Friday, December 19, 2014

Introducing... Book Bingo Blackout!

Guys, this is an original creation you see before you. 

My friend and I had so much fun doing Reading Bingo this year, we created our own bingo card for 2015. 

During the year, we kept track of genres and topics we wanted to add to the list, then merged the lists, and here's what we got. 

Then the Dear Man performed a feat of graphic design and made it look all terrific, and now we're in business. 

You're invited to play along!

You can snag the digital bingo card from right above, or visit our website to find the printable version.  

On the website, we've also posted the rules and definitions, in case you want to be a stickler about it--or want an interpretation of any of the topics on the bingo card. 

There's also a Facebook group you're invited to join (search for "Book Bingo Blackout" once you're logged into Facebook).

2015 promises to be wildly bookish. Aren't you just kind of too excited for words?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading bingo - complete!

Way long months ago, I launched into Reading Bingo feeling confident and happy and ready to roll.

Then I hit a swamp around September, and things moved mighty slowly. 

But I got 'er done. 

Here's my list:

A book with more than 500 pages                  
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

A book written by someone under thirty          
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A book with a one-word title                        
 Night by Elie Wiesel

The first book by a favorite author                 
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

A book your friend loves                                
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A forgotten classic                                        
The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A book with non-chuman characters       
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

A book of short stories             
Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson

A book you heard about online         
A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George Will 
A book that scares you                         
Killshot by Elmore Leonard

A book that became a movie                
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A funny book                                       
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

A best-selling book                 
The Last Patriot by Brad Thor

A book that is more than 10 years old   
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie   
A book published this year
I Don't Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer

A book by a female author                   
Park Lane by Frances Osborne

A book set on a different continent           
The Dinner by Herman Koch

A book based on a true story         
Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters

The second book of a series             
The Mugger by Ed McBain

A book with a number in the title              
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A book with a mystery              
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman

A book of nonfiction              
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

A book at the bottom of your to be read pile   
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

A book with a blue cover            
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I really wished you could use one book for more than one square, because The Sign of Four could qualify for:
A forgotten classic
A book that is more than 10 years old
A book set on a different continent
The second book in a series 
A book with a number in the title
A book with a mystery

If this had been Scrabble, I'd've been racking up the points on that one.

But I got it done the old-fashioned way, and I'm feeling good about it. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

She likes it!

The Last Patriot by Brad Thor

3 words: tough, macho, action

She likes it, she likes it!

That’s the hot news about this one.

I’m in the midst of a crime fiction genre study, so my reading habits have gotten skewed. I’ve always been a mystery reader, so when we were reading mysteries, I was cruising right along comfortably.

Then we started reading thrillers and suspense, and it became an item on my to-do list. It became work.

I realize this sounds ridiculous, but that’s the way it’s felt.
And I also found that Brad Thor ends up in the positive column. 
Thor’s been writing his Scot Harvath series for a number of years now, and I picked a book from midstream, since it was well-rated by readers. This actually worked out fine, since Thor gives a sense of the characters’ back story—enough that the plot and the relationships made sense.

(photo credit: U.S. Navy photo 040709-N-0295M-005)
Mostly, this book is about action. Harvath is a Homeland Security agent who gets all the cool assignments. This one involves a text once owned by Jefferson that could change the course of Islam, and the militants who want to make sure the text is destroyed. So Harvath and his lady friend and his other associates dash around to take care of business.

There’s a lot of adrenaline flowing here.

While the plot can seem farfetched (probably not more so than the plot of the standard cozy mystery, in which the village yarn shop is once again the scene of a murder), once you accept the premise, you just roll with it. It’s very much like watching a well-done action movie.

And I learned some cool stuff about the equipment used by operatives in this line of work, which Thor says, in an afterword, is actually real equipment. (Pants with built-in tourniquets!)

And happily, Thor has a very pleasant writing style. After reading Baldacci, I have renewed appreciation for authors who construct sentences skillfully and intelligibly.

Thor has been one of my go-to authors for thriller readers, and now he’s even higher on my list of authors to recommend.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A happy birthday -- giving thanks

Sometimes you get really lucky in life and even your birthday is way better than you thought was possible. And let me tell you, I had high expectations for this one, because I asked someone for the exact gift I wanted and he said, Of course.

So now my blog has a shiny new look that’s all me, and it’s all due to him.

When you’re in cahoots with a talented graphic designer, things get really thrilling really fast. Things are funny and fun and they look nice.

And when you ask him to design a banner for your book blog, you get more options (more amazing, impossible-to-narrow-down options) than you ever imagined.

After plenty of splendid agonizing (this went on for days and days [it lasted for weeks]), we decided to use an old photo as the basis for a logo.

That’s me, at age 3, reading a book on the lid of my tractor-tire sandbox.

I remember when I was a teenager and my mom would dislodge me from my book with, “It’s a beautiful day—just go outside for 15 minutes.” And I’d sigh… and then take my book outside, where I’d sit and read.

Pretty sure that’s not what she had in mind.

But apparently I’d been doing this all along. If there weren’t photographic evidence, I wouldn’t have known that my brilliant response to “Go outside and play!” had looked like this since before I could read actual words on a page.

So going through old photo albums with new eyes was revelatory. And so was this re-design process.

I gotta say: the experience of working with a skilled, creative, thoughtful graphic designer has been downright blissful. I’ve been walking around smiling like a goofball after every series of options was presented to me.

It’s a wonderful thing when somebody really gets you.

The genius at Lopata Design created this new look, and I’m more delighted and more grateful than I can say. 

And on that note, I'd like to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I read the law, and the law won

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

3 words: detailed, solid, storytelling

Don’t tell anyone, but this is the first Grisham novel I’ve ever read. And it was rather an enjoyable experience.

Of course, everyone knows he’s the reigning monarch of the legal thriller. But just because someone is popular doesn’t necessarily mean he’s terrifically talented.

But Grisham’s a skilled storyteller. The plot here canters along steadily. There’s a fair amount of legal detail, but nothing tedious—he keeps it moving. And the characters are more than cardboard cutouts, so characterization isn’t sacrificed in the name of plot.

In other words, Grisham has everything you’d want from a storyteller.

In Sycamore Row, Grisham returns to his roots: handsome, young attorney Jake Brigance, the legal star of his first novel, A Time to Kill, is again called upon to take a complex and somewhat unpopular case in his rural Mississippi county. This time around, a local millionaire has left his fortune to his nurse, which raises some eyebrows around town—and seriously stirs up his wasp’s nest of a family.

Brigance’s job is to prove that the will should be upheld. Sounds simple, but obviously isn’t, or we wouldn’t have a big old novel to read.

Reading Grisham was perfectly pleasant. I had the sensation of being on board a plane flown by a capable, long-time pilot who takes the scenic route for the benefit of the passengers. Takes a little longer to reach the destination, but the journey is part of the fun. 

P.S. Thanks to the two kind people who lent me their copies.