Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Finds-Jan. 30

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

Here is what I found this week:

From Book Chatter and Other Stuff I found Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult.

Here is a summary of Handle With Care from Jodi Picoult's website:
When Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated – she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.

Handle With Care explores the knotty tangle of medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all – would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying?

This book will not be available until March 3, 2009, but I will certainly be watching for it!

Another book that caught my attention this week is The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from Ramya's Bookshelf.

Here is a summary of The White Tiger from the Simon and Schuster
Introducing a major literary talent, The White Tiger offers a story of coruscating wit, blistering suspense, and questionable morality, told by the most volatile, captivating, and utterly inimitable narrator that this millennium has yet seen.

Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life -- having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village's wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation. While his peers flip through the pages of Murder Weekly ("Love -- Rape -- Revenge!"), barter for girls, drink liquor (Thunderbolt), and perpetuate the Great Rooster Coop of Indian society, Balram watches his employers bribe foreign ministers for tax breaks, barter for girls, drink liquor (single-malt whiskey), and play their own role in the Rooster Coop. Balram learns how to siphon gas, deal with corrupt mechanics, and refill and resell Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles (all but one). He also finds a way out of the Coop that no one else inside it can perceive.

Balram's eyes penetrate India as few outsiders can: the cockroaches and the call centers; the prostitutes and the worshippers; the ancient and Internet cultures; the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, Balram teaches us that religion doesn't create virtue, and money doesn't solve every problem -- but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

Bookworm Meme and Award!

I've been tagged by the Bookworm Meme from Lezlie at Books 'n Borders Collies and TexasRed Books.

Here are the rules: Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or something you have to go searching for but whatever's closest to you right now, and go to page 56. Starting with the fifth sentence on the page, transcribe three to six lines directly from the text. Once you've typed those lines, tag five more bloggers to do the same on their blogs.

The book closest to me right now is on my desk at work--a co-worker brought it to me and I have yet to bring it home since I have so much to read! So this excerpt is from Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult:

From her vantage point by the swinging doors, Addie watched Jack begin to clean up the food. He angrily wiped mayonnaise from the plastic seat and stacked the pieces of the ruined sandwich back on the plate. When he turned around, he found Addie standing beside the table. "I can take that for you," she said.

But Jack shook his head tightly. "Sorry I lost you a customer."

To pass on this fun meme here is who I am going to tag:
52 Books and 52 Weeks
Carmen Alexis' Book Talk
A Novel Menagerie
Peeking Between the Pages
Friday Friends Book Blog

I also realized that I did not acknowledge the Premio Dardos Award that was given to me by TexasRed Books a couple of weeks ago. How rude of me! Thank you so much for considering me for this award...I hope I still deserve it even though I am posting a little late!

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Current Giveaways

Here are just a few of the giveaways that I have found recently that I wanted to share with you!

My Friend Amy is giving away 3 copies of Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell--Contest ends 1/30.

Book Chatter and Other Stuff is giving away a copy of Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot--Contest ends 1/31.

J. Kaye's Book Blog is giving away The Darcys and the Bingleys by Marsha Altman--Contest ends 1/31.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse--Contest ends 2/1.

Diary of an Eccentric is giving away 5 copies of To My Senses by Alexandra Weis--Contest ends 2/8.

Jenn's Bookshelf is giving away 5 copies of Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble--Contest ends 2/13.

J. Kaye's Book Blog also is having a David Baldacci audiobook giveaway--Contest ends 2/21.

Well good luck everyone...and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Author Interview-Diana Spechler

Diana Spechler is the author of Who By Fire and here is a brief summary of her book from her website:

Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister Alena, an incident for which Ash blames himself, caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again: Alena’s remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what’s left of their family. Told from the alternating points of view of the three family members, Who By Fire is a searing commentary on guilt, grief, and the inescapable bonds of family from a fresh and extremely talented new voice in American fiction.

