Thursday, July 30, 2009
That's right! Five years, 30 additional undergrad credits, 39 grad credits all for this lovely diploma and tassel.
Next on the list of personal items to make my life more interesting - to sit for and pass the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. It's a different type of accounting but a similar exam as the more well-known CPA exam. I take the first part on September 12th. Let the studying begin!
I'm finally doing it. I am finally signing up for my very first challenge. I figured this would be perfect since I have SO many books in my TBR pile that sound fantastic, I can't wait to read, and between which I am having a difficult time choosing. Caribou's Mom is hosting this challenge, from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010 to help us generate a little randomness into our lives. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I am committing myself to Level III - 12 books picked randomly over the next twelve months. That shouldn't be too difficult, right?
The rules, per Caribou's Mom:
- NO lists allowed. Books for the challenge are chosen one at a time when the mood strikes.
- Sign up at any time during the challenge period using Mr. Linky below. Please give me a direct link to your blog post about the challenge. If you do not have a blog, no worries. Simply enter your name and leave the URL box on Mr. Linky blank.
- Book reviews are not required, but if you want to write a review I will be providing a review Mr. Linky after August 1st.
- Books are selected one at a time using the following procedure:
- Randomly select any number of books from either your physical OR your virtual TBR pile (I don’t care how you do this, but it must be random…no “cherry picking” allowed)
- Assign a number to each book based on how many books you selected (ie: if you selected 14 books, assign each book a number from 1 through 14; if you selected 28 books, assign each book a number from 1 through 28…you get the idea)
- Go to THIS SITE and use the TRUE RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR located in the upper right hand corner of the page to randomly select the book you will read. NO CHEATING – whatever the random number generator generates is the book you must read!
- Each time you select a book for the challenge, you will use this procedure. You many select different books each time, choose a different amount of books each time, etc…have fun, mix it up, keep it random.
1. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
After missing last week's meme (as much as I enjoy them, vacation was better), I'm back for this week's topic:
What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?
In looking at all of the books I've read since January, I have to say the one that had me laughing out loud the most often was Marley and Me. With two dogs of my own, and one just as goofy as Marley, I couldn't help but laugh at some of the scenes, if only because they are painfully familiar. Yes, the ending is gut-wrenching, but you can't have the funny without the sad. It is, bar none, the funniest book I've read recently.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Author: Gail Carson Levine
No. of Pages: 232
First Published: 1997
Synopsis: At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy's gift - the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse - and live happily ever after.
Comments and Critiques: I have seen the movie and was utterly charmed by it. So, like any bibliophile, I figured I would have to check out the original. I was not disappointed. Thankfully, I was warned that the movie is nothing like the book, so there were no surprises there to distract me from the book itself.
This book is simply...enchanting. I read it during a bout of insomnia in the course of a few hours. It kept my interest and may have even contributed to my lack of sleepiness that night. The book itself moves away from all the mythical creatures and focuses on Ella's interactions with people as well as her struggles to overcome the curse. Her attraction to Prince Char starts out strictly as friendship, which is as it should for a fifteen-year-old. The quest itself is not limited to a physical journey but expands into an emotional one as well, which is also appropriate for a fifteen-year-old girl.
Ms. Levine weaves quite a story through mythical Frell and other lands. Ella's curse also makes her strong, as she struggles her entire life to break it. Through her struggles, the reader becomes involved in cheering her on and empathizing with her because, let's face it, we have all been forced to do something we don't want to do at some point in time. It is this fact which makes Ella so compelling. Her gift of obedience and her struggles to break the curse symbolize childhood and our growth into adults as we go from obeying our parents to making our own choices. Set to the backdrop of a a fairy tale, this age-old struggle takes on new life.
I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, light summer read. It is great for young and young at heart, boys and girls. (I say that because I took this out of my son's personal library.)
Author: Samantha Hunt
No. of Pages: 251
First Released: 2008
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): "From the moment Louisa first catches sight of the strange man who occupies a forbidden room on the thirty-third floor, she is determined to befriend him. Unbeknownst to Louisa, he is Nikola Tesla—inventor of AC electricity and wireless communication—and he is living out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker. Winning his attention through a shared love of pigeons, she eventually uncovers the story of Tesla’s life as a Serbian immigrant and a visionary genius: as a boy he built engines powered by June bugs, as a man he dreamed of pulling electricity from the sky. The mystery deepens when Louisa reunites with an enigmatic former classmate and faces the loss of her father as he attempts to travel to the past to meet up with his beloved late wife. Before the week is out, Louisa must come to terms with her own understanding of love, death, and the power of invention."
