Sunday, November 30, 2008

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Title and author of book: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Fiction or non-fiction? fiction
What led you to pick up this book? I have read 3 Austen novels, and I would like to read them all. And, since I already owned it,this was a perfect book to read for Trish's Classics Challenge.
Plot summary: Anne Elliot is the middle daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a rather silly and vain man. In her early 20s, she falls in love with Frederick Wentworth, and wishes to marry him. However, Lady Russell (her friend and mother-figure) discourages the match, and Anne breaks off the relationship, which breaks Wentworth's heart as well as her own. Eight years later, she again becomes acquainted with Wentworth, but he seems to be interested in one of her friends.
What did you like most about the book? Jane Austen does a good job with the different characters--they all have their own unique personalities. I also would describe the entire book as pleasant. Though there isn't much action or suspense, it was a nice, solid story with a good plot that didn't drag out too long.
What did you like least? I had to read the book much slower than usual to fully comprehend all the language.
Have you read any other books by this author? I've read Pride and Prejudice, and I loved it (and the movie with Keira Knightley), as well as Northanger Abbey and Emma. I really don't remember Emma or NA, so I would like to re-read them, as well as read the other two Austen novels.
What did you think of the main character? I like Anne Elliot as much as, if not more, than Elizabeth Bennett. She is kind, level-headed, and well-liked by all who meet her. Her only flaw is that she can be persuaded by others to go against her own wishes (hence the title??).
Any other particularly interesting characters? Anne's father, Sir Walter, is so ridiculous. He cares little about his own daughters, and all his attention is upon himself and his status. I really liked Admiral Croft and his wife. They don't think about societal conventions at all, but they do as they please. It's neat that they spend so much of their time together simply because they enjoy each other's company.
If this book has been made into a movie, and if you’ve seen the movie, compare the book to the movie.: I haven't seen a movie version, but I know there are multiple movies out there, and I would like to see one!
What did you think of the ending? (slight spoiler warning) I know there are some people who are a little annoyed with the way Austen's books wrap up so nice and neatly, but it makes me so happy! There are so many books that have a sad ending, or just leave you hanging, that it is nice to have a good, solid ending.
Do you recommend this book? I definitely recommend it! It isn't too long, and the story is engaging and wholesome.
(I borrowed this questionnaire from Dewey).

Date completed: November 28, 2008
# of pages: 150

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

As described by Victoria A. Brownworth of the Baltimore Sun, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is "part thriller, party history, part romance." Told in alternating viewpoints, as well as letters and historical writings, the story spans several decades and involves 3 generations of a family. When Paul is a young graduate student and conducting research, a mysterious book with empty pages, except for one depicting a dragon, falls into his possession. When he asks his advisor, Professor Rossi, about this book, he begins to learn that this is not just any book, but someone or something wanted him to have this book, knowing he would be curious enough to try to find the source. Paul also learns, though he can't quite believe it, that Dracula is more than a legend, or a classic literary figure. Soon after, Professor Rossi disappears, and Paul knows he must try to find him, regardless of the danger. Thus begins his journey across Eastern Europe, where Paul and his new friend Helen travel to places he had only read about in history books. They don't know whom to trust, why Professor Rossi disappeared, or where this dangerous journey will lead them. The feeling that someone is following them keeps them constantly looking over their shoulder, and as they learn more about Vlad the Impaler, they realize how much danger they are in themselves.

Unlike Rebecca, which I also read for Carl's RIP III Challenge, The Historian was too frightening for me to read at night. I started reading it at about 2 am in the read-a-thon, but I had to keep putting it down because my imagination kept getting the better of me. Though the whole premise of the story seems unbelievable and almost ridiculous, the incredible writing of Kostova makes it seem real. She spent ten years doing research for this book, and that is very evident in all the detail within the story. I read the book over the course of a month, because I could only read it during the daytime, or when people were in the next room. Because of the fact that I would go days without reading it, I frequently confused the many characters within the story. I also felt that there was a bit too much history involved, and I found myself skimming over sections of history in order to get back to the story. However, for people who are not a scardy-cat like myself, and could read through this book without getting so freaked out, the characters and history probably would not present such a problem. And even though the story was frightening, I was so involved that I needed to keep reading to see how it would end.

Because it took me so long to finish, I finished the RIP III Challenge 2 weeks late. However, I am glad I did sign up for the challenge, because I greatly enjoyed both Rebecca and The Historian. I think I've had my fill of creepy for a while though! Maybe I'll be ready next year when the challenge rolls around again!

Date completed: November 14, 2008
# of pages: 676

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Somehow, I was completely unaware of the classic gothic novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier until I began blogging. After the first review I read, I was intrigued, but after reading The Thirteenth Tale (one of my favorite reads of 2008, which alludes to Rebecca), I decided I HAD to read this book! Carl's RIP III Challenge was a perfect push for me to pick it up, and I'm very glad I did!

From the back cover:

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." So the second Mrs. Maxim De Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten...her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant--the sinister Mrs. Danvers--still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca...for the secrets of Manderley.

I don't do well with scary stories, but this was just the perfect amount of creepy to be enjoyable, but not to keep me up at night. I immediately felt a connection with the narrator (who remains unnamed) as she a bit awkward, a bit plain, but who has good common sense, good manners, and an imagination. Of course, I was extremely curious about what happened to Rebecca, how she died, and why Max and others acted so strangely about anything relating to her. The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, gave me the utmost creeps--thanks to the vivid physical descriptions of her by du Maurier. I didn't figure out the mystery until the very end, and I was quite surprised! I would definitely recommend Rebecca to those who enjoy gothic literature or to those looking for a chilling, suspenseful read that isn't gory or too scary. (Also, I read the majority of this book during the October Read-a-thon, and this was a perfect book to read for long periods of time.)

Date completed: October 18, 2008
# of pages: 380

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mini-Reviews: Smith, Christie and Kinsella

I read the following 3 books on vacation, and they were all great beach reads!

Joy in the Morning is a lesser known book by Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. However, I found it just as enjoyable to read! Joy in the Morning is the story of the first year of marriage for Annie and Carl Brown. Annie is just 18, and Carl is a 20 year old law student at a university in the Midwest in the late 1920s. Money is tight, but they still find a way to manage to live and enjoy a few simple creature comforts here and there. While there may be some who would find this book a bit dull, I loved both Annie and Carl from the beginning, and found it a delight to read about their lives together!

Date completed: November 9, 2008
# of pages-296

Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess is a light and funny, if a bit unbelievable story about a 29 year old lawyer who has spent the last 7 years of her life working long, hard hours to try to realize her dream of becoming the youngest partner in her law firm. Her life isn't her own, because she is virtually chained to her cell phone and Blackberry. However, when she discovers that she missed a very important deadline that could potentially cost a client millions of dollars, she panics and ceases to make any rational decisions. The rest of the story is a bit unbelievable, but I couldn't help but like Samantha, and I found myself chuckling at the situations she found herself in, and her reactions. I would recommend this for a fun beach read!

