Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bone Man's Daughters Audio Book *Review*

I finished this audio book on the way to Bible study tonight and all alone in the car I said "Wow." This book has been on my radar for several months now. One of my friends one day told me she doesn't read Christian fiction because it's too "boring." And some of it is. Some of the Christian fiction I have read is too goody-goody, sweetness and nice all tied up in a bow. This is not one of those.
They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who's abducted six young women. He's the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die. Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan's estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.
Author Ted Dekker is a Christian author who likes to explore the struggle between good and evil. BoneMan is definitely evil. Narrator Robert Petkoff does a wonderful job in the voices he uses for each character. You get a sense of the anguish Ryan feels at the possible loss of his daughter to the serial killer and the voice he uses for Bone Man is creepy. Really creepy.
I sat entranced listening to how the story was unfolding and there were many times I found myself holding my breath as I waited to see what would happen next. The story pulled me in right from the beginning as we find Ryan captured by insurgents and forced to come to the conclusion that the collateral damage of war (the innocent women and children who die) are not worth the price. The terrorist who is holding Ryan hostage actually makes us feel sorry for him and what he is going through and makes Ryan come to a new understanding about war.
Back in the states, as Ryan is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being made to watch horrific acts the terrorist uses to make his point, we are introduced to Ryan's wife and daughter. Ryan's wife has been left a lonely military wife for too long and has fallen in love with someone else and his daughter Bethany has written off her absent father. Neither particularily care if Ryan comes back into their lives since he has never been a big part of it. But now Ryan realizes how much he loves his daughter and how much he wants to make it all up to them and be the father and husband he's never been.
When Bone Man kidnaps Bethany from her home Ryan does everything in his power to save her from becoming another of this madman's fatalities. The way Bone Man kills his victims is by breaking their bones one by one. This will make you squirm and cringe as you listen to it but otherwise this book is not overly graphic. A highly recommended, non-fluffy Christian read.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Friday 56


* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.

* Turn to page 56.*

Find the fifth sentence.

* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.
Keiko looked at Henry like he'd woken her from a wonderful dream.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Bookstore is a Dangerous Place for a Book Blogger to use the WiFi

Still stuck with dial up internet at home (I live in the boonies and I will NOT pay the price for satellite internet) I sometimes have to travel to places that have WiFi in order to update my family blog on Wordpress, my troop's Boy Scout website or By Book or By Crook.

There is an excellent pizza place I go to for a mini pizza on my lunchbreak that's relatively close to work that works well. If I have a lot of time I will pop over to the library but it's way across town so I don't do that all too often. My favorite- and most dangerous- place to haunt lately has been our local bookstore with WiFi and a coffee shop.

I try to get a lot of work done there, really I do but the shelves speak to me. I hear whispers and I swear sometimes the pictures on the book covers glow because I will catch a book out of the corner of my eye that would no way be in my field of vision if it would not glow.

I'll be updating our Boy Scout website about an upcoming hike we need to start preparing for and a whisper from the Regional section behind me will "psst" me that there's an excellent book on Hiking Trails in Minnesota.

I'll be updating my family blog and thinking of conversations I've had with my grandparents when a hum will come from the author coffee mugs they have sitting on a shelf near the coffee shop counter.

And when I'm visiting other book blogs or trying to write one of my own you might as well just forget it! The covers of books you have never heard of until a day or two ago all of a sudden just jump out at you from the shelves! I'll be walking through the fiction aisle looking for an Audrey Niffeneggar when a Kate Morton pushes her aside and then you know the gift card you got for Christmas will not even begin to cover the tax of what you'll be walking out with today.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Imperial Cruise *Review* + Audio Book Giveaway!

In the summer of 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt dispatched the largest diplomatic mission in American history. Led by Secretary of War (and future president) William Howard Taft, the group traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific, docking in Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China and Korea. Along for the ride was Teddy's daughter, Alice, a media darling known for her wild behavior. She was not there by accident: her father knew that Alice would be an effective distraction for the reporters covering the journey. And Roosevelt had very good reason to keep his true motives concealed.

During this trip, Taft on Roosevelt's behalf, would negotiate a series of secret- and wholly unconstitutional- agreements that would lay the groundwork for America's Pacific engagement. These invisable treatises- brokered with the sliver of Asians that Roosevelt deemed "civilized" by virtue of their adoption of Western ways- would lead to World War II in the Pacific, the triumph of communism in China, the Korean War, and, within decades, tens of millions dead. The full details and implications of Roosevelt's illicit pacts would remain largely unknown until his own death, and then be effectively erased from the textbooks.

A century later, James Bradley, traveled in the wake of Roosevelt's imperial cruise, finally rediscovering what had actually transpired in Honolulu, Tokyo, Manila, Beijing, and Seoul. What he found will forever change the way you think about American history and the origins of war and empire in Asia.

