Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August '08 Summary (and Show & Tell)

(For Show & Tell this week I'm giving you a taste of my month - it's not unusual, but I'm proud of it.)

This month saw some fun things at my blog ...

For one, I gave myself a new title: Ambassador of Books. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I'll be updating my blog header with to include that name sometime this week. For another thing, I did a post over at (on Aug. 20) about the new rules my book club came up with. I gave away one book and have another contest going on right now. AND I was invited to be a book blogging panelist at the upcoming Baltimore Book Festival - woohoo! All in all an excellent month, if I do say so myself.


I read seven books again this month. I’ve been holding steady at that number since May; we’ll see if Autumn affects my reading pace any …

Books – 7.5 (2,073 pages)

  • Eat Pray Love – I read this last month but wrote my review this month.

I also added 33 new titles to my TBR list. Yeah, seven books a month isn’t exactly making a dent...

Audio Books - 1 (17 hrs, 17 min)

  • Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers – for book club (review coming soon) (17 hrs, 17 min)
  • As usual this does not count the Wheel of Time series that I'm still working through (see my left sidebar for details – I’m on Book 9 now).

Mom & Son Book Club - only 1 meeting

  • This was a busy month, plus kiddo went to California with hubby for 10 days and came back just before school started. Hopefully we’ll have more time next month.
  • We finally finished working through all 5 books of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Saturday morning we watched the movie together. You can be sure there will be a post about the books and movies coming soon!
  • If you want to read more about our meetings click here.

Challenges – 1 failed, 3 in progress

  • The Irresistible Review Challenge ends on Sept. 1, and I'm bowing out with the final two books started but not finished. It was lots of fun, but between lending one book to Gram and starting another in the wrong frame of mind (you just can't read Salman Rushdie quickly!) I couldn’t finish in time. I'm glad that I participated and I'd do it again, but I'd like either more time or fewer books next time around.

    Here is photographic evidence that I DID really lend my book to Gram. She goes back to Florida on Thursday ... I sure hope she's able to finish reading by then, or she'll be quite disappointed!

  • The Summer Reading Thing closes on Sept. 21. Part of my goal for that was to complete the IR Challenge (which I just told you I failed) … so I guess I won’t be officially completing this one either. Darn.
  • I’m still working on my 3rd & 4th books for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. I did get my 5th book in the mail (100 Years of Solitude - thanks Shawna!) and I’m looking forward to that one. This challenge ends on Feb. 28, '09.
  • I haven't even started the Lost Books Challenge, but that doesn't end until Jan. and there are only 5 books. Plus I still need to watch Season 4 of Lost - ugh, I'm getting farther and farther behind.
  • For more info on any of these, check out my left sidebar. There are links to the challenge pages there, and some are still open to new participants.

Sooooooooo, how was YOUR month?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Purchases ...

I don't usually buy books (I'm more of a swapper) but I just received a $20 Amazon gift card and I couldn't bring myself to buy anything BUT books!

I ordered two books for kiddo ...

And more for me ..
  • A Companion to Wolves - I've been hankering for a good fantasy novel for a long time, and I'm going to read this one in Sept. for sure!

I can't wait 'til my order arrives!!!!!!!!

(And yes, that is a picture of the Amazon River. I thought it was more fun to look at that a picture of!)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Finds 08/29/08

What with all the great blogs out there, I'm finding more and more amazing books each week. I've even been finding some great books for kiddo. So this week I'm sharing TWO lists - additions to my personal TBR list, and a new TBR list for kiddo & I. Check out my lists, then visit Friday Finds for more!

New Finds for ME:
  1. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett - I hear that even though it's part of the Discworld series, it can be read as a standalone novel. That's good b/c there are over 30 Discworld books and I'm just not that interested in reading all of them.
  2. Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum - in college I double majored in History and Political Science with a concentration in Russian history. My senior project was a 80+ page paper on women in the Soviet Dissident Movement. Because of that, this book is a MUST READ for me.
  3. The Rise & Fall of the Great Powers - I read about this in an essay in The Book That Changed My Life, but I've been unable to find out more about it yet (as in, who wrote it?!). It's supposed to be a history of all the great powers between 1500-2000AD.
  4. Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt - The author of Angela's Ashes write about his 30 years teaching English in New York City - this should be great!
  5. Popular Music from Vittula, by Mikael Niemi - I would never in a million years have been interested in this book ... but then I read this review. Now I can't wait to get my hands on it.
  6. Here There Be Dragons, by James Owen - I'm really in the mood for a good Fantasy book and this would fit the bill. Not only does it sound fun and original, it also incorporates many other "well-known" characters and stories into the plot.
  7. Casanova in Bolzano, by Sandor Marai - the story of Cassanova after his imprisonment ... ahh, the romance! the adventure!
And now, here are the books I've found for kiddo and I to read together:
  1. Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature's Footprints, by Jim Arnosky - Since kiddo and I love camping, this would be the perfect companion for our next trip. Plus kiddo starts Cub Scouts next week - yeah!
  2. Wave, by Suzy Lee - PLEASE click here to watch the video of this book (it's near the bottom of the post) - it is absolutely adorable! I want to "read" this one with kiddo so I can get him to interpret what's going on in each picture, what he thinks will happen next, and what he thinks about a book without words.
  3. Sir Reginald's Logbook, by Matt Hammill - the wild adventures of an armchair explorer - this one sounds like a lot of fun!
  4. Frankenstein Takes the Cake, by Adam Rex - Ok, I don't know if this is actually appropriate for kiddo or not, but I think he'd find it VERY funny. Here's a link to a great review/interview/preview of the book. I think much of the humor would be over his head (hopefully not below the belt!) but kiddo would LOVE the characters and the amazing illustrations, as well as the poetry (not b/c he's a poetic 6 yr old, but b/c it's really funny!). Here's a trailer for the book - what do YOU think of it?!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lovely Links #2

Every once in a while I like to share some new and exciting links with you. (It's been a while since my last Lovely Links post - sorry.) So here's what I have to share with you today ...
  • Please take a minute to read this post. It has absolutely nothing to do with books but it really hit home for me. Literally everything in that post is something that I have thought/felt/said myself. I wish I could get all my IRL friends and family to read it ...

