Monday, November 30, 2009

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 30

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for hosting this fun meme that has us list the books that we received last week. You can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along. Here is what I found in my mailbox:

I only received one book last week but I am so looking forward to reading another installment in this series.  And I also received my tickets to see Bon Jovi in what else could a girl possibly need???? 
Rock on!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Author Challenge 2010

This is one challenge that I really did not have a problem completing last year so I thought I would give it a shot once again.  Literary Escapism is hosting this challenge again this year and all you have to do is decide how many books by new authors you will be reading during 2010.  I love challenges that don't require you to compile a list in advance so this one is right up my alley.  I read at least 25 new authors this year so I think I will shoot for the same amount next year.

1. The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer--Completed 1/10/2010
2. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman--Completed 1/16/2010
3. Matrimony by Joshua Henkin--Completed 1/27/2010
4. The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley--Completed 2/5/2010
5. Denise's Daily Dozen by Denise Austin--Completed 2/22/2010
6. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani--Completed 3/2/2010
7. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris--Completed 3/14/2010
8. The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson--Completed 3/28/2010
9. The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini--Completed 3/31/2010
10. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner--Completed 4/13/2010
11. Where Grace Abides by BJ Hoff--Completed 4/20/2010
12. Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge--Completed 4/27/2010
13. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova--Completed 5/17/2010
14. Black Hills by Dan Simmons--Completed 5/17/2010
15. The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi--Completed 5/28/2010
16. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith--Completed 6/2/2010
17. The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen--Completed 6/13/2010
18. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais--Completed 6/30/2010
19. Absolute Power by David Baldacci--Completed 7/20/2010
20. 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan--Completed 7/22/2010
21. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard--Completed 7/26/2010
22. Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch--Completed 8/9/2010
23. Home in Carolina by Sherryl Woods--Completed 8/30/2010
24. Finny by Justin Kramon--Completed 9/13/2010
25. The Passage by Justin Cronin--Completed 9/19/2010
26. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood--Completed 9/21/2010
27. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson--Completed 9/24/2010
28. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi--Completed 10/5/2010
29. The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada--Completed 10/12/2010
30. The Island by Elin Hilderbrand--Completed 10/28/2010
31. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent--Completed 11/1/2010

I will be sure to update this post as I make progress with this challenge.  Does this sound like a challenge that may interest you?  If so, please go here to check out the complete rules and sign up yourself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Challenge Update: Chunkster Failure!

Yes, I am admitting to all of the world that I have failed this challenge.  Oh does go on.  I signed up to read only two chunksters this year and only read one.  Out of all of the challenges I signed up for I thought this would be one of the easier ones, since it was only two books.  So much for that philosphy!

The one chunkster that I read and really enjoyed was The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick.

Now the only question is:  Will  I be a glutton for punishment and sign up for this challenge again next year?  Time will tell!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

Since it's Thanksgiving weekend I want to say Thank You to all of the bloggers out there that host these great giveaways!  Here are just a few that I wanted to share with you:

Booking Mama is giving away Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb--HURRY-because this contest ends today-11/27.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Now and Then by Jacqueline Sheehan--Contest ends 12/5.

Booking Mama is giving away The Original Christmas Classics Limited Keepsake Edition DVD Boxed Set--Contest ends 12/8.

Passages to the Past is giving away The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier--Contest ends 12/14.

Redlady's Reading Room is having an Off the Bookshelf Giveaway--Contest ends 12/30.

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Here is a summary of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time from the Penguin website:

The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti-American reaches of Asia.

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan’s Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Greg Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson’s incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

My Review:
For being a person that does not read much non-fiction because I just don't usually enjoy it, I will tell you that this book gripped my heart and I'm sure it has earned a place in my memory as one of the most important books that I have ever read.   I know there are many missionaries and organizations out there trying to help people in war-tattered and underdeveloped countries, but Mortenson's personal mission seemed to me to be the most unselfish and heartfelt account that I have heard in quite a long time.

It was purely accidental when Mortenson luckily stumbled into the Korphe village in Pakistan.  Exhausted from physical exertion, the people in this village nursed Mortenson back to health.  When he finally awakens from his slumber and starts to spend some time getting to know the villagers he learns that the children come last as far as governmental spending goes.   His heart breaks from the knowledge that the children in this village will never have the opportunity of an education that is so easily given in America.  This starts the beginning of his mission as he promises the Korphe leader, and his new friend, Haji Ali, that he will return to this village to build a school.