Comments and Critique: I'll admit that I didn't know very much about Tesla, his life or his inventions, other than the Tesla coil and even then I'm not 100 percent certain I know what that is. This lack of knowledge is what initially drew me to this book - I viewed it as a great opportunity to learn more about Tesla. To that end, this book did not disappoint. I did learn more about Tesla. I learned about everything that he invented, which is a quite lengthy list. I also learned that one of the great tragedies of Tesla's life is the fact that his accomplishments were huge but because he did not believe that one person could own or capitalize on those inventions, he signed away all rights to them. His madness towards the end of the novel, whether perceived or real is up to the reader to determine, is all the more poignant because of everything he signed away.
The other half of the book deals with Louisa and her relationships with her father, with Tesla, with her father's best friend, and with the mysterious Arthur. Louisa is equal parts dreamer and pragmatist but above all the caretaker. When Arthur comes on the scene, we finally meet someone who is willing to take care of Louisa, which is something she well deserves. However, we first must address the issue of who exactly is Arthur and why Louisa doesn't remember him.
This book is difficult to classify. It has elements of historical fiction, romance, science fiction, mystery and drama, but to label it as either one of those is impossible. It's an interesting mix of genres and definitely compelled me to keep reading. The symbolism of the pigeons cannot be ignored, especially with the sci-fi elements of time travel.
I really did enjoy this book and the trip through post-WWII New York. I find it difficult to describe without giving away the entire plot. At times, it did get a little technical, especially when Tesla was describing some of his ideas. However, the questions about love and life remain no matter how technical the inventions. Both Louisa and Tesla have tragic elements, making the reader sympathize with and root for them.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is interested in science, science fiction or learning more about Tesla in a fictionalized setting. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin for the opportunity to review this book!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Author: Laura Dave
No. of Pages: 244
First Released: 2008
Synopsis (Courtesy of FSB Associates): "Gwyn Huntington knows how to throw a party. And Hunt Hall, her postcard-perfect Victorian home in Montauk at the easternmost tip of Long Island, is no stranger to celebrations. But on the morning of her and her beloved husband Thomas' thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, she's putting the finishing touches on the last party they'll host there: their divorce party.
Just over one hundred miles away, Gwyn's future daughter-in-law, Maggie Mackenzie, sits on the floor of her Brooklyn apartment attempting to organize her new life. She's in love with a wonderful man, and today she is meeting his family for the first time.
The Divorce Party brings together two immensely appealing women, one who is stumbling upon the end of her marriage, and one who is just beginning hers. Both are asking themselves how much work is it worth to keep two people together. This is a multi generational love story full of humor, candor, and a powerful message about how to commit to someone over the course of a lifetime."
Comments and Critiques: When I first read the marketing information about this book, I was intrigued. Divorce parties? Really? Isn't that all a bit...odd?
It turns out that there are perfectly acceptable reasons for throwing a divorce party. While I may still be uncomfortable with the idea, I do see their merit, especially when the parting is amicable. However, in spite of its title, this book is not about divorce parties but about marriage and love and, just like the synopsis reads, what it takes to make it all work.
After thirty-five years, you would think that Gwyn and Thomas know what it takes, but does anyone? And Maggie and Nate just starting out? How do you know when you are at the cusp of your life together? As Maggie and Gwyn's stories unfold, the reader becomes aware that no matter where you are in life, marriage takes work. Some people are willing to put forth the effort, and some just aren't. Some even get tired after several decades and no longer want to work at their marriage. To think that you get your happily-ever-after just by saying "I do" is naive and illogical.
Rather than being uncomfortable with the book, as I was feeling based solely on its title, I enjoyed my time with Maggie and Gwyn. I felt their pain, wanted to comfort them as they each struggled to figure out just what amount of effort they were willing to put forth. It also got me thinking about my own marriage and my willingness to stick with it when the going gets tough (it confirmed my belief that my marriage is worth all the blood, sweat and tears). Rather than depressed, I felt renewed and regenerated. Not bad for a book with an ominous title like The Divorce Party.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the writing itself. Ms. Dave made me not only picture Montauk but made me want to pack up my house and move there. Her descriptions are delicious, and the reader truly gets the impression of what life is like there. Her ability to discuss philosophical relationship issues while getting you to sympathize the characters must be commended. It would be all too easy to forgo one or the other, but she does both with ease.
