Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All's Quiet on the Blogging Front ...

It will be very quiet around here for a while because I'm heading to Florida to see my Gram and Grandpa, both of whom I've written about before. We'll also get to see hubby's cousins and lots of my other relatives while we're there. And if there are any bloggers in the greater West Palm Beach area, I'd love to meet you while I'm down there!*

It will be a wonderful trip but I will be (basically) without internet access for about 10 days ... OH THE HORROR! Since still thinks I'm a spam blog I won't even be able to schedule things to post while I'm gone.

I fully expect my Google Reader to be bursting at the seams when I return. In order to save my sanity I'm deciding right now to do the "Mark All As Read" thing as soon as I get home. I hate to do it but I think I really have to. That said, if you post about something really cool on your blog - a great book, wonderful photo, personal announcement, big controversy, or whatever you think is important - and you think I might enjoy it, please drop by this post and leave me a link. I'd really love to have a "hand-picked" selection of posts to read when I get back!

To my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! To my international readers, Happy Blogging!

I'll miss you all while I'm gone.

Did I mention how many books I'm bringing? 'Cause the answer would be four, plus two audio books, and one big one that kiddo and I are working on. I doubt I'll get through them though ... Gram will keep me too busy!

*Seriously. I'd love to meet bloggers from Florida! Email me through the address in my profile. I should be able to check my email by stopping off at the local library and I promise to get back to you asap. :)

The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James
published 1898

Have you ever picked up a book thinking that you know what it's about only to realize that you had it mixed up with something else? When I put The Turn of the Screw on my reading list for the "Lost" Challenge I thought I was choosing The Taming of the Shrew (not that it was actually on the list - I just got the titles confused. Go figure!).

Reading the first few sentences of the Screw brought me two surprises. First - this is NOT the Taming of the Shrew. Hmpf! Second - I think I've seen this movie before ...

(I've put all potential spoilers in one section and clearly marked it. There may be spoilers in the comment section though, so don't read all the comments if you don't want to know what happens - but please do comment!)

*** The Plot ***

In the company of guests gathered to hear the story, a man tells the following tale that he received from the woman who lived it: A governess takes charge of two angelic children, a boy and a girl, at the country home of their wealthy but absent uncle. Shortly after her arrival she begins seeing two horrifying ghosts, a man and a woman. She becomes convinced that not only are the ghosts after the children but that the children welcome this attention. What should she do?!

*** What Does It Mean? ***

From what I can tell from browsing the internet, the phrase turn of the screw originally "referred to torture where each turn of the screw amplified the pain of the subject." In modern language it usually refers to a plot twist, or more particularly "an action which makes a bad situation worse, especially in order to force someone to do something."

*** My Thoughts ***

This is a brief but creepy tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the framework of the story, beginning as it does with a "true story" being told to friends late in the evening. I got so caught up in the story of the governess that I forgot about the tale within a tale until long after I finished the book. It's stories like this that you wish for when you're camping out in the wilderness and sitting around a fire ... or maybe you don't!

One thing did bother me though - all the commas! I've only ready one other Henry James book (Washington Square was one of the first books I reviewed when I started blogging - how my reviews have changed since then!) and I don't remember much about his style so I can't say whether he always wrote like this or not. EVERY sentence seemed to have at least 5 commas. They were full of prepositional phrases, interruptions, etc. and I often had to reread sentences just to make out what was actually being said. After a while I became more accustomed to the author's style, but it still wasn't an EASY read.

At only 142 pages it didn't take long to read, but I do wish I had read it all at once - the creepiness would have been more enjoyable that way. (I read it at work during my lunch break over a week). I read it through Project Gutenberg - gotta love that site!

*** Movie version? ***

I KNOW that I've seen an old black and white movie version of this; I could picture various scenes from the film as I read the book, especially the scene where the male ghost's face appears outside the dark window. I remember it being quite a creepy film, but I must have seen it as a child so that could have something to do with it!

I tried to find info about an old b/w version but the only thing I can up with was an adaptation called "The Innocents" and that doesn't look familiar. I did notice that there was a newer version starring Colin Firth and Jodhi May - has anyone seen it?

*** Lost? ***

So how does this book relate to the TV show Lost? The governess is convinced that what she's seeing is real, and that the children are seeing it as well, but at the same time, the housekeeper isn't seeing anything at all. That disconnect and confusion reminds me of the feelings on the island when they are still unsure what is out there. The unexpected appearances of the ghosts in the books is much like the appearances of the "monster" in the show as well - there is no warning, it just happens all of a sudden. Plus there is that all-inclusive feeling of creepiness and of being unsure what is going on that is present in both the book and the show.

