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!


Friday, July 31, 2009

LLP: June 2009 Wrap-Up

July, as quickly as it flew by, was a pretty productive month! Out of my four goals for Third Quarter, my focus for this past month was primarily on my Reading Challenges. I finished three challenges, possibly four if I finish Bleak House later today, and I only have seven books left to finish the Countdown Challenge, which I have an obsession with completing because I made such a mess of the 888 Challenge last year. For some reason they are related in my mind, and I have no reasonable explanation for that. Anyway, here are the challenges I finished off in July:

Decades Reading Challenge **Finished July 2, 2009**

2nds Reading Challenge **Finished July 12, 2009**

Pub Challenge **Finished July 29, 2009**

I have done bits and pieces of the other three goals for the quarter, but nothing I'm ready to report back on. I *really* want to finish up my challenges, because I have some other plans perking and I need those out of the way. I suppose I could abandon them and move on, but I don't want to do that because one of my Lifetime Learning Plan goals for the year is to write about using Reading Challenges for personal growth and self-education. One of the things I'm mulling over is branching out from those challenges into a broader educational tool. I know that is incredibly ambiguous, but I don't have the whole thing worked out in my head yet either. I'm staring at the full bookshelves and piles of books on my desk figuring out where I'm going with it all. I'm getting there!

In the meantime, while my Classic Novels course seems to have stalled while I focus on the challenges, I did pick up a brand new DVD course from The Teaching Company that I started watching last night: The Art of Reading! I watched the first two lectures last night, and I LOVE it! As I progress through it, I'll tell you more about my experience, but you can check out the content of the course by clicking here.

Tomorrow morning I'll announce the winner of the autographed copy of The Blue Notebook, so good luck to everyone who entered! And you all have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


by Jeanne Kalogridis

"Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich heiress by the early deaths of her parents. Violent conflict rent the city state and she found herself imprisoned and threatened by her family’s enemies before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henry of France.

Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henry’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henry, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne
." (from Macmillan's site)

I thought Jeanne Kalogridis was going to let me down. 150 or so pages into The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici, I was becoming bored. Things weren't moving along at the pace I've come to expect from her. I wasn't captivated by any creepy weirdness. Then: Wham! I couldn't put it down. This was the Kalogridis I have come to know and love! Somehow she manages to make the infamous Catherine de Medici a sympathetic character while in the middle of participating in a human sacrifice! Unreal. And pretty gruesome.

Yeah, The Devil's Queen has a couple graphic scenes that the more squeamish among us may want to bypass (execution by quartering, anyone?), but once you get invested in this book it really is awesome and well worth peeking between your fingers once the icky parts are over. This book has me champing at the bit to learn more about Catherine and her rotten children. (Well, not all of them are rotten, but if I tell you which ones, I'll wreck the story for you!) It will be interesting to see how I react to her in other books considering how she was portrayed here. The very first book I ever read about Henry VIII was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. With all of Henry's rationalizing about all the hideous things he did, I found myself actually feeling a little sorry for him. The guy was a psychological mess! Because of this, it took me along time to get that sympathy out of my head every time a read another story about him and his wives. In fact, I still find myself making excuses for him every now and then! I wonder if I'll do the same thing with Catherine de Medici now.

I have Jean Plaidy's Medici trilogy on my desk. Do we think I can stick to my personal pledge to finish the Countdown Challenge before I read it? Bets are being taken now . . .

PS If you go to the publisher's site, there is a link to a Reading Group Guide PDF, and check this out . . . (You'll have to click on it to see the ebook in full)

Other reviews:

A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore
Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


by Lawrence Wright

"A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11. A groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright's remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States." (From the CD container)

The first I'd heard of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 was when I was scanning the audiobook section of the library. It caught my eye, but I left without it. The next day I heard about Newsweek's 50 Books For Our Times, and there it was at #2. There was no resisting after that.

If you're looking for a very readable book that fills you in on the backstory of the horrific events of 9/11, this is the one. As a friend of mine said, it explains a lot of events and discusses many people that we've heard about but maybe didn't really understand the significance of.