Date completed: November 11, 2008
# of pages: 384

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is an eerie mystery about 10 strangers from completely different backgrounds who find themself in a house on a small island with no access to the mainland. The owner of the island, U.N. Owen, is absent, and after one guest suddenly dies within the first few hours, and a second dies soon after, it becomes apparent to the remaining guests that their lives are in danger. No one knows whom to trust or who will be next! This is a classic mystery that I never figured out until I read the epilogue!

Date completed: November 13, 2008
# of pages: 264

Oh Dear!

The last time I posted was for the read-a-thon, which was almost a month ago! Though I usually never post more than once or twice a week, I have been woefully neglecting my blog and everyone else's as well. Even though I've continued to read, I haven't posted reviews or spent much time visiting other blogs. As the weeks have passed, I have felt more and more guilty, and I've gotten further and further behind. So...I need suggestions of how to catch up! I have 11 books to review. I really enjoyed most of them, but I am really slow at writing reviews, even if I try to keep them short, and even if I use the different question and answer formats. What are some ways that you write a quick review? Do you review EVERY single book you read? Do you feel guilty if you read a book, but don't review it?

Also, I just got back from a wonderful vacation with my husband to the beautiful Maroma Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. My Google Reader has almost 300 posts! I'm going to try to read some of the posts, but I'm going to have to mark most of them as read and start fresh. Hopefully I will be better in the upcoming weeks about visiting and commenting on blogs, though work will be extremely busy, and everyone is busy during the holidays!

I'll leave you with a picture from my vacation, and I look forward to reading your suggestions!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Read-a-thon: End of the Event

Well, the Read-a-thon is over. It has actually been over four 4 hours. With about an hour and a half left, I got too frustrated and I went to bed. Nothing could hold my attention, which I understand, after reading for 22 + hours. I tried reading short stories on the internet, but that was even worse than the 2 books I had! I was very torn between trying to stick it out and just going to bed. After I went to bed, I couldn't go to sleep because I was thinking about how I could have made it the whole 24 hours! Anyways...I tend to obsess sometimes! I am really glad I participated this time. It was so much fun knowing lots of other people out there were reading at crazy times in the night. Thank you to everyone who stopped and left a comment! And thank you so much to the organizers of the read-a-thon! What a lot of work it must have been, but what fun it was to participate!! :)

My totals:
Total number of pages read:823
Total time spent reading: 825 minutes (13.75 hours)
Number of books completed: I completed 3, but I was almost half way through one of them when the event started. I now am partway through 2 more.

End of the Event Survey
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? hour 23--I couldn't concentrate on anything!
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Rebecca was really great!
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I am just so impressed with the organization and the hard work of the hosts! The only suggestion I have would be to have a list of the mini-challenges ahead of time, so we know which ones we want to participate in a what time they start and end.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? all the main posting on Dewey's blog...It was nice to have one source for everything.
5. How many books did you read? I read 2 entire books, and parts of 3 books
6. What were the names of the books you read? Rebecca, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anatomy of a Boyfriend, Cannery Row, The Historian
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Rebecca and The Scarlet Pimpernal
8. Which did you enjoy least? Anatomy of a Boyfriend, although Cannery Row was a TERRIBLE choice to be reading in the wee hours of the morning when I was tired.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I would definitely consider participating again next time as a reader!

Read-a-thon update: hours 21 & 22

The sun hasn't started to rise yet, but I'm thinking it will pretty soon as it is 5 am here in San Antonio, TX (the above picture was found here). My reading has slowed down dramatically. I find that I am having to read the same paragraphs multiple times to try to comprehend. I really don't feel super tired, but I am tired of reading. I think I'm going to try to read a short story or two for this mini-challenge. Normally, I don't really like reading stories or books on the computer, but I need a change of pace!

In the last 2 hour period, I read 59 pages in 77 minutes, bringing my totals to:
Total number of pages read: 823
Total time spent reading: 810 minutes (13.5 hours)
Number of books completed: 3
Number of mini-challenges entered: 4--freerice, Walkin' and Snappin' and Library Cat Challenge, Carl's RIP challenge

Read-a-thon update: hours 19 & 20

(This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the read-a-thon. It just seems like a good random picture to post!)

With only 4 hours left, I can't decide what to do. I started reading The Historian, and after 55 pages, I had to put it down because the story was getting a little too scary. So, I began reading Cannery Row. I am now 13 pages into it, and I realize that this is not a good book to be reading at 3 am, when I have been reading for 20 hours. I had to re-read pretty much every paragraph! This is exactly what I was worried about! If I was at home, I would have lots of other books to choose from. I guess after taking a little break to update and blog, I'll try both books again. If neither of them work out, I may have to call it quits a few hours early. We'll see...

Total number of pages: 764

Total time spent reading: 733 minutes (12.22 hours)

Number of books completed: 3

Number of mini-challenges entered: 3--freerice, Walkin' and Snappin' and Library Cat Challenge

Read-a-thon update: hours 17 &18

So I just finished the most un-me book I've read in a long time. It wasn't all bad, but not a book I would ever pick up on my own, or recommend to anyone else to read. Now, I'm left with two books. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck or The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. If I read Cannery Row now, I'll probably still have time to start The Historian before the read-a-thon is over. However, if I read The Historian now, then I can join in Carl's mini-challenge. Hmmm...what should I do?

In the last 2 hours, I read 138 pages in 85 minutes (thanks to reading YA lit), bringing my totals to:
Total number of pages: 697
Total time spent reading: 654 minutes (almost 11)
Number of books completed: 3
Number of mini-challenges entered: 3--freerice, Walkin' and Snappin' and Library Cat Challenge:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Read-a-thon update: hour 16

I am posting after only one hour instead of my normal 2 hour posts for 2 reasons: 1. I'm having a hard time sitting still and 2. I want my posts to be ending on an even numbered hour. Does that make me weird? Maybe I'm just getting loopy! Hubby just went to bed, and even though I'm not very tired (yet), the soft bed does sound a bit inviting. Eight more hours sounds like a long time right now, but the first part went by so quickly, I'm thinking the last part will too!

My book is making me highly uncomfortable right now. I've blushed more than once, and I'm sitting in the living room all by myself. Why am I still reading it? Because I'm halfway through now, and I am able to read so quickly that I want to feel that nice sense of accomplishment when I'm finished. I have a feeling the uncomfortablness (I don't think that's a word) is going to get worse though.

