Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shoot The Moon by Billie Letts

In 1972, the tiny windswept town of DeClare, Oklahoma, was consumed by the terrifying disappearance of Nicky Jack Harjo. When he was no more than a baby, his pajama bottoms were found on the banks of Willow Creek. Nearly 30 years later, Nicky mysteriously returns in this intriguing and delightfully hypnotic tale, full of the authentic heartland characters that Billie Letts writes about so beautifully.

I picked up this book awhile ago at a FOL sale because the cover captivated me. I got a request to send it out on Paperback swap and almost sent it out without reading it. I am really glad that I didn't do that!

I was ambivalent about Where The Heart Is, and didn't really expect too much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The book was filled with fun and quirky characters. The writing was smooth and had me drawn in once I got past the prologue. I admit, I had to read the prologue twice, but once I got past that, I hated to put this book down and couldn't wait to pick it back up again. 4 stars

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

I have to admit, before my mom loaned me this book to read, I had never heard of Randy Pausch, and his Last Lecture. This was not something I would have picked up without a recommendation from mom. I enjoyed the book, but didn't find it awe inspiring.

The book is a quick read and the stories are short and to the point, some only a page or two. Most of the them are light but you could really tell Pausch cherished his family and was not really scared of dying, but was very sad to have to leave them behind. I think this book will be a treasure for his kids, who unfortunately never had the chance to really get to know him. 3.5 stars

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Map Thief by Heather Terrell

Beijing, China, 1421: It is a momentous time for the Ming Dynasty. Honoring the completion of the Forbidden City, a fleet of unprecedented size sets sail under Admiral Zheng He. Zheng’s mission is to chart the globe, trading for riches and bringing glory to China’s emperor. Among the crew is the talented cartographer and navigator Ma Zhi, whose work will lead to the first true map of the world–but whose accomplishment will vanish when the fleet returns to a very different China than the one it left.

Lisbon, Portugal, 1496: At the height of Portugal’s maritime domination during the Age of Discovery, the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama embarks on a quest to find a sea route to India. On board is navigator Antonio Coehlo, who guards Portugal’s most secret treasure: a map that already shows the way.

New York, present day: Mara Coyne’s new client has left her uneasy. Republican kingmaker Richard Tobias has hired her, he says, because of her skill in recovering stolen art and advocating for the rightful owners, but Mara senses that he is not telling her everything. Tobias reveals that a centuries-old map was stolen from an archaeological dig he is sponsoring in China, and he wants her to get it back. But as Mara begins her investigation, she uncovers the shocking truth: The map is more valuable than anyone has ever imagined, and her client’s motives are more sinister than she suspected.

I read The Chrysalis, Heather Terrell's debut, last year and really enjoyed it. I was thrilled to see another book featuring Mara Coyne, and wasn't disappointed with this globe trotting treasure hunt. The book shifts between China in 1421, Portugal in 1496, and the present. The historical parts of the story are a wonderful backdrop for the fast paced action taking place in the present.

Terrell does a wonderful job of changing her tone and wording with each of the historical sections and the present. This change in tone really gives you an immediate sense of which story line you are following at that moment. I didn't feel as much of a connection with the story set in Portugal, but that may have been just because I wasn't as familiar with that period in history. The story set in China was fascinating though. For me, a good historical novel should make you want to learn more about the time period it is set in, and The Map Thief didn't disappoint.

Mara Coyne is a smart heroine who is willing to take risks when necessary, but also maintains her integrity while dealing with some unscrupulous characters. I hope to be able to follow Mara Coyne on more of her treasure hunts, and will be on the lookout for Heather Terrell's next book. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who enjoyed Da Vinci Code. 4 stars

More information about Heather Terrell and both of her books can be found here. The site includes info on upcoming book signings, podcasts and interviews. Order from Amazon

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I've Been Nominated!

Traci at Traci's Book Bag has nominated me as a brillante weblog. Thanks Traci!

Once an award is received, the rules are as follows:

1. Put the logo on your blog.

2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.

3. Nominate at least seven other blogs...hmmm, I will start with the ones that I read on a regular basis and add more later.

4. Add links to those blogs on your blog

5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

My nominees in no particular order are:

Lori's Reading Corner: I love to read The Bookpimp's blog for recommendations.

Melsy's Place: Another PBSer with great recommendations, and I love the pink background too!

love+love=marriage: I love keeping up with Jessie and Greta and they venture into motherhood.

