Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday 56: Week 44 - The Information Officer by Mark Mills

* 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.

The Information Officer: A Novel

Here's mine from The Information Officer: A Novel by Mark Mills.  It's a book that I've just started. It's a fun suspense thriller - fun reading!
The blurb:
Summer 1942.  A small, windswept island in the Medeterranean has become the most bombed patch of earth on the planet, as a fiercely independent people withstand relentless siege.  Max Chadwick is the British officer charged with manipulating the news on Malta to bolster the fragile esprit de corps.  That is all, along with a few battle-worn fighter planes, that stands in the face of German occupation -- and perhaps even victory.

When Max learns of the brutal murder of a young island woman -- along with evidence that it was committed by a British officer -- he knows that the Maltese loyalty to the war effort could be instantly shattered.  With the clock ticking down toward all-out invasion, he must investigate the murder, hidden from the eyes of his superiors, friends, and the woman he loves.

Here's my Friday 56:
It was a purely instinctual reaction.  He lunged for the steering wheel and yanked it toward him.  The last thing he remembered before the world went black was his hand, pale and hairless beside his father's on the polished perfection of the wooden steering wheel.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Sunrise in the West: Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter

Welcome to the Summer Reading Club & Book Blog Tour of Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet.  We begin with  Sunrise in the West:  Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter.   Organized by Danielle at Sourcebooks, the Summer Reading Club & Blog Tour covers the novels  Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset, and Afterglow and Nightfall over a period of four months.

The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet: Comprising Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall

The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet: Comprising Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall 

 Brothers of Gwynedd

The opening lines:
"My name is Samson.  I tell what I know, what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.  And if it should come to pass that I must tell it so certainly that I tell it as though I had been present.  And I say now that there is no man living has a better right to be my lord's chronicler, for there is none ever knew him better than I, and God He knows there is none, man or woman, ever loved him better."

The blurb:
Lleweln, prince of Gwynedd, dreams of a Wales united against the English.  But first he must combat enemies nearer home.  His brothers vie with him for power among themselves, and their infighting  threatens the very soil of their fathers.  David, brought up in the English court of King Henry III and torn between two loyalties, may be Llewelyn's most dangerous foe -- especially since Llewelyn has no sons.  Simon de Monfort promises his daughter to Llewelyn, but the quest to give Wales an heir may not be enough to prevent tragedy for the country and its prince.

Acclaimed novelist Edith Pargeter spins an absorbing tale of tragedy, traitors, and triumph of the heart.

In Sunrise in the West, Edith Pargeter shows us Wales in the 1200s with its royal family in conflict.  Under the law of Wales, an illegitimate son has an equal right to inherit and succeed his father, so that the firstborn son would succeed regardless of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of his birth.  In contrast, under English law, illegitimate children are removed from the line of succession and it is the first legitimate son who holds the right to succeed.  This difference in the law of succession comes to play in the history of Wales to tragic effect.

In the 1200s, the Prince of Gwynedd, Llewelyn Fawr,  has four children but his firstborn son, Griffith is illegitimate while his second child, David is legitimate. Wales's relationship to England is not fully certain -- though Gwynedd and his children acknowledge the power of King Henry III of England.  King Henry III supports David's claim to the throne over that of his older and illegitimate brother Griffith.  Griffith, his wife Senena, and their children become bitter over David's ascendancy and believe that he has wrongly usurped power, land and riches that by right should go to Griffith.   England's support of David's claim has resulted in a split among the different Welsh nobility, with Griffith at the losing end.  Griffith's wife Senena decides to approach Henry with the offer of an alliance against David with the intention of wresting power and the Welsh throne for her husband.  What is intended often differs from the actual result -- more so when dealing with kings and princes.  

The story of  David and Griffith and that of Griffith's children Owen Goch, Llewelyn and David,  is a story of jealousy, loyalty, greed, pride, treachery, love and patriotism.  After both David and Griffith are dead, the heirs to the throne of Wales are heirs to many of the same mistakes and jealousies.  Just as King Henry III benefited from the fight between David and Griffith,  Henry III and his son Edward are ready to wrest Wales from Griffith's sons.  Edith Pargeter tells us the story from the point of view of Samson, the son of a "waiting woman in the service of Lady Senena."  Lady Senena takes a liking to Samson and sends him to be educated by the priests.  When Senena and her children leave Wales, he accompanies them to England and is in service to the family from then on.  He is tutor to the younger boys and eventually aide to the elder ones.   As England and Wales come into conflict, Samson is much in the thick of it.  