Total number of pages: 559
Total time spent reading: 569 minutes (about 9.5 hours)
Number of books completed: 2
Number of mini-challenges entered: 3--freerice, Walkin' and Snappin' and Library Cat Challenge:

Read-a-thon update: hours 14 & 15

The entire 14th hour was spend at dinner with my husband, so no reading or blogging was done. It felt really nice to get out of the house and go somewhere different for a little while. I started Anatomy of a Boyfriend, and I don't think I could have picked a more opposite book from the one I just finished. It is a little shocking to me, but I'm going to keep reading it for the time being, since the author sent me the book herself. Since it is YA, it is pretty fast reading, which is nice! In 50 minutes, I read 69 pages, bringing my total stats to:

Total number of pages: 511

Total time spent reading: 526 minutes

Number of books completed: 2

Number of mini-challenges entered: 3--freerice, Walkin' and Snappin' and Library Cat Challenge

Read-a-thon update: hours 12 & 13

I can't believe the half-way mark has already passed! I'm posting a little early, as I just finished a book, and am about to go to dinner. I missed the window to be entered for the drawing for the survey, but it's still fun to participate!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? I just finished The Scarlet Pimpernel, I think I'll start Anatomy of a Boyfriend next
2. How many books have you read so far? 2
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? probably The Historian--if I am awake enough to comprehend what I'm reading
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? nope! My hubby had to work all day, so it was easy. This evening will be a little more difficult to read/blog.
5. Have you had many interruptions? a few--lunch and football How did you deal with those? I enjoyed them!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? The time is FLYING by! I am handling sitting and laying down for hours on end way better than I thought!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Everything is very well organized. It might ruin the surprise, but it would be nice to see a list of mini-challenges and what times they will be held before the read-a-thon begins. That way, I could plan ahead better about when I'm going to get online.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I think I would prefer to be at my own house, and maybe make a more detailed spreadsheet.
9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet, but it is only 7:45 pm here right now. I am ready to get out of the apartment for a little while.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I don't think so, but going outside every once in a while sure is nice, even if it is just for a minute or two.

Since my last post, I read 67 pages in 63 minutes. It is funny how I read much faster at the middle and end of the book than at the beginning. I almost put the book down at first because it seemed slow. As things started happening in the book--I read faster and faster!

Total pages read: 442

Total time spent reading: 476 minutes (almost 8 hours)

Books completed: 2

Mini-challenges entered: 2 (freerice) and Walkin' and Snappin'

Read-a-thon update: hours 10 & 11

Since I am not at home this weekend, I don't have the cozy companianship of my cat, Pumpkin, while I read. This is a picture of her last Thanksgiving. Her eyes look a bit scary, but most of the pictures of her have scary eyes!

I'm still reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I should finish it pretty soon. Hubby just got back from work, so I might take a few hours off to hang out with him, get dinner, etc. However, he is watching football right now, so maybe I can sneak in a little reading!

In the last 2 hours, I read 80 pages in 81 minutes. I did go on a short walk, which was very refreshing, and I just went outside again for a little while to participate in the mini-challenge at Page after Page. This is a picture of the golf course that hubby's apartment overlooks. The sun is just starting to go down, so I am hoping to experience a pretty sunset soon!

Total pages read: 375
Total time spent reading: 413
Books completed: 1
Mini-challenges entered: 2 (freerice) and Walkin' and Snappin'

Read-a-thon update: hours 8 & 9

What a cute mouse, huh? I just finished a llloooong span of reading The Scarlet Pimpernel. This book is taking a little longer to read than I expected, but I am enjoying it. I can't believe the read-a-thon is already more than 1/3 of the way over! In case you are wondering, the Texas Tech Red Raiders won, bringing their overall record to 7-0! Woo hoo!

I am starting to feel a little restless in the apartment, so I think I'll take a little walk. It is sunny and 84 degrees, so the fresh air will feel nice! After my giant lunch of a Freebirds burrito, chips, queso and a diet coke, I think I NEED to take a walk to burn off a few calories!

In the last 2 hours, I read for 95 minutes and 63 pages, bringing my totals to:
Total pages read: 295
Total time spent reading: 332 minutes (about 5 1/2 hours)
Books completed: 1
Mini-challenges entered: 1 (freerice)

Read-a-thon update: hours 6 & 7

Like Trish (except for the opposing team), I have donned my "Wreck 'Em Tech" shirt in support of my Texas Tech Red Raiders, who are playing the Aggies from A & M. It is a pretty close game, and not much time left...

In the last two hours, I haven't done much reading. In between watching football, eating lunch, taking a shower, and doing some laundry, I only managed to read for 35 minutes and 26 pages. Here are my new totals:

Total pages read: 232
Total time spent reading: 237 minutes
Books completed: 1
Mini-challenges entered: 1 (freerice)

Read-a-thon update: hours 4 & 5

I just finished Rebecca, and it was excellent! I definitely would recommend it as a good read-a-thon read, or an anytime read!

Total pages read: 206

Total time spent reading: 302 minutes

Books completed: 1 (but I had started reading this book before the read-a-thon began)

Mini-challenges entered: 0

Even though I ate cereal around 8, and I've already snacked on some of my delicious gummy bears...I'm starting to get hungry for some lunch. I guess that would make sense since it is noon! I'll have to see if hubby is going to take a break from working to eat with his weirdo wife! :)

Read-a-thon update: hours 1-3

So far so good! The first hour (7-8) was spent getting organized and participating in the introduction meme. Here are my totals so far:

Total pages read: 104

Total time spent reading: 1 hr. 52 min

Books completed: 0

Mini-challenges entered: 0

I drank a cup of hazelnut instant coffee and it was pretty good!

Ok--I'm off to play a vocabulary game and then back to reading!

Let the Read-a-thon begin!

I'm so happy the read-a-thon is here! I have been looking forward to this for weeks! Unfortunately, I am not at my own house this weekend. I am in San Antonio, at the apartment my husband has been living in for the last 13 months as he is working on a construction project (that is FINALLY almost over!). So...I could only bring a limited number of books, since I just bring one carry-on on the flight from Dallas to San Antonio. Hopefully, I made good selections! You might also notice that I have instant coffee. Not my first choice, but dear hubby isn't a coffee drinker, so he doesn't have a coffee maker--instant coffee will have to do! When I was spreading out my books and snacks for the above pictures, my husband was getting ready to leave for work and he looked at me and the table, then he patted me on the head and said with a smile, "Yep, I married a weirdo!" Anyways...since I don't see him during the week and the only time we can spend together is during the weekends, I will be taking a break from the read-a-thon this evening when he is home from work. I still have all day and lots of the night though! I'm off to a bit of a late start since it is almost a full hour into it, but I had to get organized and do my first post!

Where are you reading from today? See above pictures...I'll start with Rebecca, since I'm well into it already. The other books I plan to read are Cannery Row, Anatomy of a Boyfriend (YA), The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Historian.

3 facts about me …
1. I've never lived in any other state besides Texas.
2. I'm left handed for some activities (writing, eating), but right handed for everything else.
3. I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and love pretty much all baked goods--cookies, cake, brownies...

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
hmmm...I would like to finish Rebecca, and 2 other books

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
This is my first time, so no advice! I like hearing tips from veterans though!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Meme and my trip to Colorado

This is from this week's Booking through Thursday. Yes, I am aware that it is Saturday, and I really should be writing reviews of the last 2 books I finished, but this seems more fun right now!

Book Meme
from Booking Through Thursday by --Deb

I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?
Bedlam South by Mark Grisham and David Donaldson

Name a book you have read MORE than once
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
There have been several books that have made me really think about how I view certain topics, but no book has actually changed the way I see life.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews
These days, I am choosing more and more based on reviews and recommendations. I still will just randomly pick up a book at a bookstore and if I like the cover and summary on the back, I will sometimes buy and read it. So--all of the above!

