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Monthly Archives: July 2009

A Summer Affair winners

A Summer AffairThank you to Hachette Books for allowing me to host this giveaway, and to everyone that entered the drawing.

Some of you took the time to share your thoughts on what makes a good book club book.  I found the entries interesting, and would encourage you to go back and read through the comments to check then out.

Some of the ideas that were shared:

  • Controversy leads to good discussions.
  • The book leaves you thinking about it.
  • The plot isn’t predictable .
  • Good characters which are real and can be identified with– and not too many of them.
  • Something that one member knows a lot about can lead to additional insight from that person
  • Not too easy, not too hard.
  • Not too long!
  • A book everyone can agree on.

And now, the winners are:

Congratulations!  I’ve notified each of them via e-mail.

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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in books, giveaway

 

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Review: Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn

Welcome to Biotech Nation: My Unexpected Odyssey into the Land of Small Molecules, Lean Genes, and Big Ideas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wasn’t what I was expecting.

It was far more readable and entertaining, but somewhat less educational. I was prepared to work very hard with my reading, and that wasn’t necessary.

From Goodreads:

As host of public radio’s Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn has long been known for making all aspects of science and technology meaningful to the general listening public. But when she spontaneously decided at a cocktail-fueled biotech industry event that she would be launching a weekly segment on biotech — a subject that existed well outside of her normal comfort zone — she had her work cut out for her. For the millions of people who now listen to BioTech Nation, the rest is history.

Going behind the science and business of biotech, the book rides along with Dr. Gunn as she interviews an interesting and colorful cast of characters from the industry, including a DNA scientist with ego to burn and a pharmaceutical exec with a penchant for Viagra. Filled with compelling stories of everything from the genetically modified food fight to the reasons why the presidential stem lines are dying, the book explores the fascinating theories and breakthroughs in this exciting field.

So what did I get out of this book?

  • Some very entertaining stories.
  • How a radio show is put together.
  • The challenges of dealing with guests on a radio show.
  • A high level understanding of what Biotech is and where it is going.
  • An understanding of what some of the ethical issues involved are, and how they are (or aren’t) being addressed around the world.
  • Enough understanding of the issues to understand newspaper articles and follow conversations.
  • An exposure to the names of some of the key players in the field, and what their role is.

Biotech can be a somewhat touchy subject.   I think that in considering the technology and issues this book was written about 75% objective, 25% the author’s viewpoint based on the information she has.  That works for me.

I enjoyed reading it, and came out more knowledgeable. That works for me.

I discovered Welcome to BioTech Nation at last year’s Book Group Expo, and suggested it for my Book Club L.  The members voted it in, and we discussed it yesterday evening.

Everyone enjoyed reading it, and was glad we had wandered off of our usual path.  We had a good discussion on some of the issues that were raised in the book, things we’d heard before but now had a better grasp of.  Some of these issues included the use of genetically modified crops in the US and in Africa, and the problems with the Bush approved stem cell lines.

Some club members wished the book had gone deeper into the technology and the ethics, others were very happy it had not.  It was a good jumping off point for research into specific areas of interest.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in Book Club, books, L, reviews

 

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Review: Mind Scrambler by Chris Grabenstein

Mind Scrambler: A John Ceepak MysteryThis is the 5th John Ceepak Mystery.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From Chris Grabenstein’s Web Site:

John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are making the rounds in Atlantic City when Danny runs into his former crush, Katie. She’s working as a nanny for the children of a magician named Richard Rock, the headliner at one of the big casinos. When Katie is found strangled to death backstage, it is up to Ceepak and Danny to find out who killed her. Their lives and the lives of others depend on it.

I always enjoy this series, but I’m having a hard time identifying exactly why. I never needed to before starting this blog!  I could just relax and enjoy.

First, I haven’t read anything else quite like them, even though I’ve read quite a range of mysteries.

They are more character driven and somehow softer than most procedurals, while clearly having more of an edge than cozies (not to mention featuring two police officers). This book seemed harsher than the previous books, but somehow it didn’t cross the line into icky (although truly icky things happen!). I give Grabenstein major credit for this, thinking back over the story.

The setting on the Jersey Shore is also unusual for me.   I enjoy the link to the various amusement park rides the books are named for, particularly this book’s Mind Scrambler. This time, the story wanders to Atlantic City, which is more usual mystery stomping grounds (or it felt that way, even though I can’t think of any specific examples set there).