Here's what Lostpedia has to say, but I'm not all that impressed as they don't have too much to add. It is sort of an obvious thing to say that since this book was in front of the Dharma Initiative Orientation tape then the tape will be another "turn of the screw" for the survivors.

And here are a few other Lost-and-Screw-related links. Enjoy!

*** Spoiler Alert! ***

I have a few questions for anyone who has read this book.
  1. Is it just me, or does the boy, Miles, seem to be attracted in some way to the governess? Is it just the language of the day, or is he expressing his "growing up" by being attracted to her? And does she reciprocate in any way? I'd tend to think not, as she sees him as a child most of the time. But there are a few times where I wasn't so sure.
  2. Do you think the governess was crazy and that there were no ghosts, or was she correct? Either way, what how do you explain the end of the book?

If you've read/reviewed this one, let me know and I'll add your link here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Right Ho, Jeeves

by PG Wodehouse

This audio book was my first introduction to Wodehouse (and thanks to the introduction I know that is pronounced WOOD-HOUSE, not WOAD-HOUSE as I always thought). Other bloggers have written about him often but he was completely new to me. One blogger in particular - sorry, I can't recall who just now - mentioned that Wodehouse is best appreciated by listening rather than reading his books. Having now listened to my first I must wholeheartedly agree.

*** In Summary ***

This is the most entertaining absurdity I've ever heard!

*** More detail, you say? Right ho! ***

Trying to explain what this book is about is like trying to explain what makes something funny. It's sort of a comedy of errors, a comedy of manners, and a good dash of British humor all shaken and poured for your enjoyment. Those who know Wodehouse will understand what I'm saying; those who don't will have to try him to see it.

I'll do my best to give you an overview. This story - and others in the "Jeeves" series - center around Bertie Wooster, a wealthy young man-about-London, and his butler, Jeeves, a man of few-but-always-appropriate words and perfect manners.

In this episode Bertie and Jeeves visit the home of Bertie's aunt. Several lovers quarrels ensue amongst the guest and Jeeves is sought for advice, as usual. This time however, Bertie insists he can sort things out - against the advice of all parties involved. More drama quickly follows.

That summary really doesn't do justice to this book. You simply MUST give it a try!

Did I mention that the book is filled with old and odd British words? I LOVED that!

*** Reading vs. Listening? ***

I think if I would have read this rather than listened to it, I wouldn't have gotten as much out of it. The narration was excellent - I was laughing out loud several times! Now that I know what the dialogue is supposed to sound like, I think I'd be able to read other Wodehouse books with great pleasure. So my advice to the "uninitiated" is to grab an audio book and plunge in.

Or as Wodehouse might write ...

Bertie: "What say you, Jeeves?"
Jeeves: "Indeed, sir."
Bertie: "Right ho, then!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Kiddo is Reading ...

5 Minutes for Books wants to know what books kiddo and I are reading now, and since I haven't posted any Mom & Son Book Club reviews in a while I figured this would be a good substitute.

  1. We just finished A Giant Problem, book 2 in the series Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. Kiddo enjoyed it, as he did the entire Spiderwick series so far. From a mom's point of view, this book has the same flaws as the others in the series (which I wrote more about here). As always, I made sure that kiddo understands that just because the characters in a book do or say something, that doesn't mean HE should as well. And as long as I know he understands that, I'm content to keep reading these books. Unfortunately, book 3 isn't out yet.

  2. Kiddo's school had their book fair earlier this month. There was only one book there that he wanted to buy: Star Wars the Clone Wars: The New Padawan. Have I mentioned before that kiddo is completely addicted to Star Wars? This has been going on since he was 3 years old and it shows no signs of abating. Thank goodness that I was (am!) a Star Wars fan or else this would have driven me completely nuts by now. Anyway, he brought his money to the book fair specifically to buy this book. Somehow he found out that it would be there - it must have come up in class. When we got to the book fair he asked the mom running the fair where he could find it and she didn't know. I looked everywhere but I couldn't find it either. I was trying to convince him that he should buy something else when we finally found it. Needless to say, he was thrilled. We've only read the first (short) chapter so far but I'm sure this will be one that we reread often.