  • Are you involved in a book club? Why not reach out to your community? There are tons of ways to get involved. You could donate books to your local library or school like this group did. You could sponsor a teen book club or kids book club, maybe just for the summer. Or you could be inspired by a book you read and choose a cause to support like this group did (scroll down to the June 17th post).

  • There's quite a bit of buzz in the blogosphere about a new site called Field Report. Have you ever wanted to review other bloggers' posts? Or maybe you've secretly hoped to get feedback on your own writing? Field Report lets you do both! It's all about everyday people - me, you, the guy down the street, the woman delivering the mail - reading, writing, sharing, and even winning money! There are no fees, no obligations, no spam ... just a great way to connect with other readers and writers.

  • Have you ever heard the phrase "You can judge someone unless you've walked in their shoes"? Or maybe you've "stuck your food in your mouth" a time or two, saying something you didn't realize was hurtful because you didn't know the whole story? We can't really walk in someone else's shoes though - so how do we make that connection? How do we even attempt to understand what other people are going through? There's a new blog out there working to remedy that situation: Bridges. This site is currently gathering bloggers from all over the blogosphere who are willing to share about the difficulties in their lives: addiction, infertility, cancer, allergies, religion, body image, elder care, and much, much more. Check it out, or better yet, add it to your blog reader; every day you'll get to read a post that will give you insight into someone else's life. What better way to become a more sensitive person? (Oh, and you may see a guest post or two from me about kiddo's allergies sometime in the coming months.)
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy my Lovely Links! Please let me know which ones you visit and what you think of them.

UPDATE: I just had to come back and post this spoof trailer for Twilight! It is TOO funny!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Book That Changed My Life

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel so miserable that you just CAN'T concentrate on reading? That was me last night. Hubby sent me to bed at 9pm because I looked so miserable (let me tell you, it was PMS from hell!) and he thought I'd feel better if I curled up with a book. Good idea!

I picked up my current bedside book, Midnight's Children, but it's one of those books that requires concentration so I had to put it aside rather quickly. I needed something simple, easy, and short - why not The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them. A series of essays, each no more than 2-3 pages in length, all about great books - perfect!

This is the perfect "go to" book. It's one that you can read in snippets (or all in one sitting like I did), leave in the bathroom, in the car, or wherever you might have a only a few minutes to read. In my case, it was perfect for the few minutes of concentration I could pull together between bouts of misery.

Of course, some essays were more enjoyable than others. My personal favorites were the authors who were inspired by non-fiction - that's so me! But the one I liked best of all was written by author Paco Underhill. He wrote about his grandfather reading to him, about being entranced by Horatio Hornblower, about his bike rides to the library, and about the secrets he kept from his parents so he'd be allowed to go. It was excellent.

I challenge anyone to read this book and not be moved by some of the stories. Even non-readers may find inspiration here - many of the essays are about how the writer went from non-reader t0 book devourer.

Here are a few things that caught my attention as I read:*
  • "We read in order to travel, or be borne, to that other place and thus interrupt the curse of having only one life to lead." (p51) Exactly what I would have said if only I were so eloquent!

  • In talking about her teaching epiphany one author said: "The truth, as I came to see it, is that once you fall in love, really in love, with that first book, you'll never be able to stop. There will still be plenty of time to introduce the classics." (p54) I wish more teachers thought that way. This is why I encourage people of any age to read what they ENJOY first; only then will they come to love reading.

  • "Typically, people don't easily budge from their opinions of what an author is saying (usually because they haven't read the book and never will)." (p58) Now THAT is something that gets me really angry. How DARE you (not you, dear reader!) speak out against a book because of what someone ELSE says about it? If you've read it yourself, then your opinion is valid. Otherwise, shut your mouth. (Sorry for that bit of a rant - this is one of the few things that really gets under my skin!)

  • After being denied a chance to see A Clockwork Orange in the movies, one author "discovered that there was no 'rating' on books - anybody could read anything." (p143) What a revelation! I remember rejoicing in that reality myself, especially as a teen. And this topic is all over the blogosphere right now, in the form of "age banding" for books.

  • And this one made me laugh out loud ... "the [book I picked up] was a memoir of the author's impoverished childhood. At that, I admit I had a politically incorrect thought: please, God, deliver me from another impoverished-childhood memoir." (p151) HA! I'll be honest here - I love me a good memoir, but I'm really tired of the abuse/drugs/abandonment thing. I'm sorry, but I really don't want to read about that any more (did I ever?!). When publishers contact me I give them a list of genres I'm interested in and I state very clearly that I don't want any "I-overcame-by-horrible-childhood" books. Is that really bad?!

  • One of the essays reminded me that I really want to read The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. It's been on my TBR list ever since this, but I had sort of forgotten about it.
Another great thing about this book is that all the proceeds go to the non-profit literacy program Read to Grow. For those of us who prefer to swap or borrow books, THAT'S a good reason to buy a copy of this one. Consider adding to your library or giving it as a gift - it would work well for a graduation gift I think.

* I think I'll be doing more reviews like this. I've used this format before and it seems to work for me.

I'd love to post your review here - just give me the link!
Things Mean A Lot

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's on YOUR Nightstand?

This monthly carnival is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books. Go on over and check it out!

My books aren't on my nightstand, they're all over my house. Next to each one I'll tell you where it is as well as how far I'm into it.

New this month ...
  • Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie) - currently it's in my car but it's actually my "carry it wherever I go" book - the writing is different than anything I've read before ... it really is amazing but requires lots of concentration so it's been slow going thus far

  • The Book That Changed My Life - this compilation of 71 essays is next to me on my desk - last night, in the midst of PMS misery (ugh), I just couldn't get into the Rushdie book so I picked up this one instead - I read all but the last 10 pages in one sitting! - check back tomorrow for my review

  • The Zookeeper's Wife (Diane Ackerman) - currently in my car - I just finished this book and it was fantastic! (here's my review) - I'm deciding whether to post it on PaperbackSwap or lend it to an IRL friend ...
  • Coming Unglued (Rebeca Sietz) - this is on my desk at work and I've barely started it - I got it from the publisher who told me it's about life, girlfriends, scrapbooking, and keeping it all together - sounds like fun to me!