Lawrence Wright talks about the early Islamic Fundamentalists and their lives. He shows you Bin Laden's childhood. He takes you into the homes of Jihadists, into terrorist training camps. You'll sit in on meetings between the CIA and FBI agents who are learning about Al-Qaeda for the first time, and follow the career of a man who ceaselessly hunted Bin Laden until his own death on that ill-fated day in the World Trade Center.

What I liked best about this book aside from it's accessibility was that Wright did not point fingers of blame. He points out mistakes that were made, some very arrogant and bone-headed, but he also explains the complexity of the situations being dealt with. I can see how The Looming Tower earned it's spot on Newsweek's list.

Monday, July 27, 2009


by Barbara Ehrenreich

"When Barbara Ehrenreich wrote her take on the Reagan era, The Worst Years of Our Lives, she had no idea that the truly worst years were still two decades away. Now she takes on modern-day corporate America, the wealthy elite, and a lopsided economy with razor-sharp wit and biting humor." (From the CD container)

I don't know anything about Barbara Ehrenreich, but if I had to guess, I would say that conservatives probably react to her much as liberals react to Ann Coulter. I'm also guessing that due to some of the aforementioned "razor-sharp wit and biting humor" Ehrenreich, like Coulter, is preaching to the choir much of the time. I'm pretty sure reading This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation would make certain members of my deeply conservative family spontaneously combust.

I agree with the vast majority of the greater points Ehrenreich makes in this book, but she pushes some of them to such absurd lengths that even I, a tree-hugging bleeding heart, couldn't stop myself from rolling my eyes and nearly tuning out of some of the diatribes, consequently almost missing the pertinent message. Maybe that's what it takes to get some people to pay attention, but I personally prefer less extremism in my partisanship. I don't mind sarcasm, in fact it's one of my favorite things, but when it starts dripping all over my hands or gumming up my CD player I find it more annoying than enlightening. However, I do think she has some important things to say that are not terribly PC but should to be addressed. As a person who is not fond of confrontation, that is all I will say on the subject. I'll let Ehrenreich handle it in writing while I make my voice heard at the voting booth.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


by Dara Horn

"Dying for a cause is the last resort of those too weak to live for one." (All Other Nights, p. 230)

How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War, it is a question his commanders have already answered for him -- on Passover, 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle in New Orleans, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After this harrowing mission, Jacob is recruited to pursue another enemy agent, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn't to murder the spy, but to marry her. (From the jacket flap)

Let me begin by stating outright that I enjoyed this book overall. Now let me explain why I'm not gushing over it:

In the early 90's, I spent a few years reading and reviewing romance novels almost exclusively, 90% of them being historical romance. I read a lot of fantastic books, and I read a lot of not so fantastic books. It took me a long time to understand the common thread that often led me to feel one way or the other. When a book revolved mainly around the relationship between the main characters with other plot elements seemingly included merely to give them something to do, I got bored very quickly. I was much more drawn to books that had a meaty plot line out of which the relationship grew.

All Other Nights is not a romance novel, but my theory still holds true. While the story focused on the Civil War and the problems Jacob faced as a Jewish man in the Union army, I was enthralled. Once the novel started shifting the focus to the relationship between Jacob and Jeannie, a relationship which seemed to me to have no basis for real strength, I lost steam. I still enjoyed the book, but it was a lot easier to put down and go to sleep. There is a decent balance between the two so I didn't lose interest completely, but then when I got to the final page I felt as if the book ended in mid-thought. I didn't feel the closure. I have to say in the book's defense that that is most likely the result of my desire to know more about what was going on regarding the retreat of the Confederacy and the plans for Lincoln's fate. Other readers who are more interested in the relationship between Jacob and Jeannie may feel differently about the ending and find it very satisfying.

Have you read this book? Which aspect did you find most intriguing? If you have not read it, do you find you have a preference for action- or plot-based stories or relationship-based stories whether they be man/woman, parent/child, or friendship?

