NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Sunday, June 29, 2008


by Susan Holloway Scott

Duchess: A Novel of Sarah Churchill follows the life of Sarah Jennings, a distant relative of the late Princess Diana, from her common beginnings during the final years of the reign of King Charles II through her marriage to future war hero John Churchill, her meteoric rise at court and her devastating fall from the favor of her life-long friend and former lover, Queen Anne.

Romance readers take note: When I looked at the author's photo in the back of the book, I couldn't figure out why she looked so familiar. Turns out, while Duchess is her first book as "Susan Holloway Scott", she wrote more than 30 historical romances under the name "Miranda Jarrett". I loved her books in the Harlequin Historicals line! (Do you remember Harlequin Historicals? It was a great line of books.) That completely explained why this book read like a straight historical most of the time but had identifiable romance novel elements in certain parts. Duchess is a satisfying read that skillfully bridges the gap between "historical" and "historical romance".

Other books by Susan Holloway Scott:

Royal Harlot: A Novel of the Countess Castlemaine and King Charles II
The King's Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II

Look for more information on Susan Holloway Scott and her work on her Official Web Site.

Friday, June 27, 2008


by Joseph J. Ellis

If you're looking for a biography of this American icon that is both readable and of a digestible length, His Excellency: George Washington fits the bill. Unlike John Adams, it sticks to George and doesn't give a lot superfluous details about other people when they don't pertain to the event at hand. Which means we don't learn a lot about Martha, but if a person is interested, there are plenty of books out about her. I found the author's style of writing very accessible, so I will be looking into more of Joseph J. Ellis' books when it comes time for me to read more American history.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


by Alison Weir

The Lady Elizabeth tells of the early life of Queen Elizabeth I from her childhood just preceding her mother Anne Boleyn's execution until the death of her sister Mary and her ascension to the throne of England.

Most of the fiction I've read about Elizabeth tends to focus on either her relationship with Robert Dudley or the strained and tragic events between her and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. While Dudley makes a few cameos in The Lady Elizabeth, he is not yet a player in her life and her cousin is a future problem. It was refreshing to see a completely different aspect of her life. Some of the events are shown from other points of view in Weir's previous fictional outing, Innocent Traitor, but retold here to give Elizabeth's side of the story. I loved the way that touch tied the two books together. The author's note at the end of the novel explaining which parts are based on fact and which result from speculation and literary license adds to the allure of the woman who would come to be known as The Virgin Queen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


by Christi Phillips

While researching her dissertation, Ph.D. candidate Claire Donovan uncovers previously unknown facts about the Spanish Conspiracy in early 17th century Venice and secrets about the life a courtesan who brought down the conspirators.

That's the very simplified summary. Part historical, part mystery, part contemporary romance and completely captivating, The Rossetti Letter is an excellent companion for the beach, patio, or favorite chair. I particularly enjoyed the sections set in historical Venice, but it was very interesting to see the competition of modern academic life as Clare races to finish her research before a famous and snooty scholar can refute her years of work. All this while she plays chaperone for a troubled teenager whose newly-married dad is on his honeymoon. While pieces of the story are somewhat predicable, there were plenty of surprises to keep you guessing. It's a fast read with a lot to offer, and it made me quite anxious to get my hands on Christi Phillips' second novel, The Devlin Diary, coming in January 2009!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


by Julian Barnes

Beginning with a story about what truly happened on Noah's Ark, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters proceeds in a series of vignettes set in various times and places that all hark back to the Ark and cleverly question the current state of humanity.

That's my take on what it's about anyway. I'm guessing an English major would have a field day analyzing the daylights out of this book. I tend to soak up messages and just move on, but here I found myself flipping back to previous stories, rereading passages and mulling over connections and what I thought it all meant. Some stories moved me deeply, some went right over my head, but all were intriguing. This is a book I would love to come back to in the future.

As a side note, there is a great story in here about the wreck of the Medusa and an absorbing study of Gericault's painting, "The Raft of the Medusa". Now I'm dying to get to Arabella Edge's book, The God of Spring, which revolves around the painting of that masterpiece. So many books. . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


by Martin Amis

Time's Arrow is the life of an Auschwitz doctor from death to birth, experienced and told in reverse by an alternate consciousness that exists inside of him.