Mortenson didn't come from a family blessed with unlimited amounts of money and he worked very hard as a nurse to earn his way.  He returned to the United States so he could work as much as possible to save money for the Korphe school.  He lived in such a frugal manner that he even slept in his car some evenings.  He found himself feeling guilty if he were to spend any of his money on himself rather than saving it for the school.  Even after saving every penny that he is able to earn, he accepts the fact that it will just take too long for him to earn enough money to buy the materials for the school, so he starts to solicit funds from outside organizations.  From his efforts he is able to share his vision with a few individuals that also see the importance of his cause so he is able to return to Pakistan sooner than he had originally expected.

The roadblocks that Mortenson endured along the way could have easily swayed the average person.  I can only imagine how he felt when he returned to Korphe with the ability to build the school, only to learn that before they build the school they have to erect a bridge!  I could feel his frustrations when he learned of this, knowing that his project was going to be postponed for probably a year.  But he seemed to collect his emotions and resolve the matter by figuring out what they needed to do to build a bridge.

We learn a lot about the Balti culture and traditions from Mortenson's experience. Just conducting normal business was so different from the quick customer service that we receive here in the United States.  Haji Ali taught him that it is just as important to build relationships as trying to accomplish daily tasks.  Here is what Haji Ali shared with Mortenson about respecting their ways by sharing three cups of tea from page 150:
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger.  The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest.  The third time you share a cup of tea you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die," he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. 

Once Mortenson was able to embrace this slow paced way of life, his efforts in the area thrived.  Village leaders seeked out Mortenson hoping that he would want to build a school in their villages.  Mortenson made it quite clear to the Pakistanis that he wasn't looking to change their way of life, but only provide the children with a balanced education.  Here is an excerpt from page 209 that explains why Mortenson thought it so important to educate the girls:
"Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities," Mortenson explains.  "But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they've learned.  If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls."

Mortenson was building a school in Pakistan when the attack on the Twin Towers took place on 9/11.  I can only imagine the danger he was in by being an American citizen in that land, but he had built strong relationships with people that were willing to put their lives on the line to protect him if necessary.  Mortenson made a trip to Capitol Hill shortly after 9/11 to share the work that he has been doing and what he had learned about terrorism.  Here is an excerpt from page 292 about what he shared with a congressman:
"I've learned that terror doesn't happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us.  It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death."

I think I could probably go on about this book all day long, as it really touched my heart in a way that I can't explain.  Mortenson's work continues as he heads the Central Asia Institute that helps to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This story brought tears to my eyes as I think of how Morteson put his life on the line to help these children.  If you are interested in learning more about the work that Greg Mortenson has done, please check out the Three Cups of Tea website.

I read this book with my book club and we all were very inspired by it and I would definitely suggest this book for other book groups.  We have been trying to think of a way that we might be able to help Mortenson with his mission so I will be sure to post an update once we make a final decision on that.  I will end this review by saying this is the first non-fiction book that I have absolutely loved and I also want to thank Mr. Mortenson for his continuing and selfless work that he does for these children!

My Rating: 5/5

I just had to include this picture of Greg Mortenson reading to the children, because he always has the biggest smile on his face when he is around kids.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Nov. 24

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Since I'm still reading Guernica by Dave Boling my teaser is from that book again:
She flashed across his mind in images of impish larceny and feminine roguishness.  This was a woman, he was certain, with whom a man could raise infinite amouts of hell.

pg. 153

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 23

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for hosting this fun meme that has us list the books that we received last week. You can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along. Here is what I found in my mailbox:

Life After Genius  by M. Ann Jacoby

The Bible Salesman  by Clyde Edgerton

The Bell Jar  by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar I received as a review copy and if you haven't had a chance to read this one yet, you may want to stop by next week to enter the contest that I will be holding for this book.

So what was in your mailbox last week?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Great Kindle Giveaway over at Bibliofreak!

Bibliofreak is having an incredible Kindle II giveaway where you will have the opportunity to win 1 of 15 Kindles!  You heard me right...FIFTEEN Kindles will be given away.  Go check out this contest right away if you haven't already and good luck to you all...and hopefully to me too! 

