Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 8/1/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Staci at Life in the Thumb.

I received an ARC of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson and a trade paperback of Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant for upcoming TLC Book Tours.

I received a ARC of The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks from the Librarything Early Reviewer program.

On a trip to an used bookstore, I picked up a few things.  I found two more Mary Roberts Rinehart paperbacks, The State vs. Elinor Norton and The Street of Seven Stars.  I also picked up a paperback of The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll by Erle Stanley Gardner, a hardcover of The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene, and The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon.

And last but not least, I visited the Friends of the Library Book Store and picked up two hardcovers for $3.50.  I got Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling and Too Far by Rich Shapero.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Passage is the story of Amy - abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions.  But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her.  As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape - but he can't stop society's collapse.  And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

What started off as a scientific trip into the jungles of South America turned into the end of the world for North America.  When they discover that the vampire myth is real, instead of running away, they all get killed except for a few.  One of those survivors was already infected and since the military needed new recruits, they decide to bring him back and use him to start project NOAH.  With NOAH they use death row inmates, shoot them up with the "drug" and turn them into blood thirsty monsters they hope they can learn to control.  None of these men had living ties to the outside world anymore, so when they are pronounced dead, nobody really looks into it.

Brad Wolgast, the agent in charge of talking the inmates into signing their life away, is good at his job.  He is able to find just the right thing to say to get these men to crumble and agree to the experiments.  When his next assignment is to pick up a six year old kid from a convent, he starts to doubt the mission.  On the trip back, both he and his partner, are torn by what it is they are being asked to do.  They don't know what the real goal of Project NOAH is, but dragging a kid into it, doesn't sit well with them.

It's only after he delivers Amy to the military does he realize what's going on.  Both the inmates and Amy have been turned into vampires, but in Amy the changes are different.  She only gets the immortality, not the blood thirst or physical changes.  When the experiment goes horribly wrong, Brad and a few friends do everything they can to get Amy out of there and to safety.

That one night of blood and death turns into a world ruled by the virals (vampires.)  About a hundred years later, there are only small pockets of humanity left.  The rest of the world has abandoned the continent to die a slow, agonizing death.   They work everyday to make sure the lights stay on at night and that they don't become the virals next meal.  This is the part where the book blew me away.  I was expecting a story that deal with Amy, not a large cast of survivors who I would grow to care about and hold my breath for when they were in danger.

This is a story about human survival and hope in the face of certain death and annihilation.  The small group of men and women we meet who are doing their level best to stay alive are wonderfully fleshed out individuals and I can't wait to find out what happens next.  I wish I had the skill to describe to you all the wonderful people the author created to tell this story.  They are an amazing group, without a weakly drawn one in the bunch.

I do want to mention that the other aspect I wasn't expecting when I finally picked this book up, was how beautifully the story would be told.  I didn't think a story like this could be told in such a lush, descriptive way that would move me as much as it did.  He was able to capture every moment, every location with such fully realized way that, at times, I felt as if I had been transported into the action and I could see, hear, and smell everything the characters did.  The author's love of what he was writing is obvious on every page.  Every detail is there, every character is fully realized, and every element I want in a post apocalyptic, vampire massacre is told in technicolor.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Triton's Little Adventure (A Short Story I Wrote In High School)

I was digging through some boxes the other day, don't remember what I was looking for anymore, when I found an old literary anthology from high school.  I had four items published in this one, three poems and a short story.  Though the anthology was published my senior year, I think I wrote the story in 1993, my junior year.

When I first reread it the other day, all I could do was notice the grammar mistakes I had made and the narrative flaws within the story.  In high school, I think I was really proud of it though.  If I remember right, it was an assignment in honor's English.  We had to take the idea of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and write a short story that captured that same idea.  I'm actually thinking of rewriting it now, but haven't made up my mind on that one.

For some bizarre reason, I thought I would share with everyone my feeble attempt at creative writing when I was only 16.  So with no further ado, I present to you.....

"Triton's Little Adventure"

One day a little merboy who went by the name of Triton decided to go for a short swim in the coral forest just behind his house.

After a while he came upon a small, humble sand castle tucked away in the tall green and red coral towers.

When he swam up to the door, to get a closer look, he saw a note that said the tuna fish family who lives here went to the store and would be right back.

Being the curious little boy that he was, he decided to go in and look around.  As soon as he swam in, he was amazed by what he saw.  There were soft comfortable sofas and chairs, pictures of different fish all over the walls, and a pale pink coral table with a white marble chess set, that had green and blue coral merpeople as pieces.