The Divorce Party has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. One can easily see why, as it has lush surroundings, pertinent questions regarding marriage and love, humor and pathos all rolled into one package. However, there is something to be said about taking your own journey through the questions asked by each character while they are asking the questions, to be able to answer them as they pertain to your own life. Any movie will not give you this ability to do so. It is the one thing that will stick with me for a long time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, more so than I ever imagined. While it could be considered "chick lit", some of the topics and questions faced by the characters make it more introspective fare than your traditional "chick lit". I would recommend this for anyone facing their own relationship crossroads or anyone looking for an intriguing read.
Thanks to Anna Suknov at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book!
By Laura Dave
Author of The Divorce Party: A Novel
1. Love is a decision
Watching Governor Sanford stand up over these past weeks and speak about how he found his soul mate in his Argentinean lover reminded me of something Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and author, wrote about Sweat Lodges. She wrote that the only way to be in a Sweat Lodge -- to experience all that it brings -- is to sit far from the exit. Because if you sit too close, you will find a reason to use it.
The same is true of any long-term relationship. If you decide to look for an exit, you will always be able to find it: whether it comes in the form of another lover, or another life. But the couples I spoke with who decided to commit to their marriages and relationships -- to be present for them, to help them grow more sacred -- told me that they were immeasurably rewarded for that decision. The more committed they grew to their marriages -- the further they sat from the exit -- the more joy and peace they found there.
2. There is No Weakness In Forgiveness
I'm not happy anymore; or I'm disappointed; or I have doubts. Three familiar catchphrases that free us up to not work to bring a relationship back to a positive place. In fact, we are conditioned these days to believe that the brave thing is to move on when the honeymoon is over. But that very standard makes it hard for any long-term relationship to survive inevitable disappointments.
While some would argue that it is brave to pick up and start a new life when a relationship begins to ebb, the truly brave thing -- the hard and valuable thing -- is to figure out how to find a new flow together. As one couple, who is happily married after 40 years together, informed me, "The most invaluable gifts come on the other side of the bad periods. If we hadn't forgiven each other for the hard times, we never would have experienced such good ones."
3. Someone New Won't Be New For Long
One factor is consistent in all studies of marriages and long-term relationships: a main cause of divorce and separation is infidelity. Those that stray (statistically, women as much as men these days) sight many factors as reasons: a breakdown in passion, a breakdown in communication, a breakdown . . .
But statistics also tell us that the chance of a relationship born from infidelity being successful is less than 1 and 100. Less than 1%. More often than not, the best thing someone new has going for him or her is being . . . new. And, once they aren't anymore, you are left in an even more precarious position.
Whoever you choose -- it always comes down to one thing. How hard are you willing to fight to make the relationship work? How easily are you willing to give your relationship away?
4. Often the Person You Are Running From Is You
Surprisingly, of all the reasons couples gave me for why they chose to end their marriage or relationship, the loss of love or mutual friendship was often notably absent. It often came down to something else: the desire to start a new life. To not grow old. Or, at least, to not feel like they were.
It is difficult to stay with the person who knows you best when you don't like what we see in the mirror. It may be easier to blame your partner than to take a hard look at yourself. But, at the end of the day, it isn't your partner's responsibility to change your self-image, or to fix your self-doubt. It's yours. And, if we want to like ourselves better, running out on a person who likes us the way we are isn't a wise starting point.
5. You Don't Need A Reason
Like anything worth having in this life, marriage and long-term commitment are hard work. Sometimes knowing that can be enough to help us not pick at the scabs while they are healing, to not make things worse as opposed to letting them feel better. As a lovely couple in Seattle Washington reminded me, things will feel better. "Be good to each other, be patient. If you allow it, love always lives through that."
©2009 Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party: A Novel
Laura Dave is the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party and London Is the Best City in America. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self,Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer. Dave graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In August, Cosmopolitan magazine named her as one of the eight "Fun and Fearless Phenoms" of 2008. She lives in California.
For more information, please visit http://lauradave.com/
Monday, July 27, 2009
WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHEN September 14-18, 2009
WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!