Rhonda's Corner of the World: Yet another PBSer (do you sense a theme here?) with wonderful recommendations and a fabulous layout.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.

I actually picked this book up for my mom, but have a hard time having a book in my possession, and not reading it, if it looks remotely interesting. This was a quick read, and it had some mildly funny moments, but not the laugh out loud stuff I really enjoy. It definitely is meant for an older audience and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I was part of their target market, and more of the situations actually applied to me. 3 stars

Tuesday Thingers!

Recommendations. Do you use LT's recommendations feature? Have you found any good books by using it? Do you use the anti-recommendations, or the "special sauce" recommendations? How do you find out about books you want to read?

I actually don't think I have ever looked at LT's recommendations...I have piles of books everywhere and haven't really needed to look very far for something to read. :) The "special sauce" recommendations sound interesting, so I will have to check them out.

Pile of books!

Bookroomreviews's Weblog is hosting a huge 14 book giveaway, which you can enter here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer Reads Giveaway!

If you would love to win 14 brand new books, please join Musings of a Bookish Kitty in her wonderful giveaway!

Book Giveaway!

Jenn's Bookshelf is giving away a copy of Absolute Fear by Lisa Jackson. Come join us in this giveaway!

Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block by Judith Matloff

Judith Matloff has traveled to, and lived in, many dangerous places during her years as a newspaper correspondent. After countless moves, her nomadic lifestyle wasn't what she craved anymore. She, and her husband John, longed for some stability and decided to put roots down in New York. After looking in many different areas, they purchased a dilapidated brownstone in a Dominican neighborhood in West Harlem.

Matloff begins spending time at the house before closing to protect it from the squatters and drug dealers in the area, and introduces us to some wonderful and colorful characters. After moving in, Judith and John find the house is a little more run down then they had anticipated. This begins a seemingly endless parade of contractors and repairmen.
Matloff's book is a wonderful story of adapting to a foreign environment, right in your own back yard. I enjoyed the glimpse into a way of life completely removed from my own. The neighbors, and Matloff's reactions to them, provide an entertaining and quick moving story. I found myself laughing out loud more than once at the antics of the neighbors and contractors. This book will be high on my list of recommendations to other memoir lovers. 4 stars

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Today's topic: Book-swapping. Do you do it? What site(s) do you use? How did you find out about them? What do you think of them? Do you use LT's book-swapping column feature for information on what to swap? Do you participate in any of the LT communities that discuss bookswapping, like the Bookmooch group for example?

Yes! I use Bookmooch and PaperbackSwap. I started on PBS, which I love, but I think both sites complement each other.

On PBS, I love the community. The forums are great and very user friendly, for the most part. I like that on PBS you get in line for a Wish Listed book, and if you are patient, have a pretty good chance of getting it. I am very active on PBS and am even a tour guide there.

I found Bookmooch through PBS and also list my inventory there. I like the fact that you can list condition notes and ARCs on BM. I had pretty good luck with the original WL system on BM, and was sorry to see it go. I don't like the forums at BM at all though. They are not easy to use and are very slow. Another thing I love about BM is that it is international. I have been able to find some books there that aren't readily available in the US. You get extra points for sending international and the cost per point isn't much different. I also like all the cool places my books get to end up.

I also tried Title Trader, but wasn't a fan at all. While it is free to use the basic site you have to pay to get any additional features, like WL matches. I never found much I was interested in there, and have closed my account.

Bookins is another site that I have had a little experience with, but I have stopped using it too. On there, you don't pay for outgoing postage, like you do on the others, but pay $4.59 (IIRC) for each incoming book. I thought it was a little pricey, but was able to find some books on there quicker than waiting in line at PBS.

I am a member of the BM group on LT, but read more than post. Some of the topics can get repetitive, so I don't check in very frequently.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


It's not often I can resist any book giveaway, but a giveway for 14 books is truly amazing! Check out Bookshipper for all the details.

The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Daniel Pell is a contemporary Charles Manson. A petty criminal with a history of antisocial behavior and obsession with controlling other people, he had a group of women living with him in a quasi cult in central California. Eight years ago, he and another man viciously slaughtered a family for no apparent reason, though the three women in his "Family" were absolved of any part in the deaths.

Now, present day, Pell has escaped and Kathryn Dance, the famed interrogator and kinesic analyst and her team, must find out where he is and why he's staying near the prison he escaped from. She brings together the three women, now leading normal lives, to help her find out where Pell is and what he's up to. Pell, for his part, and a young woman he has manipulated to help him, tries to outguess the police and fulfill his mission, as he learns that Kathryn Dance is perhaps his most dangerous opponent.

