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Showing posts from June, 2010

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

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My fifth selection for Misfit Salon's Reading Challege is Dear John by Nicholas Sparks (2006). This is the first book I've ever read by Sparks, another phenomenally-selling author. Honestly, the descriptions of his books leave my eyes rolling--and I'm obviously a big romance reader. Just not his kind of romance novel.

The book is told in three sections, covering 2000-2006 in the life of Army Staff Sergeant John Tyree. At the beginning of the book, he meets college student Savannah while home from Germany on leave in North Carolina. Love at first sight, I suppose, and the rest of the novel follows their long-distance relationship as he returns to the Army, what happens when he breaks his promise about re-enlisting, and so on.

By coincidence, Maya picked the DVD movie version to rent soon after I downloaded the book, meaning I actually watched the movie and then read the book a day later. Yes, she based her movie choice on Channing Tatum in the photo, and I don't blam…

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

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The fourth selection in my list for Misfit Salon's Reading Challenge is The Walk by Richard Paul Evans (2010). I wouldn't normally read something by Evans because I have him placed in my mind as one of those feel-good, religion-pushing-through-fiction (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Mormons, in this case) authors. I'm also not a fan of series books, and this is the first in a five-book series, presumably coming every April for five years.

My mom liked the book well enough to loan me the copy she borrowed from the public library, though, and this fit into my personal rules for the Reading Challenge, so off I went. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Alan Christoffersen is a sort of modern-day Job. During a six-week period, he loses his beloved wife McKale, the advertising business to which he has devoted his life, and their home. Unlike Job, he didn't have children (leaving his loss as the regret that he kept putting off having children every time McKale…

This and That

The library is where education continues after school ends. It's where readers are grown from the time they are young and where doors are open to welcome everyone.

That's my favorite quote from Carol Fitzgerald's piece in The Huffington Post, Libraries and Libararians are Endangered Species: What You Can Do to Help, found here. I wish I could say I find the title sensationalist or overstated, but I can't. I even believe librarians in special settings (corporations, medical, etc.) are in even more precarious positions than those in public libraries, at least in the United States.

Waiting for more guilt-free shopping? I haven't placed an order yet, though I've found much to like in the small PDF catalog I received from The Volunteers for Children Development Foundation (VCDF).

VCDF provides a place for Thai street children to go to be safe, learn, and create the arts and crafts for sale. Of the money made from gift shop sales, 30% goes directly to the child art…

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

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Synopsis for Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (2004):

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.


The prologue immediately drew me into the story because Anna's husband/Trudy's stepfather has just died. We meet Anna and Trudy at his funeral, only to have none of the locals at the service come to Anna's home for the post-funeral reception. Not a single person. That's so outside the realm of the norm, such a sign of disrespect, that I had t…

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

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My third selection for Misfit Salon's Reading Challenge is A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin (2007) because I don't generally read Christian fiction. Since Austin is a Christy Award ("where the best Christian fiction is celebrated and promoted") winner, I thought something by her seemed like a good place to try.

The start of the book, set in May 1893:

I couldn't imagine more shocking news.

I sat at Widow Maude O'Neill's dining room table and stared at my father as the overcooked mutton on my plate grew cold. I would have cried out in protest and begged him to reconsider, but as a recent graduate of Madame Beauchamps' School for Young Ladies, I'd learned that a proper young lady never caused a scene at the supper table, especially if she was a guest.

Father looked immensely pleased with himself. He leaned back in his chair, his hand thrust inside his suit coat as he played with his watch chain. Maude, dressed in widow's black for the last time, wore…

Heat of Passion by Elle Kennedy

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If you're looking for a quick, erotic romance read, Heat of Passion (2009), the latest from Elle Kennedy's Out of Uniform series, is worth a look. As always, Samhain Publishing comes through in the erotic romance department.

Navy SEAL Carson, twenty-nine and quite the ladies' man, meets a beautiful woman at his best friend's bachelor/bachelorette party. The problem? He's just realizing that he's ready for a serious relationship, and the beautiful woman, age twenty-four, has her first one-night stand with Carson.

I like the fact that both characters are at a crossroads in their lives. They intersect at a time when they're making decisions to guide the rest of their lives. They have fantastic chemistry together, but can that lead to something more? And does the heroine even want anything other than a fling with Carson?

You can learn more at the author's site here.

My overall personal rating of Heat of Passion is a B.

There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

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My second book for the Misfit Salon Reading Challenge is There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children by Melissa Fay Greene. I knew this would be a difficult read for me because I have enough trouble reading about children being hurt and/or having heartbreaking problems in fiction, so I somewhat reluctantly went into reading this large-scale tale about the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia.