WANT TO PARTICIPATE?
Please help us spread the word about Book Blogger Appreciation Week by posting about it on your blog, stumbling this post, twittering about it, and telling everyone you know that it’s time to have a party and celebrate book bloggers!
Please register by filling out the registration form! Registering ensures your inclusion in the BBAW 09 Database of Book Bloggers and enters you into the drawing for the BBAW 09 Grand Prize!
Come back often as there will be many updates! And follow us on Twitter!
BBAW Award Nominations will open tomorrow, July 15 on the BBAW Awards Blog.
As I obviously am not a man and cannot fully appreciate this book, I gave it to my friend, a single, forty-something male who has definitely lived life. He provided the comments and critiques for this book. Thanks, Scott!!
And thanks to FSB Associates for the book!
Title: Maxims of Manhood
Author: Jeff Wilser
No. of Pages: 240
First Released: May 2009
Synopsis: 100 Rules every man should live his life by with real life examples
Comments and Critiques: Funny and thoughtful. There are many different topics handled here (sports, work etc.). Actually, the divisions are 3 types divided by how serious you should take them:
Clearly tongue in cheek. These rules and examples will give a good laugh. For example a real man should never have window treatments? Obviously, only an idiot or a college student would still tack a towel over a window as a curtain.
Obvious rules of manners and courtesy from a man’s man point of view. Buying rounds in a bar is a good way to judge a man’s character for his buddies. Any man who never buys drinks deserves the bad friends he will have to hang with.
Actual maxims of life. Be good to old people, protect your family, don’t try to score sex from your friend’s sister……unless you want to marry her. These rules when broken, are usually the types of errors that can cause a man pain in his life.
All in all, an enjoyable read delivered in easy to swallow bites.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Author: Charlaine Harris
No. of Pages: 323
First Released: 2007
Synopsis: Sookie Stackhouse is back and must deal with the aftermath of Bill’s betrayal as well as explore her new relationship with Quinn, the mysterious but extremely handsome shapeshifter. In addition, she must venture into the vampire underworld when attending the long-planned vampire summit. With her power base considerably weakened by Hurricane Katrina, the Queen of the Louisiana vampires is extremely vulnerable. With all the mystery, intrigue, and vampire drama, Sookie must decide where her loyalties lie. In the face of all-out catastrophe, this could mean the difference between life and death.
Comments and Critiques: I swear that this series is getting better and better. While some of the plotline this time was fairly predictable – an unusual occurrence for this series as a whole – the additional twists and turns that occurred throughout the book were enough for me to overcome the predictability. Sookie is definitely being forced to reap the results of her actions, which are causing her to face some very difficult choices.
We are back in the world of vampires for this book, after a several-book break. Sookie attends a vampire “summit” (a.k.a. conference) as an employee of the Queen. Trouble follows Sookie as if it were drawn to her, and as you can imagine, there is no exception to that rule for this one. We are also treated to a further glimpse into the very complex world of vampires. Ms. Harris has done a marvelous job of fleshing out these mythical creatures to give us vampire weddings, judicial systems, royalty, commerce, and other business dealings. In addition, the relationships are extremely complex – sire to child, master to servant, having to swear fealty, and so forth. With details like this, it becomes easy to see why her books are so much fun!
Some of the conflict that has been brewing over the past few books finally came to a head. Enough of it is resolved to allow for an adequate denouement to the story, but there is still plenty of conflict to have me eagerly anticipating picking up the next book. In addition, as Sookie gets drawn further and further into the supernatural world, the books have gotten considerably darker. Gone are the days when Sookie only had to deal with unsolved murders in Bon Temps. I’m anxious to explore this darker side a bit more, as it will be interesting to see if Sookie can remain as cheerful and polite after everything she has experienced.
As I mentioned earlier, these continue to be fun, easy reads. While the intrigue and disasters have gotten to be more intense, Sookie remains strong-willed and independent. She has grown quite a bit since we first met her, as she has learned various life lessons at the hands of Bill, Eric, and the vampire queen. The future possibilities remain unclear and open, which is half the fun. I look forward to my time in Bon Temps, visiting these characters and can’t wait to start book eight!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Author: Nora Roberts
No. of Pages: 562
First Released: 2004
Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): "Lunacy was Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he'd watched his partner die on the street — and the guilt still haunts him. With nowhere else to go, he accepts the job as Chief of Police in this tiny, remote Alaskan town. Aside from sorting out a run-in between a couple of motor vehicles and a moose, he finds his first few weeks on the job are relatively quiet. But just as he wonders whether this has been all a big mistake, an unexpected kiss on New Year's Eve under the brilliant Northern Lights of the Alaska sky lifts his spirit and convinces him to stay just a little longer.