Samson was much shaped by his family and his education.  Upright, scrupulously honest, and idealistic, he is a loyal vassal to his lord and a knowledgeable guide through this time of upheaval.

Sunset in the West opens with Samson talking about his lord. As Samson goes on to tell us the story of the brothers, their love for Wales and their rivalry for the throne, I was drawn in.  The language is of an older time and the narrative runs slow, but it's rich in detail.  I found myself absorbed in the time period and sympathetic to many of the competing characters.  To be honest, I hadn't immediately realized that the volume that I had of  The Brothers of Gwynedd: A Quartet contained all four novels.  But as I was finishing Sunset in the West, I was glad to have all the stories in one.  It is hard to stop reading about Owen Goch, Llwelyn, David and Samson and I've found myself reading the next book in the series the night I finished the first.

ISBN-10: 140223760X - Paperback $16.99
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 1, 2010), 800 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Do join us on Monday, May 24, from 7PM-9PM EST, for a blog chat to discuss Sunrise in the West at

Visit the sites on this blog tour:

May 17 Reviews
The Burton Review
The Bibliophilic Book Blog
A Reader's Respite
History Undressed
Linda Banche Romance Author
A Hoyden's Look at Literature
Royal Reviews

May 18 Reviews
Between the Pages
The Broken Teepee
Books and Coffee
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff
Passages to the Past
The Book Faery
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Martha's Bookshelf

May 19 Reviews
Beth Fish
Deb's Book Bag
Book Tumbling
A Work in Progress
Stiletto Storytime
Queen of Happy Endings

May 20 Reviews
The Literate Housewife
Reading Adventures
Books Like Breathing
Kailana's Written World
Confessions of a Muse in the Fog
Wendy's Minding Spot
Mrs. Q Book Addict
The Life and Lies of a Flying Inanimate Object
Starting Fresh

May 21 Reviews
Loving Heart Mommy
Peeking Between the Pages
Celtic Lady's Ramblings
One Literature Nut
The Book Tree
My Reading Room

May 23 Reviews
Carla Nayland's Blog

Thank you so much to Sourcebooks and Danielle for this review opportunity!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Audio Book Giveaway: Innocent by Scott Turow

Anna and Hatchette Book Group are generously sponsoring a giveaway of 3 copies of the audio book of Scott Turow's latest legal thriller, Innocent.

About the Book:
The sequel to the genre-defining, landmark bestseller Presumed Innocent, Innocent continues the story of Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto who are, once again, twenty years later, pitted against each other in a riveting psychological match after the mysterious death of Rusty's wife.

Listen to an excerpt of Innocent at

About the Author:

Scott Turow is a writer and attorney.  He is the author of eight novels including his first novel, Presumed Innocent (1987) and the forthcoming sequel, Innocent (May 4, 2010). A novella, Limitations was published as a paperback original in November, 2006 by Picador following its serialization in the New York Times Magazine. His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow's books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries. In Fall of 2010, Fox TV will premiere a weekly TV series, based on his third novel, Pleading Guilty.

Mr. Turow continues to work as an attorney. He has been a partner in the Chicago office of a national law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense while also devoting a substantial amount of time to pro bono matters.

Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970. He was Edith Mirrielees Fellow at Stanford University Creative Writing Center from 1970-1972. From 1972-1975, Mr. Turow taught Creative Writing at Stanford as E. H. Jones Lecturer. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School and graduated with honors in 1978. From 1978-1986, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago and served as lead counsel in a number of prosecutions related to corruption in the legal profession connected to Operation Greylord, a federal investigation of corruption into the Illinois judiciary.

Mr. Turow has been active in a number of charitable causes including organizations that promote literacy, education and legal rights. In 1997-1998, he served as president of the Authors Guild, the nation’s largest membership organization of professional writers and is presently serving as President once again. He is also a Trustee of Amherst College.

