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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Literacy Site

The Literacy Site
Click Here

Although many of you may already know of the Literacy Site, I wanted to feature it for those who may be unaware. It is a simple idea, just click on a button and money goes to fund books to children with each click.  How is this possible?  Through advertisers hoping you will notice them.  If you wish to do more, there is a store with a wide variety of reasonably priced items that provide more funds for books to children.

"The Literacy Site was founded to help promote literacy among children from low-income families nationwide. Partnering with First Book and Room to Read, the site makes books available to children around the world, giving many children their very first book. With the generous support of our sponsors, each click provides 1% of a book. Making books a part of a child's life is the best way to encourage the love of reading, and literacy is key in breaking the poverty cycle."

The Literacy Site hopes to foster a love of reading in children through education and awareness as well as the simple act of providing books to children in need. Participants and the site's charitable partners are doing a big part of the work. When you click the "Fund Books for Kids" button and see their sponsors' ads, funds are generated to distribute books for children around the world.

"But what of the future? With a good understanding of the practical use and the sheer joy books can provide, our children can do even more to learn crucial skills and to help others around the world."

The site also provides resources for teachers and parents.

If you are like me, you forget to click everyday.  You can request a daily email reminder that includes a link so it is very easy.  Just a click of a button and you are helping to fund books to children.  I love this idea, how about you?

Here is a quick video overview of all the charity sites, including The Literacy Site, that the organizer and creator runs and how it works.   

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Review - The Fallen Angel

I  have read only a few in this series, but I always enjoy this author and the main character.  I am in good company because President Bill Clinton says that Gabriel Allon is his favorite fictional character.  This is the 2012 release, so I am one behind...besides the books I haven't read yet sprinkled throughout the series.  If you enjoy thrillers or intrigue, check this series out.

Author: Daniel Silva

Copyright: July 2012 (Harper) 432 pgs

Series: 12th in Gabriel Allon Spy Adventures

Sensuality: some adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: Intrigue, Thriller

Main Characters: Gabriel Allon, art restorer, assassin, and Israeli spy legend

Setting: Modern day, Vatican, Jerusalem, St. Moritz in Switzerland, Berlin and Vienna.

Obtained Through: Public Library

Gabriel is restoring one of Caravaggio's greatest masterpieces at the Vatican. He is summoned one morning to St. Peter's Basilica by Monsignor Luigi Donati, the private secretary to Pope Paul VII. Apparently, a beautiful woman had fallen to her death from Michelangelo's painted ceiling dome of the Basilica. The Vatican police are quick to conclude suicide, but Donati would not have asked Gabriel to view the scene if he agreed. Gabriel's trained eye sees murder, not suicide. Dr. Claudia Andreatti was a curator in the Vatican's antiquities division and was conducting a discreet investigation into the provenance of the Vatican's holdings.  This is more a prudent precaution with all the artwork that has been "liberated" during wars over the centuries so the Vatican isn't surprised by an art piece's checkered past. 

Dr. Claudia Andreatti had stumbled upon a global criminal enterprise that is looting timeless treasures of antiquity and selling them to the highest bidder. The money is being laundered through the Vatican's bank and ends up with Middle Eastern extremists.  Gabriel is once again whisked out of retirement to prevent the next world war.  When you read a Gabriel Allon novel, you expect he will be saving the world once again and this book is another gripping roller-coaster ride, but even Gabriel could not have foreseen where this would take him.

Gabriel is a fascinating character whose artist's soul wants to focus on beauty and art.  But he is also a highly skilled and legendary Israeli Intelligence operative who heeds the call when his homeland of Israel needs him.  He is tragic in that his car was bombed resulting in the death of his son and serious injury to his first wife, Leah in the fictional 1991. His wife survived and lives in a psychiatric hospital. Gabriel seems humane and compassionate, while being a convincing spy and assassin. His art keeps him sane after all the destruction he has seen and done.

Chiara is second wife who I would like featured more of her intelligence work.  I feel there is much more for this character to give that we haven't begun to see yet.  But I admit that I haven't read all the novels.  I should probably go back to "The Confessor" and catch up on Chiara before she retired from the spy trade.  Leah, Gabriel's ex-wife in the asylum makes an appearance in this novel - almost as a specter of what loving Gabriel can do to a woman. Ari Shamron, archeologist Eli Lavon (a favorite character), and the new Mossad leader Uzi Navot are all part of the supporting case and have their strong points.  But Dina Sarid is the background character that I found fascinating.  I hope she gets more page time in upcoming novels.  You feel like you have actually spent time with these characters as they are each so well written.  Monsignor Luigi Donati is given a past in this story that makes him more layered.  His old flame, Veronica Marchese, is married to one of the organized crime bosses that Gabriel will tackle.

Gabriel travels a lot in this book as in the rest of the series.  I did feel that the Vatican and Jerusalem locations seemed particularly vivid and evoked a definite atmosphere.