  • Imagining Argentina (Lawrence Thornton) - on a shelf near my front door waiting for someone to request it through PBS (I'm ReadingAddict there, in case you want to request it from me!) - I posted my review a few days ago but I'll tell you again that this is a FABULOUS book - go read it right now!!!
Leftover from last month ...
  • Why the Wind Blows (Matthys Levy) - I keep this on at work in case I forget book #1 - so far it seems disjointed, but I'm hoping that things will come together if I keep reading
  • Some Experiences of an Irish RM (E. Somerville) - I keep this one in the bathroom - sometime I even read it while brushing my teeth. -it's quite enjoyable but easy to put down as well
  • Delta of Venus (Anias Nin) - This is near my bed. It deserves a post all of it's own ... it's the first erotica I've ever read (and it's for the 1% Well Read Challenge too!). Oh my, oh my, oh my ... you'll just have to wait for my review for more details. I only read this one occasionally - it's not an "every day" book! (This is basically what I wrote about this book last month ... I haven't even thought about reading it since then.)

  • 12,000 Miles In the Nick of Time (Mark & Rae Jacobson) - this one is stashed in a drawer near my bed ... I haven't touched it in over a month

What's on YOUR nightstand/bed/desk/wherever? Post a comment or join in with your own post (be sure to let me know if you do).

Monday, August 25, 2008

I need help with my nominations!

Have you heard about Book Blogger's Appreciation Week? It's being hosted by My Friend Amy. Anyone can participate - click here for more details.

Amy gave us a list of categories and we can nominate two blogs for each. Here's where I need YOUR help. I came up with nominations for several of the categories but I KNOW I'm missing some great blogs. Feel free to give me suggestions and to copy any of my nominations for yourself.

Here are the ones I've completely decided on:

For these, I only have one nomination so far. Are there any other great blogs out there that fit these categories?

These are the categories that have me stumped - any suggestions?

  • Best Literary Fiction Blog
  • Best Non-fiction Blog
  • Best Challenge Host
  • Best Community Builder
  • Most Chatty
  • Best Book Community site
  • Most Eclectic Taste

And these are the categories that I most likely won't use. For the first few, it's because I don't usually read those genres so I'm not qualified to say which blogs are actually good. For the others, I don't read many author blogs nor do I read many new books, so again I'm not qualified.

  • Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
  • Best Romance Blog
  • Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
  • Best Young Adult Lit Blog
  • Best Cookbook Blog
  • Best Published Author Blog
  • Best Book Published in 2008
  • Most Extravagant Giveaways

Sooo, anyone willing to help a gal out? I promise I will check out each and every blog that you suggest, and I'll post a list of my final nominations before I send them over to Amy.

The Zookeeper's Wife

When The Zookeeper’s Wife arrived in my mailbox last week, I dropped every other book I was reading and started in on it right away. Now this is completely against all my “rules” for reading. I usually read books in the order they arrive (I do that with books I’ve received from authors/publishers at least) and I try to stick with ones that are part of whatever challenge I’m currently working on. But this particular book has been on my TBR list for over a year and I was just too excited to wait.

For those who have not yet heard of this book, it’s the true story of the wife of the Warsaw Zoo’s keeper during WWII. Most of the zoo's animals were killed during the bombing but with the help of the Polish Underground, the zoo became a haven for more than 300 Jews escaping the Nazis. Wait! Don’t stop reading here just because you can’t take any more Holocaust books! This book is amazing!

Although this book is about WWII, Jewish people, and the Holocaust, the focus is NOT on the people being saved (or what they were being saved from) but rather on the everyday life of one family doing the saving.

Antonina (the zookeeper’s wife) is one of those rare people who seem to have a 6th sense when it comes to animals. She understands them implicitly and they seem to understand her as well. In fact, her view of the whole world is influenced by her connection to nature.

Jan, her husband, is heavily involved with the Polish Underground. He is forever bringing people to the zoo to hide out, leaving Antonina to feed and hide them in addition to caring for her own family and they myriad unusual pets.

Rys, their young son, struggles to keep the life and death secrets of the people in hiding. He’s just a child but he is growing up so quickly and he wants to be a part of the fight against the Germans.

Author Diane Ackerman is a poet and a naturalist, a combination which gives this book a unique style. The research she did is apparent on every page and it makes for a fascinating read. This is a non-fiction book so don’t expect a historical fiction novel here.* This book is chock full of fascinating facts. Some seemed obvious once I read them, others I’d never have guessed.

Here are some of the things that really caught my attention as I read:

  • In 1939 as Warsaw was being bombed, life was continuing on as usual around the world; Glenn Miller’s music was on the radio, the jukebox was a new invention, The Wizard of Oz played at the theaters, and people lived oblivious to events in Poland. Yes, I knew this, but the way Ackerman wrote about it made it so much more real.

  • When the zoo was bombed many of the animals escaped into the city and surrounding countryside. First off, imagine the scene from the movie Jumanji when all the animals are running through the city – that’s what came to my mind! It wasn’t exactly like that but there WERE exotic animals running through the streets of Warsaw. Whatever happened to the ones who made it into the woods? It reminded me of Life of Pi where Pi talks about the many zoo animals that have escaped and still live “in the wild”.

  • Antonina described the war as “a sort of hibernation of the spirit, when ideas, knowledge, science, enthusiasm for work, understanding, and love – all accumulate inside, [where] nobody can take them away from us.” Wow – that is powerful and so true.

  • The Boy and Girls Scouts, banned by the Nazis, were heavily involved in the Polish Underground. During the Warsaw uprising, Boy Scouts risked their lives to run a temporary, free postal service that hand-delivered letters.

