Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Salon-May 31

Well I certainly haven't posted a Sunday Salon for quite awhile, let alone post anything on my blog this week! The graduation madness has begun and I really haven't much time for reading at all. I'm lucky to get a few stolen moments of reading during the week!

I think that I mentioned a month or so ago that my son graduates from college, and my daughter from high school this spring. So below is a picture of my husband, my son Ryan(new college grad!), and myself from graduation on May 23rd.

I'm so proud of Ryan, who graduated Summa Cum Laude by the way, part of being a mom is having the right to brag right? He had a great college career and I know he will do well when he starts law school in the fall.

Yesterday we had my daughter Vicki's high school graduation party and that was a blast! Here in Northern Wisconsin the weather this time of year is so unpredictable but it really turned out to be a great day. All day long we were able to enjoy good friends, family, and delicious food. A couple of friends even brought some salads and desserts for me to share and I want to give a special thank you to them--it was greatly appreciated! Next up is Vicki's graduation ceremony next weekend--woohoo!

So now I am tired and have been just watching movies and relaxing all day. I think I will spend the remainder of the day relaxing and trying to get a few pages read tonight. All of the television shows that I enjoyed on Sunday nights are pretty much done now, so it's free time from here on out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review: Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

Here is a summary of Charms for the Easy Life by Kay Gibbons from the HarperCollins website:

A family without men, the Birches live gloriously offbeat lives in the lush, green backwoods of North Carolina. Radiant, headstrong Sophia and her shy, brilliant daughter, Margaret, possess powerful charms to ward off loneliness, despair, and the human misery that often beats a path to their door. And they are protected by the eccentric wisdom and muscular love of the remarkable matriarch Charlie Kate, a solid, uncompromising, self-taught healer who treats everything from boils to broken bones to broken hearts.

Sophia, Margaret, and Charlie Kate find strength in a time when women almost always depended on men, and their bond deepens as each one experiences love and loss during World War II. Charms for the Easy Life is a passionate, luminous, and exhilarating story about embracing what life has to offer ... even if it means finding it in unconventional ways.

My Review:

What an interesting novel this was that brought us into the lives of three generations of women that are living in North Carolina during World War II. The book is narrated by Margaret, the youngest woman in the family. Margaret starts out the story by giving us a little background information about her grandmother, Charlie Kate.

Charlie Kate came to be known as the best midwife in the county and was soon requested for various medical problems that people were coming down with. She is a very strong woman and finds herself taking on and winning many battles within the community. It seemed to me that she actually became a martyr for all of the progress that she helped develop within the little town that she lived. Unfortunately, her husband grows tired of her company and leaves Charlie Kate to raise their daughter on her own.

Sophia is Charlie Kate's daughter, and although I don't think the novel really focused too much on her, she was a very important character. Sophia marries a man that her mother does not approve of and they end up having a daughter of their own-Margaret. Margaret and Sophia eventually spend most of their waking hours at Charlie Kate's home. The next thing you know, Sophia's husband leaves her and it only seems reasonable that the three women share a home together.

As they find themselves spending more time together they learn a lot more about each others dreams and goals. The grandmother is often called upon to go on housecalls for the sick, and Sophia and Margaret usually find themselves accompanying her. It seems that while the grandmother is tending to the sick individual that there is always something important for the others to do, whether it be washing dishes, preparing a meal, or consoling a family member, no job is too little at the time. Through these acts I think they learn the importance of charity, kindness, and compassion.

As World War II is in full swing, these ladies find themselves working as volunteers as they are needed. Sophia finds herself leading a local Red Cross chapter, as Margaret and Charlie Kate are asked to help out at a hospital that cares for wounded soldiers that are returning from combat. Charlie Kate helps at the hospital on a medical basis, but Margaret finds herself connecting with the patients on a more emotional level. She spends time with the soldiers by reading letters from home and writing letters for the soldiers that can't complete this task on their own. I found myself looking forward to these letters and it was probably my favorite part of this book.

