Monday, September 30, 2013

Mr. Monk Helps Himself: Review and Giveaway

Have you met Monk yet?  This was my first meeting with detective Adrian Monk, "a brilliant San Francisco detective whose obsessive compulsive disorder just happens to get in the way". Published in the summer of 2013, Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad is a cozy mystery, the first novel in the series to be written by this author, who spent eight years writing for the Monk television series.  The book is set in San Francisco (one of my favorite cities), and is narrated by Monk's assistant, Natalie Teeger, who's studying for her PI license.

"Monk himself isn't a licensed PI.  For one thing, he's horrible at tests.  Not because of the questions, but because he has to sharpen and resharpen the pencil and then fill in every circle so that it's completely black and within the borders. So it's up to me to get the license and incorporate and make our business legit.  Monk and Tegger, Consulting Detectives."
~ Mr. Monk Helps Himself, Hy Conrad    

Natalie is at a Best Possible Me retreat when the leader, Miranda Bigley, suddenly jumps off a cliff.   Her death looks like suicide, but Natalie supects it's murder.  Adrian Monk is also at the self-help retreat at Half Moon Bay, to rescue Natalie from this apparent cult.  But Detective Monk, who suffers from OCD and has numerous issues with cleanliness, aardvarks, and other things, is mostly concerned about helping the SFPD solve the case of a murder of a clown, even though he suffers from intense coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.

My first impression of the Monk series is quite a favorable one.  The title of this book is perfect, Hy Conrad's writing seems effortless, and the book is funny and riveting.  I loved the humor that runs through the book, which brings us Monk's obsession with cleaning light bulbs, and a shop named Poop on Union Street, although the book has an affecting, underlying sadness as well, because Monk's wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb, which remains a devastating, unsolved murder.  We have empathy for Monk, who was fired from the SFPD when his fears grew disabling, and hired back four years later as a consulting detective because of his keen ability to solve perplexing cases.

Although I like to figure things out myself whenever I read a mystery, perhaps most importantly, I've rediscovered something else--cozy mysteries are fun and entertaining!  At least, good ones are.  Additionally, Mr. Monk Helps Himself sparked my interest in watching the TV series, which I'd heard of but have never seen.  (Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia for help in this area.)  Monk (2002 - 2009; eight seasons) is an American detective television series created by Andy Breckman, starring Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk.  Having read this one book, I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy watching the TV series as well, largely because the characters, especially Natalie, Monk, Ellen, and Devlin, are great.  By this I mean that they're quirky and caring and likable; I'm eager to see these mysteries enacted (and I love another TV mystery series, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series).  I truly enjoyed reading this comedic yet heatrending mystery novel.  More Monk, please!

Wonderful news!  Author Hy Conrad is generously offering a copy of Mr. Monk Helps Himself as a giveaway to one randomly chosen reader.  This giveaway is international (U.S./Canada, choice of print or ebook; ebook elsewhere)!

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. 
  • Have you read other Monk books, or watched the TV show?  If so, leave a comment about this for an additional entry.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Thursday, October 10.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Friday, October 11.  Good luck!

Thanks to Teddy from Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of this mystery novel.  I am the last stop on this book tour.  For more reviews and giveaways, please visit the other stops on the Mr. Monk Helps Himself book tour.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Really Random Tuesday #73: Book Winners, Blogger Layout Issues, and a Few Fall Quotes

Uno, dos, tres!  I have three lucky winners to announce today.  Stacie, Carol M, and Gina D have each won a copy of The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio.  Congratulations!  I'll send those books out to you as soon as I get your mailing addresses.  It sounds like quite a captivating book and I hope to read my own copy of the book, (relatively) soon. If you didn't win this time, please take a look at the other book giveaways in my blog's sidebar.  I know, the book covers in my giveaway list are larger than usual; more about that next.