Meg Galloway, born and raised in Lunacy, is used to being alone. She was a young girl when her father disappeared, and she has learned to be independent, flying her small plane, living on the outskirts of town with just her huskies for company. After her New Year's kiss with the Chief of Police, she allows herself to give in to passion — while remaining determined to keep things as simple as possible. But there's something about Nate's sad eyes that gets under her skin and warms her frozen heart.
And now, things in Lunacy are heating up. Years ago, on one of the majestic mountains shadowing the town, a crime occurred that is unsolved to this day — and Nate suspects that a killer still walks the snowy streets. His investigation will unearth the secrets and suspicions that lurk beneath the placid surface, as well as bring out the big-city survival instincts that made him a cop in the first place. And his discovery will threaten the new life — and the new love — that he has finally found for himself."
Comments and Critiques: This book is a perfect example of why I love Nora Roberts so much. It takes a lot for me to want to move anywhere in the north where winters are long and harsh. Yet, even long after finishing Northern Lights, there is a part of me that really wants to move to Alaska. Her descriptions of its harshness, quirkiness, and more importantly, its beauty, leaves me breathless every time and makes me want to experience it myself, even though I hate winter and snow.
Meg is the perfect heroine. She's tough but realistic, driven and yet ordinary. I love how Ms. Roberts creates characters that are normal. They worry about mundane, everyday life as much as we do - from paying the bills to work to family issues. One can easily step into the shoes of one of her characters and not feel out of place in them. In her earlier novels, Ms. Roberts' heroines were fabulously wealthy, impossibly beautiful and people that are more the exception than the norm. I really like the fact that her heroines, including Meg, are much more believable and relatable.
I also adore Ms. Roberts' portrayal of men. The dialogue she writes them cracks me up because of the fact that I would expect my brother, my husband, or my closest males friends to say something similar. Nate is no exception in that aspect. I do realize that no female can quite conquer the male mind, and that if a man were to read this book, he would probably scoff at Nate as unrealistic. To me, he's just another enjoyable character.
This book definitely kept me turning pages long into the wee hours of the night. The mystery's resolution caught me off-guard, and Meg and Nate's relationship definitely hits all the right notes in the romance category. There is something so believable about these characters that had me caught up in the story line from the very beginning. The Alaskan backdrop is a character on its own. Together, they blend into one fabulous story.
Monday, July 20, 2009
First Released: 2006
Synopsis (per Ace Books): Since Sookie Stackhouse has so few living relatives, she hates to loves one – even her cousin Hadley, the undead consort of the vampire Queen of Louisiana. Hadley’s left everything she has to Sookie, but claiming that inheritance has a high risk factor. Some people don’t want her looking too closely into her past or her possessions and are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop her. Sookie must once again use her wits to brave the perilous world of the supernaturals to protect herself from those who would put her life on the line.
Comments and Critiques: After five books in the series, I’ve come to understand Ms. Harris’ writing style and know that her books really do take place in a very short period of time, with roughly several weeks separating one book from the other in the life of the characters. So imagine my surprise when I pick up this book and discover an entire storyline with which I was not familiar. I checked and double-checked the bibliography at the beginning of my book to find out if I accidentally skipped one. I even went back to my personal library to flip through the previous book, Dead as a Doornail, to see which book it says was the next in the Sookie Stackhouse series. While all my research indicates that I did not skip a book, Hadley’s story and the fact that we come in on it after her death, have already been introduced to several new characters, including the Queen, continues to rattle me. You would think that something like this was worth mentioning prior to this book, and I still believe that I must have missed something or that one of my books was missing entire chapters. I mean, it’s the Queen of the Louisiana vampires! She deserves a better introduction than in hindsight because Sookie’s already met her. So if anyone can shed any light on this little mystery, I would greatly appreciate it.
