No BEA? Books Anyway & Some Snacks

Devourer of Books is encouraging book buying (as if we need encouragement! lol) with her "No BEA? Books Anyway!" plan. The idea is to buy books from any source this weekend then tell her about it.

Today was my library's used book sale and although I didn't think it was good as some other times, I still bought books. No surprise there. I came home with Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay, The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie, The Manticore by Roberson Davies and The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark (I have no idea about this one but wanted to get something really out there).

So tonight is the BEA Twitty Party and parties need food, right? We could all be fancy and have lobster ...

some wine...

we need a little dessert...

and some coffee.

Nom, nom, nom. Feeling full yet? Hope you enjoy the Twitty Party tonight!

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: Review

If you've seen the epic movie, you probably think Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is a love story. That's not quite true. Although there is a love story, it's mostly a man's love for his country.

A member of the gentry, Yuri Zhivago is orphaned after his mother dies and his millionaire father commits suicide. He ends up living with his aunt Anna and her family including his cousin Tonya. Yuri and Tonya eventually marry and though he loves her very much, circumstances soon part them. Yuri is conscripted into the Great War where he meets the enigmatic Lara.

Lara is no stranger to Yuri. He has seen her a few times throughout his childhood under odd conditions. Lara has had a difficult life. As a young girl she fell under the influence of a lawyer who used her. Lara never got over it. She marries Pasha, a boy who adores her, and they move to the country to become schoolteachers. When the war starts, Pasha leaves Lara to join the army. She becomes a nurse in an effort to find him. Unbeknownst to Lara Pasha is now a revolutionary leader.

When Yuri is reunited with Tonya, the Revolution is upon them. With conditions in Moscow disintegrating, Yuri and Tonya run to the country near the town where Lara is now living. Yuri and Lara meet again and have an affair, until Yuri is forced to join the revolution. When he finally escapes, he finds Lara but no Tonya. Tonya, heartbroken by Yuri's disappearance, has fled to Paris. Yuri is a wanted man and decides to spend his last days with Lara but fate has other plans.

Believe it or not, that is a simplified synopsis of Doctor Zhivago. There are dozens of characters that Yuri interacts with and each has their own story. Throughout the book Yuri meets these people over and over again. Some will help him, some wish to do him harm. It's a complicated book that took me ages to read but I think it was worth it.

Not only is the language a difficulty in reading Dr Z but the history of the Russian Revolution is overwhelming. It was hard to keep track of who was doing what. There is a real sense of civilization breaking down. No one trusts anyone else, people drop everything to go into hiding. Families are separated, people 'disappear'. All is chaos. At one point, Yuri is walking to Moscow and all around him the fields are abandoned and teeming with mice. The forest is a refuge. He believes that the fields are the Devil and God is the forest, like humanity has gone back to primitive times.

The book is dripping with symbolism and even though most of it goes over my head, I do believe that the women in Yuri's life represent Russia. Tonya: tradition and stability, the old Russia; Lara: the Revolution, Russia in transition, she loves both a revolutionary and a gentleman; Marina: new Russia, a peasant, Yuri is resigned to her but doesn't really love her. In fact, Yuri's attitude changes throughout the novel. At first, he embraces the changes but at the end he sees the hypocrisy and it destroys him. He gives up but he never leaves his country.

Like I said, the language is a barrier at times. People tend to trail off as they are speaking or fly off the handle for no reason. However, it has some of the most lyrical language I've ever read. It felt like a Russian fairytale. Here is my favorite passage when Yuri and Lara are about to run for their lives. Yuri says to her:

"We'll speak to one another once again the secret words we speak at night, great and peaceful like the name of the eastern ocean. It's not for nothing that you stand at the end of my life, my secret forbidding angel, under the skies of wars and turmoil, you arose at its beginning under the peaceful skies of childhood."

*Sigh* It was passages like that that kept me going, through the horror and depressing scenes. It's not a happy book but it is worth reading.

