Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Here is a summary of The Handmaid's Tale from

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. 

My Review:
This was quite an amazing novel so first let me say 'Hats Off' to Atwood for creating this Gileadean society that should really scare just about any woman alive right now.   This book is a prime example of what can happen when an organization takes away privileges just a little bit at a time.  Notice that I say organization and not country, because these nut jobs that created Gilead basically took over the country and destroyed the Constitution that we are all familiar with. 

The purpose of the handmaids within this novel is to stimulate the population in a society that basically is not allowed to show any feelings whatsoever.  The handmaids are placed in a home of status and the act of creation is turned into a ceremony that is held not only between a man and woman, but also observers to verify that emotions did not come into play at all.  Yes, this is just weird! 

Offred is the handmaid that we are introduced to and we are given a glimpse of what her life was like both before and after the change in society.  I feel her fear as she goes to use her bank card one day and finds she cannot, as her boss comes into an office filled with women and tells them they can no longer work for him.  Rights are taken away one at a time and before you know it she is taken away to a center where they basically brainwash the women into becoming the handmaids.  

Once they have completed their training they are placed into homes and given a certain period of time to become pregnant.  And you don't want to know what happens to these women if they don't manage to become pregnant!  Living in a society that does not allow emotions can definitely cause turmoil and you can see the frustrations come to surface with all involved in this novel.  We have the handmaid who is given the task to only become pregnant and not allow any other light in her life.  The commander who has been given the handmaid is also looking for mental companionship and stimulation.  And let's not forget the wives who have to sit back and watch all of this with open arms.  Oh my, I just don't understand how this could be good for those involved!

Even though this was one of the oddest books I have ever read I really enjoyed it and it really made me think about our current society.  As we are forced to conform to certain beliefs we have rights taken away and all it takes is a little bit at a time.  This would make a great book club selection and I will probably suggest this one to my book club next time we are picking out titles.  With themes of civil rights, survival, loneliness, and mayhem this book makes for a lively discussion.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the library to read for my own entertainment.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Oct. 27

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 are a couple new words that I learned while reading The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent:

Posset: a drink made of hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or the like, often sweetened and spiced.

Here is how posset was used on page 23:
She carefully inspected each of us for fever or crimson patches and then, without another word, began to prepare food for us and a posset to ease Andrew's fever.

Piquancy: agreeably stimulating, interesting, or attractive.

Here is how piquancy was used on page 46:
I told her then what little I had heard in the marketplace or on the streets, and if I expanded upon the truth, it was only to bring piquancy to the tales, like cloves added to meat.

I am really enjoying this book so far and can't wait to discuss with my book club next week!  So did you come across any new words that made you pull out your dictionary this week?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winner of Testimony!

I am very pleased to announce that the winner of Testimony by Anita Shreve is


Congratulations Carolsue!  I will be emailing you shortly to get your mailing information so the publisher can send out this book for you.  Thanks again to Brianne from Hachette for offering this contest on my blog!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday-October 25

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for starting the Mailbox Monday Meme that has us list the books that we received last week. Although Marcia isn't going to be hosting Mailbox Monday any longer, she set it up so different bloggers have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is She Reads and Reads and you can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along.

I only received one book in my mailbox last week, which is just fine with me!  Here is what I found:
Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Life just seems to get busier and busier for me, which I am finding odd since both of my kids are gone to college now.  With the busy week that I have ahead of me I wouldn't have time to read more than one book anyway.  So what did you find in your mailbox?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giveaway: Scorpions by Noah Feldman

Thanks to Brianne from Hachette I am able to give away up to 3 copies of this book that releases on 11/8/2010.  Here is a summary of the book from the Hachette website:

A tiny, ebullient Jew who started as America's leading liberal and ended as its most famous judicial conservative. A Klansman who became an absolutist advocate of free speech and civil rights. A backcountry lawyer who started off trying cases about cows and went on to conduct the most important international trial ever. A self-invented, tall-tale Westerner who narrowly missed the presidency but expanded individual freedom beyond what anyone before had dreamed.

Four more different men could hardly be imagined. Yet they had certain things in common. Each was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings on the edge of poverty. Each had driving ambition and a will to succeed. Each was, in his own way, a genius.

They began as close allies and friends of FDR, but the quest to shape a new Constitution led them to competition and sometimes outright warfare. SCORPIONS tells the story of these four great justices: their relationship with Roosevelt, with each other, and with the turbulent world of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It also serves as a history of the modern Constitution itself.

I think this sounds like a fascinating book and if you would like to try to win a copy for yourself here is how you can:

I will be giving away one book for every 10 entries with a maximum of three books to give away.