Diana is the first author that I have had a chance to interview on Jo-Jo Loves to Read. So thank you so much for this opportunity Diana, and here is the interview:

What was your inspiration for writing Who By Fire?
I wrote a story about two of the protagonists, Ash and Bits. It was a disturbing story with an unsettling ending, so I found my way back to it. I wanted to know what was up with Bits' brother, Ash. Why was he living in Israel? Why wouldn't he call his sister?

What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
I love Passover, which falls in the spring. The two first nights are "seders," huge ceremonial dinners with lots of wine. We usually do Passover at my grandma's house, and there are usually about fifteen of us, and I have a game that I devised that I make everyone play every year, and it gets everyone talking and staying up late, instead of eating too quickly and passing out.

Did you grow up in a family that believed in following Jewish traditions as closely as possible? Also, do you think it is more difficult to try to follow these traditions in today's society?
My family is more religious than I am, but I wasn't raised with Orthodox practices. Rather, we had Shabbat dinners every Friday night, we went to Jewish summer camp, and our parents encouraged us to go to Israel (they met there back in the '70s). I liked the Judaism I grew up with, but I'm much more invested in the religion in a cultural way than in a faith-based way at this point. Yes, religion is difficult in today's society. Of course. It's pretty incongruous. I think that's why many people go either balls-to-the-wall or give it up entirely.

What kind of research was required of you to write Who By Fire?
I did a lot of research. I read and read and read. I went to Israel. I toured men's yeshivas. I worked in a girls' yeshiva high school. I worked in an Israeli restaurant. I made frequent use of, a website where people can chat live with Orthodox rabbis twenty-four hours a day. (How great is that?) I love research. It's a great way to procrastinate from writing. It's like leaving a really dirty pan in the sink "to let it soak."

Could you please explain your writing process to us, including whether you know the ending of your books when you begin?
My writing is character-driven, which means I not only don't know the ending when I begin, I also don't know the beginning or the middle. I wrote several drafts of Who By Fire before I thought, "Diana, the time has come. You need to tell a damn story." Constructing a plot feels so unnatural to me. I think of it as the math-and-science part of the process. I was never very good at math and science.

Do you attend any workshops or belong to any writing groups that have helped improve your writing skills?
I got my MFA degree in fiction fom the University of Montana, and a big part of my education there was "workshop," where my short stories were critiqued by my professors and my peers. I learned almost everything I know about writing during those two years. Since then, whenever I write something, I give it to my "readers," friends of mine who are also professional writers. They are the best. They have saved me a lot of embarrassment. They'll read something I've written that I'm excited about because it's hot off the press and I don't have perspective on it yet, and they'll say, "Um. Why don't you put this one away for a while? It's not your best work." They're always right.

I have heard from several author interviews that the publishing/editing process can be a very humbling experience. What was this experience like for you and do you have any suggestions for aspiring authors to help them deal with this process?

Make the work as good as you can possibly make it before searching for an agent to represent you and sell your book. Then make sure you're getting a good agent. I am hopelessly in love with my agent. She has gone to bat for me every step of the way. I'm very lucky. I'm even luckier because I wound up with a terrific editor, too. So I'm kind of in the minority in that I have very few complaints about my experience. My book got a lot of attention from my publisher, partly because my publisher (Harper Perennial) gives all of its books a lot of attention. So the whole ride has been pretty great.

Did you have moments when writing Who By Fire that were plagued by writer's block? If so, how did you stay inspired to continue writing?
Um...only for about a year. It felt like someone was hitting me in the forehead with a hammer over and over again, day after day. It finally went away when my agent sold my novel. Go figure.

From some of your other interviews I noticed that you enjoy yoga, which explains why you look so fabulous! What are some other hobbies that you enjoy to do during your down time? (If you get down time, that is!)
Ah. Bless you, Joanne. I don't have much down time because I work about 29387402398659283430987650 jobs. But I love all things social. My friends are the best. I hang out with them as much as I can. And of course, I love to read.

Well you tell me if you don't agree with me that Diana looks fabulous!

What is an average day like in the life of Diana Spechler?
No such thing. But I try to make writing the centerpiece of it.