  • The Nazi's fascination with purity extended to the animal world as well. They wanted to bring back several extinct species that they admired and also to rid the world of "lesser species" of plants and animals.

  • Most of us know that 30-40% of the world’s Jewish population died during WWII, but I did not know that 80-90% of the world’s Orthodox Jews were killed during this time.

  • Remember reading about Irena Sendler’s recent death? This wonderfully courageous woman was hidden at the zoo for a while. She was friends with Jan and Antonina before her stay there, and afterward as well.

  • The zookeepers – and others – thought of their home as an ark, filled with precious cargo adrift in a dangerous sea.

  • There is a process whereby you can reverse a circumcision. It was done as long ago as the Roman era (non-surgically!) and was done again during WWII to save many Jewish men. When I told my husband about it, he was cringing at the mere thought of the pain.

I really and truly loved this book. It kept my attention, taught me any things, and was an enjoyable read, much like another WWII book I read a few months back. I highly recommend this book.

* One reviewer I read said she’d have preferred this book if I were written in novel form. She wanted the author to intuit more, to give more flow to the story. I can’t disagree more! I loved the format of this book. So often when reading historical fiction I’m left to wonder “Did that really happen?” but there is none of that here. The author is up front about her sources and clearly describes what she knows to be true. I loved that about this book!

Post a comment with the link to your review and I'll add it here:
The Inside Cover

Saturday, August 23, 2008

!!!! I'm on a PANEL !!!! (Show & Tell)

(Show & Tell this week is SO COOL!!!!!!!!!! You'll never guess my exciting news!)

Remember a few posts ago I told you all that I'm planning to attend the Baltimore Book Festival (Sept. 26-28)? Shortly after that wrote that post, I commented on the Baltimore Sun's Book Blog suggesting they set up a Book Blogger Meet & Greet at the Festival.

I got an email back an hour later ... here's what it said:
[The Baltimore Sun Book Blog Editors] will be on a festival panel Sunday morning at 11 to discuss the decline of book reviews in U.S. newspapers. Meanwhile, there's been a huge increase in book bloggers. It would be great to have the perspective of a book blogger like you on the panel. Would you like to join us? I hope you can.
Uh, YES!!!!! Of course I can!!!! Can you believe that?! I was already planning on missing church that morning (shame on me) to attend that panel and now I get to be ON that panel!

And since it's a subject that's been a hot topic on book blogs lately, I'd love to get YOUR input. I'm meeting with the editors in a week or so to discuss what we want to say ('cause yea, I get to help plan the entire panel discussion!). Do you have any suggestions for me?

YEAH! I'M SO SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Madonnas of Leningrad - author webcast

Book Club Girl interviewed Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad, on her BlogTalk Radio program last night. This is definitely one that's worth listening to.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it's the fictional story of a elderly woman, Marina, who has Alzheimer's. As her memory of her present life fades she is drawn back to her experiences during the siege of Leningrad; that time becomes more real to her that her current life.

I read Dean's book earlier this year, and although I had several complaints I truly did enjoy the parts that took place in Leningrad. I'm in the minority with my complaints though - all the other reviews I read only had good things so say.

Take a minute to watch the book trailer; it's quite beautiful and will give you a feel for the novel. Then head on over to Book Club Girl and listen to the interview. When you're done, please drop back over here and let me know what you think!

Were you familiar with this book before reading my post? Have you read it? What did you think about it? If you weren't familiar with it, are you interested enough to read it? I'd love to know what you think!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rules for a Book Club?

In my book club I'm known as "The Book Club Madam" for all the behinds the scenes work and leadership roles I handle.

Click here to read my post over at about the rules we recently set for our club. I'd love to hear what you think about them!

(The date of my post was Aug. 20, so you may have to scroll down a bit.)

Friday Finds (08/22/08)

Could it be that I actually have a SHORT list this month?! Yeah!!! And I've been reading furiously while hubby and kiddo are away (they come home tonight) so maybe I'll actually make some headway on my TBR list this month.

Ok, on to this week's Finds:
  1. When the Emperor was Divine by June Otsuka - a story of a Japanese American family in a WWII internment camp
  2. Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backpackin' Book by Allen O'Bannon - I thought this might be fun to read with kiddo when he's a bit older - I love to camp and have taken kiddo several times (hubby always gets out of it somehow!)
  3. Close Encounters by Katherine Allred - the cover art I've seen for this book is just awful and that alone would have made me decide not to even try it BUT I read the first 20 pages here and I'm really quite interested - I've been too long away from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy world and I'm having withdrawl ~LOL~ (this one won't be out until March '09 though)
And that's all for me. Wow, I usually have 7+ books - must have been a slow week in the book blogging world!

Sign up here and post your own Friday Finds or comment on this post letting me know what you've discovered this week.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Imagining Argentina

I don't know where I heard about this book, but I highly recommend it! At just over 200 pages, it's one you could squeeze in before your next book - THAT'S how much I'm recommending this one.

Imagining Argentina was written in 1987 by Lawrence Thornton. The novel takes place during the 1970s-80s in Argentina, during the time known as The Dirty War. I'd heard bits and pieces about this time in Argentinian history but this was my first real exposure to it.

I don't usually do plot summaries in my reviews but I think it's needed here.

Our narrator is Martin, a 70 yr old friend of main character Carlos. Carlos is works in a children's theater. His wife, Cecelia, write for a local newspaper. When the novel opens, the generals who run the country have been abducting people on spurious charges; most are never heard from again. When a group of teenagers is abducted from their school bus, Cecelia writes an outraged article about it. This leads to her abduction. Shortly thereafter, Carlos begins "seeing" the disappeareds (that is the term used for the abducted). Once he hears the details of a person's abduction he can continue the story from there, letting the family know exactly what has happened to their disappeared - down to the very last detail. However he can't seem to use his gift to find Cecelia.