Before reading this book all I really could tell you about President Roosevelt was what I learned from watching A Night at the Museum. As I'm sure I've said before- history, or rather recent history, is not my thing. But even being up on the history books would not have taught me that President Roosevelt was considered the "war" president, that he created a public persona that was totally different then who he really was, and that he was sharply biased when it came to race.

I find it amazing on how far we have come in the last 100 years on the race issue. I know many would argue that we haven't come far enough (and we haven't) and we still have a long way to go (which we do). But the myths and lies that Roosevelt and the group on his diplomatic mission perpetuated were unbelievable. President Roosevelt thought of the Philipino peoples as "dog eaters" and set up a recreated village at the World's Fair to help the American people "understand" how barbaric these aboriginals were. He believed they were stupid, illiterate, and unable to be educated because they could not read, write, or speak English. In his mind this justified the killing of countless people in the Phillipines in a few short years.

On the other hand, the Japanese people were considered to be more like the American people then any other race he encountered because they so readily embraced the American culture.

Author James Bradley spent years researching the Teddy Roosevelt that nobody knew about. he read over 300 books and traveled to multiple countries to uncover what really happened on what the author has deemed The Imperial Cruise.

Because of all the dates and geographical locations this audio book encompasses I sometimes had a hard time following it. I am more of a visual person so seeing the dates and facts printed on a page would have stuck with me better. This book would make an excellent PBS miniseries or special and the narrator Richard Poe would be the just the person to bring it to life on the screen.

I did enjoy this audio book although I felt it was a bit long and I feel like I have a lot better understanding of this period of our nation's history. Anybody interested in history, Roosevelt, or wars would appreciate this book and that is why I'm giving one lucky reader a chance to win this audio book!

To enter the giveaway leave a comment below with which President you find most intriguing or one you would like to learn more about.

+1 entry for following By Book or By Crook (let me know in a seperate comment)

Open to U.S. and Canada only.

Please include an email address in your comment and you will be entered to win- it's that easy! Winners will be randomly selected February 6th. Good luck!

The Pearl *Review*

Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the Gulf beds that once brought wealth to the kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull's egg, as "perfect as the moon." With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security...

A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man's nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.

This classic novel by John Steinbeck was mentioned in my Bible study class last Thursday. Jeff Cavins, in his Adventures in Matthew 24-part study, was explaining some of the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13.

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Kino, instead, gets overcome by greed and dreams of all the things he can buy after selling his pearl. He hides it in different areas of his hut. Men, jealous and greedy as well after seeing the size of the pearl, try to break in and steal it. Kino starts to get paranoid that his every movement is being followed and starts across the mountains to go to the capital to try to sell it where he can get more money from it. Kino's wife Juana sees the evil this pearl has brought into their lives and begs Kino to get rid of it. This tragic folk story shows what can happen when wealth comes before everything else in our lives.
The Kingdom of Heaven is worth more than any pearl in the ocean and all other notions should be set aside as we strive to become a part of it.
I enjoyed this book very much and have recommended my son read it as well. It's a short book at 90 pages but it's message is very powerful.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Son, Tourette's and the *Review* of Jerk, California

Twitch, Jerk, Freak
Sam Carrier has been called them all. Because of his Tourette Syndrome, Sam is in near constant motion with tics and twitches and verbal outbursts. So, of course, high school is nothing but torment. Forget friends; forget even hoping that beautiful, perfect Naomi will look his way. And home isn't much better with his domineering stepfather reminding him that the only person who was more useless than Sam was his dead father, James. But then an unexpected turn of events unearths the truth about his father. And suddenly Sam doesn't know who he is, or even where he'll go next. What he does know is that the only girl in the world who can make him happy and nervous all at the same time is everywhere he turns and he'd give anything to just be still.
Zachary: Jerk, California was a book that I could somewhat relate to. Even though the character had Tourette's worse then me I still know how he felt. I liked all the turn of events, the struggles he faced every day, and some of the funniness of the book. It was a very good book until the ending which ticked me off. The ending didn't fulfill my wishes for the characters. My favorite part of the book was when Jack moved in with Coot. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who likes adventure books, and death, and cats, and butter.
Angie: I had to chuckle at Zach's last rambling line. He would have kept going had I not laughed at him! First, I have to explain how we came to read this book that I had never heard of before. We were in the library last week and Zach was struggling to find a book that looked interesting to him. I was walking up and down the rows trying to help him pick one out when up ahead I saw a red book hanging half off the shelf. I walked ahead to push it back in so it wouldn't fall when the title caught my eye- Jerk, California. I pulled it off the shelf instead and when I read the inside front cover I knew I had the book. Zachary my 14 year-old son has Tourette Syndrome. I knew a book about a character that also had Tourette's would interest him. I was right. After reading it in a day and a half he insisted I read it as well. I looked at my own large stack of books on the coffee table that I was itching to read, looked back at my son and immediately said yes.
Zach read this book faster then I did- and liked it more. But I could relate to it as well. I could see some of the motions that Sam/Jack had were the same ones I saw in my son. I could understand how someone could hate the disease so much, but I definitely could not relate to the stepfather who hated the person because of the disease. Tourette's tics and vocal bursts are not something that can be controlled. I would never look upon my son with anger or embarassment like Old Bill. Zach's twitches and little noises are a part of who he is and I love him all the more because of them.
The author, Jonathan Friesen, lives in Minnesota and this is where the book is set. Jonathan also has Tourette's and is available for speaking at schools or groups about a number of topics, including A Life with Tourette Syndrome, Journaling, and several on writing. You can contact him at .

