Friday, November 27, 2009

Away for the Weekend...

I can't believe there are only about 9 weeks left until our baby arrives! Hubby and I are taking advantage of this last bit of alone time and heading to Moab, UT for the weekend. We are going to be doing some sightseeing, some (light) hiking and hopefully stopping by to see some friends on the way home.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a wonderful day with family and friends

Monday, November 23, 2009

2010 Reading From My Shelves Project

Like a lot of other bloggers this time of year means signing up for next years challenges. So, I will just apologize ahead of time for all the challenge posts as I like for each challenge to have its own space...

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea is hosting this challenge. The goal of this challenge is to read books from your shelves and then pass them on. This could mean donating them, swapping them or anything else you can think of to get them out of your house. Since I usually don't re-read getting rid of books isn't an issue for me, but reading books from my shelves sometimes can be. Hopefully this challenge will help.

My goal is that 60 of the books I read in 2010 come from my shelves.

The Rules:
-grab the button
-decide how many books you want to read from your shelves (minimum of 20 - no maximum)
-find a new home for the books once you read them
-post the titles and the authors of books you've read and passed on
-project runs from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010
-crossover challenge books are allowed

1. Kisser by Stuart Woods
2. Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron
3. Avenging Angels by Mary Stanton
4. Bright Light, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster
5. Lucid Intervals by Stuart Woods
6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Bottom Line, #5

The Bottom Line is a feature to designed to give quick and dirty reviews of books I've read, but I either don't have the time or the inspiration to write full reviews on them.

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 7, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781416570868
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 2/5

I first discovered Mary Higgins Clark in middle school and I devoured all of her back list. And while I remember loving her older books, Just Take My Heart didn't measure up. I found the story to be completely predictable and the book as a whole was forgettable.

Good Harbor by Anita Diamant
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Scribner (September 17, 2002)
ISBN-13: 9780743225724
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Source: My Shelves

I loved Diamant's Red Tent, and while Good Harbor is a very different kind of book I really enjoyed it as well. The characters were vibrant, and while they were older than me, the story of their friendship was one that most women will understand and be drawn to.

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Voice (June 9, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781401322557
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

I expected to like this book much more than I actually did. I read it this summer while on vacation and maybe it just didn't fit with my mood at the time. Perfection was very well written, and while I sympathized with Metz and understood her need to learn everything she could about her husband's affairs, I just wasn't pulled into the story.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Book Info:
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 9, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780307452368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world.

I first heard about Pope Joan from the historical fiction board at Paperback Swap. It got rave reviews so I grabbed a copy as soon as I could...and then it sat on my shelf for over two and a half years! I wish I had made the time to read it sooner.

I loved Joan. In a time period when women had basically no status or rights she was an independent and intelligent woman. While she was forced to conceal her gender this never swayed her from her love of learning and doing what was right. She was a champion for women and an advocate for the poor.

Cross does a wonderful job with the story of Pope Joan. She includes plenty of information so you get a sense of the time period, but doesn't bog the story down with unnecessary details. The story flows wonderfully and I was sucked in right from the start. I also love reading the author notes on historical fiction books. I'm always interested in what details an author changed or omitted to make the story work better.

If you enjoy historical fiction, especially with strong female characters, but want something set in a time period you may not have tried before, definitely give Pope Joan a try. I can also see this one working well for a book club as there are plenty of issues to discuss. The version of the book I read also included discussion questions. 4.5 stars

Saturday, November 14, 2009

999 Challenge Wrap-Up

I originally found the 999 Challenge on LibraryThing and fell in love with it. I loved figuring out my categories and finding books to fit in them. I missed the 09/09/09 early completion date by 1 book, but I am thrilled I finished this one.

