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Showing posts from January, 2011

Blog Everything?

I've been reading a lot of novellas recently. Mainly filled with lots of sex and a little short on, say, character development and plot. Or, really, a lot short on character development and plot.

Sometimes I blog about novellas I particularly like, especially when they're surprisingly well-developed, or as a warning when, for example, I think a novella by a relatively well-known author isn't marketed as being much shorter than his/her usual books while coming with the usual kind of pricing expected for a longer work. Most of the time, though, I don't comment on the shorter works I'm reading.

My questions of the day for you if you're a blogger who writes about what s/he's reading: Do you blog about every book you read? If not, what is/are the reason(s) you choose not to blog about some of the books you read?

This and That

Underworld 4: New Dawn starts filming in Vancouver in March. Kate Beckinsale's back (yeah, Selene), but there doesn't seem to be a mention of Scott Speedman (disappointing). Okay, I loved the first movie, hated the second, and liked the third in the series. The first movie is so much better than anything Twilight-related, so why, why, why did they feel the need to go with a Twilight-inspired title for the fourth movie? I'm already pretty sure I'm not going to care for this fourth movie. Sigh.

Any other Underworld fans out there?

Great defense of English public libraries, in even more dire straits than their American counterparts, in a speech by author Philip Pullman, as printed here.

In part:

Nor do I think we should respond to the fatuous idea that libraries can stay open if they’re staffed by volunteers. What patronising nonsense. Does he think the job of a librarian is so simple, so empty of content, that anyone can step up and do it for a thank-you and a cup of …

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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Yes, I realize the photo is for the movie East of Eden, not the book. However, I've been in love with James Dean for, literally, thirty years, so why not use some eye candy instead of a relatively boring book cover for the blog posting??

Originally published in 1952, John Steinbeck's East of Eden is considered an American classic, and certainly not without cause. He has the quintessential Cain-Abel (Cal and Aron, in this instance) story, plus a lot of details about life in Salinas Valley, California, in the early years of the twentieth century.

The beginning of the book is slow to the point that I almost fell asleep, and reading never puts me to sleep. If you can get past, or just skip, the beginning, you'll be rewarded with the descriptions of relationships and how tangled lives and families actually can be.

As an aside, the movie has a "happier," albeit not exactly happy, ending than the book, and also shows a love triangle between the two brothers and a loca…

Timeless by Alexandra Monir

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The basic premise of Timeless by Alexandra Monir (2011) sounded exactly like something I'd enjoy reading:

Forced to live with her wealthy, estranged grandparents in New York City after her mother dies, sixteen-year-old Michele retreats to her room, where she finds a diary that transports her back to 1910--with life-changing consequences.

There's what should be a lovely blend of family history (involving, of course, secrets), meeting ancestors, a passion for music, and her own romance with a boy she dreamt about before going back in time.

Instead, for me, the writing style didn't appeal, and the ending is one of those very annoying "oh, yes; there's definitely going to be a sequel" endings. Not that I cared enough about this first book to read any sequels. . . .

Short sample of the writing, from the beginning of Chapter 2:

When the bell rang for lunch a few hours later, Michele jumped out of her seat, relieved to have calculus class behind her. Math was definitel…

This and That

Anyone have any suggestions for good books to read for discussion groups? I just started an e-mail discussion group for the hospital where I work. Our first (and current) selection is Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning. Next, we'll read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

We tried having a book club where we held discussions over lunch, but that quickly fizzled because people couldn't get away from their work obligations to meet. Having only two or three people at a discussion just doesn't generate enough conversation. I'm hoping for success with the e-mail format, plus allowing six full weeks for each book.

Wish us luck, please!

Bad news, as reported by the Wall Street Journal here, for those of us addicted to personal mail:

Beginning in March, the agency [the USPS] will start the process of closing as many as 2,000 post offices, on top of the 491 it said it would close starting at the end of last year. In addition, it is reviewing another 16,000—half of t…

Bedtime Stories

Maya and I attended the third annual Bedtime Stories at her school last night.