What would an ideal "night on the town" in New York consist of for you?
A good dinner. A good dive bar. One of my favorite restaurants is Hane Sushi on 38th and 3rd. One of my favorite bars is the beer bar Burp Castle in the East Village. The locals call it the monk bar because there are murals of monks on the walls, and the bar features beers brewed by Trappist Monks, and when it gets too loud in there, everyone puts their fingers to their lips and says, "Shhhhhhh."

I don't know about you but this bar sounds like a fun place to check out!

To find out more information about Diana Spechler or her book you can check out her website here. Thanks again Diana for taking the time to share on such a personal level and I wish you the best of luck with your future novels!

There have been a few blogs that have reviewed Who By Fire and also had interviews with Diana. Here are just a few of them:
Ramya's Bookshelf recently posted a review.
At Home With Books posted an interview.
Seaside Book Worm Blogger also had an interview.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Jan. 27

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 (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

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!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser is from The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy:

"Your disobedience exceeds what is permissible. You bear the mark of a rebellious wife, and I shall not keep such a one in my home."

pg 47

Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See

The following is a summary of Peony in Love by Lisa See from the Random House website.

“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.

My Review:

I have been pondering this book for a couple of days considering how I can give a thorough review of it without revealing the whole plot to you. I will start by saying that this book had my emotions all over the place. I started out loving it, after about the one-third mark I really was very upset with it, and then at about the halfway point I fell in love with it even more. Like that really helped, right?

Lisa See is a very talented author that really gives us a glimpse of what it was like during the 1600's for Chinese women. She really has a magical way of describing the traditions and cultural beliefs in her novels. Just as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan focused on one girl's life, so does Peony in Love, but Lisa See does this in a different way by showing us another realm in the Chinese beliefs.

During this time period of Chinese culture, marriages were arranged between the parents, and many times the betrothed did not see each other until their wedding day. Because of this practice many young maidens could only dream of true love, and their dreams were fueled by the story of The Peony Pavillion, which is a famous Chinese opera. It is important to remember that girls were not encouraged to read, so if they did learn how to read, the books that were available to them were limited. Peony's father was very happy that his daughter could read so she would be able carry on intelligent conversations with her husband when she married, and also teach her sons how to read. The only books that Peony actually owned were commentaries on The Peony Pavillion, so as her arranged wedding day drew closer she engulfed herself in these books in the hope that true love will reign in the end. A doctor was called several times on Peony's behalf only to diagnose her with lovesickness. I found it very interesting that when Lisa See researched for this book she found that lovesickness was a very common diagnosis that claimed many young maidens lives.

The strong voice of women and mother/daughter relationships were a very important part of this novel. Peony does not get to see the personal side of her mother until later in the novel, but when she learns of her mother's loves and desires, it is inspiring. Peony's mother was persistent in teaching her the Four Virtues and the Three Obediences, but she really did not take the opportunity to build a relationship with her. When it was brought to Peony's attention that her mother at one time enjoyed reading and writing as much as she did, you could see that Peony really developed a new respect and admiration for her.

There were several parts of the novel that included groups of women getting together and discussing commentaries or poetry that they wished to have published. The Three Wives Commentary that is revealed towards the end of the novel is an actual commentary about The Peony Pavillion that was published. It seemed to be quite common for family members to publish women's writing projects after their deaths. I find it odd that if it were good enough to publish after they were dead, why they couldn't go public with their writing when they were alive. I know the answers but I don't have to agree with them!

Lisa See also shows us the various stages of the afterlife, which is very descriptive. I must admit that at first I really had a problem with this part of the book. I had to remind myself that this is the Chinese culture and this is what they believe in. Lisa See is just trying to give us a glimpse into that belief. I read the interview in the back of my book after I was done with it-wishing I had read it first, because it really helped to open my mind. Here is what Lisa had to say about the Chinese belief of death:

My point here is that other countries and cultures have different belief systems. One isn't right and the other wrong, although certainly wars and even personal arguments are fought all the time over whose religion is right.