The books I read:

4. Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese (review)
5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (review)
8. The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (review)

New to Me Authors
1. Waiting to Surface by Emily Listfield (review)
2. Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward (review)
3. Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan (review)
4. The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez (review)
5. Defending Angels by Mary Stanton (review)
6. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (review)
7. Precious by Sandra Novack (review)
9. The Blue Notebook by James Levine (review)

Historical Fiction
1. The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones (review)
2. Honolulu by Alan Brennert (review)
3. Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland (review)
4. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier (review)
5. The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips (review)
6. The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips (review)
7. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (review)
9. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (review coming soon)

Mysteries or Suspense
1. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (review)
2. Mixed Blood by Roger Smith (review)
3. Bahama Burnout by Don Bruns (review)
4. Illegal by Paul Levine (review)
5. Breakneck by Erica Spindler (review)
6. BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker (review)
7. Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark (review coming soon)
8. The Associate by John Grisham (review)
9. Lifeguard by James Patterson (review)

Favorite Authors (series)
1. Damage Control by JA Jance (review)
2. Invisible Prey by John Sandford (reveiw)
3. The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver (review)
4. Run for Your Life by James Patterson (review)
5. The 8th Confession by James Patterson (review)
6. Loitering with Intent by Stuart Woods (review coming soon)
7. Lost Girls by George D. Shuman (review coming soon)
8. Undone by Karin Slaughter (review)
9. Dead Time by Stephen White (review)

4. Dry by Augusten Burroughs (review)
7. Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler (review)

Audio Books
1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (review)
4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (review)
5. Looking for Alaska by John Green (review)
6. Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid (review)
7. My Antonia by Willa Cather (review)
8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (review)

Young Adult
1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (review)
2. A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (review)
3. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins (review)
4. The Plague by Joanne Dahme (review)
5. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (review)
6. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (review)
7. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott (review)
8. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff (review coming soon)
9. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (review)

Catch All (because I want to read it)
1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (review)
2. Resistance by Anita Shreve (review)
3. Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward (review)
4. Angel's Advocate by Mary Stanton (review)
5. Best Intentions by Emily Listfield (review)
6. True Colors by Kristin Hannah (review)
7. Beach Road by James Patterson (review)
8. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (review)
9. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult (review)

There is another group on LT for a 1010 Challenge, but I will be skipping that one as I usually only read about 100 books a year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis

Book Info:
The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books (February 1, 2007)
ISBN-13: 9780316014243
Genre: Contempory Fiction
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 2.5/5

In Varennes, a town near the Canadian border, three girls come across the body of a dead man on the local lake's beach. Two of them run to get help, but twelve-year-old Mees Kipp stays with the body and somehow, inexplicably, brings it back to life. Her mysterious gift is at the center of this haunting and transcendent novel.

The Thin Place is the story of these girls, their town, and the worldly and otherworldly forces that come into play there over one summer. From the ladies in the old-folks' home to trappers, lawyers, teachers, ministers, drug addicts-even the dogs and cats, beavers and bears Davis peoples this novel with astonishingly vivid beings. The extraordinary comes to visit an ordinary town.

One of the back of the book blurbs describes this book as "odd and engaging", and I would agree with the odd portion. Engaging...kind of.

I usually like different books and that was what drew me to this one in the first place. I was looking for something other than your typical plot. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like there was much plot in this book. It was kind of an odd collection of tales about the different people in town, mostly centered around a group of three friends. My other big complaint is that there seemed to be very little character development. I didn't really ever feel like I knew any of the people very well.

I never had any doubt that I would finish this book, but what kept me going was the feeling that something was going to happen soon. I was sure the book would all come together and the characters and odd asides in the book would all make sense. Instead, I was left with the feeling that I was missing something, that I just didn't get this book. 2.5 stars

Monday, November 9, 2009

New blog address...

So I took the plunge and moved from my Blogspot address to my new location of From what Blogger says, the transition for my followers should be automatic. I am working on updating my bookmarks and feeds over the next couple of days, but if you come across a link or feed that isn't working, please let me know.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Four Month Challenge, Part 2

Just one more for now...