Hesitatingly recommended

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: Review

A discovery in the abandoned Panama Hotel in Seattle sparks the memories of Henry Lee, a man who recently lost his wife to cancer. She is not his first love though. The hotel hid the possessions of Japanese Americans sent to interment camps during World War II, including the belonging of a beautiful girl named Keiko.

Henry, a Chinese American, and Keiko were the only children of Asian descent at the distinguished Rainer Elementary School. The twelve year olds were bullied mercilessly by an older boy, Chaz Preston. Finding that there's safety in numbers, Henry and Keiko stick close together to avoid getting beaten up. At first, Henry is hesitant to become friends with Keiko. His father hates the Japanese with a passion and teaches Henry to see them as the enemy. Henry soon learns that Keiko is as American as apple pie and even loves jazz as much as he does.

As the war progresses, Henry and Keiko's friendship grows until she and her family are taken away. Henry defies his father and with the help of the lunch lady, Mrs Beatty, gets a job as a cook at the camp where Keiko is interred. Time is running out for this budding romance as Keiko's family is to be moved to a more permanent location far from Henry. They make a promise to be together no matter how long it takes, but due to time and circumstances, it never happens.

Henry goes on to have a happy life with his wife Ethel and their son Marty, until her death. His relationship with his son becomes strained while his wife was ill and he is shocked to learn that his son sees him as a man much like his own father. If he only knew, why the old jazz album hidden in the basement of the Panama Hotel is so important to Henry.

I had my ups and downs with Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. It was a bit like learning to drive stick. A smooth start, a jerk and a stall, and then you get the hang of it. Just when I got into it, I lost interest only to find it again later. I'm not sure if it was the jump from the 40's to the 80's or more about style of the writing. I also wondered about Henry and Keiko's age. At 12, I had no interest in boys so I can't image falling madly in love enough to make promises of devotion. I wonder why Ford chose that particular age. I'm sure he has his reasons.

The story itself is quite interesting once I got past those issues. Hotel takes a personal look at what the Japanese Americans went through during the war. Image having your home taken from you, having to either hide or sell all your possessions, having to prove your patriotism over and over again, and leave your life behind not knowing if you'd ever be back again, just because of your ancestry. Although Henry is fictional, the Panama Hotel is not. It is a physical reminder of the suffering of these families during a terrible period of history.

I liked quite a few of the characters especially Sheldon the sax player and Mrs Beatty (she was a surprise). They had a depth to them. Keiko was a darling. I liked older Henry more than younger Henry. I guess he aged well. I also thought the story ended right where it should. Very nice.

Despite a few iffy spots, I recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

This book provided as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour. Thanks!

What's On TV, Or How Will I Survive Without Lost?

Last night I caught the end of Jon & Kate Plus 8 (Or Jon Minus 9) on TLC. I was a big fan of the show at the beginning when they were a normal family doing normal stuff. Now they are celebrities and all their dirty laundry is out there for us to see. I found it very awkward. Neither one made eye contact and I felt sad for the kids. There is a lot of forced cheerfulness. Plus, they seem to be getting even further away from reality. I saw Emeril Lagasse in a promo for a future show. Doesn't everyone have Emeril over for dinner? Time to put a fork in this one and get their lives back to normal. I think I'm going to pass on this one.

Wednesday is the return of Wipeout on ABC! Yeah, this is my guilty pleasure. When I first heard about it I thought "Who is going to watch that?" After the first show, I was hooked. There is just something about people falling off big balls. I really think the commentators make the show. They are so funny. I hope those guys return for this season.

So, how about you? Any shows you're watching that you think I should be?

Frederica by Georgette Heyer: Review

Lord Alverstoke has too many relatives who want too many things from him. His sister believes it's his duty to foot the bill for his niece's coming-out...and provide a ball for her! His cousin, though less conniving, thinks he should have a ball for her daughter. He doesn't want to host a ball for either. His relatives are just so boring. The last thing he needs is more of them.

Out of the blue, a country cousin arrives. The enterprising Frederica is the head of her family- 2 teenaged brothers and a breathtakingly beautiful sister. Frederica is determined to find a husband for the girl who is too pretty for a country bumpkin. The problem is she has no one to put her sister forward in society. Alverstoke, though a distant relative, seems like just the man for the job.