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
I prefer fiction, but I have read more non-fiction this year than any other year, and I really have enjoyed it. I am definitely less scared of non-fiction that I used to be!

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Hmmm...I'm going to have to say a gripping plot, to choose between the two, but the characters are the most important to me. If there is beautiful writing, but no interesting characters or gripping plot, I probably won't enjoy the book.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
A tie between Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jo March (Little Women)--I don't know if either woman can be considered a "character" since Laura was a real person and Jo is based on a real person.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Ride The Wind, a book about Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped and raised by Comanches--I'm reading it for a book club
Bedlam South--I just purchased this book a few days ago, and the authors are going to be stopping in my town, so I'm excited about having my book signed!

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
Sweetsmoke--I finished it about a week ago. I really liked it, but I haven't been in a review-writing mood lately, so I'm procrastinating.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
About a year ago, I stopped reading The Road, but I recently read the entire book, and I'm really glad I did. I also stopped reading Catch-22 last year, and I'm not sure if I'll try reading it again or not. I generally keep reading a book, even if I don't like it very much. I feel really guilty if I give up in the middle.

Last weekend, I visited my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew in Colorado. The weather was PERFECT, and the fall leaves were beautiful! As I am training for a half marathon in early November, I went running with my sister several times, and that was really fun, even though the higher altitude made breathing while running a little more difficult than usual. Here are some pictures of my visit:

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm happy to announce the winners of my giveaway!

Love Walked In goes to Alyce!

I Was Told There'd Be Cake goes to Literary Feline!

Then We Came to the End goes to Jeane!

(I was very excited to see both Jeane's and Literary Feline's names on the little slips of paper I drew, because I have won a book from both of these nice ladies. It is fun to return the favor!)

Please send me your snail mail addresses to lorla6 [at] yahoo [dot] com and I will mail out the books as soon as I can.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I just realized that I have been blogging for 6 months now! Many thanks to Trish for sharing her blog with me, and helping me with html and many other bloggy things. Also, this is my 50th post, so that's fun too! What better way to say yay for blogging and books than a giveaway?!

The following three books are up for grabs:
Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

To be entered, just leave a comment say which book(s) interest you. I will do the drawing on Friday, October 10th. (I will try to get the books mailed out in time for the 24 hour read-a-thon).

Now I am off to Colorado for a few days to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and to see my sister, brother-in-law and cute little nephew. I'm sure I'll have to share at least one or two pictures when I get back!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

March by Geraldine Brooks

One of my most favorite books is Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I've read this book probably close to ten times, and I also really love the movie version with Susan Sarandon, Wynona Ryder and Christian Bale. When I first saw the Pulitzer prize-winning book March by Geraldine Brooks in the bookstore, I knew I had to read it! The central character in March is none other than the father of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

Mr. March (or just "March," as he is called throughout the book) is a man of many principles. He does not eat meat, he does not believe in the institution of slavery, and he does not believe it is ever right to kill another man for any reason. From the time he was 18, and first witnessed the whipping of a young slave woman, March was in strong opposition to slavery. Not only did he preach out against it himself, but he encouraged those with influence to speak and act against slavery. After he married Marmee (Margaret Day), the two of them opened their home as a safe place in the underground railroad. However, when the war begins, March feels compelled to join the army, even though he is against the act of war. He serves as a chaplain to the soldiers of the northern army. What March does not realize when he leaves his home, wife and daughters is that not only will he witness the terrible atrocities of war, but he will be forced to make decisions that go completely against what he believes.

March is obviously written by a different author and for a different purpose than Little Women. From reading Little Women, I imagined Mr. March to be a quietly strong man who is kind and good--much like the male version of Alcott's Marmee. While he does exhibit these characteristics to some extent, Brooks' Mr. March is very flawed. He acts very cowardly and selfishly on several occasions and makes poor decisions that cause harm to those around him. However, if he were perfect, his character would be unbelievable, and in some of the wartime situations he faces, there is no good outcome possible.

Brooks cleverly weaves bits of the stories from Little Women throughout the novel. She also tells of how March and Marmee meet and fall in love. I really like the Marmee of Brooks' imagination. While March narrates the majority of the book, Marmee narrates the last section. She is spirited, intelligent, and passionate about what she believes is right. The younger version of Marmee is a bit too passionate at times, and her temper gets the better of her more than once.

In the afterward, Brooks says that she based Mr. March on Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, who was a bit of a radical in his time. I cannot quite make up my mind about Mr. March--I think I am just having a difficult time reconciling the father that I imagine from Little Women, with the man of Brooks' story. Overall, I really enjoyed March. However, if you are looking for prequel to Little Women or more of the same story, I would caution you that the two novels are quite different.

Date completed: September 20, 2008

# of pages: 280

Monday, September 22, 2008

24 Hour Read-a-Thon and giveaways

It is almost time for the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and I'm so excited! The last time Dewey hosted this fun even was in June, and I did not participate, but I was a somewhat unofficial cheerleader. The read-a-thon is October 18th and will be starting at 5 am Pacific (or 7 am for those like me in the central time zone). Besides the fun of participating with other bloggers, there will be mini-challenges and prizes. Click here to read more.

If you are interesting in winning a signed copy of Joshua Henkin's Matrimony, head over to Trish's Reading Nook and Book Addiction to enter their giveaways.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel was the last book I read for the End of the World challenge. I thought I enjoyed reading dystopian and post apocalyptic novels, but after finishing this one, I think it will be a very long time before I pick another one up. While reading this story, I was sucked into the world as it is described by McCarthy, and I had a difficult time shaking the feeling of despair he created even after I put the book down.

Something huge and terrible has happened. Ash covers the ground and floats in the air. Everything is grey, colorless, lifeless. Trees and animals have all died or disappeared. Even the sun can't be seen as it makes its daily journey through the pallid sky. A man and his son slowly make their way to the coast, in hopes of a warmer climate. They have little to no food, no shelter except what they can construct with sticks and an old tarp, and only a sliver of hope that they will make it over the mountains to the coast. If they can make it there, they have no idea what they will find. However, even amid these circumstances, the boy never loses his compassion, and his father does everything in his power to protect and care for his son. McCarthy has written a heartbreaking story about the love between father and son, and how this love can sustain them through the darkness and desperation.

The Road is the first book I have read by McCarthy, and it took me several pages to get accustomed to his sparse writing. I'm not sure if this is his usual writing style, or if he wrote this way to contribute to the tone of the story, but it was definitely effective: "He lay listening to the water drip in the woods. Bedrock, this. The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void...Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported the ashed air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone" (11). McCarthy does not use superfluous words, and every single word has a purpose and contributes to the story. Though this was an extremely bleak story, occasionally there were little bits of light seen through the boy's tenderness towards others and through his father's selflessness.

Have you read any other works by McCarthy? What do you recommend?

Also reviewed by: Nymeth, Trish, Becca, Raidergirl3, Wendy, CJ (please let me know if I've missed you!)

