Monthly Archives: March 2009

Musing Mondays – March 30, 2009


March 30, 2009

I decided to join in the fun over at Rebecca’s blog Just One More Page. Each Monday she poses a question for us to muse over. Today’s question is:

Do you keep track of what and/or how many books you read? How long have you been doing this? What’s your favorite tracking method, and why?If you don’t keep track, why not? (question courtesy of MizB)

Well anyone who has spent more than five minutes on my blog knows the answer to this question. I track all my yearly reads on this page of my blog – and if you click on the link for each year you will see my reading broken down into months where I list each book, its rating, number of pages, what I read it for, when I started it, when I finished it and a link to my review. I also have a separate review page where you can look up every book I’ve read by author with a link to my review of that book

I started seriously tracking my reading in 2007 here on my blog, but before that I used to keep an electronic “diary” of everything I had read in a Word Document. In 2007, I switched that over to a Google Spreadsheet. I also track the new-to-me authors I read every year.

I like the reading journal format on my blog because it is very visual. I should also mention that I print out hard copies of all my journals for each year with copies of my reviews and file them in plastic sleeves in loose leaf binders.

Yes, I know, I am a little obsessive!

Mailbox Monday – March 30, 2009

mailboxmonday It is Monday again and time for Mailbox Mondays – a weekly event hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. To share your book acquisitions this week, visit Marcia’s post for today.

secretkeeper The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris arrived direct from the author. Harris is currently the US Correspondent of the British weekly newspaper The Observer.  Prior to this position, he worked as a journalist reporting from Africa for the Daily Telegraph, the Associated Press and Reuters.  He has covered conflicts and trouble spots all around the world, including Iraq, Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.  In 2003 he was embedded with British forces during the invasion of Iraq. Harris brings his experience as a journalist to the pages of his novel which is set in Sierra Leone. The book flap reads: ‘A vivid and haunting debut novel of one man’s serach for the truth in war-torn Sierra Leone, a nation where the rules of civilized society don’t apply.‘ To read more about this book and the author, visit the author’s website. This novel will be released April 2nd through Dutton Adult. TLC Book Tours is also touring the book in May. To see a schedule of that tour, visit their site.

whenskateboardsWhen Skateboards Will Be Free by Said Sayrafiezadeh arrived through a Shelf Awareness offer from A Dial Press (an imprint of Random House). Released earlier this month, this memoir is described as the ‘funny, unsentimental, and heartbreaking‘ story of the author’s life growing up in the Socialist Worker’s Party. The cover flaps reads: ‘Said’s Iranian-born father and American Jewish mother had one thing in common: their unshakable conviction that the workers’ revolution was coming.‘ Visit the author’s website to learn more.

silverswan The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black was a Library Thing Early Reviewer snag. I bought Christine Falls (the prequel to The Silver Swan) some time ago and plan to read that first and then this one as most reviewers have recommended reading these in order. The Silver Swan takes place two years after Christine Falls and continues with the story of a Dublin pathologist Quirke. The back flap reads: ‘With its vivid, intense evocation of 1950s Dublin, and a gripping, irresistible myster, The Silver Swan is even more engrossing than last year’s Christine Falls.‘ Benjamin Black as a fantastic website. You might be more familiar with books he has written under his real name, John Banville.

bluenotebook The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine MD arrived from Spiegel & Grau through a Shelf Awareness offer. This novel is set in rural India and tells the story of Batuk – a precocious fifteen year old girl sold into sexual slavery. The back of the book reads: ‘A haunting yet astonishingly hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality.‘ Due for release in July, all United States proceeds from the novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children. This is a cause near and dear to my heart – and one I am happy to support by giving you more information about the book.

What arrived at YOUR house this week?

Sunday Salon – March 29, 2009

Sunday Salon

March 29, 2009

11:30 AM

I am getting a late start on my Salon post today – blame it on the puppy and her persistent harassment of the cats. Or sleep deprivation. Or just plain laziness.  It is a beautiful, very cold day here in the Northern California mountains – a nice day for a walk in the woods and then some down time with a book (if Raven will nap!).

This past week I finished reading the wonderful family saga Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly (read my review) and gave away a hard cover edition. I really love historical fiction and the chunkier the book, the better.

Next I blew through Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker Prize winning novel Offshore (read my review). I had some mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Fitzgerald writes stunning prose and great characters; on the other hand, the story ended abruptly and felt unfinished. Have any of you read this book or others by Fitzgerald? I would like to read another novel by her – any suggestions?

I am currently reading an outstanding collection of short stories by Catherine Brady. The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories is short story writing at its best. I was thrilled to get a hard cover edition of this book for TLC Book Tours. I’ll be touring the book on April 6th – so come back then to read my review and also a guest post by the author which I promise you will love! To see a full schedule of the tour, visit this post.

Next up in my stacks will be:

  • Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
  • Follow Me, by Joanna Scott
  • Buffalo Lockjaw, by Greg Ames (watch for a giveaway of the ARC in early April!)

The other day I managed to snag 30 minutes of uninterrupted time and browsed though my TBR mountain – I have so many great books there and every time I go through the stacks I find myself wishing I had an extra 3 days in every week just to read! How about you? What are you looking forward to reading next?

I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday and finding time in your day to relax with a good book. Have a great week!

Offshore – Book Review

offshore The barge-dwellers, creatures neither of firm land nor water, would have liked to be more respectable than they were. They aspired towards the Chelsea shore, where, in the early 1960’s, many thousands lived with sensible occupations and adequate amounts of money. But a certain failure, distressing to themselves, to be like other people, caused them to sink back, with so much else that drifted or was washed up, into the mud moorings of the great tideway. – from Offshore, page 10 –

Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker Prize winning novel Offshore is set in the 1960’s along the Thames and introduces a cast of eccentric and unique characters whose lives criss-cross and intersect as they go about their days on the worn out barges of the area. There is Richard, a retired navy man whose desire for organization unites the others, and Maurice who receives stolen goods, and Willis whose boat Dreadnought is fated for tragedy. But, it is perhaps Nenna who is the most interesting – a woman who has been abandoned by her husband and is trying to raise two precocious, young girls. Tilly, the youngest daughter, loves barge life and her courageous and lively spirit is infectious.

Tilda cared nothing for the future, and had, as a result, a great capacity for happiness. – from Offshore, page 27 –

Tilda, in spite of her lucid gray eyes, showing clarity beneath clarity, which challenged the nuns not to risk scandalising the innocent, had often been in disfavour. She was known to be one of the little ones who had filled in their colouring books irreverently, making our Lord’s beard purple, or even green, largely, to be sure, because she never bothered to get hold of the best crayons first. – from Offshore, page 41 –

As Fitzgerald’s novella progresses, it is Nenna’s domestic unhappiness which unites the characters, and it is Tilly’s innocent optimism which creates the irony in the story.

Fitzgerald’s story is full of a black humor and her writing is clear and descriptive. Offshore feels much like a character study or a long short story, and its ending is both unexpected and unresolved.

This was my first Fitzgerald novel, and I appreciated her wonderful use of language and development of the characters. But when I turned the last page I felt oddly disconnected and disappointed. I wanted more, yet there was no more to be had. Offshore is strongly literary in style and it is a quick read. It whet my appetite for more of Penelope Fitzgerald’s work.

Interesting side note: people are still living on the antique barges on the Thames.


Cats + Puppy = Conflict

**All photos are clickable to enjoy a larger view.

Happy cats:


Not so happy cats:



This is BY FAR the most difficult lesson Raven must learn – LEAVE IT! She is about 50% successful with this command. We say “leave it” when she approaches the cats, and half the time she does. The other half the time she either barks and leaps, or takes chase. This morning Gizmo smacked her on the nose…but it did not seem to deter my little one. We’ll keep trying!

