Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Reluctant Detective


"You know I don't like to complain[,]" Pat Montesque screwed up her soft cheeks into a fierce smile.

-- The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley.

This is the first book in a new series featuring ex-cop, newly-ordained vicar Faith Morgan.  It's like a British version of Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Furgusson series -- a female Episcopalian (Church of England) priest in a small town.

So far, I like it a lot. The story starts off fast, when the priest at Little Worthy drops dead during communion.  The ex-boyfriend relationship is a little forced right now, but shows hints that Ockley will find the right tone soon enough.

This is a fun one.

I got my copy through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Nine Simple Patterns




Her scissors were duller than sewing scissors should be, but these were not the ones the triplets had used to cut telephone wire, so at least these cut.  How had she forgotten that in high school she had relied heavily on the Home Ec teacher's expertise?

-- from "Pattern" in Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women, a commanding collection of short stories by Mary Rechner that I suspect will continue burrowing through my brain for a long time to come.  My review is here.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.





Monday, August 29, 2011

Mailbox Monday





Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Life in the Thumb is hosting in August.  Please visit Staci's fun and cheerful blog for some great reading inspiration.

I got three books last week, just for fun:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson



Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence by Tim Parks



French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano






Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review of the Day: Nine Simple Patterns




Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women is a commanding collection of short stories by Mary Rechner that I suspect will continue burrowing through my brain for a long time to come.

The stories are all about "ordinary" women, mostly with children, but each one stands on its own very individual merits.  Rechner uses a variety of events, including a trip to the dentist, a charity poetry slam at a strip bar, and an alumnae panel discussion, to set her protagonists to musing on motherhood, marriage, femininity, sexuality, and self-image.

These are not feel-good stories -- they have some sharp edges to them.  Which is what should give the collection real staying power.


OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

Nine Simple Patters is the perfect gift book for all your 30- or 40-something girlfriends.  I love the vintage sassy cover!  It is also a beautifully-made book, with thick, rough-cut pages and French flaps. 
This is the first book put out by Portland publisher Propeller Books, the book side of Propeller Magazine, a quarterly lit, art, film, and culture internet magazine. Propeller Books only publishes one book a year. The fall 2011 book is A Simple Machine, Like the Lever, a novel by Evan P. Schneider.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Nine Simple Patterns



Silvia hoped her scissors were sharp enough.
-- Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by Mary Rechner (nine short stories).

This adorable book came from a Portland publisher called Propeller Books and it is irresistible. Not only is the cover so vintage sassy, it is also a beautifully-made book, with thick, rough-cut pages and French flaps. French flaps. That is a trend in book binding that I support wholeheartedly.





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Don't Vote



I beg forgiveness from the reader for the vulgar language in this book. 

-- Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards by P. J. O'Rourke.

I always enjoy O'Rourke's books, even if they no longer knock me off my chair like Parliament of Whores did. 

That's the problem, for me at least, with any humorous writer -- the first book you read is always the "funniest" because it is novel and fresh.  After that, expectations are high, but the content loses that unexpected quality that brought so many laughs.




Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Favorite Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming



Julia Spencer-Fleming writes a series of mystery novels featuring a former army pilot, now Episcopalian priest, Clare Fergusson. Fergusson is the first female priest at St. Albans, the Episcopal church in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill (as in the old Dutch word for river, but it sounds spooky, doesn't it?).

Spencer-Fleming has one several awards for her books and was nominated at least once for the coveted Edgar. She deserves the acclaim. This is one of the best-written, most intelligent mystery series going. The plots are creative and intricate. The pacing is solid, with exciting scenes that are actually exciting. The characters are complex -- Fergusson in particular is one of the most interesting sleuths out solving mysteries. Spencer-Fleming does a masterful job of having Fergusson maintain her spiritual role while wrestling with human issues.

The biggest of these human issues is the town's police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. Electricity sparks between pastor and cop from the get go. And while Episcopalian priests can date and marry, they are definitely not supposed to date married men, especially high profile citizens like the police chief. The sexual tension between the two is absolutely believable.

So too are the stories. One of the most difficult aspects of amateur sleuth series is how to get the amateur sleuth involved in solving so many murders. Spencer-Fleming handles this well, usually by having Fergusson face a minor mystery in the beginning -- something a small town priest could believably have to deal with -- and then only throwing in the dead body after Fergusson is well involved. There are still several "stay out of this; I told you to wait in the car" conversations with Van Alstyne, but they do not become a constant refrain.

There are seven books in the series and I've read them all. Hopefully there will be many more.

All the titles are the names of hymns:

In the Bleak Midwinter (2002)

A Fountain Filled With Blood (2003)

Out of the Deep I Cry (2004)

To Darkness and to Death (2005) (reviewed here)

All Mortal Flesh (2007) (reviewed here)

I Shall Not Want (2008)

One Was a Soldier (2011) (reviewed here)

NOTES

Last updated on April 19, 2012.

OTHER FANS

If you have reviews of Julia Spencer-Fleming's books, or other posts about this author, and would like them listed here, please leave comments with a links and I will add them here.

Teaser Tuesday: On Beauty



Here Howard made the mistake of looking up and around him as public speakers are advised to do.  He caught sight of Monty, who was smiling and nodding, like a king at a fool who has come to entertain him.
-- On Beauty by Zadie Smith. From a scene where antagonist professors Howard and Monte are debating a point at the big faculty meeting.

This book won the Orange Prize in 2006.  I just finished it and am mulling what I will write in my review. I have mixed reactions.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




Monday, August 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday and Giveaway Winner



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Life in the Thumb is hosting in August.  Please visit Staci's fun and cheerful blog for some great reading inspiration.

I got some great books last week. But first I have a GIVEAWAY WINNER to announce:

Despite a valiant effort by Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time, random.org generated #1 as the random choice, making Debbie at ExUrbanis (also featured on Kittling Books' terrific Scene of the Blog last week) the winner of From This Wicked Patch of Dust by Sergio Troncoso.  



MY BOOKS

Carry Yourself Back to Me by Deborah Reed.  I've been waiting for this one!



The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, the guys who run Reason Magazine and Reason TV.  I ordered this after meeting the authors when they were in Portland for a reading at Powell's. I had to miss the reading, but enjoyed chatting with them at a dinner put together by my Cascade Policy Institute buddies. Let's see what they have to say.




A Small Fortune by Audrey Braun. Audry Braun is the pen name of Deborah Reed, above.  



I read and reviewed A Small Fortune when Deborah self-published the book last year.  It has since been picked up, along with her literary novel Carry Yourself Back to Me, by AmazonEncore.  The new edition has a Rose City Reader blurb on the back (I'm famous!), so Deborah was nice enough to send me a copy.  See my author interview, here.

Like I said, "the book is absolutely unputdownable."



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review of the Day: Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal



"But is it legal?" This is by far and away the most common question I am asked after doing a workshop on local food systems and profitable farming principles.

So begins Joel Salatin in Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front . And no, he is not talking about growing pot or smuggling in truckloads of undocumented workers. He's talking about the kinds of things small farmers would like to do to build environmentally friendly, sustainable, economically viable, local enterprises – things like curing bacon, selling homemade pound cake, hiring teen-aged interns, selling a neighbor's pumpkins, milling lumber for local projects, allowing on-farm abattoirs, and building a house smaller than 900 square feet.

Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, "the farm of many faces," in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He was featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and stole the show as the big-hatted farmer in Farmageddon.

He is quite a character. He describes himself as a "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist" and pulls no punches when explaining his views on how farming should be done and people fed. Chapter by chapter, he explains how one-size-fits-all government regulations designed for large-scale, industrial, monoculture agriculture unfairly limit small farmers trying to serve local communities by providing a variety of healthy food, humanely produced.

Salatin is a master of what Pollan described as the Prairie Populist stemwinder, so the book has plenty of righteous sermonizing on freedom and responsibility. For example:
Ultimately, the government's involvement in medical care creates the justification to penetrate personal liberties with regulations that codify exactly what the wards of the state may or may not eat. . . .

You can drink 20 Cokes a day, but be careful about that homemade pound cake – it will surely get you. . . .

The only safety comes in our communities, our homes, our families, from the bottom up. And these institutions must be free to experiment, to innovate. . . .

The freedom to opt out of the mainstream paradigm is the cornerstone that preserves the minority view, differentiating between top-down societies and bottom-up societies. Our opponents favor coercing consumers to buy only government-approved food, thereby denying opt out freedoms.

He doesn't care whose ox he gores when trying to make a point. He criticizes liberals for looking to the government to solve problems and conservatives for being soft on corporate fat cats manipulating the system.

He's also a good writer with a sense of humor and a big heart. The book is a pleasure to read even while it gets your blood boiling over the petty tyrannies of government agencies doing their best to thwart small farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs.


WEEKEND COOKING


Food Freedom is on Facebook and twitter. Click on the chicken for more information.


This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review of the Day: One Was a Soldier


 

Julia Spencer-Fleming always finds a new, clever way to pull Clare Fergusson into a murder mystery, which she must, since Episcopal priests in small Adirondacks towns don't usually come across dead bodies in the course of their day.

In One Was a Soldier, the latest in Spencer-Fleming's series featuring Fergusson and her love-interest, Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, the mystery unfolds slowly, with the first dead body not showing up until quite late in the game. As always, Spencer-Fleming takes her time building a multi-layered story that is as much about the characters as it is the mystery they solve.