Additionally, he performs with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a musical group of best seller authors raising funds for various literacy charities.  As Dave Barry puts it "We play music about as well as Metallica writes novels."

Mr. Turow has been appointed to a number of public bodies. He was the first Chair of Illinois’ Executive Ethics Commission.  He served as one of the fourteen members of the Commission appointed in March, 2000, by Illinois Governor George Ryan to consider reform of the capital punishment system.

Scott Turow has three adult children.  He lives outside Chicago.

To enter, please share your recommendation for an excellent legal thriller. 

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on June 30, 2010.

Book Blog Tour of Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir by Wendy Burden

Welcome to the TLC Book Blog Tour of Wendy Burden's Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir!  

Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir

The blurb:
The great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth and WASPish peculiarity in her irreverent and wickedly funny memoir.

Wendy Burden is a bold new voice in American literature.  For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt.  By 1955, the year of Wendy's birth, the Burdens had become a class of overfunded, quirky, brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline -- and were rarely seen not holding a drink.

At the heart of the story is Wendy's glamorous and aloof mother, who after her husband's suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea-and-ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of chain-smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brother love to terrorize).  Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim:  The rich are different.

In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy Burden shares her unique insight and quirky stories of her privileged upbringing as the great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt.  The details of their everyday life and Wendy's anecdotes about her family are fascinating on their own, but with the added advantage of her biting wit, Dead End Gene Pool reads so well.

Wendy describes the moment that she realized that Santa Claus doesn't exist:
"A kid who can talk herself into believing the Addams Family was inspired by reality can extend faith in the existence of Santa Claus almost indefinitely.  Okay, maybe I didn't actually believe in Santa Claus -- I mean I wasn't stupid enough to think an enormously fat man was going to squeeze down that skinny Philip Johnson fireplace in the living room bearing presents the size of footlockers -- but I believed in the eternal optimism and idealism of Christmas, and in the theoretical six degrees of separation as it applied to all grown-ups and Santa Claus."  Wendy then proceeds to tell us about the Christmas long ago when she came face to face with her Santa Claus and what this meant to her younger self -- without drama and without self-pity.   Wendy tells us of the times she met her childhood heroes Charles Addams and Walt Disney - in hilarious and self-deprecating detail.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the way that her family entertained during their summer visits to Maine.  From the intricacies of the menu, service, and each carefully planned item to the guests and manners, Wendy paints a vivid picture. 

The stories grow progressively darker over time with her mother's subsequent marriages, unexpected deaths in the family, paralyzing disappointment and the inevitable effects of time and hard living.  Wendy Burden gives us a funny, fascinating and satisfying tale of American wealth and privilege.  Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir is a book worth reading, rereading and sharing.

ISBN-10: 1592405266 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Gotham; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2010), 272 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours.

Check out the recent New York Times review of Dead End Gene Pool at

About the Author:
The great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Wendy Burden is a former illustrator, zoo keeper, taxidermist, owner and chef of the bistro Chez Wendy, and the art director of a pornographic magazine -- from which she was fired for being too tasteful.  She lives in Portland, Oregon.   Learn more about her at

Dead End Gene Pool is the sort of book that provokes discussion --  Lisa of Books On The Brain is hosting an online discussion about Dead End Gene Pool on May 18.  Interested? Stop by, chat, join the discussion!

Participating Sites:

Monday, April 19th:  Life in Pink
Tuesday, April 20th:  Bibliophile by the Sea
Wednesday, April 21st:  A Sea of Books
Thursday, April 22nd:  Simply Stacie
Friday, April 23rd:  A Bookshelf Monstrosity
Monday, April 26th:  Luxury Reading
Wednesday, April 28th:  Book’N Around
Thursday, April 29th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Friday, April 30th:  Rundpinne
Wednesday, May 5th:  Book Club Classics!
Friday, May 7th:  The Brain Lair
Monday, May 10th:  The Serpentine Library
Tuesday, May 11th:  Books Are Like Candy Corn
Monday, May 17th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Tuesday, May 18th:  Starting Fresh
Tuesday, May 18th:  Books on the Brain:  Reading Series Discussion

Thank you to  Wendy Burden, Gotham Books, Lisa &  TLC Book Tours for this review opportunity!