Reading partners read books, alternating page-by-page, in English and another language. At Maya's school, 87 of the 567 students speak one of twelve languages other than English as their primary language. The top non-English languages at her school are Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic, so those were the language choices for the three books read.

Kids wear their pajamas and enjoy cookies while listening to the stories. We had a great time, and I'm glad this is an annual event at her school now.

Religulous

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Another "catch up" movie I saw during our free preview weekend is Religulous (like Ridiculous) (2008), Bill Maher's take on the cost, so to speak, of religion.

Since we no longer get HBO, I've missed watching Maher's show, so I really enjoyed the chance to see him again. I always appreciate his snarky wit, and he certainly makes a point of talking with interesting people for this movie.

Maher does make some valid points about organized religion in an entertaining manner while traveling the world to film this movie. I looked into a couple of points he made that seemed a bit far-fetched and over-the-top, thinking he might be exaggerating to make his point, and they're actually true.

If you're deeply religious and easily offended, you probably don't want to waste your time on this film. Unless, maybe, you struggle with low blood pressure and need some help getting to a higher number. If you're an atheist or someone who enjoys Maher's style, this…

Planet X by Evangeline Anderson

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Planet X by Evangeline Anderson (2006) is a science fiction/erotic romance from my TBR pile that I'm wondering why I waited so long to read.

Krisa Elyison is heading from finishing school (read: The Obedient Arranged Bride Academy) to join her future husband, someone who has bought paid for the privilege of her hand in marriage and her virginity. Kurt Teague is a former slave and current prisoner blindfolded and manacled on board the same starship.

What happens when Teague causes their spaceship to crash-land on a wild planet filled with a race of cannibals and hungry predators (like big cats) with psychic powers? Can Krisa trust Teague, someone known for this "knife work" during the murders he committed, to keep her alive and return her to her future husband? And will either of them ever be the same after their time together?

Oh, yes, a Good Girl and an Alpha Male Bad Boy with a Good Heart. Yum!

For the entire reading of the book, I had the image and voice of Vin Diesel…

Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart

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If you're a fan of Megan Hart's usual writings (erotica), Precious and Fragile Things (2010) may not be the book for you. Erotica quotient here equals zero. Dark story of a modern woman losing herself under the ever-present demands of her life taken by a stranger with whom she forms an unusual bond is a quotient of ten.

p.20-21 of the NookBook:

Tonight a man had held her at knifepoint and threatened to take away that tomorrow with its lists and chores and demands. If nothing else, no matter what else happened, how things turned out, Gilly would not have to heave her weary body out of bed and force herself to get through one more day. If she was really unfortunate, and a glance at the twitching young man beside her told her she might be, she might never have to get out of bed again.

The thought didn't scare here as much as it should have.


Hart creates a Gilly I can completely relate to in this story, but I didn't feel the "young man" (Todd) reached the same full…

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. April 4, 1967

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.

Segregation is the adultery of an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. 1963

All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

The Messenger

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Yes, I'm slightly behind here, but I finally saw The Messenger (2009), starring Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton last weekend when we had a free preview of TMC.

Foster, who has very eclectic taste in the roles he selects (and always shines), plays Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, recovering from active-duty wounds and now assigned to the Casualty Notification Team. Harrelson plays Captain Tony Stone, Montgomery's partner and trainer for his new role in notifying Army personnel's next-of-kin of the death. Morton plays one of the people notified about the death of her loved one, and she becomes much more than that to Montgomery.

This is easily one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. There isn't a single misstep in casting, not even down to the smallest role. The one point someone might see as a negative, although I didn't, is there isn't a lot happening in the way of action or a plot for this movie. It's more of a "slice of…

Afghan Women's Project

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I haven't posted about guilt-free shopping in a bit, so here's a chance to make a difference in the lives of women and children while also adding a cool t-shirt to your wardrobe. The t-shirt costs $25, plus $4 shipping and handling, and you can pay by credit card or PayPal.

Why Not Guilty? Because there are women--and their young children right along with them--being imprisoned for "moral crimes" like leaving their husbands, most likely not their husbands by choice in the first place, either.

