Thursday, September 30, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial food pipeline to live a rural life- vowing that, for one year, they'd only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.

One of the unforeseen benefits of starting my own book blog has been the fact that I've now read more non fiction books in the last year than I ever have before.  What's really wonderful about it is the wide range of topics I've been able to read about. I have since discovered a new found love of memoirs, so when I had the chance to sign up for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I jumped for it.

 I wasn't sure what I would get out of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle before I read it, and now that I'm done, I'm still not really sure what I got out of it.  When I started the book I assumed it would be a detailed account into the lives of the author and her family as they took a year off from outside sources of food and for the most part, that's what I got.  What I wasn't expecting was the almost dogmatic tone directed at the food industry as a whole.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that this book, for the most part, worked for me and I really enjoyed reading it.  I was amused and somewhat jealous of this family's year long experiment.  I can only imagine the pride of growing your own food and seeing it nourishing your family.  The sense of well earned accomplishment is one to be admired and I applaud the author for caring enough about her family to take on such a life changing journey.   It's one that I wish I had the resources to experience for myself. I would love to feed my son vegetables grown on our own land.

What I loved about this book more than anything was how personal it felt.  The author is more than willing to share all the details of her experiment.  It felt like I was living with them during that year and I never wanted to leave.  I laughed along with her while she was recounting her story of breeding heritage turkeys.  My mouth watered at some of the fantastic recipes sprinkled throughout the book, some of which I will be trying out very soon.

Where this book didn't work for me, and I may be in the minority on this one, is the almost condescending tone taken throughout the book towards the modern food industry and those of us forced to deal with it.  I'm not here to defend the industry, quite honestly I don't agree with half the things done to the animals and crops we get our food from.  Every time I see a video of a egg hatchery or a slaughter house I wish I had the luxury to swear off it's products, but like millions of other I don't. 

I know the author wasn't judging those of us who can't do what she did, but there was a tone used throughout the book that almost felt snobbish.  The sense of being better than the rest of us was implied though I don't think it was intentional.  I think when people write a memoir about any aspect of their life, a little ego will come out.  It's normal and not something done on purpose.  It's the lens we view life from.  For the most part this was a very small aspect of what I got from the book and not one that should deter anyone else from reading it.  It may be simply that I was being over sensitive and judging myself through the author's eyes.

Now I would like to say that this book changed my life and that I'll be eating differently.  This book made me want to and for a day or two after I finished with the book I was in that mind set. My reality quickly set in though and while I may be more conscious of my choices, I don't seem them changing all that much.  I will be visiting the farmers market more often to buy local, fresh produce and I will pay more attention to where my food comes from.  But in the end, though I loved reading this book, it won't be life changing for me.

You can read more about Barbara Kingsolver by visiting her website.

I would like to thank Trish of  TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  This was part of a larger Barbara Kingsolver book tour featuring 5 of her books.  You can view all the other stops on the tour by visiting the tour page.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Amanda Shelton

Since I'm such a hug fan of "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" and it's amazing main character, Buffy Summers, I'm sure you won't be surprised that I love Sarah Michelle Gellar just as much.  She is an actress that brings every character she plays to life.  So this weeks Favorite Fictional Character is Amanda Shelton from the movie "Simply Irresistible."

When Amanda's mother passed away, she was left running a slowly dying restaurant.  It was a labor of love for her mother and Amanda has been trying in vain to keep it running.  She has very few customers, mainly old friends of her mother's who are just trying to be supportive.  The worst part, Amanda can't cook.  If it wasn't for her assistant, the restaurant would never serve anything that was edible.

Since Amanda is the star of a romantic comedy, you know something special will have to happen.  While she's at the market a mysterious crab crawls into her basket, and Amanda's life is never the same again.  While the crab looks on Amanda starts putting everything she has into her food, and I mean everything.  Amanda can not only cook and cook well now, but she can make her customer's feel any emotion just by eating the food.  Lucky for us there is a hunky man in the picture, Tom Bartlett, who is in charge of opening a new restaurant for a department store.  Needless to say hi jinks ensue and while the road may be rocky for or romantic couple, they end up together in the end.

What I love about Amanda is that she is both naive and worldly at the same time.  She is the girl next door that every girl wanted to be friends with and every boy wanted for his own.  Her approach to life is to grab it and turn it into something she wants.  She takes this opportunity to not only save her mother's dream but to find love for herself.  Even after she figures out what's going on, she keeps herself in control with only a little freaking out.  She accepts life and moves on.  She's not a whiner or a quitter and I admire her for it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Meeting At Corvallis by S.M. Stirling

It's been 10 years since the Change and Michael Havel and Juniper Mackenzie are still leading their groups of survivors in Western Oregon.  War with Norman Arminger hasn't started yet due to some ingenious moves by Clan Mackenzie, but it's only a matter of time before these groups will meet in battle and change their lives forever.