Suko's Notebook  ·  Layout


Is anyone else having layout problems in Blogger?  I've mentioned this already to a few of you, so please excuse any repetitiveness on my part if you've heard it before.  Specifically, I'm having a hard time with the Configure Image Gadget in Layout, which used to work easily and perfectly.  Now, suddenly, I'm getting a message that I need to include a title ("required field must not be left blank") when I try to save images, and the size of images is larger than it used to be, so the book covers are not of uniform size.  I've figured out how to bypass adding a title and will continue to do this if I absolutely need to, but it used to work without this hassle.  As a courtesy to my readers, I list book giveaways in my right sidebar, and that's what's being affected by this.  I'm not sure if Blogger made some permanent changes (I hope not!), or if this is just a temporary glitch of some sort.  Sometimes, these issues resolve themselves within a few days, and I'm hoping that will be the case with this, because it's been a pain to contend with.  Thank you for letting me vent about this!  Is anyone else having similar problems?  I hope someone at Blogger reads this and that it will work the way it used to soon.


Autumn officially started on September 22.  In my neck of the woods, Southern California, we had one day of cool fall weather, autumn's "opening day", but yesterday was hot.  It should be a bit cooler today, though, thankfully.  Regardless of the actual weather, it is fall, so I'm posting a few quotes from authors about this time of the year to help put us all in the mood for the days ahead.

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
~ Albert Camus

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
~ George Eliot 

“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn--that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness--that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”
~ Jane Austen, Persuasion


Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related matters you can think of.  I often announce book winners in these posts.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page

As always, thanks for reading! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mailbox Monday: First Fall Books

Let's see, what new books did I receive in the mail recently?

Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still arrived by mail for an upcoming TLC book tour, while Unravelled by M.K. Tod arrived from France Book Tours.  I also received a couple of books that I won on other book blogs.  I won Mystery Girl by David Gordon on Harvee's blog, Book Dilettante, and The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner on Kristin's blog, Always With a Book.  It's fun to win books!  Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio.  I'm giving away three copies, so your chances of winning a book are increased.  Fall is the perfect season to curl up with books and a hot beverage as the days become cooler and shorter.

Created by Marcia from To Be Continued, Mailbox Monday is the consummate meme for book bloggers, bookworms, and bibliophiles.  Mailbox Monday is hosted this week by Bob from Beauty in Ruins.

What new books adorn your shelves?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I'm in the midst of reading Room by Emma Donoghue, which is told from the perspective of a young boy, Jack, who turns five years old at the beginning of the novel.  Many of the words in Room are capitalized as if they're proper nouns, such as "Room", "Wardrobe", "Bed", "Skylight", "Lamp", and of course, "Ma", which cleverly signifies their importance as names in the young protagonist's world.  Since I haven't encountered any "hard words" in this book, my words were taken from my handy 365 New Words-a-Year calendar.

1. deus ex machina: a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that suddenly and surprisingly provides a solution to a difficult conflict

Ancient playwright Euripides is often criticized for his frequent use of the deus ex machina.

Euripides, courtesy of Wikipedia

Deus ex machina literally means "a god from a machine". This stems from the practice of using a crane to hold a god (or gods) over the stage in ancient Greek and Roman drama, to resolve the plot.  In writing, this device is often frowned upon as a gimmicky, contrived, or implausible way to resolve matters.

2. triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13

As a child in NY, I noticed that some buildings with elevators did not have a 13th floor, which was due to triskaidekaphobia.


Appropriately, this was the calendar's word of the day last Friday, September 13.  The origin of the fear of this number is not clear, although some think it stems from the Last Supper, when Jesus was betrayed afterward by one of the thirteen present. This fear has been prevalent enough to require a word to describe it.  The word was formed by adding the Greek words for thirteen, treiskaideka (minus the first e), to phobia. 

3. toothsome: agreeable, attractive; of palatable flavor, delicious

At noon, Tatiana gave the new boy a toothsome muffin from her lunch, and hoped he'd find her toothsome in her red dress.  (I try not to use the same adjective twice in a sentence, but I'm illustrating the two different meanings of the word here.)

Although I can never seem to remember its meaning correctly, I've come across this word before, and associate it with teeth, for obvious reasons, and more specifically with the word "toothy", which means having or showing many or large teeth (as in  "a toothy smile").

Interestingly, the next word in my calendar, for Thursday, September 19,  is "meme", which is defined as an idea, behavior, or usage that spreads from person to person.  For information about memes for book bloggers, please visit my Memes page.

Hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog, Wondrous Words Wednesday is a meme that motivates us to learn about words.  What new words have you discovered recently? 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The New Crown

Although I read very few ebooks, when author Jason Sandberg contacted me recently about his ebook, The New Crown, published in 2013, I knew I was in for a treat.  At the beginning of this year, I read his first book, Candy and the Cankersaur, a charming ebook for children, which focuses on a young girl and her pet dinosaur.  This time, the book is about the Kingdom of Platavia, which is ruled by King Plunder.  His name says it all.  King Plunder takes whatever he wants, and gives nothing to the people but bad advice.  The best way to deal with King Plunder is to avoid him as much as possible, and to visit Julietta instead for assistance and advice.  A skilled carpenter and inventor, Julietta can make just about anything, using wood, metal, or fabric.  She's  invented machines and can fix whatever is broken; she can even make fancy hats!  One day, Julietta is arrested for making a hat that's grander than King Plunder's crown.  Locked away in a tower, Julietta has to figure out a way to become free, and to continue to help the people of the kingdom, who are suffering under the rule of a very selfish king.

Once again, I read this picture book on my iPad mini, which is the perfect eReader for a book of this length (27 pages total).  I took a look at the book as well on my iPhone, but I preferred it on my iPad mini, because of the spacing and the size.

Author Jason Sandberg has put his imagination to good use again.  The illustrations are especially appealing, with just the right amount of detail.  The expressions of the main characters, pompous King Plunder and helpful Julietta, as well as of the other characters, skillfully convey various emotions, so that parents and children could discuss what characters are feeling or thinking.  Inspired by the Disney princess stage his daughter went through, the author has created a picture book with a fairy tale feel to it.  The New Crown would be a wonderful bedtime story for children ages 3-6, and a terrific read-alone book for children ages 6-9.  You're never too old for picture books, and I enjoyed reading The New Crown, which is colorful and clever and altogether captivating.

Kid Connection is a fabulous feature hosted by Julie from Booking Mama on Saturdays.  Even though it's a few days past Saturday, I'm adding my review link to this feature.  :)

Your comments are welcomed, as always.  Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Really Random Tuesday #72: A Thank You, a Book Winner, and a New Giveaway

Much has changed and evolved in the world of books since I created Suko's Notebook in May of 2008. When I first began blogging about books, I never imagined I'd be hosting so many book giveaways. I know I'm fortunate to be able to do this. The authors, publishers, and other bloggers I've worked with have been gracious and generous beyond belief. Thanks to you all!


The lucky winner of Last Train to Omaha by Ann Whitely-Gillen is Patricia.  Congratulations, Patricia! Thanks to everyone who participated.  If you didn't win this time, don't be dejected; I have a wonderful new book giveaway below, as well as other giveaways listed to the right in my blog's sidebar.


I won The Last Camellia by bestselling author Sarah Jio on Harvee's blog, Book Dilettante.  Thanks to the great generosity of Penguin, I have a few extra copies to give away to my readers.  I haven't read it yet, but it sounds like a fabulous book!

If you'd like to win one of three copies of this novel, which centers around the last surviving camellia plant, please enter the giveaway (U.S./Canada only).  Today, I noticed that you can post book giveaways on Goodreads, so I've added that to my "instructions" below.

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, or Twitter. 

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, September 23.  Three winners will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, September 24.  Good luck!


Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related matters you can think of.  I often announce book winners in these posts.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page

As always, thanks for visiting! 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Monarch Magic

At times, reading a novel leads me to some sort of a project.  After reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, I became intrigued by the idea of creating a small habitat for monarch butterflies.  My sister-in-law, Kristine, advised me to get milkweed plants for the garden, to attract monarchs.  I bought several "butterfly plants", or milkweed, from Home Depot, to plant outside. To my delight, monarch butterflies quickly discovered the plants and laid eggs on them, leading to numerous caterpillars, who start out very tiny and grow larger and plumper by eating the milkweed, their only source of food.  Eventually, some of these caterpillars became gorgeous chrysalises, with their trademark gold band, which are truly an exquisite sight.  With my iPhone, I took a few photos of this incredible life cycle.  This experience has been a highlight of my summer.  

A monarch on the milkweed

Caterpillars feasting on milkweed

A beautiful chrysalis
A new monarch, nearly ready for flight

Created by Alyce from At Home With Books, Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda from West Metro Mommy Reads.  To participate, post a photo, or a few photos, taken by you, a friend, or a family member, and add your link on Melinda’s site.  Your comments are welcomed. 

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Blog header by Held Design

Powered By Blogger