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!

Lezlie



Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Minnesota State Fair Rocked!


Whew! 85 degrees and hundreds of people, but Tony and I rocked the Minnesota State Fair for four hours yesterday. What a blast! Peter filmed some of it, so I should have a clip for you before too long. I want to thank everyone who came to visit and all the new folks we met who made the day such fun!

Meanwhile, the details for the Michelle Moran Book Giveaway will be posted at midnight tonight. Wait until you see what we have in store for that!!

I hope everyone is having a fantastic weekend!



Friday, August 29, 2008

My Friend Tony


I've talked about what I do when I'm not reading, my alter ego -- DIVA, but it occurs to me that I haven't given my partner in that endeavor anywhere near enough credit for his part. Tony has been my best friend for nearly 20 years. He's an amazing guitar player, and it is due to his musical and technological wizardry (at least, that's what it looks like to me) that I get to put on Tina Turner-like dresses and KISS-like boots and play rock star like I do. Thanks, Tony! :-)

In anticipation of our Minnesota State Fair show tomorrow, and in his honor, I share with you one of my favorite songs Tony sings during our show. We call this one, "The Nutcracker Suite". You'll hear why. . .



How cute is that?? Grown men singing silly. We just posted this plus three more new video clips on www.DivaRocksMN.com. Stop on over and check them out!

Have a fantastic holiday weekend, everyone!



WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES

by David Sedaris



There are no praises I can sing David Sedaris that have not been sung a million times over on the many book blogs that have reviewed this or any other of Sedaris's books. Suffice it to say that I have not laughed this hard since I read Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys. But the author is not all fun and games. There are serious, soul-searching moments also, and that is what keeps his work from being frivolous and shelved in the "Humor" section of the bookstore. You'll find yourself laughing until you cry, then trying to swallow the lump in your throat. And some of the little things in life will never look quite the same again.

During my commute, I listened to David Sedaris himself read When You Are Engulfed in Flames on an audiobook. Instead of trying to explain how I was continually having difficulty driving while attempting to clear tears of hysterical laughter from my eyes, here is a clip from David Letterman of Sedaris reading an excerpt from this book. Don't watch this while eating or drinking or your keyboard will be in grave danger. :-)



Now I know exactly which books to look for when I need to ease those winter blues in a couple of months! :-)



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Couldn't Quit Laughing!


So, of course, I had to share:


More Animals

Make it stop! My face hurts from laughing!!



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thank you, Thank you!




Zetor at Mog's Blog has nominated me for this fun award! Thank you, thank you! For me, the greatest part of being a member of the book blog community (besides learning about everyone's great reads, of course!) is the ability to chat with each other and make new friends all over the world. Receiving and leaving comments are what brings us all together and makes book blogs soooooo much more interesting than print media reviews. The only rule for this award is to pass it on to seven other bloggers. Hmmmmm. . . It's tough to pick only seven, but here goes:

Dar at Peeking Between the Pages
Chartroose at Bloody Hell, It's A Book Barrage!
J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog
Joanna at Lost In A Good Story
Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Andi at Tripping Towards Lucidity
Jeane at Dog Ear Diary

Thanks for all the great comments over the months from everyone! And if you haven't commented on this blog yet, go ahead! Say hi! I even answer! :-)



Monday, August 25, 2008

THE CONCUBINE

by Norah Lofts



The Concubine, a reissue from best-selling British author Norah Lofts, is an excellent telling of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, particularly for readers who are already familiar with the big picture of Anne, Catherine of Aragon, and Henry VIII's "Great Matter". In fact, it would be helpful to have a bit of background knowledge of this period of Tudor history before reading this book. If The Concubine is a reader's first foray into this story it may be easy to get a bit confused, because there are a lot of famous events and personages mentioned in passing and the reader is assumed to have some knowledge of what is being discussed. You don't have to be a Tudor scholar, but if you're at least somewhat familiar with that time period, your mind will easily fill in the background necessary to follow those descriptions and conversations.

