Books On My Shelves

I came across The Best Book of Useless Information Ever last week on my bookstore shelf. Published by Penguin in 2008, this book is an amusing collection of facts and trivia. The information is presented by category and covers topics such as sports, entertainment, animals, history, marriage and finances and alcohol and drinking, among others. A few examples:

'Scandinavia leads the world in Internet access, according to the United Nations' communications agency.' Page 56.

'Four out of five visitors never come back to a website.' Page 57

'New Zealand has abandoned plans for a flatulence tax on animals in the face of fierce opposition from farmers.' Page 124.

'During The Empire Strikes Back famous asteroid scene, one of the deadly hurling asteroids is actually a potato.' Page 80.

'As much as 80 percent of microwaves from cell phones are said to be absorbed by your head.' Page 54.

Some of these facts can change over time such as the one about Scandinavia and visitors to websites. Other information included are quotes from celebrities or events that actually happened.

I like this sort of book to read just before bed - it doesn't involve much thinking and serves my purposes to help induce sleep without getting too absorbed by a novel that will only keep me awake.

Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I’ve been curious about this series by Deanna Raybourn* for a while. I enjoy a historical novel once in a while and this proved to be the right book for me at the right time. Light, but with a mystery that took some thinking. My suspicions about who did it were wrong, and I was wholly surprised about the actual perpetrator. Not who I thought it was going to be at all!

I enjoyed the plot – the story moved along at a good pace and kept me turning the pages. At just over 500 pages, it’s not that small of a book but I finished it in less than a week and that’s pretty good for me (I’m a fairly slow reader) and just goes to show my interest didn’t wane.

I liked the main character, Lady Julia Grey. She had the right amount of boldness considering the setting she was in (1860’s London, upper class). I was a bit worried at first about another character, Nicholas Brisbane, who is featured as the possible romantic interest to Julia. Described physically as the opposite of Julia’s husband, Edward, Nicholas is depicted as essentially tall, dark and, well, handsome. I was disappointed at first and thought, ah, a typical romantic formula. But then it turned out that Nicholas has other ‘uncommon for a hero’ attributes and that saves him from the usual run-of-the-mill hero protagonist. Also, it suited me that there wasn’t a huge amount of romance going on in this book – the plot was centered more on the mystery. I’m not sure yet as I haven’t read the next book, but I would guess that the relationship between the two main characters does develop some more.

Another favourite character was Julia’s father, Earl March. He was presented as forward-thinking for his time, especially about women and their roles in society. I really don’t know if there were actually any men who thought that way about women in 1860’s London society and for my current interests, I really don’t care. I just enjoyed reading that they were – if it’s only a fiction, well, so be it.

I will definitely read the next book in this series, Silent in the Sanctuary. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good, but light, historical mystery.

*I admit to being curious about the author's name. For some reason, it sounds to me like it could be a pseudonym for something that might not be as 'romance author-ish'. But maybe that's just me! What do you think?

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I noticed that the largest bookstore chain in Canada has recently been advertising its own eReader called Kobo. (At least I think it's their own e-Reader - the more I read about it, the more unsure I am. I found one description that says 'it partnered' with Kobo.) In any case, the tagline for this product is 'created by booklovers for booklovers'. What does this even mean? Are the creators of this product really booklovers because they love to read or are they booklovers because they're booksellers and that fact makes them booklovers by default?

I admit I'm tempted by this product. It comes at a cost of $149 and the books are generally $10.00 and up. The cost is not so bad, but there are lots of other questions I would need to ask before I'd consider handing over the cash. Are the books DRM protected is a big one. And how durable is it? When is the next generation coming out? How does it compare with other e-Readers for comfort, viewability, etc. And now with the new IPad, I'd have to think about this even more. That new toy will be more expensive but you can do a lot more on it than just read books. I don't know, I'll have to think about this a little bit more!

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

Today's teaser is from Laurie R. King's book called The Art of Detection, part of her Kate Martinelli series. From page 42:

'Kate squatted down, careful to keep her hands close to her chest-all CSIs were touchy about evidence transfer, but Lo-Tec made it a religion. She squinted at the exposed skin of the ankles, seeing on their undersides the dark tints of livor mortis, which meant that he had laid in this position since the blood became fixed there, eight or so hours after death.'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

Last week I received The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. The description on the back of the book reads:

'Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.'

