J. Kaye is hosting the Support Your Local Library Challenge, and this sounds like a good one for me.
Here are the guidelines:
1) You can join anytime as long as you don’t start reading your books prior to 2009.
2) This challenge is for 2009 only. The last day to have all your books read is December 31, 2009.
3) You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.
I'm going to try to read 25 books from my library this year! Here is my list of books.
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Release Date: January 22, 2007
Challenge: Buy a Book and Read It, RYOB 2009
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the back cover:
Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of outer space with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our universe.
When you approach Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, the first question you ask is: who is Neil deGrasse Tyson? He's sort of a celebrity among astrophysicists, if there even is such a thing. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, if that gives you an idea of his clout in the science world. Whenever there is any kind of scientific discovery in space, he's the guy to turn to. I've seen him on PBS numerous times, as well as on various news shows. He is smart, savvy, and thoroughly entertaining.
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a collection of Tyson's essays from a monthly column in Natural History magazine, and it could not be a more interesting book. They are very easy to read and understand; Tyson makes astrophysics comprehensible for the average reader. The essays also stand alone. There is no need to even try to read this book in one sitting - it can be devoured in pieces that are easier to sort out. It's nice when a book presents something to think about, something for your mind to stew over. It's even better when those ideas are presented in an entertaining way. Tyson is funny and his sense of humor shines through the pages. His writing is clear, precise, and very easy to digest.
The stories are also very different in tone; some are lighthearted and funny. One in particular that I enjoyed is about mistakes in the movie industry. Others are more serious and somber. The thing that they have in common is that they are all well-written and thoroughly interesting. I can't pick out my favorite essays simply because there were too many that I enjoyed.
Let me be clear, though: Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is not for everyone. If you have absolutely no interest in outer space, then this book will probably bore you. If you don't like science, this book won't force the issue and make you enjoy something that you really don't. If, however, you are like me and you find it interesting, but have little real understanding of it, this book was pretty much written for you.
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries was an amazing read that I can't recommend highly enough (if you think it sounds interesting!) I absolutely loved it and cannot wait to seek out more of Tyson's work to read. (His latest book, The Pluto Files, is a humorous look at Pluto's fall from planet grace - sounds like fun!)
Boncampagnis Bury the Hatchet
First, I expanded the size of the blog. I felt like I didn't have enough room for actual posts, and that everything was getting cramped. Though it is bigger, it should still fit on a 1024x768 screen!
Second, I changed the header graphic. I felt like the old one was just too big and took up too much room! Hopefully you guys like the new one as much as I do.
I received this award from Amy over at My Friend Amy's Blog. This award was created by Joanne of Book Zombie for the blogs you can't wait to see updated.
I have to say, this one goes right back at you, Amy!
I'm also passing this onto:
Ramya at Ramya's Bookshelf
Julie at Booking Mama
Meghan at Medieval Bookworm
Thank you so much!!!
Author: Tatiana Boncompagni
Release Date: September 9, 2008
Genre: Chick Lit
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Lily Bartholomew thinks she has everything. She enjoys her job as a journalist and is engaged to a wonderful man, Robert Bartholomew, whose family is wealthy beyond Lily’s middle-class dreams. She couldn’t care less about the money – Robert loves her beyond belief and makes her happier than she ever thought she could be. What’s more, Lily is the newest “it” girl – she has become a socialite, and everyone wants to be seen with her.
But after the wedding, things change quickly. Lily gets pregnant on the honeymoon, and hers and Robert’s lives change dramatically. Robert leaves his job at a prestigious, well-paying firm, forcing the young couple to rely more and more on Robert’s wealthy mother, who has never liked Lily. Lily is becoming less and less content with her life since becoming a New York socialite and no longer feels fulfilled. But once she starts to write about her glitz-filled life for a newspaper and Robert begins spending less time at home and more time with his mother, how long can Lily’s once-stable marriage survive?
Any woman can sympathize with Lily, despite the inordinate amount of wealth displayed in the novel. It’s easy to dream about meeting an insanely rich man and falling head-over-heels in love. What no one really thinks about is what comes next – after your 15 minutes of fame are over and people are ready to crush you. Lily is thrust into this society, unaware of the backstabbing and cattiness inherent in it. What makes it worse for her is that her mother-in-law, Josephine, despises her. Without any sort of guidance, Lily seems lost and tries to make the best of her situation. It’s definitely a sympathetic read, without having that “poor little rich girl” quality.
The details about the glamour and rigors of the wealthy social scene are juicy as well. This is one of those novels that makes a person wonder why anyone would want to enter that lifestyle (notwithstanding the insane amounts of wealth, of course). What makes it really engrossing is that the author really knows the life of a socialite. Gilding Lily is a thoroughly entertaining read by an insider of the New York social scene. New York-based journalist Tatiana Boncompagni frequents that scene but also graduated magna cum laude from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She married the heir to the Hoover vacuum empire, so the book is apparently semi-autobiographical. In other words, she really knows her stuff, and it shows in her debut novel.
Boncompagni’s next novel, Hedge Fund Wives, is due out next year, but it is not without a bit of drama behind the scenes. The author is suing her sister, Natasha, who provided some input on Tatiana’s next novel. According to the lawsuit, Natasha surreptitiously copied some of Hedge Fund Wives in an effort to claim co-authorship on the novel. With drama like that in the background, the book is sure to be just as entertaining as Gilding Lily.
