Friday, April 30, 2010

Making a (Birthday) List

At Christmas, I decided to put together a few wish lists for my family and it worked like a charm. My husband had a long list of items to choose from and I was still surprised because I didn't know which ones he would choose.

Well, my birthday is right around the corner and I have updated my two wish lists.



See all the crafty and bookish things?

I HIGHLY recommend keeping an online wish list. You never know when a friend might be looking and send you a random gift!

What's on YOUR list?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I am not a fan of war novels. There are not the type of book I generally seek out. When this hefty tome landed on my doorstep, I thought it was going to be very hard to get through.  I was wrong.

MATTERHORN follows newbie Lieutenant Waino Mellas as he begans his tour in Vietnam with Bravo Company.  Bravo Company is charged with occupying a large hill and leveling it out to make a landing zone and command post.  They name this desolate place Matterhorn. The book follows Matterhorn out into the jungle as they make an ill-fated journay to another location. The Company is eventually ordered back to Matterhorn where they must engage in the fight of their lives.

In the beginning, I struggled with all of the military jargon and the large number of characters. I couldn't keep it all straight and had to rely heavily on Marlantes' charts and glossary. About 100 pages in, however, I was hooked. I could not put this book down. Marlantes has a real skill in making the reader feel as if he/she is really there with the Marines.  I wanted to cry along with them as they were beaten down physically and emotionally. And I too felt their frustration when orders came down that didn't seem to make any sense from a military viewpoint but were instead largely political. I marveled at just how much these men went through and wondered how anyone could survive it intact. Marlantes manages to cover a lot a ground. Not only does he offer a realistic depiction of what it was like for these men in the jungles of Vietnam but he also reveals the political aspects of war and their effects on the men who carry out the orders.  Marlantes reminds us just how young these men were and how much they were asked to do. He also brings out the race conflict present within the military which I had never really thought about before.  The main character, Mellas, is both a noble and extremely flawed individual.  The reader feels frustrated and contempuous of him at times while at others rooting and hoping for him to survive and overcome.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A very powerful, gripping and eye-opening book. Once I got into it, I raced to the end.  Even at almost 600 pages, I think there was much more story to tell. This book combines provides a great deal of action while never losing the human element.  I think most readers will find much to like here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Take What You Need, Give What You Can

I'm currently working on MATTERHORN and THE INFINITIES by John Banville but I'm really slow so I thought I'd check in with all of you with some non-book thoughts.

I began blogging in 2003 with the idea that my blog would be a kind of online journal that would enable my friends and family to keep up with me. I never really saw the potential for blogs to be anything else. It is amazing how blogs have transformed our world. CS Lewis said that we read to know we are not alone and I think blogs have proved that fact. No matter what you are going through or what interests you have, there is likely to be a blog out there by someone going through the same thing.

I decided two things a long time ago:

1) I decided I will not pursue growing my blog for profit.  I like being small and I like not having my blog covered in advertising.

2) I decided that one blog cannot cover everything. So, I added a religious blog and a crafting blog and left this one as a personal/book blog. I think it works pretty well.

Before I had these revelations, I felt a lot of pressure to post everyday and to be interesting and to drive up the traffic on my blog. Having a popular blog can definitely have its downside.  I have become a fan of CJANE over the last year.  I find her thoughts on motherhood to be funny and honest.  She always makes me laugh.  I was surprised to hear that she often gets really nasty comments and hate mail.  Her sister, Stephanie, does as well.  What did these women do to deserve that? Well, I guess they are just honest about themselves and their lives and that can rub some people the wrong way. It takes guts to put yourself out there.  We may not always agree with the things that people say.   I don't always agree with things that my favorite bloggers write.  But my philosophy is "take what you need and give what you can."  If you don't like a blog, don't read it.  If you take issues with certain aspects of a blog, then skip over that part and just take what you need.  Most of all, be supportive of people who are taking a chance by sharing their lives with you. Give what you can.  The downside of blogging is that people feel free to say nasty things with impunity that they probably never would in person. I don't want to be a part of that. Let's just support one another! Life can be hard enough without having to fight virtual battles as well as the day-to-day ones.