The nice thing about those assumptions is that those of us who read a lot of Tudor books will not be bored to tears by extensive passages explaining things we already know. The Concubine moves quickly through the years from Henry's courtship of Anne, the eventual divorce from Catherine and through Anne's short time as queen, her bogus "trial" and her sad end. But we get to hear glimpses of thoughts and see actions of many famous and lesser- or unknown people as history plays out: The thoughts of Anne's closest ladies, Wolsey's musings as his power is eroded, Mark Smeaton as he realizes he's being used by Cromwell, the lords on Anne's jury who do not dare to defy the king despite the obviously manufactured evidence of her adultery and treason.

While not an innovative telling of an infamous affair, Norah Loft's deft handling of the insights of minor characters and her ability to vividly capture of the cloud of insecurity and apprehension that hung over the every level of court life keeps the reader interested in what happens next.



Friday, August 22, 2008

Christmas in August!


I know it's technically better to give than to receive, but judging by the deliveries to my home this week, I'm wondering if that's really true. . .




However, the "giving" part will be taken to heart, because an autographed copy of The Heretic Queen and three copies of Nefertiti will be given away at this very blog in September! And that's not all!! Author Michelle Moran (my new best friend for telling me all about http://icanhascheezburger.com) has included some other goodies to be included also and has graciously offered to answer any questions readers of Books 'N Border Collies may have about her books once the contest entries have begun. I'm sooooo excited about this contest! The official post will come on Sept. 1, so make sure you come back to learn how you can have multiple chances to win!

In the meantime, back to my pile of awesome ARCs!
Happy reading, Everyone!!



PS Make sure you stop in at Michelle site to see the cool trailer for Nefertiti!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

KILLER VIEW

by Ridley Pearson



In this, the second Walt Fleming novel, Sheriff Fleming is searching for his best friend, Mark Aker, after Aker's brother is murdered and he disappears the next day under mysterious circumstances. When Walt's investigation uncovers a domestic terrorism plot, it appears that everyone, including the U.S. government, will do anything to keep him from doing his job.

I've read both Killer View and it's predecessor, Killer Weekend, and while I have enjoyed the stories very much, I am having a hard time getting used to the character of Walt Fleming. I find his personal life distracting, with his estranged wife dating his best deputy, his difficulties being a cop and a single father to his two young daughters, and his awkward crush on Fiona the photographer. I admit that this is my own bias. I am a huge fan of Pearson's "Lou Boldt" series, and I want Lou back. I was all wrapped up in his personal life, and I want to know how he's doing. My problem, not Pearson's. I have no idea if I'll ever get my wish or not. In the meantime, I'll continue to follow Walt as long as he keeps on working interesting cases. Maybe he'll work his way into my heart as well as Fiona's!



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Alter Ego


In anticipation of the State Fair show, I finally got around to
building a site for DIVA. There's not much out there at the moment, but soon we will add video clips of performances and more photos. In the meantime, you can check out our schedule and song list, and leave Tony and I a comment to say, "Hello!"

www.DivaRocksMN.com

Stop by!



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

COTILLION

by Georgette Heyer



Kitty Charing will inherit a fortune from her guardian on one condition: She must marry one of his great-nephews. She cunningly sets up a sham betrothal with the somewhat slow-witted Freddy despite his objections, but when she accompanies him to London to meet his family and set in motion her plan to free herself from her marriage obligation, the unfamiliar steps in navigating the lifestyle of the ton quickly entangle her in a hilarious knot of secret loves and hearts that will not be denied.

I haven't read a Regency romance in many years, but I just may have to indulge again. Cotillion was adorable! Just the thing for a quick read and a good laugh between more serious historicals. I love the language and the atmosphere of the period, and Georgette Heyer is one of the masters. This may be my first book of hers, but there will definitely be more in my future.

Monday, August 18, 2008

DIVA at the Minnesota State Fair!


The Minnesota State Fair. I love it, but it's sad when it finally gets here, because it signals the end of summer for a whole lot of us. However, I get to sing there this year! How cool is that!?!

DIVA will be be performing at Coasters Beer Garden at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 30 from 1-5 pm. If any of you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by! I'd love to meet you in person! In the meantime, here is a short video clip of Tony and I from one of our other performances to get your toes tapping just a little bit and put you in the mood for some fun dance music: (I posted it once before when I first started this blog, so it's old hat for some of you.)

video

I hope to see some of you there!