  3. The last book that we are currently reading is The Ark, The Reed, and The Fire Cloud. It's the story of Noah's ark told from the point of view of the animals and it's great! Kiddo loves it so far. It's over 400 pages and we are only about 150 pages in. The main character is a Scottie dog named Max. Kiddo loves my impression of a Scottish accent. It is definitely challenging to read a book while doing different accents, that's for sure! Max is Scottish, Al is Irish, Liz is French, and I butcher ALL accents equally. But kiddo is enjoying it and that's all that matters. This book will be coming with us on our Thanksgiving vacation for sure!
As a side note, hubby and I had our conference with kiddo's teacher yesterday (for those who don't read my blog regularly, he's in 1st grade). He's doing well, and is one of the strongest readers in the class. But kiddo is not happy with that - he thinks he's doing poorly. He finds reading to be very challenging and is more apt to give up than to work at it. According to his teacher that is common in his class and perseverance is something they work on as a class. Kiddo wants to be able to read NOW and EASILY. At the beginning of the year he asked his teacher if he would be able to read Harry Potter by the end of 1st grade. She said that he'd be close. Unfortunately she didn't tell him that it would be a lot of work. It just breaks my heart to hear him say that he doesn't like reading and to see him struggle with it. I KNOW that he loves books, he's just impatient with himself. Hubby and I are working hard to make sure that he doesn't give up, and that he does develop good reading habits and a love of reading. Wish us luck!

So those are my Kid(d0) Picks for November ... what are YOU reading with your kids, nephew, nieces, neighbors?

~ Bookstore Event for my Local Readers ~

The owner of BookHolders in Towson (425 York Rd 21204) asked me to pass along info on their upcoming in-store event. It sounds like a wonderful thing and I'm bummed I can't make it (but I WILL be in Florida, so that makes up for it in my opinion!). Below is an excerpt from Jason's email to me. Let me know if you plan to attend.


The event will be on Saturday, Nov. 22. It will start at 1pm and may run for a few hours. We will provide coffee and donuts for your book club members and friends. Each person that mentions that they are either a member of the book club or a friend of a member* will receive one free book of their choice. Feel free to post this event up on your blog. The event will be a browsing session where your members can browse our inventory either themselves or with the assistance of a clerk. We are trying to increase store traffic so the more people you bring the better.

There is free parking at the mall which is a little way up the street (still walking distance) otherwise there is either free 4/h and paid parking closer to the store. If you or anyone in your book club has any questions they are more than welcome to email me.

For more info you can contact Jason Baxter at (410) 878 - 2099 or visit the website: FYI, BookHolders is a student bookstore that is now branching out into mainstream books.

* If you go, tell him that I sent you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Birthday Book Bash Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered my 30th Birthday Book Bash Giveaway! I'm so glad I get to share some wonderful books with you. Without further ado, here are the winners ...

First Prize
The Secret Life of Bees
Cane River
The Lost Diary of Don Juan

Second Prize
S. Krishna
Bedlam South
The Poisonwood Bible

Third Prize
My Seven Years in Captivity

Winners, please email me through my profile with your mailing address. Thank you all for entering - I'm sorry I can't give EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU a book.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Finds 11/14/08

Happy Friday to all! This is the only weekly activity I do consistently on this blog and I love it. It helps me stay organized, keep a handle on what I'm adding to my TBR list, and see the books that are catching the eye of other bloggers. Thanks MizB for hosting this every week!

As an aside, I'll be missing from the Finds next Friday. The family and I are heading to Florida to visit my Gram and Grandpa for Thanksgiving. To those of you who only stop by here through Friday Finds, Happy early Thanksgiving (at least to my American readers).

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter my Birthday Book Bash Giveaway! The winner will be drawn tonight. Good luck!

Here are the titles that made it to my TBR list this week.
  1. 50 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade, by Miles Litvinoff and John Madeley - a blogger friend wrote about Fair Trade in the chocolate industry recently and it was the first time I'd heard much about it - when Deb wrote about this book I knew I had to add it to my list right near the top

  2. Boys Should Be Boys, A Headmaster's Reflections, by Brian Walsh - "a memoir style book about how boys learn differently than girls, make friends differently, have entirely different issues of self-esteem and motivation, react to their parents and teachers differently, and, in fact, process just about everything differently. These observations are presented through anecdotes of actual school situations and, more significantly, through the voices and actions of the boys themselves." - I heard about it in the ReaderViews newsletter and it's a MUST READ for me since I have a boy (hi kiddo!)

  3. We are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam, by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway - this is the follow up to their first book We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young (made into the movie "We Were Soldiers") - I heard about this through the CSPAN Book TV newsletter - my dad is a Vietnam vet so I'm always interested in learning about this era

  4. Dream Homes: From Cairo to Katrina, an Exile's Journey, by Joyce Zonana - it's a memoir of an Egyptian Jew who spent most of her childhood in New York but I'm not even going to attempt to summarize it - just go over and read Chris's review and you'll see why I want to read this one

  5. The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, by Laura Schenone - "brings love of family, place, and ethnicity to the table. Her touching quest to find her grandmother's ravioli recipe takes her from Hoboken to the shores of Liguria, Italy -- her family's homeland. With wine, food, and music, Laura's journey captures the complex and fascinating traits of her Italian heritage." - I heard about this in the ReadingGroupChoices newsletter and it reminds me so much of my Italian side of the family!!!
I was reminded of another book this week that is already on my TBR pile. Dewey reviewed The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I had decided to hold off on this book for a (long) while but her review made me bump it up higher on the list.