With Sophia busying herself with the Red Cross efforts, Charlie Kate and Margaret form a special bond as they spend more time together. This part was especially sweet to me as I have always been very close to my own grandmother. There was one special moment shared between all of the women in this book when they decided to get out of the house for awhile after being cooped up because of a snowstorm and go play around on a frozen pond. The following excerpt was from page 162:

The frozen pond did support them, and the exhilaration my mother felt came to me, it seemed, in a correspondent breeze of the sort Wordsworth wrote about. It filled my chest, all my mother's happiness blown directly into me. This was also happening to my grandmother. I could tell by the way she stared at them. I imagined her memories of watching my mother as a child, sitting at the kitchen table with her Blueback Speller, learning hard words with such joyous ease. I imagined my grandmother's memories of all the times my mother had pleased her, supremely. This was one of those times.

This book was a short, quick read and it appeared to be simple writing to me, but there was so much beauty and intimacy in the simpleness of it. I found myself enjoying this book more as it progressed and by the time I finished it I really did love it. I know that I wouldn't have chosen this book on my own, so I am grateful that this was a book club selection. I think it will make a great discussion!

My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shanghai Girls is Available Today!

In honor of Shanghai Girls being released today I wanted to bring your attention to the review that I posted last month of this book. I just love Lisa See's writing and always look forward to what surprises she has in store for me on the printed page. You can find out more about Lisa See and the books she has written by going to her website.

I will always remember reading this book while my sister was in the hospice center, and that may even be why I loved it so much. These sisters were willing to give up so much for each other that the story just touched me so deeply.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I think that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is still my favorite. How about you--Have you read Shanghai Girls or any other Lisa See book for that matter? If so, what was your favorite so far?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Finds-May 22

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

I think I am finally giving in to all of the buzz that has been generated from YA fiction. This is one genre that I haven't really had much experience with, but I have been hearing such great things about it.

The book that caught my eye this week is Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. I think that I was first intrigued by a teaser I read over at Write for a Reader and then I was roped in after reading a review over at A Novel Menagerie.

Here is a little summary of Twenty Boy Summer from Sarah Ockler's website:

For Anna Reiley and Frankie Perino, the ingredients for the Absolute Best Summer Ever are simple: Two girls. Two bikinis. And twenty days in Zanzibar Bay, California. The best part? According to Frankie, if they meet one boy every day, there’s a good chance Anna will find her first summer romance.

Anna lightheartedly agrees to the fun, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie… she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death last year.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.

So what caught your eye this week?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

Here are a few giveaways that have caught my eye this week:

Jenn's Bookshelf has some exciting things going on this week! You can enter a contest to win a Hardbacker and she also has a Mega Favorites giveaway to celbrate her 200th post! Both of these contests end tomorrow, 5/22, so hurry!

Books Love Jessica Marie is giving away Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland--Contest ends 5/27.

Book Chatter and Other Stuff is giving away a signed copy of Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge--Contest ends 5/28.

At Home With Books is having a May Bookshelf Cleaning Giveaway--Contest ends 5/28.

A Circle of Books is giving away Who By Fire by Diana Spechler--Contest ends 5/30.

Savvy Verse and Wit is giving away The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo--Contest ends 5/30.

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'? is giving away The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff--Contest ends 5/31.

Reader Rabbit is giving away Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler--Contest ends 6/2.

A Reader's Respite is giving away The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister--Contest ends 6/3.

Passages to the Past is giving away Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross--Contest ends 6/9.

And don't forget about the contests that I am offering that both end on 5/31. There is the Mother's Day Giveaway and the Asian Heritage Month Giveaway. I've noticed that there haven't been many entries for the Mother's Day contest, which really surprised me since that is such a great set of books! I'm thinking that I may have made it too difficult by asking for a favorite motherly character. Please realize that a favorite motherly character doesn't necessarily have to be a good mother. There are many good books that include rotten mothers-Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest as an example. So please go ahead and sign up with a good or bad mother!

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Here is a summary of Sarah's Key from St. Martin's Press website:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

My Review:

Why did I have this book for so long and not read it? Who knows-it was really an amazing story. I have always enjoyed books from the World War II time period, and this one was no exception. The first half of the book alternates characters and time periods with every chapter. So you get a glimpse into Sarah Stargynski's life in 1942, and also Julia Jarmond's in 2002. When you consider the brutality of the Holocaust, it was kind of relieving to read a chapter that took place in 2002. It was a nice little break that let you catch your breath.