Date completed: September 9, 2008
# of pages: 287
I sure was cutting it close with this one--I finished it with only a week before the end of the challenge! Thanks to Becky for hosting! Of the three books I read, I think The Road will stick with me the longest, but The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood was also very memorable. Orwell's 1984 was a bit disappointing, but I think I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be reading it at the time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Meme: Reasons for Blogging

I was tagged for this meme by Becca from The Inside Cover, and what a great way to spend some time on this windy, rainy Saturday (thankfully, Hurricane Ike did not affect Dallas nearly as negatively as was predicted, but I'm hoping everyone in the Galveston/Houston area is safe!)

First, the rules:
1. Write about 5 specific ways blogging has affected you, either positively or negatively.
2. Link back to the person who tagged you (and leave a comment on his/her blog after you do the tag).
3. Link back to this parent post.
4. Tag a few friends or five, or none at all (and inform them about it).
5. Post these rules— or just have fun breaking them.

Not to be a "glass half empty" type of gal, but I thought I would start with the ways blogging has negatively affected me. There are far fewer negatives than positives!

1. I spent A LOT of time at home on the computer. This is a negative because I sit in front of a computer all day long at work, so now I come home and sit in front of a computer as well. My poor eyes!
2. I spend too much money on books. I have developed a terrible addiction to buying books, even if I know I can't read them for a while.
3. My friends and family are now subjected to book/blog talk whether they like it or not. Even though I've always been a reader, I have never been as pumped up about books as I have been lately. I'm sure they all roll their eyes at me when I'm not looking.
4. Even though it is self-induced, sometimes I stress out a bit about finishing challenges, getting behind on reading or writing reviews, and how long it has been since I've posted anything.

Now for the positives!
1. I have been reading TONS more this year than in prior years.
2. Because of challenges, I have "forced" myself to read books I've had on my TBR list for years. Example--Uncle Tom's Cabin--thanks to the classics challenge, I finally read it, and am SO glad I did!
3. I have been reading more critically since I started blogging. When I am reading, I pay more attention to point of view, tone, diction, symbolism, etc., as well as interesting passages, so I can better write a review and discuss the books with others.
4. I have found others who share a love of all things literary. I used to think I was a weirdo because I didn't really know anyone else who liked to read as much as I did, and now--I know I'm DEFINITELY not alone!! It has been really fun "meeting" and "getting to know" other book bloggers!
5. When someone asks me for a book recommendation, I am much more prepared to give them some ideas.
6. Lastly--and this could either be a positive or negative, depending on how you look at it--I have a GIANT list of books that I want to read and I add more every week, based on all the wonderful reviews.

I'm not going to tag anyone specific, but please play along if you are so inclined!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The third book for my IRL book club was Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a non-fiction account Gilbert wrote about her year-long adventures travelling the world. Her year was broken into three pieces, each four months long: Italy, where she ate, ate, ate and learned to speak Italian; India, where she spent her time in her Guru's ashram and learned to meditate; and Indonesia, where she learned to balance "...worldly enjoyment with divine transcendence."

The reason Gilbert decided to take such a trip is because she had just gone through a painful divorce. Many nights, she found herself crying, lonely and depressed. Even though she had a great job and good friends, she just wasn't happy with herself and her life. So she thought that instead of wallowing in despair, she would go in search of happiness.

Reading the first section of the book made me REALLY want to go to Italy! I already am a huge fan of Italian food, but I know it would be a million times yummier in Italy itself! Besides the delicious food, there is the architecture, the warm people, the much to see! This part of the book was very enjoyable to read. Elizabeth simply enjoys everything that Italy has to offer.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book was not as entertaining as the first section. In India, Elizabeth spends her time in an Ashram. She is trying to discover "God," but I could never really understand who or what she thought God was. There is discussion of the divinity and perfection within oneself (which made me roll my eyes), some sort of blue light that you can feel if you are doing the right meditation and are in the right state of mind, and ..."be[ing] a scientist of your own spiritual experience"-which I'm not exactly sure what that means either (164). I tried to separate my own beliefs from what I was reading, and try to understand what exactly Elizabeth was searching for, but I never figured it out. Richard from Texas was a very fun character though!

The last section, in Bali, Indonesia, was less bizarre than the prior section, but I still couldn't understand exactly what Elizabeth was searching for. She said she was looking for balance, but what she ended up finding in Bali seemed to be the total opposite of balance, if you ask me!

Elizabeth Gilbert is warm, funny, and a great writer. There were parts of her book that I really enjoyed, and other parts that I had to force myself to actually read. I would be very curious to see if her year-long journey of self-discovery and her search for happiness and peace have stayed with her through the following years--when she was back to her "real" life. There are so many who just love the book, and though I definitely did not hate it, I am far from an adoring fan.

Read other reviews of Eat Pray Love at: Bending Bookshelf, Age 30 - A Year of Books, Trish's Reading Nook (if I've missed your review, please let me know and I'll add your link!)

Date Completed: September 5, 2008
# of Pages: 331

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reading and Blogging for Darfur

Natasha at Maw Books has dedicated the month of September to raise money and awareness for Darfur. If you click on this link, you can see the many ways you can get involved. She has included videos as well as recommended reading to learn about the atrocities that are occurring every day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Hot House by Pete Earley

Hands down, The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison is one of the most interesting books I have read all year. Also, it is the furthest from my "norm" of books I generally pick up to read. I think it's great to have friends with completely different tastes in books...I gave my friend The Book Thief to read, and she really liked it. To be fair, I had to read one of her books. She generally reads true crime and non-fiction books about prisons--two genres I NEVER venture into. I have had The Hot House for several months, and it took a combination of the looming end of The Non-Fiction challenge as well as a bit of feeling guilty for having the book so long to force for me to finally start reading. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down!

Pete Earley was the first person ever to be given access to a maximum-security prison, and he basically spent two years of his life inside the prison walls. He conducted hundreds of interviews with the inmates and guards of Leavenworth Prison, which is "...the oldest federal prison, and one of the most dangerous in the nation." Why did he want to put himself in such a dangerous situation day after day for two years? I asked the same question before I started reading, and he answers the question very early in the book:

We are all affected by crime, even those who are never directly victims. We avoid walking the streets of major cities at night for fear of attack. We are not permitted to board an airplane without first walking through a metal detector. We awaken in the middle of the night startled by a noise and lie paralyzed with fear that an intruder is lurking in the shadows. Who are these
criminals who terrorize us? (36).

While Earley interviews a large number of inmates, there are six in particular who are willing to be open with him and frequently talk with him. They have a broad range in age, background, crimes committed, and length of time spent in prison. Not all of the inmate had terrible childhoods, filled with abuse and neglect, although many of them did. Several of the inmates mention their principles, and how important it is to stick to them. They know that their values are not the same as most peoples', but they are proud to have stuck with their principles before and while they are in prison.

Some of the inmates describe their crimes, while others tell about their families, what they were like before prison, what upsets them about the prison system, and what survival methods they have learned. Some dream about the day they will walk free, and several have actually escaped and experienced freedom for a time before being caught. The inmates who had absolutely no hope of ever being released had to learn how to spend their days without going crazy.