One of the walls held nothing but a collection of books by Herman Shellville, Agatha Porpsie, Nathaniel Fishthorne, Frogert Burns, and Oyster Wilde.  As he was looking at A Picture of Dorian Stingray, by Oyster Wilde, he knocked over a bust of Sandson, a hero from a popular Elbib story.  Unfortunately the bust landed on the large chess set, not only breaking the bust, but also breaking the chess set in half.

Just about then, the fish family came home.

Since little Triton knew that if he got caught he would get in trouble from his parents and the local porpoise department, he decided to get out of there immediately.

As he left the coral forest, all events of the incident left his memory, and he thought of what future adventures lay ahead.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Melissa's Favorite Fictional Character --- Eliza Braun

I'm happy to say one of my oldest online friends, originally from the Barnes & Noble Book Club forums is here today to present a new Favorite Fictional Character.  Melissa of My World...In Words and Pages was one of the first people I got to know on the forum and we got to know each other even better on twitter.  When she started her own blog, I'm almost positive I was one of her first 5 followers.  She is a brilliant blogger and writer who never fails to amaze me with her talent.  She is so good at reviewing epic fantasy, an area I lack in, that I know I'll never be able to duplicate.  For those of you who don't know her, please feel free to go over and say hi.  I'm sure she won't mind.

This week I am picking a woman form a new read I read not so long ago.  She is a New Zealand woman that is very positive about herself.  Yes, I'm talking about Agent Eliza Braun from A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Phoenix Rising.  We also get to hear a little more on her in the Tales From the Archives pod casts.

Oh, and Eliza likes things that go boom.  And I'm not talking just firecrackers.  Nope, I'm talking dynamite!  Her favorite thing to use when in a bind is dynamite, as it makes it all go away.  And she is very handy with guns.  She always has some weapon stowed away on her at all times, no matter if she is dressed for the opera or off to work in the dreaded basement of the Archives and wanting to be out in the field once again.

Her humor is fun when you pair her up with Agent Wellington Books, the Archivist in the Ministries Archives.  They are completely opposite characters and Eliza makes him shine nicely, Eliza just seems like fun with him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund

Synopsis From Back Cover:

By decoding light from space, Lucy Bergmann's astrophysicist husband discovers the existence of extraterrestrial life; their friend, anthropologist Pierre Saad, unearths from the sands of Egypt an ancient alternative version of the book of Genesis.  To religious fanatics, these discoveries have the power to rock the foundations of their faith.  Entrusted to deliver this revolutionary news to both the scientific and religious communities, Lucy becomes the target of Perpetuity, a secret society.  When her small plane crashes, Lucy finds herself in a place called Eden with an American soldier named Adam, whose quest for both spiritual and carnal knowledge has driven him to madness.

I have started, deleted, started again, and deleted again more times than I think you really want to know or I am willing to admit to.  I have even wasted an hour on Facebook, avoiding this review.  For some reason I'm having a damned hard time reviewing this one and after about 2 hours of this, I think I know the answer why.  I loved the first 2/3 of the book, the last 1/3, I could really do without.  My problem is that last 1/3 is tainting my whole view of the book.

I loved the way the characters are introduced, especially  Lucy and Adam.  Lucy is happily married art therapist, who get to travel the world with her husband as he attends conferences.  After his tragic death, by a falling piano, her world is turned upside down for a bit.  A year later, when she is attending a conference in Cairo, being held to honor her deceased husband, she is still consumed by grief.  When her plane crashes into a sea, she climbs out, shedding her burning clothing as she goes.  By the time she reaches land, she is naked, hurt and searching for the naked man she saw as her plane was going down.

We first meet Adam after he has been abandoned by his captors who have stripped, raped, and beaten him repeatedly.  He is mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically broken.  Because of the setting he wakes up in, he thinks he is the Adam of the Bible and has been personally created by the hand of God.  He has decided living in a religious haze is better than dealing with the truth.  It doesn't help that he was already traumatized by the war itself.  Once Lucy joins him, he thinks God has finally sent him his Eve.

When these two characters come together I loved it.  Their interactions are fascinating to read and their story is told in a wonderfully quirky way that I find compelling.  Even when another American soldier joins them in Eden, I love the way all three of them work together.  There is a wonderfully drawn out examination of the themes behind the original Adam & Eve, but it's not done in a literal manner.  Everything is done in metaphor and comparison, and all of it in such a subtle manner that you could just choose to ignore it all and enjoy the story for itself.

