Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Week in Books...

I had a great book week! I received some wonderful things and two of the books I finished this week were great. This week I got:

--Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. This was a contest win from Julie's Jewels and included and wonderful note from the author.

--Pretty Is What Changes by Jessica Queller from Bookmooch
--Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell from Bookmooch

--The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart from Paperback Swap

--BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker from Hachette Books
--A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle by Liza Campbell from Paperback Swap

This week I finished Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (review) and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (review) and I would highly recommend both of them. I also finished Tell Me Where it Hurts by Nick Trout and will have a review up on it soon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Ranier Academy, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship, and innocent love, that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice, words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Wonderful reviews of Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet have been circling the blogosphere and when that happens I am always afraid that a book won't live up to its hype. I am happy to say that was not the case here!

This book is so many things at once, and all of them work so well together. It is a historical novel, a tale of past and present, love and loss, and a moving family drama.

The writing is descriptive without being flowery. There aren't long passages of details, which I can usually do without anyways, but I still have a very clear picture in my mind's eye of the settings and the characters. There are a couple of wonderful minor characters in the book too and they left as big an impression as the main characters.

The story moved seamlessly between past and present and the WWII setting was very well done. The Japanese internment camps and the mood of the times was portrayed very honestly. It is a focal point of the book, but it doesn't overwhelm the people part of the story.

Ultimately, this is a love story. It is about the love of family and friends, and all the things you do, and don't do, for love. It is a heartwarming story, and one I wouldn't be surprised to see as a movie. 5 stars

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Electronic Vs Paper

Something a little different today–

First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)
Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

Whether we like it or not the publishing industry is changing. I don't blame publishing houses for cutting costs and trying to get the most for their money. Those are smart business decisions. But, I don't believe that "real" books will ever fall completely by the wayside either.

I don't necessarily have anything against the digital books, but I don't particularly enjoy them either. I don't own a Kindle, and don't plan on buying one. I can see the benefit of one if you traveled a lot, it would be much lighter to haul 10 books on a Kindle than 10 hardbacks. But, I like the feel of a book in my hands. I enjoy the different textures, colors and smells of actual books.

I think the option of inexpensive self publishing is one good thing to come out of the digital age. No, this won't always mean that every author will find the success of The Lace Reader, but I think that having the option available gives authors any way to have their voices heard.

I don't know what the answer is, and I don't see digital books going away, but I hope that publishers can find a happy middle ground between digital and printed books.
So, what do you think about ebooks?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: Delicate Edible Birds

From Lauren Groff, author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel The Monsters of Templeton, comes Delicate Edible Birds, one of the most striking short fiction debuts in years. Here are nine stories of astonishing insight and variety, each revealing a resonant drama within the life of a twentieth-century American woman.

In "Sir Fleeting," a midwestern farm girl on her honeymoon in Argentina falls into lifelong lust for a French playboy. In "Blythe," an attorney who has become a stay-at-home mother takes a night class in poetry and meets another full-time mother, one whose charismatic brilliance changes everything. In "Delicate Edible Birds," a group of war correspondents - a lone, high-spirited woman among them - falls prey to a brutal farmer while fleeing Nazis in the French countryside.

In some of these stories, enormous changes happen in an instant. In others, transformations occur across a lifetime - or several lifetimes.

For some people a catchy title will stand out to them, for me it's the cover that catches my eye. I love this cover and the way the black scroll work stands out against the light blue. This book was already on my must read list because I really enjoyed Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton, but if it hadn't been, I would have checked it out just based on the cover.

The first story in the book is set in Templeton. I loved this because it was like going home, back to a familiar, comfortable setting. From here, the stories all feature women, but they are all vastly different. This difference in all the stories was one of my favorite aspects of this collection. Often times with short stories it seems like you are reading variations on the same story over and over. I never felt that way with this collection.

There were a couple of times that the voice the story was told in seemed a little strange, a little off. By the end of the story, though, I always understood exactly why Groff told the story the way she did, and it always made perfect sense.

Groff's writing is beautiful and captivating without being overdone. I would often set the book aside after completing a story just to keep the characters with me a little while longer. Lauren
Groff has definitely made her way on to my "must read" list. 4.5 stars

Special thanks to Hyperion Books for providing my review copy.

Order Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser is hosted by Should Be Reading and asks you to...
1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
4. Please avoid spoilers!

This weeks teaser:

She will hold her breath every time she sees a man walking a little boy down the street, and go home so agitated she will be unable to speak. She will begin letters that she will never send, and with every new one she tears into confetti, she will hope fervently that L. and Compass understand.