Earley also interviews many prison guards. I found their stories to be just as interesting as the inmates. Many of the guards grew up in the town of Leavenworth, and it was very normal for them to work at the prison after high school. Prison brutality was common, but many of the inmates would do terrible things to the guards as well. Some of the guards seemed to enjoy the power they had over others, while others wanted to do their jobs well, and believed in humane treatment for the inmates.

In his book, Earley does not have a hidden agenda. He is not pushing for prison reform or arguing there should be longer sentences or harsher treatment of convicted criminals. Instead, he gives an unbiased look into the prison system, and into the lives of the inmates, guards, and prison officials. (Note:Because of the nature of the book, there is quite a bit of language, as well as some disturbing descriptions of events.)

Date Completed: August 31, 2008

Number of pages:441

Monday, August 25, 2008

RIP III Challenge

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the RIP III Challenge. This challenge runs from September 1- October 31.

(from the challenge post):

Mystery.Suspense.Thriller.Dark Fantasy.Gothic.Horror.Supernatural.

There is just something about this time of year, when the ghosts of past Autumns and the Autumn to come chase away the dog days of summer, that entices one to read books that fit into the above categories.
It was a desire share the love of eerie, creepy, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night literature that brought me into the online reading challenge game for the first time back in September of 2006. My goals today, in this its third iteration, are no different than the inaugural R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

It is that simple. Read on.

I am choosing Peril the Second, which says "Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose." Instead of having a pre-set list of books I have to read, Carl suggests posting a pool of books to choose from. This will also give other participants some ideas of what to read. I will choose two books from the following:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Spiritualist by Megan Chance

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel has been described as one of the most influential books in the history of America, as hundreds of thousands of copies were sold the first year it was published. When Abraham Lincoln met Stowe, he said to her,"So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!" While he may have been exaggerating in this statement, Stowe's book was (and is) an extremely powerful picture of all aspects of slavery.

Though the main story revolves around Uncle Tom, an honest, hardworking slave, who is also a loving husband and father, there are several other stories that unfold as well. When plantation owner Mr. Shelby finds himself in a great amount of debt, he believes his only choice is to sell some of his slaves, or he will lose other valuable property, such as land. The slave trader who is collecting Mr. Shelby's money decides on 2 slaves that will settle the debts. The first is Tom, who is not only tall and strong, but also trustworthy and submissive, and the second is a good-looking child named Harry, who will fetch a good price in the slave market. Harry's mother Eliza overhears this deal and decides to make a run for Canada, rather than give up her beloved son. Her husband George recently ran away from his master as well, after undeserved harsh treatment. Eliza and Harry have been treated very well in the Shelby household, but Eliza would rather risk her life than live comfortably without her son. The reader follows Eliza and Harry through their frightening journey to try to find freedom.

Tom does not run away, though he hears of Mr. Shelby's decision to sell him. He says goodbye to his wife and children, and tells them to trust in the Lord as he does, and he hopes to see them again one day. Mrs. Shelby makes a promise to Uncle Tom that she will do everything in her power to buy him back. Tom has strong faith in God, that no matter what happens to him, no matter where he ends up, he will always be kind, loving, and do as he is told. He knows his time on earth is short, compared to the eternity he will spend in heaven. Tom goes through both happy times, and extremely wretched times, but he never loses his faith.

St. Clare and Evangeline, Ophelia and Topsy, and Cassy and Emmeline are other characters the reader meets. They all have different stories, and all of their lives are touched and changed by Uncle Tom and his love and faith. Through this cast of characters created by Stowe, the appalling institution of slavery is demonstrated. During this time period, many argued that slaves were better off being slaves, because they were given food and a roof over their heads. Some slaves had kind masters, who took very good care of them. However, no matter how rose-colored the situation can be painted, slavery at its best is still believing humans to be property and not worthy of freedom. America was founded on the very principle of freedom. "Is there anything in it glorious and dear for a nation, that is not also glorious and dear for a man? What is freedom to a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it...To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute; the right to call the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own, unsubject to the will of another" (398). How could a nation founded on these principles, say it is OK to own, trade, sell and treat humans as if they are animals?

Not only are Southern slave owners depicted, but Northerners as well. Though some considered themselves abolitionists, they still looked down upon those with darker skin. As said by the southern St. Clare to his northern cousin, "We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro, but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe" (324). Stowe points out that if one despises the institution of slavery, but does absolutely nothing about it, they are no better than those who own slaves.

Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin brought tears to my eyes more than once. Stowe did not just write a powerful story, but she brought to light the evils of slavery, and through her book, appealed to Americans to do something to stop allowing it to happen.

Date completed: August 24, 2008
# of pages: 464

Sweetsmoke Giveaways!

Annie at Reading, Writing and Ranting is holding a giveaway for a signed copy of "...Sweetsmoke, the literary debut for author David Fuller. Part-mystery, part-historical and all heart, Sweetsmoke is the story of Cassius, a secretly literary slave on a tobacco plantation and all he will risk to avenge the murder of a woman he loved dearly. Cassius proves that even against the backdrop of Civil War, where there is love, no death will be inconsequential." You can read the first chapter of the book here. For the official booksite, click on this link:

In the first chapter, Emoline Justice, a women who means a great deal to Cassius, is killed and Cassius means to avenge her needless death. After reading the first chapter, I am itching to get my hands on the rest of the book! It will be released on Wednesday, August 27.

Update: For more chances to win an autographed first edition of Sweetsmoke, Wendy at Caribousmom is also holding a contest. You can have up to five entries if you do a little research on the booksite.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I finished reading Arundhati Roy's award-winning The God of Small Things almost 2 weeks ago, but I've been procrastinating on writing a review for several different reasons. First, I can't stop watching the Olympics! I am a fairly competitive person, I grew up playing sports (as did my 3 siblings), and I just love watching these amazing athletes! Second, I've been rather bogged down in reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. I don't dislike the book, but it is long and requires rather slow reading. Lastly, I don't exactly know what I think about The God of Small Things. It was the 2nd book for my (in real life) book club, and a perfect example of why I wanted to be in a book club. I probably wouldn't have ever picked up this book to read on my own, but I'm glad I did. This is a book that NEEDS to be discussed with others.

Rahel and Estha are "two egg twins" who both have vivid imaginations and don't even need to talk to communicate with each other. The majority of the story takes place in Ayemenem, India, when they are seven years old, and the entire book revolves around the happenings of one single day. The occurrences of the day are not told in chronological order AT ALL! In fact, in the first few pages of the book, we learn that Sophie Mol has died. Who Sophie Mol is, how she came to be in Ayemenem, how she died, and how that affected the twins for the rest of their lives is what the rest of the book entails.

Though I was curious to piece together the events of that fateful day, I was mostly captivated with Roy's writing. Her descriptions are incredibly vivid, whether she was describing clothing, what a building looks like, or even how a particular noise sounded. Most of the descriptive language is from the perspective of a seven-year old--a smart, imaginative seven year old-- "Rahel found a whole column of juicy ants. They were on their way to church. All dressed in red. They had to be killed before they got there. Squished and squashed with a stone. You can't have smelly ants in church. The ants made a faint crunchy sound as life left them. Like an elf eating toast, or a crisp biscuit" (176).