What did YOU find this week? Post a comment on this post or head over here to join in the fun!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A New Opinion on the Current Blogging Controversy

I'm sure most of you are sick of this topic by now (since it's been all over the blogosphere!) so I promise to keep this short. I emailed Dave at Read Street, the blog for The Baltimore Sun newspaper, to get his thoughts on it and he posted about it today. Here's the link to his post in case you want to check it out.

And for those who have no clue what I'm talking about, here's a quick summary: A blogger posted a negative review of a book. The author took offense and requested that the cover art and all quotes be removed from the post. The blogger declined to change the post. A commenting war errupted as other bloggers vehemently defended the original blogger. This spawned posts on other blogs and a whole host of negativity and concern in the book blogging world.

My opinion - because I KNOW you want it - is that both the author and many of the commenters responded inappropriately. Common courtesy will get you far in this world I say. Can we all try to remember that? And I also disagree with the commenters who say that self-published authors are extra sensitive and write poorly - what a generalization to make! That's just like saying all bloggers are self-focused and uneducated. Hmm ... that harkens back to this controversy, don't you think?

For the record, I review every book I read whether I liked it or not. If I'm giving a negative review to a book I received from an author or publisher I usually email them a heads up first, and I always point out both good and bad things about the book. My opinion isn't the be-all-end-all of opinions; I have yet to find a book that no one likes so I'm sure to say in any negative review that other readers may enjoy this book.

And that's all I have to say about that. At least, that's all until you post some comments!

REMINDER: Birthday Bash Book Giveaway

There's still time to enter my Birthday Bash Book Giveaway!

I'm drawing a winner tomorrow evening - click here to enter!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Books & Movies: The Golden Compass

*** My Dilemma ***

Despite the intriguing previews, I've been avoiding The Golden Compass. I'll admit that I got caught up in the controversy surrounding this film; I was put off by what I heard but I really didn't give it much thought beyond that. See, I was off the hook because kiddo didn't want to see the movie anyway, hence I didn't have to do any research into it.

On the other hand, I've heard so many good things about Philip Pullman's books (the series is called His Dark Materials) from other bloggers, and I really think I'd like them if I read them.

*** The Movie ***

Last week kiddo and I saw a another preview for The Golden Compass on DVD we both decided we wanted to watch it. So we did. Here's a preview for you, in case you haven't seen it yet:

I have to say I really enjoyed it. The world created in the movie was fascinating and unique. Being a huge Fantasy lover like I am, encountering a complete and original world was a bonus for me.

Kiddo liked it too but he wasn't as into it I expected (unlike this other movie). Several times he got up to play with his Legos, although he continued to watch the show while he played. I think it was a bit over his head in parts. And since I didn't know the story I couldn't explain it to him along the way.

Kiddo had a hard time understanding the Magisterium. I tried to explain it as a group of people being in charge of the world. Those people are making rules for everyone else to follow that aren't good rules, rules that give more power to the people in charge. I'm not sure I did a good enough job with my explanation, but not having read the book - and having to explain based on only the first 30 minutes of the movie - I didn't have a lot to go on.

During the movie kiddo really liked the idea of the animal "friends" (as he called them). But when we discussed the movie later that night he said that people's souls living in animals was "weird". He couldn't articulate his thoughts any better than that but I got the distinct impression that it just didn't "feel" right to him.

I very much enjoyed the movie, but I don't think it was a great one in kiddo's opinion. There are some things that bother me about the direction (I've heard) that books take though. What it comes down to is that I'm going to have to read all the books in His Dark Materials series. I can't make a decision about it's "appropriateness" without doing that.