Statistics from the Afghan Women's Project, a site that sells the t-shirt and accepts donations.

Afghan women still have the highest maternal mortality rate. (1 in 7)
82% are illiterate
90% are subjected to domestic abuse
70% of all marriages are forced with 60% of brides under 16, some as young as 6.


I'm just sick thinking that I could live in a country where I had to stay with my husband, regardless of how he treated me, or face a jail sentence for myself and my daughte…

Huckleberry Finn--The Latest Controversy

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn--controversial from Day One of publication, no doubt. And also a standard in the reading curriculum in many public American high schools. (My husband, notably educated in South Carolina, didn't have to read the book.)

See The New York Times in Do Word Changes Alter Huckleberry Finn? and Should Mark Twain Be Allowed to Use the N-word? in one of the Wall Street Journal blogs to read about the current controversy surrounding a limited edition of the book, marketed to high schools, with the replacement of the "n word" with "slave."

Unnecessary Censorship or Necessary Evil? So read the original subject line on the notice sent to one of my library discussion lists. And that's the same terminology I used in my new blog poll. Please vote!

My personal take is two-fold. The word "slave" in no way, shape, or form holds the same connotation as the other word. While no one wants to be a slave, you can objectively be classi…

Explosive by Beth Kery

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My favorite part of Explosive by Beth Kery (2010) is the cover.

Physician Sophie Gable and investment advisor, and ex-NAVY explosives expert, Thomas Nicasio finally get together at her lake house after months of heated glances and slight interactions. When Tom returns to Chicago after spending the night with her, Sophie follows him to find out what's happening.

Tom's dealing with a lot--the recent deaths of his brother and nephew, his adoptive father's investigation for ties to organized crime, and a case of amnesia that keeps him from even remembering his night with Sophie. For her part, Sophie wants to help him, but she also has guilty feelings about being involved with Tom when he's ill and about the inside information she knows, and shouldn't, from a colleague about his dead brother.

The suspense isn't very suspenseful, at all, and the story drags. The amnesia seems more like a story ploy to justify Tom being a little slow at putting pieces together, and th…

True Grit

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My mom, Maya, and I finally made it to see the 2010 True Grit on Saturday. I heard glowing reports about the movie from several people, and I've heard a lot of buzz for an Academy Award for Jeff Bridges being likely.

I also went in expecting to love the movie. Jeff Bridges is, after all, a true actor. John Wayne, frankly, always played John Wayne, regardless of the role. John Wayne as a movie star? Yes. As an actor? Not so much. My dad loved John Wayne movies (along with Charles Bronson and Old School Clint Eastwood), and I'm sure I've seen every movie Wayne ever made more than once, leaving me feeling pretty secure in that personal assessment.

Imagine my shock to spend the entire movie wishing to be at home catching an AMC run of the original 1969 True Grit. The new version just didn't carry the same weight. Even the "bad guys" are a sorry lot, more than anything else. What's up with that?

Mental note for future reference: Westerns are probably…

Kismet by Monica Burns

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The latest book removed from my TBR pile is Kismet by Monica Burns (2010).

Allegra Synnford is a success at the "when life hands you lemons" game. Sold to a brothel by her mother, she's now a successful courtesan, able to support her niece and choose which men she has as lovers. She's smart and interesting, and she actually befriends the men who support her, helping them advance through her advice.

Traveling to Morocco, Allegra finds herself eventually under the control of Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh (think Bedouin). Since Shaheen's actually Viscount Newcastle and currently being sought by his cousin (and a one-time lover of Allegra's), he needs to keep Allegra in order to avoid having his true identity revealed.

Throw in a long-time enemy of Shaheen's who has an interest in revenge and Allegra, and you have a decent mix of adventure and romance.

I wasn't terribly sold on the idea of a romance between the two main characters, though. I didn't re…

Kidnapping Casey by Laurann Dohner

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Kidnapping Casey (2010) is the second installment in Laurann Dohner's Zorn Warriors series. The Zorn are aliens (as in another planet).

Argernon, brother of Ral from Ral's Woman, is visiting Earth to learn more about the planet. He saves Casey from a couple of deputies in the woods by her house.