The book starts out with Sarah Stargynski in 1942 who is living with her family in an apartment in Paris. Since her family was Jewish, they have been selected to be arrested as part of the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup that took place on July 16th, 1942. This is a part of World War II history that is not spoken of often, but obviously had a dramatic affect on the Jewish population in Paris at the time.

Although this book is fictional, it is important to realize that the Vel' d'Hiv' did actually happen. Jewish people were rounded up, some adults were sent to camps right away, while parents and their children were held in a stadium for days until adequate transportation was provided to transport them to the camps. The indignities that these people had to endure during this time were obviously just the start of their nightmares, since they didn't have any operating toilet facilities, and very little food and water. Although these orders to commit these atrocities were from Nazi Germany, the actual round-up and transporting of these innocent victims was completed by the French police.

When Julia Jarmond is introduced she adds a new element to the story. Julia is a journalist and her current assignment requires her to research the events from the Vel' d'Hiv. As Julia researches the events from that horrendous day, she uncovers a connection between her family and Sarah Starginski's family. As Julia follows Sarah's journey she uncovers the atrocities that were committed against the Starginski family. While Julia retraces Sarah's footsteps she finds herself at a train station that has been turned into a day care center. The following is from page 138 and was written on a sign above the day care center door:

In memory of the thousands of Jewish children, women and men, who between May 1941 and August 1943 passed through this station and the internment camp at Beaune-la-Rolande, before being deported to Auschwitz, the extermination camp, where they were assassinated. Never forget.

As Julia's quest for information about Sarah goes on, she finds herself struggling with events that take place in her personal life. She has a wonderful daughter of her own and is married to a good looking man that seems to be only concerned about his own well-being. After learning about the Vel' d'Hiv, Julia finds herself questioning the life that she has led with her selfish husband. She finds herself appreciating life in a new and fresh way.

We experience the hardships that Sarah experienced through this book. Although I really enjoyed the book I can't say that I particularly enjoy reading Holocaust events. To think that human beings were actually treated this way just burns me up inside and makes me so angry! A few years ago I took a Holocaust class, so even though I do feel pretty knowledgeable about the subject, I still did not know much about the Vel' d'Hiv round up. I think this book was very historically informative about that event. I also want to share something that I found at when I was working on my reserarch paper for this class. I remember when I first read The Story of Elsie V. I had tears running down my face. Maybe you have already read this story so you know what I am talking about, but if you haven't, I suggest that you read it right away.

I think that Tatiana de Rosnay did a great job of providing historical information about a very important piece of history. I think this book would also be a great book club selection and spark a very interesting discussion. Even though we have all heard it before, I think it is important to repeat--Never Forget.

My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-May 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 (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!

This week my teaser is from Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons:

For payment, my grandmother requested that the sawmill hire the best carpenter in town to build a lovely addition onto her home. Otherwise, she said, the world would know about the loose blades, loose belts, and unoiled machinery that she'd heard about as the victim ate his dinner.

pg. 24

Monday, May 18, 2009

Audiobook Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Here is a summary of The Red Tent from Anita Diamant's website:

The Red Tent retells the story of Dinah, which is found in the Biblical book of Genesis, Chapter 34. This episode, usually known as the "Rape of Dinah" has been a difficult passage for bible readers for centuries because of the murderous behavior of Jacob's sons. In Genesis, Dinah does not say a single word; what happens to her is recounted and characterized as rape by her brothers. In my retelling of the story, Dinah finds her voice. The Red Tent is told entirely from her perspective and the point of view of the women around her.

My Review:

I have heard so much about this novel that I figured it was about time that I check it out. I wasn't anticipating to be able to actually read the book any time soon, so I listened to the audio version. Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob and this book is written from her viewpoint.

The story begins by acquainting us with Jacob's four wives, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. Although Leah is Dinah's biological mother, all of these women provide maternal guidance to Dinah at some point during her life. This book focuses on the relationships that these women built and the traditions that they followed during this time of history.

The red tent was a place that the sisterhood of these women was even more private and intimate. The women were not allowed to enter the red tent until they began menstruating, so when a girl finally crossed over to womanhood and was granted entrance to the red tent, this moment was celebrated until the early hours of the morning to welcome the newest woman into the sisterhood. The red tent was one place where women could be themselves and share their most intimate thoughts and secrets without having to worry about the men in their lives.