Winners will be subject to the one copy per household, which means if you win the same title on another blog you will receive only one copy of the title.

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S. 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.  Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.

You will have until November 13th to enter and I will draw for winners on or after November 14th.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada

Here is a summary of The Auschwitz Violin from the Goodreads website:

At the concentration camp of Auschwitz, the conditions are infrahuman and abuses, punishments and deaths are common occurences among prisoners such as Daniel, a jewish lute maker from Crakow, who manages to survive the living hell working as a carpenter. Until one day the camp commander, a classical music lover, discovers the prisoner's skills and decides to put him to the test: he will have to make a violin that sounds to perfection. Daniel starts work straight away without the slightest idea of what his punishment will be if he doesn't succeed.

My Review:
This short novel takes us into the life of a Jewish prisoner of a concentration camp over just a short period of time.  We are introduced to Daniel, whose profession was building violins before becoming imprisoned.

Although Daniel is a carpenter at the work camp, he somehow ends up being at the right place at the right time when a violin needs repairs at a dinner the officials are attending.  At this party Daniel meets Bronislaw who happens to be a very talented violin player.  How could Bronislaw know that later Daniel's life would be in his hands?

When the commander of the work camp discovers that Daniel is a talented violin maker he gives Daniel the task of creating a superior violin.  Throughout this novel as there is killing, mutilation, and starvation within the camp, Daniel finds a way to survive by immersing all of his energy and passion into the creation of this violin.  Every step of the way Daniel worries that one wrong move will be the end of his existence.

I enjoyed this story but I must admit that I was confused at times, and I wonder if this could possibly have something to do with how it was translated.  This story was obviously about how Daniel survived while he was at the work camp, although it began and ended with Bronislaw, the violin player.  This book also contained some documents at the beginning of a few chapters that were very eye opening and sad.  With just over a hundred pages this book was well worth the read with themes of survival, passion, music, and of course the Holocaust.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday-Oct. 19

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 The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent:
She stood close by, looking at our white and shuddering forms, pinched from the cold and the late hour.  I could see she was afraid, for in taking us into her house, she could well be bringing the means of destruction to her own family.

pg. 30

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday-October 18

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for starting the Mailbox Monday Meme that has us list the books that we received last week. Although Marcia isn't going to be hosting Mailbox Monday any longer, she set it up so different bloggers have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is She Reads and Reads and you can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along.

So I actually didn't receive any books in my mailbox this week, but I did manage to pick up a couple of books at the Twin Cities Book Festival last weekend!
Breakfast With the Pope by Susan Vigilante

The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith

It was sure a great time at the Twin Cities Book Festival and I'm so glad that I finally had a chance to meet Sheila from Book Journey along with some other great bloggers!  I will be sure to post more about that later in the week.  In the meantime you really should check out Sheila's post about the panel she was on.  She did a great job and fit right in with the other panel contributors with the topic of 'The Changing World of Publishing'.  So did you get any new books in your home this last week?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Here is a summary of The Passage from the Random House website:

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

My Review:
Wow, let me start by saying this was quite an amazing novel and I can't wait until the next installment is released!  I am not one who usually reads science fiction or apocolyptic books but Cronin did such a good job of including these elements among others to make for a very engaging read!

As this epic novel opens Amy is being dragged around by her mother who is just living day to day without any plan for her or Amy's future.  She seems to finally realize that her lifestyle is only hindering Amy so she finds an opportunity to leave her in the care of some nuns that come across her path.  Even though Amy is only with the sisters for a short period of time one nun seems to feel a special obligation to Amy.  As the book goes on and destruction of the life we all know seems imminent many people seem to be put in Amy's life to serve as her protector.

You may be wondering why Amy would need a protector.  Well it so happens that the government was running a secret operation to create a special weapon to be used in war, but the experiment goes awry.  Who wouldn't expect problems to arise when you are taking human beings and turning them into your own strain of a vampire?  Although there are only a limited amount of lab subjects, they seem to gain the upper hand and take control of the situation.  Before you know it the country and possibly the world is in total chaos as the vampires seem to become the dominant race.

As the military realizes what is happening to the population they start to save people, mostly children, by sending them to newly created colonies that will eventually be self-sustainable.  This opens a new part of the book to us as it is about 90 years after the initial attack.  I really enjoyed this part of the book because we are introduced to new characters that have only lived a life within the walls of their colony.  They didn't know what life was like before-when you could walk safely outside or even lay on the grass on a clear night and view the stars.  They learn to live by their own rules and laws, which seem to be going well except for the fact that the batteries are running low so the lights that protect them throughout the evenings will eventually go out.  Who could possibly solve this problem?

A few of the members of this colony decide that they must embark on a journey for the well-being of everyone still alive.  Along the life-threatening way, they come across another colony of survivors and can't help but wonder exactly how many more humans are alive out there.  A young man named Peter turns out to be the leader of this group that finds themselves drawn to Colorado, not knowing what to expect when they get there.   Once they arrive they seem to discover what needs to be done to distinguish the problem with the vampires (which they actually call virals) but now to figure out how to actually get the job done.

From the beginning of the novel we know that Amy is special and her role is clearly visible by the end of the novel.  Peter is the big question mark for me though.  We watched Peter grow as a leader throughout this novel, but by the end it seems that he will have much more to offer in the next segment.  So, I ask...WHAT is Peter?  As much as I enjoyed this book I think it could have been shortened up a bit.  With themes of science fiction, end times, and survival this book will have you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next installment like I am!

My Rating: 4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday-October 13

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 are some words that I learned while reading The Auscwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada:
Funambulist: a tightrope walker.

Here is how funambulist was used on page 18:
In those days, when persecution had grown more inexorable than ever, you had to walk a tightrope in order to live, but Jews were marked and were-like many others-poor funambulists.

Luthier: a maker of stringed instruments, as violins.

Here is how Luthier was used on page 18:
What could a luthier, a violin maker, do in hell?

Quotidian: usual or customary; everyday.

Here is how quotidian was used on page 49:
Although everything in the camp had come to seem equally illogical, equally quotidian, still Daniel had been astonished when he was suddenly ordered to make a violin: as well crafted  "as if it were a Stradivarius," the Untersturmfuhrer had announced.

I think it's funny that my son played the violin for more than five years and I this is the first time I have heard the word luthier.  I'm staying home today because I'm not feeling so hot so I'm going to head to my couch for the afternoon and get started on The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  So did you learn any new words this last week?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday-Oct. 12

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 The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada:
He was hungry again and noticed that the officer had dropped a piece of apple that had rolled toward him.  Using a piece of cloth, Daniel pulled it closer without making a sound and ate it hungrily.

pg. 37

***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday-Oct. 11

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for starting the Mailbox Monday Meme that has us list the books that we received last week. Although Marcia isn't going to be hosting Mailbox Monday any longer, she set it up so different bloggers have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is She Reads and Reads and you can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along.

Here is what was in my mailbox:
The Missionary by William Carmichael and David Lambert

Well, although that was all that was in my mailbox last week, I did go to a used book sale this last weekend and picked up a couple more items.  Unfortunately I don't have enough time to post about those today, but I will be sure to share those with you at a later date.  I can't wait to see what I find at the Twin Cities Book Festival next weekend also!  You don't even know how excited I am to go to this festival.  Late last week I just realized that Alexander McCall Smith will be there....SCORE! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Current Giveaways!!!

Here are some giveaways that I wanted to share with you all this week.  If I happened to miss your giveaway please feel free to leave the link in the comment section below.

Bookin' With Bingo is giving away the audiobook of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen--Contest ends 10/12.

Pudgy Penguin Perusals is giving away a copy of Stiltsville by Susanna Daniels--Contest ends 10/14.

Library Girl Reads is having her October Giveaway--Contest ends 10/27.

A Sea of Books is giving away the audiobook of Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks--Contest ends 10/29.

And don't forget to check my current giveaway on the sidebar.  This has certainly been one long week and the only thing that I have planned for this weekend  is bowling tonight with my husband.  This will be for the Mixed Couples League so wish us luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Audiobook Review: The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

Here is a summary of The Bride Collector from the Hachette website:

FBI Special agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he's picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It's there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person's life when she touches the dead body.

In a desperate attempt to find the killer, Raines enlists Paradise's help. In an effort to win her trust, he befriends this strange young woman and begins to see in her qualities that most 'sane people' sorely lack. Gradually, he starts to question whether sanity resides outside the hospital walls...or inside.

As the Bride Collector picks up the pace-and volume-of his gruesome crucifixions, the case becomes even more personal to Raines when his friend and colleague, a beautiful young forensic psychologist, becomes the Bride Collector's next target.

The FBI believes that the killer plans to murder seven women. Can Paradise help before it's too late?
My Review:
This was an action packed audiobook that had my knuckles turning white as I was gripping the steering wheel every day.  John Glover did an excellent job narrating and I will even admit as I was driving alone in my car listening to this book, I had to peek over the backseat just to verify that I was alone!