This one is hosted by Virginie Says...The challenge will begin on November 1, 2009 and will end on February 28, 2010. Each book you read can only be used for one category. You can ‘read’ up to ‘2′ audiobooks if you choose, but you don’t have to. You can read books you are also reading for other challenges. Here are the categories:

5 Point Challenges
Read a book with a proper name in the title - Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (review)
Read a book about a queen or king
Read a book by or about/related to a Bronte
Read a book about Vampires
Read a book by V.C. Andrews

10 Point Challenges
Read a book by Canadian author
Read a book by or about/related to Charles Dickens
Read a book set in France
Read a book by Georgette Heyer
Read an ‘art’ themed book.

15 Point Challenges
Read a book with a Civil War theme (any country)
Read a book with characters inspired by King Arthur or about King Arthur/Camelot
Read a biography/autobiography
Read a book related to or something by Shakespeare
Read a book by an author born in November, December, January or February - The Pearl by John Steinbeck (review coming soon)
20 Point Challenges
Read a book with a wintery theme (Christmas, snow, ice, freezing, star, camel, mistletoe, etc.) - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (review coming soon)
Read a book that was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Read a book that begins with A and one that begins with Z
Read a book from The Modern Library Top 100
Read a book and then write a review - The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis (review)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Book Info:
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Paperback: 672 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; (January 22, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9781416560609
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 4/5

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family?s ambitious plots as the king?s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

For some reason, I seem to collect a lot of historical fiction, mostly based on other people's recommendations, but I rarely get around to reading these books. This year I used a couple of my challenges to help get some of these HF books off my shelves. While I may be one of the last people to actually read The Other Boleyn Girl, I am happy to be able to finally mark it off my list.

Anne comes across as devious and self-centered, but as you see her through her sister's eyes it softens her a little. I also found the relationship between the Boleyn siblings very interesting. Their closeness seemed to be a great comfort to them, but that didn't seem to be with out consequence either.

I haven't read any HF from this time period, but can see why so many people get sucked in and read everything they can about these people. Seeing the same events from another perspective can change everything. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of The Other Boleyn Girl, but I was drawn into the story and will be seeking out more books set during this time period. 4 stars

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...It's All About Me

Which do you prefer? Biographies written about someone? Or Autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

I read a lot of non-fiction, and I don't think I've ever read a biography. For some reason I tend to think of these as the celebrity tell all books, and I usually try to stay away from that kind of sensationalism.

Autobiographies work the best for me because I'd much prefer to hear the story directly from the source. In this type of story you get the feelings along with the events, and that makes the story much more complete.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Review: Let Me Go by Helga Schneider

Book Info:
Let Me Go by Helga Schneider
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Penguin (August 30, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0143035177
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 4.5/5

In 1941, in Berlin, Helga Schneider’s mother abandoned her along with her father and younger brother. Let Me Go recounts Helga’s final meeting with her ailing mother in a Vienna nursing home some sixty years after World War II, in which Helga confronts a nightmare: her mother’s lack of repentance about her past as a Nazi SS guard at concentration camps, including Auschwitz, where she was responsible for untold acts of torture. With spellbinding detail, Schneider recalls their conversation, evoking her own struggle between a daughter’s sense of obligation and the inescapable horror of her mother’s deeds.

I was recently browsing the library's audio downloads when this one caught my eye. I needed another book for my WWII challenge and I liked that Let Me Go looked like a quick listen at only 5 disks. Since the weather has turned cold and I'm not walking to work my audio listening has suffered and I find shorter books work a little better. What I didn't expect was the emotional impact those 5 disks carried...

Let Me Go is a snapshot of a story. There is a little background included in the form of flashbacks and stories, but the bulk of the story is one conversation. This may seem a little incomplete to some, but I thought the format worked well. Schneider didn't have much knowledge of her mother beyond this conversation and I liked that the reader/listener didn't know more than she did.

The narrator of this book, Barbara Rosenblat, is amazing. She inflects so much emotion into the book that I often found myself with goosebumps. When she reads the mother's words it varies between and old woman's confusion and petulance to unashamed cruelty. While Let Me Go is a fascinating story of an insider's experience in the concentration camps, it is worth listening to for the wonderful narration alone. 4.5 stars