*** An "Expert" Opinion ***

A friend of mine interviewed Philip Pullman and presented a paper in grad school on the religious themes in his books. Since I'd consider her an expert I decided to ask her about the books from a Christian perspective. Oh, did I mention that her husband is a pastor? I'd say her opinion is an educated one. :) Here are some excerpts from the email she sent me:
It can certainly be read as an anti-christian challenge of God. But i think most people get more upset about the crazy stuff that the atheist author says in interviews than what's actually represented in the text. He IS an atheist, who has said some INSANE things and who believes that Christianity is a vile "opiate of the masses." But his trilogy can be read multiple ways - just like Harry Potter does contain witchcraft which scripture says we should avoid but simultaneously presents many christian attributes, like salvation, love, etc. (see Connie Neal's The Gospel According to Harry Potter). [Heather's note: Don't you just LOVE a friend who turns you on to MORE books?! And for the record, I have NO objections to the Harry Potter books.]
Pullman does not get into the challenging of the Authority until the end of the 2nd book. ... The Authority is only called God ONCE in ... the 3rd book. The Authority is also called the government, the king, the education system, etc. Pullman specifically challenges all Authority, not just that of organized religion. Many readers focus on the religious aspects of the Authority because a character in the 2nd book, Mary Malone, is a disillusioned nun who becomes interested in researching dust. I read them several years ago ... and I thought of Lyra & Mary Malone as Martin Luther - challenging the corrupt medieval Catholic Church until the Catholic Church itself underwent a counter-reformation. Now if i re-read it today after hearing all of the hoopla since the movie came out, I may see it differently because I'd be looking specifically at the religious aspects of the book to see if his critics are correct. But I didn't see that much of a challenge years ago when I read it.
I really appreciate her input on this. Based on what I now know, I will definitely read the books BEFORE watching the next movie. I think that's the best way to be able to answer kiddo's questions and understand for myself what this series is all about. Besides, I think I liked it more than he did anyway.

I REALLY enjoyed the movie of The Golden Compass and will definitely watch it again. I can't wait to read the books!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Swap!

I'm a bit late to jump on this bandwagon but here I go anyway!

Sounds like fun, right?! Click on the button above (or click here) to find out all the details. This is a worldwide event so no one will be left out. I've already signed up - let me know if you do as well.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To participate you must sign up by Nov. 18th at the very latest so don't wait!

Dune Legacy

A sand-covered planet, poison gas hidden in a false-tooth, assassins, spice, Fremen, stillsuits, a gom jabbar, giant sandworms, thumpers ...

Those are the wonderful and vivid images that spring to mind when I hear the word "Dune".

I remember reading Frank Herbert's Dune about 15 years ago. I was fascinated with the complex universe created by this amazing author, and especially intrigued by the concept of stillsuits. (In case you've never read the book, a stillsuit is worn by people living in the desert; it recycles all water produced by your body and turns it into something you can drink.)

My dad introduced me to the world of sci-fi and fantasy ... Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, and Herbert, were a few of our favorite authors. I remember many bookish conversations between him and I about them. (I also remember trying to get mom in on the conversation but she thought dad and I were nuts, especially for our fascination with stillsuits.)

That's my dad to the left. It's not the best picture but it's the only one I have handy.

Anyway, back to Dune. According to the official Dune website "Classic Dune" books include the following:
  • Dune
  • Dune Messiah
  • Children of Dune
  • God Emperor of Dune
  • Heretics of Dune
  • Chapterhouse: Dune
I read all of them many years ago, except perhaps the last one (I can't recall anything about that one at all). I loved the concept of the books, but there was one thing that bothered me: how did Paul go from leader of the Fremen uprising to Messiah/God Emperor? You see, book 2 picks up many, many years after book 1 ends and there is never a clear explanation of what happens in between.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I learned about the new book Paul of Dune, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. I knew these guys had been writing Dune books for years but I didn't want to get sucked into a never-ending series so I chose not to read any of them. But their latest book - now that's a different story! It picks up where book 1 left off and fills in the gaps between the first two books. YES!

I received a review copy of the book in early September but had to put it aside until I finished several other books I'd committed to review. It has been staring at me from my bookshelf for months and I've been dying to pick it up. I was leery though ... what if I didn't remember enough about Dune? What if I had no idea what was going on?

I'm happy to report that it is FANTASTIC so far. I'm only a few chapters into it but I don't feel lost at all. If I remember the end of book 1 correctly, this new book begins only a few months later. The characters are coming back to me, the plot is coming back to me, and all those fantastic memories are coming back to me as well. I can't wait to get back to reading!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bedlam South

Bedlam South
by Mark Grisham and David Donaldson

From the website:
Set in the heart of the Confederacy, Bedlam South is the story of ordinary people who fought and suffered, and loved and lost during the [American] Civil War. Authors Mark Grisham and David Donaldson weave a rich tapestry colored with tales of tragedy, romance, and redemption.
Some of the proceeds from this novel go to the charitable organization Impact Missions. Scroll to the very bottom of the post for more info on this.

*** The Plot ***

This book follows the lives of several characters during the Civil War (approx. 1860-1865). Dr. Bryarly is an American doctor working in the notorious Bedlam Insane Asylum in England; at the start of the novel he is called back to the US to run a Confederate asylum in Virgina. There is the Dougall family, immigrants from Ireland who meet the doctor on the Atlantic crossing. Billy and Zeke are brothers from Mississippi fighting in General Lee's Confederate Army. And there's also Mary Beth, a high-class prostitute working in Virginia.

*** The Pros ***
  • I learned quite a few things from this book, such as ...
  • I didn't realize that immigration to America from Ireland (and other places) continued throughout the Civil War. For the immigrants who knew very little about the two sides of the conflict, their port of call often determined their allegiance.
  • The original name for what we know today as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome was "A Soldier's Heart" ... I wonder if that has anything to do with this other book.
  • I was reminded of the horrible standards of acceptability in insane asylums during this time period. It is so contrary to what the word "asylum" actually means.
  • There was a mystery in the doctor's past, something having to do with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, that kept me wanting to read on - I just HAD to find out the truth.
  • I totally did not see the plot twist near the end - wow, was I shocked!
*** The Cons ***
  • There were too many topics for such a short book. I felt like the authors were trying to cram the battle history of the Civil War, advances in the field of mental health, and all the relatively unknown but still important events/people/etc. in the South and give me an education on all of them.
  • The portions of the story dealing with Billy and Zeke in the army seemed to be there mostly to give the authors the opportunity to tell the reader what was going on in the war. Most conversations didn't feel natural. One character would ask a question and another would reply in a way that was more exposition than conversation.
  • Cliche, cliche, cliche. I didn't see anything very original in this book, other than the character of Dr. Bryarly and his experiences.
  • I wasn't a big fan of the writing style. In fact, this quote from page 80 almost made be put the book down for good:
    I heard tell that he was pinned under a piece of artillery that burst into flames, and that's how he got his scars. Now he lives in fear of fire - watch and you'll see he stays far away from any fireplace. Instead he uses whores to keep him warm.
    Really?! Honestly, I laughed out loud at that line ... I just couldn't get past it.
  • The endings were tied up too neatly and too quickly. In all but one case, the authors handed me the solution to each problem/mystery/etc. in about a paragraph a piece.
  • Knowing that I was reading an Advance Reader Copy of this book I expected to find some errors, but there were a LOT of errors - enough to be really annoying. This book needs some serious editing before it is published.
*** My Conclusion ***

I had such high hopes for this book. I've been looking forward to reading it since August and the anticipation has been delicious. Alas I was disappointed, for all the reasons listed above. Also, I couldn't get attached to any of the characters except Dr. Bryarly. In fact, had I not promised to review it I would have quit reading before I got halfway through.

I really hate to give a negative review to a book I received from a author, publisher, or marketing group. It's likely that the author will read the review and I don't want to be mean or hurtful in any way. But at the same time the purpose of my blog is to review absolutely everything I read in an honest manner, so there you have it.

On the other hand, I encourage you to give this book a try because a significant portion of the proceeds go toward Impact Missions, a faith-based ministry dedicated to providing Christ-centered care to abused children, hurting families and impoverished people. Co-author Donaldson is affiliated with this organization.

Who knows? Maybe you'll love this book. I've been known to disagree with the majority before (Midnight's Children anyone?) ...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lovely Links #6

For this week's Show and Tell I have some (mostly bookish) Lovely Links for you ...
  • Check out the video in this post - is the largest, most secluded bookstore in the US ... and I totally want to visit!
  • "When the genocide in Darfur has ended, what will you say you did to stop it?" Maw Books made a difference in September. If you missed out on your chance to support her, at least go read this book review post - it's very worth your time.

  • In the mood for something lighter and more fun? You must visit Dr. Roundbottom's website! According to This site is a little bit fiction, a little bit photographic art, and a whole bunch of steampunk Victoriana. It’s a lot of fun. There are clockwork spiders, ocular fungus, snails with mushrooms growing on their shells, fire faery trees, steam wraiths, park crabs, and more. Now doesn't that sound like fun?!

  • And back to reality, check out these amazing photos from the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Friday, November 7, 2008

An Exacting Reader Am I

I don't usually post quizzes on here but when the results are so exactly right I get a bit excited.

According to this quiz on Book Browse ...

My Reading Personality: Exacting Reader!

The expression 'so many books, so little time!' sums up your life. You love books but you rarely have as much time to read as you'd like - so you're very particular about the books you choose.

That totally hit the nail on the head! I couldn't have described me better myself.

If you take the quiz, be sure to post a comment here letting me know how it turned out. Did it caputure your reading personality correctly?

Friday Finds 11/7/08

Here are the books I've added to my TBR list this week ...