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Friday 56

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Jerks, like popcorn, explode every muscle on my left side, but it no longer matters. Poor Mom. Having to watch the thing I've become.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Matter of Class *Review*

Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by birth, a factor that pains him and his father, Bernard Mason, within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family. Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Bernard wished to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Bernard serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in the suffering.

So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love- a story in which very little is as it seems.

I have to say I enjoyed this book and I wasn't really expecting to. It's not that I hate romances, in fact, I love them if they are done well and woven within a mystery or suspense or fantasy novel- pretty much anything but a straight romance. Too me, a lot of romances are too predictable and fluffy. Nothing that really grips you and sucks you in.

And even though this book was not particularily gripping it had a different kind of plot twist that as obtuse as I am did NOT see coming. (Probably everybody else is now chuckling at my denseness because they saw it coming a mile away!)

I really can't tell you any more about the plot of the book other than the synopsis above because telling you more then that would give away more then I want to. I'm not good at keeping secrets.This was my first Mary Balogh novel and I enjoyed it enough I would want to try another.

Are you a romance reader? What authors would you recommend reading that mix romance with a really good story?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cleaving *Review*

Riding on the heels of her first book, author Julie Powell's Cleaving: A Story of Meat, Marraige and Obsession was ripe to be a best seller. Turning in her kitchen apron for a butcherhouse cleaver seemed a natural progression. But instead of a fairly good book, which I was hoping for, I encountered a car wreck from the very beginning.

Julie's profanity laced, self indulgent, embarrassingly over honest memoir is not good at all. If Ms. Powell had stuck with the "meat" of the story there might be some redeeming qualities about it. On this topic, meat, Julie is passionate. She sees a slab of animal flesh as a work of art just ready to be sectioned, deboned, and frenched. And she seems to be good at it.

It's when she moves to the marraige and obsession parts of her book, which is the vast majority of pages, that this reader wishes it would qualify as a short story. Julie shares way too much of her failing marraige and subsequent affair with her lover D. Much more than I, or anyone else needs to know. When Julie tries to come across as honest and clever in her confessions she comes across more like pathetic and desperately in need of a therapist.

The only redeeming quality of the book was reading about the author's travels to Argentina, the Ukraine and Tanzania. Here we meet some likable characters and learn a little about their culture. If you could excise the rest of the fat out of this book you might have a grade A cut of a book. Since you can't, I would recommend you not even bother with this porker.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain *Review*

He was born in the middle of Europe in the middle of the twentieth century at the start of the Cold War. In his graphic memoir, Peter Sis tells what life was like for a boy who loved to draw and make music, who joined the Young Pioneers, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, passed Louis Armstrong in a snowstorm, longed for blue jeans and Beatles-style boots, let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, listened to jammed radio, and traveled with the Beach Boys when they toured Czechoslavakia. Peter Sis's story of growing up under a totalitarian regime proves that creativity can be discouraged but not easily killed, and that the desire to be free came naturally to a generation of young people behind the Iron Curtain.
Author Peter Sis draws us into life, both literally and figuratively, in Czechoslavakia during the Cold War in this compelling graphic novel of his childhood and adolescence. So many public displays of loyalty were compulsory and children were encouraged to spy on their families and classmates for actions and opinions that were contrary to Communist party beliefs.
I didn't realize the extent to which their lives and creativity were stifled. Czech teens had to resort to making their own electric guitars and hiding them in basements and attics. Long hair was considered a sign of Western decadence and if caught the police had orders to cut it.
In 1968 when censorship was slowly starting to lift, Western influence began to filter in. They heard about a "wild woman named Elvis Presley" only to find out the she was a he! Western music became more readily available and blue jeans were allowed (although no one could afford them) and the Harlem Globetrotters visited Prague. It was a time of freedom and euphoria albeit short lived.
The author's illustrations are mostly pen and ink, but Communist red stands out in almost every drawing. In just a few short lines on each page this book gave me a deeper understanding about life behind the Iron Curtain before perestroika and glasnost were introduced to the Soviet Union.
Housed in the juvenile section of our library, though easy enough to read, I feel this book is better suited to young adults.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Concise King *Review*

The Concise King is a compilation of featured recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborn Carson, Peter Holloran and Kris Shepard. Eight speeches of Dr. King were chosen including of course two of his most recognized: I Have a Dream and I've Been to the Mountaintop.

