Wednesday, December 30, 2009

INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE (Book One) by Maryrose Wood



I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

I am very picky about children's books. I used to do children's programming at a public library and I am very passionate about juvenile literature. When I initially heard about this new series, I was intrigued and I am so happy that I was able to get an advance copy of the first book.

Miss Penelope Lumley (a cross between Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre) leaves the Swaburne Academy for Poor Bright Females in answer to an advertisement for a governess for three children at Ashton Place. The advertisement stresses that the governess must be good with animals.  Upon arrival, Penelope finds three naked wild children found by Lord Ashton in the woods upon his property. They have been raised by wolves.  Being a tenderhearted individual with a particular affection for animals, Penelope undertakes the challenge of socializing and enculturating Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia. 

I found this book to be very charming.  It is set in the mid-1800s and has a very old-fashioned feel to it.  Penelope is plucky and no-nonsense with a good heart.  I love her as a protagonist and role model for young girls.  I was disappointed that the author didn't spend a bit more time on Penelope's socializing of the children. It seems they went from naked wild things to clothed poetry-appreciators too quickly.  Wood missed out  on a lot of opportunities for humor there.  The book sets up several mysteries that will unfold in the series:  where did the children come from? Who are their parents?  What is the source of the secret howling at Ashton Place?  What is Old Timothy up to?  It would have been nice to have at least one questions answered in this first book but it definitely leaves you wanting more.

PARENTAL ADVISORY:  (*possible spoiler alert*)

This book is very clean. No foul language or questionable content. The children are naked at the beginning of the book but it is entirely appropriate and innocent.  The book does have some sinister content.  It is hinted that Lord Ashton intended his hunting buddies to hunt and possibly kill the children. A little horrific for a children's book but the whole thing was vague enough not to unsettle a reader too much.

BOTTOM LINE: A charming new children's book with a great heroine and lots of potential for the series.  Probably a better fit for girls and those who like classic children's books such as THE SECRET GARDEN.

CHILDREN'S BOOK by AS Byatt



This could be a difficult book to review because I love A.S. Byatt so much. I may be a bit biased.  Byatt is one of those gifted writers who has a wonderful grasp of classic writing styles from prose to poetry. Reading her books often feels as if you have pulled Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens off the shelf. If you didn't know any better, you would think you were reading a book written in the mid to late 1800s.  THE CHILDREN'S BOOK is no exception.

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK follows the lives of a number of children in several families at the end of the Victorian age.  Many of these families are bohemian aristocrats with socialist-style world views.  Everything is art and free love.  These ways of thinking serve to shape each of the children in different ways. The book follows the lives of the children through World War I and its devastating consequences on all of their lives.

This is a difficult book to describe because of its scope.  The reader not only comes to know these individuals intimately and thoroughly but also views the effects that this tumultuous period of time in history. The detailed and old-fashioned style of writing may be cumbersome and tedious for some.  However, I found I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what would happen with each storyline. Sadly, there are some individuals in the book that simply disappear at the end so the reader does not learn their fate.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  Well written and incredibly detailed and well-developed. This book is not for everyone, however.  You have to enjoy this style of writing as it often requires a slower reading pace.  While it did not replace POSSESSION in my affection, it was still a great read.

Maybe Next Year

I would like to tell you that I had a magical Christmas with my family. I'd like to tell you we enjoyed each other's company and made merry while watching Noodlebug tear into his packages. I'd like to tell you Christmas was everything I had hoped it would be.

I can't tell you that.

This was the worst Christmas I can remember having.  Fighting, negativity, disappointment. I knew the holiday was crashing down around my ears when I couldn't muster any enthusiasm to go view Christmas lights which is one of my favorite holiday activities.  My tradition is to put up the Christmas decorations on the day after Thanksgiving and take them down on New Year's Day.  The decorations have been put away for days now because I cannot look at them.

I received many wonderful and generous gifts.  Things that I will enjoy for a long time.  But the only gift I really wanted was a merry Christmas.  On the upside, Noodlebug reveled in the attention of three uncles and one aunt. He was beside himself with excitement and happiness at having so many people to play with. He was appropriately spoiled and the big hit of the holiday was a mini basketball goal that his uncle gave him.  His father and uncles are grooming him to be the next Kobe Bryant.  I think Noodlebug is shell-shocked now that the house is so empty and quiet.

This has been a tough year for my family. Many challenges that I still haven't figured out yet.  I can only continue to hope for a happier future.  New Year's is right around the corner and it is a time for new beginnings.  I return to work on Monday so in the interim I will enjoy my last few days as a temporary stay-at-home mom.

I wish you all the happiest of New Years and hope for a better tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Secret Santa Found!

I wanted to extend another thank you to my wonderful Book Blogger Holiday Swap Santa, Susan of YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS!  She revealed herself and now I am enjoying getting to know her through her blog.  Find it here.

I so enjoy meeting new bloggers!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Notes in the Margin

I have decided to introduce a new feature into my blog called "Notes in the Margin." These will be brief updates on my current progress when I don't have anything to post. Just so you know I'm still here!

I am feverishly working on Byatt's CHILDREN'S BOOK and I'm about halfway through Kingsolver's LACUNA.

Here are the next books in the pile:

ELYNIA by David Michael Belczyk

GREEN BRONZE MIRROR by Lynne Ellison (Young Adult title)

THE KINGDOM OF OHIO by Matthew Flaming

DUG DOWN DEEP by Joshua Harris (Christian title)

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin

INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE, BOOK ONE by MaryRose Wood (Young Reader)


So excited about THE PASSAGE!!! I've read lots of good buzz about it. It's a chunkster at 703 pages but it won't be published until June so I have a little time to get it read.

I have also started added genre labels to my book review posts so if you are looking for Young Adult or Christian titles, you can search for them that way.

Happy reading everyone!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!!

You know what is even better than having a book blogger as a Secret Santa?  Having a book blogger from CANADA as your Secret Santa!!!

I just got the most AMAZING package from the Book Blogger Holiday Swap!  My Secret Santa REALLY REALLY REALLY spoiled me!

Look at all of this bounty:



A mini-Christmas tree, a sweet snowman, some hot chocolate (Yum!!! It's something off my wish list!)  some yummy bell-shaped candies, a lovely bookmark, a mystery by a Candian writer and a special children's book for Noodlebug ALSO by a Canadian author. 

So much thoughtfulness and generosity went into this package and it really made my day! While my Secret Santa did not reveal him/herself, I hope they are checking my blog so they know how much their wonderful gift is appreciated!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to :

Amy Thompson!

You are the winner of 40 LOAVES. Please e-mail me your mailing address and I will get it to you ASAP. It will be a great tool for starting off the new year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have mentioned in previous years how this is my favorite Christmas song. I'm picky about the version, though. Many versions of this song change the words to make it more peppy. In its original version from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, it is a wistful song about life changes and hoping for better days ahead. The line "until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" always gets me. So, as I begin my holiday vacation, I want to leave you with my favorite version of this holiday classic.