It's when Lucy and Adam are taken out of that setting that I started to not appreciate what it was I was reading.  Out of that context, I found the religious explorations to be a little too heavy handed and not all that interesting.  There was no longer a smoothness about the story that I had been enjoying and the themes felt a little too forced at times and a bit boring on top of it.  I don't think it helped that the bad guys were one dimensional and took away from the story. I would have either liked a bigger, meaner villain or no villains at all.

If I was forced to give an answer to the question of whether or not I liked the overall story, I would have to say yes.  But it would be a hesitant yes, that could just as easily been a no.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other opinions on this one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 7/24/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books.

I received a trade paperback of Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

Amy Winehouse, 1983-2011

I'll be the first one to admit, that despite how talented Amy Winehouse was, I was turned off of her by her erratic behavior.  The first time I heard her sing "Back to Black", I was blown away by the voice.  It had that soulful roughness that I love so much.  She took me back to an era long gone and a style that I wish more singers would embody.  Unfortunately she embodied all the bad aspects of that style as well.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol, along with eating disorders kept threatening to derail a once promising career.  The more chaotic her life got, the more it got in the way of the music.  While I still loved listening to her, I stopped paying attention to the rest of her.  Now that she has passed away, I wish someone would have payed more attention to her.  Had stopped her from going down a road that has claimed more than it's fair share of promising talent.

As I sit here listening to her sing, I'm hoping that she will finally find the peace she never seemed to know in life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue (Plus A Giveaway)


When Jack falls, naked, in his bathroom, he cracks his head open and starts to bleed to death.  When he comes to, he isn't quite sure what's going on, other than the fact there are eight naked women lying in his bed.  Confused and disoriented he goes back to the bathroom and meets an old man, who he thinks is his deceased father.  Over the course of an untold amount of time, though the clock never changes from 4:52 am, Jack is visited by seven of those women while he is still in the bathroom.  All seven of them try to kill him, only to fail and start narrating a story that somehow makes Jack think he is in some way involved.  Only once the last story is told, does Jack start to realize what has happened.

I don't even know where to begin on this one, but a few adjectives do come to mind.  Quirky, strange, fantastical, beautiful, and brilliant are a few of them that rise to the surface of my brain.  Thankfully, I'm not bleeding out on the bathroom floor, otherwise this review would never get done.  This book, and those like it, are the reason I love to read.  Having the privilege to read a story that is so well crafted and articulated is one of the great pleasures in life.

Jack and the women are all intriguing characters, when they have your attention, they never let it go.  The women span five hundred years of American history and through a twist of fate, they all have ties to Jack.  Their stories are tragic and full of heartache and death, but they all have an unique feel to them that makes them standout from each other.  The stories range from the mythical to the femme fatale, all of them are captivating and original.  There is a lyrical quality to them, so much so, that at times I felt as if I was sitting by a campfire, listening to a bard tell the history of my people.  I felt for all of them and the men in their lives, the men Jack used to be.

This was a beautiful story that mixed reincarnation, rebirth, second chances, and the everlasting struggle between love and hate.  It's the tale of the past, present, and future all colliding into one man's life and where it goes from here.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book and I would encourage everyone to go visit the tour page to read more reviews.

Now for the giveaway.  One lucky winner will win a brand new copy just by leaving a comment.  To qualify, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address.  You don't have to be a follower, but I would be eternally grateful if you chose to become one, if not already.  The giveaway will run from 7/21/11 through 8/4/11. The giveaway will end at 11:59 pm CST on 8/4.  The winner will be chosen using  I will email the winner who will have 48 hours to forward their mailing info to me   If they do not, a new winner will be picked.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Michelle's Favorite Fictional Character --- Ebenezer Scrooge

I'm pleased to telll you that the one of my favorite people of all time is here to let you know one of her favorite Christmas characters of all time.  Michelle of The True Book Addict and my favorite Christmas blog, The Christmas Spirit, is one of my best blogger friends, one I could never do without.  She is a generous, giving individual and I feel blessed by knowing her.  If you are not familiar with either blog, I would entreat you to go say hi and stay around for a while.  Right now she is celebrating Christmas in July and this post will link you to all that she is doing to celebrate the fact that Christmas is almost here.