Post Office Could Cut One Day of Delivery--Tuesday
To enter, leave me a comment telling me the name of a good book that's difficult to find in a bookstore. I love learning about new, obscure titles, and so do your fellow entrants! You get a second entry if you blog about the contest and link back here. Third entry if you Stumble one of my reviews. (Don't know what Stumbling is? Visit the StumbleUpon webpage to find out). Make sure you leave a comment letting me know which post you Stumbled! U.S. & Canada only, please. Giveaway ends Sunday, February 8 at 11:59 PM. Good luck!
Ok, so, "Jughead"...I actually thought this episode was even better than the first two!
First of all, I have to say that I was wrong about the whole Mrs. Hawking/Annie thing. But, it looks like I was right in that she is Daniel Faraday's mother! Which means Desmond is in for a shock when he realizes that he's actually met her!
AND WHAT is up with Charles Widmore being an Other? I don't even know what to say about that!
So it looks like Daniel Faraday has some skeletons in his closet. Poor Teresa Spencer. I wonder if Desmond is freaking out so much because what happened to Teresa is now happening to Charlotte? I hope we find out more about what happened to her soon.
Amy has posited (after consulting some forums) that the blond girl holding the gun is Faraday's mom. I think that's a safe bet, the thought had occurred to me as well! And is it possible that Widmore is Faraday's father? It would explain why he has been funding his research...
Now we know that there is a hydrogen bomb somewhere on the island? Is it going to turn up again or are we done with that storyline?
Hmm, what else...I loved that Desmond and Penny's son is named Charlie. I also loved how he burst into Widmore's office and FINALLY had the upper hand for once.
I did really like this episode, but it didn't answer enough questions - but when do they ever? What did you think?
Welcome to the Thursday Tunes! Each week, I will showcase music, whether new or old. Hopefully you will find something that interests you here!
This week, I'm focusing on Tristan Prettyman, a singer-songwriter who recently released her second album, Hello...x. Her music is catchy - I really enjoy listening to it in the car or while I'm washing dishes! This is one of those albums where every single song is amazing. My personal favorites are "Hello," "Madly," "Echo," and "War Out of Peace," though, like I said, they're all great (I had to limit myself - I'm listening to the album now, and I seriously love every song!). This is an album I listen to on repeat without getting sick of it!
Hello...x can be purchased at the Amazon MP3 Store for $7.99, or on iTunes or at your local music store. Enjoy!
If you decide to participate in the Thursday Tunes weekly meme, please leave a link to your post in the comments! Thanks!
Dome of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy
For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here
1. The book that’s been on your shelves the longest:
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle. This series contained some of my favorite books. I don't know when I got this book, but I know I inherited (or stole...that's probably a more accurate word) it from my sister. I think I read it for the first time in 6th grade. I know I should have books that are a lot older than that, but we gave most of our childhood books away to younger cousins.
2. A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time, etc.):
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. This book will forever remind me of my honeymoon. I purchased it towards the end of our two-week Italy trip so I'd have something for the plane ride back. That's memorable in itself, but I was fortunate enough to meet Salman Rushdie and have him autograph the novel. I had a conversation with him about purchasing the novel in Italy. He asked me if the descriptions of Florence were accurate enough, since I was reading it there. Of course I said yes (and they were) but it was so exciting!
3. A book you acquired in some interesting way (gift, serendipity in a used bookstore, prize, etc.):
Hmm...it would probably have to be Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz. When my boyfriend (now my husband) and I first started dating, he was shocked to learn that I hadn't read (or even heard of) this book that is apparently a classic. He bought it for me (I think that may have been the first gift he got for me) and I read it...and didn't like it. Of course I didn't tell him that at the time because he LOVED it. Since then, I've told him and he actually agrees with me. He has fond memories of it because of his grandmother (awww...) and, being a boy, he likes the violence in the novel (which I hated - the book is about the slaughter of Christians by the Romans).
EDIT: Ok, my husband has complained because I made it sound like he likes the book because of the Christian killing, which is of course not the case. He liked it because it served as a lot of the research for the movie Gladiator.
4. The most recent addition to your shelves:
The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji. I got this book from the HarperCollins First Look program.
5. A book that’s been with you to the most places:
Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy. This book has lived with me in three different states and been to both Europe and India. I loved these books and re-read them over and over and over again!
A runner-up would be Gone With the Wind which has lived with me in two different states and been with me to Singapore, Thailand, and India.
6. A bonus book that you want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions:
Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes. I want to talk about this novel because it was my introduction into a wider world of reading. When I was younger, I used to only read classics and such. Occasionally I'd read a Michael Crichton, but generally I'd only read classics or non-fiction. I don't think I was even aware there was entire world of reading out there besides that! As you can imagine, my reading for pleasure had started to steeply decline as I got older. I think I was in late high school or at the beginning of college when I went to browse a book store and picked up Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes. I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I devoured it in one sitting...and immediately went back to the store and bought as many of her other novels as I could. Since then, I've tried to vary my reading as much as possible. But I still remember the excitement I felt after closing Last Chance Saloon - reading was fun again!