When Dinah's life appears to be about as perfect as she can imagine, she is deceived in a way that reaches deep into her sould and destroys all she has known. She decides to leave the only family land she has ever known to start a new life.

This novel brings us through Dinah's entire life. She follows in her mother Rachel's footsteps by learning what is necessary to be a midwife. She develops quite a legeacy from this venture and is seeked by royalty when women are preparing to deliver their children.

As the book closes Dinah reflects on her lifetime, her relationship with her mothers and all that they shared together in the red tent. She remembers all that has happened with her father and brothers and how those events have helped her to develop into the woman that she has become. Although I did enjoy this story, I think that there were too many characters too be able to appreciate the audio version. So if you were going to look into this book I would definitely suggest reading it rather than listening to it. Although the audiobook didn't put me over the top, I could definitely tell that Diamant is a gifted and talented story teller, and I hope to read more of her work.

My Rating: 3/5

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Finds-May 15

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

I read a review earlier this week for Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji from everything distils into reading that made me say "OK, I need to read this one!"

Here is a summary of Rooftops of Tehran from Mahbod Seraji's website:

This stunning literary debut paints a vivid portrait of growing up, discovering love, and awakening to the reality of life in a nation on the verge of revolution in the 1970s. Rooftops of Tehran opens in a middle-class neighborhood in Iran’s sprawling capital city. The rooftop of the narrator’s house – the tallest in their alley − is the perfect spot for sleeping on hot summer nights. It’s also the perfect location for stargazing, sneaking cigarettes, talking about American movies, and confiding, analyzing and agonizing through the typical trials of being a seventeen year-old boy, including being in love. This is the spot from which the narrator quietly watches his secret love, his beautiful next door neighbor Zari, promised since birth to his friend and mentor, nicknamed Doctor, a man adored and respected by the whole neighborhood. It is from this high perch that the narrator witnesses the SAVAK's brutal hunt and arrest of Doctor and realizes the oppressiveness of the regime under which he resides. And the rooftop is where the narrator and Zari ultimately find quiet refuge in each other after the shock of Doctor’s senseless faith ripples through their close-knit community and brings about terrible, unexpected repercussions.

Doesn't that sound great? So what did you find this week?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Current Giveaways!!

Check out all of these great contests that you can cash in on right now!

You can find some Daphne du Maurier giveaways at the following blogs:
Booking Mama--Contest ends 5/27.
Passages to the Past--Contest ends 5/27.
Reading Extravaganza--Contest ends 5/31.
Peeking Between the Pages--Contest ends 5/31.

Here are some other contests that you can check out:
The Burton Review is giving away Made in the U.S.A by Billie Letts--Contest ends 5/16.

The Novel Bookworm is also giving away Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts--Contest ends 5/19.

Passages to the Past is giving away Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott--Contest ends 5/19.

Bookin' With Bingo is giving away The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson and Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts--Contest ends 5/22.

Bookin' With Bingo is also giving away I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci or Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton--Contest ends 5/23.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The Moment Between by Nicole Baart--Contest ends 5/23.

Passages to the Past is also giving away Royal Blood by Rona Sharon--Contest ends 5/24.

Booking Mama is giving away The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams--Contest ends 5/26.

A Novel Menagerie is giving away April & Oliver by Tess Callahan--Contest ends 5/28.

Peeking Between the Pages is also giving away Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts--Contest ends 5/30.

There were also a few contests that I posted about last week that you can still sign up for--Check those out here.

Good luck everyone!

Blog Tour and Review: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

I am so excited to participate in the blog tour for The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner! Here is a summary of the book from the Random House website:

In this stunning novel, C. W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

My Review:

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book as I haven't read a lot of historical fiction, and this is the first that I have read from this time period. Thanks to C.W. Gortner, I am now a true fan! This was a beautifully written book that was packed full of information that kept me wanting to read more.

One thing this book proved for me is that politics have always been a driving force in society. Arranged marriages have been quite common in some of the previous novels that I have read, but in the case of The Last Queen, marriages were arranged for the purpose of royalty to gain significant power. Juana of Castile knew early on of her future betrothal to Philip of Flanders, but decided to not focus on that part of her life. She thought that so many different things could happen in the future that could change this course of events.