This weeks teaser comes from Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories by Lauren Groff. I am really enjoying this collection of short stories and will have a review up on it in the next couple of days.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beat The Reaper Winners!

First off, a huge thank you to Hachette Books for sponsoring this wonderful giveaway!

Thank you to all those who entered. We had a great turnout and will be giving away 3 copies.

And now for the winners!

Donna from Donna's World
J. Kaye from J. Kaye's Book Blog
Rebecca From The Book Lady's Blog

Congrats to the winners and thanks again to all who entered. I will be sending emails to the winners this morning and will give them until Thursday to respond with mailing info.

Check back soon for another giveaway.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Week in Books...

I have received some wonderful books in the mail this week, both for review and from Bookmooch and Paperback Swap.

The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood. This is a audiobook for review from Hachette Book Group
There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro from Paperback Swap

Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner from Bookmooch
Siam Nights: A Love Story by JF Gump. This book was generously sent by the author for review. Mr Gump also included a second copy to be given away. Check back soon for more details on this giveaway.

My reading schedule is mostly back to normal and I was able to finish 2 books this week. I am getting fairly far behind on reviews, though, and my goal for this week is to get them written and scheduled for posting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Inspired

Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

The number one thing my reading is inspired by is my mood. There are times when just can't decide what to read next. I have books everywhere, and they all looked interesting to me at one time or another, but what I pick next is definitely inspired by my mood. Do I want something quick and fun, or something takes a involves a little more thinking? Fiction or non-fiction?

My reading (or at least my acquisition of books) has also been inspired by certain subjects. Once a subject catches my attention I tend to be a bit single minded in finding more about whatever it is. For example, I find all things Russian fascinating and have tons of fiction and non-fiction, in lots of different time periods, set there. I don't know when I will get them all read, but they are at my fingertips when I feel so inclined.

What is your reading inspired by?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

A triumphant new novel from award-winner Kate Atkinson: a breathtaking story of families divided, love lost and found, and the mysteries of fate.

Case One: Olivia Land, youngest and most beloved of the Land girls, goes missing in the night and is never seen again. Thirty years later, two of her surviving sisters unearth a shocking clue to Olivia's disappearance among the clutter of their childhood home. . .

Case Two: Theo delights in his daughter Laura's wit, effortless beauty, and selfless love. But her first day as an associate in his law firm is also the day when Theo's world turns upside down. . .

Case Three: Michelle looks around one day and finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making. A very needy baby and a very demanding husband make her every waking moment a reminder that somewhere, somehow, shed made a grave mistake and would spend the rest of her life paying for it--until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.

As Private Detective Jackson Brodie investigates all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge. Inextricably caught up in his clients grief, joy, and desire, Jackson finds their unshakable need for resolution very much like his own.

This poor book has been sitting on my shelves for quite a while. With the release of When Will There Be Good News? my interest in this series was renewed and I decided now was a good time to get caught up.

Jackson Brodie is a bit of a mystery as a leading character. I didn't feel that I got to know him all that well. I thought he was likeable, but not a character that I immediately wanted to know more about. Hopefully more of his personality will come through in later books.

I thought the individual cases were interesting, but that things came together a little too neatly for me. It seemed like there were too many coincidences to be very realistic.

Even with that, this is a series that I think is worth following. I enjoyed watching Brodie's thought process as he worked through these cases. I have also heard from others that the series gets stronger with each book. 3.5 stars

Order Case Histories

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Thingers!

Today's question: Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book (here is an example of Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter: link shown on book page, what it looks like if you click on the link)? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?

I haven't looked at the Swap This Book page before, but think it is interesting. It gives you a lot of information in a small space.

I don't know much about the swap sites listed except for Bookmooch. I have been a member of BM for about a year and a half and have given and received a lot of books through them. I also belong to Paperback Swap, and do a lot of trading through them too.

If I have books that haven't moved from either site in a while I will donate them to the library, just to clear them out of my house.

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser is hosted by Should Be Reading and asks you to...
1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
4. Please avoid spoilers!

Today's teaser:

"Be quiet," Lucas said. He peered through the door window past the secretary's desk into the waiting area. He couldn't see anybody. "Is she nuts?"

Today's teaser is from Invisible Prey by John Sandford. This is one of my favorite series, but one I hadn't gotten behind on. After I finish this one, I think I am only one book behind.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum

At fifteen, sick of her mom’s spineless reactions to abusive men–and afraid of her stepfather’s unpredictable behavior–Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s apartment and never returned. What followed that fateful decision is the heart of this amazing, fascinating, and disturbing memoir.