I started this book on the weekend and so far it's excellent - with lots of suspense and action! I'll be posting a review in a couple of weeks.

What did you get in your mailbox?

Review: BRYANT AND MAY ON THE LOOSE by Chrstopher Fowler

Bryant and May on the Loose was a book I picked up on a whim at the library because of its cover. It just looked so funny and I was definitely in the mood for a humourous read. It did prove to be that but did have its serious moments as well.

The plot revolves around the disbanded and disgraced Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU) finding itself in the midst of a murder case and so being reunited. As they work there way through the clues to try to solve the crime, they meet a host of off-beat characters, including one who dresses up as a ‘stag-man’. Who he is and why he dresses up in a costume is one of the mysteries running through this book and lending to it some of the dark comedy.

I found the book to be very entertaining. The characters were engaging and likable. I found it helpful to have a list of the main ones in the first chapter of the book, though one character, April May, who in at the beginning, did not show up again until the very end, which I found a bit odd.

I thought the plot was slightly confusing but that could be put down to having started a mystery series with the next to last book! I did not know, and it was not glaringly obvious to me from the cover, that this book was part of a series by Christopher Fowler. Had I taken a closer look, I would have seen the words, ‘A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery’ depicted on a moving box on the cover. It just goes to show how observant I can (not!) be sometimes. In any case, though I enjoyed this book, I would have definitely benefited from reading the series in order. The up side is that I found a new series I like and I’ve now reserved the first book at my local library.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Something about the cover of Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, struck me as very interesting and I stopped to take a closer look. I liked what I saw. The description of the book from the author's website reads:

'Lloyd Burko is having troubles with his sources, with his technology at the paper, and with his family. Deadline is closing in and he is falling apart. The Imperfectionists is a novel about the quirky, maddening, endearing people who write and read an international newspaper based in Rome: from the obituary reporter who will do anything to avoid work, to the young freelancer who is manipulated by an egocentric war correspondent, to the dog-obsessed publisher who seems less interested in his struggling newspaper than in his magnificent basset hound, Schopenhauer.

With war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the climate in meltdown and bin Laden still in hiding, the paper has plenty to fill its columns. But for its staff, the true front-page stories are their own private lives. As this imperfect bunch stumbles along, the era of high terror and high tech bears down, the characters collide, and the novel hurtles toward its climax...'

Though this book was published on April 6th, it's new to me. I'm going to look for it next time I'm at my local bookstore.

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

This week my teaser is from Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. I haven't read her before, but I'm finding it easy reading and the plot is keeping me interested. From page 252:

'I had tried to convince Brisbane that the house was frequented by guests and family, but he had been disinterested, preferring to focus his accusations upon my own staff. How could I possibly get him to direct his attentions outside Grey House, where the true perpetrator lay?'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

I received a 'surprise' package (or I should say, box) in the mail last week. In it were four YA books from Scholastic. I love Scholastic books! Now that my daughter is grown and I can't order them anymore through the school system, I'm very happy to receive the occasional package from them. The box included:

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielsen
How to Make a Bird by Martine Murray

Everlasting by Angie Frazier
The Keepers' Tattoo by Gill Arbuthnott

My daughter saw the books and has offered to read and review them for me. That was very kind of her, but I think she's going to have to wait her turn!

Books On My Shelves

This is a meme of books I find at my bookstore. They may be ones that I haven't heard of before but look interesting to me or just any book that stands out. Last weekend, my husband had put aside a number of books that have outdated and otherwise odd covers and titles. I thought some of them were quite telling of the time they were published. I'm sure there's a name for these types of paperbacks. Maybe pulp fiction?

Pictured here are two Erle Stanley Gardner books. The first is called The Case of the Backward Mule and is subtitled 'Killer or not - she had it coming!' The cover depicts a well-dressed man hitting an equally well-dressed woman. It was published in 1946 and then were a few re-printings. I guess this cover and topic was perfectly acceptable as entertainment in 1946? The second book is The Case of the Negligent Nymph (which is a Perry Mason Mystery) and the cover shows a woman, who I suppose would be the nymph in question, hanging off the end of a canoe. I would imagine how and why she got there would be the question a reader would find out the answer to if they read the book. The third book in the photo, Woman in the Window by Jack Moore (publication date 1965), shows a scantily clad woman enticing a man who is poking his head out between window bars in the impossibly close building next door to hers. So it looks like he's in a jail cell. Right. The fourth book is titled Modern Casanova's Handbook and is written by H. T. Elmo. I don't find the author's name all that sexy, do you? This book is supposed to be a humorous look at men's attempts to get the woman of their dreams into bed. Some of the chapters in the book are:

How to be Sexcessful!
Tales of a Gay Lothario!
What's Your Boudoir Problem?
Advice to the Love Worn!