  1. Alphabet Juice, by Roy Blount, Jr. - this is a book about words, and it sounds hysterical - I think I'll have to do the audio version to get the full effect

  2. Scratch Beginnings, by Adam Shepard - can you go from being homeless and just about flat broke to having money, a car, and a place to live in just one year? That's what Shepard attempts to prove in this book. Here's the review that caught my attention, and here's another that has spoilers (but I think it's also a great recap of the book).

  3. Map of Home, by Randa Jarrar - here's a quote from the back cover: "A Map of Home is the kind of book Tristam Shandy or Huck Finn would have narrated had they been born Egyptian-Palestinian and female in the 1970s." Based on that alone I want to read this book! Here's the review that introduced me to it.

  4. The Only Road North, by Erik Mirandette - I went back and forth over this book, and it took me about a week to decide that I think I do want to read it. Here's where I heard about it.

  5. The January Dancer, by Michael Flynn - I'm still not sure about this one. It's a sci-fi/fantasy novel with a Celtic twist ... could be good, could be bad. Check this out and let me know what you think.

And now for kiddo's list ...

These will be for when he's a bit older, but I'm adding them now anyway. I found both in this post.
  1. Spyology, by Spencer Blake - this book gets the reader to crack codes, unravel clues, and learn about disguises all while teaching kids all about spying. It sounds like fun!

  2. Castle Diary, by Richard Platt - the first half of the book is the diary of a young boy living and working in a castle. He talks about his life, his chores, etc. The second half discusses the castle, armor, fortifications, etc.

For more Friday Finds head over to Should Be Reading. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Books & Movies: Nim's Island

Kiddo and I watched Nim's Island on Monday evening and we both loved it.

From a little boy's point of view, it has ...
  • an adventurous life on an island
  • a volcano
  • a kid who has animals for friends
  • enough danger to be exciting but not enough to be scary
  • catapulting lizards
  • a lady who talks to an imaginary character that no one else can see
  • a guy who is sort of like Indiana Jones
  • and a farting sea lion!
From a mom's point of view, it has ...
  • a fun plot for both mom and kiddo
  • absolutely NO objectionable content (woohoo!)
  • an agorophobic writer who talks with the character she created in her books
  • and a guy who is sort of like Indiana Jones!
This is a movie I would watch again and again. Kiddo gave it an 8, and I'd have to agree with that. Here's a clip, in case you haven't seen it yet ...

Have you seen it? What did you think? Have you read the book? Is it a book kiddo and I should read together, or it is not worth our time?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Books & Movies: The Secret Life of Bees

Every once in a while a movie comes along that really captures the essence of the book it's based on, and THIS is one of those times!

My book club read The Secret Life of Bees back in our first year (you can read my recap here). I remember really enjoying this book, so I was definitely looking forward to the movie. We planned to see it as a club but that didn't end up working out. Instead it was just me and one book club gal. Oh but we did have fun! Here's a clip to whet your appetite ...

I laughed, I cried, I LOVED it!!!

There was quite a vocal audience at that showing I went to, let me tell you. There's a scene when teenager Lilly licks some honey off her friend Zack's finger and boy, did the ladies in the theater whoop and holler for that!

I do have to say that knowing the horrible things that have happened recently in actress Jennifer Hudson's family did make this movie painful to watch at times. It had little to do with the movie itself; my heart just broke every time Jennifer came on screen, and I couldn't stop thinking about the losses she's suffered.

So, how about it? Have you seen this movie yet? What did you think? If not, are you planning to? Have you read the book? I'm looking forward to your answers!

PS. Don't forget that I'm giving away a copy of this book (as well as lots of other books) as part of my Birthday Book Bash Giveaway. You have until 11/14 to enter.

PPS. Here's where I first wrote about this movie way back in June.

Weekly Geeks #23: Redux

This week on the Weekly Geeks we get to "choose our own adventure" so to speak. Our task is to choose a previous Weekly Geeks activity that we particularly liked and do it again. I'm actually going to combine WG #5 - Alternative Storytelling with WG #7 - Photo Week.

In my original WG#5 post I shared my family's love of the Irish folk group The High Kings. Needless to say, we were THRILLED to hear they were coming to Baltimore! Hubby, kiddo and I bought tickets as soon as they were available. We were so excited about it that my parents decided to come along as well.

We weren't allowed to take pictures during the concert but get this - we got to MEET THE GUYS afterward!!!! Here are some pics from our exciting night, along with more clips of their music (and boy, do they have some GREAT stories in their music!). I'm sorry for the poor quality of the photos ... I was still figuring out the settings on my new camera.

This is kiddo with hubby's favorite guy, Marin Furey.

And here's kiddo with HIS favorite guy, Brian Dunphy. Kiddo knows all Brian's solo parts and even does all the movements and dance steps that Brian does in their concert video. He was so excited to meet him! And get this - Brian told kiddo that he liked kiddo's long hair. That made kiddo's night!