Winner – GALWAY BAY Giveaway


Thanks to all of you who entered the drawing to win a copy of Mary Pat Kelly’s wonderful family saga. There were more than 60 entrants and I used Random.Org to choose the lucky winner.

Drum roll please!!!

Comment #17 … Tiffany from The Phantom’s Lair

Congratulations, Tiffany – I’ve sent you an email. Please respond within five days with your snail mail so I can get your book out to you. For those of you who did not win the book, I hope you will consider buying it and reading it anyway! Here is my review.

Galway Bay – Book Review

galwaybay [“]I remembered a story Johnny Leahy told right before our wedding. Fado,” Maire said, and winked at me. “Johnny was out fishing where Galway Bay meets the sea. They’d caught nothing, no fish, all day. When the sun sank beneath the waves, some boats turned back to shore, empty. But Johnny and his da stayed on. A slip of a moon rose, then disappeared. Complete darkness and still they waited. Then, long after most would have given up, the mearbhall – a kind of glow – started up from the deep, lighting up the sea. And suddenly all manner of fish – whiting and herring and great creatures Johnny couldn’t put a name to – came swimming up through the mearbhall and into the nets. The glow lasted until the morning star appeared. At the dawning of the day, they saw they’d netted a great catch.

“Mearbhalls come, Johhny told me, only on the darkest night. But no fisherman is able to say when or where. A gift, he said, like life itself.” – from Galway Bay, page 474 –

On the cusp of entering a convent, sixteen year old Honora Keeley discovers a man in Galway Bay.

He stood, foam swirling around his long legs, hands at his sides – not covering himself. Looking me right in the eye – smiling.

“You’re not drowning at all.”

“I am,” he said. “I am drowning in your beauty. Are you a girl at all, or are you a mermaid?” – from Galway Bay, page 8 –

Thus begins Mary Pat Kelly’s novel Galway Bay – a book filled with memorable characters, and love of country and family. But, Galway Bay is first and foremost a family saga which spans nearly sixty years (between 1839 and 1893). It tells the story of the Kelly family- first in Ireland on Galway Bay and then as they move west to America and settle in Chicago. Historically, the novel covers a sad period in Irish history. The Great Starvation (1845 – 1852) killed approximately a million Irish men, women and children when blight wiped out the potato crops and the English government turned a blind eye to the tragedy. The Irish population was further reduced by another million due to mass emigration. Galway Bay’s stalwart and courageous characters also experience the American Civil War(1861 – 1865), the assassination of President Lincoln (1865), the Great Chicago Fire (1871), and the Chicago World’s Fair (1893).

Mary Pat Kelly based her novel on her great-great grandmother Honora Kelly, and it is this character who drives the narrative through her determination to survive and carry the stories of Ireland all the way to America. Weaving together the lives of Honora, her siblings and parents, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Kelly unravels a history of the Irish people – including their lore, religion, and work ethic.

Kelly is a good storyteller and makes the reader care about her characters who come alive on the pages of her book. I did find her style of switching from past to present tense a little confusing at times.

I walked between Mam and Granny, carrying Bridget. Da and Michael were just ahead, deep in talk of some kind. They get on so well. Michael’s part of the Keeley men now, with is own fine children, his loneliness filled. – from Galway Bay, page 127 –

But after a time, these tense switches simply became part of the overall writing style of the book and I began to ignore them.

Galway Bay is a sprawling novel and the time period it covered is enthralling. As in all good historical fiction books, this one begs to be devoured long into the night.