Friday, August 15, 2008

CHASING DARKNESS

by Robert Crais



Three years ago, Elvis Cole uncovered evidence that proved a man innocent of a heinous murder. Now that same man has been found with a self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound in his head and a gruesome photo album at his feet. Photos of seven dead women, one of them being the woman he was found not guilty of killing. Two more were killed after his release. Did Elvis help free a serial killer? He and Joe Pike intend to find out.

If I were asked to pick my favorite private detective off the top of my head, Elvis Cole's name would surely be the first to pop out. He's got that smart-aleck attitude and self-deprecating humor that I love. And, even better, he's got Joe Pike for a partner. This whole series is great to read, but Chasing Darkness in particular was fantastic. I listened to the audio CD during my commute, and it was one of those rare books that very nearly made me wish for a traffic jam. The only problem? It's all over now, and I have to wait another year for Elvis and Joe's next case. :-(

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Look What Fed Ex Just Delivered!!!



The ARC for Devil's Brood!! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! I have a few other review books scheduled to be published prior to this one, so it's going to have to wait just a tiny bit. Until then, I will stare longingly at its cover and grin like the Cheshire Cat at my good fortune!





Coming Soon: Book Blogger Appreciation Week



Amy at My Friend Amy has come up with a great event: Book Blogger Appreciation Week! You can find all the details and buttons on her post. And you don't have to have a blog to participate. Readers of book blogs are just as important and have their part, too. After all, isn't that who we write for? :-) Go visit Amy and join in the fun!!



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THE QUEEN'S LADY

by Barbara Kyle



When Sir Thomas More's ward, Honor Larke, chooses to become a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon rather than marry, she gets caught up in King Henry's "Great Matter" in ways she would have never dreamed possible. While King Henry tramples the laws of God and man in his desperation to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, Honor uses her position and contacts at the religiously divided court to secretly save "heretics" from being burned at the stake. But what will she do when the accusing finger is inevitably pointed at her?

It is a great prize when a Tudor fiction junkie can find an exceptional book that looks beyond the famous figures of the times to the people who were simply trying to live their lives in the shadow of a selfish king's destructive behavior. The Queen's Lady digs into the heart of the religious turmoil taking place during Henry's reign and shows the reader a frightening world of greed, fanaticism, and intolerance and heroic deeds in defense of justice and reason. This is the kind of Tudor fiction that keeps us coming back to the well!



Click here for a reader's group guide for The Queen's Lady.

See more about Barbara Kyle and her work at her Official Website.

Monday, August 11, 2008

THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS

by Simon Mawer



Multiple story threads slowly reveal a lifetime of questions, betrayals and resurrections for a priest questioning his faith and his life.

This book wasn't what I expected. I had set myself up for a story about some discovered scrolls that throw the Christian faith into turmoil. While that was a part of the plot, it was very, very minor. The Gospel of Judas finds enough opportunity in the everyday life of it's characters to cast an uncomfortable smog of doubt. The parallel stories of loss and the attempt to find a "resurrection" that love was the most striking of the many themes in this multi-layered novel. This book is one that would be fun to dig into for symbolism and thematic analysis. There is a lot to work with here!



For any who may be interested in looking into this book for their book club, click here for a Reader's Group Guide. And I swear I wrote my review before I even knew this guide existed! It's good to know I was on the right track though! :-)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Book Giveaway In The Works . . .


Oh, is this going to be fun!

As summer winds down, we all need something to look forward to. You have some time before I get the details hammered out, but I have a great giveaway being planned for the beginning of September! Let's just say it includes multiple books and autographs, and here is a serious hint . . .



Details will be coming soon, so don't forget to check back! In the meantime, have a great weekend, Everyone!



Thursday, August 7, 2008

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

by Mark Twain



As usual when I read a classic of this caliber, there is not a single innovative thing I can say. It's all been dissected and studied more closely than I will ever attempt on these pages. I will say this, however: If you have not yet read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you truly are missing out. Granted, the repeated use of the N-word was like nails down a chalkboard to me, but the book as a whole was enchanting, and the friendship that develops between Huck and Jim is too precious to treat lightly on a quick-review blog. It's easy to understand why Huck Finn is held in such high esteem.

Also, for those of you who love audiobooks as much as I do, I listened to both this and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer narrated by the most amazing actor, Norman Dietz. His vocal portrayals of all the characters was incredible! I highly, highly recommend his recordings of these books! I believe the versions from Recorded Books and sold at Borders under their logo are his readings. I can't say enough about how much enjoyment I got out of listening to him as Tom, Huck, Jim, and all the rest.