This is an International Giveaway so everyone is eligable and you can enter until December 18th!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

Here are some contests that have caught my eye this last week:

Book Journey is giving away New Moon by Stephenie Meyer--Contest ends 11/20.

Historically Obsessed  is giving away The Harlot's Progress: Yorkshire Molly by Peter Mottley--Contest ends 11/22.

Book-lover Carol is giving away Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji--Contest ends 11/27.

Readaholic is giving away The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate--contest ends 11/27.

Booking Mama is giving away The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne--Contest ends 11/27.

Bermudaonion is also giving away The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne--Contest ends 11/27.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away After You by Julie Buxbaum--Contest ends 11/30.

And don't forget about my contest for Kissing Games of the World that you can enter here until 11/30.

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Here is a summary of Cleopatra's Daughter from Michelle Moran's website:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt.  Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but only two—the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander—survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters:
Octavia: the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra
Livia: Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife
Marcellus: Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir-apparent
Tiberius: Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power
Juba: Octavian’s ever-watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place  —the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the time. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority. 

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of Imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of history, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.  

My Review:
This was a wonderful story that started with the reign of Cleopatra and Marc Antony in Egypt and brought us to Rome under Octavian's rule.  There was so much history within the pages of this book that I think it took me a little longer to read this one, as I wanted to let the information sink in rather than read through it so quickly that nothing stayed with me.

When the story begins, Cleopatra's kingdom in Alexandria, Egypt, is just being taken over by Octavian.  We don't get to know Cleopatra too much as she quickly meets her demise early in the novel.  After Octavian takes control of the Egyption kingdom, he decides to take Cleopatra and Marc Antony's children to Rome and raise them in a way that will benefit his future plans.  Alexander and Selene are twins that were born to Cleopatra and this story is told from Selene's point of view.

When the children are ripped from the only life they've ever known, they consider themselves prisoners that will never be able to make their own decisions again.  Octavian seems to be a ruthless ruler so they dread what may be awaiting them in Rome.  When they do arrive they are quite surprised to find that Octavian's sister Octavia, plans on having them live with her.  Lucky for them they find that Octavia is a very compassionate woman and treats them as well as if they were her own children.  This does seem to spark a tinge of guilt between the twins because they know that their father, Marc Antony, was married to Octavia many years before but had left her to be with their mother Cleopatra.  They can visually see the love that Octavia still felt for Marc Antony and can only respect her compassionate attitude that much more.

After the children are captured they are informed that they will be told who to marry when they turn fifteen years old.  So not knowing what they should appreciate in life, they live their lives day to day.  They find themselves with good, solid friendships and attend school on a regular basis.  Selene is able to indulge in her love of art by becoming a student of a very well known architect and eventually is able to help with some major building projects and leave her mark on Rome.

During their time in Rome a rebel who calls himself the Red Eagle is against almost everything that Octavian is trying to accomplish.  Whenever a judgment is passed down that would hurt the citizens of Rome, the Red Eagle would react in a way that was visible to all.  Octavian knew the Red Eagle was hurting his political stance, so he would do anything to try to catch this rebel.  Many events take place during the novel that make Selene think that the Red Eagle may be living right under their very own roof.

I really don't want to give too much of this novel away as it does have a touch of a mysterious element to it.  I loved learning what daily life was like for the children of Rome and the feeling of the romance that gripped Selene's heart.  I would love to read more about Selene's life after she married and started a new life.  I am also very thankful to all of the helpful items that Michelle Moran included in this book.  She included a glossary, a time line, a couple of maps of Rome, and a list of the characters that also described how everyone was related.  These were very helpful tools and the book probably took me a little longer to read because I stopped and used these tools often.  Historical fiction readers are going to love this book so if you are ready to indulge yourself into the Roman Empire I definitely recommend this novel.

My Rating: 5/5

Disclosure:  Thanks to Michelle Moran for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Nov. 18

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

Here is a new word that I have learned as I've been reading Guernica by Dave Boling:

Monastic:  of, pertaining to, or characteristic of monks or nuns, their manner of life, or their religious obligations.