The royal betrothal to Philip does take place and Philip and Juana develop a very passionate attraction to each other. Although Juana gives herself fully and emotionally to her new husband, that doesn't seem to be enough to satisfy all of his needs. Juana has a brother and sisters that have all been promised to royalty that would extend the alliances with Spain. Even though her mother, Isabel of Castile was born of the royal blood to rule the country, I don't think that Juana was expecting that this honor would be passed down to her.

As it was becoming more apparent that Juana would more than likely have to follow in her mother's footsteps as Queen, her husband Philip gets a glimpse of the power that he could have if he were to become the King of Spain. Since Juana has the royal blood running through her veins, the only way for him to become the King of Spain would be to defeat her by making her give up her crown and turning her back on the country she loves.

C.W. Gortner's writing just made this story so vivid within my imagination. I love how he connected the courts of England, France, and Spain and weaved important historical events into the story that helped me with a timeline. Juana of Castile was portrayed as such a passionate Queen that was willing to do just about anything for her country. To think of what she went through with not only her husband, but other family members, all for the love and welfare of Spain is just amazing.

I want to thank Dorothy from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for allowing me to participate in this virtual tour. I loved this book and look forward to reading future work by C.W. Gortner. To find out more information about Gortner please check out his website here. This novel is full of passion, intrigue, tragedy, loyalty, secrets, and deception that will hold your attention until you turn the final page. As you can see by my rating below, in the genre of historical fiction this book is one of my favorites.

My Rating: 5/5

**Want to win a copy of The Last Queen for yourself? Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit is running a giveaway that you can enter until May 22nd.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Summer Vacation Reading Challenge

It has been quite some time since I have signed up for any new reading challenges, but when I saw this one I figured that I could handle it! My family is not planning on taking any type of vacation this summer, but I definitely will be doing some traveling through literature. The challenge runs from May 22, 2009 to September 7, 2009.

There are a couple of options available, but I am going to sign up to be a Beach Bum. I find that ironic because I am known as a beach bum when I go on vacation! The Beach Bum option only requires me to read 3 books and I don't even have to list them in advance. You can go here to sign up yourself if this challenge interests you.

I will list my books below as I read them:
1. Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani--Completed 6/25/2009 (brought me to London and Miami)
2. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst--Completed 7/8/2009 Brought me all over the world!)
3. Beach Trip by Cathy Holton--Completed 7/10/2009 (Brought me to a little island off the North Carolina coast)

Wondrous Words Wednesday-May 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!

I finished reading The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner this last weekend and here are a couple of new words that I learned:

Apoplexy: (ap-uh-plek-see) a sudden, usually marked loss of bodily function due to rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel, such as a stroke.

Here is how apoplexy was used on page 117:
"You should sit, madame, before you drop dead of apoplexy."

Pontificate: To express opinions or judgments in a dogmatic way.

Here is how pontificate was used on page 168:
Let your mother pontificate till she's blue in the face.

So what kind of new words did you learn this last week?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-May 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 (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!

This week my teaser is from Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay:

But she told me everything I need to know, she told me everything about that day. I think the worst thing for her was having to live on without the others.

pg 49

Monday, May 11, 2009

Winners of Testimony by Anita Shreve

Congratulations to the following ladies that have all won a copy of Testimony by Anita Shreve!

Marie-marielay AT gmail DOT com

Congratulations to everyone and thank you to Valerie from Hachette Book Group for offering this contest! Don't forget to check out the Mother's Day Contest and the Asian Heritage Month giveaway that are both being offered on my blog right now.

I will be emailing you all shortly, so please get back to me as soon as possible with your mailing information so the publisher can mail out the book for you.

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The following is a summary of A Thousand Splendid Suns from

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them --- in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul --- they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

My Review:

Khaled Hosseini is an amazing storyteller and after reading The Kite Runner, I wasn't sure if any novel could ever be considered it's equal, but A Thousand Splendid Suns definitely fits the bill. This book has been on my shelf since it's release a couple of years ago, but wanted to wait until I could read it with my book club. Well that time has finally arrived and it was definitely worth the wait!

This book is about how two unsuspecting Afghan women, from different walks of life, are suddenly brought together. They must learn how to rely and trust one another in order live any life worth living under the Taliban rule. My heart goes out to all women that had to endure the hardships that were thrust upon them during this time. They are all true heroes.