1. Dar (Peeking Between the Pages)
2. Kathy (Bermudaonion's Weblog)
3. Lenore (Presenting Lenore)
Author: Vendela Vida
Release Date: January 2, 2007
Challenge: RYOB 2009, A to Z Challenge,
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
On the day of her father's funeral, twenty-eight-year-old Clarissa Iverton discovers that he wasn't her biological father after all. Her mother disappeared fourteen years earlier, and her fiancé has just revealed a life-changing secret to her. Alone and adrift, Clarissa travels to mystical Lapland, where she believes she'll meet her real father. There, at a hotel made of ice, Clarissa is confronted with the truth about her mother's history, and must make a decision about how—and where—to live the rest of her life.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a haunting novel that will stick with the reader long after the last page is turned. The writing is beautiful, in its own unique way. Instead of being lush and verbose, it is very spartan and completely clean. Vida doesn't mince words or cloak her story within the folds of weighty prose. Everything is laid bare; the words are almost raw with emotion and power. Through the stark writing, Clarissa's confusion and pain becomes very clear to the reader.
There isn't much character development in Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, but then, there doesn't need to be. Clarissa is confused about who she is, so how can Vida develop her for the reader? The book is about discovering the past, not creating a future for the character. Eventually, when Clarissa discovers the truth, she becomes a whole, developed character and can focus on the future. But the novel itself isn't about taking a character and developing her. Instead, it's about taking a character who is already mostly developed and dealing with the holes that can no longer be ignored.
I really enjoyed the introduction to Sami culture, as well as the mystery portrayed in the novel. They both provide unique elements to the story; Sami culture gives it an added dimension and teaches the reader. The mystery provides a sense of urgency and propels the story forward, as well as keeps the reader hooked.
One thing that bothered me is how quickly Clarissa took to the idea that the man who raised her wasn't her biological father. From the few anecdotes that she told of their lives together, he was a caring, devoted, and dependable parent. Why, then, does she call another man "father" after only a day of knowing him? There was definitely a hole punched in Clarissa's life by her mother, but not her father. Why, then, was she so eager to embrace another man as her father? Did she forget about the contributions the man who raised her made so quickly, just because she found out he wasn't related to her by blood?
At its core, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is about finding yourself. Does where you came from matter, in the grand scheme of things? What determines the person you are now, and the person you will become? These are great questions and Vida tackles them very well. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a great rainy day novel. And considering the fact that the novel is gripping and only around 250 pages, you can count on reading it in one sitting.
Author: Daphne Ulliver
Release Date: January 27, 2009
Review: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Challenge: Countdown Challenge, 2009 Pub Challenge, A to Z Challenge
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 3 out of 5
From the back cover:
In this off-the-beaten-sidewalk debut, native New Yorker Daphne Uviller reveals the secrets of a sexy, story-filled Big Apple, where a mystery lurks behind every apartment door—and a savvy but slightly lost young woman unexpectedly finds herself holding the keys.
In a city brimming with opportunities for heroism, twenty-seven-year-old Zephyr Zuckerman has often fantasized about committing acts of bravery that would make front-page news. Now she may get her big break—though it may require plunging a few toilets. When the superintendent of her parents’ Greenwich Village brownstone is led away in handcuffs, unemployed Zephyr takes over his post and unleashes her inner sleuth: discovering titillating secrets about her tenants—from a smoky-voiced Frenchwoman who entertains throngs of unsavory visitors to a moody musician who just has to be hiding something—and realizing that her new reality is far more intriguing than her imagination.
Soon Zephyr has sussed out wrongs that stretch from losers on the Internet to art fraud and an international crime ring. The mob thinks she’s in the FBI, and the FBI thinks she’s in the mob—a predicament she needs to clear up fast. But perhaps not before the cute, surly exterminator helps her solve the mystery of what to do with the rest of her life….
I was excited to receive Super in the City from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I've received some great books from this program and I had high hopes for the novel. I think the idea of a female super in a New York City apartment building is cute and has a lot of potential; unfortunately, Super in the City doesn't seem to measure up.
I have to say, I didn't really enjoy this book. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't very good either. I wonder if I'm being too harsh, though. Did I expect too much and it just not meet my expectations? Was I just not in the mood for it when I was reading it? I can't say for certain. All I can say is that Super in the City didn't hold my interest and I didn't really like the characters.
The mystery within the story is interesting enough, but it seems rather offhand, as if it was added in later. Still, it's well-written and provides additional entertainment. I'd love to see a sequel to the book in which Zephyr becomes a sort of PI for hire and solves crimes. I'd definitely read that one!
My main character problem was with Zephyr; I felt like she had no direction. She seemed to have the maturity level of a much younger child. She couldn't commit to anything in life because she seemed to want to do everything. While this enthusiasm is understandable in a younger adult, it is difficult to accept that a 27-year-old refuses to do anything with her life because she can't do everything. It seems immature and tantamout to some sort of tantrum - "If I can't do everything I wanna do, I'm not going to do anything!"
Like I said before, I don't know if I'm being overly critical and I feel bad because it definitely wasn't a bad book. It just definitely left something to be desired and didn't really hold my interest. The idea was extremely promising and I hope that Ulliver follows up on the threads she left dangling at the end of Super in the City. Though this novel wasn't for me, I would be more than willing to give any of her future books a chance.
Stephanie from Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic!
Congratulations, Stephanie! I've left you a comment on your blog to let you know that you've won.
Depending on how cooperative my school work is, I'm planning on announcing my next giveaway today or tomorrow. Check back soon!
"Recently, there's been quite a bit of online discussion about the impact (or the lack thereof) of lit blogs. To get a better sense of the influence of lit blogs on book-related purchasing decisions, I've created a (very brief) survey. Please take the survey, and forward the link on to your lit-blog-reading friends. I'll post a summary of the results on Friday, February 13th."
So what are you waiting for? Fill out the survey!
Cut Down on Book Hoarding
Author: Nanci Kincaid
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Challenge: 2009 Pub Challenge, Countdown Challenge, A to Z Challenge
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
At least the young man on Truely Noonan's doorstep is from the South. Truely, and his sister Courtney, are transplanted Mississippians who have made their fortunes in California, but they're due for a change. They have more money than they ever dreamed of, homes with spectacular views, and their brother-sister bond is sweet and strong. But their marriages have disintegrated. Something inside rings hollow. They are both lost.
The young man, Arnold, doesn't exactly look like a savior. A troubled teenager from the streets, he is talkative, thuggishly dressed, and clueless. Truely and Courtney turn Arnold into their mission, introducing him to foreign foods, bringing him books on tape, buying him new clothes. Arnold resists their good intentions at first, but he needs a place to stay, and at least he has good Southern manners. Then something shocking happens that shows Arnold in a new light - and it's no longer clear who's been changing and teaching whom.
Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi is a warmhearted, beautifully written, and uplifting story about love, family, and finding your way home.
Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi is a slow moving and beautifully written Southern novel. It is an extremely rich story about the meaning of family - those you are related to by blood, as well as those as you adopt as your own. I first heard about it from an Entertainment Weekly book review, in which the reviewer says that the novel isn't believable (and then goes on to give it an A-). And, upon reflecting, its true - stripped down to the bare bones plot, the novel doesn't have a very believable storyline. But the triumph of Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi is that it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be believable to be utterly charming and completely readable.
Though I said that Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi is a slow moving novel, that doesn't mean it's slow. There's a careful distinction there. Though the novel moves at a lazy pace at times, it is always gripping. It never loses its forward momentum or the interest of the reader. Instead, the novel takes its time, meandering through Truely's life. Kincaid makes sure to firmly establish Truely's character before really beginning his story. Even if the book weren't about a Southern boy from Mississippi, Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi would remind me of the South because of its lazy playfulness. If you like Southern novels, you'll adore this book as much as I did.
Kincaid's writing is part of what makes the novel such a gem. It's beautifully whimsical - she doesn't take herself or the characters too seriously. I'm honestly not sure what it is about the writing, but it completely sucks you into the novel. I think the writing is what makes the difference for this novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi; I think it was an exceptionally well-written novel that kept me hooked from beginning to end. It's a great read for a lazy day; you won't be disappointed!
Thank you Miriam at Hachette for providing me this book to review!
I got a lot of reading done this week. My husband had to work pretty much every night this week until about midnight, so that left me with not much to do and A LOT of reading time.
Now, onto the stats!
Books read this week:
The View from Garden City - Carolyn Baugh [review to be posted]
Conscience Point - Erica Abeel [review]
Midori by Moonlight - Wendy Tokunaga [review]
Super in the City - Daphne Ulliver [review to be posted on Tuesday]
The Tsarina's Daughter - Carolly Erickson [review]
Real Life & Liars - Kristina Riggle [review to be posted]
Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi - Nanci Kincaid [review to be posted on Monday]
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - Vendela Vida [review to be posted on Wednesday]
The Debs - Susan McBride [review to be posted]
The Stepmother - Carrie Adams [review to be posted]
Other reviews posted this week:
The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen [review]
Black Ships - Jo Graham [review]
Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes - Billy Watkins [review]
Author: Carolly Erickson
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Challenge: A to Z Challenge
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
It is 1989 and Daria Gradov is an elderly grandmother living in the rural West. What neighbors and even her children don’t know, however, is that she is not who she claims to be—the widow of a Russian immigrant of modest means. In actuality she began her life as the Grand Duchess Tatiana, known as Tania to her parents, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.
And so begins the latest entrancing historical entertainment by Carolly Erickson. At its center is young Tania, who lives a life of incomparable luxury in pre-Revolutionary Russia, from the magnificence of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to the family’s private enclave outside the capital. Tania is one of four daughters, and the birth of her younger brother Alexei is both a blessing and a curse. When he is diagnosed with hemophilia and the key to his survival lies in the mysterious power of the illiterate monk Rasputin, it is merely an omen of much worse things to come. Soon war breaks out and revolution sweeps the family from power and into claustrophobic imprisonment in Siberia. Into Tania’s world comes a young soldier whose life she helps to save and who becomes her partner in daring plans to rescue the imperial family from certain death.I approached Carolly Erickson's The Tsarina's Daughter with a bit of trepidation. Though I do enjoy historical fiction, the reviews on Amazon.com were very mixed so I didn't know what to expect. However, I enjoyed Erickson's The Last Wife of Henry VII, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
After reading the novel, I have to say that I can see both sides. One one hand, it was a very enjoyable novel. Erickson's details are great; she really puts the reader in pre-revolutionary Russia. She also develops the major characters very well. Tania is a vivid, strong girl who is curious about her country. She has been protected from the horrors outside the palace. When she is exposed to them, however, it speaks to her compassion and she tries to help those in need. Tania loves her parents, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, but as the novel progresses and Tania matures, she recognizes their weaknesses and faults. I really enjoyed this depiction, as well as the fact that the book was about someone other than Anastasia. Anastasia has gotten most of the attention in fiction and fantasy because her bones were not found with those of her family; however, her remains (and those of her brother Alexei) were recently discovered in a separate grave nearby, putting an end to speculation (and hope) that she may have survived the massacre.
However, The Tsarina's Daughter leans very heavily on fiction. Most of the events in Tatiana's life are likely made up. I'm guessing that the more general events are most likely accurate - Rasputin, meetings with cousins from Germany, etc. - but it is likely that everything specific to Tatiana herself was made up. There's nothing wrong with this, it's historical fiction after all. It is the author's job to fill in the blanks. I would have appreciated a summary of what was true and what wasn't, however. Unfortunately, all Erickson tells us is that Tatiana didn't survive the execution of her family.
Still, I think this The Tsarina's Daughter was a very enjoyable book that any fan of historical fiction would enjoy. Erickson's a talented writer and it definitely shows. As long as the reader is aware that the book is mostly fiction, there isn't any reason that it can't be appreciated for what it is!
I'll end with a picture of Grand Duchess Tatiana. She was only 21 when she was killed - so tragic!
Want to get LOST in a good book? Visit My Friend Amy's Blog and join her LOST Book Challenge, based on the hit TV show! What? You don't watch LOST? Well, you can still enjoy this challenge - there are some great books listed and you have plenty of time to complete them!
In the mood for something light and sweet? Check out Wendi's review of The Valentine Edition by Robin Shope, the second book in Turtle Creek edition series. Wendi says that this Christian fiction novel is "a wonderfully romantic story that helps the reader to gently remember the importance of prayer, forgiveness and faith."
Beth over at Beth Fish Reads reviewed The House of Blue Mangos by David Davidar, a work of historical and multicultural fiction about three generations of Indian men during the period of India's independence from the British. My favorite part of this review is when she comments on the audiobook narrator, saying, "I am no expert on accents, but I was particularly impressed with Whitfield's ability to speak with an Indian accent that was believable and in no way a parody."
American Savior by Roland Merulla, reviewed by Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog, is one of the most unique books I've heard about lately. The tagline for the book is "A Novel of Divine Politics" - that should have your interest piqued! Kathy says, "This book is humorous as well as thought provoking and I enjoyed reading it."
Trish over at Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'? has an extremely interesting post regarding the ethics of review copies. Before you say "Hasn't this topic been talked to death," her post is unique in that it discusses whether bloggers should disclose whether the book they are reviewing is a free review copy or not. It's a really interesting discussion - if you are a book blogger, don't miss the comments section and make sure to put your two cents in!
For those of you that enjoy author interviews, Shelburns over at Write for a Reader has a great one with author Tony Peters. This is a really in depth interview, and you can also find her review of his book Kids on a Case: The Ten Grand Kidnapping. This seems like a great book for mystery lovers!
If you are an avid book blog reader, then you've probably heard about Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. Julie at Booking Mama has her review of the book up and she LOVED it, though she cautions it's not for everyone. Julie says, "It's kind of hard to classify what type of book BEAT THE REAPER is, but I'd have to say that it is a suspense thriller as well as a comedy. It's full of action and even some intrigue; however, I most enjoyed how much I laughed (and was shocked) while reading this novel."
Searching for a great historical fiction read? Look no further than The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. Bibliophile's Retreat loved this Christian fiction novel and says, "I'm not sure how to balance this rave out with more sober thoughts on the book as truly I wasn't able to find anything not to love about it. It will definitely be amongst my permanent collection for years to come and I am impatiently awaiting the subsequent books in the Acts of Faith series."
Who doesn't love a good chick lit novel every once in awhile? Marta at Marta's Meanderings reviewed Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zapeda and she really enjoyed it! Marta says, "This book was really good. It has a strong latino theme to it, but it definitely crosses all cultures with the themes of growing up, tolerance and acceptance."
Author: Billy Watkins
Release Date: December 30, 2005
Challenge: RYOB 2009, Buy a Book and Read It, A to Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the back cover:
In 1961 President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. It seemed like an impossible mission and one that the Russians—who had launched the first satellite and put the first man into Earth orbit—would surely achieve before the Americans. However, the ingenuity, passion, and sacrifice of thousands of ordinary people from all walks of life enabled the space program to meet this extraordinary goal. This is the story of fourteen of those men and women who worked behind the scenes, without fanfare or recognition, to make the Apollo missions successful.
Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes really is a gem for anyone interested in NASA or the Apollo flights. There have been countless books written on this period in history, but Watkins does something unique. Instead of trying to tell the whole story of the program or trying to write the biography of an astronaut, Watkins chose to tell the stories of a few people involved in the Apollo program - photographers, engineers, even the wife of one of the astronauts.
As astronaut Fred Haise (of Apollo 13 fame) says in the introduction of this book, countless people toiled away in order to make sure the country fulfilled Kennedy's dream of landing a man on the moon before 1970. At its height, there were 400,000 people working on the Apollo program - that is a huge number for the 1960's. Watkins had quite a job in picking just 14 of them, but he picked well. All the stories are intriguing and it is gratifying to read about the contribution each of them made. The book is also very easy to read. The words flow smoothly and it's a short book.
The question is, if you haven't read much about NASA or Apollo, can you understand this book? Definitely. Watkins gives the reader enough information to be able to understand the background of each of the narratives. The people who will really enjoy Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes, though, are those who have read and savored the countless books on Apollo. Watkins provides a new look at this inspiring period in history. It's really not to be missed.
Author: Wendy Tokunaga
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Challenge: A to Z Challenge, RYOB 2009
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the back cover:
I've heard a lot that chick lit is "finished" - the storylines are the same, the characters are non-descript, and no one really has any interest in it anymore. Whether Midori by Moonlight is an exception to that rule or proof that it's patently untrue, I'm not sure; but I can definitely say that this slim chick lit novel is the most fun I've had in recent memory while reading a book.
Midori is a feisty heroine whom the reader can't help but root for. She struggles with her English - while her knowledge of the language is passable, it's the idioms she has trouble with. Her misuse of colloquial phrases is an endless source of amusement in the novel. Midori is also determined and a very strong character, though she doesn't realize it. It takes courage to leave everything you know behind and forge a new life in a foreign country, and even more courage to stay there when all the circumstance change. Everything and everyone is telling Midori to return to Japan, but she refuses; her strength shines through.
I also loved the multicultural aspects of this novel. It was interesting to learn more about Japanese culture, especially with regard to how they look at young women. It seemed to be similar to Indian culture in that respect. While I think culture is important, I admired Midori for standing up to convention and forging her own path.
I loved Midori by Moonlight. Midori isn't your usual heroine; she's unsure of herself and lives in the moment. She doesn't think she's brave or courageous. She just knows she can't return to Japan and has to make her American experience work. If you pick up this novel, plan on devouring it in one sitting. It's a great book that I can't recommend highly enough, even for those who don't usually enjoy chick lit.
Ok, so, after watching this week's episodes "Because You Left" and "The Lie," I had some resonating questions/theories.
First, if the Oceanic Six do return to the island, does that mean it stops jumping through time? Is that the only thing that can stop the jumping?
Second, why is Charlotte affected by the island's time-jumping when no one else seems to be? Does it have anything to do with her (maybe) being born on the island?
Third, who exactly is Mrs. Hawking (pictured above with Desmond)? We last saw her in the Desmond flashback episode "Flashes Before Your Eyes." She was very adamant that Desmond NOT give the ring to Penny. But that got me thinking - if the universe course corrects, would it matter if Desmond proposed? Wouldn't the universe compensate somehow? Or is it different because the usual rules don't apply to Desmond, as Faraday said? If he had proposed to Penny, would he have changed history, which (as Mrs. Hawking said) would have been the end of them all?
And going back to Mrs. Hawking, is it possible that she's Daniel Faraday's mother? And is it just me, or did Ben call her "Annie" when he first saw her? Annie was the name of Ben's friend on the island during the Dharma days who gave him that doll. Could these possibly be the same people? If so, why is she so old now? (I might be going out on a limb here).
Fourth, what in the world is Sun up to? It's been made clear that she blames Ben and Jack for Jin's death. But why doesn't she blame Widmore? After all, his people were the ones who blew up the freighter in the first place. And what is she doing, conspiring with Widmore? Is Jin really dead? I don't think he is.
And what is up with Alpert and the Others? Why don't they move through time as well? I'm guessing they have a special relationship with time, considering they don't seem to age. Does that explain Charlotte's bad reaction to the time jumping? (I'm not sure how, but I'm rolling with it for now).
Of course there are tons of other questions, but I'll leave it there for now. What do you guys think?
Welcome to the very first Thursday Tunes! Each week, I will showcase music, whether new or old. Hopefully you will find something that interests you here!
This week's Thursday Tunes features Amy MacDonald, a nineteen-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter whose first album, "This is the Life" was released last year. My two favorite songs off this album are "This is the Life" and "Mr. Rock and Roll." I would say Amy is a sort of pop/folk artist, but she really can't be defined by a genre. This has quickly become one of my favorite albums because it is so unique! This Is The Life (Exclusive Amazon MP3 Version) is $7.99 at the Amazon MP3 store. It can also be purchased through iTunes or at your local music store.
Let me know what you think about Amy MacDonald, or if you have any suggestions for this weekly meme! I definitely want to know your thoughts. And if you are interested in doing your own Thursday Tunes, please link back here - I'd love if it you introduced me to artists you enjoy as well!
Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?
While I don't think that's the case, I do definitely read for entertainment! I think what inspires me these days, though, is this blog. I'm inspired to read for it, as well as improve the quality of my reading in order to be able to review interesting books. I'm also inspired by other bloggers!
Something I'm enjoying this year is being inspired by challenges as well. I love the satisfaction in crossing books off my list as well as challenging myself to get books read!
What about you?
7 Things I Did Before:
1. Worked on Barack Obama's campaign when he was running for the Senate in 2004. (I'm really proud of this one right now!)
2. Fell in love with Zack Morris on Saved By the Bell
3. Wanted to be an astronaut (still do, a little bit - that's why I'm so obsessed with books about NASA!)
4. I used to Indian dance. When I got older, I started teaching it.
5. I worked at the Federal Election Commission for two years before returning to school.
6. I've traveled to most of Western Europe.
7. I've always been a reader.
7 Things I Do Now:
1. Read! (Obviously)
2. I cook about 5 nights a week. I love trying out new recipes - our current favorite is spicy shrimp tacos with tomatillo salsa.
3. I love listening to music - I'm almost as compulsive about it as I am about books. Our music collection is pretty unreal. (Check out my Thursday Tunes, making its debut tomorrow!)
4. Along with loving music, I love listening to film scores - I listen to the instrumental music while I'm reading, studying, etc.
5. I watch TV - I love serialized shows such as LOST and Battlestar Galactica.
6. I study - though I haven't been doing much of that lately because today is my first day back at school since Christmas break!
7. I clean - I've picked up the bulk of the cleaning duties since I'm at home a lot and my husband works about 12 hours a day. While it's very fair, ugh.
7 Things I Want to Do:
1. Get accepted to this study abroad program so I can study at Oxford for a month this summer!
2. Travel to Antarctica.
3. Travel to Egypt.
4. Continue my getting good grades trend for the next three semesters
5. Socialize more - between my husband working a lot and me having night classes, we don't get out as much as I'd like!
6. Travel to Cambodia. (OK, there are a lot more places I want to travel to, but I feel like this is a cop-out so this will be the last one!)
7. Read even more, but not at the expense of my other interests.
7 Things That Attract Me to the Opposite Sex:
1. Sense of humor
4. Smiling a lot vs. frowning a lot
5. Being a generally happy person
6. Not being too sappy
7. Being my husband :-)
7 Favorite Foods
1. Mexican, mexican, mexican...yum
2. White chocolate
3. Apples or grapes in sandwiches
4. Hummus and ranch in a turkey pita...mmm...
5. Cinnamon rolls (especially with cream cheese icing)
6. Mashed potatoes
7 Things I Say Most Often
3. "That's so cool"
4. Ryan! (yelling at my husband about something)
6. I don't know
7. "I'm going to read now."
Whew, that was actually really hard! I think most of the awards have made the rounds, but I haven't seen this last one (Kreativ Blogger Part II) around so I'm going to award it to 7 bloggers!
6. Amy @ My Friend Amy
7. Lenore @ Presenting Lenore
Thanks so much!
Author: Erica Abeel
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Challenge: A to Z Challenge
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Madeleine Shaye is an over-achiever with a dual career as concert pianist and TV arts-correspondent. She adores her college-age daughter, adopted as an infant under murky circumstances, and has a blissful relationship with Nick Ashcroft, scion of a mega-rich, old-money family whose lives have intertwined with hers since college. In short, she is the woman with all the luck.
Then her life unravels, and Maddy loses her footing. Her daughter announces she s leaving college to work in Guatemala, hinting darkly at mysterious trouble. And Maddy discovers that Nick has betrayed her in a way she never could have imagined. Mixing heartbreak and Gothic atmospherics with an often comical satire that casts a sardonic eye on high-fliers in New York's artsy set, Erica Abeel has created an intimate drama of a family shadowed by the past. Set in part at Nick s crumbling family estate, Conscience Point is also a mystery that uncovers buried secrets while it plumbs the touchingly human nostalgia for the sort of youthful passion that is seldom equaled in later life.
Conscience Point captures the struggles of accomplished baby boomers scrambling to stay afloat in a post-literate age. It offers smart, enlightening descriptions of the world of music and satisfies our prurient hunger to eavesdrop on the almost-too-decadent, consequence-free lives of the super rich. But it s Maddy s tough resilience and her ability to love and sacrifice while making moral choices that remain the emotional core of this taut, clever novel.
Conscience Point is fashioned as a modern-day Gothic mystery surrounding Maddy Shaye, a former concert pianist. It's a book that's very easy to get lost in; Abeel's prose is rich and detailed and she creates a vivid world within the novel. Conscience Point comes alive through Abeel's descriptions. The details are wonderful and they really create a "gothic mystery" atmosphere for the reader.
I have to say, I had some trouble getting through the beginning of the novel - not because it was uninteresting, but because Abeel had a very unique writing style (beautiful and rich, but unique). Once I adjusted to it, the pages flew by, but the first few chapters did pass very slowly for me. I had to reread sentences (in some cases, more than once) to understand what was going on. However, I quickly adapted to this and settled into a comfortable reading rhythm.
The mystery was my favorite part of this book. It starts out slowly and subtly, and ramps up as the reader discovers more of what is going on. There are twists and turns galore, all cloaked in Abeel's beautiful prose. I was hooked from the beginning, eager to unearth the truth behind the novel. It is incredibly well-written, providing just enough suspense to keep the reader interested but not so much that the drama seems contrived. The characters are also very appealing; Maddy is a fully-fleshed personage. She is incredibly well-developed and easy to sympathize with.
Conscience Point is Erica Abeel's fifth book. I am eager to go back and read her other books; they are sure to be great reads, if this novel is any indication. Conscience Point is currently available in hardcover, but will be releasing on May 5 in paperback. Unbridled Books is pitching it as a great beach read for the summer, and I couldn't agree more!
A big thank you to Libby at Unbridled Books for sending me Conscience Point to review.
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!
"Before long he returned, no longer wearing the black coat of a physician but a workman's loose white shirt and jacket. In the black coat he had looked, to my thirteen-year-old eyes, like a man in his twenties; in his shirt and jacket he looked much more boyish."
- From The Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly Erickson, page 87
Author: Jo Graham
Release Date: March 10, 2008
Challenge: RYOB 2009, A to Z Challenge
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea.
In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings.
When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny.
In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story.
Black Ships is a re-telling of The Aeneid, the epic poem by Virgil written in the 1st century BCE. In The Aeneid, Prince Aeneas, the last surviving member of the royal house of Troy, flees the city along with a handful of his people. After the sacking of Troy by the Greeks at the end of the Trojan War, they have no home left. They sail the seas, trying to find a home for themselves. It's not necessary to be familiar with The Aeneid in order to appreciate Black Ships; the book stands on its own two feet.
The thing I found the most interesting about Black Ships was the fact that the author changed some events and details. For example, the first sacking of Troy by the Greeks didn't lead to complete destruction; some survived and tried to rebuild the city. Then, a generation later, the Greeks returned in order to finish what they had started. (This book makes the Greeks look like bloodthirsty mongrels; but I suppose that's no different than The Iliad). It is only after that second destruction of Troy that Aeneas takes flight from the city.
So, why does this matter? Well, Graham actually changed these details not to make the novel more exciting, but to bring the facts of the novel in line with archaeological discoveries. In the hill called Hisarlik, which many assume is Troy, there are two cities that were destroyed within a generation of each other. The first is a large, majestic city - the city of Priam and Hecuba. The second is more of a shantytown, built on top of the ruins of the first. I absolutely loved that Graham embellished facts and changed details, not to take liberties with history, but to make the novel more historically accurate. She has an afterword in the novel which takes the reader through the reasons for these changes.
I also loved the fact that, rather than making up a new character, Graham took a character already established in The Aeneid (the Sybil who guides Aeneas through the Underworld) and fleshed her out. And she did a wonderful job - Gull is a very sympathetic character, as are Aeneas, Xandros, and all the others present in Black Ships. Graham has a talent for character development.
Black Ships is a wonderful historical fiction novel. It is enjoyable, well-written, and easy to read. Graham's next novel, Hand of Isis, is set in Egypt. I can't wait to read it!
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Release Date: May 20, 2008
Genre: Chick Lit
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Sugar Queen is the story of Josey Cirrini, a twenty-seven-year-old woman who lives at her mother’s beck and call in a North Carolina ski town. Beaten down by her mother’s constant criticism, Josey resorts to hiding sweets and paperback romance novels in her closet, the only source of pleasure she finds in her dreary existence. All that changes when one day she finds a woman hiding out in her closet. Della Lee Baker, a woman with a “reputation,” is hiding from something in her life that she isn’t quite ready to face yet. She moves into Josey’s closet and together the two of them begin to try and change Josey’s miserable existence (albeit unwillingly, in Josey’s case.)
Della Lee steers Josey toward Chloe, a sandwich shop owner, who is despondent as well. Josey finds her first true friend in Chloe, much to her mother’s dismay. As Josey begins learning how to live her own life, she must cope with her mother’s constant disapproval, as well as trying to change her image in the eyes of the town – after all, she’s not that misbehaving nine-year-old girl anymore. Along the way, she finds happiness in the most unexpected places, as well as the truth about who she, Chloe, and Della Lee really are.
The Sugar Queen is a syrupy sweet tale of love and self-discovery. It is definitely cheesy in some places, and a lot of the book requires the reader to suspend their disbelief in order to the read. The novel rails on about how Josey was the worst child – she threw tantrums, broke things on purpose, etc. – but after her father died, she realized how awful she had been (at the age of nine, mind you) and vowed to make it up to her mother. Eighteen years later, the town still judges her on how she acted as a child. It is hard to believe she would not find forgiveness in that amount of time.
Elements of magic within the story add some character but take away from the story’s connection with reality. Chloe has a special connection with books, for example. They magically appear whenever they think she needs to take a certain direction in her life. However, the magic isn’t as much of an issue as the unbelievable plot points. It gives the novel a certain quirkiness and makes it unique.
The main issue with the novel is its similarity to Allen’s previous work, Garden Spells. While Garden Spells was a delightful novel, it would have been nice to see something a little different in her follow-up. That being said, The Sugar Queen is still an enjoyable book that is definitely worth reading.
Underneath it all, The Sugar Queen is a simple and sweet book about a woman who doesn’t know how to live. It definitely is a feel-good novel, and as long as you are willing to go with it rather than questioning every unlikely thing that happens along the way, you will enjoy it. I look forward to Allen’s next work, though I hope she changes up the formula a bit this time.
So now, the big question: am I going to actually go to the inauguration? We haven't decided yet, but most likely not. It's going to be pretty chilly, and from what I can tell, if you don't have tickets you'll be watching large TV screens instead of the event itself. At that point, I feel like I have a better view from my living room. But it is tempting to be a part of something this historical, so we'll probably make a decision the night before.
This week, I blogged about some good news (finally!) in the reading world, took a quiz telling me what kind of reader I am, blogged about awards and more awards, found that libraries are more popular, and pondered the future of Borders. I also participated in my first Teaser Tuesdays and talked about some of my favorite songs on Booking Through Thursday.
Challenge Progress for this week:
RYOB 2009: 1 (List of Books for this Challenge)
Winter Reading Challenge: 1 (List of Books for this Challenge)
Buy a Book and Read It Challenge: 1 (List of Books for this Challenge)
Countdown Challenge: 2 (List of Books for this Challenge)
A to Z Challenge: 7 (List of Books for this Challenge)
Chunkster Challenge: 1 (List of Books for this Challenge)
100+ Reading Challenge: 7 (List of Books for this Challenge)
Now, onto the stats!
Books I've read this week:
The Gathering - Anne Enright [review]
The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 - William Dalrymple [review to be posted]
Wife Goes On - Leslie Lehr [review]
What Happened to Anna K - Irina Reyn [review]
3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows - Ann Brashares [review to be posted]
Black Ships - Jo Graham [review to be posted]
Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes - Billy Watkins [review to be posted]
Other reviews posted this week:
Dreamers of the Day - Mary Doria Russell [review]
Love and Other Natural Disasters - Holly Shumas [review]
Bras and Broomsticks - Sarah Mlynowski [review]