However great her descriptions, Roy's use of repetition and the way she places words together to form new words is what is most interesting to me about her writing. When I think back on reading this book, I know I will remember several phrases because of their frequent appearance on the pages, such as "things can change in a day," "Locust stand I," "Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age," and the most haunting, "loved a little less." All of these phrases represent the major themes within the story.

This was not a fast read for me. I had to get used to Roy's writing, and I frequently re-read passages to try to understand the meaning behind the words. The story is not a happy one, and there are several rather disturbing events throughout the book. However, I am glad to have read it, and as I have not read very many books set in India, this was a learning experience for me as well. Arundhati Roy is an excellent writer, and I believe this is a book that I could read again. Since I now know the order of events, so I won't be trying to figure out what happened, I could focus on the writing and the allusions within the book.

Date completed: August 11, 2008
# of pages: 321

Other reviews:
Trish's Reading Nook, Things Mean a Lot, Reflections of Me, Caribousmom

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (and completed challenge)

After her 30th birthday, Laura thinks she is destined to be an old maid. However, when she meets Henry McAllan, who is several years her senior, she finds a man who is strong, knows what he wants, and will make a good husband. Two daughters and several years later, Henry makes the decision to buy a farm in the middle of Mississippi and move his family (including his crotchety father), whether they want to go or not. His original house plans fall through, and the McAllan family is forced to live in the old farmhouse with no plumming, electricity, and when it rains (as it often does in the Mississippi Delta), they are completely cut off from town. Racism is prevalent in this time, and old Pappy McAllan always has something nasty to say about the Jacksons (the black share tennants).

Life on the farm is hard, and Laura has a difficult time trying to adjust. When Henry's younger brother Jamie returns from the war (WWII), she feels a lift in her spirits, as he is handsome, charming, and easy to love, even though he has a drinking problem. When Ronsel, the son of the Florence and Hap Jackson also arrives home from the war, trouble starts brewing. Though he is a war hero, and has been treated as one for the past few years, back home, he is seen as just another black sharecropper. He is reminded that he is not allowed to use the front door of the store, and cannot ride in the front seat of a white man's car. He and Jamie strike up a friendship, as they feel a camaradarie from being soldiers in the war. However, in this town, it is not ok for a white and black man to be friends, no matter the circumstances, and this causes serious problems not only for Jamie and Ronsel, but also for their families.

Mudbound is written through alternating perspectives--Laura, Henry, Jamie, Ronsel, Florence and Hap. Hillary Jordan does an excellent job with this, and the reader is able to feel and understand the different characters' throughts and actions much better than if the story was told in third person. The tone of the novel is often bleak, but true to the situation that each particular character is experiencing. Mudbound has a true southern ring, with the descriptions of the landscape, the day to day lives of the people, and the dialect.

I would describe Mudbound as a poignant story, full of despair and hate, but also of love and hope. Hillary Jordan wrote a memorable first novel, which won the Bellwether Prize for fiction. I would definitely recommend Mudbound, and I am hoping Jordan is working on a second book!

Date Completed: August 3, 2008

Number of pages: 324

Read these other reviews of Mudbound: Thoughts of Joy, An Adventure in Reading, Maggie Reads. If you've read and reviewed it, please let me know and I'll add your link!

This is the third and final book for Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge. The three books I read were:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.

While I enjoyed all three, Mudbound was definitely my favorite. I think I read more Southern fiction that I originally thought, which makes sense since I am a southerner! Maggie is such a great host and held several fun contests along the way! Thanks for a fun challenge, and I look forward to participating next year!

One more thing...Maggie is holding a unique contest called State of the Mule. Sadly, one mule in Mudbound met his death by gunshot wounds--page 109. "Then I'm gone send hail big as walnuts down on that mule, making that mule crazy, making it break its leg trying to bust out of there...the next morning after you put that mule down and buried it..." (this passage sounds a bit odd, as Hap is speaking as God after he experiences a series of bad luck). Poor little mule :(

Monday, August 4, 2008

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (and first completed challenge)

Stephanie Plum has run out of luck. She recently lost her job and has not been successful finding a new one. She has had to resort to selling her appliances and furniture for money to pay her rent and bills. With no other options, Stephanie decides to visit her cousin Vinny, who runs a bail bonding company. Though she has absolutely no experience tracking down and bringing in rather shady and dangerous people, she believes she can handle the job--just until she makes enough money to get out of debt.

However, her first case is not only a murder suspect, but an old childhood acquaintance--Joe Morelli. The more she becomes involved with the case, the more in danger her life becomes. What started out as a way to make a quick $10,000 becomes an investigation into multiple murders and a drug ring. Stephanie knows she is running out of time to find the evidence she is looking for, and every day her life is in even more danger. Joe saves her life more than once, but all the signs point to him as a murderer. She must figure out whether he is a good or bad guy--her life depends on it.

I don't think I have read any negative reviews of the Stephanie Plum books, but I must say I was quite disappointed. I did not find Stephanie to be hilariously funny, as so many find her to be. I am aware of the fact that I have a rather strange sense of humor and the things I generally find funny are not at all humorous to pretty much everyone else. I think that this is just not my type of book. I couldn't just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, but I kept thinking that it was very unrealistic and no one would really make the bad decisions that Stephanie does over and over. I feel like I am missing out, because I know that many people eagerly await the next installment in the series, and I don't quite understand why.

Date completed: July 30, 2008
Number of pages:320

I don't know if this is actually considered chick-lit, but I am going to classify it as such. The main character is a young women, and the story is about her career and love life. Even though there is the mystery/detective type angle involved, I think the other criteria fit the chick-lit bill! With the completion of this book, I have completed the chick-lit challenge, which was to read 3 chick-lit books by September first. The three I read were:

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

My favorite of the three was Love Walked In, but I have decided that chick-lit is not really a favorite genre of mine. In my somewhat limited experience with these types of books, I usually find myself really annoyed at the main character. She is usually shallow and spends most of her time, energy and money on finding a man, or many men. For once, it would be great to read about a young intelligent woman, who makes sound decisions, doesn't sleep around, and is a good example to those around her. Any recommendations?

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Marisa de los Santos' first novel, Love Walked In, is a unique story about love and family. Each chapter alternates between Cornelia, a woman in her early 30s who loves old romantic films and is the manager of a local coffee shop in Philadelpia, and Clare, a girl of 11 who barely knows her father, and who's mother is in a mental downward spiral. While Cornelia narrates her own portions, a third person narrator tells Clare's story.

Cornelia and Clare are both strong female characters who both ache for someone to fill a particular void in their lives. Cornelia longs for a child of her own, and Clare (while she loves her mother), needs a strong parental figure to take care of and understand her. When they meet, they both recognize a kindred spirit, even though there is a 20 year age gap. This friendship enables them to get through several difficult circumstances and heartaches and helps both of them find a place where they feel they are loved and needed.