Official Web Site for All Other Nights

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Blue Notebook: Author Event Report & Giveaway


Last night, I went to see James Levine, M.D. talk about his novel, The Blue Notebook. If any of you ever have the opportunity to see him speak about his work -- GO! He's funny, he's poignant, and he's very passionate about the work he does around the world as a doctor.

He began by telling the standing-room-only crowd how overwhelmed he was at the turnout. He talked a bit about how he came up with the idea to write the book while he was working on his diet book, Move a Little, Lose a Lot. In that book he talks about taking on a large project. He decided that he would follow his own advice and chose as his project to write a novel despite the fact that he's not a literary kind of guy. At least I think that's what he said. His stories tended to ramble a bit, from nerves or enthusiasm I couldn't quite tell. It didn't matter. He was fascinating to listen to.

He chose to write about child prostitution in India based on his experiences working in the field on special projects that provide medical attention to women and their children in some of the brothels in Mumbai. He told of some of his own experiences with them and of observing programs that are working to rescue these people from the cycle of poverty and the skin trade. I couldn't even begin to describe what this man has seen, but he spoke of it all, horrifying and hopeful, with an obvious love for the people he was talking about. There were a couple of times that I believe he was close to tears himself.

My favorite part was the Q&A. For all of his joking and fidgeting during his presentation, he answered some very difficult questions from the audience in a manner that drove home the problem of child prostitution. I thought some of the questioners were a bit harsh, almost as if they felt Dr. Levine was personally responsible for stopping this practice. However, his answers were respectful while pointing out that child prostitution is not an "India" problem. It's a problem all over the world. The U.S. has more child prostitutes than India or Thailand, and before we get on our high-horse and lambaste other countries and governments for not abolishing the problem immediately, we might want to look at what is going on in our own cities. My words, not his. He was a lot more PC. :-)

I could go on and on and still not capture a fraction of how great it was to listen to Dr. Levine speak on this subject, but I'll stop here and urge you all, as he did, to check out the work being done by the organization receiving all the U.S. proceeds for this book, The International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

While you're here, leave me a comment and I'll put you in a drawing for an AUTOGRAPHED COPY of The Blue Notebook! Because child exploitation is a problem around the world, everyone is eligible to enter no matter where you live. Entries will be accepted until 6:00 Central Time on Friday, July 31, 2009, and the winner will be announced Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009.

Good luck, Everyone!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Go Or Not To Go, That Is The Question

I have an opportunity to attend an Author Event with the author of The Blue Notebook this evening.

I have not read the book, though I really, really want to. However, I think I am going to go ahead and attend. I have a feeling it is going to be quite eye-opening!

Monday, July 20, 2009


by Georgette Heyer

"When Gervase Frant, Seventh Earl of St. Erth, returns at last from Waterloo to his family seat at Stanyon, he enjoys a less than welcoming homecoming. Only Theo, a cousin even quieter than himself, is there to greet him -- and when he meets his stepmother and half-brother he detects open regret that he has survived the wars. The dangers of Lincolnshire countryside could never be more unexpected . . . " (From the CD container)

When it comes to reading for pure entertainment, there is very little more entertaining than good regency dialogue. I immediately want to add phrases such as, "He's a little queer in the attic, don't you think?" and "We can't leave her lying about at the bottom of the stairs for just anyone who comes along to trip over!" to my every day conversations. :-) Seriously though, dialogue in books such as Heyer's regencies never fails to make me smile and often has me chuckling out loud.