As I said earlier, I really loved this novel but know that it is not for everyone. This is our book club selection for January and I know that quite a few of the ladies did not enjoy it, but we will see what their thoughts are after we discuss it. Many times we find a new appreciation of a book after we talk about it-and I know this one will spark a lot of discussion! A Novel Menagerie just posted an excellent review of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan here that may also interest you. You can also check out Lisa See's website for a complete list of books she has written and a peek into her newest novel Shanghai Girls.

My Rating: 4/5

Monday's Movie-Fireproof

A Novel Menagerie has started a new MEME that asks you to post about a movie that you watched the week before. We usually watch so many movies over the weekend that I figured this one is right up my alle! The movie that I wanted to share is Fireproof.

Here are some of the stats from Fireproof:

Starring: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel

Genre: Christian Drama

Runtime: 122 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

Here is a brief summary of the movie:
Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. Inside burning buildings, it's his natural instinct. In the cooling embers of his marriage, it's another story.

After seven years of marriage, Caleb and Catherine Holt have drifted so far apart that they are ready to move on without each other. Yet as they prepare to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's dad asks his son to try an experiment: The Love Dare.

While hoping The Love Dare has nothing to do with his parents' newfound faith, Caleb commits to the challenge. But can he attempt to love his wife while avoiding God's love for him? Will he be able to demonstrate love over and over again to a person that's no longer receptive to his love? Or is this just another marriage destined to go up in smoke?

My movie thoughts:

I really enjoyed this movie! My perception is that every married couple should watch this film together. Not only is this a movie about saving a marriage but it is also about gaining faith. In the beginning of the movie Caleb does not have faith in anything it seemed, except for his addictions. With the help of his father and a co-worker he is able to find the faith that he needs to overcome his addictions and be the man that God wanted for his wife. This really was an inspirational movie. There are also studies that go along with the movie that can be found at the website.

A Novel Menagerie also asks you to rate the movie with 5 bags of popcorn being a top rating. I rate this movie as 4 bags of popcorn, because even though I really loved it and thought it had such a strong message, I thought some of the acting could have been better.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Audiobook Review: The Gravedigger's Daughter

The following is a summary from Harper Collins of The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates:

In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet—but very "American"—triumph. "You are born here, they will not hurt you"—so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.

In The Gravedigger's Daughter, Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as The Falls, Blonde, and We Were the Mulvaneys.

My Review:

This was the first audiobook that I have listened to and I found myself wanting to drive my car so I could hear what was going to happen next. I did enjoy the book, but found myself confused by her writing quite often. In this novel the author quite frequently jumps around from different time periods and it was very distracting. I have read other novels that used this method and found that it may have even enhanced the books, but not with this one.

This is an epic novel that takes you through the life of Rebecca Schwarts. It starts in a small town in New York when Rebecca's father, Jacob Schwarts finds a job as a caretaker for a cemetary. Since he is the caretaker he is provided housing, which consisted of a tiny cottage near the cemetary that did not provide enough privacy for a family of five. Life in the Schwarts home becomes very tense as Jacob becomes very distrustful of the activities that his family members are involved in. Rebecca's older brothers cannot handle their father's abusive attitude any longer and flee from the little cottage, leaving Rebecca to fend for herself. Shortly after her brothers leave, Jacob Schwarts finally snaps forcing Rebecca to leave the life that she has known.

As she continues her life elsewhere, without her family, Rebecca falls in love and marries a man who turns out to be as abusive as her father was. One evening after her husband has beaten both her and her son, she decides to take her only son and start a new life without her husband. I appreciate the strength that was created in the character by being able to start a new life and identity over with her child to protect them both.

The rest of the novel takes you through Rebecca's adult life under a new identity. She instills in her son a passion for playing the piano and watches him develop into a very famous piano player. You can see her pride in her son and knowing that everything that she had to give up in life to create her new identity was all worth it for him.

