Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Most Popular Books of 2010 According to

It's hard to believe 2010 is almost at a close and a new year is at hand!

I thought it would be interesing to check out what books were the most popular in 2010. Here's the top 10 customer favorites from, counting down:

10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skoot

9. Sh-t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

8. Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen

7. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer

6. Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann

5. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

4. Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10) by Charlaine Harris

3. Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

2. Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

...and the number one customer favorite book on

1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Actually, I haven't read a single one of these books. If you have, and can recommend it, will you let me know? Thanks!

And happy reading in 2011!

*photo credit

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: The Clouds Roll Away, by Sibella Giorello

...and a Kindle give-away!

To be honest, I'm usually a bit nervous when I sign up to review a book as part of a blog tour, especially if I'm not familiar with the author. What if it's a chore to read the book--what if I just really don't find it interesting?

That's why it was a delight to find that I really enjoyed reading Sibella Giorello's The Clouds Roll Away. Not only was it not a chore to read the book, I will definitely be reading any future offerings from Sibella Giorello.

The fact that this is the third in a series didn't put me at a disadvantage; the book stands quite well on its own.

From the back cover:

Closing her assignment with the FBI's Seattle office, forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, expecting a warm welcome. Instead she finds herself investigating an ugly cross burning at a celebrity's mansion and standing in the crosshairs of her boss at the Bureau. And the deeper Raleigh digs into the case, the murkier the water becomes...until she's left wondering who the real victims might be.

Raleigh Harmon is an engaging protagonist, and each character--from her eccentric mother Nadine to the rap artist whose home is being threatened--is fully realized and dimensional.

The one aspect of the book that didn't ring quite as true, for me, was Raleigh's romance with DeMott. Maybe this is one area where having read the first two books would have helped, but without knowing the history of the relationship, it seemed almost like an aside to me.

One of the biggest pleasures of The Clouds Roll Away, though, was Sibella Giorello's writing. Sometimes FBI-based novels are more functional than lyrical--not this one. I marveled regularly at descriptive phrases like this: "Her eyes were a tremulous green-gray, like tropical fish caught in the netted skin of a devoted smoker."

Yes, this book has some chillingly suspenseful moments, and Giorello has obviously done her homework--every detail of Raleigh's FBI work bears the ring of authenticity.

But this is a beautifully written book with real depth, courage to touch on some serious issues, and a faith that is organic to the main character's life. And most of all, it makes you care about the characters and what happens to them.

I look forward to spending some more time with Raleigh Harmon, and it looks like I'm in luck--The Mountains Bow Down is coming in the spring of 2011.

Kindle Give-away!

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth over $150.00!


One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to

    To enter simply click on one of the icons below! Then tell your friends! Winner will be announced January 3, 2011 on Sibella's blog:

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

For info about Sibella Giorello, check out her website

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What's Your Reading Personality?


I found this quiz on My results?

I'm a Serial Reader:

You may read a lot or a little, but either way you're a publisher's dream, because once you discover a favorite writer you stick with him/her through thick and thin and eagerly await the next in the series; but even you need to discover some new blood from time to time!

(This is pretty accurate, except that I do seek out "new blood" fairly often--nothing makes me happier than discovering an author I love that's new to me!--CS)

Go here to take the quiz yourself!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flashback: Reading Mary Stewart

(Originally posted 2/6/06 at Notes in the Key of Life)

OK, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to what I'm reading. I can have a stack of books that I need to/want/should read, and I'll meander off and read something just for the heck of it. Or I'll have two or three books that I'm dabbling in at various times of the day or week.

That's how it is right now. I have several review copies of books that I'm actually looking forward to reading, and I find myself immersed in Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting.

My love affair with Mary Stewart's writing actually began when I was just a little girl, in the mid-60's. My older sister Beverly had bought Stewarts' The Moon-Spinners (on which the 1964 Hayley Mills-starring movie of the same name was based), and I ended up reading it. And re-reading it.

Even as a little girl, the suspense and romance of the tale captured me, and I loved Stewart's beautiful, almost poetic descriptive passages. The story was set in Crete, and it made me want to go there.

The adorable Hayley Mills in the Walt Disney movie based on Mary Stewarts The Moon-Spinners

I've been a Mary Stewart fan ever since...but only, interestingly enough, of her romantic suspense novels. Stewart has written at least four historical/fantasy books set in Arthurian times, but I've just never had a desire to read them.

Like most of her early novels, Nine Coaches Waiting (published in 1958) feels slightly dated, but in a very charming way--as if one had somehow landed in the middle of a Grace Kelly movie.