Brad Raines has dealed with a lot of heartache throughout his life, but finds that he must confront his demons as his search gets underway for the Bride Collector.  Raines is somehow drawn to CWI (the Center for Wellness and Intelligence) early in the investigation and he is introduced to some unique individuals that will hold the key to breaking this case wide open.  At first glance they seem like a bunch of nuts, but as he befriends them he learns that they all have something to offer to the investigation.

Paradise is one of the residents of CWI and Brad finds himself drawn to her for more reasons than one.  As women are murdered at the hands of the Bride Collector, Brad becomes concerned that the murders are becoming more personal to him and finds himself worrying about the safety of Paradise.  Is he putting Paradise at risk by becoming attracted to her?

As the story unfolds Paradise becomes a key component of the Bride Collector's plans.  Brad must put his feelings aside and work with Paradise to try to find this killer before he strikes again.  The murderer hasn't killed a man yet, but who's to say that he wouldn't hesitate to kill Brad in the same way that he kills the women just so he could complete his quest.

This was a great audiobook that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and maybe even evoke a scream or two as you are driving down the road (yes, I am a big baby.)  I don't want to give any more of the book away, but if you enjoy books from the thriller/suspense genre then I definitely recommend this one to you.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  I received this audiobook from Anna at Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

You can read more great reviews at Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Oct. 6

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 are some new words that I learned while reading Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi:

Recondite: dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter

Here is how recondite was used on page 49:
Haji Agha had no time for recondite knowledge and reserved his energy for frequent terse pronouncements:  There is to be no music at home.

Foment: to instigate or foster.

Here is how foment was used on page 99:
The Soviet-backed communist Tudeh Party, which had representatives in Parliament and had infiltrated the army ranks, took advantage of the crisis to foment unrest

Sycophant: a self-seeking, servile flatterer.

Here is how sycophant was used on page 134:
In the months and years ahead I would come to appreciate the loyalty of unlikely people like him and Zia, father's chief of staff, whom I marked as a mere sycophant.

Polemic: a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine, etc.

Here is how polemic was used on page 239:
I was in desperate need of conversations that did not end in ideological polemics.

So those were some new words that I learned while reading this fascinating book.  I can't wait to discuss this with my book club tonight to see what the ladies thought of it.  Although it started out a bit rough for me, I definitely found an appreciation for the author by the end of the book.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Winners of The Unnamed!

Let's give it up for the winners of The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris! 


Congratulations to the winners!  I will be contacting you shortly to get your mailing information to forward to the publisher.  Thanks again to Valerie from Hachette for offering this giveaway on my blog.  And stay tuned for future offers.  I just remembered that my blogoversary is this month so I will have to have a special contest for that celebration also!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mailbox Monday-October 4

Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page for starting the Mailbox Monday Meme that has us list the books that we received last week. Although Marcia isn't going to be hosting Mailbox Monday any longer, she set it up so different bloggers have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is She Reads and Reads and you can go to her blog to see what everyone else got last week or to play along.

Here is what was in my mailbox to keep me busy:
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel 

 The Bourne Objective by Eric Van Lustbader (audiobook)

So I think these will keep me busy for quite some time.  Did anything interesting arrive in your mailbox?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Java With Jo

TGIF!  I don't know about you all but it has been one long week for me and I am ready for the weekend!  August was not the best reading month for me since I only read a couple of books, probably because I was reading The Passage.  September turned out to be much better as I was able to finish The Passage among many others even!  I really enjoyed that monstrously huge book so stay tuned for my review.

For our first book club meeting in September we discussed Home in Carolina by Sherryl Woods.  You can see my final thoughts on this book since I just posted my review yesterday.  Although I didn't care for this book, we did have a conference call with Sherryl Woods and that was a lot of fun.  We meet again next Wednesday already and I'm not even halfway through Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi.  I don't usually read non-fiction so this one is taking me a bit longer but hopefully I can make a dent in that one this weekend.

I don't really have much planned for the weekend besides housework and reading.  My home was a bit neglected this week as there were a couple of evenings I didn't get home until after 9pm.  That makes for a long day and although I tried to do a little damage control before going to bed, things are looking pretty grungy. 

There is a huge Apple Festival that takes place over in Bayfield, Wisconsin this weekend.  We have gone to enjoy the festivities in the past but I think laying low and avoiding crowds is my plan for the weekend.  It is always amazing to me how many people flock to this little town for the festival.  So do you have any big plans for the weekend or are you planning on keeping a low profile also?