I was so pleased that Ryan asked me to guest post for his Favorite Fictional Character feature today.  In honor of Christmas in July and the month long event I have going on at my Christmas blog, The Christmas Spirit, I give you....Scrooge

Ahhh I love thee.  You may ask how I can love such a miserable curmudgeon.  Well, I love him in the beginning when he is completely obnoxious and mean because it makes his complete transformation at the end all the more wonderful...the total contrast of it.  The character of Scrooge shows us that there is hope.  That even the most horrible of persons can change.  When any of us starts feeling bad about ourselves...that we have done something wrong or we may not have been as kind as we could have... we should remember Scrooge and take comfort in the fact that if it's possible for Scrooge, one of the most despicable characters ever written, to become a good person than it is, in fact, possible for us.

A few of my favorite Scrooges from film and television:

Scrooge (1970) -- Albert Finney

A Christmas Carol (1951) -- Alastair Sim 

A Christmas Carol (1999) -- Patrick Stewart

Of course, these are not the only Scrooges over the years, but they are my favorites!

Thanks again to Ryan for having me today.  If you're up for some Christmas in July fun, stop over at The Christmas Spirit and join in the festivities.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wordsmithonia Is Now 2 Years Old

I don't know where the time has gone but not only have I been blogging for two years, I'm 3 days late posting about it.  I knew my blogoversary was coming up, but I didn't realize that it went by without me thinking about it.  When I first started blogging, I didn't realize it was something that I would come to rely on and become such an integral part of me, that I can't see my life without it in it.

Because of blogging I have met some wonderful people who have helped restore my faith in the human race.  They have been gracious with their time, brain power, and have even provided me with a shoulder to lean on from time to time.  Without those in the book blogging community being so open and welcoming, this would never have gone as far as it has.  So I would like to say a big Thank You to everyone that I've gotten to know over the last two years and I look forward to many more years to come.

I don't know that I would still be doing this, two years later, if it wasn't for all of you.  I feel as if I've made some good friends over the last few years, friends that I couldn't imagine not talking too.  You guys have given me more support that you will ever know and have helped me deal with personal issues without me ever having to talk to you about it  Just having people that I can talk to about anything else, other than what is going on in my personal life, is an amazing thing to have.  You have given me something that I didn't know I needed, until I had it.

Once again I want to thank everyone for making the last two years mean so much to me.  I hope we have many more years together.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Kid by Sapphire

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The Kid brings us deep into the interior life of Abdul Jones, son of Sapphire's unforgettable heroine, Precious.  A story of body and spirit, The Kid is a story of survival and awakening, and of one young man's remarkable strength.

We meet Abdul at age nine, on the day of his mother's funeral.  Left alone to navigate in a world where love and hate sometimes hideously masquerade, forced to confront unspeakable violence, his history, and the dark corners of his own heart, Abdul claws his way toward adulthood and an identity he can stand behind.

In a generational story that moves with the speed of thought from a Mississippi dirt farm to Harlem in its heyday, form a troubled Catholic orphanage to downtown artists' lofts, The Kid tells of a twenty-first century young man's fight to find a way to the future.  A testament to the ferocity of the human spirit, the deep nourishing power of love and of art, The Kid becomes a young man about to take flight.  Intimate, terrifying, deeply alive in Abdul's journey we are witness to an artist's birth by fire.

I never read Push, I wanted to but never really had the chance.  I did go see the movie, Precious, shortly after it came out and I loved it.  Some of what I saw on screen made me flinch, made me cry, and made me wish I was anywhere else but sitting in that theater.  When it was over, despite the overly optimistic ending, I loved it.  I thought it was a story of real life, a story that doesn't get told enough.  So when I had the opportunity to read the sequel to Push, The Kid, I jumped at the chance.  I knew it was going to be a hard read.  I knew that it would push my tolerance beyond what I can normally handle.  I was right, it pushed me right over the cliff and I'm not sure I've landed yet.

When the book opens, Abdul is waking up on the day his mother is being buried.  He doesn't really know what's going on and seems to be floundering beyond his understanding of what life is supposed to be.  That pretty much sums up my feelings about him throughout the book.  I know that life dealt him an unfair hand.  He lost his mother and the only source of security he ever knew.  He lost his name and with it his identity once he was put into the system.  He lost his innocence the first time he was raped and beaten by another boy.  He lost a piece of his humanity the first time he molested someone else.  None of that though felt as if he was choosing to live his life.  It was as if he was living by other people's standards.  Standards that should not be met by anyone.  I know that it's a harsh critique to make of a boy we first meet at 9 years old, but he didn't change that behavior until he was much older.