I was completely drawn into this book; the writing itself, the characters, the history, the awful truth of what was done to these people - all of it was fascinating. I couldn't put it down. Here are some of the images/ideas that really struck me:
  • Carlos explains why he loves walking in the rain - he says that the small cone of dry space under his umbrella is HIS space, controlled only by him - the generals who are controlling the rest of the city have no influence in that small space - he feels independent there, and imagines thousands of these little cones across the city coming together until one day they burst and freedom spreads everywhere
    "Unless the generals chose to assign a cop to everyone walking in the wet streets of Buenos Aires they could not contain this simple but eloquent reminder of freedom." (p102)
  • The importance of names in one's memory really touched me. When speaking of the disappeareds, Carlos says:
    "Names tell us about life and the memory of that life. But in Argentina names are not like they are elsewhere. Here, now, they are as easily erased as markings on tissue paper. Now the page of Argentina is clean of names that belong there, that have a right to be there." (p121)
This is my first real foray into the Magical Realism genre and I must say that I'm impressed. I had to believe that Carlos truly had this ability, but the way the story is written makes that an easy step. It didn't seem fantastical at all.

One of the quotes on the back cover describes this book as "a harrowing, brilliant novel". An online review at Amazon says it "should be required reading for anyone who calls him or herself a responsible citizen". I agree with both of these statements wholeheartedly; this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time.

I read somewhere that this is the first in a trilogy about The Dirty War. From what I can tell, the 2nd book does not follow the same characters; the time period is the same, but the story seems unrelated to this book.

Have you read this book, or any of the others in the trilogy? What did you think about them? If you've reviewed them, please comment with your link and I'll add it here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Queen of the Road

It seems like everyone and their mother has read or is reading his book right now! If you are like me, once you read two or three reviews of the same book you skip over any other reviews of that book that you come across. (I'm the only one who does that?! Oops, sorry.) But I do hope you'll continue reading - I promise to be brief and (somewhat) unique.

The whole title of this book is Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, A Husband, and a Bus with a Will of it's Own. It's written by Doreen Orion (who also wrote this book - betcha didn't know THAT, now did ya?!)

Ok, now for the quick (and unique?) review.
  • I have absolutely nothing in common with this woman - in fact, I strongly dislike people like her in real life - and yet I completely loved this book.
  • If you want to laugh, read this book.
  • If you cringe in horror over the excess money some people can just throw around, read this book. (I cringed and laughed at the same time.)
  • If you have a love affair with parenthetical comments, read this book. (Seriously Doreen - I think you need a parenthetical intervention! ~LOL~)
  • If you just love it when the know-it-all spoiled rich girl gets hit with a dose of reality and turns out much better for it (while keeping her sense of humor in tact!), read this book.
Doreen sent me a copy of her book after she called in to author Kristy Kiernan's book club (I interview Kristy here), and I'm so glad she did! It was a fun and easy read and I highly recommend it.

Also - and this is really cool! - I submitted a question about this book to Celestial Seasonings Book Club and they chose MY QUESTION (and 9 others) to be part of an upcoming webcast with Doreen. Unfortunately, I sent this question so long ago that I can't remember what the heck I asked, but oh well. As a thank you for my (hopefully) brilliant question I get a signed copy of the book* and $50 worth of tea - yeah!

I'll post a link to the webcast as soon as it's available. If Doreen is as funny "in person" as her writing suggests, this will be a not-to-be-missed event!

What are you waiting for?! Go buy a copy of Queen of the Road right now - you won't regret it!(If you need more convincing go check out Doreen's website.)

* If you notice, that means I'll have two copies of this book. Don't get your hopes up though - I've already promised one to a PBS buddy.

I'd love to post your review here too - leave a comment with your link!
Devourer of Book - the intro to her review is EXACTLY what I was thinking too!
Booking Mama - she has lots in common with Doreen, unlike me! And her review is much more thorough than mine.
Softdrink - was right there with me on the parentheses thing
Leafing Through Life - also enjoyed this one

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Update & Cool Story

Just a quick update to let you know what I’m reading, and to tell you a really cool book story.

  1. Queen of the Road – I finished it over the weekend (yes, I know, everyone else read it already!) and will have my review up soon – review spoiler: it was MUCH better than I expected and lots of fun
  2. Imagining Argentina – I’m about ½ way through and can’t put it down – review spoiler: a quote on the back says it’s a “harrowing, brilliant novel” and I couldn’t agree more
  3. Why the Wind Blows – I put this one down for a while but should finish it this week - review spoiler: not bad
  4. Life Is So Good – ¼ of the way in I had to lend it to someone so I don’t know when I’ll get back to it - review spoiler: sorry, haven't read enough for that :(

Really Cool Book Story

I’ve talked about my Gram before but let me recap the important things that relate to this story: she is 86, currently visiting from Florida with my Grandpa, and has a 3rd grade education. SO … here’s the story:

I went to my parents for dinner last week carrying two books. I planned to lend The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to my dad if he was interested, and the other was my current read, Life Is So Good. Dad, Gram and I sat at the table chatting and I mentioned to Gram that she’d like my current read because it was a true story (Gram – and my mom too – don’t see the point to fiction at all. Why read something if it isn’t “real”?). I explained that it was about the grandson of a slave who finally learned to read at age 98. She picked up the book and flipped through a few pages, admittedly looking for some pictures (there were none). While I cleaned the table she read the first page or two. I was quite surprised when she said that it was really interesting. I asked if she’d like me to leave it for her to read and she said yes. Huh? This, from the woman who I’ve never in my life seen read a book, and who says that reading makes her fall asleep? But ok, whatever, I’ve got TONS of other books to read right now, so I left it there.

I went back over a week later and my dad tells me – in a very shocked voice – that Gram is loving my book. In fact, she’s staying up way to late at night because she can’t put it down. I asked her later how far she’d gotten and she was pleased to tell me that she passed by bookmark already. WHAT?! I am totally shocked and impressed. Go Gram!

I’ve decided my new title should be “Ambassador of Reading” or maybe “Ambassador of Books” … which do you prefer?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Upcoming Book Festivals and Meet & Greet?