At first, he hesitates but it would be a great way to give his sister her comeuppance by having this beautiful girl outshine her daughter at her own ball. Plus, there is something about Frederica herself, a certain twinkle in her eye. She is only passably pretty and 'on the shelf' but he never feels bored when he's around her.

Georgette Heyer cooks up romance between two people determined not to get married in Frederica. Lord Alverstoke is rakish. Frederica only wants a brilliant marriage for her bubbleheaded sister and then retire herself. Still, she has a certain charm for Alverstoke. I thinks it's Frederica's lack of reserve. She doesn't have to play the marriage game. Being a very eligible bachelor, he's used to women trying all kinds of tricks. The old adage of 'be yourself' seems to apply here.

Although the relationship between them is an important part of the story, I enjoyed the Frederica's brothers' (and Luftra the dog) shenanigans. Frederica's family is important to her and bringing Alverstoke into that circle is a big deal. Seeing a normal, if rambunctious, family shows him that not all families are as selfish has his own.

I liked Frederica a lot, especially the banter between Frederica and Alverstone, but not as much as The Talisman Ring. I think it might be that I found it a little long. However, it is still a fun book.


Thanks to Sourcebooks for the copy.

Weekly Geeks: #18: Local Talent

Although this week's Weekly Geek tells us to "take us on a literary tour of your hometown", I'm going to make it a whole island. Cape Breton is my island and does have a few interesting literary facts.

*Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick in February 2002. It is set mostly on Cape Breton Island in the 1920's. Oprah called CB "an exotic island" which made me laugh.

*The film Margaret's Museum starring Helena Bonham Carter is based on Sheldon Currie's novel Glace Bay Miner's Museum. It was also filmed here. Both are about a woman who has a mental breakdown after many of the men in her family die in the coal mine. Happy, happy stuff!

*My old high school nemesis Alistair MacLeod- well, just his book which we were forced to read The Lost Salt Gift of Blood- also wrote No Great Mischief. Most of his stories are set on Cape Breton Island.

*Author Farley Mowat spends his summers somewhere on the island. He wrote Never Cry Wolf which also became a movie.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver: Review

When I first decided to start reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I was curious but pretty sure it wouldn't be helpful to me. I figured if I had done a year of only eating what I grew myself, I'd surely die. Nothing grows here in February, unless you count icicles. So, it's fair to say, I had a few preconceptions.

First of all, Kingsolver didn't rely on herself alone. She bought much of what her family ate from local farmers. She also prepared her family for this experiment of eating only what they could find locally well in advance. It wasn't a spur of the moment thing. Plus, she must have had a really, really big freezer, since she froze a lot of food for the winter months. No one ran around eating bark. It might not be convenient but it is doable. In fact, it is because we've become slaves to convenience that this adventure began.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is Kingsolver's account of how her family decided to eat local produce and meat for one year. The family moved to Virginia from Arizona for ecological as well as personal reasons. Already accomplished gardeners, moving to a farm with acreage provided the perfect environment for not just growing vegetables but raising chickens and turkeys as well. They also spent a lot of time at their local farmers' market and made friends with the farmers who sold them what they couldn't grow themselves.

I found this book both intriguing and educational. Not only does Kingsolver give us the highs and lows of her year but provides some rather shocking information on modern agricultural practices. Grocery shopping yesterday was a different animal than before I read it! Not to mention, I noticed how far most vegetables had to travel to get here. We've become so accustomed to eating what we want when we want it that we give no thought to where or how our food was raised or grown. In the last few years, I've noticed recalls on things like strawberries, spinach and tomatoes. Who would think that making a salad might kill you?! She has a point about taste too; a pale grocery store February strawberry is nothing compared to a juicy red one out of the field in July especially one still warm from the sun where you've picked it. There are so many things I look forward to throughout the year: local strawberries, wild blueberries, and Honeycrisp apples. These treats can't compare to grocery store fare and they only come once a year.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle wasn't preachy. What I got from the book was that this was a choice she made for her family and the reader has to make his or her own decisions. She just encourages us to know what we eat and where it comes from. She also encourages us to support our local farmers as part of being good neighbours. If the crowd at my local farmers' market is any indication, then we are quite neighbourly here! Our famers' market has vendor's selling everything from baked goods, produce, meat and fish to fair trade coffee. People hang out and talk to one another. Instead of piped in Musak there is a live fiddler. It's a different experience than the grocery store.