Unfortunately, by the time he did start to change, I didn't care anymore.  By the end of the book I can honestly say I became desensitized to what I was reading.  It's a horrible feeling to have about anyone, real or fictional.  It means that nothing they do or have happen to them, gets to you anymore.  Nothing that they do suprises you or really makes you pay attention to them.  The violence was so repetitive and so graphic that some coping mechanims within myself kicked in and forced me to stop caring about these characters.  Once that happened I was never really able to think about or react to what I was reading.  By the end, all I wanted was the book to be over.  I wanted to be able to close the cover and not think about what I had just read.

Once I closed that cover, I realized something.  Regardless of my wanting to put this book behind me, I knew that it wouldn't be that simple.  I know that no matter what, Abdul and his story will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Whether I read the book again or not, Abdul and his story have found a permanent home in my head.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to disocver other thoughts on The Kid.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 7/18/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books.

I received trade paperbacks of The Remains of War by G. Pauline Kok-Schurgers and Battered Earth by D. Hilleren from the publicist for review.

I received a trade paperback of Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stephanie's Favorite Fictional Character --- Elphaba

 I am very happy to turn this weeks Favorite Fictional Character post over to someone whom I have come to respect very much.  Stephanie of Misfit Salon is a brilliant blogger and writer who has never steered me wrong.  We have remarkably similar taste sometimes and I know that anytime I want a book that is a little dark, odd, or just plain on the strange side, I can turn to her.  She publishers her own webzine, Misfit, that showcases the kind of short fiction I love.  If you don't know her or it's been a while since you have visited, please go on over and say hi to one of my favorite bloggers.

I am so very pleased to participate in my first ever Favorite Fictional Character, and as difficult a task as choosing which among my many choices, I went with someone who embodies my misfit tendencies:  Elphaba from Wicked the Musical. 

She is, of course, the heroine of Wicked the novel by Gregory Maguire, but as anyone who has read both the book and seen the musical, there are only slight resemblances between the two (and very little passing resemblance to the villain in the original story by Frank L. Baum).  The story works for me in both forms in different ways, but I found that Elphaba is portrayed in a more appealing way in the musical.  (Plus you have the catchy songs and breathtaking set design!)

Everything I love and admire about Elphaba is portrayed in the musical’s climactic number, Defying Gravity.  She is the ultimate outcast and has been so since the day she was  Misunderstood, rebellious, about to be persecuted, and ultimately abandoned by her best friend, Glinda, Elphaba sticks to her guns, draws on her magic powers and, with the soldiers banging down the door, rises with a defiant vow:

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Everyone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!

I embrace this powerful message – that you have to stand up for what you believe in, even when everyone is against you and thinks you’re the Wicked Witch.  Rise above it and defy gravity!
My gratitude, Ryan, for the opportunity to gush about one of my favorite misfits!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor

Synopsis From Back Cover:

In a very near future that is both familiar and troubling, three live intersect in a time of crisis.

When an armed man seizes a television studio in the center of town, Thom Pegg, a former investigative journalist turned tabloid reporter, is as surprised as anyone to learn that he is the only person to whom the hostage taker will speak, bringing him inside the studio and in contact with a frightening truth.

From outside, meanwhile, the drama of the enthralled and horrified city is revealed through the eyes of two characters who meet in the early stages of the crisis and who bond to one another instinctively.  Eve is a former Olympic gold medalist and much loved local daughter.  Rabbit is a secretive street artist who has just completed a massive street art project involving mysterious installations at the tops of hundreds of buildings through the city.

It's a time of fear, a time when people have grave doubts about the future, and each other.  Yet, when events collide, and Rabbit's installation is activated, people are shocked into seeing the power of beauty in the world, and the real possibility of hope.

I have a feeling if I was 14 years younger, or more cynical, or even less hopeful about life, this review would be slightly different.  My take on the book itself would have been considerably altered, allowing me to connect with it more.  As it is, I'm a 35 year old optimist, who doesn't see the worst in things.  I'm not a paranoid type of person who thinks the government is out to get me or hiding things from it's populace.  Instead I'm someone who believes that most people who go into politics or run corporations are in it for the right reasons.  I know in the era of the Tea Party, that my way of looking at things may seem odd, but that's who I am.

That alone, made this book hard for me to get into, especially at first.  Instead of concentrating on the story, which at times felt a little too fragmented, I was more worried about where the story was taking place.  I spent so much time stressing out about what city the story was set.  I was so obsessed by the setting, I think, in order to give me something to grasp onto.  I'm still not sure, but by the end of it, I really didn't care anymore.

