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Showing posts from July, 2010

This and That

As much as I love reading a good book, I actually love receiving a letter from someone special to me even more. As part of that love for snail mail, I added a gadget to this blog with a listing of letter writing blogs I enjoy reading.

Dream job (aside from being independently wealthy): Correspondence Secretary for the President. Answering all those letters from fifth-graders wanting to know the sitting President's favorite color, helping a college student tease out a little piece of personal information for the perfect paper, and so on.

Sigh.

I ran across a show on public television the other day that included a segment on blogger Heather Armstrong, the power behind the famous Dooce. She makes $40,000 a month from her blog. Yes, a month. Meaning, this is now a full-time business for Heather and her husband. Being eaten alive with envy. . . . (I think the earlier postings from before she became so famous and business-oriented are much better/funnier than the more recent postin…

This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia

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Synopsis for This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia (2010):

The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when al…

Into the Crossfire by Lisa Marie Rice

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Unfortunately, my high expectations and overall excitement about the latest release from Lisa Maria Rice, Into the Crossfire (2010), met with disappointment.

The first entry in the Protectors Series focuses on Sam Reston, one of three foster brothers with an unbreakable bond. After leaving the Navy SEALs on a medical discharge, Sam founded his own security company, and his new neighbor at the office building is Nicole Pearce, founder of a translation business and busy caring for her dying father.

Unknown to Nicole, she has in her possession a document that brings her to the attention of a network of terrorists. With a hired killer after her, who better to have in her corner than Sam?

Although Into the Crossfire reminded me a lot of Midnight Man, an excellent book from Rice, this one just didn't have the same chemistry and hot sex scenes. This book just seemed like a much less entertaining clone.

I also didn't find Nicole a compelling heroine, overall, and found the repeated r…

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

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Although Forget You by Jennifer Echols (2010) didn't strike me quite as strongly as her Going Too Far, probably because I prefer the heroine in her earlier book, this is still a great read.

Forget You's Zoey has plenty going on in her life--senior year in high school, swim team captain duties, a mother who attempts suicide, a jerk for a father who is about to marry the twenty-four-year-old he just knocked up, a new boyfriend (Brandon), and a boy who hates her and knows about her mom's suicide attempt (Doug).

And then Zoey gets in a car accident. One that wipes the entire evening from her mind. Why is Brandon avoiding her? And why is Doug suddenly all over her? And why is she feeling so attracted to Doug when Brandon is her boyfriend?

My favorite part about Echols' books is that she creates engaging, multi-dimensional teenagers who are dealing with complex issues--just like real teenagers. There's no fixation on the romantic relationship, either, though romance …

Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky

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Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky (2010 in English), translated by Bridget Patterson, contains short stories written in 1934 to 1941. Many of them were published in Nemirovsky's lifetime, though the collection wasn't pulled together until after the phenomenal success of Suite Francaise.

And, frankly, the stories don't live up to Suite Francaise. The earliest stories, primarily about family relationships, especially cheating husbands and mothers and daughters who are so alike yet don't communicate at all, have a flighty feel. The later stories reflect more depth, though probably still not something I'm going to remember a few years from now.

This evolution in her writing only confirms to me what a loss her early death is to the literary world in terms of what she might have written if she had lived longer. I can only imagine her deftness at describing the final years of the war and the aftermath for France in her writing. (Which I don't mean in a…

Ral's Woman by Laurann Dohner

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Ral's Woman by Laurann Dohner (2009) is a nice combination of science fiction and romance in a very quick read.

Ariel is a human woman taken captive by an alien race called the Anzons, who are desperately seeking another group of females who can mate with them for the preservation of their species. (Although not sympathetic in this book, I could easily see them serving as the focus of a future book in a positive light.) Since they aren't able to mate with Ariel/humans, she's given as a prize for the Zorns, also captured and serving as slaves for the Anzons.

Ral, leader of the group of enslaved Zorns, is the winner of the battle to determine who gets to have Ariel. Although not a situation Ariel would have chosen for herself, at least Ral treats her well.

The sex scenes are fairly graphic, though more of the "vanilla sex," meaning involving one man (Zorn, in this case) and one woman.

One generic complaint I have that seems to apply to every Ellora's Cave e-boo…

This and That

According to this article in the New York Times, Amazon is reporting a higher sale of e-books than hardcover books for the first time. The reporting period is the previous three months.

In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.

Continuing to count the days (one week!) to the release of Lisa Marie Rice's Into the Crossfire. Since I registered on HarperCollins Publishers' AuthorTracker to be notified about her new publications, I received notification today by e-mail of the release date. Included in the message is this link to the first 44 pages of the book. (And, yes, of course, the free excerpt stops in the middle of an interesting scene.)

