Tag Archives: midwest

By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman

Word Lily review

By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman, book 8 in the Tess Monaghan series (William Morrow, 2004), 368 pages

Summary
Mark Rubin, orthodox Jew and wealthy Baltimore furrier, insists that he had a perfectly happy marriage, despite the fact that his wife and three children vanished. The police won’t help, so he comes to Tess.

Thoughts
I blew through most of this series this fall. I’m not planning on reviewing most of them, though; I just don’t feel like I have much to say about them. They were all enjoyable, but mostly quickly forgotten. And since I read five of them back to back, they kind of blend together in my mind.

Really, this one is no exception. I have but one rant, and it’s really more of an editing rant than a beef with the actual story, but it won’t leave me alone, so here I am. Note: I read the hardcover, so maybe (hopefully!) this was fixed in later editions already.

Speaking of Tess’s newly formed country-wide group of female private detectives, the book states:

“There were still some wide-open places to be filled — they had no one to cover the vast swath west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies, and an Atlanta connection would have been helpful. But they were otherwise solid along the eastern seaboard and could do most of Texas and the Pacific Coast in a pinch.”

~page 30, By a Spider’s Thread

See the problem?

Yes, I’m probably more attuned to it than some, since I live in that vast wasteland known as the Midwest. But there’s no excuse for screwing up (so badly) on geography. Look at a map! Most of Texas lies between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River.

I understand that Tess lives in Baltimore and hasn’t ever ventured far from there and is probably clueless about this, as so many people who live on the coasts are. But this paragraph wasn’t really in her words. It should have been accurate.

Anyway, like I said, I’ve generally enjoyed this series. I like how rooted they are in their place, and Tess and her family are delightfully flawed.

I think my favorite aspect of this book is how her partly Jewish, partly not, background tugs on Tess in various scenarios.

Rating: 3 stars

About the author
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned there in 1989 to work as a journalist. She has won numerous awards for her work. I interviewed her last year. Her most recently published is The Most Dangerous Thing.

My reviews of other Lippman books
Baltimore Blues (book 1 of the Tess Monaghan series)
Life Sentences (a standalone)

Other reviews
Rhapsody in Books
A Worn Path
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (review and giveaway)

Word Lily review

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Dutton, April 14, 2011), 336 pages

Summary
Lincoln, thought by some to be a perpetual student, finally quit school (after several degrees) and moved back home. Now, he’s working at the newspaper, overseeing internet security and fixing printers when they need it. It’s not a great job; Lincoln’s working second shift, in a windowless office all alone. He can’t meet people, because he works when they’re awake. And he really doesn’t like snooping through private emails, but that’s what he’s paid to do.

Thoughts
Much of the book consists of email exchanges between two women, friends. Lincoln can’t bring himself to send them a warning, and he kind of feels like he’s become friends with them — even while feeling like a creep for reading their email.

In some ways, this is a coming of age novel. Although Lincoln’s not a teenager, when the book opens he doesn’t have a clear picture of who he is, and he’s lacking direction and motivation.

The Y2K scare and preparation aspect of the book (it’s set in 1999) is fun. I love the Omaha, Nebraska setting. I also loved being back in a newspaper office, talking about inky fingers, second shift, and copy-editing.

Overall, I found this book charming, and not entirely shallow. The book touches on themes of self-concept, esteem, ethics, fertility, and marriage.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Rainbow Rowell (Facebook @rainbowrowell), is a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Omaha with her family. She has a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Other reviews
Teresa’s Reading Corner
Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
TinasBookReviews
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.


Thanks to the publisher, one of you can win a copy of Attachments! (U.S. or Canada only.) To enter, leave a comment on this post. (One entry per person.) I’ll accept entries through Monday, May 2, 2011.

ETA: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Missing Mark by Julie Kramer (Moonlighting for Murder)

Word Lily review

Missing Mark by Julie Kramer, book 2 in the Riley Spartz series (Doubleday, 2009), 288 pages

Summary
A classified ad selling a wedding dress (“Never worn.”) is what sparks Minneapolis TV reporter Riley Spartz in this second Riley Spartz mystery. Upper-crust Madeline Post’s fiance disappeared after the rehearsal dinner, but did he run away or is he the victim of a crime? The plot thickens when Riley realizes just how much of an external mismatch Madeline and her former groom-to-be, Mark Lefevre, are.

Thoughts
I don’t usually try to solve the whodunit myself; I’m generally content being carried along by the story. But in both of these first two Riley Spartz books, I’ve had it figured out way early (again, without trying). Riley tries to be more careful about putting herself in deadly situations this time out (she borrows a guard dog for a few days, for instance) — but her care only extends to her singular, stubborn interpretation of the clues. At least this time she does realize that she’s dealing with desperate people and she *should* be cautious at several points in the narrative.

She’s also willfully ignorant of most technology, which baffles me.