Time's Arrow is probably the most unique reading experience I have ever encountered. I had to really think about what was happening as the backwards actions cause good deeds to look bad and bad deeds to look benevolent, which often makes the former humorous and the latter even more repulsive. Observing the Holocaust from this twisted vantage point turned it into a mass resurrection, reunion of families, and societal integration. All the while, your brain is twisting it back into the sickening slaughter it was in reality, and the innocence of the narration magnifies the offense, chilling you to the bone.

This is the first book I've read by Martin Amis, but it definitely will not be the last.

Monday, June 16, 2008


by Karen Essex

Stealing Athena is two stories told in parallel. One is the story of Aspasia, consort of Pericles, leader during the Golden Age of Athens. The other, set in the early 19th century, is of Mary, Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin, who, amid political turbulence and controversy, brought some of the sculptures of the Parthenon, known as the Elgin Marbles, to England.

Though they lived over two millennia apart, the experiences of the two women are strikingly similar. Both intelligent and independent-minded, they try to get along in male-dominated worlds. They work in the background to help their men achieve the glory they seek so desperately. They bear and raise the children that will carry on their men's names. But when they chafe against long-held custom, each will face the wrath of her society and each will triumph in her own way. And through it all, the reader will watch the construction and deconstruction of one of the most famous buildings in the world -- the Parthenon.

For readers who like the "learning" aspects of reading historicals, but don't like to be bogged down by pages and pages of details, Stealing Athena is perfect. The history included is most absorbing, but the bulk of the book truly revolves around Aspasia and Mary and how they cope when it seems the world has conspired against not only themselves, but against all women. In a letter to readers, author Karen Essex says, "I made it my goal to revive the stories of extraordinary women, highlighting the ways that they transformed the times in which they lived and the world beyond." Stealing Athena accomplishes this worthy aspiration in spades!


For more on Karen Essex and her work, see her Official Website.

To read an interview with Ms. Essex from the Historical Boys blog by historical author C.W. Gortner, click here!

Everything Happens For A Reason

Wow! Despite our bad luck this weekend at the trial, I have to thank our lucky stars! Remember the storm that I mentioned in my last post? A friend who was at the trial on Sunday said many people showed up to blown away and/or ruined tents and other equipment due to the high winds that came through. (I heard they were over 60 mph.) Because Peter was still not feeling like he could run Skye and I pulled Max from competition for being naughty, we had gone and packed up our tent and brought everything home early Saturday evening. Otherwise, we'd have a few hundred dollars worth of tent and kennels that could very well need replacing right now. Whew! Max still has to go to a few extra obedience lessons though. . . :-)


Saturday, June 14, 2008

You Can't Win 'Em All

I have to make it quick, because we're having a big storm right now, but I promised a report! :-) The first two runs went fabulous! Both Q'd and got 2nd place to start the day. Same with the second run for each. Then it got ugly, because I made the HUGE mistake of showing Max where the kiddie pool was and letting him spash around before his run. Max is extremely obsessive even for a Border Collie, and as soon as we finished his run and I said, "Good Boy!", he suddenly bolted for the pool before I could get his leash on him. That's bad, as he could be eliminitated from the run for leaving the ring off-leash and, even worse, out of control. The judge was very nice though and chose to ignore his little mistake, since he's never done anything like that before. Then, on the next run, half way through his Jackpot course (which was going amazingly at the time), a switch flipped in his little brain and he thought, "Oh, yeah!! POOOOOL!", and bolted out of the ring and ran to the pool. I had to take him out of his final run for the day, because I couldn't risk him taking off again like that. Naughty man. We'll be doing a some serious work on pool distractions over the next month.

And did I mention that Peter woke up sick with the flu, so I had to run Skye, too? He was awesome for the first two runs, then apparently decided he'd had enough today and was a huge brat for Jackpot. I ended up missing the last run with both of them and taking them home. We're skipping tomorrow, because Peter is still sick, and Max will most likely still be darting for the pool. Better to miss a day and get some extra obedience training in.

Before I start sounding like Ms. Doom and Gloom, I have to say there were some really great moments out there on the courses, and I was really proud of some of the things we did. It's just that sometimes you suddenly learn you have issues that you didn't know you had. It's all part of the game. It's what makes it so frustrating, but sooooo rewarding when you conquer the problems. The boys got kisses and treats and they'll get a day off. And we'll get 'em next time!