Both of these speeches I have heard throughout the years in bits and pieces and TV clips. Never have I actually sat down and listened to them in their entirety. Not one for listening to political ramblings I didn't know if I would enjoy listening to this 3 hour CD or even finish it. But I was entranced.

Dr. King has a passion for his message and an overpowering love for the poeple to whom he is speaking. His speeches start out slow. Not dull slow, but in thoughtfully articulated words and carefully organized sentences. Soon the pace picks up and by the end of the speech Dr. King's voice is raised in volume, quickening in tempo and tremoring with excitement and the importance of the message.

I was totally captivated not only by the sound of his voice but the strength of his message. A couple of lines in particular that really stood out for me and I found to be most eloquent were from his Where Do We Go from Here speech:

"Let us be dissatisfied until men recognize that out of one blood God made all men that dwell upon the face of the earth. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout white power, when nobody will shout black power, but everybody will talk about God's power and human power!"

Though that speech was given August 16th, 1967, less than 2 months before I was born, it is sadly still relevant today. Let none of us be satisfied until Dr. King's message of love and acceptance is written upon the hearts of our children and imprinted in the minds of the next generation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Arrival *Review*

A stop at the library yesterday netted a first for me- a graphic novel. I have never read a graphic novel before but after reading a post written by At Home With Books I figured I had to give it a try. It seems graphic novels aren't just glorified Spiderman comic books similar to what my son picked out to use for his Reading merit badge for Boy Scouts several years ago.

Several graphic novels were listed in the post but alas, my regional library only carried two of them so I came home with both. The novel I sat down with yesterday- The Arrival by Shaun Tan, was not only my first graphic novel it was also my first ever wordless book (is that cheating?). I figured this 128p. book would be an easy start for me and I would be pounding out a review in just under 1/2 hour. Surprisingly, it took me a couple of hours to "read".

Without words, each picture must be carefully perused to make sure hidden meanings and subtle nuances are not overlooked. Each sepia-toned square of artwork tells a small part of the big story. When we see, after the main character boards a ship, 60 pictures of sky and clouds we understand the length of the journey he must endure as he leaves his homeland in search of a better life for him and his family. When we see the lines of people in the immigration halls we see the hour after hour wait to get identification papers. When we see the look of confusion and hopelessness on our hero's face we understand how hard it is to communicate with others who speak a language so foreign from their own.

I will admit I will never look at a graphic novel as just a comic book again. And while it will probably never be one of my favorite genres, I am intrigued enough to try a couple more. Do you read many graphic novels? What are some you would recommend?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane *Review*

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a book I had been wanting to read for a long time. After just reading The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent, I didn't know if I wanted to wade into another book about the Salem Witch Trails but The Heretic's Daughter had left me a little unfulfilled.

In my local Wal-Mart store a $5.00 hardcover promotion caught my eye when there big as you please a copy of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe had been conjured up. Not one to let an opportunity like this pass me by I grabbed one of the few remaining copies and headed to the self checkout.

The dust cover reads: Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written on it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest- to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, it's pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall in place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's past than she could have ever imagined.

Rarely does the printed word indulge all 5 of your senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. The author, Katherine Howe has an incredible gift of describing things without using forced similes. I can see what Connie sees, I can feel what she feels.

I can see the thick layer of dust on every surface of her grandmother's abandoned house and the sunlight as it tries to shine through it on the window panes. I can feel the cold escape the old-fashioned icebox as Connie opens it on a warm summer day, and the moistness of the damp grass as Connie's bare heels dip into it as she stretches on a blanket on the ground.

Crawling in between the covers and settling in amongst the pages made me feel so much a part of the story that there was almost an other worldliness quality about it, which probably caused me to rate it in my mind much higher then the storyline deserved.

Though not a 5-star book it was a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it just on the basis of the author's descriptive gift and way with words.

Is there a book that has made you feel like you could see, taste, hear, smell and feel exactly what the character does? Let me know what it was!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Results of the Virtual Book Club Vote

The votes are in! The Virtual Book Club has picked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Coming in a close second, and now a now on reserve for me at the library is Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Laura from the Calico Critic's comment was the one that convinced me to read it.

And what did the Bookies book club choose? They also chose Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet!

The Friday 56

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.

* Turn to page 56.

* Find the fifth sentence.

* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.

*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.

* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Appleton just glimpsed Goodman Dane brush his fingertips over his wife's knee, and in that tender gesture the true depth of Dane's fear unfurled before him. To have one's wife talked about as a sorcerer was a worrisome thing indeed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Virtual Book Club

The book club that I am in- hosted by Sheila of One Person's Journey Through a World of Books- met last night to review The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. While I did not personally think it was a great book it seemed to get decent reviews from the other members of the club. At the end of the review we usually rate the book on a 1-5 scale. There were a lot of 4's going around the table. I ended up rating it a 2.5. (see review here).

The floor was then opened up for nomination's for next months read. A long time ago we decided that the February book should be a romance read in honor of Valentine's Day. However, many of us do not particularily care for a straight bodice ripping romance book. So, most of our nominations this month do not fit into the romance category but here they are:

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare- Teenager Clary discovers she can see supernatural beings that no one else can, gets drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters (teens who kill demons and monsters) and learns that her mother is mysteriously connected to all the strange happenings around her. (Publisher's Weekly)

Blue Like Jazz By Donald Miller- Miller is a young writer, speaker, and campus ministry leader. An earnest evangelical who nearly lost his faith, he went on a spiritual journey, found some progressive politics and most importantly, discovered Jesus' relevance for everyday life. This book, in it's own elliptical way, tells the story of that journey.(Publisher's Weekly)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin- The escapades of the Greek Gods and heroes get a fresh spin in the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a contemporary 12-year old New Yorker who learns he's a demigod. (Booklist)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford- Henry Lee is a 12-year old Chinese boy who falls in love with Keiko Okabe, a 12-year old japanese girl, while they are scholarship students in a prestigious private school in World War II Seattle. Henry hides the relationship from his parents who would disown him if they knew he had a Japanese friend. (Schoolibrary Journal)

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks-The story of John Tyree, a young soldier home on leave, and Savannah Curtis, the idealistic college student he falls in love with during her spring vacation. Over the next several years, the couple is seperated by John's increasingly dangerous deployments. When 9/11 occurs John is faced with the difficult decision to choose between love or country. And like all those left behind Savannah must decide to wait or move on.

Push by Sapphire- Precious Jones, 16 years old and pregnant by her father with her second child, meets a determined and highly radical teacher who takes her on a journey of transformation and redemption.

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips- Georgie York, once the costar of America's favorite television sitcom, has been publically abandoned by her famous husband, her film career has tanked, her father is driving her crazy, and her public image as a spunky heroine is taking a serious beating. What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? Not go to Vegas...not run into her detestable former costar, dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard...and not get caught up in an ugly incident that leads to a calamitous elopement.

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann- It's August of 1974, a summer "hot and serious and full of death and betrayal", and Watergate and the Vietnam War make the world feel precarious. A stunned hush pauses the cacophonous universe of New York City as a man on a cable walks (repeatedly) between World Trade Center Towers. This extraordinary, real-life feat by French funambilist Philippe Petit becomes the touchstone for stories that briefly submerge you in ten varied and intense lives- a street priest, heroin-addicted hookers, mothers mourning sons lost in war, young artists, and a Park Avenue judge.

Now this is where you come in with the Virtual Book Club. Have you read The Heretic's Daughter? What were your thoughts and what would you rate it? And if you were in our book club, which of the above books would you have voted for?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies *Review*

Many know Pride & Prejudice is my all-time favorite book. Between the book (which I have read and reread) and the movie (which I have rewatched many times) I can recite most of the lines uttered by the characters by heart.

I have never read a redo of Pride & Prejudice because I didn't want a book that means so much to me to be tainted or destroyed by another author who doesn't have the same amount of love and respect for this novel as I do.

It was with great trepidation I picked up this audio book at the library. In the introduction the author explains how he uses Jane Austen's original manuscript and just changes words, paragraphs, or basic themes in the book but still leaves large portions of the pages untouched. That statement excited me. I could still have my novel much like it has always been! So I popped it into my car stereo.

The book starts familiarily. In fact, I recite lines from it while driving down the highway,and soon it changes. At first I frown. That's not how it goes I protest. Then I begin to laugh because the new word- zombie- seems so out of place in the halls of Longbourn, the Bennet family home.

At times gruesome with talk of decaying corpses, decapitated heads, and pus filled sores and other times hysterically funny- "What? No ninja?" Lady Catherine DeBourgh exclaims when finding the Bennet sisters were brought up without one, I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book from start to finish.

The voice of Katherine Kellgren is perfect for the voices of the Bennet sisters as I have always imagined them to be: Jane's shy and gentle, Elizabeth's strong and determined, Lydia's silly and immature, and Kitty's more serious.

Read this book knowing it will not be the same book you have come to love through the years but accepting that sometimes I little bit of change is okay.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bloggiesta Challenge Completed!