While it took me a bit to get into the story, I eventually did.  I won't say I loved it, but I was eventually able to enjoy what it was that was being presented to me to consume.  It did take me a while though, I had to put the conspiracy/paranoia aspect aside and pay attention to three main characters instead.  Once I separated the characters from the story, I was able to enjoy them.  They are all in transitional phases of their lives, even if they didn't know it at the time.  The story takes them on a journey of self discovery that will leave them changed for the better.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read more reviews.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Betty Ford, 1918-2011

I am saddened by the news that Betty Ford, the former first lady of the United States and wife of President Gerald Ford, passed away at the age of 93.  Mrs. Ford was a women to be admired and not only for rising to the occasion when her husband became president, but for the issues she drew attention to as well.

While they were still in the White House, Mrs. Ford had to deal breast cancer.  Her bravery in the face of such an ordeal, was one that the entire country looked to and respected.  Because of the way she handled such a private issue, in such a public manner, Mrs. Ford gave inspiration to millions of women to start taking the issue seriously.

An addiction to painkillers and alcohol forced Mrs. Ford into the public spotlight once again years after the couple left the White House.  Once again she rose to the occasion and ended up inspiring an untold amount of people that they weren't alone and they too, could beat the addiction.

Mrs. Ford is someone who's voice and presence will be sorely missed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett


Dr. Marina Singh, who quit during her residency to go work for a pharmaceutical company, is a woman who has been hiding form her past and not quite living int the present.  When her boss and lover, Mr. Fox, sends her to the rain forest of the Amazon delta to discover the fate of her former colleague and friend, Anders Eckman, she has no inkling of the journey that lays ahead of her.

Marina is going to be forced to make decisions she's not comfortable with, face the past, and deal with the present in a way she hasn't done before.  She must now deal with Dr. Annick Swenson, her idol in college and her residency.  A doctor that was hard to please then and resents interlopers now.  Marina must get to the bottom of what happened to Anders and what exactly is going on in the research being conducted by Dr. Swenson.

 I have never read Ann Patchett before State of Wonder, though I have read many reviews of her books, all of them glowing.  All I knew going into this was that people I trust think she is an amazing writer.  After reading this one, I would have to say that I agree with that.  There is such a lushness to her writing that I found it easy to get lost in the story.  That sense of immersion is what made me love this book and have a slight regret for reading it.  I finished it three days ago and I'm still trying to digest what it was that I read and how I'm still reacting to it.

I can't think about this book without being a little sad.  Marina is such an emotionally damaged character that I can't help but feel sorry for her.  She quit a promising career in gynecology/obstetrics after an accident left her doubting her ability.  She changes to pharmacology, a decision that will keep her from ever having to deal with patients, and ends up working for a pharmaceutical company where she studies cholesterol.  When the aerogram from Brazil comes and announces the death of Dr. Eckman in the jungles of the Amazon basin, Marina reacts to it but there is still an emotional disconnect.  She is the one that Mr. Fox takes with him to brake the news to the wife.  A wife Marina never got to know despite the length of time she worked with Dr. Eckman or how close they became in the lab.  Up to this point Marina has held everyone at arms length.  She can't even call her lover by his first name.  Throughout the book, she simply calls him Mr. Fox.

When Mr. Fox and Karen Eckman finally convince Marina to go down to Brazil to discover what happened to Anders, she must confront the past in order to deal with what is going on.  She never really wakes up as a person until she has been at the jungle lab for a few weeks.  She starts to make connections with the doctors, members of the Lakashi tribe that the researchers are studying, but most importantly with a young boy named Easter.  What cemented this idea in my head is that she starts using people's first names, they no longer  are just Dr. or Mr. or a number.  She even uses Mr. Fox's first name in a few letters back to him.  I don't think Marina is ever happier that when she was in the jungle, even though she tried everything she could to convince herself of the opposite.