The novel is broken down into four parts, with the first part beginning with the life of Mariam. Mariam is introduced to us a young girl that lives with her mother in a small village. Mariam did not really have a good relationship with her mother, as her mother continually reminds her that they have basically been considered outcasts because of the scandalous relationship that resulted with Mariam's birth. Although her father did visit Mariam in the village often, he did not want her to become a part of his everyday life in the city with his other wives and legitimate children.

Her father was a very successful businesman and lives in a large and luxurious home. One afternoon Mariam decides that her life would be so much better if she had the opportunity to live with her father, so she hikes into the city to find his home. Little does Mariam know that this one decision will change the course of her life drastically.

In the second part of the book, Laila is introduced to us as a young girl with a bright and exciting future ahead of her. Her parents are more liberal than some of their neighbors, as her mother doesn't wear a burqa and since her father is a professor they actually encourage her education. As Laila gets older she gains more hopes and dreams and actually falls in love with her best friend, Tariq.

Throughout this novel different forms of government are fighting for control of Afghanistan, which leaves the country in a state of continual turmoil. Bombings come to be a regular occurance and Laila questions daily if her friends will still be there when she goes to look for them the next day. Many families flee the country in an attempt to protect their families and get on with their lives, but Laila's family decides to wait out the war, knowing that things would get better. Unfortunately this did not happen for Laila's family and the way of life that she had known and was brought up with was to be lost forever.

The third part of the novel was probably my favorite part even though it may have been the most difficult to read. Laila and Mariam are brought together in an unspuspecting way, considering that they both have come from two different walks of life. With the Taliban having full control of the country these women must learn to count on each other for support and love in a way that no one else would be able to provide. They form a relationship that bonds them as sisters and also as a mother and daughter. From the relationship that Mariam developed with Laila, Mariam ponders her own relationship with her mother. Here is an excerpt from page 256 that reveals how Mariam wished she was a better daughter:

Mariam saw now the sacrifices a mother made. Decency was but one. She thought ruefully of Nana, of the sacrifices that she too had made. Nana, who could have given her away, or tossed her in a ditch somewhere and run. But she hadn't. Instead, Nana had endured the shame of bearing a harami, had shaped her life around the thankless task of raising Mariam and, in her own way, of loving her. As she fought her way with impudent resolve to the front of the melee, Mariam wished she had been a better daughter to Nana. She wished she'd understood then what she understood now about motherhood.

From this point forward, Mariam does everything in her power to protect Laila and her children.

In the final part of the book, we are brought to a more current state of Afghanistan. The year is 2003 as the story closes and we have had the opportunity to journey with Mariam and Laila through many changes in governmental power. We have had the opportunity to see women have liberties granted to them to only have them later stripped away. We live in an amazing country that allow us so many freedoms that I think it's important to read a book like this once and awhile so we don't take our many freedoms for granted. God Bless America!

I think you can tell how much I loved this novel, and would suggest that every woman in America read it. To find out more about Khaled Hosseini you can visit his website here. You should also know that Mr. Hosseini is very active with humanitarian efforts that deal with the Afghan Refugee Crisis. He shares on his website some of his findings from his personal trips to villages in Afghanistan. Our entire book club also loved and praised this book and we all rated it 5 out of 5.

My Rating: 5/5

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Giveaway!

I want to wish a Happy Mother's Day to all of the Moms out there! In honor of Mother's Day Valerie from Hachette Book Group has graciously offered to give away 3 sets of these books!

Winners receive all of these books:

Miracles of Motherhood
Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter
Mommy Grace by Sheila Schuller Coleman
Beginner's Greek by James Collins
The Road Home by Rose Tremain

Here's how to enter the giveaway!
To enter this contest you must be 18 or older and live in the US or Canada.
Will not ship to PO Boxes.

For one entry leave me a comment below indicating your favorite motherly character from the world of literature.
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 May 31st to enter and I will draw for a winner on June 1st.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Finds-May 8

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

There have been a couple of books that have caught my eye recently. The first one that I want to share is Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie. I have read reviews at J. Kaye's Book Blog and
Diary of an Eccentric that have just sold me on this book.