Here is how monastic was used on page 41:
Sister Terese felt that an afternoon watching local folk dance would be an acceptable diversion from the monastic ritual of the convent.

So did you learn any new words last week?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winners of The Gate House!

And the three lucky winners of The Gate House by Nelson DeMille are....

I want to give a special Thank You once again to Valerie from Hachette for offering to hold this contest on my blog!  I'm sure we all appreciate it!  I will be emailing the winners shortly to get your mailing information so the publisher can get the book sent out to you.  If you do not respond to me within 48 hours I will draw for another winner.

Thanks to all who stopped by and entered the contest and congratulations to the winners!

Teaser Tuesday-Nov. 17

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from Guernica by Dave Boling:
"Priests live comfortably; they're respected in town," Justo continued.  "Besides, you've got no hope with women anyway."

pg. 22

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 16

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for hosting this fun meme that has us list the books that we received last week. You can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along. Here is what I found in my mailbox:

Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick

Cult Insanity by Irene Spencer

I didn't receive a whole lot last week, but since Pendragon's Banner was one of the books in my mailbox I don't care if I don't get any more for the next couple of weeks!  That was an exciting win for me...woohoo!
So what was in your mailbox last week?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Amazing Contest! Win Your Choice of an E-Reader!

Yes, you heard me correctly.  Park Avenue Princess is hosting a fabulous contest that is giving you the choice of whichever E-Reader device you prefer.  Your choices include a Kindle 2, Sony Pocket E-Reader or the new Barnes & Noble Nook.  I've kind of been blowing off the thought of an E-Reader, but mostly because I don't want to fork over the big bucks to acquire one.  But if I win one, that's a different story! 

Don't miss your chance--Go sign up now!  The contest will be running until 12/24. 

Good Luck Everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giveaway: Kissing Gaves of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton

Thanks to the generosity of Random House I have the opportunity to give away three copies of Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton! 

Here is a summary about the book if it is new to you:

If there’s one point that Jamie McClintock and Nate Goddard can agree upon, it’s that love is overrated. Jamie doesn’t have time for it. Nate doesn’t need it. And they certainly don’t want it from each other.

Jamie, a struggling free-spirited artist, is a devoted single mother who hasn’t been in a serious relationship since her boyfriend abandoned her after their son was born. Nate, a charismatic jet-setting salesman, is widowed and estranged from his father and five-year-old son, Christopher. Jamie would rather glue glitter to pinecones than go out on a date. Nate spends most of his nights wooing his clients. Then one afternoon Nate’s father drops dead of a heart attack. In that moment, their highly guarded worlds collide.

When Nate shows up at his childhood home to settle the estate and reclaim his son, he discovers that Jamie has been living in the Connecticut farmhouse as his father’s roommate. Mistrustful of each other’s motives, Nate and Jamie bicker about everything from children’s nicknames to Jamie’s fashion choices to Nate’s home renovation methods. It doesn’t help that Christopher prefers Jamie to his absentee father.

But after the funeral, Nate and Jamie begin to see each other in a more forgiving light. Nate, traveling to sales conferences all over the country with a sullen Christopher in tow, learns he can’t breeze his way through single parenthood. Jamie, who has moved back in with her sister, wonders at the wisdom of her unconventional choices as a woman with a child to support. And both begin to realize they don’t know as much about love as they thought. Still wounded by past heartbreak and sorrow, can they learn to trust each other and open their hearts?

Now let's get on with the Giveaway!

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and have a U.S. address(my apologies to the international readers.)  No PO Boxes Please!

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.

For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win.

You will have until November 30th to enter and I will draw for a winner on December 1st.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

I haven't had a chance to really check into too many contests this week, but here are a few that I found:

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away the audioversion of A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve--Contest ends 11/15.

Savvy Verse and Wit is giving away Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah as part of the Green Books Review Campaign--Contest ends 11/17.

Cerebral Girl is giving away Julie and Julia by Julie Powell--Contest ends 11/22.

At Home With Books is giving away Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton--Contest ends 11/22.

Passages to the Past is giving away Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor by Julianne Lee--Contest ends 11/30.

Pudgy Penguin Perusals is giving away The Ocean Between by Lynda Coker--Contest ends 12/1.

A Sea of Books is giving away the audioversion of A Separate Country by Robert Hicks--Contest ends 12/4.

