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Showing posts from August, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: The Rules of the Tunnel by Ned Zeman

Ned Zeman had it all. A lucrative career as writer and editor at Vanity Fair, great friends and what would appear to be a great life. But he suffered from depression and anxiety and it took over his life. In The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness, Zeman takes us into his mind, letting us glimpse what it might be like to suffer as he has.

As a writer and editor, I found interest in Zeman's descriptions of his work, the processes and relationships between writers and editors. He tells detailed stories of people he researched and wrote about who were fascinating adventurers who seemed to also suffer from depression. These stories were quite interesting and offered more examples of what it's like to deal with depression.

But I found the stream-of-consciousness style of writing and the author's use of the second person very difficult to read. I realize he employed these tactics for literary and artistic reasons. Logically, they make sense. After all, if you have …

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been a very busy week here at My Book Retreat. I finally got some reviews done! Things at home are getting back to normal finally, as C just went back to school on Thursday. He's in second grade now and M is in Pre-K. The timing of bus pickup seems to be set now, so we know what time we need to be out of the house in the mornings. I think we're all going to settle into our regular schedule fairly easily this year.

Last week, I managed to review three very good thrillers. If you like this genre, check out my reviews ~ I would recommend all of these:
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
The Summoner by Layton Green
The Egyptian by Layton Green

I also finally got back to posting What My Children Are Reading. This week: Magic Tree House and Read-It! Readers.

As far as reading goes, I read The Egyptian by Layton Green.

Currently Reading
I'm now reading Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness by Ned Zeman. I'll be publishing my review on Wednesday fo…

What My Children Are Reading

I think I'm finally getting back to reporting on the kids' reading. It's been a while. I look forward to getting back to consistently reading all of the other posts in this meme to get some ideas for new books to check out of the library as well.

This summer, C has been very busy reading all of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. He started with #1 at the beginning of June, and he is now reading #42: A Good Night for Ghosts. This book is part of the set of four Merlin Missions (#41-44) that are all about Jack and Annie's mission to inspire artistic people in history. In the first book of the set, they went to Austria to help Mozart. In this book, they head to New Orleans to inspire a young Louis Armstrong. C seems to be enjoying this one as he has the rest of the series. I can't believe he's almost done. The last book that has been published is #45, which came out earlier this month.

M has been reading some of the Read-It! Readers purple level boo…

Book Review: The Egyptian by Layton Green

Dominic Grey is back. This time he has left his job as diplomatic security agent to take a job with Professor Viktor Radek, a religious phenomenologist. His first case finds him helping the CEO of a biotech company locate a stolen vial that is filled with a mysterious liquid related to the company's study of aging. But things are not so clear-cut, and soon Grey is running for his life, along with investigative reporter Veronica, who is determined to get the story of her life.

In The Egyptian, Layton Green delves further into the character of Dominic Grey, the protagonist we first met in The Summoner. This time, he's not dealing with a missing person, but rather a missing product. However, once again, Grey is thrown into the world of eccentric religions and people intent on keeping dark secrets covered up. I enjoyed learning more about Grey and Professor Radek in this novel. And several unique and interesting new characters are introduced as well.

Like the previous book in thi…

Book Review: The Summoner by Layton Green

Dominic Grey is a diplomatic security agent working in Zimbabwe when he's assigned the task of investigating the disappearance of a U.S. diplomat. The circumstances surrounding the man's disappearance are unusual, to say the least. According to his girlfriend, he attended a religious ceremony in the African bushveld, was willingly led into the center of the mass of worshipers, and never returned.

In The Summoner, Layton Green weaves an intriguing and shocking story that goes far beyond a missing person case. Grey is joined by a beautiful liaison from the local government and a religious phenomenologist who all work together to discover what happened to the U.S. diplomat. The search brings them into the center of a religious cult.