What an exciting weekend it has been! I have just taken part in my first Bloggiesta and have accomplished so much! I debated not attempting to do the Bloggiesta since my blog was only 7 days old, but I figured if I learned one thing from this event it would be worth it. And learn I did.

I concentrated not on fixing up my blog to make it look prettier but on doing the mini challenges. In doing these challenges I made my blog more productive. Here is a list of what I accomplished:

1. Creating lists and opinion pots: I wrote one opinion post and made a few lists for future posts

2. Learned about vanity alerts and tried this out

3. Elevator Pitch- wrote one up!

4. Blog Directories- registered in 2 of them

5. Blogging buddy- Found one!

6. Favicons and Gravatars- attempted to do a favicon, downloaded it and it has yet
to show up. I need to try this again.

7. Anchor text- Done!

8. Comment Challenge- This has been fun. I have enjoyed the new blogs I have been
to and will continue to do this.

9. Cheat sheet- Started one. I'm sure it will be a big help in the future.

10. Copyrights- Consider this done!

11. Backing up your blog- Not much here yet but I backed it up and now know how to
keep up with this

12. Blogger Mentoring- I signed up on the forum to become a mentee

13. Brainstorming blogging topics- This was fun and I came up with quite a few

Whew! No wonder I am exhausted! I didn't get in as much time as I wanted to but all in all I spent 14 hours this weekend working on this. Head on over to Maw Books Blog and take a look at where you can go to complete these mini challenges as well as see all the ones I didn't get to.
Thanks to all who hosted these mini challenges and taught me so much. I can't wait for the next Bloggiesta. Ole!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

An Exciting Win for my Son

Yesterday in the mail I received Draw 50 Mythical Creatures by Lee J. Ames which was a win from Karen at Bookin' with Bingo.

I had told my son (and Karen) when this came in the mail it would be his and he was so excited. My son loves to draw and this would be something different for him to learn how to do since he usually draws cartoon people and cars.

When I opened it he was standing right next to me with anticipation. Within minutes he had come back with his first drawing. Here is a sample of what he learned to do from the book. Thanks Bingo for this giveaway!

Favorite Genres

Everyone has a favorite genre of book. You know...the type of book that you gravitate to again and again. The type of book when reading through reviews on other's book blogs you will read word for word rather then just skimming for the final rating. The type of book that you reach for over and over on the library shelves.

My favorite genre is memoirs. It didn't always use to be my favorite and in 6 months it might be something different but for now it's memoirs. I love reading what other people have done with their life and why they have chosen to take the path they are on. I love reading about how someone who was raised in poverty and depravity went on to turn their life around and do something good for themselves and others.

Inching up in second place is historical fiction. This is kind of funny coming from someone who constantly fell asleep in history class becuase it was so boring. Or maybe it was because history was right after lunch- I can't remember!

Historical fiction is fun to read because you are still getting your "fiction fix"- your escape, but you are also learning something in the process. I have learned so much about my country, the times, the culture and the lifestyle of my ancestors by reading historical fiction.

Third favorite genre would have to be books about different cultures. Again, it's all about learning more about my brothers and sisters around the world. What makes us different and what makes us the same.

I'm interested in your opinion. What is your favorite genre and why?

The Year of Living Biblically Review

Last week I went to the library to pick up a few audiobooks to start my Audio Book Challenge 2010 with. While there I also picked up the book The Year of Living Biblically One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs.

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverant and irreverant, personal and universal, and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes. The Year of Living Biblically will charm readers both secular and religious. It is part CliffNotes to the Bible, part memoir and part looks into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down.

I will admit when I picked this book up I was skeptical of it being a funny book. First off, my sense of humor is a little different and I don't find things to usually be laugh out loud funny. Secondly, being a deeply religious person I find religious to be a serious topic and not one to be taken lightly.

However I will have to admit this book had me hooting and holding my sides. A. J Jacobs writes with a refreshingly honest look at his own agnostic background and the skepticism of his life changing during his year of reading the Bible. He first spends some time reading the Bible, writing down laws and commands from the Bible - over 700 of them- and gets to work trying to find the meaning of the law and following it as literally as possible.

His wife is a little more tolerant of his project then I would be but even she has her limits. One scene from the book that still cracks me up comes to mind. One of the laws the author is trying to follow is the original menstruation law that cites you should not touch a woman for 1 week following her cycle because she is considered unclean.

Leviticus 15:20 goes even farther in saying "everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean."
One afternoon A. J Jacobs comes home to sit in his favorite chair and his why informs him he might not want to sit there since she has sat on it. Okay, he moves to sit on another chair. "Sat in that one too," says Julie. "And the ones in the kitchen. And the couch in the office." High five to this enterprising woman!