Riley does have some traits that redeem her, at least somewhat. For one: She fights for the place of quality, (more) in-depth journalism in a broadcast environment bent on money and feel-good stories. Still, it’s hard to say if she fights for investigative journalism because it’s better or because it benefits her. For two, well, I have to give her some grace since she’s still struggling with her past, although I think she’s growing some (albeit mostly in the background) in this installment. Maybe part of my ambivalence is more precisely directed at how she has so fully bought in to television news.

This book definitely has some humor, and when I look back on my reading experience, that’s my favorite part.

The book trailer:

Books in this series:
1. Stalking Susan :: Amazon
2. Missing Mark :: Amazon
3. Silencing Sam :: Amazon

Rating: 3.5 stars

About the author
Prior to becoming a novelist, Julie Kramer had a career as a freelance news producer for NBC and CBS, as well as running the WCCO-TV I-Team in Minneapolis. She grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa border, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for 130 years. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging, so her series features reporter Riley Spartz as heroine. Julie lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Other reviews
Bookin’ with Bingo
Cheryl’s Book Nook
My Book Views
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Moonlighting for Murder)

Word Lily review

Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer, book 1 in the Riley Spartz series (Doubleday, 2008), 320 pages

Summary
Riley Spartz is still recovering from her husband’s tragic death, but it’s sweeps month, she’s back from leave, and she has to prove herself. With big stories. With ratings. She has a rare investigative reporter gig in television news for Channel 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When her long-time police source hands her two homicide files, she senses a connection — and an urgency — as the anniversary nears.

Thoughts
This is Julie Kramer’s debut novel, and it received a lot of hype when it was released a few years ago now. I’d wanted to read them since then, partly because of what I’d heard, partly because of the Minnesota setting, and also — I’ll admit it — because of the excellent cover art. I’m glad I finally took Jen’s Moonlighting for Murder as my excuse to dive into this series, this character.

The mystery in Stalking Susan is fun, and the tension ratchets up nicely. Riley herself, however, was another matter for me. I found her quite dumb, not to the level of quintessential blonde, but in a way that was actually more harmful. There are blondes who happily play dumb because it suits their ends but who are actually intelligent. And there are blondes who are really dumb. And there are blondes who don’t act blonde. (I feel like I can say this because hey, we’re talking about my hair color, here.)

Riley Spartz wasn’t aware of her miscues. And while I’m sure we’ve all been there, she didn’t seem to realize the gravity of the situation she was in. Which, when you actually, intentionally, pursue a serial killer, isn’t very smart. And while I feel for her — she’s been through too much in her years — I didn’t find her sympathetic, on the whole.

I appreciated the setting and the story, and I’m certainly not calling it quits with Riley. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.

Here’s the trailer for the book:

Stalking Susan is followed by book 2, Missing Mark (review soon), and book 3, Silencing Sam.

Rating: 3.5 stars

About the author
Prior to becoming a novelist, Julie Kramer had a career as a freelance news producer for NBC and CBS, as well as running the WCCO-TV I-Team in Minneapolis. She grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa border, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for 130 years. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging, so her series features reporter Riley Spartz as heroine. Julie lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Other reviews
My Favourite Books
Confessions of a Bibliophile
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival, report & loot

Batt with sari silk

Batt with sari silk


Batt with sparkly stuff

Batt with sparklies — I bought these two batts on two different days, from two different vendors, but they're remarkably similar. I think they're destined to be plyed together, oui?

4 ounces Polwarth combed top

I bought this because Polwarth is a fiber I've been wanting to try.

BFL

I'm spinning BFL for the first time now, and I'm loving it. When I saw this colorway, in BFL, I was in love.

When I found out about Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival [via Ravelry], I was thrilled because I’ve never been able to attend a full-blown fiber festival — all the big ones are airplane rides away, and even in terms of small ones, the closest I’d previously unearthed was 8+ hours away. Iowa Sheep and Wool is only 4.5 or 5 hours away, awesome! :D

I floated the idea to Mom that she attend with me, but at first I thought it wouldn’t work. She lives a couple states further away, and it’s turning out to be a crazy summer. Right up until the day before, it wasn’t definite whether we were going or not. But we were both getting excited, and I’m thrilled to say it worked out.

We drove over Saturday morning and went straight to the fairgrounds, where the event is held. We looked around, walked through the hall of breeds, the fleece show and silent auction and the vendor area. A few things grabbed me, but the sun and mugginess left me spent in a few hours, so we headed out to find our hotel and food.

Sunday morning we were up early, and after traversing mostly empty streets in a downpouring thunderstorm, we took a fiber dyeing class. I was thankful for the cooler air while we stood over steaming wool!

After our class, we hit the vendors again and then headed home. See what leaped into my hands? The fiber we dyed isn’t dry yet, so I’ll have to show you that another day.

Wool/nylon blend sock yarn singles

The blue here isn't as intense as I'd like, but hey. Side note: This is the only yarn I came home with.

Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week (although the discussion itself took place in May), I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly, 2000), 313 pages

Brief book summary and overview

Reuben Land was dead for 10 minutes, 10 minutes that ended when his dad commanded him, in the name of the living God, to breathe. Reuben’s living proof there’s such a thing as miracles. From there, Enger introduces us to 1960s small town Minnesota and the rest of the Land family.

Most of my thoughts on this book are expressed in the roundtable discussion, but by way of introduction I thought I’d share a couple things.

At the beginning, Peace Like a River reminded me of Tobias Wolff’s In the Garden of the North American Martyrs — the manliness of hunting, violence, etc. (Not that Martyrs is only shallow masculinity. I’m not saying that.) It didn’t take long, though, before this book revealed itself as so much more than rural boys and guns.

I’ve consistently seen this book placed in the company of Image Journal list books. Now, having read it, I certainly see why. It’s a great book, I highly recommend it.

A quick quote:

“People fear miracles because they fear being changed — though ignoring them will change you also.”

Peace Like a River, page 3

And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided topically.

General impressions

Amy: I have to admit there were times I found the narrative a bit slow for my taste. But I really enjoyed the characters in this book and especially the relationship between Reuben and Swede. What were your overall impressions and feelings of the book?

Jen: I thought it was OK, but it certainly didn’t grab me, and took me about three times longer to read that most books of a comparable length do these days.

Hannah: I also found it a bit slow-going, but I don’t always mind that. Amy, I agree: Great characters and really fun relationships to observe.

Pete: Enger is exactly my kind of writer: slow, deceptively simply, and poetic. He reminds me a lot of Flannery O’Conner or Harper Lee. I didn’t want the book to end. I think I drew out reading it for a couple of months to cherish and appreciate it. Books like this only number a few in a decade and I’m a better writer for having read it. Words like “errant beeves” and “clandestine jellies” are now filed away in my catalog of hilarious and awesome word pairings and Swede, Rueben, and Sonny Sundown will stay with me forever.

Caite: And I for one was not disappointed. I must say, I totally loved this book, which may be a minority opinion among our little group. I will agree with one of those quote bit of praise, this one from Pub. Weekly, that it is “one that sneaks up on you like a whisper.” Pete, I think you have nailed it on the head. Very early in the book, I though, “wow, this so reminds me of Flannery O’Connor.” It is, like her stories, about a world filled with grace and miracles, if only we would see them. Loved it.


Visit the other participants in this month’s roundtable

My Friend Amy: Introduction
Devourer of Books: Expectations
A Lovely Shore Breeze: Davy Part 1
The Fiddler’s Gun: Davy Part 2
Melanie’s Musings: Other Characters

Nebraska poet on parade

As April is National Poetry Month, I’ve been seeing more than my usual share of poetry posts around the blogosphere. I’ve been especially tickled when I find one featuring the work of a Nebraska poet, in this case Ted Kooser.

Carrie at Books and Movies posted several Kooser poems, all taken from his Delights and Shadows:

And Beth Kephart wrote about meeting Kooser.


(Screenshot capture of video still on Kooser's website.)

Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. He won a Pulitzer for Delights and Shadows. He is a Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of twelve full-length collections of poetry. Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Kooser earned a bachelor’s at Iowa State University in 1962 and an master’s at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He lives on an acreage near the town of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife, Kathleen Rutledge, and their dogs, Alice and Howard.

This post is part of my Literary Road Trip through Nebraska.

The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans with Rachel Hauck

The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans with Rachel Hauck (Thomas Nelson, January 5, 2010), 272 pages

Summary
Jade Fitzgerald firmly believes in leaving the past in the past and instead living in the present. (Does it have any bearing that she runs an up-and-coming vintage store?) But her wedding date is nearing, and that envelope addressed to her hippy mother taunts her. She’s tempted to simply not invite Beryl, but her indecision is keeping her from mailing any of the invitations, and waiting even one more day is simply unacceptable to her mother-in-law-to-be. As it has a tendency to do, the past refuses to stay buried in The Sweet By and By and instead must be addressed to allow the characters to move forward.

Thoughts
The Sweet By and By greatly exceeded my expectations. This is not just a happy, standard Christian Fiction novel. It is happy and it is Christian Fiction, but it’s far more than that stereotype. The characters deal with real pain, real hurt, and the consequences of their past actions.

I loved the Iowa (and Southern) settings. The book had a couple surprises, which I also loved. The further into this book I read, the more I loved it.

While it’s not a stupendous, earth-shattering read, this book does gently nudge its characters (and its readers) in the direction of truth. A very quick read; the story pulled me in immediately. I have no complaints about this book — I really enjoyed reading this one.

I definitely want to read more of Hauck’s books (this was the first one I’ve read).

About the authors
Sara Evans is a country music recording artist.

Rachel Hauck has a journalism degree. She’s the author of quite a few books, including Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle. Follow her on Twitter: @RachelHauck.

Other reviews
Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Window to My World
4 the Love of Books

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the author, Rachel Hauck.