There have been a lot of Heyer reviews floating around lately due to the reissue of her books. I can only hope that readers don't pass up The Quiet Gentleman purely from Heyer-overload. I've only read a few of her books, but I have to say this one is a stand out so far.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


by Lawrence Goldstone

"In the morgue of a Philadelphia hospital, a group of physicians open a coffin and uncover the corpse of a beautiful young woman. Within days one of them strongly suspects that he knows the woman's identity . . . and the horrifying events that led to her death. But the most compelling moment is yet to come, as young Ephraim Carroll is plunged into a maze of murder, secrets, and unimaginable crimes." (From the CD container)

The mystery of the young woman's identity and what happened to her is very good all on it's own, but the coolest part of The Anatomy of Deception was easily the information regarding the history of medicine in general and of surgery specifically. It's one of those reads that had me searching the Internet to see which characters were real and if the stories of them told in this book are true. I love when that happens! And I'll tell you that while the details that make up the main story in this book are not real, it looks like much of the background story is. I'm very, very happy I didn't live when modern surgical procedures were in their infancy.

The overall feel of this novel is dark but not grotesque. It's not an attention-grabber that I couldn't put down, but it was fascinating every time I picked it up. I can't say I would go out of my way to look for other work by this author, but if I happened to come across another of his books, I would certainly give it a try!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


by Ridley Pearson

"Sun Valley, Idaho -- playground of the wealthy and politically connected -- is home to an annual wine auction that attracts high rollers from across the country, and Blaine County Sheriff Walt Fleming is the one who must ensure it goes off without a hitch. The world's most elite wine connoisseurs have descended on Sun Valley to taste and bid on the world's best wines, including three bottles claimed to have been a gift from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams. With sky-high prices all but guaranteed for these historic items, it's no wonder a group of thieves is out to steal them." (From the Uncorrected Proof of Killer Summer)

I haven't been accepting many ARCs lately, but when I was asked if I would like to review Ridley Pearson's third and newest Walt Fleming novel, I couldn't pass it up. I'm still mourning the end of his Lou Boldt series, but I'm warming up to Walt and I definitely wanted to keep up with his story.

If you decide to pick this one up, hold on to your hats! The plot moves so quickly that more than once I had to check to make sure I hadn't missed a page somewhere. It read like an action movie. It wasn't overly complicated, but there were enough twists to keep things interesting. Walt's personal life gets tangled up in the mystery which results in a few of his relationships being brought to a new level, some better, some worse. It will be fun to see where those go in future installments.

I'm still not as sold on this series as I was on Lou Boldt, but as I've said before, that is not the fault of Pearson's writing. Killer Summer is a very entertaining read and a perfect beach book. And when I give you my thoughts on the next Walt Fleming novel, I won't even mention Lou Boldt. I'm finished whining. I promise! :-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Are There "Chick" Books and "Guy" Books?

I would like to share this exchange from the comments in a previous post, because I would love to hear all your thoughts on the topic! I mentioned that I believe myself to be a bit of a literary tomboy. I'm not much of a romantic and I was born with a severe lack of maternal instinct, so there are a lot of books out there that many women I know just adore, but they don't appeal to me at all. Because of this and the fact that I think of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice as a "girl book", I was worried that I may not see in it what so many other women see and love. This prompted the following comment from Damned Conjuror:

I don't think it's specifically a female book, do books have genders? I suppose that women are more inclined to enjoy an Austen book but I don't think that dictates whether it's for women or men. I don't know really, I'm just thinking that we do assign genders to books albeit being arbitrary e.g. a wartime action novel would be for males and a book about horses would be for females. Hmmm.

That was a great comment! It made me stop and think about how I do tend to label books. Not all of them, but I'm definitely guilty of the practice. Here was my reply:

I meant the "'girl' book" comment only as a generalization. No, I don't think books are really "girl" or "boy" books specifically, but there are some that seem to my mind to be more appealing or marketed to one gender than the other. For me, P&P falls into that category. And I understand that I'm making this judgment totally arbitrarily. :-) Weirdly, I would be surprised to see a guy reading P&P, but not a woman reading, for example, Patrick O'Brien's "Master & Commander". I think that just speaks to my own prejudice of believing that women are more open minded about crossing those imaginary lines than men are.

I want to open up this discussion to all of you. Are there books out there you tend to think of as "girl" books or "guy" books? And if so, do you tend to "cross the line"? Are you surprised to see a guy reading what you would think of as "chick lit"? How about the other way around?