I'm now glad I read the book, though, honestly, I did cry. Frequently--for most of the 480 pages, really. But, at the same time, this work of nonfiction is a testament to the difference one person can make when she dedicates herself (or he dedicates himself, of course) to something truly important.

After the deaths of her husband and adult daughter, Haregewoin Teferra is brought an orphan by a local priest (smart man). So begins her mission, her life's passion, to open herself, her home, and her entire life to children who either have AIDS or who are or…

Stealing Kathryn by Jacquelyn Frank

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I almost didn't finish reading Stealing Kathryn by Jacquelyn Frank (2010) because, never having read anything by Frank before, I wasn't quite prepared for the harsh hero at the opening of the story. I'm glad I kept reading, though, because Frank left plenty of room for character change and development.

Definitely a play on the Beauty and the Beast tale, Adrian is a sandman. He enters people's nightmares, feeding on their deepest, darkest fears and using the resulting energy to keep his people, who live in a realm Beneath, alive. As the story begins, Adrian has not only come to revel in his job, he's also obsessed with a woman named Kathryn (Kat).

In the ultimate act of depravity, Adrian kidnaps Kat, bringing her to his home to reside with all of the other "treasures" (all inanimate objects--priceless art, jewels, etc.) collected over his years of service.

Imagine wakening to find yourself in the hands of a walking nightmare. Frank does a good job of taki…

This and That

Mostly Real Life in this posting, with a little something about reading tacked on at the end.

Maya had a fantastic sixth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's on Saturday. She considers this her "best party ever," and I can't disagree. Yeah! The five girls, including Maya, there all got along well, and I enjoyed chatting with a couple of the mothers who stayed for the party. Remarkably painless, really, and I suspect I'll even agree if Maya wants to have her birthday party there again next year.

We also had a couple of hours left to enjoy our local Juneteenth celebration after Maya's party. Juneteenth is the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. You can learn more here. Our local celebration is free, and they provided live music, food, information from sponsors (local human service organizations, colleges and universities, and businesses), etc. Maya especially enjoyed playing in the inflatables and going inside a real fire truck.

Have y…

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

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My first selection for Misfit Salon's June Reading Challenge is This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas (2010). Based on my personal twist to read books I wouldn't normally read, the story of Olivia, a talented seventeen-year-old girl, and the author/priest, Father Mark, who becomes obsessed with her, is a plot I'd usually avoid.

Amazingly, the overall plot isn't what I didn't like about the book.

The beginning of This Gorgeous Game:

"I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL. I SHOULD be grateful to have his attention. To have him take such an interest in me.

I should. I know I should.

I will. No, you are grateful, Olivia, I tell myself as if I am my self's imaginary friend, sitting across the table, giving advice. Start acting grateful then, she begs."

Anything about the above writing grate on your nerves? I discovered while reading this book that I have a strong personal aversion to the overuse of italicized words and whatever you call This. Bit. Of…

The Passage by Justin Cronin, Part 2

Look here for the first part of my review for The Passage by Justin Cronin (2010).

I decided to continue reading, despite not finding much to like about the first half of the book, just in case the second part contained some insight into why this book is considered the "must read book" of summer 2010.

Well, I'm done reading now, and I'm still confused.

I do think the writing style improved in the second half of the book. I'm still convinced the tome could be edited to one-fourth the original size and make a much better read. Maybe even something I'd enjoy reading; I really think you can't over-estimate the importance of a good editor.

There's no way I'm reading the next two books, despite not knowing the ultimate fate of Amy and the world at large. I don't care enough to invest the time on anticipating, and then reading, the final books in the trilogy.

Again, I'll be very interested to hear comments from other "regular" readers, es…

This and That

Our local Olive Garden decided to stop singing and clapping for birthday guests due to the number of complaints from other diners. Oops! Maya handled her disappoint pretty well last night, and, don't worry, our waitress, who had a lovely voice, still sang quietly to Maya.

Another site for virtually guilt-free shopping if you need a pretty piece of jewelry for yourself or to use as a gift: NightLight. From their site:

NightLight Design provides an economic alternative for women who previously had no hope of freedom from their circumstances. When you purchase these products you are securing the freedom of women who have been exploited or were at risk of exploitation in the bars of Bangkok, Thailand.

One of my new favorite quotes: If anyone ever asks you to name something the government does right, simply answer, "The library." Taken from this column by Rory McClannahan in the Mountain View Telegraph.

Contrast that lucid comment with this dire call by the KPMG in the UK …

Happy Birthday, Maya!!!!

