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:

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.


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!


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.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett

Every so often, I finish a book that affects me so powerfully I just can't seem to shake it. It stays with me and I can't stop thinking about it. This is one of those books.

THE HELP follows the lives of three women in early 1960's Mississippi.  Two black and one white.  The two black women, Aibileen and Minny,  are housekeepers who are both observers of the lives of their white employers as well as active participants in those lives. The white woman, Skeeter Phelan, comes from a privileged background but yearns for something more. When she decides to beoome a writer, she looks for a topic that has real meaning and decides to tell the true stories of the black housekeepers of Jackson, Miss.  As Skeeter records the stories of these brave women, her view of civil rights and the world around her changes.  As the book comes together, the lives of the women will be forever changed.

This book is powerful and heartbreaking. Stockett skillfully develops the characters so that you feel you personally know each one. I found myself becoming most emotional about Aibileen's charge, Mae Mobley.  Aibileens loves that child with a fierce and protective love that Mae Mobley never finds from her own mother.  The reader can feel how tenuous that bond between black caretaker and white child is and yet how important and profound as well. My only complaint about this book is that the villain of the story, Hilly Holbrook, is almost TOO evil.  She becomes a caricature where Stockett could have given her more depth instead of allowing her to be the stock bad guy.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY recommended.  I have to admit I broke down crying at the end of this book. It affected me a great deal and will stay with me for a long time to come. You find yourself wanting to more about the characters and what becomes of them but Stockett ends it in just the right way.  This may be my favorite book of the year.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Something Special

I had the privilege of booking of a photo session with Wendy of Blue Lily Photography on August 21 in Sausalito. I had seen her photos on the Nie Nie Dialogues blog and just loved them. I take most of the photos in our family so I am never in them. Plus, I hate having my picture taken. It is embarrassing to admit this but I do struggle with body image issues. I just don't like seeing myself in photos. Or even a mirror. But I decided that I didn't want Noodlebug to grow up without any photos of him and Mommy. I just had to suck it up. And I am happy with the results. If Blue Lily comes anywhere near you, I highly recommend their work.

So, if you would like to view our photos, I invite you to see me and Noodlebug in the flesh:


Go to "Clients" and enter my name as the password: amy malaise

Be sure to put a space between my first and last name.

I'd love to hear your favorite.

P.S. The bunny in the photo was bought for me by my father when I was a baby. The Radio Flyer wagon was my mom's when she was a little girl.

(all photos copyrighted by Blue Lily Photography)

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Thought my bookish word-appreciating friends might enjoy this.  As the English language evolves and new words are coined, many other words are lost as they go out of fashion or are simply no longer relevant.  SAVE THE WORDS is attempting to curb that trend. 

Logophiles can head over to the Save the Words website and either pick a lost word or be assigned one. A certificate is e-mailed to you with your word and you are charged with using it in a variety of ways to try and bring it back. I think you can even order a shirt with your word on it.

My word is "snollygoster."  Sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss, doesn't it? 

snol·ly·gos·ter (snŏl'ē-gŏs'tər)

n. Slang

1. One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.

2. a clever, unscrupulous person

Love it!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


In Jamie Ford's HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, the author tells the story of a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl in Seattle during WWII and what became of them in the aftermath of the war. 

It is 1986 and a discovery is made in the basement of the old Panama Hotel that has been shuttered since WWII.  Workers discover the belongings of dozens of Japanese families that had been stored there until they returned from the internment camps.  Henry Lee goes to see the items and a certain parasol brings back memories of his childhood.  The story moves back and forth from 1986 to the early war years as we follow Henry's friendship and blossoming love with Keiko Okabe. 

This is a lovely, sweet sentimental tale not only of the tragedy of how Japanese-American were treated during WWII but also a coming-of-age tale about first love.  It is a reminder of how difficult life can be and how we must often make life-changing choices that we never recover from. First love is a very powerful thing and we carry it with us forever.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. This bittersweet tale was very moving. I especially loved all the references to jazz and how music was so central to the love story of these two people. This would make a nice companion read to Sandra Dallas' TALLGRASS.


Although I had mixed feelings about the first book in Larsson's posthumous trilogy, I was still excited to read the second book THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.  In some ways, the second book was superior to the first.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE reintroduces readers to Lisbeth Salander, the plucky, tortured sociopath from Larsson's first book.  Salander is the type of character that readers can't help being drawn to in spite of her many flaws.  This book follows Salander as her past catches up with her when two journalists investigating illegal sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered.  I hesitate to offer more details as I do not want to give away any important plot points.
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist was the central character in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and I couldn't help but find him fairly uninteresting. He continues his blandness in this novel but Salander gets to take center stage which provides a much more appealing and faster-paced story.  One problem that Larsson had is getting bogged down in unnecessary details and plot points. He didn't seem to be able to edit himself well.  The third section of the book is painfully slow. I was tempted to skip the entire thing but didn't for fear that I would miss some salient details.  The conclusion was much better in this book than the first in the series and leaves the reader wanting more.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  While the plot dragged in certain parts, this book works fairly successfully as an action-thriller.  An entertaining and quick read that promises good things for the final book in the trilogy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reviews Coming Soon

Almost done with two books.  Reading frantically on my breaks.  Just received another ARC last night so I'm going to be busy. But reading is always a good kind of busy!

Just finished GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and almost done with HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.  Reviews up this week.

Started HUSH HUSH (young adult title) today and hope to start THE HELP by Stockett either tonight or tomorrow.