Kingsolver is an award winning novelist which shows in the writing. I felt like she was telling me a story about her year not just reading non-fiction. The educational pieces were woven in seamlessly. I also enjoyed her husband Steven Hopp's essays and her daughter Camille's recipes and commentary. It all came together nicely. At times, it was touching and often funny. (The zucchini adventure had me laughing. Zucchini was the only thing my Dad grew well and it takes over everything. We had summers up to our ears in the stuff!)

For myself, I don't think my neighbours would appreciate poultry in my backyard but I do have enough room for a vegetable garden. Hopefully a few peas, carrots and tomatoes will manage to survive under my care.

This is my raised bed garden. My husband made it for me from cedar. I have thyme and parsley planted already. I just sowed in lettuce. Tomato plants are in pots in the back: Big Red, Carolina Gold and Window Box Roma.
The rest of my seeds are growing in my mini-greenhouse. Here are some peas.

Obviously, I recommend the book, though it might not be for vegetarians. A good companion for Animal Vegetable Miracle would be Marjorie Harris's Ecological Gardening: Your Path to a Healthy Garden. Read for The Eco Reading Challenge.

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer: Review

Lord Lavenham has his great-nephew Tristam and granddaughter Eustacie agree to marry just before he dies. Neither one has any interest in the other. As Eustacie puts it, it is a mariage de convenance. Eustacie can't stand the idea of marrying stogy old Tristam, afterall he's 31! And no fun at all. She wants to have grand adventures like her escape from the guillotine (sort of) and marry someone romantic. She runs off in the middle of the night.

Eustacie doesn't get far. She has a run in with a group of smugglers who happen to be lead by her disgraced cousin Ludovic. He is the most romantic cousin she has, having been accused of murder. She is determined to find the real killer and clear Ludovic's name. Before she can hatch a plan, Ludovic gets injured and Eustacie finds refuge for them at a local inn.

Sarah Thane is a young woman travelling with her brother when she finds Ludovic bleeding in the inn's drawing room. Eustacie lets her in on their troubles and since she's looking for an adventure herself, agrees to help. In the meantime, Tristam has tracked Eustacie down and is surprised to find Ludovic there. As it seems that Ludovic's determined to get his good name back, Tristam sees no other course than to help him find the one thing that can clear him: his lost Talisman Ring. The four end up embroiled in an adventure that will lead them to into danger... and romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. Can I say it was delightful? Okay, it was delightful. It had action and adventure. Two heroines and heroes for the price of one. It was funny and well written.

As for the characters, they all had their own little quirks and I liked them all. Eustacie is young and naive. She doesn't think ahead, just makes it up as she goes along. She's obviously read too many romance novels and thinks things will end happily ever after (and of course they will!). I wasn't sure if I was going to like Tristam but he won me over. He's definitely the straight man in this crew. Ludovic is the perfect match to Eustacie: young and reckless. He might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer though. Finally, Sarah is my favorite. She is so funny. At times I didn't know if she was serious or joking! I liked the repartee between her and Tristam. The only character I didn't like was Sir Hugh, Sarah's brother. I found his cluelessness tiresome.

Even though there is action, no one ever takes the danger very seriously and neither did I. There are shoot-outs, B&Es, fist fights and other manly things. The women are either look outs or working espionage. Lots of fun!

Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for the copy.

101 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet Before You're 12! by Joanne O'Sullivan: Review

Okay, admittedly, I'm way past 12, but that doesn't mean I should stop trying to help the planet, does it? I did read much of 101 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet Before You're 12! by Joanne O'Sullivan with my daughter who is under 12 so maybe that counts.