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My "baby" turned six today. Sigh. Here's a photo of her browsing at one of our local Barnes & Noble locations on Saturday.

We're off to dinner tonight at a restaurant where they'll clap and sing for the birthday girl. (She gets that center-of-attention desire from her father; definitely not from me!) Then I'm braving the (in)famous Chuck E. Cheese's yet again for her kids' party later.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Gayle Forman's If I Stay (2009) sat patiently waiting in my Kindle for my attention a bit longer than I want to admit. I'm so glad I finally read this unique gem of a YA novel.

Left in a coma early in the novel, following a car accident that kills the rest of her immediate family, Mia exists in spirit form outside of her body, watching herself and those around her as she decides whether to move on to the next phase of existence (die) or return to the living and a likely painful recovery from her injuries. And I'm still not entirely certain which choice I'd make in the same situation, based on the same life experiences at Mia's age of seventeen.

The story alternates successfully between Mia's thoughts and memories about her life and the current reality. Supporting characters, including her grandparents, best friend Kim, and boyfriend Adam, come into their own in delightful ways under Forman's hand.

If I Stay provides a quick, emotional read.

You can learn mor…

The Passage by Justin Cronin, Part 1

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Check out this article from 2007 in The New York Times for information about the hype--even pre-manuscript completion, not just pre-publication--for Justin Cronin's The Passage (2010).

Yes, that's a reported $3.75 million for the book, plus $1.75 for the movie rights, before he even finished writing the book. And this is only the first of three books in a series.

Add this gushing commentary from none other than Stephen King:

Every so often a novel-reader's novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin's The Passage. Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: read this book and the ord…

This and That

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The photo of Rufus and my daughter didn't win the ihelppets.com photo contest for week four, so, of course, I had to enter a couple more photos in the current contest. Shown here for your viewing pleasure, as well.

Misfit Salon has a fun reading challenge going for the month of June--the 12 X 12 Reading Challenge. The goal, like all good goals, is worthy, simple, and straightforward--Read More Books! Go here to learn more and enter the challenge, or click on the related button at the side of my blog to reach the same destination.

I added my own twist to the reading challenge. My goal is to read twelve books I wouldn't normally read during this month. I'm already thinking Janet Evanovich, Nicholas Sparks, and Nicholas Evans blog postings are in my near-future.

Please take my latest poll to voice your opinion about the upcoming release of the next Twilight movie.

Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton

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When I was in fifth grade in a small town in Nebraska, we played the Oregon Trail game. Players "traveled" across the trail, rolling the dice and drawing cards to get a remote idea of what the movement across this nation meant--from the perspective of the emigrants, of course. I missed a couple days of school at one point during the game, and I remember being really upset to learn when I came back that being gone left me stuck in the mountains for the winter.

Even then, I knew what that meant.

The Donner Party. 1846-1847. (In)famous. The stuff of legend. The material for heartless jokes about cannibalism.

Gabrielle Burton has taken the story we think we know, delved deeply into the history of the group, and written a fantastic piece of sensitive, moving historical fiction, Impatient with Desire (2010). Written as though Tamsen Eustis Donner's lost journal survived, the words--the hopes and excitement, the fears, the mounting loss of life--all come through to provide …

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

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I read A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (2009) a couple of days ago, and I still can't decide exactly how I feel and what I think about the book.

Ralph Truitt, a lonely, rich widower living in a small town in Wisconsin named after his family, is joined in 1907 by a woman, Catherine Land, who responded to his newspaper ad seeking a "reliable wife." Only, Catherine isn't the woman she claimed to be in the letters she exchanged with Ralph for the six months prior to arriving to become his wife.

Catherine's a woman not only with a past, but with harsh plans for Ralph. Plans she's assisted in developing and pursuing by someone known to Ralph.

This dark tale is truly about loneliness, the deals we make with ourselves and others to avoid being alone, and how life has a way of unfolding in interesting ways when we have other plans in mind.

While I found the overall story and characters fascinating, the telling dragged at times, and there was a bit too much of the sea…

Letters to Juliet

I had a banner weekend last weekend since I had the chance to see two movies, including Letters to Juliet, which I saw with my daughter Maya, who had seen the movie previously with her grandma.

You pretty much have the idea of the movie if you've seen even one preview or trailer. Amanda Seyfried, currently seen everyone it seems, answers a letter seeking love advice written fifty years ago and left at Juliet's wall in Verona. The result is the ever-wonderful Vanessa Redgrave traveling to Italy with her grandson to find her lost love, Redgrave's real life husband Franco Nero (yum!).

Sweet, light movie. No suprises and nothing very grand to remember for the longterm, but a pleasant way to spend a little time on a weekend afternoon. Maya, however, declared the movie to be "the best movie I've ever seen in my whole life." Her whole almost six years of life!