Although I found last 1/3 of the novel to be a bit too neatly wrapped, overall this was an enjoyable read. Cornelia was far less shallow and annoying than many other women in chick-lit-types of books that I have read. De los Santos has written another book, Belong to Me, and while I'm not running out to the nearest bookstore to purchase it, I would definitely consider reading it when I'm looking for something light and entertaining.

Date completed: July 29, 2008
Number of pages: 307

Read Natasha's review at Maw Books Blog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

July was a month of...

...CRAZINESS!!! I feel like my life has been in fast forward for the last several weeks. I just got back from a fun, but very busy trip to NYC, and I'm leaving tomorrow for a weekend in San Antonio. With the travel, overtime at work, being in a wedding, and other general busyness, my reading and blogging was sadly neglected. However, I somehow found time to buy lots of books! I thought I would share a picture of the pile I aquired through a library sale (my first one--thanks Trish!), a giant used bookstore, winning a giveaway from Jeane, and using a birthday giftcard.

The bookshelf in the back contains books I've already read, and the lava lamp and radio are sitting on a short bookshelf that contains non-read books. What you can't see is how full it is. I really want/need to get another tall one! I have set a goal for myself not to buy any more books for the rest of the year. My short term goal for August is to get back on track with reading and blogging. I need to catch up on my reviews and with my Google reader. Since August in Texas is generally WWAAAAAYYYY too hot to be outside (unless you are in a pool), what better to do than sit in wonderful A/C enjoying ice cream and books?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1984 by George Orwell

Though I finished reading George Orwell's "reverse utopian" novel 1984 several days ago, I've been putting off writing the review for several reasons. First, I don't exactly know what to say about this book. It took me two entire weeks to read this relatively short book because I was unusually busy, but also because I did not look forward to reading it. I had to force myself to pick it up and concentrate. The second reason I've put off the review is that I know I'm not going to do the book justice. Because I was really busy, I really just needed a good story to read. While 1984 does have a main character, Winston Smith, the book is far deeper than this one man's story. I skimmed over several passages in the book because I was impatient, and I found them to be dry, but I know if I would have spent the time, I probably would have better understood what Orwell was saying through his book. So, I apologize for my review ahead of time--I'll try to find links to good reviews to share!

Society in 1984 is run by a totalitarian government. There are 3 classes of people--the smallest group, yet the people with the most power and privilege is the Inner Party. The Outer Party have very few creature comforts, but they work in government office-type jobs. The remaining class, which make up 85% of the population, are the "proles." They are looked down upon as unintelligent, and have hard labor-type jobs. Though English is still spoken, many words have been completely dropped off, with the introduction of "Newspeak." The goal is to have a language that is so easy and has so few words that people really don't have to think very much at all, and there is literally no way to have thoughts of words such as "freedom." Along with the language, the past is slowly being wiped out. Books of all types have been altered to remove anything that is not in alignment with the Party. Reading, writing, thinking, and feeling are not only discouraged, but punishable.

There are three major powers in the world at this time--Oceania (the setting of 1984), Eurasia, and Eastasia. The three powers are constantly at war. Who Oceania is at war with, and who they are allied with changes frequently, but no one really pays attention. People's lives are devoid of emotion, fun, and free-will. They do exactly what they should be doing, according to the Party (Big Brother), as they are constantly watched from the ever present telescreens and/or hidden microphones that are in homes, at work, and even outside in the woods. People that deviate are "vaporized" and their names are erased from any records--as if they never existed.

Winston Smith, an average 39-year-old Outer Party member is unhappy with this life and occasionally has flashbacks to his childhood when things were different. He knows the history books aren't accurate, as his job is to actually update the past events to make them parallel with the Party's agenda. He only takes part in the Party rituals, such as the Two Minutes Hate, because he doesn't want to disappear forever, to become and "unperson." He lives in constant fear, and knows he can't trust anyone...until he meets Julia. It is only after he begins spending time with her (which completely isn't allowed), that Winston really learns what happiness could be like, as well as what the Party is capable of.

Imagining this world of despair and loneliness is depressing. I'm glad that even though we are well past the year 1984, our world is not even close to the dreary place pictured in the novel. Well, actually, I don't know...maybe someone is watching us through our televisions...

Read other reviews: (please let me know if you've read and reviewed it, and I'll add your link).
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Inside Cover
Thoughts, Books, and Philosophy

Date Completed: July 20, 2008
# of pages: 308

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith (and first book club meeting)

Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite books not only this year, but in the last several years! Published in 1943, this bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, is still popular today. Francie Nolan, her younger brother Neely, and her parents Katie and Johnny, live in the poor Brooklyn slum of Williamsburg. Though Katie works extremely hard, Johnny is an alcoholic and does not have steady work. Francie and Neely contribute what they can by collecting rags, metal scraps, and other odds and ends to be sold for pennies every Saturday. The family barely scrapes by, and occasionally must go without food. However, their story, mainly Francie's story, is not about poverty and despair. Instead, her story is about resourcefulness, family, determination, education, and hope.

Francie is a bit of a loner. She doesn't have many friends, but she spends most of her free time reading. She decides to read every book in the local library, from A to Z (except on Saturday, when she can read a book out of order). Once in school, Francie learns she has a gift for writing as well, and makes high grades on her compositions. Outside of her schooling, she learns many other valuable life lessons from her mother--such as how to bargain with the butcher, or the importance of saving money. Most of the time, Francie seems much older than she is. Probably like many children living in this situation, her childhood is cut short. When she is only 14, she finds a job in the city, and is making the majority of the family's money. However, she still finds a way to continue her education.

I can understand why this book is still so widely read 65 years after it was written. There are so many interesting and original characters! Even though the characters were flawed, it was easy to see the good as well as the bad. Johnny loved his children and wife, and they knew he loved them, even if he had a drinking problem. Aunt Sissy adored Francie and Neely and brought them small gifts or sweets (even when she herself had very little to give), but she was looked down upon by other women because of the way she acted with men. Francie's mother Katie favored Neely over Francie, but she also pushed Francie to be independent and taught her how to get what she wants by working hard. It was very enjoyable to read about the development of all of the characters throughout the 17 year span of the novel. I was sorry when it ended, and I want to know what happened next with the family!

This was the first book for a new book club I'm in with some girls from work. We decided to meet once a month, and each month one person will "host." The host chooses the book, the meeting place, and facilitates the discussion if necessary. I volunteered to go first, so this was my month. Though I believe I liked this book the most, the others enjoyed it as well. I think the general consensus was that it was a bit on the lengthy side, but the story was worth the time. Some of the topics we discussed were: the strength of the female characters, the bits of humor speckled throughout the story, how we felt about of the characters, why Betty Smith wrote about this time period, and what we think would happen in Francie's future. I would say this is a good book for a book club, though there probably won't be much heated debate or too much varying opinions--so a good choice for a first meeting! I wasn't sure how this first meeting would go, but now I'm really exited about being in a real book club!

Read other reviews of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn here:
Trish's Reading Nook
An Adventure in Reading
So Many Books, So Little Time

Date Completed: July 6, 2008
# of Pages: 483