I know what happens in the end (or at least I have a vague memory of it), so why am I re-reading this book? For the same reason that I grab a Mary Stewart book whenever I see one at my local branch library. I like visiting that era and those locations (Greece, France, Austria, Lebanon, wherever); I love Stewart's ability to put me there; I like her heroines and their love interests, and I still admire her lyrical, descriptive way of turning a phrase.

Plus, if you read any of Stewart's suspense novels, you'll know that she can sneak in a shocking twist with the best of 'em.

I haven't been able to find The Ivy Tree at my local library, but I remember the twist that pulled the rug out from under me!

Any other Mary Stewart fans out there?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I have a crush on Adam Dalgleish

This is actor Clive Owen. No, he's never played Adam Dalgleish, but this is how I picture him!

Thoughts on "discovering" a "new" author

Don't worry, my affections are still securely directed towards my dear husband. But I have a new literary crush, thanks to the fact that for the first time in my life, I'm reading P.D. James.

How have I reached this advanced age as a passionate reader, and not read any P.D. James mysteries? After all, she's hailed as the natural heir to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Her books have been made into numerous British television series (none of which I've seen, either.)

But isn't that the great thing about life? You can go for years reading books, and suddenly find this author that's new to YOU. Suddenly there's this treasure trove to dive into.

The Quintessential Detective Hero

Granted, I'm only on my second Adam Dalgleish book, but he strikes me as the perfect detective hero.

If the British national motto is "Keep Calm and Carry On," Dalgleish definitely fits the bill. He seems to face the most daunting situations with equanimity and cool.

He's the classic strong, quiet type, but he has his sensitive side. After all, he's a published poet as well as a Scotland Yard police officer.

Of course, he has tragedy in his background--the death of his wife while giving birth to their child. But he doesn't dwell on that.

I'm not just guessing that he's handsome; we're actually told that by other characters. "Tall, dark and handsome," in fact. Even alluding to Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. (Crushing yet?)

My Vocabulary Enriched

And you know what? I thought I had a pretty decent vocabulary. People used to accuse my co-worker Joel Griffith and me of conversing in a different language; no, it was just the language of people who know a lot of big words and like to use them with other people who understand them.

But my vocabulary is practically infantile compared to that of P.D. James. I finally started keeping a pen and notebook next to me while reading her mysteries, so I could jot down words with which I was unfamiliar to look them up later.

Here are some of them:


Granted, I may never use these words, but at least I'll understand them if I ever run across them again.

And it's good to know that at my age, I can still learn something new.

My P.D. James quest continues....

So, I finished The Black Tower and am now in the middle of Shroud for a Nightingale.

I look forward to many more pleasant hours curled up with my latest crush. :)

Come on, movie producers and casting directors. Clive Owen IS Adam Dalgleish! :)

Who is your literary crush? Let me know in my comments section!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sharing Some Link Love--What Book Bloggers are Blogging

Until I really got this book blog off the ground, I didn't realize just how many book bloggers there are out there--apparently, a LOT of people share my passionate obsession with reading!

Here's what some of the book bloggers are reading and talking about right check them out when you get a moment!

--Becky at In the Pages is reviewing Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen. Becky calls it "a beautiful story of friendships, relationships and flowers."

--Small World Reads is immersed in Janet Evanovich, and offers a disappointing review of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie. She writes: "It was terribly disappointing for anyone who is a true Narnia fan. I will never understand why movies have to be such tremendous deviations from books. I just don't get it." Ugh--I feel the same way about book-to-movie deviations.

--I consider Semicolon one of the definitive book blogs of the internet. Right now, Sherry is working on a project to send books to an orphanage in Zambia. Scroll down a bit and find the list of Inspy Award-winning books.

--Seth at Collateral Bloggage is reviewing The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall; a book he says his 9-year-old son enjoyed.

--I've come to enjoy the writing of The Ink Slinger as much as I appreciate his book reviews. Today on his blog, he's featuring a video of the choir of King's College, Cambridge, singing the Hallelujah Chorus. But scroll down a bit and you'll find his thoughtful review of Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 51.

The Ink Slinger writes: "...for those old enough to tackle it, it is a must-read. And you don’t have to be a knuckle-dragging sci-fi buff to appreciate it, either. The warnings are timeless, and the lessons are as prescient today as they were 50 years ago when the book was written."

I've never read this book, but the Ink Slinger's review makes me want to do so.