If you live in the US, check out this link from Publisher's Weekly. It's a list of many upcoming Book Festivals throughout the country.

I'll be attending the Baltimore Book Festival, likely with several members of my book club. Anyone else going?! I'd love to meet you there ... we could do a Book Blogger's Meet & Greet!

Eat, Pray, Love

This review will be a bit different than my usual book reviews. Not only did we read this for my IRL (in real life) book club but this online book club read it as well. As part of the blog book tour for the online club we have to answer three questions of our choice from a list submitted by the other bloggers. And I also have questions to answer from this Weekly Geeks task. If you'd like to read more Blog Book Tour answers click here to visit some of the other participants. And you can read what my IRL book club thought about this book here.

I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert in July but decided to hold off on my review until after my book club meeting. In retrospect, that was a bad idea. I can't quite remember what I thought about the book BEFORE the meeting ... hearing everyone else's thoughts has sort of sabotaged my ability to review this book. :( But I'll give it a shot!

I expected to hate this book. I'd heard that is was whiny and self-absorbed to the extreme - ugh. So I started reading with some dread. Within the first few sections the author stated that she's not going to go into all the reasons behind her divorce ... what?! Excuse me?! You mean you're not going to give me all the details so I can judge your decisions?! Seriously, those were the thought going through my head. I was quite ticked off about this for a while, but then I realized that this was the only way to write a book like this. If I knew the details, I would have totally judged her as a person and that judgment would have affected my opinion of the rest of the book; if her reasons were valid I'd say "you go girl" and if they were not valid (in my opinion) I'd rant at her and hate her book. [I can't be the only one who does this, right?!]

Once I got past the divorce, accepted that I won't know all the reasons for it, and moved on, I actually began to really enjoy this book. When I got to the part where she explains that she is overly affectionate and tends to latch on to people, and described herself as a combination of a "barnacle and a golden retriever" I was laughing out loud. Eat, Pray, Love is not the best book ever, and I don't think it deserves ALL the attention it's gotten in the media, but Gilbert IS an engaging writer and the story did draw me in.

Here are the questions for the Blog Book Tour:

1. Which of the three sections of the book -- Eat (Italy), Pray (India) or Love (Indonesia) -- could you most relate to & why?

Of course I could related to Italy the most - I AM Italian after all! So much of what she talked about sounded so familiar to me. Remember the part where she talks about the sexy and macho Italian men who stand around eating ice cream and still live with their mamas? I've got LOTS of uncles just like that.

2. The author learns Italian for the pure love of it (no real practical reason). Have you wanted to learn something just for the pure sake of the knowledge? Did you pursue it and how did it make you feel once you had done it?

Although I love being a student, since graduating from college in '98 I have never signed up to officially learn something. But I do get occasionally get on a topical reading kick. For example, a few years ago I decided to study Irish history (did I mention that I'm Irish too?). Over the next several months I read political histories, historical fiction, guidebooks, and tons of other books that had to do with Ireland. Although it served no practical purpose, I was happy with my increased knowledge. It fulfilled my pressing desire to learn (at least for a while). And as an extra bonus, I learned more about the political climate of my Gram's childhood in Ireland.

3. In Chapter 60, the plumber/poet from New Zealand gives Liz some Instructions for Freedom. #7: "Let your intention be freedom from useless suffering. Then, let go." To what extent has any suffering you've experienced in response to your own struggles (such as infertility, loss, illness) been inevitable? Natural but unhelpful? Useless? Does the suffering serve any purpose for you? Is that purpose enough to justify ongoing suffering?

Here's my take on this: bad things happen - that's just the way it is. Life is not perfect, and we will never get all the things we want. We can choose to rail against God/fate/whatever we believe in OR we can get on with our lives. Of course I realize that it isn't always that easy but that is my outlook on the world. Yes I get upset about things, yes I can get depressed, yes my heart can break over and over and over again, but I refuse to let those things define my life. I can ALWAYS look up from my sadness and find something, somewhere to be glad/grateful/excited about. And besides, having gone through those horrible feelings myself makes me more empathetic to others, more watchful of the words I speak, more in touch with the pain others may be in. So in the end, "I" decide what my outlook will be - "I" consciously decide to be happy - "I" refuse to let suffering bring me down and make me a miserable person. And that's just the way it is.

(As a side note, I wrote this on Saturday then went to church Sunday morning where the sermon had a LOT to do with this same topic. The sermon was on I Peter 1:1-9, dealing with trials as a Christian. The missionary who spoke suggested that when faced with a trial, we should pray "Lord, I don't know why you allowed this trial in my life but I'm going to trust you through it all because I know you still love me." That's what I try to do, and I try to keep a positive attitude at the same time.)

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty (with author participation).

And finally, here are the Weekly Geeks questions:

1. Bibliolatrist asks: Did EAT, PRAY, LOVE live up to the hype? It's been sitting on my TBR shelf for awhile, and I've been doing a good job of putting it off -- should I put it off longer, or dive right in?

Well, you can tell from my review above what I thought of it. However, knowing the types of comments you make in your reviews (cuz you know I read you every day) I'm thinking hat you won't like this one. Of course now I want to tell you to read it, just so I can read your opinions!

2. Bybee asks: Which section did you like the best of Eat, Pray, Love?

Aha! I already answered that same question for the Tour above!

Have you reviewed this book? I'm happy to post your link here!
Paper Bridges gives a Christian perspective on this book
The 3R's loved it
Weebles Wobblog was part of the online book club
Baby Smiling In Back Seat was also part of the online book club
Reading Reflections didn't get what all the hype was about
Read Street gives a man's perspective on this book

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Show & Tell

This week for Show and Tell I want to share a post I read on another blog. I read Sue at Plays with Needles every day, mostly for the wonderful pictures she posts. Sometimes they are of her needlework projects, sometimes they show the swims she's done, sometimes they have her son or her nieces as the focus.

On Friday Sue posted about her niece who is leaving for a semester abroad. Being a wonderfully crafty person, Sue (with the help of her son) made a special gift for her niece to take with her. Click here to go check it out.