From her first frightening night at a shelter, trying to sleep in a large room filled with yelling girls, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. Just like that, she was halfway homeless, always one step away from being sent “upstate to Lockdown.”

As Janice slipped further into street life, she nevertheless continued to attend high school, harbor crushes, even play the lead in the spring production of Guys and Dolls. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two best girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards. Together they scored coke at Danceteria, smoked angel dust in East Village squats, commiserated over their crazy mothers, and slept with one another’s boyfriends on a regular basis.

Janice Erlbaum paints a wry, mesmerizing portrait of being underprivileged, underage, and underdressed in the 1980s, bouncing from shelters to group homes, from tenement squats to legendary nightclubs. A moving and tremendously entertaining ride through the seediest parts of New York City, Girlbomb provides an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves.

This book came highly recommended by other memoir lovers at PaperBack Swap. It had been in my bookshelf for a while before I finally picked it up, and I was glad I did.

Erlbaum was brutally honest in her descriptions of the shelters, group homes and the people she encountered in them. Her descriptions of the drugs she did and the nightclubs she frequented made me cringe at times. Through it all, I almost forgot how young she was. The fact that she was able to take care of herself and still make it though school is a testament to her strength.

I enjoyed the first two thirds of the book more than I did the ending. The last quarter of the book seemed to focus more on Erlbaum's choice of boyfriend more than anything else. As she was still young and on her own, I know this was a big deal, but it didn't have quite the same appeal to me as the first part of the book did. Still, this was a very well written memoir and I will definitely read her second book, Have You Found Her. 3.5 stars

Order Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Week in Books...

I have been limited this week in blogging and reading time, but I did get a couple of books in the mail.

Cross Country by James Patterson on audio. This was a contest win from Jenn's Bookshelf.

Mixed Blood by Roger Smith from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program.

I was only able to finish one book this week as I have spent Wednesday though Saturday morning in a seminar for work. All of the studying I had to do in the evening really cut into my reading time. Hopefully next week things will be back to normal!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Sing! Sing a Song

But, enough about books … Other things have words, too, right? Like … songs!

If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?
What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?

And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?

You don’t have to restrict yourself to modern songsters, either … anyone who wants to pick Gilbert & Sullivan, for example, is just fine with me. Lerner & Loewe? Steven Sondheim? Barenaked Ladies? Fountains of Wayne? The Beatles? Anyone at all…

It's funny, but I have very few favorite songs. I like them while they are playing on the radio, but am then very likely to forget about them once they stop playing. A tune will usually catch my attention before I know the words to the song.

The one exception to this is Brad Paisley. I think he is an amazing guitar player and his is one show I do not miss if I can help it.

My favorite song of his is a very personal one for me. My first husband was killed in a car accident about three years ago and the song When I Get Where I Am Going always reminds me of him. At least I am able to listen to it now without crying.

I don't listen to much country now either. Usually I listen to Top 40 or Alternative Rock.

Which are your favorite songs?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I have recently been given some awards by fellow bloggers and I wanted to take the time to thank everyone. Things have been hectic in real life and I haven't had as much time for my blog as I would like. However, these awards are very important to me and I wanted to make sure they got the acknowledgement they deserved.
I received the Lemonade Award from Wendy at Wendy's Minding Spot. This is for blogs with attitude and/or gratitude.

Becky at My thoughts...your thoughts awarded me the Well Worth Watching award. It is for all those blogs you cannot wait to read every day, that you look forward to seeing updates on and that have inspired you in your own blogging!

The Butterfly Award was given to me by Debbie at Wrighty's Reads.

And last, but certainly not least, I received the Premio Dardas Award from Wendy at Wendy's Minding Spot. This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.
Thank you ladies for all the awards. The are greatly appreciated!
Since I am slow in getting these all up, as these awards have been going around for a while, I have decided to show my gratitude to ALL of the blogs that I faithfully read by spending more time commenting. I know how much I love to receive comments on my blog and am making a commitment to comment as much as possible on others blogs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Thingers!

Wendi asks...Have you ever looked at the Common Knowledge page, or viewed the history of changes/additions? If you were aware of this section, have you added any information? Do you find this information useful or interesting?

I have looked at the Common Knowledge info before, but have only contributed a few times. I have meant to add more info but, as usual, lack of time has kept me from it. I didn't know there was a history of changes page and will have to check it out.