Getting that out of the way, Ms. Harris does it again! She continues to amaze, entice, confuse, and thrill me with this story. Battles and intrigue, mystery and blossoming romance – it doesn’t get any better than this. Quinn may just be my new personal favorite, and I am definitely anxious to see how their story continues. Sookie has been through the emotional wringer more times than is healthy in a very short period of time and deserves to find some long-term happiness. The confidence and self-assurance, and the fact that he won’t drink her blood, is definitely an attraction. Think Alcide, who I really liked, without all the attitude and issues over ex-girlfriends.
I’m still reeling from the announcement about Bill and his motives for moving back to Bon Temps. I finished the book last night, and I still feel stunned and more than a little betrayed. This might just very well be the first vampire book where I am not rooting for the vampires anymore, or at least one of them. It will be interesting to see if he continues to profess his love for her and if she can ever forgive him, as I can’t get over the idea that Bill and Sookie belong together. Angel and Buffy, Edward and Bella, Spike and Buffy – you can see where a girl might get such ideas. Still, Bill’s betrayal is unfathomably low. This continuing storyline alone will keep me coming back for more.
In spite of my concern that I skipped a book, I remain completely enamored with this series. I am still surprised by what the characters do, and I am rooting for Sookie to find less drama and more happiness with every fiber of my being. Bring on the next book!!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
This week, I read and read and read. I finished two different Sookie Stackhouse novels and started Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti. I also made sure to squeeze in dinner dates with my husband, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a baby shower, and packing. After spending so much time with the self-help books, academic textbooks, and lengthy classics, I'm thoroughly enjoying my time with lighter literary fare.
Vacation time!! My mini-vacation from the kids has come to an end. We picked them up from my parents' house yesterday and will spend the next week traveling across the state of Wisconsin camping, visiting my grandmother, hitting some water parks and summer festivals. It should be a fun time, as is any time away from your regular routine. Of course, I have one entire bag filled with books. With that much highway time awaiting us, it is a great opportunity to make a dent in my TBR pile, or at least finish up some monstrosities that I've been avoiding (i.e. Middlemarch by George Eliot). I hope to come back from vacation rested, relaxed and with plenty of book reviews to write!! Happy reading, everyone!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Author: Katarina Mazetti
No. of Pages: 224
First Released: July 2009
Synopsis (Courtesy of FSB Associates): "Two middle-aged misfits and a love that should not be as complicated as it seemsComments and Critiques: Described as seriously addictive, I found myself completely charmed by Benny and Shrimp, a.k.a. Desiree, and can attest to its addictive nature. Each character was thoroughly enjoyable because of their quirks. As a fellow bibliophile and intellectual, I found myself drawn to Shrimp because of her tidiness and need for culture. But Benny, who is still struggling with life after the death of his mother, is someone with whom the reader automatically sympathizes. The longing and attraction between the two makes you really hope that they can work through their issues and successfully stay together in the end.
The fact that the book takes place in Sweden added to its charm. Life as a dairy farmer in Sweden, even though the book is set in modern times, still feels antiquated and nostalgic. The traditions and cultural differences do not detract from the overall story but rather enhance it. In fact, I found it interesting to see how different our culture is from that in Sweden.
However, as a thirty-three year-old woman, I do object to the term "middle aged" to describe the two characters. Shrimp is only thirty-five, and Benny turns thirty-seven. To me, this is not middle-aged. Call it denial, but it just seems too young to use that term.
In spite of the details of life in modern-day Sweden that I enjoyed (and the objectionable term "middle-aged" to describe the two characters), at its heart this book is about love - what is it, what it means to be in love, the sacrifices necessary to make it work, and so forth. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an enchanting and quick read. Poignant, tumultuous, and charming - Benny & Shrimp take hold of the reader's heart and tug and tear at it, just as love tugs and tears at their own hearts, as they struggle to adjust their two very different lives to this thing called love.
Thank you to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to read this ARC!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Follow-up to last week’s question:
Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?
I used to keep all of my TBR books on my bookshelves, put away nicely until the day I pull them out to read them. Last week's exercise had me pulling them out to take pictures. Once I realized how many I actually had, I went ahead and put them in my nightstand. That way, I can see at a glance how many I have to read and have them readily available should I finish a book before bedtime but need something else to read. If I had as many as others have, I would definitely go back to keeping them on my shelves though. As it is, I've already spilled into another closet because my nightstand is filled with books!