The tips in 101 Ways are easy to follow with lots of online resources if you or your child wants more information. It's easy to read with most tips only 1 or 2 pages long. Bright colours and photography add interest to the text.

My daughter enjoyed reading it with me. She asked questions and made comments about the book. She seemed quite interested. One of the things she took to was a tip about vermicomposting (using worms to compost kitchen refuse). So much so that she brought me home a bucket of worms from school. For a girlie-girl she doesn't have an qualms about handling bugs. After I screeched and said, "not in the house!" she made a home for them under the deck.

I'm much more inclined to make a rainbarrel. There is a page for that with a url for a website on how to make one. That's one of my spring projects.

This is a fun book for kids (and adults) with a curiosity for environmentalism.


This is my first book for the Eco Reading Challenge!

Eco Reading Challenge: Update

With the encouragement of Courtney (thanks Court) I started a group for the Eco Reading Challenge on the One Million Acts of Green website.

Here you can record your acts of green which range from turning your thermostat down to installing a wind turbine and everything in between. You can sign up to record your acts and then join the Eco Reading Challenge group. Feel free to add all your acts of green. If you are not doing the Eco Reading Challenge, don't feel shy. Anyone who visits book-a-rama please feel free to join the group and add your acts of green. It all adds up!You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by signing up through this link.


Remember when I said I'd make some Tawashis to give away to one participant and the end of the challenge. Here they are:

Don't forget to add your reviews to the Eco Reading Challenge Review blog.

Weekly Geeks: #17

This week's Weekly Geeks asks about readers bookmarks.

I try to use actual bookmarks, but I tend to lose them. I'll grab anything handy. I do have a few though. I'll show you some of the best.

From left to right:

*Classics Club Bookmark. My online book club reads classic books according to a schedule. A few members have been creating bookmarks with the schedule printed on them since we started about 5 years ago. This one was created by VP Marion for The Age of Innocence. Didn't she do a great job?

*Eiffel Tower Bookmarks (I have a set of these) from KLMdesigns.

*Printable bookmarks from Little Brown Pen. Love the designs from this shop. I can print them out whenever I want.

*Papillon noir bookmark from Sybile. Love this one. It's so well made and pretty.

I'll also use Book Darts if i need to mark certain passages for later.

These next 2 I made myself. I sell them on my Etsy shop. They are crocheted flowers attached to ribbons.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: Review & Weekly Geeks

I'm a bit late for Weekly Geeks this week and that is because I wanted to do Stardust as part of my post. I'll explain in a moment.

This WG is all about reviewing. I think I laid out my reviewing format in this post I did: How To Write a Review.

The next part of WG was to write a review using another blogger's format. I've been reading books for Dewey's Reading Challenge and Stardust by Neil Gaiman was my last book. I decided to review it in Dewey's format. Dewey's review is pretty funny. She didn't think too much of Clare Danes. I have to agree with her about Tristran's name. I found it hard to concentrate when I had no idea what it should sound like. Anyway, here's my review of Stardust:

Title and author of book? Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? Fantasy. Definitely a fairy tale for grown-ups.

What led you to pick up this book? I chose it for Dewey's Reading Challenge. It was one of the books that Dewey read that interested me.

Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending. In the village of Wall, there is a, well, a wall that separates the real world from Faerie. It's closely guarded by the villagers but once every 9 years, a fair occurs and people can come and go on both sides. A young man has a tryst with an enchanted girl. She leaves the result of that encounter, a baby named Tristran, with his mortal father. 17 years later Tristran who is in love with a spoiled girl sees a falling star and promises to find it for her. He takes a long journey over the wall and finds that the star is really a girl named Yvaine and together they have many adventures. The End... well, not really, lots of stuff happens.

What did you like most about the book? I loved how imaginative it was. It was really quite magical, like stories children read but with more adult themes.

What did you like least? I found some of the endings to the plotlines a bit too tidy.

What did you think of the writing style? Enjoyable. I felt like he was telling a story around the campfire.

What did you think of the main character? Like Dewey, I thought Tristran was dopey, but he was brave and optimistic. He had a good heart.