I've given homemade gifts before (usually scrapbook albums, but sometimes other things), but Sue's gift really takes the cake, in my opinion. Have you ever given an gift like this? Are you inspired to now?!

It will only take a minute, so I hope you do click on over!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Finds

(If you're reading in Google Reader, please click on over so you an view the book trailer - I can't get it to show up in the Reader for some reason.)
Yeah, I don't know when I'll actually find time to read all these books. At my current pace I'm reading 7 books each month and adding 5+ books to my list each week ... talk about one step forward and THREE steps back!
  1. The Republic of Pirates, by Colin Woodard - the true story of the "pirate democracy" in the Bahamas in the early 18th century
  2. The Toss of a Lemon, by Padma Viswanathan - i love "epic family sagas" and that's what this review tells me this book is all about
  3. When I Grow Up: A Young Person's Guide to Interesting and Unusual Occupations, by Jessica Loy - I thought this would be a fun one to read with kiddo there are about 2 pages on each odd career
  4. The Year of Living Biblically, by AJ Jacobs - I've been hearing about this book for a long time but Raych's review made me decide to read it
  5. Hana's Suitecase, by Karen Levine - it's a Holocaust story but it's more than that; it's a Japanese teacher's efforts to touch her students by discovering more about one little girl - check out Natasha's review for an excellent overview
  6. The Seduction of Water, by Carol Goodman - an interesting blend of mystery, writing, and mythology
  7. Wife in the North, by Judith O'Reilly - watch the book trailer and tell me you don't want to read this one!

  8. What have YOU found this week? Post a note in the comments or click here to join in the fun!
Giveaway Reminders

You have until Sept. 2 to enter to win Genuine Men. Click here for my review and to enter.

My IRL friend Marie is giving away an ACEO (aka lovely fancy card) on Aug. 26. Click here to enter her contest.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book Buzz Meme

I was tagged for this by Booking Mama and boy, was this a hard one for me. Here are the rules:
My Friend Amy says: I am going to list three categories of books. 3 MUST Read Books, 3 Keep Your Eyes on These, and 3 Look For These Soon. Keeping with the theme, I am going to tag at least 3 bloggers. They should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. Then they should tag at least 3 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as it goes around the blogosphere. Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing as they go around the blogosphere. Since this is Book Buzz...please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009. (Heather's note: I'm italicizing the ones I added.)
Ok, here's why this is hard for me: I don't read many new books. If you were to ask me about a MUST READ book I'd likely suggest something written 10-100 years ago! But I did some research and here are my answers ...

3 MUST Read Books:
Matters of Faith by Kristy Keirnan (Heather's review and author interview)
Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (here's Julie's review)

3 Keep Your Eyes on These:
Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer
Wife in the North, by Judith O'Reilly
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (Heather's note: I agree! I won a copy and it's on the way now!)
3 Look For These Soon:
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (Heather's note: The 12th and final book in the Wheel of Time series, coming in 2009 - I can't wait!)

I don't usually tag people for memes but, since I know she loves to be tagged, I'll tag Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?.

I'm short two more players ... any volunteers? Let me know and I'll officially tag you!

The Beekeepers Apprentice

Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? I totally am. I've read just about all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books and short stories, but I'll admit that it's been a while since I read my last one. That said,I was a bit leery about the The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King. Here's the general idea ...

Sherlock Holmes is retired (mostly) and living in the Sussex countryside with Mrs. Hudson. He spends most of his time tending his beehives. One day he meets Mary Russell, a 15 year old American whose parents were recent killed in an accident. She is living with her aunt in a nearby home. Mary is bright, quick-witted, and strong willed - all qualities Holmes admires. The two strike up an unusual friendship, and the story goes from there.

I'll admit, I was skeptical about this one ... but I really liked it! It's a fun, easy to read book. Mary is definitely a product of the new century and she challenges Holmes in interesting ways. I loved her perceptions of Dr. Watson and Mycroft Holmes, and enjoyed the unique relationship she developed with Holmes.

This is the first in a series of Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books. I don't plan on running out to get them all but I do plan to pick one up from time to time. This series promises to be entertaining and a fun break from more challenging books.

Have you read any of Mary Russell books? What do you think of them? If you haven't, does this type of book sound interesting? I'm not a mystery fan, but I AM a Holmes fan, and I'm glad I found this book.

I'd love to add your review here; just post a comment with your link.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Knew?!

I have two topics on the "Who Knew?!" radar today ...

First, my IRL (InRealLife) friend Marie just started a lovely blog, mostly to show off pictures of her grandchildren. It's lovely so please go check it out. But here's the cool part - she's having a giveaway already! Now Marie is not a book blogger (sorry!) but she is a very crafty person and she's giving away ACEOs. Ever heard of them? Me neither. Come to find out, an ACEO is an Art Cards Editions and Originals ... basically a really lovely, fancy card ("Who Knew?!"). To the right is an ACEO that Marie made - lovely, right? Click here to enter the contest, and here for more details. If you drop by, please let Marie know that you came because of this post on my site. :) FYI this contest is open to anyone no matter what country you live in, and the winner will be drawn on Aug. 26.


Second I finished reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice Monday night (review coming tomorrow!) and the discussion questions and author interview in the back. Two things to point out ...

1 - Has anyone else notice that the discussion questions in the back of most books are often "leading" questions? I mean, it's like they WANT you to answer in a particular way. Whenever I come up with questions for my book club I work really hard to make them completely open ended and not to give hints about MY opinions in the way that I word the questions; I want to know what the girls think, not influence their opinions. Yet the discussion questions provided by the publishers oftentimes hint strongly at the "correct" answer, just by the way they are worded. Agree? Disagree? It can't be just me that's noticed this!

2 - I could possibly be the last person in the world to know this (and maybe it actually said it in the book, but I can't remember now) but did you know that the title of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" comes from a famous Sherlock Holmes quote?! The author mentions that quote in the interview. It goes like this:
"But the dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident."
"Who Knew?!" Seriously, did you know that line? I can't ever remember reading it, nor did I realize the connection when I read Mark Haddon's book, but it SO makes sense now!