The story opens with Fergusson, a former Army helicopter pilot, returning from her tour of duty in Iraq, having signed up for the National Guard in the last book, I Shall Not Want. While she tries to hide it, Fergusson is wrestling with war demons and self-medicating.  She eventually gets involved with a veterans support group, but when one of their own ends up dead, Fergusson rallies the group to try to prove it was murder, not suicide.

This is one of the best mystery series going, with a large cast of recurring characters, intricate storylines, believable and interesting relationships, and plenty of action.


OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book, or any other book in this series, listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

I got my copy of One Was a Soldier from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.  It took me a while to get to it, which is too bad because it was really good.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Secret of Chimneys



"Gentleman Joe!"

-- The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie.

This book starts off in Africa, when tour guide Anthony Cade gets roped into a simple courier job.  Those never end well.

I don't read a lot of Agatha Christie books -- at least, not since a jag in high school -- so I always forget how lively and clever they are. The opening scenes of this one were so witty and modern that I was surprised to learn it is one of her earlier books, published in 1925.

This counts as one of my choices for the Vintage Mystery Challenge, hosted by My Reader's Block.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: On Beauty



One may as well begin with Jerome's emails to his father.

-- On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

This book won the Orange Prize in 2006 and has been waiting for me on my iPod since about then. 

I knew absolutely nothing about the book before I started it -- I hadn't read the cover or anything about it, except that it had one the prize.  Sometimes I like jumping into a book like that with absolutely no expectations.

I am halfway through the audio version and enjoying it very much. Whatever I may have guessed the book to be about, I did not expect it to be an Ivory Tower novel and family drama.  Pleasant surprise, since a novel of academia crossed with an Aga Saga is a genre made for me.




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal



If it's the government's responsibility to make sure that no person can ingest a morsel of unsafe food, then only government-decreed food will be edible.  And when that happens, freedom of choice is long gone, because the credentialed food will be what the fat cats who wine and dine politicians say that it is.
-- Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front by Joel Salatin.  
 
Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, "the farm of many faces," in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.  He was featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and stole the show as the big-hatted farmer in Farmageddon.
 
 
Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

 

Food Freedom is on Facebook and twitter. Click on the chicken for more information.


This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.


 


Monday, August 15, 2011

Mailbox Monday & GIVEAWAY!


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Life in the Thumb is hosting in August.  Please visit Staci's fun and cheerful blog for some great reading inspiration.

I got one book last week and am hosting a giveaway for it (see details below).

LAST WEEK'S GIVEAWAY WINNER
But first, the winner of last week's giveaway of Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition by Katherine Malmo is Anna at Diary of an Eccentric. Anna will get her own ARC of this new memoir and the opportunity to host a giveaway of her own for another copy. 



THIS WEEK'S BOOK & GIVEAWAY
From This Wicked Patch of Dust by Sergio Troncoso.   


THE BOOK: In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martinez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The family's hardscrabble origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.

THE GIVEAWAY: Thanks go to Mary Bisbee-Beek, an incredibly diligent book publicist, for providing two ARCs for a "leap-frog" giveaway.

The leap-frog part is that I have one ARC to giveaway.  The winner will get to host another giveaway for the second ARC.

The contest is open until Sunday, August 21, 2011. To enter, do any or all of the following, but you must leave a comment for each one:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include a way to contact you (email or website address in your comment or available in your profile). If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway. (Posting the giveaway on your sidebar is also acceptable.) Leave a separate comment with a link to your post. (1 entry)

3. Subscribe to my rss feed, follow me on blogger, or subscribe via email (or tell me if you already are a subscriber or follower). Leave a separate comment for this. (1 entry)

4. Tweet this post on Twitter. Leave me a separate comment with your twitter user name. (1 entry)

5. Stumble this blog, digg it, technorati fave it, or link it on facebook. Leave a separate comment. (1 entry)

There are a lot of ways to enter (maximum of five entries), but you must LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each one or they will not count. I will use random.org to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is open to entries from the U.S. and Canada only. The deadline for entry is 9:00 PM, Pacific Time, on Sunday, August 21, 2011. I will draw and post the winner's name in my Mailbox Monday post for August 22, 2011.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Jazz Cats!

Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday celebrate their first birthday today! They are officially cats now instead of kittens.


They may not be the irresistible balls of fuzz they were when we first brought them home from the Humane Society . . .


. . . but they are our number one source of entertainment.  They play Synchronized Patrol, Crinkle Ball Soccer, and Bug Attack; enjoy two kinds of kitty wrestling, Big Tail Battle and a more stylized form based on Japanese Noh theater; and have a hundred other little ways and habits that keep us laughing all day long.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE JAZZ CATS!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Everything I Want to do is Illegal



"But is it legal?" . . . . is by far and away the most common question I am asked after doing a workshop on local food systems and profitable farming principles.
-- Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front by Joel Salatin. 

Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, "the farm of many faces," in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.  He was featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and stole the show as the big-hatted farmer in Farmageddon.

Salatin is quite a character.  He describes himself as a "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist" and pulls no punches when explaining his views on how farming should be done and people fed.

He's also a good writer with a sense of humor and a big heart.  The book is a pleasure to read even while it gets your blood boiling over the petty tyrannies of government agencies doing their best to thwart small farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs.



WEEKEND COOKING


Food Freedom is on Facebook and twitter. Click on the chicken for more information.


This counts as one of my books for the Foodie's Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.




Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Very Bad Men





Very Bad Men is the second in Harry Dolan's Ann Arbor series featuring crime magazine editor, David Loogan. For Loogan, finding a mystery story left at his office door is nothing unusual. But when the anonymous manuscript starts with the confession of a recent murder and identifies the next victim, Loogan and his police detective girlfriend vault into action.

The story never stops from there. A 17-year-old bank robbery is the link between the murder victims, a retiring U.S. Senator, the bright young woman running for his seat, an ambitious tabloid reporter, and a dozen or so other suspects, suckers, and side-shows.

Dolan's first Loogan novel, Bad Things Happen (reviewed here), was another rip-roarer that had more of a literary theme, with authors and editors murdering each other. It was great, but this one is even better. Bad Things got a little ramshackle and some of the plot threads frayed. Bad Men is more polished and hangs together right to the end.

Dolan is an exceptional storyteller whose writing is so good it is invisible. Reading the book feels like living the story along with the characters. Hopefully this is the second of what will be a very long series.

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Unnatural Death



"But if he thought the woman was being murdered -- "
-- Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers.

This is the third in her series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.  I really liked the second book in the Series, Clouds of Witness (reviewed here).



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: Hide & Seek



"Hide!"

-- Hide & Seek by Ian Rankin, the second novel in his John Rebus series.

One word opening sentences are not my favorite. But the story takes off like a rocket from there.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: One Was a Soldier



Clare downed half the contents in one swallow.  "Whoa, easy there Major."
-- One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  This is the latest in her series featuring the Rev. Clare Fergusson, an Episcopalian priest in Millers Kill, New York, and her Chief of Police boyfriend, Russ Van Alstyne.

This story picks up when Clare gets back from a tour of duty in Iraq with the National Guard (she was an Army helicopter pilot before become a priest). She's wrestling with demons and self-medicating.  Good thing she signed up for a veterans' support group.  Bad thing they start dying off . . .

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.



Monday, August 8, 2011

Mailbox Monday & GIVEAWAY!


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Life in the Thumb is hosting in August.  Please visit Staci's fun and cheerful blog for some great reading inspiration.

I got two books last week and am hosting a giveaway for the first one:

Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition by Katherine Malmo.



THE BOOK: Based on autobiographic experiences, Who in This Room is a gripping collection of creative nonfiction that pushes the boundaries of story and memoir. Kate's adventurous life is interrupted by a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer, giving her a ten percent chance of living five years. But her story isn't just about cancer. It is a true tale of survival that is both lived and dreamt. It's about joy found in lemon trees or fly-fishing. It's about the survival instinct that helps us re-emerge and engage with the world.

THE GIVEAWAY: Thanks go to Mary Bisbee-Beek, an incredibly diligent book publicist, for providing two ARCs for a "leap-frog" giveaway.

The leap-frog part is that I have one ARC to giveaway.  The winner will get to host another giveaway for the second ARC.


The contest is open until Sunday, August 15, 2011. To enter, do any or all of the following, but you must leave a comment for each one:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include a way to contact you (email or website address in your comment or available in your profile). If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway. (Posting the giveaway on your sidebar is also acceptable.) Leave a separate comment with a link to your post. (1 entry)

3. Subscribe to my rss feed, follow me on blogger, or subscribe via email (or tell me if you already are a subscriber or follower). Leave a separate comment for this. (1 entry)

4. Tweet this post on Twitter. Leave me a separate comment with your twitter user name. (1 entry)

5. Stumble this blog, digg it, technorati fave it, or link it on facebook. Leave a separate comment. (1 entry)

There are a lot of ways to enter (maximum of five entries), but you must LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each one or they will not count. I will use random.org to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is open to entries from the U.S. and Canada only. The deadline for entry is 9:00 PM, Pacific Time, on Sunday, August 15, 2011. I will draw and post the winner's name in my Mailbox Monday post for August 16, 2011.

MY MAILBOX: The second book I got last week was from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet.  This is the first in a promised series featuring Max Tudor, a former M15 agent turned Anglican priest.



It reminds me of a male, British version of Julia Spencer-Fleming's series featuring Clare Fergusson, a former Army helicopter pilot turned Episcopalian priest.

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