Any other particularly interesting characters? The Hairy Man pops up through out the story. He's quite funny. Yvaine, the star, was both vulnerable and strong. I liked her magical quality.

If this book has been made into a movie, and if you’ve seen the movie,compare the book to the movie. I saw the movie first and the there is quite a bit more action at the end. Both Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro characters stole the movie. Michelle was especially good as the evil witch. She looked like she loved that playing that part. It's rather difficult to compare the book to the movie.

Share a favorite scene from the book: Any scene with the Hairy Man was entertaining, especially when Tristran first meets him. He complains that Tristran is dreaming too loudly.

What did you think of the ending? Like I said, some of the ends were too tidy. Still, it ended like a Fairy Tale should (and not like a Hans Christian Anderson story where everybody dies) Happily Ever After.


Blogging In Pink: A Woman's Guide by Michelle Mitchell: Review

I'm not a big reader of Mommy blogs but one I've read since I started blogging is Scribbit: Motherhood in Alaska hosted by Michelle Mitchell. I've found Michelle's blog to be interesting and informative. I've always liked her posts on blogging and recently she compiled them into a book called Blogging in Pink: A Woman's Guide.

Blogging in Pink is a great beginner's guide to blogging. I really could have used something like this when I was just starting out. I had no idea what I was doing. Even though the book is aimed at beginners it does touch on topics for old-timey bloggers like myself. I did learn a few new things.

Blogging in Pink is divided into 4 Parts with everything from Getting Started to Getting Noticed. It covers subjects such finding a blog hosting site, naming your blog, marketing your blog, advertising, and the technical do-hickies like Technorati and html. Michelle obviously treats her blog like a business so she has much information to share. She's been blogging for awhile so she knows the pitfalls of blogging like comparing yourself to others and blogger burnout.

At 175 pages it's quick read, which is good for me because I hate reading large texts on the computer. I read it a few pages at a time over a few days. Some of the book is from posts from her blog but there is new material there too. It's written in Michelle's breezy conversational style that makes even the technical aspects easy to follow. Even though it's aimed at women, and especially Moms, there is something for everyone. Plus-pay attention people- it's free! Michelle has it on Scribbit in pdf format or you can buy it from Amazon for 80 cents for your Kindle.

Highly recommended for beginning bloggers. I hope Michelle considers writing a more advanced guide in the future.

Wordless: Meet Max

He might be the cutest kitten on the planet. He's also my new family member.

More Wordless

From the Inbox: Free books and FiledBy

I got a couple of things in my inbox this week that I thought I'd pass along if you are interested.

First a new company called FiledBy sent me this email:

FiledBy introduces new author-centric website with free digital marketing and community building tools

Filedbyauthor, the most comprehensive online marketing platform and author directory on the internet, launched in March with over 1.8 million pre-assembled author pages. FiledBy provides every published author in the US and Canada with a free, hosted, search engine optimized and e-commerce enabled web page. Any published author can easily update and enhance their pages as well as individual books. FiledBy provides a central location in which authors can be easily found on the web and the tools in which to promote themselves and their books.

Additionally, FiledBy offers readers the ability to connect directly with authors who are active on the web site. Readers can create an account, build and collect favorite authors and books, write reviews, rate books and authors, and add comments through wall postings. They can search for new books by author, title or subject of interest, as well as interact with each other by creating groups and recommending titles.

I only had a quick look at this website. The author pages look a little like Facebook. It might be a way to contact authors. Have a look and decide for yourself.

Then I received this:

I was browsing your site and wanted to let you know about my book Sin & Vengeance. It is set in Massachusetts and best of all, your readers can get it FREE.

It was optioned for film last year and adapted by Marla Cukor. Right now I am offering a free ebook (pdf) version to help spread the word about the film adaptation, my work, and especially my Randy Black series. Reader reviews have been fantastic and I think you will really enjoy the book.

I would be delighted if you would let your readers know about the download. It has been accessed 15,000+ times, but I would like to vastly increase that number.

You can download it here:

password: cjwest

Don't ask me how to download it, I have no idea.