Because of various tactical planning by Juniper and her Clan, war with the Portland Protectorate Association hasn't quite broken out.  Tensions though are rising and it's only a matter of time before Norman Arminger and his even more dangerous wife, the Lady Sandra Arminger, figure out a way to ride roughshod over the obstacles in the way.

This is a tense third book in the series and one that I found myself being unable to put down.  The author is fantastic at creating completely believable worlds for his characters to inhabit.  It's those characters that drives this story.  This book, along with the two previous books, are glued together by the fantastic people who inhabit them.  It's their stories that will keep you coming back for more.  Now obviously, like most epic fantasy books, there is a large cast of characters running throughout the books so far.  Characters you will love and love to hate.  Lucky for us, they are all believable and well rounded.  Even the "evil" characters come across as complex individuals who have their own reasons for being the way they are. 

There are some brilliant supporting characters in these books, I may have not mentioned them before but they are well worth getting to know.  There is Mike's sister-in-law who's so into Tolkien that she, along with Juniper's deaf daughter, has started her own version of The Dunedain Rangers.  Juniper's son Rudi and Mathilda Arminger,the daughter of Lord Norman and Lady Sandra, are slowly growing into their own personalities and both are deeply enjoyable.  I could go on and on but there are so many wonderful characters in these books that I could take the next twenty paragraphs and never get through them all.

One warning though, and this started in the previous books, characters are never safe.  Even the ones you have grown to love are in danger of being killed off.  It's the one aspect of epic fantasy that when encountered for the first time, may take you by surprise.  The more you read and get into the story itself, you realize those deaths are needed to propel the story.  In a world turned upside down, people will die, including the good guys.

The meeting in Corvallis, which is an independent city state that is run by the old faculty of the University, that's in the title doesn't happen until the end of the book, but by then you are welcoming it.  It's a calming down of sorts that needs to happen but the journey towards that meeting is a wild ride that will leave you breathless.

Friday, September 24, 2010

They're Coming To Get You, Barbara.....

They're coming to get you, Barbara....They're coming for you, Barbara....They're coming for you....Look, there comes one of them now....Here he comes now! I'm getting out of here!

Little did Johnny know, how correct he was while he was teasing his sister, Barbara, that evening in the cemetery.  What started off as a taxing 6 hour long road trip to lay flowers on their father's grave, turned into a night of unspeakable horror.

When a destroyed satellite crashes to Earth, the radiation wakens the newly dead who wander around and feast on human flesh.  Barbara is quickly thrust into a world gone mad, where the walking dead is roaming the land slaying and eating their victims.

 After taking refuge in a farm house where she is quickly joined by others who are looking for a safety, Barbara and her companions must figure out what to do next.  Do they hole up in the house and hope for rescue or do they make a run for it to safety?  Either option leaves them exposed to the reanimated corpses gathering outside the house.

That one vital decision is what drives the best part of this movie.  It's the conflict and mistrust inside the house that fuels the flames and causes mistakes to happen.  When soul shaking fear is mixed in with self preservation instincts and overinflated egos, you know the result will not be good.  The tension and terror can be felt wafting off the screen and you can't help but be sucked into their plight.  How many of them will live to see morning?  Will any of them get out of that house alive?  I will leave it to you to find out what happens next, if you think you can handle it.

When Sept. starts drawing to a close and the weather is finally cooling off, I'm instantly in the mood for horror movies and books, so the other night I put in one of my favorite movies to start the season off right.  "Night of the Living Dead" just happens to be my favorite zombie movie.  Actually I'm not a big zombie fan, so this is one of the few movies I can handle.  The fact that is brilliantly done and still manages to scare the crap out of me at times, is even better.  I don't want to let you in on all the happenings, but I will give you a vague warning.  If you have never seen this before, don't get too comfortable in your ideas of what happens next.  Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens to change that outcome.

For those of you who don't mind sitting at their computer for about an hour and thirty-six minutes, I found the entire movie online at YouTube, so here it is for your viewing pleasure.  Bear in mind, it won't be as good as watching it on TV and the right hand side may be cut off, but just a fraction of it.

This will qualify for the Peril on the Screen segment of the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Indiana Jones

I'm more than a little excited to do this FFC post and I wish I could say it was all because of Indy.  As great as Indy is, I wouldn't be doing this post if he wasn't, he's not what I'm thrilled about showing you.  What I'm still giddy over is the lovely button that you see on the left hand side.  Saturday morning, early Saturday morning I got a email from my good friend Michelle of The True Book Addict.  Now any chance I get to talk with her is always fun so I gladly opened my email then about fell out of my chair.  The email was letting me know that, all on her own, she made a fantastic button for my Favorite Fictional Character posts.  Not only that, she made separate buttons for Halloween and Christmas characters during the months of Oct. and Dec.  Now I admit to never even thinking about having buttons for this but now that I have seen them and get to use them, I'm overly thrilled.  So I want to give a big humongous THANK YOU to Michelle.