PS Peter is feeling much better now, and says thank you to everyone for the good luck wishes and nice thoughts!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Big sigh. . .

The agility gods were rough with us today. No Q's at all. Oh, well. Some days are like that. On the upside, we have two more days to keep at it! :-) Needless to say, that meant no Snooker Q (Have I mentioned that I'm horrid at that game?), but both Peter and I missed qualifying in Jackpot by less than 2 seconds. Oh, so close! I have to wisk myself off to bed to get some sleep before tomorrow. We each have 4 runs, so I'll check back in after we get home and give you all the update.

Thank you for all the good luck wishes! We're keeping them with us and using them for two more days! Max and Skye send "woofs" out to everyone!


Thursday, June 12, 2008


by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is a M*A*S*H-like look at the atrocities and absurdities of war, the people who conduct them and the people who actually fight them, whether they want to or not.

This book is worth the time you spend during the first 1/3 or so of it wondering what on earth is going on. Stick with it! Once the back stories start getting filled in, it gets a lot easier to just sit back and enjoy the ride. In here are some of the funniest conversations I have ever read (such as when Major Major gives orders that no one is to see him in his office unless he's not in there). And, just like M*A*S*H, you can go from hysterical laughter to wide-eyed unbelief at what is happening so quickly that you'll wonder if you should have yourself checked for whiplash. Like all good books, you'll find yourself thinking about all the messages these characters have to pass on to us. It's no mystery to me why this book is studied, read and loved.


Just FYI -- There is a great article on Wikipedia that talks about concepts, themes, and has links to descriptions of who all the characters are to help you keep track of everyone. Also, for those interested in the continuing story, Heller did write a sequel entitled Closing Time: The Sequel to Catch-22.

Other reviews of Catch 22:

Lost In A Good Story
Trish's Reading Nook

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Border Collies!

Two more days until our 3-day agility extravaganza! Peter is finally going to be able to run Skye again, and Max and I will have two shots at that elusive Snooker Q. It's our first outdoor trial of the year, so everyone cross their fingers for no rain. At least not from 7 am to 4 pm or so. :-) Until then, here are a couple more shots of the boys doing their thing!

Skye flying over the double jump (courtsey of Jessie's Photography).

Max on the teeter (courtesy of Crystal Image Pet Photography).

Is it Friday yet??

Monday, June 9, 2008


by Clare Clark

England, 1718: When Eliza is spurned by the father of her unborn child, her unscrupulous mother sends her to London to live as a maid in the household of an apothecary. Believing she is there to have her "situation" quietly taken care of, Eliza slowly comes to learn that the reason she has been taken in is infinitely more sinister.

If you like your historicals dark and creepy, look no farther. Every member of the apothecary's household makes your skin crawl, and the descriptions of the life of common people in early 18th century London make you want to shower every time you put the book down -- assuming that you can put the book down. The Nature of Monsters is not for those looking for the quick thrill of literary horror. The reader of this book will plumb the depths of depraved souls and stare into the eyes of true evil.


Click here for the mini-site for The Nature of Monsters.

Other Opinions:

Jaimie at Bell Literary Reflections

Other Clare Clark Books I've Read:

The Great Stink

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More Historicals Coming Soon!

My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Tsarina's Daughter
by Carolly Erickson

How fabulous does all of that look?? And that's just the beginning of the ARC's I either have in my hot little paws or have been promised as soon as they are available! Wait until all of you historical fans out there see what fun we're going to have this summer!! And let it not be said I didn't warn you: You may want to make a little room on those TBR lists. There are some amazing books waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, I have my little stack of library books to finish up.

Line up those glasses of lemonade right next to that patio chair. I'm going to be very, very busy. . . :-)


Friday, June 6, 2008


by Yasmina Khadra

The Sirens of Baghdad, the last in Yasmina Khadra's Islamic fundamentalism trilogy, is best described by a passage on the dust jacket of the hardcover: "A masterful and chilling look at violence and its effects on ordinary people." This book went where I thought The Attack was going to. It went into the mind of an ordinary young man from an ordinary Iraqi village. It showed me the horrors he sees as the Allies invade and occupy his country. And it showed me how a kind, non-violent person can be driven to commit a murderous and ultimately suicidal act.