An Indie Bookstore Visit ...

Last month I drove 40 minutes away to check out a cool Indie bookstore. I've been getting their emailed newsletter for months but it's not exactly on my way anywhere, so I hadn't actually been to the store. On this particular night kiddo and I had nothing going on and we heard that there would be a guy playing Irish folk music at the bookstore so we decided to make the trek. Boy was it worth it!

When we got there kiddo and I went first to the children's book section. It was so lovely! Kiddo quickly made himself comfortable in the beanbag chair right next to a low bookshelf; he could reach out and snag a book from the shelf (and put it back again!) without getting up. I wandered through the rooms checking things out. The music was lovely and kiddo even requested a few songs (I posted about our love of Irish Music here).

I've mentioned before that I don't often buy books. But I will make exceptions! I told kiddo he could choose one book, and that together we'd pick out gifts for his cousins. (My sister has a 2 yr old boy and had just delivered her 2nd baby boy the night before; what other gifts would a read-a-holic aunt give those boys than books?!) I also wanted to buy a book for myself ... not because I needed to add to my TBR pile, but because I really wanted to support the store.

Kiddo decided rather quickly. I wanted him to get this book (because you know I really, really LOVE bats - they are just so cool!!!) but his choice was a good one too. Here's what he chose:He was so excited to tell me that it had my favorite character in it - Lowly the Worm! Oh, how I love Lowly. I remember reading about him and his friend the hippo, and I remember being SO SAD when the hippo sat on Lowly's chair and broke it. :( Kiddo showed me page near the back and said "Mom, can you find Lowly?" As soon as I looked at the page I knew - I had this same book when I was a kid!!! Lowly was accidentally baked into a giant roll of bread ... poor Lowly. But great book pick kiddo!

Together we picked out a book for kiddo's cousin, the new big brother:
(My sister was excited about this one - come to find out she had requested it from the library but it was taking forever to come in.)

And we picked out this one for the new baby:
(Kiddo had "That's Not My Lion" and it was one of his favorite books. It has texture on each page plus you get to find the little mouse on each page.)

Then I had to make a decision about which book I wanted to buy. There were SO MANY I wanted! I mean seriously, when you have a TBR list that's over 200 books long, it's easy to find lots of books that you already planned on reading. But with a bit of help from Loretta, the owner, I decided on this book:
Please note, if you will, that The Beekeeper's Apprentice was NOT on my TBR list. It's one I'd heard of but did not plan to read. Loretta's recommendation plus my love of Sherlock Holmes made the decision for me. (You'll get to hear what I think when I post my review in a few days.)

I left the store with my new customer loyalty card already 1/2 way full (a full card gets you $10 off), a happy kiddo, a happy self, and a strong desire to magically move this store closer to my house.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Update

Today I sent hubby and kiddo to California for 10 days to visit hubby's aunt. Unfortunately I don't have enough vacation time to go, so they'll be enjoying the Southern CA weather without me. And going to LegoLand and going to DisneyLand. :(

On the bright side, I'll have more time to read! I'm in the middle of The Beekeeper's Apprentice (I should have a review for you by the end of the week) but have been too busy to read more than a few pages a day - I can't wait until I can read without interruption!

I'm involved in several challenges whose ending dates are quickly approaching. Before Sept. 1 I still need to read Life Is So Good and Midnight's Children. Another ends on Sept. 21 and I need to finish Why The Wind Blows for that one.

Of course, I'm stuck in front of the TV watching the Olympics every night and LOVING it, so we'll see if I actually make a dent in my reading list before the family comes home ....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Genuine Men (and a giveaway!) and Show & Tell

For Show & Tell this week I'm showing off my copy of the book Genuine Men and telling you how you can win a copy. Plus I want YOU to tell me about a special man you know!

I recently received a review copy of Genuine Men: journeys in stories and stills, by Nancy Bruno. The premise behind the book is simple: showcase average, everyday men who are good role models.

I really love the concept behind this book. We all (hopefully) know men who have made the hard decisions, stood up for what is right, or simply remained faithful to their word; this book puts the stoplight on those men.

There are 35 men in the book and each receives about two pages of attention. It begins with pre-teens and progresses in age through senior citizens. In most cases the stories are simple, and of course some are more inspiring than others. But in all cases the author makes clear that these are average guys doing the right thing in their lives.

On the whole I did enjoy this book, but I feel that it could have been better. The writing is ok, nothing spectacular. Those who know me IRL (in real life) know I'm a stickler for correct grammar and this book didn't always have it. (That wouldn't bother most people, I know!) The photos were good; I was hoping to be "wowed" by the images and that didn't happen but the photos were good.

At the same time I really do appreciate the concept of the book and I'm glad that I read it. It gives attention to men for doing the non-glorious things that they do that make things better for themselves and their families. This book would be an inspiring coffee table book (and it's not that big so it wouldn't take up lots of space). It would also make a great gift for a "genuine man" in your life, showing him that you do appreciate the man he is.

You can learn more about The Genuine Men Project here.

And now for the giveaway ...

Hopefully we all know some "Genuine Men" ... why not acknowledge them? Post a (brief) comment about a "Genuine Man" that you know, tell us what it is you admire about him, why he's a good role model, or whatever it is that makes him special.

Everyone who posts a comment about a "Genuine Man" gets a chance to win my copy of this book. I want to give everyone a chance to participate and also allow you all time to read through the wonderful comments so I'm going to keep this contest open until Sept. 2. There are no extra entries for blogging about this one, but please consider sharing it with your readers anyway - it's a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge our everyday heroes.

I'll go first ...

I want to acknowledge my dad. He is a rock: calm, steady, strong, stable. He was (and is) always there when I need him, never demanding, always appreciative. I grew up thinking that as long as dad was there, everything would be perfectly fine. Thanks daddy - love you.

Who do you want to talk about?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin