Thursday, December 24, 2009

Friday 56: Week 25 - It Happened One Night by Lisa Dale

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"She knew she was being reckless when she decided to sleep with Ron. But she hadn't realized how big the risk was, how far and wide the consequences reached."
- It Happened One Night by Lisa Dale

Book Review of James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction Thriller

If you're fascinated by King Tut and Ancient Egypt, you are sure to enjoy James Patterson's latest, The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction Thriller.

The Murder of King Tut
This is my first time to read a work of non-fiction by James Patterson. In The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King, Patterson tells us King Tut's story from three time periods.

Patterson first takes us to Ancient Egypt around 1490s B.C. when Pharoah Amenhotep the Magnificent, King Tut's grandfather, ruled Egypt. He shows us the decadence and style of governance under Pharoah Amenhotep IV and Queen Nefertiti's reign and gives us a glimpse of what King Tutankhamen faced during his reign. Next Patterson focuses on the 1880s onward where he paints a clear picture of the ups and downs of Howard Carter's career in Egyptian archeology, his excavation of the Valley of the Kings and his discovery of King Tut's tomb. Patterson also focuses on the present and shares what he went through as he searched for the truth behind King Tutankhamen's death.

Patterson writes as though he was a fly on the wall, watching the events of Tutankhamen's life unfold. He does not skimp on details and we read about the unsavory details of the lives of the pharoahs, their wives, consorts, and his unscrupulous advisors. I enjoyed the conversations that he extrapolated - Patterson takes you to right to Egypt and you share Tutankhamen's fear and uncertainty as he takes on his role as a young pharoah. I sympathized with the young Pharoah and his half sister and wife, Ankhesenpaaten. Patterson's hypothesis as to Ankhesenpaaten's death does not seem sufficiently substantiated to me. I would love to learn the truth about what happened to her after Tutankhamen passed away and she ruled as Pharoah. Did she really attempt an alliance? Was her burial truly that ignominious? Ankhesenpaaten was one of my favorite characters in the book. My only criticism of The Murder of King Tut is that I don't feel that Patterson's fully substantiated his inferences about Ankhesenpaaten's role in King Tut's demise.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 28, 2009), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Thank you so much, Miriam and Hatchette Books Group for this review opportunity!

Book Review of First Lord's Fury: Book Six of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

I have been so excited to read the 6th and final book in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series! I first came across Furies of Calderon (Book 1 of the Codex Alera) at the library a few years ago. It's one of the books that got me hooked on fantasy novels. I stayed up all night reading it, searched for the others in the series, and promptly reread the first in the series. I then pre-ordered Princep's Fury (Book 5) last year which arrived in time for Christmas. I'd been looking forward to the 6th and last in the series, First Lord's Fury which just came out. Then even before the release date, I was able to get an advanced copy, which was like an early Christmas and birthday present! Thank you so much, Angela! If you haven't read any in the Codex Alera series, I recommend that you begin with Furies of Calderon (Book One) since each book builds on the next.

First Lord's Fury (Codex Alera, #6)
Set in a fantasy world of Jim Butcher's making, the Codex Alera encompasses a tumultuous period in the nation's history. The people of Alera have unique bonds with the elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood and metal and are able to manipulate the elementals in objects and in their environment to perform acts of immense power. The feats are limited only by the individual's strength and imagination.

Aleran society is characterized by a strict caste system with slaves, freemen, citizenry, high lords, and the ruling First Lord. For the most part, the strength of each person's furies is related to their position in the system. The First Lord has unimaginable power while the slaves appear to have just enough to perform tasks that aid daily living. Since Alerans rely upon their furies to supplement their physical strength and to perform even ordinary tasks, the Alerans don't rely upon the technological innovations and do not have the same advances that exist in our world. According to the early accounts of Aleran history, their ancestors first arrived in Alera without these powers. In those early days, the Alerans performed all the tasks themselves and developed innovations that have since fallen by the wayside.

The main hero of the series is Tavi of Calderon. When we first meet him in Furies of Calderon, Tavi is a young shepherd, orphaned and living with his relatives in Calderon Valley, a remote area of Alera. He is an unprepossessing teenager - small for his age and the only person in Alera without the ability to furycraft. Furyless, Tavi would be considered a freak by those who did not know him. But those who get to know Tavi realize that his creativity, intelligence and personality make up for his lack of furies. Tavi stands out as the one person without furies in Alera, and yet this weakness has helped forge his character. It's his character and integrity that enables him to win the respect of the traditional enemies of the Aleran people, and to forge alliances that surpass the feats of many of the highest nobility.

By the sixth book in the series, First Lord's Fury, we have come to learn many of the secrets behind Tavi's identity. If you haven't read any of the Codex Alera series, I don't want to spoil your enjoyment or surprise and will try not go into the adventures in the earlier novels. When First Lord's Fury opens, Tavi goes by the name Octavian and commands the respect and loyalty of the army's First Aleran. Octavian follows the First Lord in the line of succession but his claim still has to be recognized by the Senate. Octavian forged strong alliances with the Marat Nation and the Canim, and their combined warriors must fight Alera's worst enemy yet: the vord.

An unusual species, the vord are insectlike creatures with exoskeletons. They are ruled by a Vord Queen that lays eggs and has absolute control over the millions of worker and warrior vord. The Queen can manipulate the form that each vord takes, and with the conquest of large portions of Alera, the vord now have the ability to furycraft. The invading vord have overrun Alera and it seems like a matter of time until the vord have complete control. The High Lords, citizenry and the military are fighting a losing battle against this rapidly growing enemy. By the time that Octavian, the First Aleran, their Canim and Marat allies return from a sea voyage, there are a few northern cities standing. Octavian must cross the country to join the fight against an enemy that outnumbers them almost 100 to 1. Octavian's only chance at winning will be if he slays the Vord Queen to break the mind hold that she has over her troops. To save his world, Octavian must face this challenge, even if it costs him his life and everyone he loves.

Jim Butcher is a master of world-building and the Codex Alera is one of the most engrossing and satisfying fantasy series that I've encountered. Butcher combines an admirable and inspiring hero with humor, romance, action, and adventure. And he does it brilliantly. Octavian's loyalty, sense of duty, and integrity keep the series fresh and I was completely invested in Octavian's victory. The dialogue is engaging - and the respect and affection among the main characters come across so well. I savored each chapter and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between Octavian and his love Kitai, and the friendship and respect that Octavian shares with his schoolmates, with the officers and men of the First Aleran, and with Varg, Nausug and other former enemies.

This is one of my favorite books of the year. I wholeheartedly recommend the entire Codex Alera series to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure stories.

Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1 edition (November 24, 2009), 480 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of his website:
Jim Butcher is a martial arts enthusiast with fifteen years of experience in various styles including Ryukyu Kempo, Tae Kwan Do, Gojo Shorei Ryu, and a sprinkling of Kung Fu. He is a skilled rider and has worked as a summer camp horse wrangler and performed in front of large audiences in both drill riding and stunt riding exhibitions.

Jim enjoys fencing, singing, bad science fiction movies and live-action gaming. He lives in Missouri with his wife, son, and a vicious guard dog.

Thank you again, Angela for this review opportunity!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review of My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times by Harold Evans

My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

Harold Evans' My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times appears a bit intimidating at first, if only because of the breadth, depth, and heft of it. But Harold Evans' writing flows, I found myself thoroughly engrossed. Born in 1928 from working class parents, Evans became a reporter at sixteen. His natural ability, drive, tenacity, and nose for a good story led him not just to excel in his field but to take on unrecognized and unpopular causes and to sway public opinion. One of the book's greatest strengths is the extent to which Evans gives us the background and context for each of the events or stories that he shares.

At the start, Evans delves into his own background. His father had little formal education but was a genius at numbers. For instance, if you named a date whether it was 25 years ago or just a few months, his father could unerringly identify which day of the week it was. He worked his way up at the railway, beginning as an engine cleaner to the position of driver. His ability to calculate how much a person's wages would be, taking into account the different wage scales, overtime, deductions, and irregular hours, was recognized in his company's accounting staff and won him the gratitude and affection of his colleagues at the railway. Evans points out that in England at that time, his father's mathematical abilities, even coupled with hard work, would not have afforded him better opportunities because of "the Geddes axe." Sir Eric Geddes, a.k.a. Lord Inchcape, a Minister of the Crown and the former manager of the North Eastern Railway Company, had a strong contempt for the abilities of the working class. In his committee's examination of the expenditure of public funds, he advised against giving secondary school education to poor children, "children whose mental capabilities do not justify it" - essentially consigning an entire generation to very limited prospects.

Evans' generation were given the opportunity to advance through a limited number of scholarships granted to ex-servicemen by the Ministry of Education, through the Butler Education Act in Great Britain. The Butler Act was a more restrictive version of the G.I. Bill but it paid for Evans' university education.

Evans shares what it was like to work in the early newsrooms, where typewriters, typesetters, scissors, spikes, and paste were critical tools of the trade. In the chapter Stop Press, Evans shares what it was like as a young "copy taster" managing the coverage of the unfolding of the Harrow-Wealdstone disaster - a train crash that quickly became a collision of three trains with 75 dead and 110 feared dead for Manchester Evening News. He managed, edited, revised, and published eight editions in six hours, without the help of computers.

Evans' projects range from battling air pollution to helping improve overseas newspapers, to beautifying Manchester to exposing the cause of the deadliest DC-10 air crash and uncovering one of the largest health scandals in the century.

I wish that I'd gotten this review out earlier to help people who might be looking for a good book whether for themselves or their loved ones. As I read My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, I kept thinking of my uncle Eddy who would encourage me to read. It's the sort of book that he'd savor. I found it fascinating - it's a book that I'll enjoy rereading at leisure.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (November 5, 2009), 592 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Harold Evans, the author of The American Century and now They Made America, is a celebrated historian and journalist. He was the editor of the Sunday Times of London for fourteen years and then the Times of London before settling in 1984 in America, where he has been successively founding editor of CondéNast Traveler; president and publisher of Random House; editorial director and vice chairman of U.S. News & World Report, the Atlantic magazine, Fast Company, and the New York Daily News. In 2002 Britain's journalists voted Evans the greatest all-time British newspaper editor. He was knighted in Queen Elizabeth's 2004 New Year honors list. He lives in New York with his wife, Tina Brown, and their two children.

Watch an interview with Harold Evans. Visit Harold Evans' webpage.
Browse inside the book.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review of One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

Harold Feinstein whose previous works include The Infinite Rose, The Infinite Tulip, One Hundred Flowers, One Hundred Seashells, Foliage and Orchidelirium recently released another beautiful collection of photographs in One Hundred Butterflies.

"Who among us has not at one time or another gazed at a butterfly with a sense of awe? In the journey of completing the photographs for this book, it was not unusual for me to cry out in astonishment while looking at these creatures. I had been transported. The earth laughs with flowers, but it dances with butterflies."
- One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

One Hundred Butterflies
One Hundred Butterflies is a collection of artistically compiled and detailed photographs of butterflies from all over the world. The colors and wing designs range from striking greens, blues, and yellows and oranges to the discrete patterns that allow the butterfly to camouflage itself in the wild.

The book will surely interest those who already appreciate the butterfly. But for those that have a basic knowledge of the animal, Harold Feinstein teaches us about its life cycle and unique characteristics.

Did you know that the colorful wings are a collage of microscopic scales that are much like shingles on a roof that protect the wing from moisture? Our eyes only perceive a fraction of the wing's color patterns, but the full beauty can be seen under ultraviolet light - which is what butterflies' eyes see. Some of the yellow "sulphur butterflies" that we see come across to other butterflies as a flashy blue.

The adaptation of butterflies is fascinating. Some wing have evolved to look like leaves and animal faces, others use bright warning colors that announce "I'm deadly, eat me at your peril," and others mimic the color of their poisonous cousins.

As the author points out, "Butterfly museums and books are just some of the ways to tell people, 'Look what is out there in the world we live in every day. There is so much more than butterflies. . .yet look how much butterflies there are!'" One Hundred Butterflies affords us a rare glimpse into this rich and diverse world of butterflies.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 4, 2009)128 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:

Harold Feinstein began his career in photography in 1946 at fifteen. By the time he was nineteen, Edward Stieichen had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and exhibited it frequently during his tenure there. Early in his career, Feinstein was best known for his black and white documentary style work. In early 2000, Feinstein began to master digital technology as an artistic medium, resulting in six color books published by Bulfinch press and Little, Brown and Company. The celebrated One Hundred Flowers (2000) is now in it’s third printing. His trend-setting in the arena of digital photography earned him the Smithsonian Institute’s Computerworld Smithsonian Award, in 2000. Feinstein’s photographs have been exhibited in and are represented in the permanent collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography, the George Eastman House, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Musee d'Art Moderne, the Museum for the City of New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. His portfolios, photo essays, and articles have been published in major periodicals around the world including, LIFE, Aperture, Audubon, Connoisseur, L'Illustriazione, and Popular Photography. W. Eugene Smith, with whom Feinstein collaborated closely in his early years, said of his work: “He is one of the very few photographers I have known or have been influenced by with the ability to reveal the familiar to me as beautifully new, in a strong and honest way.”

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

The Young Victoria - don't miss it!

If you like period films, you are sure to enjoy The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt. R & I got free passes to watch an early screening last Tuesday evening and were so glad that we braved the cold.

All I knew of Queen Victoria was that she had many children, was related to many of the royal houses of Europe, and through this had united Europe. I had a picture in my head of the older, rather stout Queen Victoria. The Young Victoria was such a treat - you meet her before she reaches her majority while she is under the guardianship of her mother and controlled by Lord Conroy. Woven into the story of her coming of age and the start of her reign is the love story between Victoria and Albert. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are enchanting. If you enjoy period movies, don't miss The Young Victoria!

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, The Young Victoria has a talented cast:

Emily Blunt as Victoria
Rupert Friend as Albert
Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne
Miranda Richardson as Duchess of Kent, Victoria's mother

A NYC Snow Day - free hot chocolate & sledding!

Earlier this morning, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the parks are open today and the Parks Department will be giving out free hot chocolate and lending sleds in parks throughout the City while supplies last from 11 am to 3 pm.

Mommy Poppins posted a list of the snow fun and sledding locations in the five boroughs:

Crotona Park
Fulton Avenue between 172nd Street and Crotona Park North

Prospect Park
Prospect Park West at 9th Street

Riverside Park
Riverside Drive at 103rd Street

Lower Highland Park
Jamaica Avenue & Elton Street

Staten Island:
Clove Lakes Park
Martling and Slosson Avenues

Check out Mommy Poppins' list of the best sledding in NYC. Thank you, Mommy Poppins! She has the such good tips for NYC!