Born, Henry Walton Jones, Jr., Indiana Jones is a rough and tumble college professor, archaeologist, OSS operative, and a ophidiophobia sufferer.  He is one of the most endearing characters to ever grace the big screen and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. 

As Professor Jones, Indy is the intelligent, scholarly man who wears tweed and gives lectures that don't make you want to fall asleep.  He speaks many languages and knows so much about history and cultures that you would want him to be your lifeline call.  Once he has the chance to go out to the field and find an artifact though, he become Indiana Jones.  A fedora wearing, whip carrying man of action, Indian Jones is the pulp fiction hero come to life.

What is amazing about this character though is despite his rugged good looks (just look at that picture) and intense bravery, he is a human being.  He gets hurt, makes mistakes, laughs at himself and is so scared of snakes it's almost embarrassing to watch.  This sense of being a fallible human is what makes him such a great character.  He is the everyman we all want to be as kids especially when he is fighting Nazis, securing the Ark of the Covenant, finding the Holy Grail, or encountering inter dimensional beings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Protector's War by S.M. Stirling

Synopsis From Back Cover:

It's been eight years since the Change rendered technology inoperable across the globe.  Rising form the ashes of the computer and industrial ages is a brave new world.  Survivors have banded together in tribal communities, committed to rebuilding society.

There isn't a lot I can tell you about this book without giving a lot of the plot twists away, so this review will be short of details.  The book starts eight years after the Change and life in the Willamette Valley is teetering on the edge of war. The militarized Bearkillers led by Mike Havel and the mystical Clan Mackenzie headed by Juniper Mackenzie have managed to make a place in the valley for their respective societies.

The two groups have strong ties binding them together to oppose the Protectorate ruled by Norman Arminger.  All three groups now have heirs that they are wanting to protect and build inheritances for.  Together our heroes with the help of their allies, the warrior monks of Mt. Angel and the loose federation of ranchers east of the Cascades, are trying to keep Arminger's reach from growing even larger.

This is a solid second installment in the series and the focus, outside of the coming war, is on the family.  What family dynamics mean in a society where birthright is once again becoming an issue.  Who will inherit the positions of power when the parents start to die off?  What happens when titles and positions are once again important distinctions in society?  I don't want you to think that this is the only aspect of family that is explored in this book because it's not.  I don't think there is any aspect that isn't involved in this book and the interpersonal dynamics are fascinating to read.

The other aspect of the book I enjoyed was getting to see how other regions of the world have survived the Change.  We get to see glimpses in England and small glances at the rest of Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand.  Reading even a little bit of how the rest of the world manages to survive when everything they knew was turned on it's head was a treat that I was not expecting to see.

So for any of you who end up reading the first book in the series, Dies The Fire, you are in for an even better treat with this one.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 9/20/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog

The first three books I received from Planned Television Arts for review.  I got an over sized paperback of The Games Bible by Leigh Anderson, a hardcover of The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham, and The Book Of The Dead by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson.

I did buy a hardcover of The Female Of The Species by Joyce Carol Oates from Barnes & Noble for less than $3.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dies The Fire by S.M. Stirling

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Change occurred when an electrical storm centered over the island of Nantucket produces a blinding white flash that rendered all electronic devices and firearms inoperable - and plunged the world into a dark age humanity was unprepared to face...

What happens when someone unplugs us.  Electronics, cars, guns, and even steam power no longer works.  Planes plunge out of the sky destroying entire cities in flames and billions of people starve to death when they are no longer able to find food.  Can you imagine what would happen in places like California and the East Coast when nothing works anymore?  Death and destruction reign.

This is the first book in the Emberverse series where the author explores all the ramifications in such a world wide catastrophe.  This first book deals with a short period of time after The Change where a few survivors in Oregon are finding new ways to live. 

Mike Havel was an private charter pilot who just happened to be flying a plane full passengers over Idaho when the change happened.  What follows for them was a harrowing plane crash and a cross country journey back to Oregon.  The are forced to deal with bandits and cannibals and end up forming a military styled group nicknamed The Bearkillers, after Mike kills a bear without a gun.  Mike eventually becomes Lord Bear as he leads his ever growing group of survivors to safety.

Juniper Mackenzie, a musician and Wiccan priestess, is playing in pub full of college students when the lights go out and planes start dropping from the sky.  Her and hers quickly leave town and head out to her families cabin where they hope to wait out the worst of what's to come.  As more or her friends arrive and her community starts to grow, Clan Mackenzie, a pseudo Scottish clan with Wiccan religious beliefs starts to organize their section of the Willamette Valley.

In Portland a history professor and his wife, Norman and Sandra Arminger, quickly seize control with the help of gang bangers and remnants of those who liked to play act with swords and accents before the change.  They form the Portland Protective Association and organize themselves into a feudal society.  They rule with the sword and have no problem killing those that stand in their way.