The best things about these books are the two lead characters: John Ceepak and Danny Boyle.

John Ceepak lives his life by a strict code of honor, and expects the same from those around him. His partner (Danny Boyle) describes him as the worlds oldest Eagle Scout. He’s always perceptive and able to think his way to the right conclusion. Again, I give Grabenstein credit for making this work, because he could have been very tedious.  In Mind Scrambler, his code of honor is tested, more so than we’ve seen before. Watching him struggle through this adds further depth to his character.

Danny Boyle started the series as a somewhat shallow, carefree young man in search of an easy summer job. Ceepak has had a significant effect on him, and he is maturing very nicely. He has just the right touch of hero worship as he narrates the story, contrasting what he is able to figure out with the conclusions that Ceepak draws. This time, Danny is drawn into the mystery in a very personal way.  Watching him balance between Danny the individual and Danny the police officer made for good reading.

I also want to mention the narrator, Jeff Woodman. I’ve listened to them all (from Audible.com) and he does a fantastic job of bringing these books to life.

I recommend reading this series in order, since Danny’s growth is such a major part of the books for me

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2009 in books, reviews

 

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One Scream Away winners!

onescreamawaycoverA big Thank You to Hachette Book Group, who allowed me to host a giveaway for 5 copies of One Scream Away.
There were some great comments as to what makes a great thriller and/or romantic suspense book– you might want to go back and read the comments.

A few examples:

  • “What makes either good, though, is that the characters are relateable and I care about them. Of course, it needs great action and suspense to keep the pages burning by :-) And a great baddie we want to see get his comeuppance helps, too.”  from thekoolaidmom
  • “I know I’m reading a good thriller when
    1) I can’t put the book down even though it’s WAY past my bedtime
    2) I’m exhausted when the book is over because my heart has been pounding from the suspense!” from Nanscorner
  • “A good thriller for me is one that engages me to the point that I become oblivious to everything else, even dinner starting to burn:) ” from Kathy

And now,  the winners are…

  1. Dixie (already won elsewhere)
  2. Kim V
  3. Kathy
  4. scottsgal
  5. jacque (already won elsewhere)
  6. nanscorner
  7. Dawn M.

I’ve e-mailed the winners, and have been hearing back already, which I appreciate.  I particularly appreciate that those that won elsewhere are letting me know, so someone else gets a chance!

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2009 in books, giveaway

 

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Review: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I didn’t like this book as well as Dead Until Dark, probably because this wasn’t the book I was expecting.

From Goodreads.com:

Waiting tables, sweeping floors, reading minds and solving mysteries for the undead. It’s all in a day’s work for Sookie…

Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is on a streak of real bad luck. First, her co-worker gets murdered and no one seems to care. Then Sookie is attacked – and poisoned – late one night by some weird and apparently mythical beast. She only survives because the local vampires roll up and graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it). But in return the blood-suckers need a favor.

Which is why Sookie ends up in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire, on the condition that her undead friends don’t do anything, well, vampiric while she’s there. Easier said than done. All it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly…

So, starting with the bad news (at least for me):

This book wasn’t as quirky as the first. It seems to be going more for serious issues mixed in with the adventure, rather than the straight fun I enjoyed last time. Thinking back on Dead Until Dark, I recognized themes about how we treat people who are different, but they weren’t what I was paying attention to while reading.

I also didn’t really like how the two stories in this book were handled. One was introduced, the story jumps over to the second, once it’s resolved it is back to the first. This bugged me, since they were so unrelated to each other.

The characters were also a mixed bag for me this time around.

As Sookie develops her special skills and gets more vampire blood into her, she becomes more of a superwoman and less of the normal person in a crazy world that attracted me to her in the first place. She’s developing into an interesting character, just a different one.

I really didn’t like the direction Sam went. He didn’t seem like the same character to me. He was less fully fleshed out as a character, but served more as a plot device.

The book examined Bill’s vampire side more deeply– getting philosophical about what are reasonable behavioral expectations for a vampire. It followed this into several other vampire characters, and looked at the question of what is right/wrong from several angles.

It also (briefly) looked at the moral implications of a human/vampire relationship. It didn’t stick with this, just went back to the hot sex– which is more of what I was expecting to start with. Not the details of the sex, but the fun of a relationship which wouldn’t really work, but who cares? It makes a good story.