In truth, the book is comprised of a list of quotes, jokes and advice. It was published in 1955.

Are books like this still published (well, in an updated format)? Maybe, maybe not. I imagine it depends on whether there's a market for them. Perhaps, though, I wouldn't recognize them in their present form.

Books On My Shelves

This week I'm featuring a book by Ann Cleeves called Raven Black. I normally profile books that I find on my bookstore shelves which I haven't yet read, but this time I'm going to focus on one that I have read. I was reminded of it as I looked through the shelves for something different. This isn't different, but it is good and even better - it's the first book in a series called The Shetland Quartet. I can't wait to read the next one - White Nights. From author's website, the description of Raven Black reads:

'It is a cold January morning, and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a splash of colour on the frozen ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour, Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance.

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man - loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when detective Jimmy Perez and his colleagues from the mainland insist on opening out the investigation, a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community.

For the first time in years, Catherine's neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.'

I very much enjoyed Raven Black. There were lots of twists and turns and I was completely surprised at the ending. For fans of the mystery genre, this is a great read!

Review: THE SIEGE by Helen Dunmore

I was only vaguely aware of the siege of Leningrad and the role it played in the Second World War and, considering how the this event affected millions of people, that’s a shame.

Helen Dunmore's The Siege follows Anna and her family as the rumour and then reality of war begins to affect them. Along with her family, Anna struggles to survive a harsh winter with no food, heat or running water. Leningrad is surrounded by the Germans and the only available route to bring in supplies is being constantly bombarded by enemy planes. People are dying where they drop in their search for food and fuel.

I found this book both difficult to read and compelling. The story moves you along and you’re involved in the lives of the characters even before you realize it. The suffering comes alive on the page and that’s when it was the most difficult to get through. The hope that crops up here and there made up the compelling parts. I think the author did a remarkable job conveying what it must’ve been like to live through and survive such a nightmare. When I did my own bit of research about the siege it was I discovered the story of an eleven year old girl who wrote in her diary whenever a member of her family died and, in less than a year, they all were. This girl’s story is mntioned in the book. I could not remotely know what it would be like to be in that child’s shoes, but I think that The Siege goes a long way in portraying it.

The writing is sparse, straight to the point, but wholly descriptive. I could picture the frost in people’s eyelashes and see their breath in the cold air and feel the hunger in their stomachs. Little pieces of humanity stand out glowingly so that the reader is full of hope along with the characters.

It would be difficult to say that I really loved this book because of the subject matter – it’s obviously not a happy story and I do like happy stories. Nevertheless, I’m so glad I read it. It’s an important part of history that I didn’t know much about and it’s good to know that books like this can impart the stories of the people who lived through crises and have not been forgotten. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I stumbled on The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget while perusing the chapters/indigo site and thought the book description sounded interesting:

'In the tumultuous days after World War I, Herman Richter returns from the front to find his only sister, Liesel, allied with Lester Sutter, the "slow" son of a rival clan who spends his days expertly trapping lake turtles. Liesel has sought Lester''s friendship in the wake of her parents'' deaths and in the shadow of her own dark secret. But what begins as yearning for a human touch quickly unwinds into a shocking, suspenseful tragedy that haunts the rural town of New Germany, Minnesota, for generations.

Woven into this remarkable story are the intense, illuminating experiences of German immigrants in America during the war and the terrible choices they were forced to make in service of their new country or in honor of the old. The Turtle Catcher is a haunting love story and a lyrical, vibrant, beautifully wrought look at a fascinating piece of American history - and the echoing dangers of family secrets.'

I like the combination of secrets, an unusual occupation (well, I'm assuming there are not too many turtle catchers around) and World War One. I've put this one on my wish list!

Tuesday Teasers

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

My teaser this week is from page 165 of Number Ten by Sue Townsend:

'The suction-pipe man in the next bed put his head under the blankets and cried because of the pain and humiliation and the awful certainty that his wife would surely leave him now. He told Jack it was the second time this year that he had 'fallen' on to a suction pipe with his trousers round his ankles after the dog had accidentally turned the vacuum cleaner on in the bedroom. It stretched incredulity; even he had to admit that.'