These are they three main power players who are trying to reform their small corner of Oregon into a livable environment.  They relearn how to plant crops and raise livestock.  They discover how to forge swords, armour, and even how to make bows.  The land reverts back to a more violent time where wars were waged for territory and resources.  A land where heroes and despots are made and legends are born.

I have to say I love this book.  Watching society try to reform after billions are dead and nothing works the way we always knew they would is fascinating.  Mike, Juniper, and the large cast of friends, family, and allies are some of the most realistic characters I've had the pleasure of reading in a very long time. 

I first read this book a few years ago and every once in a while I have to dust it off and explore their world again.  I would hope I would have the strength of mind to survive in such a world turned upside down.  I would hope to wind up in a group like the Mackenzies or the Bearkillers and not in a world ruled by Norman Arminger.  I've already read the next three books in the series (reviews later) and I have 3 more to go.  I can't wait to see how everything turns out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character --- Jonathan Switcher

I'm sure you guys are seeing the name in the post title and asking yourselves, "Who the hell is that?"  Well if you looked at the picture and grew up in the 80s, you should be able to figure it out. 

Jonathan is the "romantic" lead in one of the funniest romantic comedies from the 80s, Mannequin.  I guess if this was to come out in book form now, it would be classified as paranormal romance or other such nonsense.

Jonathan is a budding artist trapped in one dead end job after another but when he finally finds a job in the stockroom of a department store, his life takes off in a whole new direction.  He quickly meets the lovely Emmy, who is a mannequin that comes to life, but only when it's just the two of them.  Any time someone else comes around she turns into wood again. 

Their teamwork quickly cements Jonathan as a fantastic window designer, one that uses artistry and ingenuity in his designs.  The fact that that same teamwork leads to kissing and falling in love is where the hilarity comes into play.  You can only roll around with a come to life mannequin for so long before you get caught up in situations you can't explain.

What I love about Jonathan though is that he doesn't care.  He is unconcerned about what others are thinking of him.  He falls in love and runs with it.  He doesn't over analyze it, doesn't question it because it's not "normal", and he doesn't all the judgements of others to dissuade him from following his heart.  He falls and love and just because it's not what is expected of him, he doesn't turn the other way.  He goes for it and has the happy ending we all wish we could have.

He is someone that I aspired to be like when as a teenager I was dealing with my qualms about being gay.  I quickly realized that I couldn't live me life to make others happy or to accept me.  I had to live my life in such a way that I could accept myself and make me happy.  In that regard Jonathan and I are on the same page.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW: The Interview Swap

This year I got the honor of interviewing a blogger that was brand new to me, Honey of Coffeespoons.  Just by perusing her blog over the last few days I have to tell you I really like her taste in books.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her and her blog better over the years.  So with no more chatter from me, I present Honey in her own words.  By the way, I know we would both love it if after reading this interview you went over to her site and said hi.  Of course you are more than welcome to read her interview with me while you are there.

1. What got you into reading? Have you been a book lover all your life or did it happen later on?

My mom got me into reading. I like to tell the story of how, when I was 3 years old, my mom brought me to a mall, and she told me she was going to buy me a book. I remember that clearly, even if I was that young, because it struck me that my mom seemed so happy and excited to get me this thing called a "book." I remember I had no idea what a book was, but I thought, "If mommy's so excited about it, it must be great!" So she bought me copies of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. And every night thereafter, she'd read me one of those books. Or at least, every night she wasn't at duty in the hospital, which was more often than I liked. Anyway, I've been into books ever since.:)

2. What inspired you to start your own blog? What do you like the most about blogging?

Well, I joined this online book group at Shelfari called Flips Flipping Pages in 2008. Back then, I just wanted to talk about books with people who were willing to talk about books. Then it got to the point that talking didn't seem to be enough, that I had to write about it. (Oh, also, I was immensely bored with the job I had then.) So, I started a blog, mostly for me. First it started out as a way to document my reading goals. Then it became about the need to do something creative, like write, because, I learned, one way to survive in a job that bored you is having a creative outlet. Then, it became the need to know the community better. I think these three things are what I love about blogging. (Sorry I can't name just one!) I love book blogging because I talk about what I love. I love it because it allows me to do something creative for me alone. And I love blogging because of the people I've met through it, some of whom have become my friends in the real world.:)

3. What book has most influenced the way you see life and your role in it?

Gosh, this book changes depending on what phase I am in my life, I think. I always say that my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, because when I first read it, it floored me. And I had to stop at all those great quotable quotes to just really think about it. Like, "Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." I took that and still take that to heart. Or Scout's quote about reading: "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." I mean, it's not a life changer, but it sure echoes a truth I believe in.

But since we take different roles at different parts of our lives, books that influence me change, too. One of the books that made a great impact on me was Blind Assassin. Just the thought of a woman who battles both little and big things in very small ways was something that began to resonate with me very much.

4. Has your taste in books changed as you've gotten older? What genres did you enjoy earlier in life and what genres do you read now?

Oh yes, indeedy. I used to read a lot of trashy bestsellers when I was in high school (read: Sidney Sheldon, Judith Krantz, Danielle Steele, romance novels). My apologies to those who like these books. I used to like them. But now, I don't. I tried rereading them, and lost patience. Then, when an old boyfriend gave me a Piers Anthony Xanth series, I got into a sci-fi/fantasy phase, which lasted till college. After my sci-fi/fantasy phase, I got into a classics phase, till I finished college. Then, strangely, I only started liking Young Adult lit when I started working already. Now, I read a mixture of all those other genres that I liked. Generally now, I read contemporary lit and young adult, but I also like a fast-paced bestseller or a good mystery, or even a vampire novel. And fantasy, and science-fiction. And I'm trying out non-fic, too. So, yes, I'm an eclectic reader.

5. What authors can you never get enough of? If they are current authors do you reread their older books while waiting for new releases?

I love Jane Austen. I used to reread Pride and Prejudice every year. I guess I should start doing that again, huh? But I don't like any of the Jane Austen inspired books. As for current authors, I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman and Jasper Fforde. I think they're the only authors I really follow. I've read all of Fforde's books and Gaiman's trade books. Not all of Gaiman's graphic novels, though, because they cost a bit here. Anyway, I hardly reread, except for a few authors, like Austen or, um, Shakespeare. (Kind of embarrassing, but yes, I'm a fan.) Oh wait! Charlaine Harris, but only her Southern Vampire mysteries and her Harper Connelly books. If these authors don't come out with new releases, I'm ok. There are lots of other books on my Mt. TBR.:)

6. How much of your day do you get to devote to reading? Do you get to read whenever you want to or do you have to make time for it?

Oh, gosh. You know, last year, I read and read and read. I quit that job I was bored in and got a job that fits the kind of schedule I wanted, so I had the time I wanted to read. Now, because that new job has suddenly become more hectic (in a good way), I don't get to read as much per day. Actually, I do read a lot, because my job requires me to, and I like the stuff that I read. But, I guess, since I have to read more now at work, sometimes when I get home, I just want to turn on the TV and surf through the channels. I don't spend as much time on leisure reading as I did last year. But I guess that's ok. I honestly find the stuff I read for work fun.

7. What is your favorite book that you may be embarrassed by?

Twilight. Hah! Actually, Twilight isn't my favorite book, but I did truly enjoy reading it, because it was just a delicious romance. And, after reading the last part of your question, this book immediately popped into my head. I know a lot of people hated it, but, what can I say? I was tickled by the love story. So, when friends find out that I liked Twilight, they look at me weird, and I know I dropped in their estimation a tad, but hey--I figure if we can't like what we like, what's the point in reading?

8. Other than reading, what do you do for fun? Are you a adventure seeker or do you like something a little closer to home?

Ooh, I like reading. Hahahaha! Gosh, I'm such a one-trick pony. Actually, for fun, I like eating. There, I said it. Sometimes, I like eating better than reading. I like going out and finding hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve good food and are affordable. And then, I bring my family there and tell my friends about it. Also, I love hanging out with my kids. I've two beautiful children, aged 6 and 5. It doesn't matter how rough my day has been: I go home, and I play with them, and I think, "What the heck was I bothered about?"

9. Tell use some little know factoids about yourself.

In college, I majored in Electrical and Electronics Engineering till I was in my fourth year. And then I had an epiphany. I realized my passion was literature. And teaching. So, I shifted courses and went into education. Spent 2 additional years in college, but I never looked back.

I hate roaches. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.

I love cakes. I love them, I love them, I love them.

I used to know the entire libretto of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon. Oh, and I also memorized all the songs in Disney's Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Why? Just cause.

I would like to thank Honey for her time and encourage everyone to go and tell her hi!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 9/13/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog

I received Sacrifice by Dakota Banks from the author for review.  I had the honor of reviewing her first book so I'm really excited for this one.  Also there will be an author interview and an international giveaway with this one so be on the lookout.

I got an ARC of Jane And The Damned by Janet Mullany for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

The lovely Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books graciously sent along her ARC of Dracula In Love by Karen Essex.

Some 90s R&B

I'm in the mood tonight for some good R&B from the 90s.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

i'd know you anywhere by Laura Lippman

It was the Summer of 1985 and Elizabeth Lerner was 15 and trying to live her life by her own rules.  When she spies a young man, Walter Bowman, burying his latest victim, she is kidnapped and held for the next 6 weeks.  It will become the defining moment in her life and one that she has tried to put behind her. 

Over twenty years later and now know as Eliza Benedict, a loving wife and mother, she has done that to the best of her ability.  When she receives a note from Walter, who is about to be put to death for his crimes, asking to speak to her, her life is thrown for a loop.

Laura Lippman has crafted what should have been an emotionally compelling journey of what happens when a victim is forced to deal with her past and the man who victimized her.  The bones of the story were there.  You had a compelling character in Eliza who for the last 20 years has lived her life, trying to deal with what happened to her as a teenager.  She was Walter's only victim to have lived to tell her tale or kidnapping and rape but overall she has overcome and triumphed over her ordeal.  When she receives the letter from Walter she is thrust back into analyzing her feelings and what she feels is needed for her to finally have closure.

Where this story lost me is in the emotional aspect of the story.  I didn't feel any emotion from the characters, I read the emotion, but I didn't feel it.  There was almost no conflict or tension coming off the page in any tangible way.  Even when I knew Walter was trying to manipulate Eliza to get her to do his bidding once again, I couldn't take it seriously.  I knew what I should be feeling, what I should be thinking of him, but that's all it was for me.  I knew I should feel something, but I didn't. 

Where, for me, that lack of emotional connection really affected my enjoyment of the story was during the flashback scenes of Eliza's abduction.  The author paints those scenes in a way that left me not caring about what's going on.  I want to feel concern, anger, and fear for a child who is being held and manipulated against her will.  I want to feel the characters fear billowing off the page.  Instead this felt like I was watching a really badly acted Lifetime movie starring Tori Spelling.  You know the ones I'm talking about, where the actors are saying the lines but you don't believe a damn word they are saying.

Now I know that this isn't a deal breaker for a lot of readers, for me it is.  I want the emotional connection to come from the characters, not the author telling me what I should feel.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that   the concept was there and it just fell flat in the execution.  I appreciated the idea behind the book and since I know a lot of my fellow mystery lovers enjoy her work, I'm more than willing to read another one of her books.  My issues with the book aside, I would still recommend this one to anyone who is wanting a light quick read that will give the rush a thriller does but won't put too much of an emotional drain on them.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Booktours for the opportunity to read and review this book.

To learn more about Laura Lippman and her career as a journalist and writer please take the time to visit her website and say hi on her Facebook page.

I would also encourage everyone to take the time to visit the other stops on the tour to discover other opinions and thoughts.

This will qualify for the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010 hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Read The Qur'an, Not Burn It

I'm going to totally honest right now by saying that while I've been hearing about this idiot's plans to burn the Qur'an, I really haven't paid that much attention to it.  For those of you who may not know what I'm talking about, the picture is that of Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center, a church of about 50 people.  Pastor Fox and his "followers" feel it's appropriate to burnt he Qur'an, this Saturday in remembrance of Sept. 11.

As a book lover I find the idea of burning any book disgusting and abhorrent.  The destruction of any written word just because you don't like it or not understand it is cowardly, shameful, and just about any other negative adjective I feel like using.  The fact that he is supposedly doing this to remember those killed on that day is a slap in the face to those who died and to this country.  It goes against what this country stands for at it's core and pretends that there were not Muslims in the Twin Towers when they came down.

What does this idiot think will happen in the Muslim world when the news carries pictures of Americans burning the Qur'an.  Does he think that they will embrace our men and women in uniform in the streets of Afghanistan and thank them for it?  Does he not realize that most of the world lives within countries where a government can stop this disgusting public display from happening?  Does he not get that a lot of Muslims will see this and assume that not only the government of the United States but it's citizens condone the vileness of burning a book that is viewed as Holy by over a billion people world wide?

I'm not saying I think the government should step in and stop it and I will defend his right to do it.  What I am saying is that he should feel the moral outrage of a nation and it's people, that sheer public desire should put a stop to this.  I also realize that nothing anyone says is going to stop him from going through with his plans, I just hope he is willing to take responsibility for the damage he is going to cause.

Truthfully, I've never read the Qur'an and while I may have been curious about it in the past, I've never felt a strong urge to read it either.  Well thanks to Pastor Jones I will be reading it in the near future.  I will not let an idiot like him make this country look bad or intolerant.  I just hope that those who are like minded find it within themselves to read the Qur'an and not burn it.  I want to understand it in the way I understand the Bible.  Maybe if those in the Muslim world see more Americans reading the Qur'an and not burning it, we will show them that we really are a nation of religious tolerance and not one of hatred and stupidity.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Brett Hopper

I know I'm probably going to be the only one who even knows about this character, but that's fine, I can live with that.  Detective Brett Hopper, played by the gorgeous Taye Diggs, was the lead character in the short lived TV show, "Day Break".  The show aired for only a few episodes in 2006, but I was hooked right away.  Luckily they wrapped up the storyline for the DVD release which has 13 episodes.

What I like about Det. Hopper, other than how fine he is, is how resilient he is in the face of the bizzaro world he is forced to deal with.  One day he wakes up and discovers that he is being set up for the murder of a state attorney.  He is forced to go on the run and watch as his girlfriend and family are targeted by the bad guys.  The problem is, he's forced to relive the day over and over again until he finds out what is going on.  Over the subsequent days he sees his girlfriend killed, his partner killed, his sister kidnapped, and almost every other thing that can ruin your day.  He's almost killed a few times and when he wakes up he has the wounds and scars to prove it.

Thankfully when he wakes up he is able to remember everything that happened the "day" before and he's able to correct the mistakes he's made.  How many times can you think you know someone only to have them do something that looks like a betrayal? He has his limits pushed to the edge, he doesn't know who to trust, and all he wants to do is save his girl. For most people this would drive them crazy, how many times can you watch your loved ones die without it driving you mad?  But Hopper finds the inner strength to continue on because he realizes that's the only way to make his nightmare end.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

Like a lot of books I've had on my wish list, I first heard about this book on NPR while driving in the car.  It was August 4th, 2008 and I was listening to The Diane Rehm Show and she was interviewing Brunonia Barry on her show (click the link to listen to the interview).  I fell in love with the book then, but it took me about two years to finally read it.  I wish I had read it the very next day.

This was a haunting story the plays around with reality while exploring identity and family secrets.  These elements have been woven into a tapestry that explores what it is to be a whole person with a strong idea of self and who you are as a person.  Tanner is one of the most interesting character I've read in a long time.  She is so turned in within herself that she seems to start the book in a place where she needs to come out and rejoin the rest of us.  The journey she takes to not only come into her own but to find out what happened to her great aunt takes her on such a exploration of self that I fell in love with her. 

There has been so much written about this book that I don't want to take too much more of your time but for those of you who haven't read this book, I want to implore you too pick it up as soon as possible.  Brunonia Barry has a voice unlike most of what I've been reading these last few years.  She can weave a story in such a way that makes me think of days gone by when Celtic storytellers would sit around a fire and tell beautifully imagined stories that capture the listeners imagination.  You can physically feel this story as it unfolds and I'm thankful for the author for the experience.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mailbox Monday for 9/6/10

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

During my weekly trip to the Friends of the Library bookstore I picked up a book club hardcover of Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub.  It's the sequel to Talisman so I'm looking forward to reading both of them.  I also picked up a hardcover of Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs.

I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a certain book and ended up leaving with a hardcover of The Likeness by Tana French instead.  It was on the bargain table for $5.98 so I had to get it instead of what I went there for.

The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer by Doug Koktavy

Doug Koktavy adopted two little black lab brothers as puppies and lived a long and happy life with them for almost 9 years.  They had a really deep emotional connection with each other so when Beezer contracted fatal kidney disease, it threw the household into turmoil.  Doug and the dogs embark on a hard fought and emotional ordeal with the disease and through that experience Doug grows in his understanding of his dogs and himself.  When 9 months after Beezer dies, Boomer is diagnosed with bone cancer it seems like the battle is only beginning.

I'm warning you right now that my review of this book is going to give you a glimpse in the way I think about things and how I sometimes wrestle with how I react to a story.  I've been going back and forth in my head about whether I wanted to just talk about what I loved about the book and how it moved me or give you the whole gambit of what I think of it.  The whole thought process won out.

The book opens with a letter that Doug wrote to Beezer a week after he passed away.  I could feel the emotions coming off the page in an almost tangible way.  It felt like I was reading something so personal that I felt almost guilty about it.  It moved me to tears and I was grateful that the author chose to share that with us.  The whole book felt as if I was reading someones journal as they jotted down their journey of personal growth and understanding by going through something that is so horrifyingly sad.

Doug recounts how he battled with himself and how he approached problems when Beezer was first diagnosed.  By the end of the journey Doug, with the help of Beezer and Boomer, seemed to have grown both emotionally but spiritually as well by helping his dogs through both their illnesses and deaths.  It changed his approach to life and how he thinks about himself.   I felt that Doug puts himself and his journey out there to helps others deal with their own journey as they care for a terminally ill animal.

This in a lot of ways was a hard book for me to read.  I've always been a dog lover and still find myself crying over "Old Yeller" and "Marley & Me".  Actually you have any animal on screen/page die and I'm crying, including the episode of "Silver Spoons" where they went deer hunting.  So this book hit at home for me and I'm grateful for Doug sharing his story.  Beezer and Boomer could have been a lot of the dogs we had growing up, one of which I still miss to this day.  So no matter what I'm about to say next, I'm glad I read this book.

This is the part I almost left out of my review.  This book is so personal that I still kind of feel that I should keep what I didn't like about it to myself.  After a lot of back and forth within my own head, I felt I couldn't give a fair review unless I did talk about all my reactions to the book. 

Remember a thousand paragraphs ago I mentioned the opening letter and how moving it was?  Well that was the beginning of many letters.  In my mind there were too many of them.  They interrupted the flow of the narrative which kept me from totally immersing myself in what was being told to me.  My focus kept being shifted so much that I was never able to get fully vested back into the story.  More than that though they almost took on a gimmicky quality.  They stopped feeling genuine and it felt like they were written for the book more than anything else. This really hit home when a letter from Beezer to Doug was inserted in.  I was never able to take the letters at face value after that and it made me doubt the "realness" of all of them, including the very first letter.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that the letters hindered the book for me.  They took a book that I wanted to stay with me for years and turned it into a book that was good for one read and one read only.