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Continuing Thoughts on TESTIMONY OF AN IRISH SLAVE GIRL


In the comments to my original post on Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl, Chartroose from Bloody Hell, It's A Book Barrage had a couple of great questions that made me think a little harder about my feelings while I was reading that book. I'd like to share those questions and my answers with all of you here. Chartroose asked:

Why were you detached while reading this? Were the characters lacking in some way?

That's a great question! I had to think about it for a minute. I believe my feelings of detachment stemmed from the success of the author in reflecting Cot's emotional state in her nearly dispassionate manner of telling her painful story. You could feel the numbness of a woman who had seen the worst life has to offer and knows there is nothing else it can do to her.

The characters were not lacking at all. They all had very distinct personalities, their own coping mechanisms. They were all discussed by Cot so matter-of-factly and pretty much simply noted and dismissed by the doctor taking the deposition, which drove home the "less than human" view people had of the slaves.

Answering your questions has really made me think about what it is that makes us like or dislike a book. I think even only a few years ago this book would have bored me, but I've grown in my reading. I can see it now in a different light than I would have previously and appreciate the writing style used to make this book more deeply affecting than it initially seems. Thanks for the questions!!

Going forward, if any of you have any questions about books I've reviewed or books I'm reading (listed at the beginning of the "Read in 2008" list at the bottom of my blog), please feel free to ask! I really enjoyed the opportunity to share other thoughts beyond the review format I've chosen for this site. I like the short but (hopefully) helpful regular reviews, but if you're wanting a little more information on a particular book or books, just let me know!



Monday, August 4, 2008

TESTIMONY OF AN IRISH SLAVE GIRL

by Kate McCafferty



Stolen away from Ireland as a young girl and sold into indentured servitude in Barbados, Cot Daley tells the story of her life as she gives her testimony regarding her part in a failed slave revolt taking place shortly after her release from over twenty years of captivity.

Short but not an easy read, Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl was a fascinating book despite the fact that I never got attached to any of the characters, including Cot. I read with a strange, detached feeling about her kidnapping, the brutality of her life in the cane fields, the fates of her children from "breeding programs". In a way, that made the book all the more meaningful, because I wasn't focused on the plight of one or two people. I was able to watch the whole contemptible tale unfold and take in the lives of all the players. It was the doctor taking down Cot's words that I found most intriguing. The parallel between Cot's true captivity and his implied role as an unwitting slave to the governor was an idea strongly hinted at in the narrative, but never quite completely grasped by the ambitious man. And food for thought for many who think their lives are their own.



Friday, August 1, 2008

Review Preview


August. I'm sad that it seems summer is winding down far too quicky. But at the same time, that means my Minnesota Timberwolves will be playing again before too long. Yay!!



Until my Wolvies are back on the basketball court, though, I have plenty to keep my busy! I had to bring Mudbound back to the library unread, because I ran out of time. :-( I put myself right back on the wait list for it, so I should be able to get it in sooner that later. For other library books, I'm well into Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl, and I'm hoping to post a review for that before the weekend is out. I also have The Gospel of Judas by Simon Mawer. After that one, it's on to the stack next to the bed, which is full of so much fun stuff that I can't decide what should come first! Here's a peek:

Tudor fiction for us junkies:

The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle
The Concubine by Norah Lofts
Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Margaret Campbell Barnes
The Secret Lion by C.W. Gortner

Other historicals:

The Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly Erickson
The King's Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II by Susan Holloway Scott
An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and War by Georgette Heyer
Lady of the Roses: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses by Sandra Worth

From Amazon, I just ordered:

The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower
The Innocent: A Novel by Posie Graeme-Evans
A Rose for the Crown: A Novel by Anne Easter Smith
Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina Robert Graves

And just in case that isn't enough, I have a few non-historical surprises to work in also. A girl has to mix things up to keep it interesting!

Oh! And while I was at Border's last night I picked up the new book by Thomas C. Foster, How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form. I loved his previous book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, and thought this next one would be a fun way to finish off the Non-Fiction Five Challenge.



Good thing a weekend is coming up so I have time to organize all this. :-) I hope you all have as much fun over the next few weeks as I'm going to!!