "Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It" by David Brownstein, MD - PBS - March

8. "The Watchmen" by Alan Moore - PBS - March

9. "Three Vampire Tales" by Le Fanu, Stoker, & Polidori - PBS - March

10. "Briar Rose" by Jane Yolen - PBS - March

11. "The Red and the Black" by Stendhal - PBS - March

12. "Letters from Pemberley" by Jane Dawkins - PBS - March

13. "More Letters from Pemberley" by Jane Dawkins - PBS - April

14. "The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood - PBS - May

15. "Sizzling Sixteen" by Janet Evanovich - given to Mom - June

16. "Heart of the Sea" by Nora Roberts - Goodwill - July

17. "Dance of the Gods" by Nora Roberts - Goodwill - July

18. "Pride and Prescience" by Carrie Bebris - PBS - June

19. "The Glades" by Clifton Campbell - PBS - July

20. "Valley of Silence" by Nora Roberts - donation - July

21. "The Dante Club" by Matthew Pearl - donation - August

22. "Driving Over Lemons" by Chris Stewart - PBS - September

23. "A Load of Old Balls" by Jo Brand - PBS - September

24. "The Expedition of Humphry Clinker" by Tobias Smollet - PBS - October

25. "Enthusiasm" by Polly Shulman - PBS - October

26. "1st to Die" by James Patterson - to Mom - November

27. "Jane Austen's the History of England" by Jane Austen - to Mom - November

28. "The World of Jane Austen" by Nigel Nicolson - to Mom - November

29. "Pride Prejudice & Jasmin Field" by Melissa Nathan - to Kay from LT - December

30. "An Assembly Such as This" by Pamela Aidan - to Mom - December

31. "Kings & Queens of England & Scotland" by Plantagenet Somerset Fry - to Mom - December

32. "Twilight: Director's Notebook" by Catherin Hardwick - to PBS - November

33. "Twilight The Movie Companion" by Mark Cotta-Vaz - to PBS - December

34. "The God of Animals" by Aryn Kyle - to PBS - December

35. "Up the Agency" by Peter Mayle - to PBS - December

36. "The Literary Book of Answers" by Carol Bolt - to PBS - December

37. "Bones of Faerie" by Janni Lee Simner - to Mom - December


2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

OK, since I didn't "promise" I wouldn't be joining any more challenges this year, I feel slightly less guilty about joining this one - especially since I can't seem to leave the library without an armload of books! I'm aiming low for this one, but fully expect to step up another notch or two. The rules are - if you read a book you've checked out from the library, then it counts for this challenge! Also, crossovers from other challenges count! :) This is being hosted by the amazing J. Kaye over here. You should really check out J. Kaye's Book Blog by the way, it's wonderful!

I'll be doing the "Mini" version, reading 25 library books.

***UPDATE*** As of March, I'll be doing the "Just My Size" version, reading 50 library books. I can hardly believe it myself!!!

1. "Viola in Reel Life", Adriana Trigiani January 2010

2. "Evan Help Us", Rhys Bowen January

3. "The Arrival", Shaun Tan January

4. "Royal Flush", Rhys Bowen January

5. "Bonk", Mary Roach January

6. "Hands Washing Water", Chris Abani February

7. "Becoming Abigail", Chris Abani February

8."Persephone and the Pomegranate", Kris Waldherr February

9. "The Book of Goddesses", Kris Waldherr February

10. "Wench", Dolen Perkins-Valdez February

11. "We Have Always Lived in the Castle", Shirley Jackson, March

12. "Chobits, Vol 1", CLAMP, March

13. "Chobits, Vol 2", CLAMP, March

14. "Chobits, Vol 3", CLAMP, March

15. "Chobits, Vol 4", CLAMP, March

16. "Chobits, Vol 5", CLAMP, March

17. "Chobits, Vol 6", CLAMP, March

18. "Chobits, Vol 7", CLAMP, March

19. "Chobits, Vol 8", CLAMP, March

20. "Godmother", Carolyn Turgeon, March

21. "Carnet de Voyage", Craig Thompson, March

22. "Flow", Elissa Stein and Susan Kim, March

23. "Goodbye, Chunky Rice", Craig Tompson, March

24. "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging", Louise Rennison, March

25. "Beauty and the Beast", Jean Marie Leprince de Beaumont, March

26. "The Vicar of Nibbleswicke", Roald Dahl, March

27. "The Minpins", Roald Dahl, March

28. "The Swan Thieves", Elizabeth Kostova, March

29. "Chicken with Plums", Marjane Satrapi, March

30. "Blankets", Craig Thompson, April

31. "Film + Travel - Europe", April

32. "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar", Roald Dahl, April

33. "Embroideries", Marjane Satrapi, April

34. "Persepolis 2", Marjane Satrapi, April

35. "Q's Legacy", Helene Hanff, May

36. "Evan and Elle", Rhys Bowen, May

37. "Bruno, Chief of Police", Martin Walker, July

38. "Wicked Ties", Shayla Black, June

39. "If I Knew Then What I Know Now... So What?", Estelle Getty, June

40. "Microterrors", Tony Hart, August

41. "Bruno, Chief of Police", Martin Walker, July

42. "Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies", Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, August

43. "Murder Uncorked", Michele Scott, September

44. "The Dark Vineyard", Martin Walker, October

45. "Royal Blood", Rhys Bowen, October

46. "Troublemaker", Janet and Alex Evanovich, October

47. "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, October

48. "Maus II" by Art Spiegelman, October

49. "Graphic Classics, Vol. 14" by Anne Radcliffe, October

50. "Finn Family Moomintroll", Tove Jansson, October

Happy New Year!

May you be happy, healthy, and blessed in 2010!