Revenge of the Book Nerds is giving away The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent--Contest ends 12/5.

And then don't forget about my contest for The Gate House by Nelson DeMille that ends 11/15, that you can enter here.  I will also have another surprise this weekend so be sure and check back.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Nov. 11

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

I've found quite a few new words as I've been reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran.  Here are just a few:

Caryatid:  [kar-ee-at-id] a sculptured female figure used as a column.

Here is how caryatid was used on page 42:
Charmion had taught me to pay attention to even the smallest details, and I had captured the sea foam as it broke against the Lighthouse, and the still faces of the marble caryatids that lined the Canopic Way. 

Porphyry:[pawr-fuh-ree] a very hard rock, anciently quarried in Egypt, having a dark, purplish-red groundmass containing small crystals of feldspar.

Here is how porphyry was used on page 64:
He indicated a flat-topped hill where buildings of polished marble and porphyry gleamed. 

Tesserae:   [tes-uh-ree] small squares of stone or glass used in making mosaic patterns.

Here is how tesserae was used on page 175:
It can be trimmed with white tesserae.

This is just a small sample of the new words that I have learned while reading this book.  So did you find any new words this last week?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Audiobook Review: The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

Here is a summary of the book from Jill Smolinski's website:

Meet June Parker.  She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds. 

But June’s life is about to change.

After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list, “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.”  Even though they barely knew each other, June is compelled by both guilt and a desire to set things right to finish the list for Marissa.

The tasks before her range from inspiring (Run a 5K), to daring (Go braless), to near-impossible (Change someone’s life), and as June races to achieve each goal before the deadline, she learns more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

My Review:
I must admit that I have never sat down and actually written a life list.  Sure, I have goals that I want to achieve within my lifetime, but there really is something about putting those goals on paper that can be a bit condemning.  After listening to this audiobook, I think a life list is something that we all need to do.  From reading the summary of this book, I was expecting a book with a melancholy tone about it.  And although the narrator did have that touch of sadness in her voice throughout the book, I found it very enjoyable and even laughed a couple of times.

As stated in the summary above, the book starts out with June going to a Weight Watchers meeting.  After offering to give Marissa a ride home, whom she just met, they are involved in a terrible accident with June as the only survivor.  June doesn't know how to deal with her guilt until she finds a list of achievements that Marissa was working on.  For some reason, June decides that she must complete these tasks for Marissa.  A couple of items have been checked off, but she certainly has a long way to go.

It seemed to me that as June was completing the tasks on Marissa's list, that new opportunities were made available to her. She finds herself meeting new people, building closer relationships with her own family members, and somehow connecting with Marissa's family.  Although Marissa's family is still grieving the loss of a sister and daughter, they feel that June trying to complete Marissa's list is somehow a tribute to her memory.

Some of the items on the list were quite comical and made me laugh, while others were pretty serious commitments.  One of the tasks was 'To change someone's life.'  As June was driving one day she happened to notice a billboard for the Big Brother, Big Sister program and it said on the billboard "Change Someone's Life Today."  So she took this as a definite sign and headed directly to the office to get involved in the program right away.  June had grand thoughts of helping a young, disadvantaged little girl find her way in life.  Things did not quite work out as June had expected when she was paired up with a fourteen year old teenage girl named Didi.  By helping Didi and her family, June was able to reconnect with her own brother and rebuild the relationship that had become stagnant many years before.

It was so much fun getting caught up with June as she was trying to complete this list.  I found myself even getting nervous at times when the idea that she wouldn't be able to complete a task came across my mind.  This story had so many elements to it including how to move on with your life after a tragedy, which involves forgiving yourself and others.  We can accomplish almost anything in this lifetime if we set our minds to it.  I enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

My Rating: 4/5

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 9

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for hosting this fun meme that has us list the books that we received last week. You can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along. Here is what I found in my mailbox:

 Lone Star Legend  by Gwendolyn Zepeda

The Cost of Dreams  by Gary Stelzer

The Historian  by Elizabeth Kostova


So what was in your mailbox last week?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Salon and a Winner!

And the winner of my Blogiversary giveaway is.......