It's that awakening of the human soul that makes the ending of this book so tragic for me.  While I guess you could call the ending a "happy" one, I'm not so sure about that.  The ending takes place at such a frantic pace that I don't think Marina is thinking anymore, she's just reacting and going with the flow.  She stops growing and almost becomes the stunted human being she was in the beginning.  I would like to think that Dr. Swenson's prediction of what Marina will do happens.  I would like to think that she will return to the research lab and take over for Dr. Swenson once she is gone.  I would like to think that the decision to leave someone behind to save someone else, will weigh on her mind and force her to go back.  I would like to think that actions of the last 15 pages don't have consequences that none of them saw coming.  I would like to think that Rapps falling into the river will simply disappear and not start a war between tribes.  I have so many hopes for what happens after the book ends, but I'm afraid some of those hopes will be dashed.  I have a sinking feeling that once Marina is back in Minnesota that she will find herself walling people off once again.  I think she will continue to make bad decisions for herself.  I hope she doesn't, I hope I'm wrong.  I hope in a few years, Dr. Marina Singh will be living the life she deserves.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other thoughts on this one.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yvette's Favorite Fictional Character --- Roderick Alleyn

It is now July and work is starting to get a little busier after our slowest month of the year, June.  Not sure why June is so slow, but it always is, though this year was busier than normal.  Because of work demands, I've asked 9 different bloggers to do posts over their Favorite Fictional Characters.  This will accomplish two things.  One, it will give me some breathing room during July and August.  Second, I think these bloggers are going to come up with characters that I'm not as familiar with, so I'm looking forward to finding some new characters that I can fall in love with myself.  Today's guest blogger is Yvette of  in so many words...  I don't remember who found who first, but I'm just happy the meeting happened.  Yvette's blog has quickly became one of my favorites to go to and I always look forward to her reviews.  She is a vintage mystery buff and it's because of her I've gone on my Mary Roberts Rinehart kick.  She also does reviews on older movies, which I love.  Her blog is beautiful to look at and art work abounds.  For those of you not familiar with her, please (please again) go on over and say hi.

When Ryan first asked me to do this guest post on his blog, I was flabbergasted AND flattered and instantly plagued with a bad case of nerves. Who would I write about? And would I be able to meet Ryan’s expectations? My mind was an instant jumble.

But then after much hand wringing, I calmed down and thought long and hard about all of my favorite fictional characters and finally narrowed it to down to about twenty or so and from those, I picked Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard.
I read New Zealander Ngaio Marsh’s (1895 – 1982) books in my teens and didn’t remember much about them, truth be told, except that I had vague and fond memories. So last year, in an excess of zeal, I decided to read all the books in one fell swoop and that’s when I re-discovered just how much I really liked Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard. He has since become one of my very favorite fictional characters.

Roderick Alleyn is unique in that he is not only a brilliant policeman; erudite, elegant, classically well-dressed, beautifully well-mannered and incredibly handsome, but also the younger brother of a Baronet.  I mean, really. What more can you ask for? Well, he is also intuitive, fair-minded and able to see the whole picture at the drop of a few obscure clues. The British policeman of our dreams.

In the books he is often referred to as ‘the handsome detective’ or words to that effect, even in the workplace. He has a rep. But he is not a true ladies man. Certainly he is a man who likes women, but he is also a careful man. Some might even call him fastidious.  
As created by Ngaio Marsh, Alleyn is one of the pillars, I think, on which the school of gentleman detectives is built. What I love most about Alleyn is that he is definitely gentry but doesn’t get carried away with it. He is totally self-aware and grounded – a very attractive thing in a man.

When we first meet Allen in A MAN LAY DEAD (1934), he is already a policeman. He has been a soldier in WWI, and afterward served a year in the Foreign Service. During WWII, he works undercover in New Zealand.  My favorite of the few New Zealand books is DIED IN THE WOOL(1944) in which Alleyn must deal with the murderous tactics of a Nazi spy in a case involving a truly bizarre murder. I must say though that author Ngaio Marsh is known for her bizarre taste in murders. Part of the ‘fun’ of the books and probably what keeps them from being true ‘cozies’.

Alleyn usually works alongside his devoted cohort and assistant, Sergeant Fox, for whom Alleyn has many nicknames, my favorite being B’rer Fox.  A bachelor for the first five or so books in the series, Alleyn then meets his downfall in ARTISTS IN CRIME (1938), within those pages he meets the famous artist, Agatha Troy. The problem is: she won’t have anything to do with him - while he is smitten almost from the get-go. But, not to worry, eventually she gives in and they are married.He refers to her always as, Troy . She will appear in some fashion or other in the rest of the books, as will their son Ricky later, in two of my favorite books: SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY (1954) and LAST DITCH (1977).

The Roderick Alleyn books were turned into a Television Mini-Series, some currently available for instant view on Netflix. The series featuring actor Patrick Malahide as Alleyn are the ones I’ve seen. What I like about this particular bit of casting is that Malahide is not conventionally handsome but there’s an elegance about him that carries the day.