The end of the book was actually bittersweet as Rebecca reaches out to a long, lost family member. She has spent her whole life avoiding any family that she may have left so her identity would not be revealed. I did enjoy the story as a whole, but it may not be for everyone. Especially if there are little ears close by, this audiobook contains a fair amount of profanity.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, January 23, 2009

Complete List of Books Read and Reviewed

I am going to keep adding to this list as I read and review books as a handy reference. If I have reviewed the book on my blog you should be able to click on the title to quickly retrieve it.

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Absolute Power by David Baldacci
The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
An American Family by Peter Lefcourt
Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart
Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Beach Trip by Cathy Holton
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Bedlam South by Mark Grisham and David Donaldson
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Black Hills by Dan Simmons
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker
Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful by Bon Jovi
The Bourne Objective by Eric Van Lustbader
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
The Brave by Nicholas Evans
The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

The Camel Club by David Baldacci
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons
The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson
The Circle of Friends Book III...James by L. Diane Wolfe
The Circle of Friends Book V...Heather by L. Diane Wolfe
Clair de Lune by Jaretta Carleton
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Code to Zero by Ken Follett
Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock
Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah
The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
Cross Country by James Patterson
Cross Currents by John Shors 
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani


Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates
The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci
Denise's Daily Dozen by Denise Austin
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau

The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith
Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos 
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans
Finny by Justin Kramon
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald
Guernica by Dave Boling
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran 
Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Home in Carolina by Sherryl Woods
The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord
The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt


Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert
The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen
The Light, the Dark and Ember Between by J.W. Nicklaus
The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey
Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda
Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch
The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
The Missionary by William Carmichael and David Lambert
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
More Than You Know by Penny Vincenzi
My Antonia by Willa Cather

Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Never Change by Elizabeth Berg
The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinsky
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Night Road by Kristin Hannah 
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
One For the Money by Janet Evanovich
One Summer by David Baldacci
Oogy by Larry Levin

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Peony in Love by Lisa See
A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White
The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer
Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg 
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescue by Anita Shreve
Room by Emma Donaghue

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal
Saturday by Ian McEwan
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
The Scarlet Lettery by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
The Sisters by Nancy Jensen
The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck 
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe 
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Summer Island by Kristin Hannah
Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson
Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie
Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
Tea Time for the Tradionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
Testimony by Anita Shreve
Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi
The Third Son by Julie Wu
This One is Mine by Maria Semple
This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury
A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
'Tis the Season by Lorna Landvik
To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal
Too Jewish by Patty Friedmann
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent
The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson
The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Two Brothers-One North, One South by David H. Jones
Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
The View From Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crime Units Mystery by Christopher Fowler

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Where Grace Abides by BJ Hoff
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Whole Truth by David Baldacci
A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans
The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker 
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
The World Without You by Joshua Henkin
Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge




Friday Finds-Jan. 23

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

Here is what I found:

From Amy at Passages to the Past I found Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell.

Here is a brief summary of Signora da Vinci from Penguin Group:
Caterina was fifteen years old in 1452 when she bore an illegitimate child in the tiny village of Vinci. His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever.

Caterina suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother and had no recourse when her boy was taken away from her. But no one knew the secrets of her own childhood, nor could ever have imagined the dangerous and heretical scheme she would devise to protect and watch over her remarkable son. This is her story.

Since I am reading Peony in Love I also stopped over at Lisa See's website because this novel is raising so many questions for me. She really is a very gifted and talented author so when I saw that she has a new novel coming out in May titled Shanghai Girls I decided that I will definitely have to read it!

Isn't this a beautiful cover? The following is a summary from her website:
In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, full of great wealth and glamour, home to millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives, thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business. Though both wave off authority and traditions, they couldn’t be more different. Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life ... until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the villages of south China, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the foreign shores of America. In Los Angeles, they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with their stranger husbands, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life, even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends, who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection. But like sisters everywhere, they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other but they also know exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other sister the most. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices and one devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel by Lisa See hold fast to who they are – Shanghai girls.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Jan. 20

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 (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

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!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser is from Peony in Love by Lisa See because I am still reading it this week:

Below us, New Year's Day arrived. In our ancestral hall, my parents laid out trays of meats, fruits, and vegetables, and I watched as my grandmother's flesh began to fill out.

pg 130

Monday, January 19, 2009

Current Giveaways!