--I adore the fact that Fleur Fisher is a fellow book-worm who lives in Cornwall, England--a place I've long fancied visiting.

Today she's reviewing Paradise Creek, by Leo Walmsley, a book that just happens to feature Cornwall. Fleur writes that the book is "emotionally involving, simple and utterly believable...will remain in my heart."

--One of my favorite of the book blogs I've recently discovered is Reading to Know. It has a look, feel and spirit that I appreciate, and Carrie's reviews are thoughtful and intelligent.

Today she's reviewing two books from the Grace Chapel Inn series. Carrie calls them "perfect, cozy reads."

So there you go...a peek at what some of my favorite book bloggers are reading and talking about right now!

Photo credits:

Photo One via tumblr
Photo 2
Photo 3

Please comment...I love comments!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saturday Review of Books: The Sister Wife by Diane Noble

I can't remember when a novel has affected me as viscerally as did The Sister Wife, by Diane Noble.

If you have a husband that you love, can you imagine having to share him with another woman? Unthinkable...but that's what Mary Rose McKay is forced to do in this beautifully-written, engrossing book.

Author Diane Noble says the story began, as many great stories do, with "what if?" questions. What if there was young, beautiful aristocratic Englishwoman whose grandfather decides to follow Brigham Young to America and the fledgling Mormon religion?

What if she and her newfound love, Gabriel McKay, are swept up in the fervor--and ultimately, she is forced to share the love of her life with another woman who is not only beautiful, but Mary Rose's best friend?

I found myself becoming emotional, especially during a particularly powerful scene in which Mary Rose is in anguish as she hears the sounds of her husband's passion with another woman. Her pain is palpable.

The book is not a rant against the Mormon faith, although its differences from Biblical truth are emphasized.

More than an indictment of any one religion, though, this fascinating story asks important questions about what happens when people look to any man for their standards of faith and practice...and lift up that man to a position demanding worship and obedience that belongs only to Christ.

Mary Rose is a wonderful heroine--beautiful, intelligent, and outspokenly skeptical of the demands of "the Prophet." The book has its light moments to balance out the seriousness, and even danger as the "Saints" face harassment and even death.

I've got to admit, I'm frustrated with Mary Rose's husband, Gabriel, as he submits to the edict requiring plural marriages. (I've always thought the husband in a plural marriage had a nice little thing going, unlike the poor women who had to share him.)

But in my years of being a Christian, I've seen enough otherwise strong men blindly submit to a pastor's capricious whims and forced convictions to know that,sadly, this does indeed happen.

This is Book One in the Brides of Gabriel series, and I'm now in the unfortunate position of having to wait until Book Two comes out. Because I will DEFINITELY be reading it.

I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Review of Books: Lisa T. Bergren's "Breathe"

(NOTE: This post was originally published on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, on 07/09/09.)

As a radio interviewer, I get a lot of Christian fiction crossing my desk. Most of it I enjoy. But frankly, some books I abandon because, even though they're not terrible, they just don't "grab" me.

Breathe: A Novel of Colorado, by Lisa T. Bergren, certainly doesn't fall into the latter category. This book grabbed me from the very first page and kept me reading way past my bedtime--for me, a sure mark of a teriffic read.

I've read lots of fiction featuring people with tuberculosis--or "consumption," as it was called in the 18-hundreds--but never one in which the "consumptive" actually recovered and went on to live a healthy life. That's just one of the intriguing things about "Breathe."

Set in Colorado Springs in the late 18-hundreds, this is the first in a series about the St. Clair family--two sisters and a brother who journey by train from Philadelphia for one of the siblings to "chase the cure" and open a bookstore for their wealthy publisher father.

Apparently Colorado Springs was highly sought-after by people suffering from tuberculosis in that era because of its beneficial climate.

The beginning of the book plunges us immediately into the action: just as the St. Clair's train is about to pull into Colorado Springs, their sister Odessa is on the brink of death.

The scene establishes the three main characters: Odessa, gentle, ladylike and courageous; Moira, loving but flighty and ambitious; Nic, determined to protect his sisters, but frustrated by the role thrust upon him by his father and anxious to find his own place in life.

As we follow Odessa's recovery and budding romance at a sanatorium, Moira's involvement with the town's tyrannical sheriff, and Nic's secret life as an alcohol-swigging boxer, there's a strong subplot involving murder and mystery that would keep you turning the pages even if the interesting characters didn't.

Lisa T. Bergren is an excellent writer. A Colorado Springs resident herself, she infuses the story with the feel of authenticity and a strong sense of place.