The plot develops as the story unfolds since there is a strong aspect of misdirection and distraction through most of the book.  The intricate ins and outs are realistic and don't bog down the action.  There is a good balance of Gabriel's introspection, narrative on fine points of illegal antiquities sales and money laundering to fund extremists, and the action of finely timed kidnappings and shoot outs etc.

The climax was built up to a nail biting scene that delivered blood pounding tension.  The wrap-up was cheer worthy and oh-so satisfying.

A classic Gabriel Allon novel with international intrigue and several suspenseful operations to stop an imminent terrorist attack that could spark a world war.  If you like well written intrigue, you will enjoy this one.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Here is an interview with Daniel Silva about this book and his inspiration for Gabriel Allon.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review - The Last Grave

This is a new-to-me series that I jumped to read.  The concept of the story intrigued me enough to take a break from the historical mystery reading challenge (click here) and read it.  

Author: Debbie Viguie

Copyright: March 2013 (Penguin) 370 pgs

Series: 2nd in A Witch Hunt novels

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Supernatural Police Procedural

Main Characters: Samantha Ryan—homicide detective and witch

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Samantha Ryan left Salem for San Francisco, hoping to forget the horrors of her past. Her past includes a very dark magic side of herself from a mother who raised her in a destructive and black magic coven...and the last novel in which she takes out the last of the coven to save many lives. 

So Samantha runs to San Francisco and takes a job as police detective. But after the magic she indulged in to take down the coven in Salem, she is struggling to fight her own desire to turn to magic to handle everything in her life. 

She is teamed with a partner that nobody else will work with and is handed a murder case of a local historian named Winona Lightfoot. Samantha quickly realizes all leads in the case point to the Santa Cruz Mountains and witches practicing black magic. As Samantha is working the case clue by clue, earthquakes keep rocking the area.  After each earthquake, reality is shifted, such as the hair color of her roommate and friend.  Samantha has to dodge showdowns with witches and piece together what is actually happening before the black magic causes a devastating earthquake.  But she might have to dredge up the bad-ass witch she had been raised to be in order to fight this coven, and there maybe no return if she takes that step.

Samantha Ryan is the troubled heroine with a dark past and near addiction to magic. I wanted to like her, and mostly I did with the exception of her digging into her own psyche and unlocking her past selves in her self treatment sessions. This proves to be dangerous and takes the character someplace I completely didn't like at the end. Presenting her as turning to a cross around her neck like a talisman and other Christian trappings made her even more conflicted. Her difficult partner, Lance is difficult to get a handle on.  He doesn't seem as unsociable and difficult as he was first made out to be. Actually he is often covering for Samantha off investigating on her own.  Lance is a character that seemed a bit undeveloped, part of that might be that he goes through a radical change after one of the earthquakes so the reader starts over getting to know him, which is a drawback in the story I felt.  Anthony, the love interest left behind in Salem, has tremendous potential but is left to a few phone scenes. The room-mate seems to just be minor character moved around as needed.

The rugged Santa Cruz mountains are a great location for this power hungry coven to work its diabolical magic - bwahaha.  It manages to sound beautiful and scary at the same time.

The plot was pretty clear cut with the intriguing idea of the magic triggered earthquakes causing shifts in the planes of alternate dimensions.  At times those shifts could be confusing, but it added a needed umph to the storyline. The pacing was difficult.  At times the story had hold of me and was racing right along, then there were times when it fell a little flat.  I think the characters were lacking and those parts in the book were when the characters would have carried the story forward and it started to flounder a bit.

There is a pretty dramatic climax and confrontation, but it is the wrap up that lost me.  The wrap-up is the setup for the next book and the last minute development with Samantha lost my interest.  As I mentioned, the ending is taking a clear direction with Samantha that looses any likable aspect of the character for me. 

This book has some interesting paranormal aspects and an interesting plot that falters occasionally from under-realized characters and a finish that alienates the reader from the main character.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Libraries and community impact

Duluth Public Library
"Since the founding of the first public library in the U.S. in 1731, libraries have provided a conduit to knowledge for the general populace. Toward the end of the last century, however, the Internet dramatically changed how and where we access information. The Web has introduced virtually limitless access to information. With this alternative to traditional print media, public libraries are facing new challenges: online resources allow people instant access to books, magazines, job information and applications, health information and online classes. So how do libraries plan to continue engaging communities? In the face of new technologies, libraries are adapting to a new reality."  This is from City Town Info (click here.)

I love my local public library, they are an integral part of the community and contribute to the vitality of the city.  

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Review - What Darkness Brings

I picked up this series after it was established, beginning with Where Shadows Dance (click here) and the novel just prior to this one, "When Maidens Mourn" (click here.)  I enjoy this series and always find it an engrossing read.  I included this novel in my History Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

Author: C.S. Harris

Copyright: March 2013 (Berkley) 369 pgs

Series: 8th in Sebastian St. Cyr Regency Mysteries

Sensuality: references to prostitution

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Characters: Sebastian St. Cyr (Viscount Devlin) a veteran of the Peninsula wars with Napoleon and a nobleman.