Green's character development is excellent. The protagonist, Dominic Grey, is a character you can stand behind. His abusive childhood led to a life as a mercenary, but his morals are strong. He doesn't just follow orders; he does what's r…

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Five years ago, politician Merete Lynggaard disappeared and was presumed dead. But she is very much alive, being held captive by an unknown person who obviously wants her to suffer. Carl Mørck is a detective who is trying to recover from an incident that left one colleague dead and another paralyzed. To get him out of the way, he is made head of the new Department Q, charged with reviewing old unsolved case files that involve persons of interest. The first file he picks up is the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of the best detective novels I've read this year. Alternating between the voice of Merete and Mørck, we are put into these character's minds, feeling the pain and frustration they are both dealing with throughout the story. Adler-Olsen tells Merete's story of her confinement, but we also learn of her life before being kidnapped. With Mørck, we see a transformation from, frankly, an ass, to the potential of bec…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning. I hope you had a good week. My Book Retreat was kind of quiet last week as my family and I were on a week-long road trip with stops in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. It was a lot of fun and the kids did great in the car and all the different places we stayed! I'm so glad we did it. Now C is getting ready for the start of school on Thursday.

While on vacation, I did get some reading done. I read  The Summoner by Layton Green, which I will review later this week. I still need to write a review for The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen as well. So be sure to stop back within the next few days to read my reviews.

I also have a giveaway going on right now. You can win a copy of What Language Isby John McWhorter. It ends tonight so be sure to check it out now!

Currently Reading
I'm now reading The Egyptian by Layton Green, which is being released on Saturday.

Up Next
Next I'll be reading The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness by Ned Ze…

Book Review: What Language Is by John McWhorter

If you've ever wondered why the English language is structured the way it is ~ and why other languages are structured differently ~ What Language Is: And What It Isn't and What It Could Be by John McWhorter will shed light on the situation. McWharter, a renowned linguist, helps us understand how language develops over time, how each language relates to others and how brand new languages emerge within the modern world.

He presents this information using IDIOM as an acronym: Language, according to McWhorter, is Ingrown, Dissheveled, Intricate, Oral and Mixed. Each aspect gets its own chapter, where he presents stories and examples from many different languages ~ some that you've heard of and others that you probably didn't know existed. It's a fascinating look at the development and evolution of language around the world.

Overall, this is a very informative book. McWhorter interjects humor and interesting facts throughout in an effort to keep the discussion somewhat…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Another week gone. This week, we're on vacation. Next week, C starts second grade. It's hard to believe the summer is almost over. I'm glad we're finishing it with a vacation though!

I had a pretty good week in terms of reading and reviews. First, I reviewed a fun detective story that mixes in some astrology as well: Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis. Then I reviewed Artsy-Fartsy by Karla Oceanak, which is the first in a series that is great for elementary aged kids.

I also hosted a guest post by author Pamela Samuels Young about How to Write a Novel Despite Your Day Job. If you're an author, I'm sure you'll find some of her advice very useful.

As far as reading goes, I finally found time to finish up The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. This was a great mystery that kept me interested in the characters and the plot from beginning to end. Since I'm on vacation, I doubt I'll be able to write a review this week, but I high…

Book Review: Artsy Fartsy by Karla Oceanak

Aldo Zelnick is a 10-year old boy living in Colorado with his parents and his older brother. He's a bit lazy, unlike his older brother who is quite athletic. While on summer vacation, Aldo's grandmother, who everyone calls Goosy, gives him a sketchbook and encourages him to record all his "artsy-fartsy" ideas in it. Then his neighbor suggests he write in it as well. He reluctantly starts drawing and writing. Soon, Aldo discovers a love of sketching and creating cartoons. But when he leaves his sketchbook in the fort he and his friend Jack built, he suddenly finds girly drawings mixed in with his own. Now they're on a quest to figure out who tampered with his sketchbook ~ and to make sure they don't do it again!

Artsy-Fartsy by Karla Oceanak starts with a similar premise as Diary of a Wimpy Kid ~ a kid is given a journal/sketchbook and reluctantly starts writing and drawing in it. But Arsty-Fartsy is geared toward a slightly younger crowd. The author recommend…

Book Review: Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis

David Lowell is a private detective with the Starlight Detective Agency. His daughter, Melinda, is a defense attorney with a new client who is accused of murdering a judge. Her client, Johnny, had the motive and the means to kill the judge, but did she really do it? Melinda enlists the help of her father and his eccentric staff ~ Mort, the computer hacker; Sarah, the assistant; and Andy, the driver/security guard ~ to find out.