I’m interested in the world that is being revealed, with other supernatural creatures. It is filling out quite nicely, even if it is more serious and political than I expected.

The thing is that, other than the structural issue I mentioned above, this book did a very good job with what it was doing. It just wasn’t the book I was expecting. The rating may well not be fair. But life isn’t fair– not in real life, and certainly not in this book.

I’d decided before starting this book to take a short break before continuing on to the next one. I think that is probably a good call for me. I’ll reset my expectations in the interval.

I read this book as part of the
Sookie Stackhouse

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: Miss L’eau by T. Katz

Miss L’eau is a sweet children’s book with a very nice message.
Miss Leau tour

From T. Katz’s website:

Two kids are inspired by their teacher (and her unusual connection to the sea) to organize an Annual Clean-up event and hope to encourage kids everywhere to follow their lead of conservation and preservation.

This book is a fantasy with a nice little mystery and a great message. It is a very positive book, with lead characters that learn as the story goes on.

A child’s perspective:

The book is listed as being for ages 8-11, so I gave it to my 11 year old daughter to read. She came back very quickly and told me it was a “good book”. She didn’t have anything else to say at first, so I let it settle.

After further reflection, she came back to me and said that with a story this short, it was hard to have an interesting mystery. She liked the setup, but then it was just solved. She also thought that it was too easy for the age range listed, thinking it was more like 7 to 10. She liked the ideas in the book, particularly that the boys decided to help through the beach cleanup. Even after thinking about it further, she still liked the book.

Back to me

I do see her points. I was also somewhat disappointed in the language in the book, although I haven’t read many chapter books at that level. I was never really engaged by the words in the same way I was by the story.

I think this book could be a good choice for a classroom read– it is short and easy enough for reluctant readers, while having an interest level and ideas that will engage above that level. There are plenty of discussion possibilities.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in books, reviews, tour

 

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The View From Monday

I’m participating in It’s Monday, What are you reading? at J. Kaye’s Book Blog.  Head over there to see what others are reading.

Looking Back

I made much better reading progress this week than last!  I’m way ahead of my normal pace.  This isn’t an accident, I’ve been really pushing to try to clear a little backlog (see my Mailbox Monday post!).  I’ll try to keep up this pace for a little longer, we’ll see.

The Language of Bees (Mary Russell Series, #9) by Laurie R. KingDead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine HarrisI listened to two audiobooks. I had almost finished The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King last week, but didn’t count it then, so I get to this week. I revisited my previous review (click the title to see), and upped the rating I’d originally give the paper version.

I then joined the bandwagon, and listened to Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (click for my review). This is the first Sookie Stackhouse book. I enjoyed it enough to join the Beth Fish Reads Sookie Stackhouse Challenge and to check out the next book from Netlibrary.  I’m about 1/3 done with Living Dead in Dallas, the next book in the series.

Miss Leau2Benny & Shrimp (Paperback) by Katarina MazettiJulie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen... by Julie PowellFor my reading on paper, I finished Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (click for my review and a giveaway!). I liked the book, and am looking forward to the movie.  I also read Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti (cfmr).   It was a good summer read, a little more real than your standard romance.  Add to those one children’s book: Miss L’eau by T. Katz for a Pump up Your Book Blog Tour, reviewed today!.

Welcome to Biotech Nation: My Unexpected Odyssey into the Land o... by Moira A. GunnBest Friends Forever: A Novel (Hardcover) by Jennifer WeinerI’m almost done with Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn, which we’ll be discussing at my Book Club L meeting on Thursday night. This is a very unusual choice for us.  The book isn’t what I was expecting: more fun, but I’m not learning as much as I’d expected. There is material there for a good discussion.

I’m halfway through Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner. I needed a book to take to the amusement park with me.  This turned out to be a great choice.

Looking forward

Halting State (Hardcover) by Charles StrossI’ll be finishing the three books I mentioned above.  I need to read Halting State by Charles Stross for my Book Club M, meeting next Monday.  And I’d really love to clear some backlog from my TBR Shelf.

I probably won’t go immediately into listening to the third Sookie Stackhouse book. Sometimes immersion is good, but other times it can burn me out.  I bought a bunch of books at the Audible sale, so I may dive into one of those.  Sometimes it is nice NOT to have a plan!

So, what are you reading?

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in books, summary

 

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