Setting: 1812 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

This book picks up roughly a few weeks after the events in "When Maidens Mourn" with the tragic death of Sebastian's former military comrade.  While still realing from that news, Sebastian learns of yet another tragic event.  Russell Yates, the man who married Kat Boleyn a year ago, was discovered standing over the corpse of Benjamin Eisler, a dishonest gem dealer.  Kat Boleyn asks Sebastian to clear Yates and save him from the gallows...and he can't turn her down.

Sebastian begins digging and finds the man had made many enemies with his cheating of customers and using indebtedness for sexual favors.  Eisler also appears to have had a penchant for dark magic, apparently from his fear of his many enemies.  Sebastian believes  the motive behind his murder is actually an enormous and rare blue diamond that had disappeared from the French Crown Jewels during the revolution.  Eisler was quietly negotiating the sale of the diamond know as the French Blue, or the Blue of France for a wealthy financier named Hope, when it disappears the night of his murder.  Sebastian has his job cut out for him in this adventure.

Sebastian deals with many emotions in this book as he mourns the death of a friend whose life was tragic and then must deal with attempting to clear the man who married Kat Boleyn, his first great love.  While Sebastian may seem stoic on the outside this book gives a glimpse at how deeply he cares about friends and Kat - still.  This story allows him to explore his feelings for Kat and put them in perspective.  There isn't as much Hero in this book, mainly because these are Sebastian's friends from his life before Hero.  But the scenes with Hero reveal much about her.  There was little advanced in Sebastian and Hero's relationship other than a growing affection, although Sebastian does attempt to express his feelings in a very understated way.  Nothing advanced in Hero's tension with her father versus her husband.  I keep waiting for her to stand up to her father.  Jamie Knox and his maybe family relationship with Sebastian is not expanded on in this novel, although they seem to have reached an understanding  and tolerate each other.

Regency England is a favorite since Napoleon's France provides opportunities for spies and intrigue.  The mean streets and the palatial grandeur are each displayed. We particularly get a glimpse of the harsh life of street sweeps and "doxies," the girls in prostitution with this tale.

The plot and pacing are each on point for a suspense novel and keep the reader's interest engaged.  I enjoyed learning more about the Hope diamond and felt the incorporation of such a famous element was brilliant. 

I did not suspect the killer and the confrontation was a nail bitter and executed skillfully.  This installment in the series mixed emotion, greed, power, corruption, and intrigue together into a heady tale that sweeps the reader along.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Here is a fast history of the Hope Diamond.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

World Book Night April 23

The following information is from the World Book Night website (click here).

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.  In 2012, World Book Night was celebrated in the U.S., the UK, Ireland, and Germany.

An independent panel of booksellers and librarians selects the books, using lists curated by experts in the bookselling and library world. All of the information comes from external, independent sources. Additionally, each year, givers from the previous year’s World Book Night nominate books for the panel to consider.  We print a total of half a million books, and the book givers take these special paperback editions out into their communities in search of light or non-readers.   The authors of these books have agreed to waive royalties in order for us to be able to afford to print the free World Book Night editions.  

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

This year's books to give away are:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 
City of Thieves by David Benioff 
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros 
La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros -translated by Elena Poniatowska
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 
El Alquimista by Paulo Coelho
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan 
Bossypants by Tina Fey 
Still Alice by Lisa Genova 
Looking for Alaska by John Green 
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham  
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan 
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; illustrated by Jules Feiffer 
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer 
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley 
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson 
Population 485 by Michael Perry
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman 
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 
Montana Sky by Nora Roberts
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline 
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith 
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain 
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward 
Favorite American Poems in Large Print edited by Paul Negri

Each year on April 23rd, 25,000 passionate readers spread the love of reading by sharing free World Book Night U.S. paperbacks within their communities.  The volunteer book givers each personally hand out 20 books to light or non-readers across America. That's half a million books shared on one day!

Would you like to take part in this and give books?  Then click here for more information on how you can share your love of reading - or you can donate to this non-profit to aid their efforts (click here.)

Video from last year's event.

Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - April 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Reminder of the Historical Mystery Reading Challenge (click here.)

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Murder on the House by Juliet Blackwell

Carstairs Considers reviewed Cana Rising by Dinah Swan

A Date with a Book reviewed Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Silent Ghost by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Books to the Rescue reviewed Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

A Date with a Book reviewed Fleeting Memory by Sherban Young

Books to the Rescue reviewed How to Host a Killer Party by Penny Warner

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Clobbered by Camembert by Avery Ames

Carstairs Considers reviewed Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

A Date with a Book reviewed Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

A Date with a Book reviewed Got Your Number by Stephanie Bond

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol Carr

Booking Mama reviewed Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Booking Mama reviewed Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Author Interview

Books to the Rescue has a special guest post by author Ann Summerville (Trouble at the Manor)

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed author Carol Carr

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

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