Another issue I'm weighing which others may be better able to understand - books. Do I bring lots of paperbacks, or do I bring heavier tomes? How many? Should I be ambitious and lug around books I hope to get to read but may not? I'm sure that no matter what I decide, my husband will not be happy because it will still involve numerous books. But it is vacation, and what is vacation without a little reading?! ;-)
Monday, July 13, 2009
This week's Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you "visited" in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven't yet?
Use your own criteria about what you consider to be "visiting" -- whether a book is written about the country or by a native or resident of the country.
Feel free to tell us about any actual world traveling you've done in addition to your literary travels.
Anyone who knows me knows that I've read more Victorian/English literature than anything else. From the Bronte sisters to Philippa Gregory to Shakespeare and back, I seem to always haunt the British isles in my reading choices. However, some of my favorite books move beyond the United Kingdom and branch out into different worlds. One of my favorite books of all-time is Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. My book club has forced me to read beyond the English boundaries as we explored India in A Passage to India, Midnight's Children, and The Far Pavilions. We've also visited China in The Painted Veil and Croatia in The Bridge on the Drina. These are not books I would have picked up on my own, but I feel that I understand those regions a bit better having read them.
Having lived in Germany, I do tend to gravitate towards books that take place there as well. The Reader, Maus, Stones from the River, Goethe's Faust, and even Mein Kampf (although I haven't finished that one - forgetting the actual subject matter, Hitler was an atrocious writer) all grace my personal library. And of course, you can't forget my fascination with vampires. Both Dracula and the modern The Historian have taken me across Europe and into Transylvania, which I do want to visit one day.
In general, while there are section of the globe I do not necessarily want to visit one day, I do feel that reading about them has expanded my knowledge. I've also learned over the years to not limit myself to one genre or one region of literature. There is a wealth of great works out there that beg to be discovered and explored if only we put aside our reservations and concerns. A reader can always learn something from a book, no matter if he or she actually likes the work in the end or not. At least, this is how I approach world literature!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Author: Liz Jensen
No. of Pages: 293
First Released: August 2009
Synopsis: Gabrielle Fox is an art therapist assigned to attend Bethany Krall, a sixteen-year-old girl who brutally murdered her mother. Still struggling to adjust to her own emotion and physical damage wrought on her by a horrific car accident, Gabrielle faces a patient who is not only manipulative but also prone to predict natural disasters with uncany precision. Gabrielle must decide the truth behind Bethany's predictions as she faces a world on the brink of an apocalypse.
Comments and Critique: From the opening paragraph, I was instantaneously sucked into Liz Jenson's not-so-future world. The entire book is both fascinating and terrifying. Gabrielle's personal tragedy is horrific, and the reader struggles through her emotional swings along with her. Having literally lost almost everything and having had to start her life anew, Gabrielle is so emotionally and physically fragile that a reader feels compelled to protect her. Bethany, even though wild, crass, rude, and insane, also evokes a need to protect as Gabrielle learns more and more about her story and her reasons for murdering her mother.
But Gabrielle's and Bethany's relationship is the mere backdrop of this story. For Bethany, thanks to her shock therapy, sees visions - disturbing visions of meterological and geological disasters. These visions also have a disturbing habit of occurring exactly when she says that they will occur. This book becomes more than the story of a patient and her counselor but becomes the ultimate showdown between earth and mankind.
I'll admit that I wasn't prepared for the environmental warnings that this book evokes. Ms. Jensen admits in her acknowledgements that the final global warming story probably will not happen, but that it does remain a possibility. The fact that she wrote the book to take place at least ten years into the future, and she mentions enough situations and global occurances, both environmental and political, that are happening as I type this immediately increases the plausibility of the story.
Ms. Jensen's writing is so picturesque and realistic that I personally had to catch my breath every now and then. I was compelled to read further to find out how the story ends, how Bethany is connected to the natural disasters and so forth, but the pain, trauma, and emotional fragility of both Bethany and Gabrielle are so strong that it hurts. Add to that a very bleak picture of the not-so-distant future, and it's no wonder I had to take a break every now and then.
Through it all, I remained completely captivated by Bethany and Gabrielle and haunted by the story in general. This is a great read with which to consider the consequences of our current actions in regards to the environment, global warming, and political upheaval. I will definitely be recommending The Rapture to others!
Thanks to Random House for this ARC!