I have been so lucky to meet amazing people through blogging. You can find many of them in the sidebars of my various blogs. I have been inspired to read books I never would have otherwise and try to new craft projects. I have been encouraged and supported by complete strangers when suffering from post-partum depression and dealing with my reluctant working-motherhood. I have won contests and participated in swaps. I have learned about new products and fashion tips.  I am inspired every single day by the blogging world as it makes our big wonderful world a little bit smaller by connecting us with each other.

Blogging---Take what you need. Give what you can.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Notes in the Margin

Hello Bookish Friends!

I've been a bit under the weather but things are looking up.  I finished two books but I won't be posting review about them. The first was WATER FOR ELEPHANTS which I read for book club.  I have been saving this book for awhile and I was convinced I would love it. I really didn't like it.  That was so surprising.  I felt the main characters had been stolen from SOPHIE'S CHOICE and this bothered me so much that I couldn't get past it.  The other book read was Sarah Addison Allen's GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON which was a very sweet, quick, cozy read.

I am currently working on MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes and THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS by Paolo Giordano.

Other than a few Young Adult titles, nothing new has landed in my mailbox. This will give me some time to catch up on my current pile of ARCs.

I find myself really longing for warmer and DRIER weather. I'm ready to spend some time outdoors with Noodlebug.  I hope you are getting some sunshine wherever you are.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Value of a Cozy Book

I love contemporary literature.  I have also been known to read the occasional mystery/suspense story or non-fiction title.  But my favorite is always the well-written chunkster. I love a well-crafted sentence and an author that has a vocabulary that gets me running to the dictionary. I have recently realized, however, that sometimes I like books not because they are literary marvels but because of the way they make me feel. Most of my "must-read" authors fall into this category:

I love Fannie Flagg because her stories connect me to my childhood home in the South and focus on the value of human relationships.

I love Lilian Jackson Braun not as a mystery writer but because I love the town that she has created and the life that her character, Jim Qwilleran, gets to live.

I love MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin series because Agatha makes me laugh in all of her middle-aged glory.

I love Sarah Addison Allen because she seems to have found the perfect blend of charming small-town story and magical realism.

These writers are unlikely to earn any lofty prizes in literature anytime soon but I dearly love these books. They provide the perfect cozy escape for me. Sometimes, that is all you need in a book.

What are your favorite cozy reads or authors?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA is a fictionalized account of Alexis de Tocqueville's experiences in America. Carey imagines Tocqueville as a spoiled self-centered French aristocrat named Olivier de Garmont.  Olivier is sent to America by his parents in order to protect him from the civil unrest going on in France.  They send along John "Parrot" Larrit to babysit and spy on Olivier. While Olivier has lived a life of privilege and ease, Parrot comes from a background of extreme hardship. The two detest one another immediately but are both affected in profound ways by their experiences in the young country of America. These experiences help them to forge an unlikely friendship.

Carey is a very gifted writer.  Parrot and Olivier offer the reader a look into the American experiment in its infancy by revealing the effects this country has on two very different people.  Olivier struggles to make sense of this country without an aristocracy and his growing affection for it. Parrot sees America as a chance to reinvent himself and finally move on from his past.  Their adventures are often humorous as they attempt to negotiate this strange new world.

While I enjoyed PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA, I found it difficult to read. The story bounces back and forth between Parrot and Olivier and backwards and forwards through time as well. It was often confusing to figure out who was narrating each section. In many scenes, I could not make heads or tails out of what was going on. This made an otherwise enjoyable read a bit of a burden to tackle.  I did appreciate the fact that the reader is able to catch a glimpse of early America from two very different viewpoints.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. However, this is not an easy read. It can be difficult to follow the storyline at times.  It often felt as if Carey was getting bogged down by his literary devices. It's a clever book overall, though.