Darren Holden signing kiddo's DVD (we already had their CD).

Unfortunately the pictures of MY favorite guy, Finbarr Clancy, did not turn out so well. This guy's voice literally makes me melt. But I do have a picture of his signing kiddo's DVD, so that will have to do.

We had such a good time at this concert. We can't wait to see them again in the future!

And now, here are some music clips for your Irish listening pleasure ...

This is one of my favorite songs, Go Lassie Go. It's a classic folk tune that they've jazzed up a bit. And my Finbarr sings a solo in the beginning. :)

Here's a more upbeat tune for you. It's called The Rocky Road to Dublin.

And I'll sign off with THEIR signature signing off song, The Parting Glass.

I hope you've enjoyed this Weekly Geeks Redux ... I certainly have! Here are some links you might enjoy:
  • For more about The High Kings, click here.
  • Visit my original WG#5 for some different songs by The High Kings.
  • Check out my Disney-themed WG#7.
  • Check out what the other Weekly Geeks are doing this week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Books I Reviewed at Age 31

Age 31 Reading List

This list begins on Nov. 4, 2008 and continues for exactly one year.

For a list of books I reviewed at age 30 click here.

By Title

By Author

Birthday Bash Book Giveaway!


I'm not closing down my blog like I originally planned. Instead I'm celebrating by giving you the chance to win some books ... good idea, huh?

Below are the books I have up for grabs. Some were published this year and others are older. All are used but in very good condition. If you click the title of each book it will take you to my review.

To enter the contest just leave a comment with your number one, number two, and number three book choices. I'll be awarding books to three lucky winners regardless of where in the world they live. Winner #1 gets three books, winner #2 gets two books, and winner # 3 gets one book. I'll announce the winners on Nov. 14th so get commenting!

Cane River, by Lalita Tademy
I really love this book!

Why the Wind Blows, by Matthys Levy
This one is short and educational.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
My book club read this one so that's where the link above takes you. I figured it was a good one to give away since the movie version just came out. Oh, and the movie is GREAT!

The Lost Diary of Don Juan, by Douglas Carlton Abrams
This author spoke at the Book Group Expo in a panel on writing about sex - too bad I couldn't be there to hear it!

My Seven Years in Captivity, by Bill Seaton
Fun and easy to read - I enjoyed it!

House of Splendid Isolation, by Edna O'Brien
I really wanted to like this one ... maybe you'll get more out of it than I did. I do know that Jackie Kennedy really admired this author, but it still didn't do it for me.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
This is one of my all time favorite books. When people ask for book recommendations this is the first book I suggest.

Bedlam South, by Mark Grisham and David Donaldson
Ok, so I haven't exactly finished reading this one yet but I promise I will before the end of the contest. The link takes you to the book's website.

Imagining Argentina
, by Lawrence Thornton
This is a short but powerful book.

Personally I think you've got some excellent choices there! Feel free to let others know about this contest if you want to. You won't get any extra entries but your readers may thank you anyway.

Annual Recap, and Looking Back

Today is my birthday and hence the end of my first year of blogging. Well, not exactly ... more like the end of my first year of keeping track of what I read, since I didn't start the blog until 2 months after my last birthday.

So, what I have done this year? I'm not really sure, but lets find out together!

*** Monthly Recaps ***


5 books = 1,520 pages
3 audio books = 31 hrs, 26 min

4 books = 1,232 pages
1 audio book = 10 hrs, 23 min


4 books = 1,864 pages
2 audio books = 40 hrs, 40 min

2 books = 496 pages
4 audio books = 41 hrs, 54 min

1 book = 272 pages

2 books = 816 pages

7 books = 2,689 pages

7 books = 2,184 pages

7 books = 1,832 pages

7 books = 2,073 pages
1 audio book = 17 hrs, 17 min

7 books = 2,297 pages

5 books = 1,715 pages
1 audio book = 11 hrs, 14 min

November 1-4
one final book = 672 pages

Plus 10 audio books from the Wheel of Time series explained in my left sidebar scattered throughout the year = 287 hours, 23 minutes

*** Totals for the Year ***
59 books with 19,662 pages
22 audio books lasting 440 hours, 17 minutes

*** Other Accomplishments ***

This year I started the Mom and Son Book Club with kiddo and we've both really been enjoying it.

I spoke at the Baltimore Book Festival and the Maryland Writers Association about the joys of book blogging

My book club and grown bigger and better.

And I've become a blogging addict.

All in all, a pretty good year!

I think this calls for a celebration, don't you? Follow the link for details on my Birthday Bash Book Giveaway!

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