Friday, December 31, 2010

I Met My Goal! Book #30 of 2010

My 30th book of the year was "On Cats" by Doris Lessing, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. I received this book as a gift from my wonderful Twitter friend, @kayakgal, as I have many other books. She picks out the most amazing books for me to read and I am ever so grateful to her for opening me up to books I would never read otherwise. I think it is quite appropriate that I round out my reading goal for 2010 with a book she sent me.

It is quite clear from this year's reading list that I am an animal lover. Upon seeing a book titled simply "On Cats" I knew I would love it. As it turned out, I was right, but some people would be surprised at my adoration of this work when they read some of the less "fuzzy" feelings toward cats that are described. There are many cat deaths at the hands of humans, including the author herself. It should be noted that many of these instances were in times much different than the one we are in now, not to mention a vastly different land.

It is not a warm, cuddly kitty cat story like that of Dewey. It does show the author's true affection for the many different cats in her life and she describes each of them perfectly, painting a picture that is clear and colorful with her words. It is a true piece of art in written form.

I am now intrigued by this author and can't wait to look into more of her work, which spans from 1949 to her final book in 2007. I encourage you to read this book and keep an open mind. Don't be turned away because of what you might see as mistreatment, you would miss out on something amazing if you did.

Another First Reads Win!

I love to browse through the giveaways on Goodreads. I came across "Unlucky Stiffs: New Tales of the Weirdly Departed" by Cynthia Ceilan and knew immediately that I had to sign up and try to win it. Guess what? I won it!! Not only that, but it came autographed and personalized. I was immediately impressed. It became my 29th book of the year.

Not surprisingly, this is a book about strange ways people have died. I am, in case you don't know me personally, a little twisted. My husband has told me for years that I'm morbid. Either way you look at it, this book was perfect for me. Some stories made me chuckle, others made me groan. And yes, some made me cackle with laughter.

Some of the people died from freak accidents and many others brought it upon themselves. Nothing is too terribly graphic, nor are there a lot of details. You can leave all that up to your imagination!

If you are intrigued by death, this is a book you will enjoy. You might not want your neighbors to know you're reading it, though. They might think you're a little weird.

This was a book that I received for free from the author. Winning a copy in no way influenced my review of the book or the author. The opinion expressed in this review is my honest opinion about the book.

Short Stories

My husband picked up "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" by David Sedaris on a shopping trip to Borders one day. When he showed it to me, I said, "Great, I've been wanting to read that." I figured he would finish it quickly and would be in my hands in no time. I listened to him reading it, laughing loudly at the stories, wanting to share them with me. I refused, however, not wanting to spoil the fun for myself. Unfortunately, he does not read as often as I do, so I had to wait a while before I got my turn. It ended up being my 28th book of the year.

My first impression was about the illustrations by Ian Falconer. They are wonderful! Each story has at least one illustration, some of them have several. They are simply drawn, in black and white, sometimes with a touch of orange.

The book was a little disappointing though. After hearing my husband cracking up, I was sure I would do the same, but it didn't happen. I never laughed out loud at any of the tales, not even once. Some of them were cute, many of them were odd, but none of them were hilariously funny like I had hoped.

The stories are all centered around animals in curiously human situations: dating, parenting, relationships, everyday life. Sounds pretty good, right? I thought it would be, but other than making me think "How weird", they didn't have much of an impression on me.
Obviously, some people will love this book, it just wasn't for me. I would suggest reading a story or two in the bookstore before you buy it to make sure it fits your taste.

Some Doggy Inspiration

Book #27 of 2010 was Main Line Animal Rescue's "Dog Blessed: Puppy Mill Survivor Stories" by Lisa Fischer, published by Happy Tails Books. It is a compilation of stories told by dog owners who adopted their pooches from Main Line Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania and are members of MLAR's rehabilitation group called "Over The Mill".

The stories are heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. These dogs were all rescued by MLAR from puppy mills and came to the rescue group (and eventually their forever homes) with varying degrees of physical and emotional issues. Many of us know what goes on in puppy mills, but it is still saddening to hear these very personal stories of what an individual dog goes through in these horrid living conditions. To then read about the people who bring these dogs into loving homes and the patience they show in teaching the dogs that it is okay to be loved is enormously uplifting.

I admire each and every person who has rescued, rehabilitated and adopted these dogs. I hope that these stories reach people far and wide so that puppy mills will one day be a thing of the past and we can enjoy responsible breeders and the dogs they produce. Remember when shopping at a pet store that you don't know the conditions of the place the puppies came from and what you may be supporting by purchasing one of these dogs. ADOPT, DON'T SHOP!

I will put other Happy Tails Books on my to-read list after reading this one. They not only look like enjoyable books, but Happy Tails Books donates at least 25% of their profits to rescue groups. It's wonderful to see what people are doing for our animal friends and I hope you will pick this book up as well!

I received my copy of this book at no cost to me from the publisher. This in no way influenced my review of the book.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cats and Books-Two of My Favorite Things!

"Murder Past Due" by Miranda James was my 26th book for 2010. I read it for a book club I am part of on Twitter. It is a cozy mystery written under a pseudonym. The author's real name is Dean James, author of the Simon Kirby-Jones mystery series. For this series, Cat in the Stacks, James took on a female name.