You know the best part about the kids being gone? The silence. The utter and complete silence that prevails now that I do not have to nag and scold and yell for them to do their chores or stop fighting. I have been taking advantage of the silence by reading and playing online - okay, mostly playing online and my husband and I did go out and see a movie, but today I've been reading. And it's been wonderful!
This week, I did achieve my goal of finishing one of my self-help books from FSB Associates. I also started and finished The Rapture by Liz Jensen and just need to write the review now. This was another ARC and was fabulous! I went right from that to another one of the Sookie Stackhouse books in an effort to cleanse my palate a bit. I'm hoping to finish that up tonight as well.
This week's Booking through Thursday asked us to count or list the unread books we have on hand. I ended up at 26, read one of those and added six more over the weekend. I like having so many possibilities available to me, depending on my mood at the time I pick up a book. There are some books I'm just dying to read but I'm trying to savor the anticipation by not diving in right away. Sometimes, that anticipation is half the enjoyment from a book!
Next week, I hope to continue to focus on reading as I enjoy my last week without the kids. Of course, I have to take some time out to watch the latest Harry Potter film. We opted not to go on opening day, since my husband will just be coming off a ten-day-straight work schedule, but we will be seeing it at 6:40 PM on Thursday. I can't wait to see what they do with the horcrux and Harry and Ginny's blossoming romance! Have a great week, everyone!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
So what exactly are the similarities and the differences between these two very cool and uber-popular vampire series? Extra has 53 similarities and differences, complete with pics! Enjoy!
“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’
When I first saw this, I started thinking that my list wasn't all that big. Normally, I keep all my unread books put away nicely in my bookshelf. In order to take a picture, I started pulling books...and more books...and more books. The next thing I know, I had a stack piled precariously on my desk that swayed every time I got close to it.
I think at the final count, the stack was at 26 books. I also have at least four additional ARCs coming in the mail. My actual TBR pile is obviously much bigger than this (and keeps growing), as this only contains the books I have in the house. I'm not quite certain how I ended up getting quite this large an unread pile, but it is a little intimidating. Apparently, I need to spend less time on the computer and more time reading!
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Author: Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
No. of Pages: 228
First Released: 2002
Synopsis (Courtesy of FSB Associates): "For decades people have suggested that relationships typically fail because individuals disagree about politics, child rearing, sex, or religion. At first blush, this makes sense because these topics matter a great deal to us. In truth, the extent to which two people disagree on key topics doesn’t predict relationship success. All couples disagree about a whole host of issues, and yet, not every relationship is tortured.
What actually affects the quality of your relationship is not if you disagree but how you disagree. When caught up in a heated discussion, the words you choose, the tone you take, the tactics you employ, are more important to your relationship than the content of the argument itself. If you know how to say it, you can say almost anything to almost anybody. And you can do it in a way that actually strengthens your relationship."
Comments and Critiques: It seems that most of the books I've been reading and reviewing lately have been fulfilling a personal crisis. Wounded by School came at a time when I was looking for help with my son's academic career. Crucial Conversations arrived around the time I was preparing for my annual review and several months after receiving feedback from several peers that still has me reeling.
I picked up this book hoping to help me be able to better converse with my co-workers, who declared that I was rude, confrontational and unapproachable. While I may not be quite where I want to be, this book did not disappoint in providing me with helpful hints and tools to use to better converse with everyone in my life - from loved ones to managers to peers. It's going to take me some time to master these skills, but at least understanding some of the issues I face and how to initiate overcoming them is half the battle.
The authors freely admit that this book is not meant to be read in a short time frame but meant to be absorbed chapter by chapter. The goal is to get the reader to master each skill and build upon it. In order for me to best be able to absorb these lessons, I will definitely have to revisit each chapter. But I did come away with some initial lessons that emotions are our biggest downfalls when it comes to conversations that matter. Knowing how much my heart pounds and the blood rushes when I get truly upset or nervous, this definitely touched a cord. Being cognizant of the damage emotions do to conversations will help me be able to take steps to minimize their impact. In fact, I've already started incorporating this lesson and hope to remain cognizant of my emotions in all of my conversations. Some days I will do better than others, but at least I am trying.
The beauty is that these skills have their place in your professional and personal life. The concepts are presented in an easy-to-understand manner, and the authors provide many mnemonic devices that help the reader remember the skills. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their ability to converse and field their way in the trickiest, most sensitive of conversations.
Thank you to Anna Suknov at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book!