Have fun!

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Review

Back in 2006, before my blogging days, I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and it became the book in which I've compared everything else to since. When The Angel's Game came up for review on Shelf Awareness, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. I dropped everything when it arrived in the mail.

David Martin is a down and out writer. He's absolutely brilliant but he's never been able to show that he can write more than penny dreadfuls. His mentor is about to marry the girl he's madly in love with and, by the way, he's dying of a brain tumour. Things look bleak until a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, appears and promises David all his desires if he'll write one book for him. A book that people would live and die for.

David agrees but is perplexed by what Corelli wants from him. Not being a believer in an afterlife, he feels he's writing another sham, "a vaudeville" as the boss calls it. Soon though, David feels that he's being pulled into something more sinister. The book and his life seem to be following the same path as his predecessor, the writer of a book he took from The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. A man whose life fell apart as he descended into madness.

When David starts investigating the writer's story, evil forces put himself and his loved ones in danger of their lives- and their souls.

The Angel's Game is dripping in atmosphere. It's Super Gothic, an old-fashioned creepy tale. I felt like I was in the 1920s. I could feel the buildings hovering over me, see the dark streets and alleyways as I read. Strange, unexplainable things happen to David. The question is: who is the publisher no one has ever heard of before? The man with the wolf-like eyes and smile? Zafon gives us room to make our own conclusions, but I think we know who we're talking about here.

There are parts of The Angel's Game that are similar to The Shadow of the Wind but this is a much darker book. In fact, the story gets darker as the book progresses. It is a violent story as well, with a high body count by the end. But even through the darkness, there is light. David's love for Cristina never wavers. The love story is underneath it all.

I love what Zafon has to say about The Angel's Game and The Shadow of the Wind. I think it sums it up exactly:

"Thus, if Shadow of the Wind is the nice, good girl in the family, The Angel’s Game would be the wicked gothic stepsister. Some readers often ask me if The Angel’s Game is a prequel or a sequel. The answer is: none of these things, and all of the above. Essentially The Angel’s Game is a new book, a stand-alone story that you can fully enjoy and understand on its own."

The writing is lyrical, the characters vivid. Even the minor characters, ones that appear only briefly, feel like real people. I wondered what their stories were. So many of the major characters have complexities that make them so interesting. I had mixed feelings for David's mentor, Petro Vidal, at times I was frustrated with him and others I felt so sorry for him. And Corelli... he's just spooky!

I don't think I can say more about this book without sounding like I'm gushing. The Angel's Game won't have to be put in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books but it will make unto my Bookshelf of Unlendable Books. If I lent this one out and never got it back, there would be hell to pay.

The Angel's Game won't be available until June 16, 2009 but can be pre-ordered. Thanks to Doubleday for the ARC.

Highly recommended.

Teaser by Jan Brogan: Review

Hallie Ahern is a journalist in Rhode Island, who comes upon a possible story while hanging out in an online chat room. She finds a teaser video of two young girls cavorting on a beach. The video promises more before it fades out. Hallie starts an online conversation with one of the girls. It soon becomes apparent that this girl recruits others for these online videos which men pay a subscription fee to watch.

When one of the girls goes missing and another dead, Hallie finds that there is much more to the story: drugs, organized crime and men with twisted desires. Pretty soon it's not just about the story for Hallie; lives, including her own, hang in the balance.

Teaser by Jan Brogan is a solid thriller with a technological twist. Brogan taps into the fears of parents regarding their kids and the internet. She also explores the disconnect between teens and parents and how some kids fill the void with expensive stuff. One girl is willing to sell her dignity for a pair of shoes.

Hallie is an interesting character. While her job is important to her, she struggles with the moral issues of teens and the videos. Should she go straight to the police and risk being fired? At times, I thought she was rationalizing and putting off doing the right thing, especially since her boyfriend is a prosecutor.

I enjoyed Teaser right to the end. The pacing was good with quite a bit of action towards the end. Even though this is the third Hallie Ahern novel, and my first experience with the series, I had no trouble following the plot.


Thanks to Jan Brogan for the copy.