Filled with entertaining and educational moments this book doesn't quite produce the spiritual awakening that I had hoped the author would find at the end of his year-long quest but this self proclaimed agnostic still gets the right idea. It's not always about which religious sect you belong to, or which way laws you follow to the letter or not. Sometimes it's about the joy in knowing their is a higher power and a higher purpose to your life.


Natasha at Maw Books Blog is hosting this year's Bloggiesta. The Bloggiesta which runs from January 8th-10th is a challenge to clean up your book blog, do all those things you've been putting off for months and learn some new things as well.

Being a new book blogger I thought signing up for the Bloggiesta would be an awesome time to jump in with both feet and see what I could do. I have already spent a total of about 6 hours on this challenge and have to date completed 8 mini challenges. Some successfully, and some not so successfully (my flavicon still has not shown up so I'll have to try this one again.) I feel like the more I know, the more I know I don't know. If that makes any sense!

Hopefully today will be another productive day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Little Complication...

Recently you might remember me saying that I had been very lucky and had won 4 audiobooks on other book blogs. Then I signed up for my very first challenge, which was the audiobook challenge. I signed up for the Addicted level-12 audiobooks. Stopping at the library I picked up 2 books on CD to get a jumpstart on the challenge before my wins came in the mail.

I received one of my wins in the mail the other day, and I'm currently halfway through one that I had picked up from the library. I'm really enjoying it too I might add. When disc 4 ended I pulled out disc 5 to insert and...nothing. The CD went part of the way in and stuck! It wouldn't go in any further and it would not come out.

Now here I sit, very excited for all the wonderful reads waiting for me on CD and my CD player doesn't work. Now what do I do?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

See You in a Hundred Years Review

Last week I was wandering around a few book blogs and ran across a review for this book by Logan Ward. I apologize for not making note of whose blog I read the review on. If it was yours please let me know and I will give you full credit for turning me on to this book.

Logan Ward and his wife, Heather were prototypical New Yorkers circa 2000: their lives steeped in ambition, work, and stress. Feeling their souls grow numb, wanting their toddler son to see the stars at night, the Wards made a plan. They would return to their native South, find a farm, and for one year live exactly as people did in 1900 Virginia: without a car or electricity- and with only the food they could grow themselves. It was a project that would push their relationship to the brink- and illuminate stunning hardships and equally remarkable surprises.

From Logan's emotionally charged battles with Belle, the family workhorse, to Heather's daily trials with a wood-fired cooking stove and a constant siege of garden pests and cantankerous animals, the Wards were soon overwhelmed by their new life. At the same time as Logan and Heather struggled with their increasingly fragile relationship, as their son relished simple joys, the couple discovered something else: within their self-imposed time warp, they hadf found a community, a sense of belonging, and an appreciation both for what we've lost- and what we've gained- across a century of change.

There have been many times I wish I could chuck it all and go back in time. Once when I was reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my young sons we decided to do just that. For one day, we lived like the Ingalls did. No electricity, no TV. We ate food that was suggested in the book and found simpler pasttimes to keep us busy like flying a kite and playing dominoes and cards. We had a great time- for one day.

The Wards had the courage to give up modern conveniences for a whole year. They did a lot of research before embarking on their adventure, bringing supplies with them that were only available in 1900. They experienced many hardships including a drought that threatened to dry up their drinking water supply as well as their food source for the year, and a 2 year old with a fever that made them question thier choice to not have a telephone or a vehicle in case of an emergency.

But along the way they experienced life at it's best too; canning more then their estimated 300 jars of food to get them through the winter, the hospitality and friendship of a neighborhood determined to help them through their year, sitiing on the porch in the dark watching the stars while sipping bourbon, indulging in a Tootsie Roll (invented in 1896), preparing a Thanksgiving feast for family all grown from the garden and cooked in a wood burning oven, and falling into bed exhausted but satisfied from the back breaking day of work.

This book was not only moving but filled with hilarity as well. For instance when Belle, the horse, steps backward and the wagon starts to jackknife, Logans "foot pumps instinctively, searching the floorboards for a brake pedal" before Belle's former owner Marshall simply hollars "Whoa".

Logan Ward is brutally honest about his and Heather's relationship throughout the book and their doubts as to whether all they have done is really worth it. I really enjoyed reading about their foray into the past and would recommend this book to others in a heartbeat.

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

This will be the last challenge I will sign up for this year and it will probably be one of my hardest. I normally average about 60 books a year so for me to almost double what I do will be a real stretch.

This means less time on the computer and more time with my hands gripped on the covers of a book. I love to read but it is a challenge to find the time to do it. There are some days I leave my house at 6:30 in the morning and I don't make my way home until 9pm.

Reading comes in little spurts; at stoplights, lunch breaks, waiting to pick my son up after school, doctor's offices and dentist's chairs. But reading=learning so I'm going to make this more of a priority this year. Part of my New Year's Resolution to be a better person. We'll see what happens!