I'll still be checking in over the holidays so don't you worry! But I want to take this moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of new years. I know the past year has been particularly rough for many people. In spite of that fact, I have seen more acts of courage, faith and generosity than I can remember in recent years. You are all amazing people and this is a blessed life indeed.


"Next year all our troubles will be miles away!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby



I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

I have been saving this book because I felt it would be the perfect holiday read. The premise is wonderful and original.  Each year, after the Christmas tree is decorated, all of the ornaments come to life at night. On this particular year, Larry the Snowman "wakes up" to discover that his brother is missing. Larry and his friends break the laws of the Tree-Elders in order to try and find his brother as they escape the tree and adventure into the house.

Something was missing in this book for me.  The book lacked the whimsy to make it truly successful and it was surprisingly dark.  Bad things happen and some of the characters are too scary for little ones.  I think that is one of the main problems of the book. It sets itself up to be a family read with 24 chapters for each night of the holiday season. But it is too scary for little ones and I was baffled by Hornby's constant use of the word "flippin'" in place of a more obvious and less savory word.  It just wasn't necessary. 

*SPOILER ALERT*

I think this book would have been more successful if it had stuck to the night-time adventures of Christmas ornaments and their origins. The complication of Larry the Snowman searching for his brother and subsequently finding him "dead" was unpleasantly surprising. This, along with murderous Christmas lights and jealous killer ornaments, made the book much darker and unpleasant than a Christmas story should be.



*END OF SPOILER*




BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. This could have been a truly original Christmas story that families could enjoy every year together. Instead, it was too dark and not whimsical enough. Perhaps with retooling, this could become a holiday favorite.

Mission Accomplished

Whew! Another thing marked off the Christmas list!  My Book Blogger Holiday Swap partner received the package I sent her. See the details here at her blog. I'm so relieved that she likes everything. I want so much to make people that I swap with happy and it can be hard to pick just the right items.  I think one of the best things about doing a swap like this is that it helps you discover a new blog and I have been enjoying reading Carrie's Books and Movies blog and getting to know her.  I have not yet received my Book Blogger Holidays Swap package but I promise to post about it when I do!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gonna Make It

It seems that my entire household is sick. Noodlebug has croup and husband has stomach flu. I am trying to employ mind over matter not to get sick.  This scene from THE THREE AMIGOS sums up how I feel right now:



If I can just make it until Friday at 3:30pm PST, I will have two blissful weeks off to rest, recuperate and READ!!!  Hope you are having a happy, healthy holiday season!

Monday, December 14, 2009

40 LOAVES by C.D. Baker and GIVEAWAY



This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

I am always on the lookout for a good devotional.  I often start them and never finish them because they seldom offer me what I need. There are plenty of books that address the needs of Christians who are content and comfortable in their faith. There aren't many that feed those who may have a "hungry spirit."  I was drawn in by 40 LOAVES immediately after reading the Note to Reader.  Baker begins this devotional by pointing out that it is okay to have questions and doubts about our faith. As he points out, "Questions invite authenticity."  It is so refreshing to hear someone say that!!!  40 LOAVES offers a series of bread crumbs (or more nourishing loaves) for those of us who feel a bit lost in our faith.  It challenges us to ask the tough questions.

I especially loved the sections on sin and feeling disconnected and angry.  Baker allows us to explore these feelings that many Christians want simply to sweep under the rug. For those of us who struggle with issues of faith and doubt, this book allows us a safe place to ask the tough questions.  Each section is only a few pages long and includes thought questions and a prayer.  This would make a great holiday gift to help those who wish to explore their faith in greater depth a great way to start the new year.  It also has forty chapters which would make it a good read for Lent as well.

You may purchase a copy of this book here.

I have a copy of this book to give away.  It would make a great companion book to start the new year with. If you are interested in winning a copy, please leave a comment here.  The contest will be open until Friday, December 18!

Friday, December 11, 2009

WILD THINGS by Dave Eggers



When I first saw the preview for the new Spike Jonze movie version of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, I squirmed in my seat with excitement.  I couldn't wait to see how Jonze reimagined Sendak's classic book.  When I finally saw the film, my response was a mixed bag.  While I appreciated the beauty of the film and the fact that it accurately presented some of the difficulties and pain of childhood, I didn't seem to emotionally connect to it.  Jonze collaborated with Dave Eggers on the screenplay so I was interested to see how Eggers fleshed out the story in his book THE WILD THINGS. The fact that I saw the movie first may have colored my impressions of Eggers' book. He didn't add much to what I had already seen on the big screen. 

Max is a troubled 10-year-old boy with a single divorced mother  and anolder sister who is starting to drift away as she concerns herself with "grown up" things.  Max feels lost and alone and confused by all the emotions running through him.  After a confrontation with his mother, Max runs away and take a boat to the island of the Wild Things where he becomes their king. But he learns that being a king isn't everything he thought it would be.

The Wild Things represent different side to Max's personality and, perhaps, of those of the people in his life. It is surpising how menacing and frightening these creatures can be. They are not the whimsical creatures of Sendak's book. This is both a good and bad thing. Eggers does a great job demonstrating the complexities of childhood and all the confusing feelings that come with it. However, it left me feeling disconnected and impatient. I never really felt engaged by the book or the movie.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended.  See the movie instead.  At least there you will get the beauty of the visuals. The book is simply a watered down version of the film.

RIP Kirkus Reviews

I began my day today by reading the announcement that Kirkus Reviews is ceasing publication.  What?!!  For years, when I have looked for reviews on books, I have always gone first to the Kirkus Review because I respect their opinion.  If they gave a book a good review, I knew I would probably like it.  This is just so sad.  First my favorite parenting magazine goes under and now my favorite book review publication.  What is this world coming to?

In other news, I am reading like a madwoman! Trying hard to finish about 4 books so I hope to post some new reviews soon.  Happy reading everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What a Weekend!


Well, we completed our Dallas trip this weekend and made it back in one piece.  My little one was a champ!  He is such a good little traveler. I wish I could say the same for the other travelers we ran into. I was shocked at how rude and nasty people were. As I struggled to get my child onto the plane and into our seats, people were just nasty.  Their reactions ranged from eye-rolling to unpleasant comments.  And not one person every offered to help when they saw me struggling. Not even a flight attendant on any of the four flights we took.  It crushed my holiday spirit a bit but I rallied. 

I grew up in Dallas and I miss it a lot.  It felt so good being home again. We stuffed ourselves with Mexican food, German food and barbecue. We drove around the Park Cities looking at holiday lights and stopped by NorthPark to see the decorations and my very favorite Santa Claus. (see above)  Noodlebug was very brave and even cracked a smile for the Santa photo.