I love the fact that LibraryThing users get to help make the site better by adding additional info. And for those who contribute on a regular basis, there are badges available too.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends -- and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society -- born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island -- boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

I'd heard so many wonderful things about this book from fellow bloggers that when I saw an audio copy at the library I couldn't resist. And I am very glad I didn't!

When I first started listening I was afraid it might be hard to keep track of the characters as the entire book consists solely of letters and telegrams. I soon realized that I had no need to be worried. The letters flow smoothly from one character to another. This gives you many characters perspectives without missing any of the action.

I was immediately drawn into to Juliet's story and often found myself laughing out loud. Her letters were honest, fun and wonderfully entertaining. All of the characters had such well defined personalities that I felt like they were all good friends by the end of the story.

The narrators, I believe there were five, did an amazing job! I could tell as soon as they started speaking which character it was. They all had such distinct voices and the accents were absolutely charming.

I finished listening to this one on new years day and still haven't started another audio because I loved this one so much. 5 stars

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beat The Reaper Audiobook Giveaway

Hatchette Book Group has graciously donated up to 3 copies of Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell to be given away! I really enjoyed it, and my review of the book can be seen here. **Please note that this giveaway is for an audio version of the book** I haven't had the chance to listen to the audio version, but would imagine it is quite entertaining!

Now for the rules: This contest is open only to residents of the US and Canada. No PO Boxes. I will choose one winner for each 10 people that enter, with maximum of 3 books given away. The winners will be picked by The giveaway will be open until midnight January 25, and I will pick the winner Monday, January 26.
For one entry leave a comment below. For a second entry blog about this contest and link back here. For a third entry follow me or subscribe to my blog, and let me know you have signed up. Current followers and subscribers are also eligible for this.

Good Luck!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This Week in Books...

Since last week was a short work week and very hectic, I am combining that post with this one. I also didn't get very many books last week...

Weds December 31:
A Child's Journey out of Autism by Leeann Whiffen from Sourcebooks

This week I received:

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken from a friend on Bookmooch

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison from Bookmooch
Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn, Ricki Lake, and Abby Epstein from Bookmooch

Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories by Lauren Groff from Harper Collins

I have also decided that this post will recap where I am at with all my reading challenges. Hopefully this will keep me organized, which is not one of my strong points...

As of the first of the year I have completed 4 books for my 100+ books challenge and 999 challenge. 2 of those also counted for my countdown challenge.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones

Born A'isha bint Abi Bakr in seventh century Arabia, she would become the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and one of the most revered women in the Muslim faith. Married at the age of nine, The Jewel of Medina illuminates the difficult path A'isha confronted, from her youthful dreams of becoming a Bedouin warrior, to her life as the beloved wife and confident of the founder of Islam.

Extensively researched and elegantly crafted, The Jewel of Medina presents the beauty and harsh realities of life in an age long past, during a time of war, enlightenment, and upheaval. At once a love story, a history lesson, and a coming-of-age tale, The Jewel of Medina provides humanizing glimpses into the origins of the Islamic faith, and the nature of love, through the eyes of a truly unforgettable heroine.

Shortly before The Jewel of Medina was scheduled to be published with Random House they issued a statement that the book wouldn't be published due to possible threats. While they should be concerned with security, I thought their reaction was excessive. Jones was able to secure another publisher, and The Jewel of Medina hit stores in October 2008.

I enjoy historical fiction, but haven't made much time for it lately. I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, and was excited to read it after all the controversy.

A'isha was a fairly likeable heroine. She was strong willed and quick witted, and this was both a blessing and a curse. Her sharp tongue often caused her problems with her sister-wives and her husband. Her immaturity also came through, as it should, as she was quite young when she married Muhammad.

One critic of the book called it "soft-core pornography", and I found that to be grossly exaggerated. The writing was a bit flowery for my taste, but not even remotely explicit. I believe that the criticism of the book was based on the fact that Muhammad was not always written in the most flattering light. For example, there are a couple of scenarios in the book where A'isha thought Muhammad's love of power was greater than his love of God.

My favorite part of the book was the interaction between the sister-wives. This gave a sense of the times they lived in and also highlighted how most women were treated. Muhammad was an exception in that he seemed to listen to and value the opinion of his wives.

For me, good historical fiction makes you want to read and learn more about the time period the book was set in. The Jewel of Medina introduced me to an interesting time, and I would like to learn more. 3 stars

The book's official website is here and a couple of newspaper reviews of the book can be found here and here.

Order The Jewel of Medina