Thank you J. Kaye for hosting another fantastic challenge!

2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

When my kids were younger and had a voracious appetite for the printed word I was a weekly visitor to my local library. Now...not so much.

Don't get me wrong, our library has a wealth of resources to choose from: books, books in a bag for book clubs (which our book club has used), audiobooks, and even a new format that comes on a preprogrammed MP3 player type of device. My problem is not with what my library offers but with getting there.

I am a slightly busy employee, mom, Boy Scout volunteer, Bible study leader, blogger, etc. My lunch hours are spent running errands and after work I head straight home to be there when my son gets off the bus. Saturdays I'm so relieved at not HAVING to go somewhere that I usually don't.

Books I read are off my overflowing bookshelf at home that I filled from book and garage sales. This year I decided I'm going to read more of those great books I have been reading about on other book blogs out there. To save money in doing this I will be visiting my local library more. Signing up for this challenge will be my push to make sure I do.

I will be signing up for the Mini- read 25 books level. I think that will be a great start. Thank you J. Kaye for hosting this challenge!

Audio Book Reading Challenge (2010)

I am new to book blogging (see yesterday's very first post!) and therefore new to challenges. As I've been reading other's book blogs in this great blogosphere of ours I saw what fun others were having trying to complete these challenges and what a sense of accomplishment they had when they did.

So, with great excitement- and I'll admit, a little anxiety, I signed up for my very first challenge. I love making lists, and setting goals. My problem is completing them. I start out all gung-ho, ready to conquer the world and then life always seems to get in the way.

Take this challenge for instance. I normally only "read" 2-3 audiobooks a year, but I signed up for the Addicted- 12 book level. What? Am I nuts and setting myself up to fail?

Here is my reasoning behind the level I chose. In the last month I have been entering giveaway after giveaway hoping to win some newer material to read. Most of the books on my bookshelves came from book sales and rummage sales after much prior use. I have won 4 audiobooks in these giveaways (thank you generous souls!) so if I just get them read I will be a third of the way to my goal!

Wanting to get a jumpstart on the challenge before I receive these I decided to stop off at my local library and check a few out. I am currently halfway through Pride & Prejudice and Zombies and loving it.

I am determined to complete this first of my challenges. Please give me your support and cheer me on!

**Thanks to Royal Reviews for hosting this challenge.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Heretic's Daughter review

Historical fiction has recently become a new love of mine, so recently when a member of the book club that I am in nominated The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent I was excited and immediately cast my vote for it. It received the nod and I put it on my Christmas list. I couldn't wait upon opening it Christmas morning to get started on it.

I read the back of the book again:

In 1752, Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter, revealing the secret she has closely guarded for six decades...
Her story begins more than a year before the Salem witch trials when nine-year-old Sarah and her family arrive in a New England Community already gripped by superstition and fear. As they witness neighbor pitted against neighbor, friend against friend, hysteria escalates- until more than 200 men, women, and children have been swept into prison. Among them is Sarah's mother Martha Carrier.
In an attempt to protect her children, Martha asks Sarah to commit an act of heresy- a lie that will most surely condemn Martha even as it will save her daughter.

This book would surely feed my fascination and I would learn something about this period of our nation's history that I really knew nothing about. Eagerly I dug into the book, and...found myself trying to dig my way back out.

I found the book to be very slow moving. I really wanted to know more about Martha Carrier who truly was condemned to hang in August of 1692. The story, though, is more Sarah's story than Martha's.

Sarah desribes her parents as dry, harsh, sullen & silent. They do not seem to be a loving or close family. So when they move to her grandmother's farm in Andover she experiences the gentleness and love from her grandmother that she has been longing for in her hard and unyielding parents.

When smallpox strikes her brother Andrew, Sarah must take refuge with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Margaret in a neighboring village in order to escape the death grip of the disease. She comes to love her sweet aunt, laugh at her uncle's stories and idolize Margaret so much she does not want to go back to the dourness of her family home, especially after learning her grandmother had fell victim to the dreaded smallpox and has died.

When lies and rumors start to spread about the Carrier family it isn't long before the whispers and taunts of "witch, witch, witch" start to follow Sarah and her mother. When Martha Carrier hears word she is soon to be arrested she makes her daughter promise that she will tell the townsfolk and the judges whatever they want to hear in order to save her own life- even if it means condemning her mother.

It is finally toward the end of the book that we learn Sarah's mother and father aren't as hard and unyielding as Sarah often thought them to be and the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children will tear at your heart. I just wish it hadn't taken three fourths of the book to bring out the emotion that I thought the book would be rife with from the very beginning.

The author, Kathleen Kent, is a tenth-generation descendent of Martha Carrier and grew up listening to stories about her. Her first novel is well written and researched and I would definitely consider reading another book by Ms. Kent.