And I'd like to thank Damned Conjuror for providing some fun food for thought on a Friday morning! I was near to comatose before I started thinking about this. :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Austen and Zombies and Sea Monsters! Oh, My!

In my world, Joanne from The Book Zombie broke the news. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will be released in September. (Thanks, Joanne!)

I have a question for all of you Jane Austen fans out there. I have never read a Jane Austen book. You read that right. Never. Not on purpose. It just has turned out that way. So, am I ruining it for myself if I read these fun versions without ever having read the "real thing"? Or can I just jump right into the fun with this one and the ever popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

BBAW 2009 Coming Sept. 14-18, 2009

I'm so excited! Hard-working Amy from My Friend Amy just announced Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2009!! It even has it's own blog this year! If you weren't around for the fun last year, you are in for a huge treat!

Stop on by the official BBAW 2009 blog, get your blog registered, and get ready for one of the most exciting events in the book blogosphere!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My *Other* Addiction

I don't have any book news, but my alter ego has broken down and picked up a new pair of platform boots for the new and improved Diva Disco sets for this fall. Check these out! (I bought the black patent version.)

I've been wearing platform boots for my shows for a couple of years now, so I have a lot of practice, but any bets on how long before I break my neck in these babies? :-) I'm going to have to be a singer for the rest of my life just so I have an excuse to wear all these cool boots I'm accumulating! Darn. LOL!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


by Clare Clark

"It is 1855, and engineer William May has returned home to London and his beloved wife from the horrors of the Crimean War. When he secures a job transforming the city's sewer system, he believes it will prove his salvation, as, in the subterranean world beneath the city, he begins to lay his ghosts to rest. But when the peace of the tunnels is shattered by a violent murder William loses his tenuous hold on his sanity. Implicated as the killer, plagued by nightmares and visions, he is no longer sure: Could he truly have committed the crime?" (From the book jacket)

Ever since I read Clare Clark's The Nature of Monsters, I've wanted to read her debut novel, The Great Stink. I finally got around to it, and I'm so glad I did, despite the silly title. Don't let it fool you!

The plot does not move along quickly, which may bother readers who prefer a faster paced read. Clark likes to explore the darker side of life, and she does it in extraordinary detail. Her settings are not opulent homes and her characters are not the rich and elite. The lives that populate her books are often from the wrong side of the tracks. They endure physical and emotional hardships I could never imagine. They live in places and times I am forever thankful I never have to live. But their stories suck me into the mire with them, and for a few memorable hours I live and breathe along side those to whom life has dealt a bad hand and I watch anxiously, hoping they'll pull through but never certain the end will be what they deserve.

I have a thing for dark, creepy, brooding novels, and if Ms. Clark keeps up the way she has in her first two books, she is going to work her way into my personal top ten historical writers very, very quickly.

A side note: Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty recently had a wonderful post which brings up the fate of animals in books. My motto when it comes to this topic: Do what you want to the girl, but leave the dog alone. :-) In honor of Wendy and others who have the same enormous soft spot we do, I will reveal only a small spoiler here that has little to do with the plot: **MINOR SPOILER** No need to distract yourself through the whole book wondering if the author will let something hideous happen to the dog, Lady, adopted by one of the main characters. She is fine in the end.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Negative Reviews = Wishy-Washy Reviewer? I Disagree.

Every couple months or so I see discussions crop up on various blogs regarding negative reviews and whether or not bloggers want to or should write them. The definition of "negative" is nebulous at times. Does it mean we shouldn't say anything bad about a book we didn't enjoy? Does it include constructive criticism or are we only talking about what could be called "nasty" or "snarky" reviews?

I believe each blogger needs to approach this issue in his or her own way. It's the distinct personality of a blog that draws loyal readers and commenters. And as blog readers, we will continue to visit and engage those who are the most entertaining and informative to us. Therefore, it's not the argument of what kind of reviews a book blogger should write that I want to draw attention to here. What strikes me when I see these discussions are the comments that imply a blogger who doesn't write any negative reviews is somehow being wishy-washy or dishonest or kowtowing to authors and/or publishers. I strongly disagree with this view. There are not a ton of comments along these lines, but every time I see one I get cranky.