She originally thinks he's Sasquatch, a legend come to life, and wonders if she can find a way to keep him. Instead, he takes her to his spaceship, planning to keep her.

If you're looking for romance with a science fiction component, and plenty of sex, all in a quick read, the Zorn Warriors series might work well for you.

So far, there are four books in the series, and I'm certain to read, and blog about, the two most recent entries at some point. For now, you can learn more at the author's site here.

My overall personal rating of Kidnapping Casey is a B-.

Al Pacino

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Fate gave me a kindness last month, leaving me to land on Larry King's interview with Al Pacino. I watched maybe a handful of Larry King shows in my life, so I'm amazed I happened to flip past CNN at the right time to catch one of my all-time favorite actors.

And, yes, he seemed just as interesting in the interview as he always does in his screen roles. The inside tidbits, like the fact that they almost dropped him from The Godfather, how watching Marlon Brandon in On the Waterfront generated his interest in acting, and that he's actully shy (yes, I can see why women flock to him), made this such fun to watch.

Okay, you can move on with your life now that you've had a piece of solid eye candy!

A Scrap of Time and Other Stories by Ida Fink

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I can already guarantee that the short story collection, A Scrap of Time and Other Stories by Ida Fink (English edition, 1995, translated from the original Polish by Madeline Levine and Francine Prose), is going to make my list of favorite reads of 2011.

After spending part of World War II in the Zbaraz (Poland) ghetto, author Fink escaped and spent the rest of the war in hiding with fake papers. She later emigrated to Israel, where she lives today, now retired from her position at Yad Vashem (highly recommended by me as a place to visit if you have the fortune to get to Jerusalem one day).

Fink's personal experience, both during the war and while conducting interviews of other survivors for Yad Vashem, and deep feeling illuminate almost every one of the stories in this fictional collection about the Holocaust. Each story is literally a "scrap of time" in the lives of the characters.

Not surprisingly, the two stories I felt the most as a reader involved young children. I…

This and That

Returning to the Real World (read: work and home life responsibilities) after a few days in a house where you can just relax, not have to worry about cleaning, and concentrate on your daughter and other family members is stressful. I'm ready for a post-vacation vacation! Preferably to somewhere warm and beautiful. . . .

Interesting piece from Onnesha Roychoudhuri, Books after Amazon, in the Boston Review here. You'll want to go to your nearest independent bookstore, or directly to a small publisher, after reading this unflattering portrayal of Barnes & Noble, Borders, Wal-Mart, Target, and, especially, Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

The conclusion:

Cheap books are easy on our wallets, but behind the scenes publishers large and small have been deeply undercut by the rise of large retailers and predatory pricing schemes. Unless publishers push back, Amazon will take the logic of the chains to its conclusion. Then publishers and readers will finally know what happens when you sell a …

Rappers

Conversation between my husband and me on Saturday:

Me: "So, we're watching Carson Daly's New Year's show from Times Square, and he says the greatest living rapper is coming out next. Guess who it was?"

Herb: "Eminem."

Me: "No."

Herb: "Jay-Z?"

Me: "No."

Herb: "Who?"

Me: "Lil Wayne."

Herb: "Oh, hell no!"

Me: "I know! I kept waiting for Eminem to come out and push him off the stage, but no such luck."

So that's the reason for my latest poll question on the sidebar. And, since it's a little hard to read, here it is:

The greatest LIVING rapper is:
Eminem
Jay-Z
Lil Wayne
Snoop Dogg
I don't know and couldn't care less

Thanks for participating!

Family Photos

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Some photos from our late Christmas/early birthday for my sister gathering in Iowa. My oldest nephew, Andrew from Iowa, and niece, Amanda from New Mexico, weren't with us, along with my husband and my sister Michele's husband.

Maya with Liz, 18, my niece from Iowa, and Garrett, 14, my nephew from New Mexico


My sister Laura and her daughter Liz


My sister Michele and her son Garrett


Maya and me


Laura, Michele, our mom, and me


Maya lost her tooth while we were in Iowa