In Murder in the 11th House, Mitchell Scott Lewis develops a unique detective story. Lowell doesn't just rely on his instincts and smarts to determine what really happened to the judge. He also relies on astrology to get to the truth. He looks at the birth charts of the various players, and composite charts that show the relationships between the victim and all the potential suspects. He uses astrology to better understand people's motivations and their true feelings ~ and to eventually solve the crime.

The characters are all quite interesting. Each ha…

Guest Post: Author Pamela Samuels Young Tells How to Write a Novel Despite Your Day Job

Earlier this year, I reviewed a crime novel called Murder on the Down Low. The author, Pamela Samuels Young, is also a lawyer. So I asked her to share how she is able to find time to write, while also juggling a separate career.

How to Write a Novel Despite Your Day Job
I’m often asked how I’ve managed to write four novels while still practicing law. Simply put, writing is my passion. I love creating characters and stories with lots of unexpected twists and turns. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Balancing a demanding day job, my family life and my writing career have required lots of sacrifice and hard work. I’ve done it and you can do it too. Here are my top five tips for writing a novel despite your day job.

1. Prepare a Writing Schedule and Stick to It.

Writing a novel is a daunting venture. You have to commit to making it happen. Plan your writing time the same way you plan your schedule at work. I usually plan my writing schedule for the week on Sunday evenings. Whether y…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning. I hope you've had a great week. We spent the past few days in Myrtle Beach, SC, relaxing, so that was a nice ending to the week!

I had a slow reading week ~ you don't get to read much at the pool and beach when you have little kids to watch! I did finish reading Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller. That's my August book club selection so we'll be discussing it at the end of the month. I'm hoping to get my review up this week, but time is tight so not sure it will happen.

I did manage to put up a review of Listen by Rene Gutteridge. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it as much as some of you probably did. I just wasn't crazy about the characters. You can click on the title and read my review.

I also put up my July Month in Review.

Currently Reading
I'm still reading The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. It's very good, but I just haven't had a lot of reading time lately!

Up Next
I'…

Book Review: Listen by Rene Gutteridge

Marlo is a quiet town. A small town where everyone seems to know one another and life is fairly simple. But when a website appears that invites the residents of Marlo to "listen" to private conversations that have been taking place around town, everything changes. Soon, the whole town is in turmoil as individuals react to the things their friends and neighbors have said about them in the privacy of their own homes.

In Listen, Rene Gutteridge shows us the true power of our words. She shows how the little criticisms spoken behind a person's back can crush a relationship, and even lead to physical harm and death. It's a fascinating concept, but unfortunately, I didn't like the book as much as I had hoped.

Gutteridge doesn't develop her characters enough to make me really understand their motivations and care about them. This is a big issue for me ~ my favorite books are the ones where I feel like I "know" the characters and understand why they do the…

Month in Review: July 2011

It's really hard to believe that the month of July has passed. It wasn't a very good month for my family so we're all looking forward to a much more enjoyable August. We have a weekend trip to Myrtle Beach planned, followed by a road trip to Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware later in the month. It should be a lot of fun!

Here's what happened in July in terms of reading and reviewing.

Books Read in July: 6
I read six books in July. They were all adult fiction books:
Flesh and Bones by Paul Levine
Simply Genius! by Ervin Laszlo
Predators of Darkness: The Aftermath by Leonard D. Hilley II
A New Prospect by Wayne Zurl
Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis
Listen by Rene Gutteridge
Reviews Written: 5
This month, I wrote five reviews. First, I wrote reviews for one book I read in June:
Counting from Zero by Alan B. Johnston

I also wrote reviews of four of the books I read in July. You can click on the links above to read them.

Author Interviews: 1
Leonard D. Hilley II

Gues…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So I completely forgot it was Monday. I've been working all day at home as usual. What's not usual is that my son has been home with me all day. He didn't have any camps scheduled for this week. So he kept me a bit distracted as I tried to get my work done and keep him entertained all day. I just realized I never got around to posting this!

I didn't do a whole lot here on My Book Retreat last week. I wrote a review of a great detective novel set in the South: A New Prospect by Wayne Zurl. I also published a guest post by Wayne last week.

I finished reading Listen by Rene Gutteridge but haven't gotten around to writing my review for that. I also still need to write a review of Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis. That one doesn't publish until early September so I am holding off a bit longer before putting up my review.

Currently Reading
I'm now reading The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I'm also still reading Sabbath: Finding…