Now I realize that his is just one person's reaction to a storytelling device and for the most part, others would not be bothered by this.  With that in mind I do strongly urge all pet lovers out there to read this book.  It will move you and make you think about how you would react in a similar situation.  It may even prepare you for a future that we all wish would never come.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)?  Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)?  How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation?  And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it's also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession.  The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and every single elements on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Why did a little lithium (Li, 3) help cure poet Robert Lowell of his madness?  And how did gallium (Ga, 31) become the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?  The Disappearing Spoon has the answers, fusing science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, discovery, and alchemy, from the big bang through the end of time.

Why wasn't this book around when I was taking Chem I and Chem II in college?  I floundered in those classes.  If I remember right I only passed one test between both of them, and that was with a 61.  Thankfully I had a rather understanding professor who would call me into his office twice a semester and question me about what I was learning out of the class.  He gave me a C for each class.  Now would this book have helped me with my grades, I doubt it, but it would have made some of the math a little more understandable for me.

Now this isn't a hard science book at all, which you should be able to tell by the synopsis.  This was a fun romp, and more importantly for me a romp that was easy to understand, through the history of the periodic table.  It didn't just cover how and when every element was discovered but the personalities behind those doing the hard work.  I think I learned more about Marie Curie and other famous scientists in this book than I ever did in all the years of school.

The best part of this book though was how it brought the science to life.  It  helped you to understand the significance of each element through the specialness of each one.  It was science book rolled into a celebrity memoir and finished off with a great poly sci case study.  In what other book would I learn why India has such a problem with iodized salt and that aluminum (aluminium) used to be the most precious metal in the world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

R.I.P Challenge Part V

I really didn't need to sign on to anymore challenges this year but since the R.I.P. Challenge is all about scary and mysterious books I couldn't resist.  It's not like I don't already start delving into them this time of year anyway.  For those of you not familiar with this challenge R.I.P. stands for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril and is hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings and this is the 5th time to host it.  The challenge runs from Sept. 1st through Oct. 31st of 2010.

The rules seem to be pretty easy and there is a level for people who only want to read one book.  I on the other hand am going for Peril The First level.  All I have to do is read 4 books that can fall into the broad categories of Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural.  I will probably read a lot more than that but we'll see.  I may even do the Short Story Peril, which should be self explanatory.

This year he even added a Peril On The Screen segment and since I love horror movies and that's about all I watch in October, I'm psyched for this one.  Not that I needed an excuse or anything.

Now I don't normally list the books I may end up reading for the challenge but since I have the ones I want pretty much in mind I though I would share a few of the potential choices.

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
Once... by James Herbert
The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz
Bless The Child by Cathy Cash Spellman
Bound In Blood by David Thomas Lord
Desmond by Ulysses G. Dietz
Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
The Terror by Dan Simmons
Black Hills by Dan Simmons
The Neighbors by Carol Smith
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Various Agatha Christie books

Some of the books I may read for the Short Story Peril:

Great Tales And Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Midnight Graffiti edited by Jessica Horstring and James Van Hise
Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King

The movies are too numerous to list but either of the above lists can change at anytime.

Favorite Fictional Character --- Bubo

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a coworker the other day.  I'm a huge fan of the original Clash of the Titans movie but have not seen the remake, so when my coworker informed me of the deplorable way in which Bubo the owl made of brass and iron, who saved the day in the first movie, was treated in the remake I was furious.  How can they treat such a wonderfully adorable character with a heart of gold in such a offhanded way.  It's cold and callous and should never have happened, so this post is dedicated to the brave metal owl who only wanted to fit in and save the day.

For those of you who have no frickin clue of what I'm talking about I'll give you a brief rundown.  In the movie Perseus loses his magic helm in a fight with Calibos and Zeus orders Athena to send him her beloved  magic owl Bubo as a replacement.  Now naturally Athena didn't want to part with him so with the help of Hephaestus she creates a duplicate of him made of metal.

He doesn't show up until Perseus is on his way to meet the Stygian Witches and Bubo immediately shows him the way to the caves, and proves why he is such a valuable asset.  Bubo is able to save the day two more times in the movie, the first is when he save Pegasus from Calibos' men which allows Pegasus to fly to Perseus and help him battle the Kraken.  The second time is when Bubo, without thinking of the danger to himself, attacks the Kraken as a distraction and is swatted into the ocean for his bravery.  Heroically he returns from his watery grave in time to snatch the head of Medusa, which Perseus had dropped, and returns it in time for Perseus to turn the Kraken to stone.

Now I ask you does this sound like a character that should have been so horribly wronged in the remake?  I don't think so, instead they should have made a movie that respected the bravery and contributions that Bubo showed in the first one.  What they need to do now is make a movie from Bubo's perspective.  He should be the hero, not Perseus.