There are good guys and there are bad guys, and the Allies are not always the ones in white. If that bothers you, skip this book. But if you would like to see the Iraq War from the other side, put any prejudices aside and open your mind to what this book has to say. I'm not saying it's always right, but sometimes we need a blatant reminder of the humanity behind the headlines.


The books in Khadra's trilogy:

Book One: The Swallows of Kabul (My Review)
Book Two: The Attack (My Review)
Book Three: The Sirens of Baghdad

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


by Sandra Gulland

Mistress of the Sun is the story of Louise de la Valliere from her humble beginnings through her ten-year affair with King Louis XIV, the Sun King.

What a wonderful novel! Eight years in the making, Ms. Gulland's meticulous research pulls you into every scene, every page. I loved the non-omniscient narration that left me to experience all of Louise's joys and confusions along with her as she tried to understand a life at court for which she was not prepared. When you don't get to see all the behind-the-scenes scheming of the high and mighty, it's easy to see how she was able to retain her innocence for as long as she did. And when the walls come tumbling down, as they inevitably would, her final decision is the decision of a woman much more world-wise, but one who has not been broken. The final scenes will move you to tears but make you proud to have known Louise de la Valliere.

Here's to hoping there won't be another eight years between books for this marvelous author!


For more information on Sandra Gulland and her work including this book and her Josphine B Trilogy, see her Official Website.

Other reviews:

Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Monday, June 2, 2008

Six Random Things About Me

I've been tagged! Rose City Reader requests Six Random Things About Me. Since I tend not to be real private, I had to think pretty hard to come up with six things that might be new to people who read this blog. Now that I think about it, maybe they didn't need to be "new" things, but how much fun is it to read a list things you already know?

Here goes:

1) I talk about competing in agility all the time on these posts, but here's a nugget that was before this blog's time: Our very first run in our very first competition, Max and I qualified and got first place! And he earned his first title that day, too! Good boy! I have that first blue ribbon framed in our hallway. Skye Q'd 9 for 9 and finished all of his Level 1 titles at his second competition!

2) Peter and I met when I went back to school to keep my brain busy after a depressing break-up. He was my Intermediate Algebra teacher. We didn't date until after the semester was over, so all was on the up and up! :-)

3) I'm a lead singer now, but when I played in bands in the 80's I was the bass player.

4) I used to be a belly dancer. I took lessons for 5 years, danced in Middle Eastern restaurants for a year, and I still have four of the most gorgeous constumes I have ever seen.

5) Years ago, I was friends with Kiss' drummer, Eric Carr. (RIP, Eric. We still think about you. . .)

6) I have this recurring fantasy of competing in an Ironman Triathlon. I even read books about training for it. The problem is I don't like to get wet, and I don't like biking. Go figure. I guess what I really wish is that I was that fit! :-)

I won't officially tag anyone since I know a lot of you have done this previously. But if you haven't, consider yourself "it"! :-)


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spring Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Maybe I didn't stick to the plan, but my spring reading went pretty darn well, if I don't say so myself! According to my original post, I was to read 27 books, 7 of them being audiobooks. Well, the wrap-up list looks different, but the totals are even better: 32 books, 13 of them being audio books.


1. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
2. The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
3. In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant (Audio)
4. Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind (Audio)
5. The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy
6. The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
7. Christ The Lord: The Road To Cana by Anne Rice (Audio)
8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe


10. Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind (Audio)
11. Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
12. No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe
13. Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind (Audio)
14. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Audio)
15. Nada by Carmen Laforet
16. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Audio)
17. The Devil's Bones by Jefferson Bass


18. Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind (Audio)
19. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (Audio)
20. The Crusader by Michael Alexander Eisner
21. King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (Audio)
22. Travels In The Scriptorium by Paul Auster
23. The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
24. Allah Is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
25. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
26. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir (Audio)
27. The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson
28. The Romanov Bride by Robert Alexander
29. The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
30. John Adams by David McCullough (Audio)
31. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman (Audio)
32. The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

The books that don't have reviews linked to them are all part of Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series which I plan on talking about once I've finished them all.

Whew. I wonder if I can repeat that for the summer. Different books, of course. :-)
I hope everyone is having a great weekend!