Congratulations!  I think it's amazing that out of that many entries picked entry number 1!  How appropriate is that, since I held this contest to celbrate my 1 year blogiversary!  I will be emailing you shortly to get your mailing information and find out which book you would like me to send. 

It has been quite an exciting weekend in our household.  Every other Friday my husband and I bowl on a mixed couple leaugue, and I had a bit of a good strectch (which is very unlikely for me).  I will probably never bowl SEVEN strikes in a row again, but my final score was 221!  When you consider my average is close to half of that it is pretty amazing.  After my night of great bowling we were going to just go home, relax, and watch a movie.  Unfortunately, when we let the dog outside she decided to go chase a skunk and surprise...she got skunked!  So you can imagine how we spent the rest of our Friday night.  The rest of the weekend we have just been trying to get that smell out of the house.  Because before we realized that she was actually sprayed, she came in the house and rolled on the carpet a bit....ya...real fun.  Luckily we have had an unseasonably warm weekend so we have been able to keep windows open to help air things out a bit.

Well now that things have settled down a bit, I am going to go and read for a bit before my Sunday night shows begin.  Enjoy the rest of your Sunday everyone!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Finds-Nov. 6

Should Be Reading asks you to share what books you discovered this week that interest you!

A book that caught my eye recently was 72 Virgins by Avi Perry that I spotted over at Everything Distills Into Reading.

Here is a summary of 72 Virgins from Avi Perry's website:

72 Virgins is a novel about Jihad terrorism and the security agencies’ struggle to thwart its stratagem and trounce the perpetrators. Abu Musa is an Islamic Terrorist with an agenda, a ticking bomb inside the US. Arik Golan is an Israeli who tries to bring him down and pull the plug on his terror organization. Stanley Kramer is an FBI agent on a hunting mission, seeking to place both Abu Musa and Arik within his crosshair. The FBI, the Israeli Foreign Intelligence Service—the Mossad, the US-based Iranian clandestine terror network, and the Islamic Jihad fraternity are engaged in a timeless conflict, playing out to a crescendo that comes to a head before the dramatic conclusion.

The book draws on current world events, politics, cultural divisions, international intrigue and religious fanaticism. It is masterly plotted, thrilling, captivating, replete with stealth, and above all, enlightening.

The story offers an ample dose of realism, a cast of intense characters who engage in love, lust, and violence. It portrays the Jihad culture with its rationale and the volcano that breeds an irrational obsession with death. Moreover, it builds on the Jihadists’ motivation for targeting so many innocents and exploiting the victims’ massacre as a stepping-stone to their dream of eternal paradise next to Allah’s throne.

So did anything catch your eye this last week?

Book Blogger Holiday Swap!

Yes, the time has arrived for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap once again!  You can find out all you need to know about the Holiday Swap this year by going to the Swap webpage here.  Please make sure you get signed up by November 12, 2009, if you plan on participating.

This is a great way to get to know some other book bloggers, so HURRY, what are you waiting for?  Go now, and sign up!  What a great way to get ready for the Holiday Season.  Last year I had the opportunity to get to know Michele from Michele-Only One L, and Alyce from At Home With Books.  I can't wait to see who I might be meeting this year!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

Here is a summary of A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve from the Hachette Book Group website:

Margaret and Patrick have been married just a few months when they set off on what they hope will be a great adventure-a year living in Kenya. Margaret quickly realizes there is a great deal she doesn't know about the complex mores of her new home, and about her own husband.

A British couple invites the newlyweds to join on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya, and they eagerly agree. But during their harrowing ascent, a horrific accident occurs. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Margaret struggles to understand what happened on the mountain and how these events have transformed her and her marriage, perhaps forever.

A Change in Altitude illuminates the inner landscape of a couple, the irrevocable impact of tragedy, and the elusive nature of forgiveness. With stunning language and striking emotional intensity, Anita Shreve transports us to the exotic panoramas of Africa and into the core of our most intimate relationships.

My Review:
Before I even read this book, I had already noticed several mixed reviews.  I have found that for the most part, I usually enjoy Shreve's work so I decided to give this one a shot.  Although I will confess that this book wasn't one of my favorites by Shreve, I did find some enjoyment throughout the pages.