Here is a brief summary of Tender Graces from Bell Bridge Books:

The death of her troubled mother and memories of her abused grandmother lure a young woman back to the Appalachian hollow where she was born. Virginia Kate, the daughter of a beautiful mountain wild-child and a slick, Shakespeare-quoting salesman, relives her turbulent childhood and the pain of her mother’s betrayals. Haunted by ghosts and buried family secrets, Virginia struggles to reconcile three generations of her family’s lost innocence.

Another book that has caught my attention is Precious by Sandra Novack, which I found over at Fizzy Thoughts.

Here is a summary of Precious from the Random House website:

The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing. Her tight-knit blue-collar Pennsylvania neighborhood, where children roam the streets at night playing lightning tag, aboveground pools sparkle in backyards, and flowers scent the air, will never be the same.

Down the street from Vicki’s house, another family is in crisis. Troubled by her past, headstrong Natalia Kisch has abandoned her husband and two daughters for another man. Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters’ struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.

When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocably—forcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.

In this haunting, atmospheric debut, Sandra Novack examines loss, loyalty, and a family in crisis. Lyrical and elegiac, Precious illuminates our attempts to make sense of the volatility that surrounds and consumes us, and explores our ability, even during the most trying times, to remember and hold on to those we love most.

So what caught your eye this week?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Current Giveaways!!!

There are really a lot of great contests out there right now, and here are just a few.

Jenn's Bookshelf is hosting giveaways for both Reunion by Theresa Fowler and Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts--Both of these contests end 5/15.

So Many Precious Books, So Little Time is giving away Best Intentions by Emily Listfield--Contest ends 5/15.

Wrighty's Reads is giving away both Testimony by Anita Shreve and Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts--Contest ends 5/15.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Jantsen's Gift by Pam Cope--Contest ends 5/17.

Savvy Verse and Wit is giving away The Last Queen--Contest ends 5/22.

You have the opportunity to win the audiobook of Boneman's Daughter by Ted Dekker from:
Books and Needlepoint--Contest ends 5/22.
Peeking Between the Pages--Contest ends 5/23.

The Literate Housewife Review is giving away The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks--Contest ends 5/31.

In honor of Latino Book Month there are a couple of huge giveaways that are offering a set of 5 books at the following blogs:
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time--Contest ends 5/31.
Luxury Reading--Contest ends 5/31.

Drey's Library is having an amazing May Awesomeness Giveaway, which consists of 3 great contests--These all end 5/30.

Booking Mamma has a great Mother's Day Giveaway for a chance to win a set of 5 books--Contest ends 5/31.

And then don't forget about my giveaways! I have one for Testimony by Anita Shreve--Contest ends 5/10.
I also have a great giveaway in honor of Asian Heritage Month--Contest ends 5/31.

I also posted about quite a few contests last week that are still going on and you can view those here.

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday-May 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!

I have found quite a few new words while reading The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. Here are just a few:

Portcullis: (pôrt-kŭl'ĭs) A grating of iron or wooden bars or slats, suspended in the gateway of a fortified place and lowered to block passage.

Here is how portcullis was used on page 31:
"Indeed," he remarked, and he steered me to a bench under the portcullis's shadow.

Effigy: a representation or image, esp. sculptured, as on a monument.

Here is how effigy was used on page 38:
In their royal pew, my parents sat stiff as effigies.

Odalisque: (ohd-l-isk) a female slave or concubine in a harem, esp. in that of the sultan of Turkey.

Here is how odalisque was used on page 48:
"I can smell the perfume water from here. You'll smell like a heretic odalisque."

Hippocras: (hip-uh-kras) an old medicinal cordial made of wine mixed with spices.

Here is how hippocras was used on page 53:
Servitors entered, carrying baked boars' heads stuffed with caramelized pears; winter peacocks sauteed in hippocras; glazed honeyed herons; haunches of cinnamon-roasted venison; and myriad unrecognizable dishes smothered in creamy sauces.

Susurration: (soo-suh-rey-shuhn) a soft murmur; whisper.

Here is how susurration was used on page 60:
I was overwhelmed with longing for the chamber I'd shared with my sisters, for the susurration of their voices in the dark and quiet snores of our ladies on their pallet.