There are certainly enough contests out there to go around...Here are just a few:

The following Blogs are giving away Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas:
Bermudaonion's Weblog--Contest ends 1/21.

Jenn's Bookshelf--Contest ends 1/26.

A Bookworm's World--Contest ends 1/29.

At Home With Books--Contest ends 1/29.

Booking Mama--Contest ends 1/30.

A couple other contests are:

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away a copy of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. Contest ends 1/23.

S. Krishna's Books is giving away a copy of Fashionably Late by Nadine Dajani. Contest ends 1/25.

Passages to the Past is giving away a copy of Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell. Contest ends 1/28.

Jenn's Bookshelf is also giving away a couple of audiobooks, which include The Terror by Dan Simmons and the Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. Contest ends 1/31.

Well good luck everyone!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Rating System

I have decided to start rating the books that I read as I have noticed that a few others already do this. I sometimes do put a rating after my book review so I thought it would be a good idea to give an explanation of how my ratings work.

Book's Ahoy! and At Home With Books both have similar rating systems to the one that I will be using. So here is my method:

5/5= I loved this book and would definitely suggest this book for personal reading or a book club.

4/5= I really enjoyed this book and would suggest it for others to read.

3/5= I probably liked this book, I may suggest to others to read, depending upon the content.

2/5= I didn't really enjoy this book, but I did finish reading it. Probably would not suggest for others to read.

1/5= I did not like this book at all and definitely would not suggest it to others.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lemonade Award!

I feel just so honored to have received the Lemonade Award from the Desert Rose Booklogue! I don't think that I could accept this award without thanking all of the blogs that blogged before me! Thank you all!

The Lemonade Award is for blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude. Now I'm supposed to pass it on... I know a few of you have recently received this award, but I am giving it to you again because you are so fabulous that you deserve to receive it more than once! Since no specific number of blogs was indicated I am passing this award to...

she reads and reads

Lezlie from Books 'N Border Collies

Dar from Peeking Between the Pages

Ellie from 52 Books and 52 Weeks

Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog

There are so many more out there that deserve this award but please check out these blogs and you will see how awesome they really are!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Jan. 13

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 (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

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!

Please avoid spoilers!

This week my teaser is from Peony in Love by Lisa See:

I didn't know why Mama was upset.

"My daughter isn't feeling well," Mama confided to the mothers around her, "and I'm afraid she's forgotten what's proper."

pg 50

Review: The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

The following is a summary from Random House of The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman:

The women of the Sparrow family have lived in New England for generations. Each is born in the month of March, and at the age of thirteen, each develops an unusual gift. Elinor can literally smell a lie. Her daughter, Jenny, can see people’s dreams as they’re dreaming them. Granddaughter Stella, newly a teen, has just developed the ability to see how other people will die. Ironically, it is their gifts that have kept Elinor and Jenny apart for the last twenty-five years. But as Stella struggles to cope with her disturbing clairvoyance, the unthinkable happens: One of her premonitions lands her father in jail, wrongly accused of homicide. The ordeal leads Stella to the grandmother she’s never met and to Cake House, the Sparrow ancestral home full of talismans and fraught with history. Now three generations of estranged Sparrow women must come together to turn Stella’s potential to ruin into a potential to redeem.

My Review:
I haven't read Alice Hoffman for quite awhile, and I must admit that I really didn't know much about this book when I picked it up a couple of years ago. I have read a couple of her books in the past and have enjoyed them, but quite honestly when I first started this book I found myself not enjoying it as I have enjoyed her previous novels.

As you can see from the summary, all of the women born into the Sparrow family develop a special gift, or power one might say, that is revealed on their 13th birthdays. This was introduced in the beginning of the book and since I didn't think of this as a very realistic probability within a family I was kind of turned off in the beginning. I did get past that because while I was reading the novel I happened to remember a couple of stories where similar instances of inheriting psychic gifts have been reported. How true these stories are, or not, are not really up to me to challenge. So I just reminded myself that this is a fictional story and left it at that.