Best of all, she's not afraid to acknowledge Christian faith throughout the story, and she portrays it in a way that is neither preachy nor cheesy.

I highly recommend "Breathe," and I can't wait for the next book in the trilogy.

Click on the icon to participate in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Flashback: The favorite books YOU got as gifts

NOTE: I originally posted this on November 18, 2008...but it's definitely worth a repeat!

...quite a few people answer my informal poll!

I'm doing what I can to encourage people to buy books for Christmas! They are enduring gifts, usually not very expensive, and have the power to change lives and open doors of learning and imagination.

Yesterday I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and the comments section of this blog to tell me about a favorite book that they received as a gift. I got some great answers!

Here they are:

"A book I had loved as a child - Never Tease a Weasel. But if you are looking for books to give, I love Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning. It was a gift to myself."--Kay Hennis Day of Loop de Loops in La La Land

Speaking of gifts to yourself, my daughter Elizabeth says some of her favorite books were "gifts to herself." They include one of her all-time favorites, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. A big World War 2 buff, she also cites 1942:The Year that Tried Men's Souls, by Winston Groom, which was a gift from her grandmother.

Mandy Erickson works with my daughter at Borders, and you can see her jotted recommendations under books around the store--as with Francine Rivers' wonderful Redeeming Love. One of Mandy's favorite gifts? "The Jolly Postman! It was filled with letters and postcards that fairytale characters had written to each other. So cool."

Mark Jones is a Georgia pastor who tells me: "A good friend gave me a copy of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23...which is a classic work from the seventies. I still have it on the bookshelf and refer to it fairly regularly for a great illustration."

An old college friend of mine, Lesa Russo, had a few to mention: "A biography of Lucille Ball - amazing book and life story. Also Erma Bombeck's life book." She also says The Shack and The Grace Awakening were book-gifts that were life-changing for her.

From Darlene Rexrode :"One favorite was The Giving Tree when I was young."

Ben Ratze is a teen who attends the school where my husband is the administrator: "The Narrow Road, I loved that book, it has little stories of missionaries that laid down their lives for the cause of Christ. It's a great book for teens." (I got curious about this book, and it really does look good--it's co-authored by the likes of Brother Andrew, John and Elizabeth Sherill, and the members of Jars of Clay.)

Laura Elizabeth Klinger's favorite is by one of my favorites, Irish author Maeve Binchy: "The Lilac Bus," says Laura. "We seldom are aware of the intricacies of a person's life; we don't know how others don't understand, or misinterpret, us."

"Captivating."--Melanie Coldiron Hull(I'm thinking Melanie might be referring to this book by John and Stasi Eldridge.)

Laurie Lynn Kobernat Nunez goes to my church. She cites a book I also bought and enjoyed, by a long-time missionary to the Philippines: "Sam [her husband] just bought me Never Alone by Uldine Steffy at our missions conference - it's awesome!! I love reading biographies/nonfiction..."

"Piercing the Darkness by [Frank]Peretti," says Kristina Clark Melville. "I know it's fiction but it helped me visualize what spiritual warfare could look like."

Writer Tracey Bateman, whose books I've enjoyed, says her favorite book-gift ever was The Best Loved Poems of the American People.

Linda of Mocha with Linda tells me: "When I was 9 or 10, my grandmother gave me Little Town on the Prairie. I devoured it - and was delighted to find out there was a whole series of books! I told my mom 'Grandmother didn't know she was starting me on a whole new reading adventure.' I just about wore those books out and practically had them memorized."

From BJ Hoff, whose portrayals of Irish characters I love: "There have been so many! Everyone knows I love receiving books for birthdays, Christmas--any and all occasions. But the one that stands out most is probably The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. 3 volumes, given by husband."

Writer Susan J. Reinhardt tells me: "My Mom and I were in the Christian bookstore last weekend. She bought me two Joel Rosenberg books for Christmas. My to-be-read stack is multiplying. Yay!"

Ann-Marie Soderstrom, whose Lefthanded Rabbit blog I enjoy a lot, illustrates how a book given to a child can be life-changing: "My mom gave me The Hiding Place when I was 12, and it changed my life. I began to study the Holocaust in earnest and still do today. Still my favorite book." I love that book too, Ann-Marie! An incredible portrait of grace amid persecution.

Thanks so much to everyone who replied!

(originally posted 11/18/08)

So what was the favorite book YOU ever got as a gift? Let me know in my comments section!


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