So what new words have you learned in your reading adventures this week?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-May 5

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 The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner:

To my surprise, it was Isabella, newly betrothed to the Portuguese heir, who embraced me first. "I shall never see you again in this life, hermana," she whispered.

pg 44

Monday, May 4, 2009

Audiobook Review: Code to Zero by Ken Follett

The following is a summary of Code to Zero by Ken Follett from his website:

A man wakes up to find himself lying on the ground in a railway station, his mind stripped bare of all recollection. He has no idea how he got there; he does not even know his own name. Convinced he is a drunken down and out, it isn't until a newspaper report about a satellite launch catches his eye that he suspects all is not what it seems...

The year is 1958, and America is about to launch its first satellite in a desperate attempt to match the Soviet Sputnik and regain the lead in the space race. As Luke Lucas gradually unravels the mystery of his amnesia, he realizes that his fate is bound up with that of the rocket that stands ready on launch pad 26B at Cape Canaveral.

And as he relearns the story of his life, he uncovers long-kept secrets about his wife, his best friend and the woman he once loved more than life itself...

Code to Zero deals with one of the most ruthlessly contested arenas of the Cold War. Deceit and betrayal, love and trust interweave at the most political and personal levels, while the spectre of mind-control hovers constantly above. Each second brings destruction closer...

My Review:

Code to Zero is a book that is packed with mystery, suspense, espionage, and love that leaves you perched on the edge of your seat until it is completed. I wasn't sure what to expect from Follett, as this is the first book that I have read (listened to) by him.

When Luke wakes up in a Washington D.C. train station dressed like a bum and with a case of amnesia, he finds himself having to rely on little clues to help piece is life together. Throughout the story, pieces of his memory come back to him through flashbacks. He learns that he is married to his college sweetheart, Elspeth, but just cannot understand how they became married. He had a later memory that put him in a very heated and romantic relationship with Billie, also a college friend, but just doesn't understand how that relationship dissolved.

As the book progressses Luke learns that he is actually a rocket scientist and the launch of Explorer I may be in jeopardy. I think that everyone is aware of the animosity that developed from space programs between the Russians and Americans and this book really highlighted the intensity of that period of time very well.

Between the CIA, the KGB, and the double agents Luke really wasn't sure who to trust towards the end of this novel. He had to rely on his instincts and make quick decisions that would affect his future and American history.

I don't want to go into too much detail as this book is categorized as a suspense/thriller, but I really did enjoy it, especially as an audiobook, and will more than likely read more of Follett's work in the future.

My Rating: 4/5

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Giveaway: Amazing Asian Heritage Month Giveaway from Hachette

Valerie from Hachette Book Group has graciously offered to give 3 sets of these books away in honor of Asian Heritage Month! I think this is a great contest as personally I have always loved books that give me a glimpse into another time and culture.

The winners will win all of the following books:
1. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
2. Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunée
3. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer Lee
4. Transparency by Frances Hwang
5. Strangers from a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki

Here's how to enter the giveaway!
To enter this contest you must be 18 or older and live in the US or Canada.
Will not ship to PO Boxes.
For one entry leave me a comment 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 May 31st to enter and I will draw for a winner on June 1st.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Finds-May 1

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

A new book was brought to my attention this week from It is Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith! If you have visited my blog in the past I think you know how much I truly enjoy The No. 1 Lades Detective Agency series. I have been reading these with my book club, so I can't wait to tell them next week that we have another installment to look forward to!

Here is a summary of the book from Alexander McCall Smith's website:

Mma Ramotswe’s ever-ready tiny white van has recently developed a rather disturbing noise. Of course, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni–her estimable husband and one of Botswana’s most talented mechanics––is the man to turn to for help. But Precious suspects he might simply condemn the van and replace it with something more modern. Can she find a way to save her old friend?

In the meantime, Mma Makutsi discovers that her old rival Violet Sephotho, who could not have gotten more than fifty percent on her typing final at the Botswana Secretarial College, has set her sights on none other than Mma Makutsi’s fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti. Can Mma Ramotswe’s intuition save the day? Finally, the proprietor of a local football team has enlisted the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to help explain its dreadful losing streak. The owner of the team is convinced he as a traitor in his midst. But how is Mma Ramotswe, who has never seen a football match in her life, going to discern who is throwing the game? Help, it turns out, may come from an unexpected quarter.

Well I am just thrilled about this Friday Find! I know that I won't be reading it for awhile since we only read one of these a year and the last one we read was In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, but just knowing that it is coming up puts a smile on my face!

What have you found that has caught your eye this week?