I also discovered a fantastic travel tip I would like to pass on. I was worried about carrying so much baby gear with me on the plane so I opted to not bring a stroller or any toys. Instead, I rented a stroller and toys through TravelBabees.  They were fantastic!!!  Not only are they affordable but they delivered the items to our hotel. The stroller was a BRAND NEW Peg-Perego and the toys were also new and age appropriate.  It gave Noodlebug lots of great things to play with in the hotel room without me having to lug around a bag of toys from home. Such a great affordable service! I highly recommend it if you are traveling with little ones. 

(I am not associated with nor paid by TravelBabees. I just wanted to recommend a great service)

After all the hustle and bustle, it is great to be home. If I can just get hubby to put the lights outside, I think we will be ready for Christmas.  I'm looking forward to it!

(photo borrowed from and owned by NorthPark Center)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Value Gifts for the Holiday Season

These books were provided for review by the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books Program.

I had the chance to read and review some books from the Waterbrook Multnomah value non-fiction line and from their 99 Ways line. I think the folks over at Waterbrook Multnomah must know me better than I think they do because they chose this title from their 99 Ways line to send to me:



I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this little book.  The 99 ways are broken into 7 sections full of little bits and pieces of wisdom: Lean on Your Friends, Guard Your Rest, Write it Down, Dream a Little, Find the Humor, Pursue Healthy Diversions and Dive into Truth.  I find myself nodding my head many times throughout the book.  I especially liked the "Guard Your Rest" and "Dive into Truth" sections.  I'm not very good at guarding my rest and Colopy gives good examples of how to do this such as giving yourself a time-out.  The final section gives suggestions on how to deal with worry and fear.  Something I really need right now. This inexpensive little book provides a priceless trove of good ideas.

Buy a copy of this book here.

I also received this title from their value non-fiction line:



While I am a married gal now, I was a single gal for a long time. I didn't get married until I was 31. I probably could have used this book once upon a time. The book starts with the practical premise that the only thing we can change or control about our relationships is ourselves.  It then moves from taking charge of your own life and knowing what you want to understanding what HE wants so that you don't choose the wrong person.  I really appreciated the fact that this common sense book offers good advice from a Christian perspective.  Most everything that Hammond and Brooks say in the book is dead on. 

I felt that the best part of the book covered becoming a complete individual FIRST before seeking out a relationship.  God made us whole.  We aren't missing any pieces or better halves.  Your life can be complete without a romantic relationship. I think that people in that state of mind become far more successful when they DO enter a relationship.  If you are a Christian women looking for some solid dating advice (or know one who NEEDS some Christian dating advice), I would recommend picking up this book instead of something like THE RULES.

You can purchase this book here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On Deck

These will be my next reads unless someone has anything to warn me about (wink):

CHILDREN'S BOOK by AS Byatt
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
SECRETS OF A CHRISTMAS BOX by Steven Hornby
ETERNAL ON THE WATER by Joseph Monninger

Monday, November 30, 2009

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

I have never been a person who gives in to fear.  I have always liked that line from the movie Strictly Ballroom..."a life lived in a fear is a life half-lived."   "Feel the fear and do it anyway." I used that one a lot when I was learning how to ski.  I could fill this post with platitudes like that.

I recently wrote a post about how parenthood has affected and changed me.  It seems as if everywhere I look or everything I read reminds me of how fragile life is.  A few weeks ago, a friend of mine lost a dear friend.  This woman was a prominent lawyer in Dallas.  She and her husband and their 4-year-old son were killed in a house fire.  They couldn't get out. I did not know these people personally but I was greatly affected by the story. I cried a lot. And then I went out and bought new fire extinguishers and smoke alarms for my home.  This morning, I heard on the radio about a local family of four killed by a reckless driver running a red light this past weekend. The children were 8 and 5. We think we have control over our lives.  Look at how I responded to the death of the family in Dallas. I went out and bought fire safety devices.  But how do I control a reckless or drunk driver?  The fact is that I cannot keep my child safe and my family safe. There is nothing that I can do or buy that will ensure their safety.  I could do everything in the world to physically protect my child and then he could get sick. My time volunteering with a children's hospital and Make-a-Wish Foundation have shown me this reality in spades.  So, I have new fears in my life now.  I am traveling with my mother and little one this coming weekend.  This is the first time I have traveled with my child. I am nervous about the plane ride. I lay in bed last night thinking about something going wrong with the plane. How ridiculous is that?!  I have never had any fear of flying before!  Is this how I am going to spend my life now?  Full of fear and anxiety?

As Christians, we are supposed to put our faith in God.  Everything from worrying about our daily needs to our greater fears.  It is really hard for me to "hand it over" sometimes.  Especially with all the daily reminders of how things can go wrong that confront me in the news, on television, in my books. Do you know that the last four books I read had the deaths of children in them?!  I think I need a break!!!  It's time for some fluffy comfort reading.  If I mention that I am about to start a book and you have read it and it has the death of a child in it, PLEASE STEER ME AWAY FROM IT!  Just for the time being.  I'm ready for a few sugarplums dancing in my head instead of tragedy.  In the meantime, I am going to work on letting go of fear and just living in the moment and handing all the worry and negativity over to God.

Maybe Keb' Mo' can help me out.

CHRONIC CITY by Jonathan Lethem



Review coming soon...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Your Moment of Zen

I didn't think it could get any weirder or funnier than Awkward Family Photos. And then my friend Kim introduced me to THE PEOPLE OF WALMART!!!!

The perfect timewaster/pseudo-schadenfreude that I have seen in awhile!
I am cruising through Lethem's CHRONIC CITY right now and hope to start the new AS Byatt over the holidays.  Lots of reviews coming soon.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving full of blessings and yummy food. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

THE WRONG MOTHER by Sophie Hannah



I can't remember where I first heard about this book. I read lots and lots of magazines, blogs and trade publications and then stack my library account with books that sound interesting.  This one finally popped up in my library queue.  I haven't read many books in the mystery/suspense genre for awhile so this made a nice change of pace.

Sally Thorning is a busy working mom who tries to find time to be all things to all people. During a moment of weakness, Sally take the opportunity of a cancelled business trip to have a mini-vacation from her life.  She meets a man named Mark Bretherick and has a week-long affair.  A year later, Sally hears that a mother and young daughter have been killed in a murder-suicide.  They are the family of Mark Bretherick. As Sally watches the newscast, she sees an interview with Mark Bretherick and realizes that he is not he man she had the affair with.  Someone is lying. 

What follows is a fast-paced mystery-thriller that keeps the reader constantly guessing.  One of the reasons that I do not read many mysteries anymore is that so many of them have become formulaic.  It is easy to guess what will happen. That was not the case with this book. It took many surprising twists and turns. And it is much more than a thriller. Hannah presents three types of mothers in  her book---the workaholic mom who is having second thoughts about motherhood, the selfless mother totally devoted to her child and the mother who tries to straddle both worlds. While weaving these threads into her story, Hannah reveals the difficulties facing modern mothers and the stresses that these roles can place upon them.

BOTTOM LINE: A very readable thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.  The sections that focus on the police slowed the action down a bit and the ending felt very abrupt.  Overall, this is a good solid entertaining read, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A GATE AT THE STAIRS by Lorrie Moore



This book is on many people's lists of the best books of 2009.  I have been wanting to read it for quite some time.  This one is going to be difficult to review.

A GATE OF THE STAIRS follows the coming-of-age of 20-year-old Tassie Keltjin in the months following 9/11.  Tassie is a small-town girl from farm community attending a local college.  In order to get a little extra money, Tassie applies to be a babysitter for a 40-something chef/restaurant owner who is adopting a child with her husband.  After a few failed attempts, the couple adopts a mixed-race child. The social, class and racial pressures surrounding this adoption in the post 9/11 landscape form the backdrop of the story.  As Tassie experiments with first love and her newfound independence, she is confronted with unexpected secrets from the people around her that have heartwrending consequences for everyone involved.

Many reviewers have described this book as a coming-of-age tale with lots of heart and humor. Others have focused on the dichotomy of small-town farm life versus college-town life as seen through the eyes of Tassie Keltjin. Still others have pointed out the complexities of race and class as seen through the adoption of the mixed-race child. The book is all of those things. However, I had a hard time with the book because I had no connection with Tassie. I did not find her to be compelling or particularly interesting character. She merely served as a construct for getting us through the story. The book itself is heartbreaking.  So many secrets and so much loss. It was hard to get through in an emotional sense.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. It grieves me to say this but I was disappointed.  I think the subject matter is interesting and Moore brings up a lot of compelling issues in the post 9/11 world. However, the fact that Tassie was not an engaging character really damaged the book for me.  Tassie needed a bit more personality. Maybe even humor.  Moore does a terrific job dealing with some tough issues but overall the book left me cold.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm on the Random House Library Blog!

It's a small world after all.

Random House was nice enough to give me a shout-out on their library blog.

Find it here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

ALICE I HAVE BEEN by Melanie Benjamin



I received an advance copy of this book from Random House.

A few years ago, I read a biography of Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll.  I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the man who came up with the outrageous world of Wonderland.  I had never before heard the rumors of Dodgson's alleged inappropriate relationships and photography sessions with young girls.  Dodgson's alleged pedophilia has never been substantiated.  However, the photographs that still exist that he took of young girls still manage to raise a few eyebrows.  One of those photographs is of a young girl named Alice Pleasance Liddell. She is scantily clad as a beggar/gypsy girl.  It is a commonly held belief that this little girl was the inspiration for ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

In ALICE I HAVE BEEN, Melanie Benjamin tells the story of the origins of this famous book and the relationship between Dodgson and Alice Liddell from the perspective of Alice.  The book is broken into three parts: Alice's childhood, Alice's adulthood and Alice at 80 years of age.  Benjamin explores how being the subject of such a famous work may have affected Alice's life and the possible reasons behind the break between Charles Dodgson and Alice's family when she was 11 years old.  Benjamin manages to strike just the right tone. Some writers, like AS Byatt, are very gifted at being able to channel just the right tone and voice for their works of period fiction. Others fail miserably.  I believe Benjamin did an excellent job with this. I felt as if I were reading the private journals or correspondance of a real Victorian lady. In the first part of the book, the reader feels all the confusion of a child who is on the edge of growing up but doesn't yet understand the romantic innerworkings of adults.  When Alice is an adult, we view the events through the lens of an adult looking back at her childhood.  The third part of the book was the most moving to me as Benjamin deals with the tragedies of Alice's later life and how her view of events changes with her status as a mother. 

This book was fascinating and incredibly moving. It made me wish that we knew the truth about Alice's relationship with Dodgson. Because the two families destroyed many of the photographs, journal entries and letters, we may never know the truth.  Still, Benjamin offers a compelling look at the effects of being a Victorian "child star" on one individual.

This book will be released in January 2010.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  Well written while offering a new look at a well-known children's book.  I guarantee you will be running to the library and internet to learn more about these enigmatic individuals and their story.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

RAISING THE PERFECT CHILD THROUGH GUILT AND MANIPULATION by Elizabeth Beckwith



I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins.

This is a tricky book for me to review. As a (relatively) new mom, I have found myself drawn to all sorts of child-rearing books lately.  This one sounded like it would offer a much-appreciated dose of humor to this often weighty subject.  Elizabeth Beckwith is a stand-up comedian who comes from a large Italian family well-versed in the art of the manipulation of children. Each chapter in the book focuses on a different area of this novel approach to child-rearing such as "Mind Control: Why It's a Good Thing."  Beckwith also includes tidbits from her own childhood throughout the book to provide a humorous look at family life in the Beckwith household.

While this book is certainly more of a spoof on child-rearing books than an actual "how-to" book, a lot of Beckwith's advice seems pretty reasonable while offering a dash of humor.  Beckwith is at her best when she offers accounts of her own childhood and family.  I often laughed out loud at those parts. Most will appreciate her dry and witty approach to this subject.  Especially those who are in their thirties who will recognize many of her references.

While this book is only 240 pages, I had a hard time getting through it.  It was amusing but not very compelling. I think the fault lies with me and not the book.  I don't seem to connect well to humorous child-rearing books.  I recently tried to read and review another book in this genre and just gave up.  I could not get into it.  I think that sometimes, Beckwith tried to be a little TOO clever and self-reflexive.  The discussion questions and "letters to the author" at the end of each chapter seemed unnecessary and a little too "clever."  If Beckwith had offered more of her own family/childhood stories rather than focus on creating a parody out of parenting books, it would have been much more effective.

BOTTOM LINE:  I will recommend this book for parents looking for a little humor in their child-rearing reading. While I was slightly disappointed, I still found much of it to be very amusing.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap



So many great bloggers are participating that I decided I had to join in!!  Sign up here.  But hurry!
 The registration closes on November 12!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I'm a Winner!


Just found out that I won a copy of CRANIOKLEPTY: GRAVE ROBBING AND THE SEARCH FOR GENIUS by Colin Dickey. It sounds fascinating!  I entered a contest where you were asked to answer the question, "Whose skull would you dig?"  They selected my entry!

See the winners here.

Can't wait to read it!!!

I AM Reading!

Hi everyone.

I am trying to finish my current reads but I am really dragging.  Maybe it is the unseasonably warm weather.  Maybe I am coming down off of a sugar high after Halloween. Maybe I am not getting enough sleep because Noodlebug seems to be coughing most of the night. We are assured by the doctor that he is NOT sick but just has a lingering cough....if one more person tells me to put him to bed with a humidifier I'm going to defenestrate them. We have tried every trick in the book but he continues to cough at night after a month. At least he seems healthy enough otherwise.

Current reads:

RAISING THE PERFECT CHILD THROUGH GUILT AND MANIPULATION by Elizabeth Beckwith (sent to me by HarperCollins)

HUNGRY MONKEY : A FOOD-LOVING FATHER'S QUEST TO RAISE AN ADVENTUROUS EATER by Matthew Amster-Burton

I am about to start:

GATE AT THE STAIRS by Lorrie Moore

ALICE I HAVE BEEN by Melanie Benjamin (sent to me by Random House)

I keep gazing longingly at my copy of AS Byatt's THE CHILDREN'S HOUR but I am trying to save it for my holiday vacation time. I want to savor it. 

Happy reading!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Logophile

What do the following words have in common?

book
trash
hot
up
brush
open
more
tickle
sock
shoe
baby
eyes
nose
mouth
ears
boo
moon
sit
ball
moose


Give up?



How about if I add these words:



Mama
Dada
Elmo


As you have probably guessed, these words comprise Noodlebug's current vocabulary.  He seems to be experiencing a word explosion right now and every day brings a new one.  It is an exciting time.  Although I have to admit, I find his baby babble very endearing.  20-25 word vocabulary at 17 months. Not bad.  Must be all those books I force him to read  read with him every day.

Now, if we can just get him to say "trick or treat."  Mama needs some chocolate.

Happy Halloween!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving




I received an advance copy of this book from Random House. (Thank you!!!)

Reading this book directly after Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL just about gave me whiplash.  Whereas
Brown seems to think that readers have the attention spans of gnats, Irving takes his time with his story whether his readers get impatient or not. 

LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER begins with a father and son working in the cookhouse of a logging camp in northern New Hampshire.  One fateful night, a tragic accident occurs that forces the father and his ten-year-old son to flee Twisted River and its vengeful constable.  The story spans fifty years and follows the father and son as they try to move beyond the past and make peace with the present. They always seem only one step ahead of the constable who is determined to kill them both.

It is difficult to describe this book with any accuracy.  It is much more than a tale of revenge and flight.  It is a story of relationships, survival and loss.  Irving is a truly gifted writer.  He takes his time with the story making sure the reader has a feel for the landscape as well as the characters within the book.  At the book's end, the reader knows the characters so well that it feels as if you have lived a lifetime with them.

This book makes a great read for fall/winter as most of it takes place in cold wintry climes.  I felt as if I had to wrap up in a blanket when I read it because Irving was so successful in conveying the cold and chill of the various locales. The story moves back and forth through time in a way that could sometimes be confusing but was ultimately effective. You often discover what happens to characters before you discover HOW it happened. 

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A beautifully written and moving book that provides just enough of a challenge to make one feel as if you have accomplished something. Irving has redeemed himself in my eyes after his last disastrous novel. (UNTIL I FIND YOU)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend Update

Friends---

It was a difficult weekend.  My family stood in line for three hours to get the H1N1 shot on Saturday. We are all vaccinated now but it was a long and difficult morning. There is a lot of stress and strife in my family right now that we are trying to work through. I'm desperately fighting off depression and trying to focus on all the good things around me like the beautiful fall weather and the fact that we are entering the holiday season which I always look forward to.

I am still working on Irving's book. I made a special trip to the bookstore with Noodlebug yesterday and bought AS Byatt's THE CHILDREN'S BOOK.  This morning, I heard from GoodReads that I won a copy of Michael Chabon's new book which is exciting. 

If I am sporadic in my posting over the next few days, please know that I am reading and will be posting reviews soon. And I'm reading all of your blogs and comments!!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the Pile

So much to read, so little time!!!!

I am currently working on John Irving's latest work, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER. Reading this book directly after THE LOST SYMBOL is making my head spin.  They couldn't be more different. Irving is such a gifted writer and readers really have to take time with his books.  The book will be released on the 27th and I hope to finish it by then.

Also in the pile of books I'm looking forward to reading:

CHRONIC CITY by Jonathon Lethem
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
HOMER AND LANGLEY by EL Doctorow
CHILDREN'S BOOK by AS Byatt
ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I have owned the Doctorow, Russo and Ruiz Zafon books for awhile but can't seem to get to them.  I am still on the waitlist at the library for the Lethem book but I am almost there! It is my last Fall Into Reading book so I'll have to add to that list.  I also have two nonfiction books that sound really good:

PHILOSOPHICAL BABY: WHAT CHILDREN'S MINDS TELL US ABOUT TRUTH, LOVE AND THE MEANING OF LIFE by Alison Gopnik

NURTURESHOCK: NEW THINKING ABOUT CHILDREN by Po Bronson and Ashley Merrymen

What books are you currently excited about reading?

Friday, October 16, 2009

LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown



Robert Langdon returns for another cryptic adventure in Dan Brown's latest novel, THE LOST SYMBOL.  In this Langdon episode, the Masons and their ties to secret mystical knowledge are the center of the action.  Langdon is called to Washington DC by an old friend only to find a grisly clue left just for him in the Capitol rotunda.  Langdon must race against time to solve an ancient Masonic mystery while a madman holds one of his dearest friends hostage.

Dan Brown has discovered a successful formula for his thrillers and fans will recognize it in this newest work.  It is as if Brown simply takes the structure from his previous two books and inputs new information.

1) Langdon discovers cryptic and/or grisly clue in a famous place
2) Langdon must race against time to solve puzzles that involve famous people/places/items
3) Langdon enlists the help of a beautiful brainy woman
4) Langdon solves all the mysteries but withholds his discoveries from the rest of the world
5) the bad guy(s) are insane fanatics that are part of ancient cults/religious groups

There is really nothing new to add to this list in THE LOST SYMBOL.  Dan Brown writes all of his books as if they are screenplays.  He doesn't take the time to truly develop any of his characters. He is a good storyteller but he is not a very good writer.  His chapters are short and choppy and Brown feels as if he must end every single chapter with a cliffhanger. I almost heard "DA DA DUM!!!" at the end of each chapter. My main beef with Brown is that I feel he condescends to his readers. He feels we do not have the capacity to enjoy stories that SLOWLY unfold or make us work in any way.  His plot twists were so obvious and heavy-handed in this latest tale that there were absolutely no surprises.

I expected Brown to court more controversy with this book but the entire work seems to attempt to recruit readers into the Masons.  Langdon spends the whole story talking up the Masons and how great they are.  This book should also give Noetics a boost.  Brown's historic facts are always fun and readers are sure to flock to the internet to look up much of the information.  Perhaps the book will encourage more people to visit the nation's capitol.

BOTTOM LINE:  This is a tough one.  Was I entertained by this book?  Yes.  Is it a good book?  No.  I would recommend this book as a vacation read.  If you have read Brown's other works, this one will feel VERY familiar to the point of being old hat.  However, it is a quick entertaining read if that is all you are looking for. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vote for Matt Logelin and the Liz Logelin Foundation

Hello Friends.

Many of you know that one of my favorite blogs is written by Matt Logelin. Matt lost his wife 24 hours after his daughter was born. His daughter was born two months before my son.  Matt has struggled with living life without Liz while being a wonderful father to Maddie.  He blogs about his adventures and started the Liz Logelin Foundation to bring financial relief to widows and widowers of small children who are struggling.

Matt's story really moves me because I not only think about what it would be like to miss my child growing up but also what it would be like to raise my child without my husband. I think it is so amazing that Matt has turned his grief into something so powerful and positive.  He and his beautiful girl Maddie are currently in India while Matt writes a book about his life with Liz and his subsequent loss.

Matt is nominated right now in two different contests that could get money for the Liz Logelin Foundation. Read about them here.  All you need to do is click and vote. It's free and could make a real difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake



I received a copy of this book through Barnes and Noble's First Look program.  I have been really impressed with B&N's picks and this one is my favorite so far.

THE POSTMISTRESS takes place in the early years of WWII in both Massachusetts and London.  In a small town on Cape Cod, Postmaster Iris James runs a tight ship until one day, she decides NOT to deliver a letter.  On the other side of the Atlantic, American Frankie Bard is working for Edward R. Murrow delivering coverage of the war in Europe for American listeners.  One night, in a bomb shelter, Bard meets a young doctor from a small town in Cape Cod.  The stories of the two places become inextricably linked from that point forward.  The story moves back and forth from the United States to Europe and uses the radio as a transition point.  The reader can be in London "listening" to Bard's latest report and be transported to New England to the small Cape Cod town mid-chapter. These transitions are abrupt at first but the radio proves to be a compelling link among all of these storylines. The book brings those early years of the war to life and reminds all of us what a much different war it was for those in England and Europe than for those of us in the United States. Frankie Bard witnesses unbelieveable tragedy and loss that left me weeping many times throughout the story.  Blake weaves a deft tale about the consequences of war on relationships, love and secrets and the choices we have to make in difficult times.

This book reminded me of what a powerful tool radio is. I happen to be an avid NPR listener. There is something so intimate about radio.  There is no intrusion of images and it often feels as if the radio personalities are in the room with you. With radio, new stories can be fleshed out and more in depth than the 15 second snippets you get with television.  In WWII, this was the main source of news for everyone.  It connected the United States with the rest of the world.  Blake reminds us of all of that through her book.

This book will be released in February 2009.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  This is a very moving work that really brings those early WWII years to life. It would be a great companion book to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.  However, this book has a greated depth of emotion and power to it somehow. Keep a kleenex nearby!


YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood



I read Margaret Atwood's previous novel, ORYX AND CRAKE, many years ago when it first came out. I wish I could remember more of it because many of the characters from that novel appear in her latest work, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD.

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD follows the stories of two women, Ren and Toby, in the aftermath of worldwide plague.  Also known to a certain religious group as The Waterless Flood.  The story moves back and forth through time as the two women remember the events leading up the Waterless Flood. Both women were members of a religous cult-like group known as God's Gardeners.  These individuals were a type of ultra-environmental group that considered it their responsibility to bring gardens back to Earth while storing the DNA and attributes of animals that had gone extinct.  They are an anti-technology, vegetarian, foraging group that utilizes the trash and scraps of the outer world in order to survive.  As Ren and Toby remember their days with the Gardeners and the subsequent events leading up the plague, they try to figure out how to survive and what to do next. The story is interspersed with sermons by the Gardeners' leader, Adam One, that reveal the tenets of their religious views.

Atwood is very skilled in apolcalyptic futurist literature. The chilling nature of her books lies in the fact that the events are entirely plausible. In this book, a corporation security group known as CorpSeCorps has taken over control of the world. Protein is so lacking that people are willing to take it in the form of SecretBurgers, not knowing exactly WHAT type of protein they are consuming. All carbon-based refuse is turned into Garboil to fuel vehicles. This includes human bodies. Animals roam the earth that come not from nature but from laboratories such a liobams (lion/lamb hybrid) and rakunks (raccoon/skunk hybrid).  It is a bleak look at the future but a compelling one.

BOTTOM  LINE: Recommended. Atwood is a gifted writer.  I did not find this book an especially quick read. The characters were not especially compelling. However, you cannot help but get drawn into this glimpse into our possible future and the possible consequences of our current actions.  It is not clear whether Atwood gives the human race a reprieve or not but the ride itself is fascinating.


Catching Up...Again

I am behind!!!  I have two reviews to post on Atwood's YEAR OF THE FLOOD and Sarah Blake's POSTMISTRESS.  I have started reading Dan Brown's LOST SYMBOL and I just received an advanced copy of John Irving's LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER which I am really looking forward to reading. It is pouring down rain right now and it is perfect reading weather but I will be at work today.  Maybe hubby will build us a fire tonight.

I also received an e-mail that I have been selected for the WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program.  I'm going to try it out and see if it fits my "blogging with integrity" guidelines.  As always, if I am selected to review one of these books, I will explicitly state where I received the book.  If you are interested in joining the program, click here.



I spent a blissful four days at home with my little one. It makes it that much harder to go back to work today.  I will just sit back and work and enjoy the rain on my office window.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Side Effects of Parenthood

As most of you know, I am the mother to a 16-month-old boy.  Over the past 16 months, I have been surprised by how emotional I have become about children in general.  Many years ago, I served on the board of a group of young professionals supporting a local children's hospital.  I was in charge of volunteer opportunities.  We would often host parties, storytimes and crafting events for the children.  One of my fellow directors would always help with supplies and setup but would never stay for the parties. She was a young mother of two and said it was just too hard for her to see the sick children at the hospital. I could not understand this. I loved children and, while it was sometimes difficult to see the more dire cases, I always found it incredibly rewarding to be with them at those parties.  Now, I wish I could go back in time and apologize to that woman.  If I were in the same position now, I would probably have to drop off supplies and decorations and leave as well.

I am reading a really great novel right now about WWII.  I just finished a scene where a young pregnant mother and her toddler son are trying to evacuate Berlin by train. In the scene, the toddler gets separated from his mother on the platform and she can't get to him through the throng of people. As I read this, I felt my throat tighten up and I had trouble breathing.  I imagined that little boy as my son and I got really upset.  This happens a lot now. I hear about a child who is ill or a child who has fallen under some kind of harm and I can't help but think...what if that were my child?  There but by the grace of God...

Granted, I am an emotional person anyway.  But parenthood makes you more vulnerable somehow. While I don't hover over my child or constantly worry about him, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am that my child is safe and healthy.  So, if I get a little emotional over a book now and then, I'm going to give myself a break.
Not long ago, I was reading a book about an Indian raid on a North Texas ranch in the 1800's.  Several small boys were murdered in the first few pages.  I put the book down and never read any further. I'm going to give myself permission to do that from now on.  I'll blame it on hysterical motherhood.

TOUCH OF MAGENTA by Linda Loveland Reid



My book club selected TOUCH OF MAGENTA for our October book.  At our book club meeting next week, the author will be joining us which should prove for interesting discussion.

TOUCH OF MAGENTA tells two different stories of two women in California.  Corri returns home to Sonora in Northern California in 1971 for her mother's funeral. As she sorts through her mother's affairs, she begins to uncover family secrets and realizes she may not even know her own true identity.  In 1895, Pegeen defies social convention and prejudice by running away with her Chinese lover. When tragedy strikes, Pegeen must travel the world in order to protect what she holds most dear. Spanning decades of time and several continents, TOUCH OF MAGENTA reveals how the lives of these two women are connected and the effects of family secrets.

This book reminded me a great deal of of THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.  This book follows the stories of these two women concurrently and slowly reveals one family's hidden secrets and their consequences. The story itself was great. Even though it becomes clear what the outcome will be, Reid finds the perfect pace in revealing this family's truths.  My only complaint was the unnecessary romantic arc in the 1970's storyline.  It slowed the story down and served no real purpose that I could tell.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. This was an enjoyable book that made me think a lot about families and whether we can ever really know the truth of our pasts.  While the 1970's story could be slow and sometimes dragged a bit, the book was solid overall.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fun with Anagrams

I heard about a website where you can type in your name (or any set of words) and get a list of possible anagrams.  I thought I'd share it with you since so many of you are fellow bibliophile/logophiles. 

My favorite anagram for my name?

Mama Easily

Although being a mama may NOT be the easiest thing I have ever done, it is EASILY the best thing I have ever done! 

Here is the website.

CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER by Rebecca Wells



Before I begin this review, I must warn you that I am a fan of Southern lit so I may be a bit biased.

Because I enjoyed the YA-YA SISTERHOOD books, I have been looking forward to the release of Rebeccas Wells' lastest book. THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER follows the adventures of Calla Lily Ponder and her town of La Luna in Louisiana. Calla and her hometown have a special connection to the moon. Calla's mother, M'Dear, owns the Crowning Glory Beauty Porch and teaches her daughter all her wisdom concerning the healing qualities of hair grooming and the Lady of the Moon.  As Calla grows up, she faces several painful losses and must find her place in the world and grow into the wisdom that her mother taught her.

I really enjoyed this book. While the YA-YA books dealt with some difficult and painful issues, Wells is much more spiritual and gentle with this book. It is a softer and more sentimental view of a girl growing up.  I found myself underlining many of the bits of wisdom that M'Dear offered.  The story wraps you up in the world of a small town and leaves you yearning for a simpler time.  Calla is such a plucky likeable girl that it is easy to get caught up in her story.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. Though some might find the story a simply retreading of a tale that has been told many times before, I found this book to be charming and comforting. Several passages may bring tears to the eyes of some readers as it did mine. The ending may be a little too tidy for some but this is a nice pleasant vacation read.

Friday, October 02, 2009

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Jennifer Weiner



Jennifer Weiner excels at creating characters that are relatable for your average woman.  She does not disappoint with her latest book, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.  Although as different as night and day, Addie and Valerie are inseparable friends until high school when Valerie becomes a cheerleader and Addie retreats further into books. A fateful night changes everything for the two of them and they drift apart as Valerie drops Addie and Addie spends the rest of her high school days subjected the very worst type of bullying.  Years later, Addie has changed her life after enduring a great deal of tragedy.  Just as she begins to get her life together, Valerie shows up on her doorstep on the night of their high school reunion claiming to need help for something horrible she has done.

This would make a terrific vacation/beach read. The story moves along quickly and Addie proves to be a very interesting and multi-layered character. Valerie is completely unlikeable and remained so for me all the way through the book. The story is billed as a tale about friendship but, for me, it was much more a story about Addie finding herself and coming into her own.  The ending was a little too pat for my taste but it was a decent read overall.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. Fans of Weiner will not be disappointed. Addie is a terrific and interesting character. However, the big mystery was overblown and obvious and Valerie is the worst type of friend. I think many readers will feel a little frustrated with the ending. Save this one for a vacation read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Checking In

Hello Friends.

The flu is running rampant through my household so I apologize for the lack of posting. I owe you reviews on Weiner's BEST FRIENDS FOREVER and Wells' CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER.  I am thisclose to finishing TOUCH OF MAGENTA as well.

In the meantime, I thought I would share this with you. There is a new line of t-shirts for bookish types called Novel-Ts.  They are baseball jersey type shirts with literary character names on them.  I'm thinking I might need this one:



Pretty good, huh?  Go find them here.  I'll be back soon with reviews!!!!
(photo borrowed from and owned by Novel-Ts)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clever Book Tie-In


I just received a signed copy of the recently released novel WHERE THE RIVER ENDS by Charles Martin yesterday from Random House. It is being billed as a tearjerker that will break your heart. Random House included a package of kleenex in the box that has information about the book on the package. Now, when I read the book, I will be prepared. ;)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall into Reading 2009


I love Callapidder Days' reading challenges because they always get me focused on catching up with my TBR pile and they introduce me to other bloggers and other books. As I read the books, I will link them to my reviews here.

So, without further ado, here is my list:

1. CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER by Rebecca Wells
2. TOUCH OF MAGENTA by Linda Loveland Reid
3. CHRONIC CITY by Jonathan Lethem
4.  LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown  (don't want to but kind of have to)
5.  YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

That's a good start and I'll probably add a few more.  Sign up for Fall into Reading here.

Under the Weather

Hello Friends.

I'm a little under the weather so posting may be sporadic for a few days.  I just finished Jennifer Weiner's BEST FRIENDS FOREVER and I still owe you are review on Lieb's young adult title.  I am currently reading TOUCH OF MAGENTA by Linda Loveland Reid for book club.  The author will be joining us so that should be interesting.  I also started THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER by Rebecca Wells last night so I should have some new reviews to share soon. In the meantime, I'll be checking in to see what YOU are reading.

-Amy

Friday, September 18, 2009

BBAW: What I Love About My Blog

Today's challenge in Book Blogger Appreciation Week is the following:

"Hopefully this week you’ve been visiting a bunch of new book blogs and maybe noticing some things about them you’d like to try yourself. Or maybe you’ve just had some ideas for improvements to your blog you’d like to put into place or new ideas for content. But there’s also probably something you really love about your blog, too, something you’re really proud of. It’s time to show off! Tell us and this is really important, in 50 words or less what you love best about your blog! And then in 50 words or less where you want your blog to be by the next BBAW! Ready? GO!"

I love the fact that I stay true to myself and don't write things for the sake of increasing readership or getting free stuff. I almost fell into that trap a few years ago and it made me want to give up blogging because I just didn't enjoy it anymore.  Now, I have gotten my blog more focused on a few subject areas and I've gotten a lot more disciplined in posting book reviews. I am really enjoying myself and the other bloggers I have been meeting.  My reviews may be short but I think I do a good job in not giving away major plot points or spoilers. I hope that by next year I will be getting more ARCs and sharing even more reviews with my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Favorites


I'm a little late to jump on this bandwagon but I couldn't let another day go by without sharing my favorite book blogs with you.  I find something special and unique in each one of these little jewels and I always race to my book list to add new titles after reading them.  In no particular order:

1. Musings of a Bookish Kitty--one of the first book blogs I became addicted to

2. Bookfoolery and Babble--I'm not sure if this was my first book blog addiction or Bookish Kitty but I have been reading both for a long time

3. Callapidder Days--I love the book challenges, Christian book reviews and giveaways and insights into the blogger's life

4. Boston Bibliophile--I just found this gem recently and I love the book reviews!!! Thoughtful and varied.

5. Bibliophile by the Sea--Another new favorite!!!

6. Knitted and Purled--While not strictly a book blog, this blog is a long-time favorite.  We met through a special swap and have been internet buddies every since!!!

So wonderful to be able to share the company of these bibliophiles!

I AM A GENIUS OF UNSPEAKABLE EVIL AND I WANT TO BE YOUR CLASS PRESIDENT by Josh Lieb




To the people around him, 7th-grader Oliver appears to be the fattest dumbest kid in school.  Little do they know that he is an evil genius who has built an empire making him the third-richest person in the world.  Josh Lieb, one of the producers of the DAILY SHOW, is the creator of this fun young adult title. 

What is great about this book is that kids will love the idea of Oliver being an actual evil genius.  While children often feel impotent and unable to do the things they want to do, Oliver offers the chance for them to live vicariously through the life of the most powerful kid in the world.   Oliver is content to live quietly as an evil genius while tricking the people around him (including his parents) into thinking is a fat simpleton. When the opportunity presents itself to run for class president, Oliver sees the chance to get his father's attention and get a little revenge in the process.

Much of this book will be over the heads of younger readers.  As an adult, I found many moments to be laugh-out-loud funny. The black and white photographic plates scattered throughout the book are an extra bonus.  Oliver is not an entirely likeable individual. He reminds me a great deal of Stewie from FAMILY GUY.  However, there is an unexpected component in the book about a boy trying to get validation from his father that is very sweet.  Even evil geniuses need their dads.

This book will be released in October 2009 and has been optioned for a movie.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for older young adult readers.  A fun spin on the young adult genre that adults may enjoy as well.

Parent Advisory:  Only one possibly objectionable word:  "jackass."  Lots of scatalogical humor. Some sensuality. Plot devices of kids getting the best of and making fools of adults.

Friday, September 11, 2009

HUSH HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick


I received a copy of this Young Adult title through Barnes and Noble's First Look program. The premise of the book intrigued me.

Bookish Nora Grey leads a quiet teenage life until bad boy Patch shows up in school one day. When Nora and Patch are partnered up for health class, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to him in spite of herself. When Nora is subjected to a serious of bizarre and frightening encounters, she begins to suspect that Patch is more than he seems. Nora finds herself caught in a battle of immortals and fallen angels and she doesn't know who she can trust.

While this book will probably draw inevitable comparisons to the TWILIGHT series, I think the subject of fallen angels is a creative and fascinating one. Fitzpatrick draws on apocryphal material to engage readers and create an interesting take on an old topic. While some of the characters may come off as stock, the story is action-packed and the ending is clever and leaves the reader wanting more.

This young adult title will be released on October 13, 2009.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. While older readers may not find enough content in this book, it is a quick entertaining read and a good recommendation for fans of TWILIGHT who are looking for something new to read.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The One About Health Care

If you are a new reader to my blog, I always put warning labels on posts that include politics or religion so you can skip them if you like.

(Warning: Political Blather ahead)  

 I listened to the President's speech on health care yesterday with great interest. I think there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there on the health care issue. Some people believe we are trying to go to nationalized healthcare following a Canadian or English model.  We aren't. In fact, I'm not sure that would ever be a good idea. Those systems are flawed.  I don't think anyone here wants to wait years to get a hip replacement.  I happen to believe that we are a country of innovative and thoughtful people.  We can come up with something better.

I am lucky enough to have an excellent PPO plan through my job. It covers my entire family with no deductible. This is the main reason I continue to work. My husband's employer will only pay for coverage for my husband.  And the coverage isn't that great.  We are lucky to have the healthcare that we do. And yet, I am often frustrated by my insurance.  We are a healthy family. (thanks be for that blessing)  My husband, however, has had to have several cancerous growths removed from his skin. The insurance company has challenged every single one. The dermatologist said that it is a standard practice by the insurance company.  They try to say that these skin cancer removals could be cosmetic. WHAT?!!!  I have heard stories from friends and co-workers that more and more of their standard claims are getting challenged. We all do fairly well with our insurance plans if we are healthy but Lord help you if you get seriously sick.  Every single step of your treatment could be challenged by insurance. And who wants to deal with insurance paperwork when you or a loved one is battling cancer?

My mother is a 64-year-old widow. Several years ago, her COBRA insurance coverage from my father ran out.  Because of her health problems, she doesn't work.  So, she has no work-provided insurance coverage. Trying to find private coverage has been a nightmare. No one will accept her because of her pre-existing conditions. We finally found a plan for her but the premium and deductible are both really high. It eats up a large portion of her living expenses. In March, she will finally qualify for Medicare. That will be more of a celebration than her actual birthday.  It has been a VERY hard road.  She is one of those people who fall through the insurance cracks.

For those people who say they don't want to pay for other people's coverage, I would say...we already are!  Who do you think pays for all of those uninsured people who go to hospitals? The expense is passed on to us in the form of higher premiums and more challenges to claims.  In addition, as a Christian, I believe it is our responsibility to help to care for our neighbors.  I believe that we, as a nation, should take care of each other.  THAT, my friends, is a family value.

For those people who are worried about what this will do to insurance companies as businesses, I would say...what have insurance companies done for you lately?  Really?  I am grateful to have mine but I find it increasingly frustrating and unnecessarily complicated. These companies are not in the business of people but in the business of making money. They don't care about us.  We are just numbers to them.  As soon as we become a liability, they dump us.

It sounds to me like the administration's plan would allow me to keep my current plan while providing a viable option for people like my mother. And it would give me certain consumer protections so that I cannot be denied coverage for things like pre-existing conditions. Why is this a bad thing?  I don't understand.

If I am wrong about this, let me know and I will admit my error.  I just don't understand the reluctance.  Isn't it about time that our politicians did something that could effect REAL change? For all of us? It would sure as hell be a lot more meaningful than more tax breaks for the rich.

But that is just my two cents.