Margaret and Patrick are newlyweds that have decided to start their lives off together by spending some time in Africa.  As a doctor Patrick finds himself very busy and working quite long hours, while Margaret is a photojournalist and was not working for quite some time after they arrived in Africa so she found herself getting quite frustrated with her mundane lifestyle.  They don't have many friends in the area, so after being alone all day Margaret is starving for people to be with.  So it really wasn't a surprise when after meeting Arthur and Diana they dive right into a friendship with people they hardly know for the feeling of companionship.

After several outings together, the two couples decide to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kenya together.  Little do they know that climbing this mountain will change all of their lives forever.  After the tragedy on the mountain they return to their lives in a way that pushes the events of the climb to the far recesses of their minds.  Even though Patrick doesn't want to talk about what happened on the mountain, Margaret is haunted by the memory and can't understand why she can't seem to go on with her life when the others don't seem to have a problem.

One thing that I have always liked about Shreve's writing is that she always seems to spin a story about realistic people.  I can't say that I liked Margaret or Patrick's characters, but I think that is one of the reasons that I did enjoy this book.  In real life I don't like everyone that crosses my path, so why would I expect that in a book?  I do admit that I would have liked to get to know Margaret a bit more throughout the story.  But then when I consider how young Margaret actually was in the story, I can't help but ask myself how much more could she have offered as a character?

Throughout the story Margaret struggles with the guilt that the tragedy on the mountain was her fault.  It doesn't help when her husband openly admits that he also blames her for the events that took place.  For me, this story was about Margaret finding her true self by seeking forgiveness mostly from her own mind and emotions.  It is only when she accepts herself that she will be able to move on and find her place in this world.

I want to thank Miriam from Hachette for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are interested in viewing more work by Anita Shreve please check out her website here.

My Rating: 4/5

Here are some other reviews that you may want to ponder:
Laura's Reviews
Bibliophile by the Sea
she reads and reads
A Novel Menagerie
Peeking Between the Pages

Current Giveaways!!!

Check out some of the great giveaways that I found this last week:

Diary of an Eccentric is giving away Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran--Contest ends 11/8.

A Sea of Books is giving away the audioversion of 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly--Contest ends 11/10.

Savvy Verse and Wit is giving away Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe--Contest ends 11/11.

Entertainment Realm is giving away The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe--Contest ends 11/18.

Booking Mama is giving away The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger--Contest ends 11/20.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick--Contest ends 11/21.

Bookin' With Bingo is giving away A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein--Contest ends 11/24.

J. Kaye's Book Blog is giving away The Apple by Penelope Holt--Contest ends 11/28.

Bookin' With Bingo is giving away Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb--Contest ends 11/28.

At Home With Books is having a November Bookshelf Cleaning Giveaway--Contest ends 11/29.

Bookshelf Monstrosity has a Huge Honkin' Giveaway--Contest ends 11/29.
And then don't forget about my giveaways for The Gate House by Nelson DeMille that ends 11/15 and my Blogiversary Contest that ends 11/6!

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Nov. 4

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

I found a new word this week while reading Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts, and the definition was actually included in the sentence:

Tonitrophobia-and here is how it was used on page 271:
The doctor who examined her had explained that tonitrophobia-fear of thunder-could, in extreme cases, cause seizures and, though extremely rare, could result in death.

I really enjoyed this book and I will be meeting with my book club this evening to discuss it.  I can tell you right now that you can expect a positive review from me on this one!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Nov. 3

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

I've just started reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran so that is where my teaser is from this week:
If they were wise, they would lay down their weapons, but even then there was no guarantee that their lives would be spared.  My father had said that Octavian slaughtered anyone who stood against him-that he would kill his own mother if she slandered his name.

pg. 6

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mailbox Monday-Nov. 2

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for hosting this fun meme that has us list the books that we received last week. You can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along. Here is what I found in my mailbox:

The Tudor Rose  by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Your Roots Are Showing  by Elise Chidley

So what was in your mailbox last week?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Giveaway: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

I would like to give a special Thank You today to Valerie from Hachette for offering to give away 3 copies of The Gate House by Nelson DeMille.

Here is a summary of The Gate House:

When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.

Here is how you can enter the contest if you would like to win a copy for yourself:
To enter this contest you must be 18 or older and live in the US or Canada. No PO boxes please!

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.

For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win.

You will have until November 15th to enter and I will draw for a winner on the 16th.