Mailbox Monday

This meme is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and Kristi at The Story Siren.

Last week I received The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst. It's quite an interesting looking book. The synopsis of this book from the author's website reads:

Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book — a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo t spoken yearshaven inan estrangement stemming from that day tragicshe drops everything to go to him.

The last chapters of Octavia's novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album -- the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo's dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how this story will come to a close.

Universally praised for her candid explorations of the human psyche, Parkhurst delivers an emotionally gripping and resonant mystery about a mother and her son, and about the possibility that one can never truly know another person.

This is completely different from anything else I've read lately. I'm looking forward to reading it!

The result of the giveaway is....

Today at 6 p.m. was the deadline for my giveaway of Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney. I used to generate the winning number.

This was a great book! I'm quite sure the lucky recipient will enjoy it. So without further ado the winning number belonged to:


Please email me with your address! And congratulations!

Books On My Shelves

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill looks promising as a really creepy ghost story. Amazon's description of this book reads:

What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller - one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen.

Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable Woman In Black comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero one Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black.

The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler - proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.

This book has excellent ratings everywhere I've looked. It's sounds just the kind of thing I like to read!


I really like the cover of this book as I thought it fit the story nicely: the flowers in bloom and bold vibrant colors represent growth, hope and, yes, second chances.

In the Season of Second Chances, Joy Harkness is presented with the opportunity to start a new life and she grabs it. She buys a dilapidated old house, befriends a handyman, develops relationships with co-workers and embarks on a new phase of her career. She’d lived in New York City for years and gave it up for small town life. Little did she know that small town life can have more drama than the big city.

This novel is filled with characters who are offered second chances and new lives. Some, like Joy, grab the opportunity with both hands and dive in, not realizing what may be around the corner. Others tread more warily. Still others are pulled along by the impetus of their friends and family, not so sure they’re ready for what the people around them are urging them to do.

This is a novel that made me think. Everyone at some point in their lives is confronted with change. How they deal with it is telling of their personality and character. Some people embrace it and others have trouble dealing with it. This book reflects both of those attitudes and somewhere in between too. Joy, for example, experienced a sense of disconnect in her old home that was not present in her new circumstances. From page 79:

'"You didn't invite those kids in," he accused. "They came all the way across town to return your book. Obviously," he said, rolling his eyes, "they could have given you the book in class." He turned to face me fully and said, with real gravity, "They like you. They want to know you better. They wanted you to come to the lecture with them, and you let them stand on your porch. You didn't even invite them in."
"They're students," I said. "I'm their teacher, not their friend."
"You're a person," he said. "You're a person, first.'

Thankfully, my work environment is more like the one Joy has in her new home: friendly. So much so that sometimes I feel like I’m around extended family members, never mind friends and colleagues.

I enjoyed this book and found that the characters were true-to-life and honest. Sometimes the choices they made were not the way I would’ve gone (and as a matter of fact I sometimes wanted to throttle them) but that’s the way life is sometimes. The story moved along quickly and kept me interested right up until the end – and I did like the ending.

Contest extension!!!

I haven't had a lot of entries for my giveaway of Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by the author Frank Delaney so I'm going to extend the deadline for entering until this Sunday, April 11 at 6 p.m. To enter just click here. You can read my review of this book here. For anyone who enjoys historical fiction or books set in Ireland, this novel is a wonderful read!

I hope everyone had a great Easter holiday!

I took a bit of a break from my blog - an entire week! So I'm doing another Teaser Tuesday from my current read, Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler. I have to say I really like this author's website. Click on his name above to see it.

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:

Grab your current read and let the book fall open to a random page. Share two sentences somewhere between lines 7 and 12 and the title of the book that you’re getting the teaser from. Please avoid spoilers! Read the official Tuesday Teaser Rules.

From page 47:

'"The last time we spoke, Arthur told me he was getting too many phone calls from the dead. Apparently he subscribed to a psychics' hotline and is now being pestered by people wanting him to avenge their murders.'

I have to say I really like this book. I picked it up from the library on a whim because the cover looked so funny. I'm glad I did and even though it's part of a series, that hasn't stopped me from thoroughly enjoying it. I'll be checking out the other books in this series for sure.

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