I am one of those bloggers who dislikes writing outright negative reviews, and my reason is this: One Reader's Junk is Another Reader's Treasure. For every book I didn't like, there are numerous readers who will tell me it was their favorite book ever, and those are the people I'm hoping to reach when I write my thoughts on my reading.

In reality, books that I genuinely disliked are few and far between and even fewer that I would say I outright despised. I'm more apt to be ambivalent. That is because I know my reading tastes, and while I do explore out of my comfort zone fairly often, I can usually do it in a manner that still fits my personal likes and dislikes. On the surface, I seem to read a large variety, but I still have an inner criteria that goes into each choice I make. Yes, there are books that suffer the bad luck of being read at the wrong time -- I'm in a bad mood or I just finished a fantastic book and the next one just can't match it. Perhaps I was mistaken in what I thought a book was about. There are times I am aware that a book most likely won't be something I'll love, but I want to read it anyway for whatever reason. I keep all these things in mind when I sit down to tell you about them. If it happens that I didn't like a book, I'll tell you and I'll tell you why. But it won't be because "the author writes like an imbecile and couldn't plot his way out of a paper bag", because that may be true, but maybe he was really, really funny anyway.

Just my two cents. Anyone want to borrow my soapbox? :-)


by Matthew Pearl

"Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens's untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await the arrival of Dickens's unfinished novel. But when Daniel's body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found, Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that he hopes will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel's killer." (From the CD container.)

I'm going to exhibit my ignorance right now, so bear with me a moment. Until all the buzz about Dan Simmons' Drood came up a while back, I had no idea there was an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens. Suddenly two books come out early this year only weeks apart using that very unfinished work as their premise. Does anyone know what brought this on? Just curious.

While The Last Dickens wasn't the most engrossing novel I've ever read, I did enjoy the creativity that went into it. I like books that spin off from classic novels and stories and seeing how various authors expand on the original and make it their own, how they make characters we thought we knew behave and events unfold. I have trouble thinking "outside the box", and I admire those who can do it so imaginatively.

I also enjoyed all the information about Charles Dickens' reading tour in the U.S. and the early days of the publishing industry, but what The Last Dickens mostly did was pique my interest in opium dens and the opium trade of that period. I must be in need of some dark and dingy reading material. And I must read what there is of the real Mystery of Edwin Drood!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Historical Mysteries, Anyone?

So, I'm strolling around Barnes & Noble yesterday looking at books about Twitter and Facebook trying to decide if I want to jump into modern social networking or not. You have to remember I am a woman who owns a cell phone that does not take pictures and just got off her dial-up Internet connection last summer. I'm not real quick on the techno-uptake. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that since I was at the bookstore, I could not limit myself to the one area I was interested in when I walked in the door. I decided to scan a couple shelves of mysteries because why not? Right? And here is what I found:

To Shield the Queen by Fiona Buckley is the first is a series of historical mysteries set in the time of Elizabeth I, and they have been reissued with some beautiful covers! It looks at a glance like there are about eight books in the series. Has anyone out there read any of them? They look wonderful!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Did You Know . . .

The lovely Brooke Shields is a descendant of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia? Neither did I until this morning. The things a person learns while digging around the internet!

Monday, July 6, 2009


by Christopher Hibbert

Published in 2008, "[t]he first major biography of the Borgias in thirty years" (from the jacket flap), The Borgias and Their Enemies: 1431-1519 is exactly what you'd expect: A nonfiction account of the rise and fall of Pope Alexander VI and his children, most notably Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. And it's a very readable one at that! In fact, it's so readable that I need someone in the know to tell me if this author, Christopher Hibbert, is by chance any relation to Eleanor Hibbert a/k/a Jean Plaidy, because I felt like I was reading Madonna of the Seven Hills all over again!