Maya and I went to "Despicable Me" yesterday with my sister and nephew visiting from New Mexico. The movie was okay--nothing great, but also not terrible. I do wonder why women can never catch a break in these kids' movies--th…

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles

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How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles (2006), although very different than her fantastic Perfect Chemistry, doesn't disappoint.

Sixteen-year-old Amy Nelson is forced to leave Chicago for the summer to head to Israel with the father she refers to as "Sperm Donor" to meet her grandma and other paternal relatives for the very first time. And, yes, her existence is also very much a surprise to them.

Throw in the culture shock of being the American city girl, one who isn't even Jewish, learning about sheep, dealing with cousin rivalry, and meeting what has to be one of my favorite teen romance guys, Avi.

My one major complaint is a scene where Avi takes Amy to meet his Palestinian friend. Felt a little bit like a play on the old "some of my best friends are [fill in the blank]." "Well, the two of us are such close friends, so that means I can't be anti-Palestinian/he can't be anti-Semitic." Sort of a glossing over of the very real …

The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942 by Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt

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Reading about someone's life is exceptionally different than reading that person's books and short stories. I should have stuck with Nemirovsky's own writing and skipped The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942 by Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt, translated by Euan Cameron (2010 in English).

The English expression "bored to tears" comes to mind as my reaction to the biography. The early focus on Irene's parents dragged on far too long for me, to the point that I skimmed most of the rest of the book, hoping for a change in pacing.

I'm also wondering if Philipponnat and Lienhardt weren't possibly a little star-struck about their subject. Yes, I've gushed about her writing on this blog, but I'd prefer to read a biography that delved a little more deeply into some of the controversies around Nemirovsky. Or at least raised them.

Was she anti-Semitic, suffused with self-hatred, as some critics contend some of her character portrayals indi…

This and That

My friend Greg sent me this fantastic link with the subject line Really Rude "Twilight" Summary. Totally made me laugh, especially the nickname given to Jacob. (WARNING--There are plenty of spoilers. Don't follow the link if you're waiting to finish reading the series or watching the movies to learn what happens.)

Postcrossing, a service for sending and receiving postcards randomly from throughout the world, is celebrating five years on the Internet today. Check them out and consider registering if you love postcards.

I saw the movie "Knight and Day" with my best friend on Sunday. Not my cup of tea. I agree with some review that mentioned Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise having great on-screen chemistry. Her character was so stupid (yes, I still hate that word, but it fits!) for most of the movie that I just couldn't get past that in order to enjoy the show. He's dragging her all over, trying to keep her safe, and I'm thinking, "Just shoo…

As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs

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As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs (2010) generated nothing more than annoyance from me at the sheer self-absorption of the main character, Susie Gersten, during about the first half of the book.

Susie thinks she has the perfect Long Island life--wife to a successful plastic surgeon, co-owner of a floral design business that is expected to be a hobby and not an income-generator, and mom to adorable triplet boys. Not to worry about the boys getting in the way of the story or Susie's life or anything because she also has twin nannies for them and a housekeeper.

Can you hear me gagging?

Then husband Dr. Jonah Gersten doesn't come home one night. With the book cover, I don't think I'm providing a spoiler by noting that he never comes home again, and the way he supposedly died leaves Susie more than a little upset--mainly because she doesn't believe her perfect life could have been based on a marriage with a cheating husband.

I'd have to say that I found Susie exactly w…

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

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I suspect Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith, (published 2004 in French, 2006 in English, written 1941-2), is going to be my favorite book read in 2010.

Although Nemirovsky's imprisonment and death in 1942 at age 39, followed soon by that of her husband, leaving their two daughters orphaned and gone into hiding with their nanny at the ages of five and thirteen, adds a certain extra element to the novel, Nemirovsky's sheer genius in character study and writing style make this work a classic. There's something special about reading a book of fiction regarding the German occupation of France written while events unfolded, too, especially since Nemirovsky's actions in her personal life make clear her belief that her own detainment awaited her.

Starting right before the fall of Paris to German forces in 1940, Suite Francaise follows various, almost startingly different, characters in 1940 and 1941. Especially graphic is the flight of many from P…

The Last Airbender

Herb (my husband), Maya (my six-year-old daughter), and I are huge, huge fans of the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Did I say "huge" with enough emphasis there?

I can't even describe how excited we were to learn about plans for a movie version. Then we had to wait for a couple of years--seems like three years, even. The wait seemed long.

We finally saw The Last Airbender last night.