If you've seen the movie, what did you think? If not, do you plan to go to the theater, see the movi…

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French

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I usually really enjoy the work of Nicci French, a husband (Sean French) and wife (Nicci Gerrard) writing team, but The Other Side of the Door (2010 in the United States) didn't do anything for me.

We meet Bonnie Graham at what we learn is her friend's apartment, and Bonnie's there with a body. Who is this man? How did he die? Did Bonnie kill him, and, if so, intentionally or accidentally?

The story unfolds in alternating After (the point from when we meet Bonnie and beyond, as she works to deal with the fallout of whatever actually happened) and Before (the background information from the summer) chapters. That writing style I like as a concept, though there just wasn't enough actually contained in the chapters of this particular story to capture and hold my attention.

My biggest complaint? I identify much more with the unknowing friend Bonnie calls and involves in her nightmare than Bonnie, who I found, at best, truly annoying.

You can learn more about the book at t…

ihelppets.com

I have a photo of Rufus, our gone but not forgotten Yorkie, and my daughter Maya in the current week's photo contest from ihelppets.com. Check it out at their Facebook site here. And, no, I'm not quite sure how I managed to send them a sideways photo!

Also, ihelppets.com is a great place to do your shopping if you have any dog or cat family members--or just love dogs and/or cats enough to want a t-shirt, hat, etc. to reflect your passion. This is as close as you can get to guilt-free shopping because they use 100% of the profits to help homeless animals, donating funds directly to shelters and rescue organizations.

I think I need the Peace-Love-Dog hat. Need, I tell you!!

This and That

Check out blog posts at The Insanity of Writerhood from the author of the soon-to-be-released YA novel The Duff for her take on her first BEA. Can you even imagine the thrill of finding a poster for your book on display at the convention??

Can't wait to read The Duff, which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend.

I appreciated Lisa and Laura Writes posting From Birkins to Burqas, SATC2 Sucked. And there's even more in the comments worth reading.

I've found someone new I'd like to meet over lunch for a chat--Justin Cronin. His new book, The Passage, is being hyped as one of the top reads of the summer.

Here are two quotes from the New York Times piece Literary Novelist Turns to Vampires and Finds Pot of Gold that make me think we could be friends:

“It looks like a bigger change than it is,” Mr. Cronin said. “I think literary is shorthand for appreciated, and commercial is shorthand for sells. I did not undertake the writing of this book thinking that it was one thing …

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright

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I suspect Kim Wright's Love in Mid Air (2010) is an odd choice to blog about on my fourteenth wedding anniversary, but that's what I'm doing!

The synopsis:

A chance encounter with a stranger [Gerry] in an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly, Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage [to Phil], her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the church. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find--and follow--her own path to happiness.

Ultimately, I don't think this book was really about a love affair at all. I think this story was about Elyse being unhappy with the current state of her life and wondering if there couldn't be something more fulfilling out there for her. Meeting Ge…

SATC 2

I'm a huge fan of the series Sex and the City. Huge. Not much of a fan of the movies, though, and I'm really hoping, with the way this second movie ended, they're done making movies about the ladies.

This one ran too long for me, though I did think it seemed a little more realistic than the first movie.

However--

Rant warning.

When I went to the first Sex and the City movie, I left really annoyed about what they did with Miranda. When leaving the second Sex and the City movie, I felt annoyed and embarrassed about what they did with Samantha.

I don't want to say too much if you haven't seen the movie, but I guess I understand why filming for "Abu Dhabi" actually happened in Morocco instead. I can't imagine actually going to the UAE to film something so offensive and "ugly American." What writer/producer/whatever confused dressing in next-to-nothing and being sexually promiscuous--and flaunting said practices in the face of others--with true …

This and That

More from blogs I read about BookExpo America (BEA) 2010. Kwana Writes includes a photo of her stash of books from BEA. Sniff. So jealous! She also met Teresa from The Real Housewives of New Jersey at a book signing.

My friend/pen pal is just getting started with blogging about her experience at BEA in Cindy's Love of Books. You can check her blog all week for updates.

Did you attend BEA, and did you blog about it? If so, send me a link or put one in the comments, please.

Living vicariously is worth something!!

Interesting article in Wired titled Amazon vs. Apple Be Damned: Publishers Pine for a Universal E-Book Format. There's quite a bit in the article about the anticipated future of the book publishing industry, including a focus on "blockbusters," individuals sharing e-books with each other, and non-bookstores joining the distribution game (mobile phone companies--makes sense). Definitely worth a read.