I don't mean that in a bad way. I found it very interesting that the research and conclusions ran so amazingly parallel and that Christopher Hibbert's fast moving style is so reminiscent of Plaidy's fiction writing. Not to mention the identical last names raising a bit of a question. :-) I'm still working on my fascination with the Borgias, but with the things I've read so far, I'm coming to the conclusion that Lucrezia may have received a seriously undeserved bad rap by being the daughter of a corrupt pope and the sister of a cruel megalomaniac. I have a few more books on the subject to investigate, but for now I highly recommend this work to anyone looking for a recent publication on this notorious family.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


by Chuck Palahniuk

"The future you have, tomorrow, won't be the same future you had, yesterday." Rant Casey

"After Rant dies in a fiery blaze of glory, three of his closest compatriots -- a gang of urban demolition derby aficionados affiliated with a group calling themselves 'The Party Crashers' -- travel back to his hometown of Middleton to record an oral history of their fallen idol." (From the CD container)

What do you get when you cross a human rabies epidemic, a bee-swarmed goth funeral and a mom who booby-traps food to get people to eat slowly? Not to mention a virgin sex worker, DRVR Graphic Traffic reports ("We know why you rubberneck!"), a renegade Christmas tree Cadillac, and drivers stalking other drivers through the city streets for some "party crashing"? If you guessed "a Chuck Palahniuk novel" you are correct! And that barely scratches the surface.

Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey is another Palahniuk work that you giggle and cringe your way through until all of a sudden the deeper message about humanity and society yanks you back by your chain and makes you rethink every "WTF??"-thing you just read and reinterpret them with a whole new attitude.

As before, I don't heartily recommend the novels of Chuck Palahniuk to just anyone. He takes a certain amount of fortitude, or maybe just personal derangement, to read and really enjoy. I'm learning to love him. Take that for what it's worth. :-)

Other reviews of Rant:


Friday, July 3, 2009

Follow v. Subscribe

A question for all you other bloggers out there:

Do you prefer regular readers to subscribe to your blog or to be a Follower? Or do you have no preference?

I have no reason for this question other than pure curiosity. I got to thinking about it when the fabulous Rose City Reader apologized for taking so long to become a Follower. (No apology needed! I'm thrilled to see you no matter how you get here!) I don't think I have a preference, but I have to admit it's really fun to see all those little pictures on the Followers Widget, isn't it? :-) And you can see who they are and visit them back. With Reader subscribers, it's just an anonymous number.

I don't currently Follow any blogs, but I have over 200 in my Google Reader and I really do at least skim nearly every single post. (Perhaps I spend just a little too much time on the computer . . .) But if people really like the Followers concept more, I'd be happy to become a Follower, too!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


by James Joyce

"Follow along with Stephen Dedalus, an exuberant Irish boy, as he grows into manhood. Throughout his childhood and youth he alternates painfully between the demanding religious beliefs he is taught and troubling periods of doubt. Finally as an adult, firm in his own view of nature and himself, he steps out into the world to take on the solitary life of an artist." (From the CD container.)

When I decided to tackle James Joyce's Ulysses, I chose to listen to the audio version. It turned out to be the perfect way for me to experience that book for the first time. When I moved on to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I assumed audio would serve my purposes here also. I was wrong.

With the plethora philosophical musings that occur in this little novel, I needed to be reading the physical book. I thought all was going well until I would hear something intriguing and I would suddenly realize I had no idea what was going on or what anyone was talking about. Or even who the people were that were carrying on the conversation! This occurred a number of times, which is not normal for me when listening to books. I don't think it's because the work itself is terribly confusing. How could it be more confusing than Ulysses? I think it's simply that this one did not work in this format for me. There was too much to think about.

I did not consult a reader's guide either, a decision which served to compound my error. I'm sad about that because I really, really liked what I did manage to glean from listening, which lead to my repeatedly pondering one concept at length while missing the next two scenes. I made a mess out of this one, and I have every intention of coming back to it sooner than later -- next time with the book in my hand and the reader's guide close by!