Despite going in with really low expectations after reading horrible reviews, we enjoyed the movie quite a bit. I don't know if being fans of the series added to our enjoyment level, but we certainly rank this as at least average compared to other movies we've seen. I read a review that already deemed this the worst movie of 2010--OUCH! I really don't agree.

My only complaints, moreso minor whining, about the movie are (1) the pronunciation of names is different than on the t.v. series (why do that??) and (2) they went with a multiracial look for the groups (Air No…

The Darkest Lie by Gena Showalter

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Maybe my personal romance with Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series is over. I found the last installment in the series disappointing, and I find the latest installment, The Darkest Lie (2010), even more disappointing.

The synopsis:

Forced to his knees in agony whenever he speaks the truth, Gideon can recognize any lie—until he captures Scarlet, a demon-possessed immortal who claims to be his long-lost wife. He doesn't remember the beautiful female, much less wedding—or bedding—her. But he wants to…almost as much as he wants her.

But Scarlet is keeper of Nightmares, too dangerous to roam free. A future with her might mean ultimate ruin. Especially as Gideon's enemies draw closer—and the truth threatens to destroy all he's come to love….


Although the synopsis focuses entirely on Gideon and Scarlet, there was a lot going on with the side stories of characters like Aeron and Legion. Plus, Scarlet has more than a slight family feud going with her aunt and mother. …

Petition in Support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the online petition:

"HELP Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani"

hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
service, at:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Ashtiani/

I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might
agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider
signing yourself.

Best wishes,

Maria

This and That

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Hope those of you who celebrate the Fourth of July are having a fabulous holiday weekend! We had the most fireworks going off in our neighborhood last night that I've ever seen before, and I suspect another massive round tonight.

(The photo's taken in the library where I work.)

If you're a Lisa Marie Rice fan and as anxious for the release of Into the Crossfire in 22 days as I am, you can read an excerpt in Rice's March 2010 newsletter here. Alpha male Sam Reston sounds beyond yummy--maybe reading the excerpt is a form of self-torture because I'm even more excited about the upcoming release now!

Anybody else read A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff yet? Barnes & Noble is giving the book a strong push at their online site. I tried to read the book--really I did, but I just couldn't get into either Wolff's writing style or her protagonist. Anyone else read this one yet? What did you think?

I won't be writing a blog posting about A Vintage Affair becaus…

Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman

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Laura Lippman's collection of short stories titled Hardly Knew Her (2008) is well-written, riveting, dark, and not for this reader.

I felt dragged under while reading this collection. Although I'll probably long remember at least a couple of the stories, I just didn't care for the way the very worst came out in every single story's main character due to life circumstances and personal choices.

I really struggled to read all the way through the collection, and I'm now wondering why I worked so hard to keep reading. I certainly didn't do myself any favors or learn any valuable information or life lesson as a result of my forced reading.

I walked away with, completely twisting the original Anne Frank quote, the thought that every person is essentially evil and self-absorbed at heart. Ugh.

Learn more at the author's site here.

My overall personal rating of Hardly Knew Her is a C+.

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

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Insatiable (2010) is the latest from Meg Cabot, of Princess Diaries fame, and the first book in a new series aimed more at the adult paranormal romance market.

Meena Harper is a writer for a popular soap opera with an odd personal ability. She can tell exactly how everyone she meets is going to die, despite really not wanting to be able to.

Lucien Antonescu is a professor who also happens to be a Romanian vampire prince. He enters Meena's world when visiting New York to unravel the mystery of which rogue vampire/serial killer is draining his female victims.

Insatiable is long on interesting character development, and not just in terms of Meena and Lucien. The supporting cast is well-developed, too. I particularly enjoyed Alaric Wulf, part of the Palatine Guard, created by the Catholic Church to fight demons--at least in this book.

Overall, if you're looking for a fun, quirky paranormal romance read, you can't do much better than this one. Just keep in mind that, being the…

One Tiny Starfish--Blog

A new-to-me blog I've been enjoying living through vicariously--I mean, reading--is One Tiny Starfish, written by a young Canadian woman named Nikki.

According to a part of her Who Am I section:

I love reading (my two favourites are Gone With the Wind and The Kite Runner) and love everything to do with travel. I read adoption blogs obsessively and hope to adopt my kids in the future. I don't think I would ever be happy living a 'normal' life in Canada. I am pretty sure I will end up living in a foreign country and working with families in poverty for the rest of my life... just not sure yet which country I will end up in! I have a list of countries I want to travel to, and the top 3 on the list are India, Thailand, and Rwanda. Up until 2009, Ethiopia and Haiti were #1 and 2 on the list, until I was able to travel to both those countries. I would love to go back.

Recent entries are all about her just-ended trip to India and Thailand.