The Sleeping Doll once again reminds me why Deaver is one of my all time favorite mystery writers. His books are tightly crafted and full of twists and turns. These plot twists aren't far fetched and contrived, but examples of masterful suspense writing. I enjoyed Dance as a new leading lady and will definitely be looking for more books in this series. I also enjoyed the "people" specialty of kinesic analyst. It is a nice contrast to the evidence driven Rhyme. 4 stars

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Arthurian Omen by G. G. Vandagriff

Is the story of King Arthur history or myth? In this spellbinding novel, a Celtic scholar is murdered when she finds a clue to a priceless 13th century manuscript that will provide the true identity of King Arthur. The victim's sister takes up the quest to uncover the relic, but quickly realizes that someone close to her is the murderer. As pursuit of the manuscript winds through the ruined castles and monasteries of Wales, more than one reason emerges for keeping the manuscript and the legend buried in the past.

I can never resist a fast moving, exciting treasure hunt and The Arthurian Omen didn't disappoint. I was instantly drawn in to the mystery as well as the location, the Welsh countryside. The story moved smoothly through many twists and turns and the final twist was one I didn't see coming at all. Parts of the book were predictable, but I read these kinds of books strictly for entertainment value, and Omen kept me entertianed. 3 stars

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Manic by Terri Cheney

On the outside, Terri Cheney was a highly successful, attractive Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer. But behind her seemingly flawless fa├žade lay a dangerous secret – for the better part of her life Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder and concealing a pharmacy’s worth of prescriptions meant to stabilize her moods and make her “normal”.

In bursts for prose that mirror the devastating highs and extreme lows of her illness, Cheney describes her roller-coaster life with shocking honesty – from glamorous parties to a night in jail; from flying fourteen kites off the edge of a cliff in a thunderstorm to crying beneath her office disk; from electroshock therapy to a suicide attempt fueled by tequila and prescription painkiller.

I knew a little about manic depression, but this book was an eye opening look at the all consuming nature of the highs and lows. This was fast read as I really got drawn into the author's experiences. The book is written in episodes rather than chronologically, as the author mentions that is how her thoughts flow, but at times it was hard to place the stories in relation to each other. Even with that, I found the book facinating. 4 stars

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Amazing Contest!

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? has the most amazing contest up. Just by commenting here you can be in the running for 14 free books! This isn't one you want to miss.

Tuesday Thingers!

Since we’re past the Fourth of July and the summer season has officially started, what are your plans for the summer? Vacations, trips? Trips that involve reading? Reading plans? If you’re going somewhere, do you do any reading to prepare? Do you read local literature as part of your trip? Have you thought about using the LT Local feature to help plan your book-buying?

Hmmm, no real vacation plans this summer. I just got back from San Diego which was part work, part fun. That will have to suffice for my summer vacation I think. I do like to read about places I haven't been before and always see this as a prime opportunity to buy a new guide book. I never knew there was a LT Local feature, so I will have to check it out!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sickened by Julie Gregory

From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, and operated on—in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother’s mind. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most hidden and dangerous form of child abuse, in which the caretaker—almost always the mother—invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Many MBP children die, but Julie Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother's madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman.

This book reminded me of The Glass Castle with the shocking abuse by a child's parents. I am amazed, and saddened, at the unnecessary pain inflicted on the author. It is a amazing, though, that children have the ability to rebound, and even flourish as adults, from such treatment.

I did feel that some parts of the story were glossed over. For example, I wondered what the mom was actually giving the daughter to cause the symptoms, or were a lot of them not physical, but mental. I suppose this information could have been left out as a safety precaution. I hope that doctors today are much more conscious of MBP. 3 stars

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. In 1986 she sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.

I have a soft spot for travel memoirs, but I especially loved this one. Instead of simply traveling and seeing things, the author immersed herself in the culture and actually got to experience a foreign way of life. In addition to traveling to amazing places, she also made amazing friends all over the world. If I ever have the chance to travel much, I can only hope my experiences will be as wonderful as hers. 4 stars

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday Thingers!

Here is the Top 100 Most Popular Books on LibraryThing. Bold what you own, italicize what you’ve read. Star what you liked. Star multiple times what you loved!

1. Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone by J.K. Rowling (32,484)
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling (29,939)
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J.K. Rowling (28,728)
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling (27,926)
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) by J.K. Rowling (27,643)
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by J.K. Rowling (27,641)
7. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (23,266)
8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (21,325)
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling (20,485)
10. 1984 by George Orwell (19,735)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics) by Jane Austen (19,583)
12. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (19,082)
13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (17,586) ***
14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (16,210)
15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (15,483)
16. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (14,566) ***
17. Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) by Charlotte Bronte (14,449)
18. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (13,946)
19. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (13,272) *
20. Animal Farm by George Orwell (13,091)
21. Angels & demons by Dan Brown (13,089)
22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (13,005)
23. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (12,777)
24. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Oprah’s Book Club) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (12,634)
25. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Part 1) by J.R.R. Tolkien (12,276)
26. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (12,147) ***
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (11,976)
28. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (11,512)
29. The Odyssey by Homer (11,483)
30. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (11,392)
31. Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut (11,360)
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11,257)
33. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (11,082)
34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (10,979) ***
35. American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman (10,823)
36. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (10,603)***
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (10,537)
38. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (10,435)
39. The Lovely Bones : a novel by Alice Sebold (10,125)
40. Ender’s Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card (10,092)
41. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (9,827)
42. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman (9,745)
43. Dune by Frank Herbert (9,671)
44. Emma by Jane Austen (9,610)
45. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (9,598)
46. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (9,593)
47. Anna Karenina (Oprah’s Book Club) by Leo Tolstoy (9,433)
48. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (9,413)
49. Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (9,343)
50. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (9,336)
51. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (9,274)
52. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (9,246)
53. The Iliad by Homer (9,153)
54. The Stranger by Albert Camus (9,084)
55. Sense and Sensibility (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen (9,080)
56. Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens (9,027)
57. The Handmaid’s Tale: A Novel by Margaret Atwood (8,960)
58. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (8,904)
59. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (8,813)
60. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery - (8,764)
61. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (8,421)***
62. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (8,417) ***
63. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (8,368)
64. The Grapes of Wrath (Centennial Edition) by John Steinbeck (8,255) 65. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (8,214)
66. The Name of the Rose: including Postscript to the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (8,191)
67. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (8,169)
68. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (8,129)
69. The Complete Works by William Shakespeare (8,096)
70. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (7,843)
71. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (7,834)
72. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (7,829)
73. Hamlet (Folger Shakespeare Library) by William Shakespeare (7,808)74. Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by John Steinbeck (7,807)
75. A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens (7,793)
76. The Alchemist (Plus) by Paulo Coelho (7,710)
77. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (7,648)
78. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (7,598)
79. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk (7,569)
80. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (7,557)
81. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (7,534)
82. Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan (7,530)
83. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (7,512)
84. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (7,436) ***
85. Dracula by Bram Stoker (7,238)
86. Heart of Darkness (Dover Thrift Editions) by Joseph Conrad (7,153)
87. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (7,055)
88. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (7,052)
89. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (7,043)
90. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (6,933)
91. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera (6,901)
92. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (6,899)
93. Neuromancer by William Gibson (6,890)
94. The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics) by Geoffrey Chaucer (6,868)95. Persuasion (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen (6,862)
96. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (6,841)
97. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (6,794)
98. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (6,715)
99. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (6,708)
100. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (6,697)

Every time I do one of these it always makes me realize that there are so many books that I still really want to read. And it makes me realize that it is very likely I may never get through all the books I already own, let alone the ones I keep acquiring. Out of the top 100 I own 44 of them and have read 16 of them.

Another things I always notice when I do lists like this is that I am woefully behind in reading classics. And the thing is, I really want to read them. I own a few and have good intentions to pick them up, but seem to keep getting sidetracked by new books coming out. I wish I could stop any new books from coming out for about a year. I think that is the only chance I have to make a dent in my piles.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

It is July 1962. Florence is a talented musician who dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, an earnest young history student at University College of London, who unexpectedly wooed and won her heart. Newly married that morning, both virgins, Edward and Florence arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their worries about the wedding night to come. Edward, eager for rapture, frets over Florence's response to his advances and nurses a private fear of failure, while Florence's anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by sheer disgust at the idea of physical contact, but dreads disappointing her husband when they finally lie down together in the honeymoon suite.

This is the first book I have read by Ian McEwan, and overall I wasn't that impressed. I found the book to be fairly slow reading for its small size. It was an interesting premise, and I liked the characters fairly well, but the back story seemed tedious to me. I know it was needed to flesh out the characters, but I enjoyed them much more when they were trying to work out their difficulties on their wedding night. 2.5 stars