Given a choice between reading the books and/or viewing the TV series. I say, read the books. The TV series is fine, but it doesn’t have the subtlety and depth of the written word. The books are also available in audible versions which are quite fun to listen to – unabridged, of course.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochan

Synopsis From Back Cover:

A mysterious young woman calling herself Jane turns up in a small New England town.  She claims a fragmentary memory of growing up in this place, yet she has never been her before in her life.  Upon her arrival, strange and alarming things begin happening to some of the town's inhabitants.  As Jane's memories reawaken piece by piece, they carry her back to a long-buried secret, while the townspeople hurtle forward to a horrific event when past and present fatally collide.

This was the second book dealing with reincarnation that I've read in the last two weeks.  I think after reading this one, I'm done with the subject for a while.  It's not that I'm not interested in it, because I am.  I has more to do with the fact that while that last book was okay, I felt like I had to pinch myself every 5-10 minutes in order to stay interested in this one.

My disconnect can be summed up in four words, lack of likable characters.  I'm okay with a few characters that I don't really like or even most of them being people I could care less about.  What I need though is at least one character I can care about.  If I don't, then I really don't care where the story is going or why things happen the way they do.  I don't care what happened in their past, present, or future.  Simply put, I just don't care.  And that is exactly what happened while I was reading Jane Was Here, I didn't like anyone.  Even the children were horrible little creatures that I could have cared less about.  Instead of caring about them, all I could think about was how happy the moment when they leave my life for good will be.

The author is an award winning screenwriter and in shows in the writing.  The plot points were engaging and she writes with a wonderful descriptive style.  I was able to picture every scene in my head in full detail.  I wish this was a movie instead of a book.  If I had watched this on screen, I could almost guarantee that I would have enjoyed it a lot better.  With movies, I don't need to care about the characters.  Watching the action on screen isn't as intimate for me, so I'm able to push aside any negative feelings I have for the characters and just enjoy what I'm watching.  I think this is a story that would translate wonderfully in celluloid and I would be more than willing to watch it.

Challenges: M&S

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 7/4/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books.

Since I was on vacation last week I did not post a Mailbox Monday.  So this week is actually an accumulation of the last two weeks, though all but two were purchased or received this last week.

I received a trade paperback of The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan from the publisher for review.

I received a ARC of Flashback by Dan Simmons from the publicist for review.

I received a hardcover of The Kid by Sapphire for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.  I never read the first book but I loved the movie, so I'm looking forward to this.

During my vacation I stopped in at Borders, which I normally don't do.  I ended up walking out with 4 books.  I bought a trade paperback of The Passage by Justin Cronin, a paperback of  With a Tangled Skein by Piers Anthony, a hardcover of The House That Jack Built by Guy Adams, and a paperback of State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy.  I'm so excited for The Passage, which I read in two days.  I've also already read With a Tangled Skein, though it was a reread for me.

I also stopped in at Barnes & Noble, my normal chain bookstore haunt and found a trade paperback of Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay for $3.99.  I love his writing and I've read this book in the past, so I had to get it.

I won a paperback of The Greene Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine from Bev at My Reader's Block.  I was participating in her Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge and this was my reward, I'm so excited.  I've seen a couple of Philo Vance movies, one with William Powell, but I've never read the books.  I can't wait to dig into this one.

I stopped in at a different used bookstore than my usual one, though it's just a different location.  They have 4 locations, maybe more, within Wichita.  I picked up paperbacks of Out of the Madhouse, Ghost Roads, and Sons of Entropy by Christoper Golden & Nancy Holder.  They make up The Gatekeeper Trilogy and tie into Buffy's senior year.  I've owned them in the past, but not sure what happened to them or my other Buffy books.  I also found a paperback of Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco.  This is a book I've been trying to find for a very long time.

I found a hardcover of The Phoenix Transformed by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory at the Friends of the Library Book Store for $1.

Then on a stop in at Wal-Mart I found a DVD of Possession starring Sarah Michelle Gellar for $5.  I've never even heard of it, but I couldn't pass it up.

The only reason I included this in my mailbox post was because I did get them in the mail.  I'm really picky about my dress shoes as I am on my feet for as long as 12 hours any given day.  Ecco dress shoes seem to be the only thing I can wear for that long without crying like a 2 year old when I get home.  Since my old ones were getting rather raggedy, I ordered the Ecco Helsinki Plain Toe in black.  They are normally $140 but with my retailer discount they were only $56.