Mailbox Monday – March 23, 2009

mailboxmonday Another Monday – and time to share my book acquisitions for the week. Here’s what arrived in my mailbox:

illegal Illegal by Paul Levine arrived this week from Nicole at The Book Report Network. It is a gorgeous hardcover edition with a release date from Bantam Dell Publishing Group of March 24th. Levine is an Edgar nominated author.  Illegal is described in the product description as ‘a masterful tale from one of the most skillful practitioners of the contemporary thriller. To learn more about the novel and its author visit Paul Levine’s website.

lawsofharmony The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks came to me directly from the author – and also autographed – for an upcoming TLC Book Tour in May. To see the tour schedule for this book, visit this page on TLC Book Tours. Publisher’s Weekly says about The Laws of Harmony: ‘Satisfying psychological depth and original characters help move along Hendricks’ latest.‘ Judith Ryan Hendricks has previously published three other novels: Bread Alone, Isabel’s Daughter, and The Baker’s Apprentice. To read more about the author and her work, visit the author’s website.

losthours The Lost Hours by Karen White was sent to me as an Advance Reader’s Edition  from Joan at NAL/Accent. White has published several other novels including The Color of Light, Pieces of the Heart, Learning to Breathe, The Memory of Water, and The House on Tradd Street. Her sixth novel is set in Savannah and is a family saga which spans eighty years and five generations of Southern women. The Lost Hours is due for release April 7th. To read more about Karen White and her work, visit the author’s website.

What showed up in YOUR mailbox? To share, visit Marcia at The Printed Page for today’s Mailbox Monday.

Sunday Salon – March 22, 2009

Sunday Salon

March 22, 2009

9:00 AM

Good morning, fellow readers! It is a cold, snowy and gray day here in Northern California – not very Spring-like, but a nice day to stay inside and read…or in my case, catch up on some sleep.

For those of you who only read my blog on Sundays, you probably do not understand that last sentence…but go ahead and check out my posts here and here and it will all make sense. We’ve added a new member of the family – and she is a bundle of adorable energy. Little Raven has fit right into the household – making herself at home with everyone and stealing our hearts. I am completely sleep deprived (like any new mother!), but enjoying having a puppy again…although I find myself thinking often of Caribou. Lisa of Books on the Brain commented: “Just think of Caribou as that little pup’s guardian angel.” I like that – and I believe it. Raven is not Caribou, but she does do some distinctly Caribou-like things – it almost feels as though a bit of Bou’s spirit is still with us. I know she would have approved of our new addition!

My reading has been almost non-existent in the last week. I am still working my way through Galway Bay – which is an enormous and satisfying read. It is getting terrific reviews around the blog-o-sphere. I am offering a giveway here at Caribousmom which is open to US and Canada mailing addresses until March 24th at 5:oo PM. Go here to leave a comment and enter the contest. I had hoped to have a review posted by now…and I feel terrible that I haven’t done so yet. If Raven will sleep a bit this afternoon, I hope to get a big chunk of the novel read today.

Along with my pathetic reading progress, I am 1000 posts behind in my blog reading! It is getting to the point where I may have to clear my reader and start new.

Caribousmom has received a couple of awards in the last two weeks…

proximidade-awdJeane at Dog Ear Diary awarded me the Proximidade Award whose description reads:

This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award.”

THANK YOU, Jeane!! I am going to cop out on delivering the award to eight bloggers because I am exhausted…and with over 300 blogs in my reader, I cannot possibly narrow it down to eight!

beautifulheartSheri at A Novel Menagerie awarded me the Beautiful Heart Award which is described as follows:

This award also goes to all of the bloggers who put their hearts, mind and soul into their blogs and give us a glimpse into their worlds. They are positive and may not realize it, but are leading by example. They inspire with their words, educate and inform. They entertain and uplift with their humor. They are welcoming, helpful and friendly and no one is a stranger, whether you’ve commented once or a million times. They are ever so wise and giving. Most of all, they have Beautiful Hearts.

THANK YOU, Sheri – this really touched me! I can think of so many bloggers who would be deserving of this award and I was honored to receive it!

Thanks to everyone who stops by and reads my blog – I appreciate all of you. Whatever you have planned for today, I hope it also involves a good book. Have a wonderful week!