In "Murder Past Due" Charlie Harris is a librarian who takes his cat Diesel with him everywhere, walking him on a harness and leash. An old classmate comes back to town to be honored for being a best-selling novelist, but ends up dead-the victim of a brutal murder. Charlie is asked by the lead investigator's mother to poke around for information to help her daughter solve the case. As it turns out, the investigator doesn't really need the help and Charlie (already on her bad side) seems to only irritate her.

The story has several potential killers, all with motives to murder the not-so-nice author. There are a couple of twists, but nothing that is all too surprising. There were times when I didn't want to put the book down, and other times when I wasn't all that interested in what happened. I had mixed emotions about the story all throughout my reading of the book.

The most noticeable difference between this cozy and others I have read is that the main character is a man. Typically, the antagonist is a woman in cozies, so this was a bit odd for me at first. Also, the main character didn't actually end up solving the crime in this book. It was nice to have things mixed up a bit from other cozies I have read, instead of the same format I have read previously.

If you are a cozy mystery fan, you will probably enjoy the book. If not, this may not be the best one to start with to check out the genre.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Only 5 More Books To Go This Year!

For book #25 (25!) I read the third book in the Warriors series "Forest of Secrets" by Erin Hunter. I have really enjoyed this series, including this book, but it was hard to get through.

The Warriors series follows the stories of four cat clans living in the forest. Fireheart lives in ThunderClan after living life as a kittypet and struggles with being accepted by the others in the clan at times. He feels that the clan deputy, Tigerclaw, can't be trusted, but isn't sure if anyone would believe him. He continues to look for proof to back up his suspicions while still being a loyal clan warrior.

My difficulties with this book lie with the major changes that occur within the clan. I was in tears at one point, not believing that the story was taking the turn that it did. The end of the book left me feeling down, even though an event I had been waiting for finally happened. Now I can't wait to start on the fourth book. Hopefully, some of the sadness will be resolved in the next story.

As always, the book was well written and the characters and settings are described so clearly I could probably paint them. Although this is a children's series, it is a wonderful read for adults too!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Stephanie Plum Novel for Book #24

My most recent book is part of the Stephanie Plum series, written by Janet Evanovich. I was eager to read "Hot Six" and see where things went after the fifth book. As I expected, I was not disappointed.

In this installment, Stephanie Plum the bounty hunter, is given the task of looking for her mentor, Ranger. She quickly turns down the skip and it's passed on to her arch-enemy, Joyce Barnhardt. Joyce isn't the only one looking for Ranger though, in fact a lot of people are. And all of those people think Stephanie is the one to lead them to him. This is where her trouble begins.

Just to add interest to her already chaotic life, Grandma Mazur has a disagreement with Stephanie's father and moves in with her which really puts a stop to Stephanie's love life. Her love life, of course, was already a mess at the end of "High Five", but you will have to read "Hot Six" yourself to find out how that all turns out.

As always with the Stephanie Plum novels, Janet Evanovich has me laughing out loud chapter after chapter. They are smartly written and I never feel like it's a cheesy book that I'm just burning time with. The characters are well-described and I am fully invested in each and every one of them. I highly recommend the series and although you don't need to start with the first one, it's well worth your time to do so.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Ghost Story for Halloween

My twenty-third book of the year was "Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill. I had previously read his book of short stories, "20th Century Ghosts", and loved it. I loved it so much that I gave the book to my husband and told him he would love it too. After reading three stories, he gave it back to me and told me he couldn't read it "because it's just too weird." I did not let that deter me from reading another of Mr. Hill's books!

"Heart-Shaped Box" is about an aging rock star, Judas Coyne, who has a penchant for macabre items. He owns all kinds of creepy stuff already when he sees the opportunity to buy a ghost. He buys it, but soon comes to regret the purchase soon after the ghost's suit arrives in that heart-shaped box. The ghost terrorizes Judas and everyone close to him.

I really liked the way the book was laid out. There were several very short chapters which tends to keep me reading for longer stretches. Something I wasn't crazy about was the initial character development. I didn't really like Jude's girlfriend at first and it took me a while to change my mind. For several chapters, I was ready for her to be sacrificed to the ghost. I also felt that Jude's character was pretty predictable for a rock star, but maybe that wasn't so bad. I guess the typical rock star characteristics (greed, lust, extravagance) are what got him to where he was in the story.

I did like the way the book ended. I enjoy having things wrapped up in neat little packages at the end of the story and that definitely happened with this book. Joe Hill gets a big thumbs up from me on that part! Wanna know what happened? You'll have to read it. No spoilers here!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book #22: A First Reads Win

I saw a review of "Bound" by Antonya Nelson in the Kansas City Star one Sunday and was intrigued. It was partially set in Wichita around the time that a long-quiet serial killer had reappeared on the scene. Being from Wichita and living there during that time, I wanted to read the book. It happened that it was part of a "first reads" giveaway on Goodreads. I entered and was one of the lucky winners of a copy of the book.

In "Bound", Catherine Desplaines is married to a cheating husband, going innocently about life, when she learns that her high school best friend has been killed in a car accident and has given custody of her teenage daughter to Catherine. My expectation was that the story would center on the relationship between Catherine and this new child in her life, but that relationship didn't begin until there were about 40 pages left in the book. Instead, the book focuses on Catherine and her memories of this long ago friend that she was no longer in touch with. It also spends a great deal of time on the teenage girl and the cheating husband-all separate from Catherine. It was an interesting plot development that I enjoyed, even if it wasn't what I anticipated.

There were several scenes of Wichita that were described throughout the story. I paid very close attention and they all seemed to be accurate except for one detail. Ms. Nelson speaks about the newspaper in Wichita and calls it the Wichita Eagle-Beacon. At one time this was the name of the paper, but at the time in which the book was set, the paper was called (still is, in fact) the Wichita Eagle. If there were any other inaccuracies, they didn't catch my eye.

This was an enjoyable book to read, although I didn't become very attached to any of the characters in it. I never felt especially connected to Catherine, which surprised me. I never felt like she needed my sympathy for the life she had now or in her past. It was as if she was comfortable with it, so I didn't need to feel sorry for her or her situation.

This was a book that I received for free from the publisher, Bloomsbury. Winning a copy in no way influenced my review of the book or the author. The opinion expressed in this review is my honest opinion about the book.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Glad I Didn't Pay For This Book

"Under The Wall" by Troy Blackford was my 21st book of 2010. It was given to me by a friend and came with a warning: "Don't get too excited", she said. "The author is obsessed with blood." She was right. This guy might have issues.

The book centers around Leviticus, a housecat who is anything but ordinary. He has the ability to feel the thoughts of those around him. Most of these thoughts don't make any sense to him, being a cat and not understanding the human language. Often, the thoughts pass through him without much attention; they come and go, but he ignores them not realizing it is not normal for a cat to sense these things. When a serial killer begins to stalk his family, however, he picks up on horrific images that he immediately realizes he must act upon.

The author is very descriptive, but excessively so. Scenes seem to go on forever when it just isn't necessary. Blood plays a huge role in this book and is described in every way possible. It got to the point where I was skimming over parts just because I was bored with the endless rambling.

The story was a good one, but it was poorly told. I think this may have made a very good short story. Unfortunately, the author went too far. I got the feeling that the author is the kind of person who talks a lot, just because he likes to hear his own voice. It was annoying. On top of that, there were several typos in the book that stood out like flashing neon signs.

Needless to say, this is not a book I will not be keeping on my bookshelf.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book #20: Cop Turned Cat-Sitter

I just finished reading my twentieth book of the year, "Curiosity Killed The Cat Sitter" by Blaize Clement. It is the first in the Dixie Hemingway cozy mystery series. I chose this book as my second selection for this month's book club discussion on Twitter.

Dixie Hemingway was a deputy in the local sheriff's department when her life was turned upside down. She left her law enforcement career to become a pet sitter and leave her former life behind. On one of her routine assignments checking on a cat whose owner hired Dixie to watch her pet while she was out of town, Dixie discovers a dead body face down in the cat's water dish. All signs point to Dixie as a suspect; she had a key to the house where the body was found, nobody had seen her on her early morning assignments and she was already looked upon as a bit unstable in the community.

Dixie uses her skills she developed in law enforcement to dig deeper into the mystery of the dead man and the missing owner of the cat she is tending to. Her questions come naturally, as does her ability to read people. Soon, she is getting in further than she should, but she can't stop the nagging thoughts about the case until everything finally becomes clear, with a little assistance from the cat.

Throughout the book, Dixie shows compassion for all the animals on her watch, but indicates that she doesn't want one of her own. Because of the recent upheaval in her life, Dixie can't seem to get close to anybody, including a pet. I'm hoping to see that change in future books of the series.

The only thing I really didn't like about the book was how it was wrapped up after the case was solved. There were a lot of loose ends that I had to make assumptions about and I would rather have had some more details about the characters I had gotten to know in the story. Overall, it was a fun mystery and I will check out the next book in the series, "Duplicity Dogged The Dachshund".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Blind Kitty Won My Heart

I just finished "Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat" by Gwen Cooper. This selection was something I had been interested in reading and it happened to come up as one of the selections for a book club I participate in on Twitter, so it became my 19th read of the year.

The title pretty well describes the premise of the book. Ms. Cooper is (for most of the book) a single gal living with three cats. As she moves through life, the cats play a huge role for her. She is able to rely on them to boost her up and keep her moving when times are difficult. They are able to show her things about loving that she wasn't previously aware of. As she is caring for them, they are caring for her too.

There are tons of great anecdotes throughout the book, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, the chapters that moved me the most were the two that centered on her experiences on September 11, 12, and 13, 2001. As I sat reading and crying through these chapters, I felt so connected to the author. I could understand her emotions and her fight to get through those days. It was heart-wrenching. It was also healing for my soul to know this woman existed in the world. A woman who would do anything possible to protect her pets.

Gwen Cooper, I think I love you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Time Travel Never Hurt Anybody

For book #18 of 2010, I chose "Now & Then" by Jacqueline Sheehan. I had previously read another of Ms. Sheehan's books, "Lost & Found" and thoroughly enjoyed it. This book caught my attention because, like the first of her books I read, there was a dog on the cover. Not just any dog, mind you, but an Irish Wolfhound. Being a lover of sight hounds, I picked it up and read the description on the back. Somehow I didn't pick up on the fact that there was time travel involved. All I seemed to notice was the pooch!

In "Now & Then" Anna, a former lawyer and her nephew, Joseph are somehow sucked through time from present day Boston to 1844 Ireland. They arrive separately and fall into very different lives. Anna spends her days trying to find Joseph, trying to understand how she got to where she is and trying to figure out how to get home. In the midst of their travels they each find love but also discover a curse that had been cast on their family all those years ago.

I am not a fan of anything fantasy-like and had I known that the story centered around time travel I probably would not have read it. That being said, I'm very glad that I didn't know what the book was about! I would have missed out on a wonderful story.

Unfortunately, the Irish Wolfhound did not play as big a role in the story as I had thought he would. Since I enjoyed the book so much, I'm willing to overlook that fact!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Looking At Improving Animal's Lives

Book #17 was one that I received from my Twitter friends @BlueberryCat and @KayakGal. They know how much I love animals and shared this book with me. It was "Animals Make Us Human: Creating The Best Life For Animals" by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. I had seen it while browsing at a book store and had considered buying it, but never did. I'm very glad they sent it to me! Coincidentally, the same night I finished the book (Sunday, August 29, 2010) the Temple Grandin documentary won a ton of Emmys!

This is the second book I have read by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. The first one was "Animals In Translation". This book was much easier for me to read. I'm not sure if this book had more of Dr. Johnson's voice in it or if the editing was different, but it is much less "staccato" as I described the first book and flowed much better.

The title, "Animals Make Us Human", is a bit misleading, in my opinion. The focus is not so much on how animals effect us, but how we can improve the lives of animals, whether they are our pets, our food, or under our care for conservation.

My favorite chapters in the book were: A Dog's Life (chapter 2), Cats (chapter 3) and Zoos (chapter 9). Obviously, this is because these are the animals that interest me the most. If you are interested in livestock, poultry, or wildlife, you will find chapters discussing these animals as well.

Dr. Grandin is very scientific, so this is not a warm and fuzzy book. She discusses the "Blue-Ribbon Emotions" and how they determine an animal's behavior. It was very interesting to me to see how humans, dogs and cats came to live together thousands of years ago and what drives our relationships today.

If you're up for a challenging yet educational read, check this book out. You are bound to learn something you didn't know before.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The "Warriors" Series Pleases Again

My 16th book of 2010 is the second in the "Warriors" series. "Fire And Ice" by Erin Hunter picks up where "Warriors: Into The Wild" left off. We are once again following Fireheart, the one time kitty-pet who is now a warrior in ThunderClan. In the second book of the series, he is still trying to prove his loyalty to the Clan, all the while dealing with yearnings for his family.

Fireheart is also dealing with feelings of loneliness because he isn't sure who he can trust within his own clan. He is having vivid dreams with mysterious messages of what is to come in the future. He isn't sure what they mean and doesn't know who he can confide in. Something has come between him and his old friend Graystripe, so he can't even turn to him to discuss his suspicions about one of the other warriors within the Clan. At the same time, Fireheart is developing a new friendship where he least expected it.

Like the first book in the series, "Fire And Ice" is a fast read, but has some very tense moments where the reader is on edge wondering where the story is going to go. The end also leaves the reader wanting to read the next in the series to find out what happens. This is definitely a great series for younger readers, but it's not just a series for kids!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Half Way to My Goal With a Cozy Mystery

I'm finally at the halfway mark! I've picked up the pace since returning from Boston, so I should be on track to get the other 15 books read by the end of the year. Three books a month is a reasonable goal and I've got some good ones lined up!

My most recent read, book #15 for the year, was "The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse" by Leann Sweeney. It is a "cozy mystery" which I was not familiar with, nor was I familiar with the author or her series, "Cats In Trouble" mysteries. I chose this book as part of a book club I came across on Twitter. It was one of three choices for the next meeting and after weighing two of the three titles, I went with this one.

Cozy mysteries are stories that are more lighthearted than other mystery novels. The characters working to solve the mysteries are typically regular people, not detectives, who end up solving the mystery by being persistent. Usually the story is set in a small town and the mystery-solver is a woman.

In this case, Jillian Hart is living in a small town when one of her beloved cats is stolen. Soon, she finds the cat-napper dead in his home. She learns that many cats have gone missing in this little lake town and she is determined to find out what the connection is between the dead man and the missing kitties, despite being dismissed repeatedly by the town's police chief.

The book was fast-paced and had several characters who were looked at as potential suspects. It was fun and interesting trying to figure out who had killed the feline thief and what happened to all of his victims. Jillian and the friends she made along the way were likable characters. She is portrayed as a regular person, kind and bright, who is thrown into an unusual situation and faces it head on.

I really enjoyed how the book flowed and how the story was told by the author. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series to add to my bookshelves.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Want to Laugh Out Loud While Reading? This Will Do the Trick!

I absolutely LOVE the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. My best friend got me started on the series by giving me the first book, "One For The Money", several years ago and I've been hooked ever since. My latest Stephanie Plum read was my 14th book of the year, "High Five", you guessed it, the fifth in the series. I'm pretty sure this one was my favorite so far. All of the books have made me laugh, but this one was especially funny.

Stephanie is on the case of her missing uncle, assigned by her mother and grandmother. Of course, she gets into her usual trouble (How many cars have blown up now? I lose track.) and has her usual romantic issues with Morelli. Finally in "High Five" things get a little hotter between her and Ranger. I've been waiting for this for four books now!! The cliff-hanger at the end was groan-inducing for me: who does she invite over for a night of passion? Morelli? Ranger? Someone new? I can't wait to get my hands on number six to find out!

A couple of scenes that had me cracking up were Grandma Mazur testing Stephanie's stun gun and Stephanie and Lula trying to apprehend a particularly feisty "Failure to Appear." If that doesn't tempt you, I don't know what will!

In light of the fact that a Stephanie Plum movie is in the works, I recommend starting this series before the movie comes out if you haven't already. In my opinion, movies are usually lacking something that the book had. I'm anxious to see who will be playing Ranger and Lula in the movie, because they are the characters that I have the clearest picture of in my mind. I plan on watching the movie as soon as it comes out and hope they do the books justice.

Book #14 for the year was a blast! How is your reading going for the year?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Romance Is In The Air with Book #13

The book I read right before leaving for vacation was "Manhunt" by Janet Evanovich. I don't typically read romance novels, but this was a gift from a friend who knows I enjoy Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I have put off reading it, but I needed a quick, light read to squeeze in before I went on vacation. This was the perfect choice.

**********SPOILER ALERT**********

Like most romance novels, the plot was pretty predictable. Alexandra (Alex) Scott moves to Alaska to find a husband. Her new neighbor is the hunky Michael Casey (Casey). They are attracted to each other, don't want to fall for each other, then, before you know it, they're in love. No surprises here.

The author was very vague in the descriptions of the sex scenes, so no need to worry about reading semi-porn with this book. It was fun and fast to read. As long as you realize what you're in for with this book, it's pretty good. In fact, I think I'll pick up some of her other romance novels to have on hand when I need a little break from some of my more intense reads.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book #12: A Not-So-Cuddly Pet

My twelfth book of 2010 was "Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me" by Jenny Gardiner. The title of this book is a little misleading, though. Although there are several chapters that focus on Graycie, the African Gray parrot that the Gardiner family lives with, this book is really about Jenny Gardiner's entire family and the ups and downs that come along with three kids and more than a handful of pets.

There are many stories told-some funny, some touching-most of which make me think this woman is a glutton for punishment! She and her family seem to take everything in stride though. She never takes her commitments lightly and she is able to admit her mistakes, sometimes wondering if she has added to the problems unintentionally.

The book was a quick, light read that I found quite enjoyable. I'm not a person who would ever own a bird (they kind of freak me out) but it was interesting to observe this creature from the outside. Even if you're not a "bird person", this is a fun book to read. Big thanks once again to my Twitter friends @BlueberryCat and @KayakGal for sending me this book!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Very Useful Travel Guide

My eleventh book for the year was a travel guide for an upcoming trip. The book is "Boston" from Eyewitness Travel with the main contributors being Tom Bross, Patricia Harris and David Lyon.

This was a very different travel guide than what I am used to reading. I buy a new one before every trip we take to Boston, hoping to find some gem inside that we have yet to discover. This book gave me several new ideas, plus a great layout that was easy to read and understand where everything is located.

First off, this was a very visual book. It is color-coded by area of town, with the city broken down into five sections. Each section has a short blurb about it, then is followed by a street-by-street guide. This section has an illustration of an interesting part of that section, complete with streets, buildings and landmarks. Following that is a listing of sights in that section of town. This includes information about the sights, location, nearby public transportation, hours and web addresses where applicable. Also, the major sights have dedicated pages with detailed illustrations and points of interest within the sights themselves. There is a section titled "Farther Afield" that does the same thing for towns outside of the city of Boston, but within a reasonable distance that you could visit while vacationing in Boston.

There is a section that describes three possible walks you can take in the Boston area. One of these walks is along the Freedom Trail, which is generally covered in Boston travel guides. There are two other walks described that are different from anything I have read about or done while I was in Boston. One is a walk on the MIT Campus and the other is a walk in South Boston. All of the walks are mapped out with important sights pointed out that you can visit along the way.

There are, of course, sections that briefly cover Boston's history and that give basic travel information. The "Travelers' Needs" section was quite helpful for me. It lists hotels, shopping and entertainment activities as you would expect. The list of restaurants was particularly good, I thought. There were several places listed (by section) that I have not been to that I have made note of to try when I am there. The descriptions are very thorough, yet succinct.

At the end of the book is a "Survival Guide" which seems to be directed toward foreign visitors. It covers health care, safety, currency and communications.

I felt that this book and its visual qualities would be more helpful to me than other travel guides. In fact, while reading it I discovered that in one particular part of town my directions have always been turned around. It is also thinner than other guides I have purchased in the past and the pages, instead of being paper, have a laminated feel to them, making the book better to stuff in a bag while I'm on the go.

I will definitely be taking this book with me on my trip and using it throughout my stay.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Something More Scientific

My tenth book of the year was "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior" by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. This was a book sent to me by my Twitter friend @BlueberryCat, who knows I am an animal lover.

"Animals in Translation" looks at the similarities between animals and autistic people. Temple Grandin is able to give examples of how her life with autism parallels certain animal behavior. She has many interesting theories based on her observances, however I'm not sure if I can completely believe in everything she says until studies have been conducted backing her up. She has clearly done extensive research in the field of animal behavior and has had much success. She has worked with other scientists and the book has a very thorough bibliography. There are also footnotes throughout the book citing her various sources. I believe her to be very well educated and think that even if some of her theories prove to be wrong, the time she puts into study of them will be quite beneficial.

One thing I must note about the book is that even though there is a co-author, Catherine Johnson, the book seems very much to be written with Temple Grandin's voice. That being said, it can be very "staccato". Also, she can go from using very technical, scientific terms right to using elementary phrases to describe an animal or its behavior. I found this to be a bit jarring as I was reading; it seemed to interrupt the flow of the text when it happened.

The book focuses primarily on livestock rather than house pets, so be aware of that if you are hoping for some insight regarding your kitty cat. That is not where the author's specialty lies and she doesn't try to pretend that it does. I did take exception to her discussion of certain types of dog breeds. I think she focused a bit much on Rottweilers, among others, and their "aggressive nature". I am a big believer that most of the time, with the proper training, these breeds of dogs can be trusted completely. This is where she and I disagree.

It took me quite a long while to finish this book. It was slow reading and could be quite repetitive. I also felt at times she went off on tangents by telling a story that didn't quite pertain at the moment. I had been wanting to read Temple Grandin's books because I find her to be very fascinating. This was the first one I read and will not be the last. However, I will go into the next one understanding that there will be little entertainment value and I may have to struggle through it like I did this one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Catwalk: A Feline Odyssey-Book #9 for 2010

This was another book that I read as part of the book club I am part of on Facebook. I must say, it was infinitely better than the other one I read! I enjoyed reading it and looked forward to continuing the story every time I had to put it down.

It is "Catwalk: A Feline Odyssey" by Kathie Freeman. The book is her first published work and had been the book I voted for every month since joining the club. It is a story about a cat who wanders around, moving from home to homeless and back to home again. We see the cat go through many changes as she grows and matures. She receives several different names from the numerous people she encounters along the way and always appreciates the kindness bestowed upon her.

The book is self-published by the author, but don't let that turn you off. Although you may find errors in the printing and the cover is a little plain, it is a wonderful story and well worth picking up. I hope that Ms. Freeman continues to write because she seems to be an expert story teller.

I highly recommend this book to young adults and cat lovers. It was a pleasant reminder that unknown authors deserve to be noticed. Give this book a chance and spread the word, I think you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Magical, Idiotic 2004 Red Sox Season

Book number 8 was "Now I Can Die In Peace: How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox" by Bill Simmons. This book is a reprinting of articles the author wrote, with the addition of footnotes that sometimes explain a reference or express his feelings about writing a particular segment. It was worth reading for two reasons: 1) It's about the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series after an 86 year drought in 2004 and 2)It's incredibly humorous.

If you're a Red Sox fan, you know the story of 2004 and what led up to it. The book goes back over the details starting in October 1998. It was fun to look back and remember the instances Bill Simmons is writing about. It felt wonderful to remember Pedro as the guy that was a guaranteed win, Nomar as the guy you could count on to hit and El Guapo for being known as El Guapo. It was reassuring to read that I wasn't the only person who called Everett "Crazy Carl" or that I thought no city Clemens played for really respected him after he turned his back on them. It's also great to read about the things I didn't know about or couldn't understand since I'm a long-distance Red Sox fan and don't get the daily barrage of the Boston media scene.

The humor is not just in how Mr. Simmons writes about the team, but the references he adds to his articles. He mentions Rocky IV, the New England Patriots, old Italian superstitions, and of course, Shawshank Redemption. And it makes complete sense when he does it!

He is also able to capture the pain of being a Red Sox fan. He describes the heart-wrenching 1986 World Series from the perspective of a kid. He brought back painful memories of Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS. For me, it was like it was happening all over again: How could Grady leave Pedro in there?? Then the Aaron Boone homerun off of Wakefield. It played in my mind so easily as I read about it and it hurt just as much as it did back then.

Mr. Simmons is definitely a regular "sports guy" and it creates a natural connection with the reader. It was like he was talking to me, telling me the stories of how everything happened and how he felt about it as it occurred. I never felt talked down to or that he was claiming to be an "expert". He is simple a fan, just like me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My New Favorite Book-#7 for the Year

This is honestly my new all-time favorite book. It is "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. When I bought the book, I was drawn to it simply because I thought it was about a dog. It was about so much more than that!

Enzo, the dog, tells the story from his point of view looking back over his life. He lives with Denny, a race car driver who adopted him when he was a puppy, Denny's wife Eve and their daughter Zoe. Enzo longs to be a human and knows that in his next life, he will be reincarnated as a man. He studies as much as he can in this life by watching TV and listening intently to Denny's stories, hoping to take what he has learned into his next life, when he will finally have opposable thumbs!

The story itself is a tear jerker at times (I was crying on page four), but always wonderful. More than that, however, is that the book is wonderfully written. In fact, many times while reading I noted to myself that I wish I was able to write the way Garth Stein can. I know nothing about auto racing and never cared to, for that matter. Mr. Stein writes about it so perfectly that I can imagine exactly what it is like: I can see the driver in the car, I can smell the rubber when the tires get hot, I can sense how the driver is feeling and I can feel the rush of air as the car goes whizzing past. At one point, Denny takes Enzo for a ride on the track. He instructs Enzo to bark twice if he wants to go faster. I was able to feel Enzo's exhilaration at taking the turns at speed. I felt the same desire to go one more lap with them.

Enzo watches as Denny moves through life, whether he is enduring hardships or experiencing great happiness. Enzo takes it all in, then tells us what happened and what his take is on it all. He is a brilliant dog with deep love and loyalty to his family, especially Denny. He yearns to be able to talk, to tell what he knows, but he can't. He has to wait until his next life. He learns, of course, that as much as he wants to be human, being a dog is pretty wonderful too.

The ending didn't happen quite as I expected it to, but it was better than I expected. Thank you Mr. Stein for that bitter-sweet surprise. This is going to be the one book that I tell everybody about and the one book that I grab if my house ever catches fire.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book #6 Proves that Girl Cops Rock!

My sixth book of the year was "History in Blue: 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers" by Allan T. Duffin. I was not aware of the book (it was just published this year) but some good friends of mine on Twitter, @blueberrycat and @kayakgal, know that I am in law enforcement and that I enjoy reading, so they sent me a copy of the book. A big thank you to them for being so thoughtful and kind!!

The book was very enjoyable. It starts in the mid-1800s with women working as prison matrons and follows all of the transitions that women made in the law enforcement field working as police matrons, in special units as protectors of women & children, as meter maids, and finally as full-fledged, weapon-carrying police officers. There is not only the history of the female cop, but there are wonderful anecdotes as well. The stories told by these women and their colleagues come from all across the United States and cover all levels of law enforcement. It shows the progression of women fighting for equal chances to be hired as a patrol officer, on up to women being appointed chiefs of police.

Reading this book made me appreciate what the female law enforcement officers before me had to do to get where they did. For me, there was no struggle at all. I have been very fortunate in my job. I have not experienced any sort of discrimination because of my gender; neither from the other law enforcement officers I work with nor the public I deal with on a regular basis. I can thank all of these brave women, from as far back as 160 years ago. Because of them, I am allowed to have a career that is seen as a "man's job" and can continue to prove that it is a "woman's job" too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Finally! A Book I Love!

After two really crappy reads, I got to read a book that was fun and entertaining. Book number five was "Warriors: Into the Wild" by Erin Hunter. This is the first in a series of books about clans of cats living in the forest. It tells the story of Thunderclan cats and their interactions with rival clans, Windclan, Shadowclan and Riverclan.

Rusty, a kittypet, leaves his Twolegplace to join Thunderclan. He begins as a warrior apprentice and struggles with not only his training, but the doubt the other cats have about him not having warrior blood in him. He is a brave and thoughtful cat who wants to prove himself.

There are many characters to keep track of, but it didn't bog down my reading. There was a handy guide at the beginning of the book describing the different cats, their roles in the clan and different places in the forest, including maps.

This is a young reader's series, which makes it an easy read. It is not, however, without tension. There are some battles described in the book that end sadly and really draw you in. The end of the book wraps up part of the plot, but also contains a cliffhanger. I can't wait to get the second book in the series to see what happens to one of the young apprentice cats in Thunderclan.

If you're looking for something quick and easy, but not just fluff, give it a try!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Save Me from This Reading Hell

I purchased Book #4, "Holy Autism" by Daniel Forant, specifically for a book club I am part of. The group votes monthly for a reading selection. The books are put up for voting by their authors. The book with the most votes has a discussion, led by the author. The books are by first-time authors only. This being said, you can't expect to have great literature, but you would expect a good solid try by an author who is confident enough in his or her work to put it out there for us to critique.

The premise of the book is about a woman, Anna, whose autistic daughter Hellen, has been kidnapped because of some kind of secret only she understands regarding Christ and the Church.

What's the secret? I still don't know. The book was impossible to follow. Characters weren't developed, dialogue was confusing and I never knew who was speaking.

The reader is never told who kidnapped Hellen or what her experiences were while she was held captive. Anna is accompanied by a man, Adam, but their relationship is never described and we are not given any background information on either one of them. I never knew why they were in the places they were or how they got there. I never understood how they were connected to the other characters in the book or how they met them.

All in all, the book was horrible. Why did I read it, you might be wondering? Because I felt a responsibility to the group and to the author. I had not voted for it, but it was that month's selection and it was the first book selected since I had joined the group. I wanted to jump right in. Interestingly enough, the day before the scheduled discussion, the author himself pulled out of the discussion, then left the group. The group was left confused by his message and had no one to lead, so the discussion never took place. Officially that is. A few of us had some things to say and created our own discussion.

It was the common assumption that the author knew his work was completely worthless and didn't want to face the criticism. Whether that is the case or not, I for one felt jerked around. I bought his book, struggled through it and tried my best to find something constructive to say in support of him. Then he left the group in a lurch.

In no way do I hold the group responsible. The woman who moderates the group was very shocked by the author's actions and sent a very personal and thoughtful message to the group members. I will try to join them once again for a discussion in the future. However, at this point, I need to read something light and fun. My last two books have been miserable!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book #3 Was A Big Disappointment!

My third book of the year was "The Poe Shadow" by Matthew Pearl. To sum up how I felt about this book: UGH. What a let-down!

I read Pearl's other two books, "The Dante Club" and "The Last Dickens" and loved both of them. This fell into the same category as the others, a historical novel, so I figured I would love this one as well. Boy, was I wrong!

"The Poe Shadow" talks of the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe and his fan, Quentin Clark, who is determined to find out what really happened to his favorite author and to protect Poe's already tarnished reputation. (Sounds cool, right?)

As it turns out, Clark is not a very likable character. He is obsessed with Poe's death and doesn't seem to care about anything else in his life. He ignores his work as a lawyer and neglects the girl he is engaged to marry without much turmoil. If he had in fact felt guilty about the people he turned his back on in real life while he was out chasing ghosts, I would have been much more sympathetic. Instead, I had a very hard time feeling sorry for him when all of his troubles came to a climax.

The book was repetitive, which did not help in trying to trudge through it. I did not need to read entire paragraphs over again, however, I was subjected to just that! Because it was so slow moving, I would go days without picking it up. I almost convinced myself, when I was not yet halfway through the book, to just give up on it. What kept me going was the curiosity of how Pearl would play out the circumstances of Poe's death and what a possible answer was to this nearly century and a half old mystery.

I'm not sure it was worth it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book #2-Some Red Sox Love!

My second book of 2010 was "Deep Drive" by Mike Lowell, 3rd baseman for the Boston Red Sox. This was actually Lee's book. I had bought it for him last year because Lowell is his favorite player. After he finished it, he gave it to me, proclaiming it a great book that I had to read. Well, it sat on my bookshelf in Wichita, moved to KC with me and sat on my bookshelf here. I added it to my "to read" list on and told myself I would read it before the start of Spring Training. With the weather being as horrendous as it has been, I knew I needed something to make me think "warm" thoughts and what better way than to read a baseball book? I dove right in with high hopes.

Here is how I reviewed it on
If you're a Red Sox fan, this is a book you should read. It's not the best book in the world but it's a great way to get a little more in-depth look at Mike Lowell. Unfortunately, the book didn't flow well. It can be hard to follow because it jumps around chronologically. I would have loved to have seen more stories from the clubhouse, too. There was one tedious detail that really bothered me. It concerns two instances where Lowell was discussing Dustin Pedroia. I've wondered for quite a while just how tall Pedroia is and I thought Lowell had told me. Early on, Lowell says Pedroia is five foot six. Later he says five foot seven. What bothers me is that this discrepancy wasn't caught somewhere in the editing process. If you can overlook this type of error and deal with the switching of the seasons throughout the chapters, give it a go. Mike Lowell is definitely a player who faces his challenges head on.

Now, I didn't go into this thinking I would be reading a fine piece of literature. I just wanted baseball stories. That is exactly what I got. Like I said in the review, if you're a Red Sox fan, read it. You probably already know a lot of what is covered in the book, but you'll get more details about those topics. I was also very interested by his family's departure from Cuba and all that led up to it. If these are the types of things you expect from the book, you won't be let down.

Monday, January 4, 2010

One book down, 29 more to go!

I finished my first book of 2010 in just 3 days. Which, for me, is awesome. I can get so easily distracted by the other things that I "need" to do, I find it hard to stay focused on reading for a long period of time. This book made it easy though.

Book #1 of 2010 was While I Was Gone by Sue Miller. I have had this book for probably 10 years and had just never read it. It's been so long since I bought it that I couldn't even remember what the premise of the book was! It was, I quickly found, a wonderful surprise. It read quickly and easily. It kept me enthralled and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

While I Was Gone is about a middle-aged woman, Joey, and the obsession that she develops when a friend from her past re-enters her life. The friend loosens many old memories from the recesses of her mind. Some of the memories are warm, memories about a time in her life when she was freer. Other memories were disturbing, like the death of her roommate that brought that time in her life to an end.

The book delves into the relationships she has with different people in her life; relationships with her husband, children, coworkers and friends. It also explores how Joey feels about her life now, her conflicting feelings of contentedness versus her feelings of disconnect.

I would absolutely recommend this book to my friends. If you have read it already, let me know how you felt about it as well. Just remember to add a spoiler alert if you are going to reveal anything!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Reading Goal

I'm not one to make resolutions, but I was very recently inspired by a person I follow on Twitter, @mamajoan. She mentioned that by the end of 2009, she would have read 43 books that year. "Wow," I thought. "She really loves to read and must make time for it." That's my problem. I don't make reading a priority like I used to. That, however, is going to change this year.

I decided to see how many books I could read in 2010. I soon realized that I was not really challenging myself at all by saying that. Would I get to December 31, 2010 and only have read 5 books? Then what? I would have seen the goal as a complete failure. I knew I had to set a number to read and hold myself accountable for it. At first I thought 20 books sounded reasonable, but I really want to push myself. So the official goal is to read 30 books in 2010. Along with that, I will add a goal of writing 30 blog posts. One to review each book I have read.

Another of my Twitter friends, @paulrharvey3, had mentioned a website,, so I checked it out. It's a pretty cool site that allows you to keep track of books you are reading, books you have already read and books you want to read. You can search for books and read reviews from other readers. I'm going to use this site to help track my reading through the year. If you want to follow along on that site, I'm BoSoxAmy there as well.

Now, not all of what I will read this year will be challenging. I like to alternate what I read, so don't be surprised if what I have read is complete fluff. I think it's nice to stick in a quick, easy read after I have read something substantial or emotionally draining. It's fun to read something silly now and then!

Feel free to send recommendations for books or to add your own reviews if we happen to read the same thing. I'd love to have friends join me on this journey!