One of the major themes of this story is how the mother/daughter relationship seems to be strained within this family of women, generation after generation. As soon as Jenny is able, she leaves her heritage home called Cake House to try to lead a somewhat normal life with her new family. Jenny wanted to get as far away from her mother as she could, just as Stella tried to get away from her mother later. Jenny thinks that she has met and married the man of her dreams, only to have the relationship end in divorce years later.

When Jenny's daughter Stella turns 13, Stella learns that her special gift is being able to see how people will die. When Stella tries to warn a stranger of her fatal demise, her father ends up being caught up in the cross-fire and is blamed for the crime. In an attempt to protect her daughter, Jenny decides that Stella should go back to the heritage home and reside at Cake House until the crime is solved.

Throughout the novel the women end up back at Cake House living together, overcoming their differences as they learn to appreciate each other all over again. New friendships and relationships are formed as old ones are renewed. I must admit that since I also had a strained relationship with my mother for many years that this book really hit home for me. I don't know why I keep reading books like that lately, but it seems like I always need a tissue!

So although I did not start out enjoying this book, I did grow to appreciate it, especially for the family relationships. Most of the characters had positive changes concerning romantic relationships that were fun to watch develop. It was not my favorite book that I have read by Alice Hoffman, but if you enjoy reading books that include some paranormal themes, you may enjoy it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Bookshelf Meme

Michele at A Reader's Respite has tagged me with the bookshelf meme. What a fun way to get to know your blogging friends!

So let the fun begin!

And now tell me about...

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest:

I have kept my favorite Dr. Seuss books from when I was a little girl. I brought them out of storage when my kids were little but now I have them packed up again awaiting the arrival of grandchildren. I will also note that I am not in a hurry for this...but I will have the books when needed! lol

So my favorite Dr. Seuss book that I have had for at least 37 years would be:

The Diggging-est Dog by Al Perkins

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time, etc.):

The book that comes to mind for me is one that I brought with me when I went to visit my sister in Colorado when she was in Intensive Care in December 07. She was very ill and we weren't even sure if she was going to pull through. I stayed in her hospital room almost every day for a week and because her medication kept her sleeping I spent most of my time reading:

Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum

A book you acquired in some interesting way (gift, serendipity in a used bookstore, prize, etc.):

I carpool a couple of days a week with one of my neighbors. We discuss books quite often and one of her co-workers gave her a book to read and she informed her that when she was done with it that she could just pass it on. She passed the following book on to me:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

A book that’s been with you to the most places:

The book that I remember bringing with me to many places is one that I brought with me camping during the summer. So I had it with me while we were out on the boat and sitting by the fire. But for some reason I did not finish it that summer. I didn't actually finish it until I brought it with me to Cancun the following March. That book is:

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

The most recent addition to your shelves:

Last weekend I had chaperoned for a Christian youth conference and I had the opportunity to take a few kids to the mall. Of course my requirement was that we will have to stop at a bookstore! This is what I purchased:

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

A bonus book that you want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions:

The other book that I would like to bring to your attention is one that my book club had received copies of from Random House about a year ago. We had all loved this book and I would definitely suggest this book for discussion in your groups. It is:

Gardens of Water by Alan Drew

So I am going to tag the following blogs:

Toni from A Circle of Books
Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff
She Reads and Reads

Here are the rules for those of you that were tagged:

1. Tag 3-5 people, so the fun keeps going!
2. Leave a comment at the original post at A Striped Armchair, so that Eva can collect everyone’s answers.
3. If you leave a comment and link back to Eva as the meme’s creator, she will enter you in a book giveaway contest! She has a whole shelf devoted to giveaway books that you’ll be able to choose from, or a bookmooch point if you prefer.
4. Remember that this is all about enjoying books as physical objects, so feel free to describe the exact book you’re talking about, down to that warping from being dropped in the bath water…
5. Make the meme more fun with visuals! Covers of the specific edition you’re talking about, photos of your bookshelves, etc.