Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

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

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

My Review:
I was very excited to read this novel that received so much praise from various sources.  This was our book club pick for the summer and I know that many book clubs have already read this one.  A good friend of mine told me this was the best book she read in the last year.  As much as I wanted to love this book like the majority of people out there, it didn't happen for me.

The beginning of the book just went on and on, with Sister Mary Joseph Praise giving birth to the twins in a clinic in Ethiopia.  I think the first twenty-five percent of the book was the birthing process, and personally, I didn't need all those details.   When Sister Mary Joseph dies in childbirth, the father, Thomas Stone, suddenly leaves in his grief, never to return.  This leaves a couple of unmarried surgeons, Ghosh and Hema, to raise the boys as their own.  They name the boys Marion and Shiva and create a home together, making an unlikely instant family.

Ghosh is a good man, and has had an attraction to Hema for quite some time.  He does not hesitate to help her raise these boys after their parents are no longer available.  When he decides to ask Hema to marry him, he rejoices when she agrees to commit to a marriage in one-year increments.  After that year, they can decide if they want to renew their arrangement.  I thought this was a comical situation, but after years have gone by, also romantic.

Most of the story was told by Marion's viewpoint.  This worked well for me as I enjoyed getting to know his character, his fears, likes, and dislikes.  The part that was unbelievable for me, and I think I actually put my Kindle down and said, "Give me a break," was when he described his journey through the birth canal.  Really?  How many of us remember that?

Through Marion's world, we watch these boys grow up into young men.  We get an up-close look at the turmoil in Ethiopia, which I found very interesting.  That was probably my favorite part of the book as I had no idea what caused the discontent in the country.  We follow them as their family bond grows stronger, and as Marion falls in love.  Marion carries this love in his heart, even when he flees the country to study medicine in the United States.  Shiva stays in Ethiopia practicing and perfecting his medical procedures in Ethiopia.

I am not going to give away any more of this book.  Although I didn't really care for it, I am glad that I finally read it.  I will tell you that most of my book club read it and loved it!  One gal even started reading it again after she finished it!  With themes of survival, betrayal, love, and family, I have to admit that it does make for an interesting book club selection.  There was some beautiful writing in this book so although I didn't love it, I'm sure many of you will.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This book came from my personal collection and I read it for my own enjoyment and as a book club selection.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday

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 just started reading Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls and I've already learned a couple of new words:

Mendacious: telling lies, especially habitually; dishonest; lying; untruthful.

Here is how mendacious was used on page 13:
His handwriting was elegant, if a little spidery, and his sentences were long and extravagant, filled with words like "mendacious" and "abscond" that most of the folks in Toyah would need a dictionary to understand.

Digraph:  a pair of letters representing a single speech sound, as ea in meat or th in path.

Here is how digraph was used on page 14:
Digraphs such as "sh" and "ph" infuriated him, and silent letters made him grieve.

I'm enjoying this book so far and it even evoked laughter from me during my lunch today!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday-Sept. 24

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at BookNAround.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

This was the only book I found in my mailbox last week, but that's ok!  Gives me a chance to get caught up on some of my other reading.  Have a great week everyone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Books That Make Me Go.....Ahhhh

Ok, I know I missed posting this the last two Fridays, but please don't give up on me!  Once a week I am going to TRY to post a notable excerpt from either a book I am currently reading or have read in the past.  These gems that catch my eye deserve much more notoriety besides being written down on a little sticky note in the front of the novel.

This week the passage that caught my eye is from The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh:
Elizabeth didn't ask why I was crying, just pulled me into the kitchen.  She sat on a wooden chair and drew me awkwardly into her lap.  In a few months I would be ten.  I was too old to sit on her lap, too old to be held and comforted.  I was also too old to be given back.  Suddenly I was both terrified of being placed in a group home and surprised that Meredith's scare tactic worked.  Burying my face in Elizabeth's neck, I sobbed and sobbed.  She squeezed me.  I waited for her to tell me to calm down, but she didn't.

pg. 133

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Title:  The Kingmaker's Daughter

Author:  Philippa Gregory

Narrator:  Bianca Amato

Unabridged Length:  15 hrs, 7 mn.

Here is a summary of the novel from the Simon and Schuster website:

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping and ultimately tragic story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” the most powerful magnate in England through the Cousins’ Wars. In the absence of a son and heir, he uses the two girls as pawns in his political games, but they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child brought up in intimacy and friendship with the family of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Her will is tested when she is left widowed and fatherless, with her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Fortune’s wheel turns again when Richard rescues Anne from her sister’s house, with danger still following Anne, even as she eventually ascends to the throne as queen. Having lost those closest to her, she must protect herself and her precious only child, Prince Edward, from a court full of royal rivals.

My Review:
I have to admit that I was hesitant to listen to this historical fiction novel after the last one totally missed the mark with me.  Not so with The Kingmaker's Daughter by Gregory!  I absolutely loved this novel and the narrator, Bianca Amato, gave me a vivid picture of our heroine Anne, by embracing her character in every way.

The story opens with Anne and Isabel as young girls, clueless as to what their father has planned for their futures.  Their father, Richard Neville, is a politically powerful man, who decides the fate of the individual that will sit on the throne.  Not only has he put men on the throne, but he has been responsible for removing kings from the throne as well.

As the girls get older they have the opportunity to visit the court of King Edward and Queen Elizabeth.  Anne is fascinated by the beauty of the Queen, admitting that she has never set eyes on anyone more beautiful.  When Anne and Isabel decline the Queen's offer to join her court as maids in waiting, the Queen develops an anger for these two girls that will continue for the the rest of their lives.

When Isabel marries King Edward's brother, George, the Queen dislikes the girls even more, knowing that if anything were to happen to Edward, Isabel and George could take over the throne.  Isabel develops a fear towards the Queen when she convinces herself that both the Queen and the Queen's mother know how to practice witchcraft and they probably put a curse on both herself and Anne.  Anne tries to discount Isabel's claims, but eventually these thoughts will consume her also.

After all the political struggles between several countries, Anne finds herself married to the King's younger brother, Richard, who she hoped to marry years before but the Queen would not allow it.  I cheered when Anne was finally going to have a bit of happiness in her life.  It doesn't take long after their marriage, for the Queen to self-destruct and lose her position on the throne, leaving Anne and Richard as the King and Queen of England.

I didn't realize that this is the fourth novel in the series until after I had started it.  I did not feel lost in the novel because of this, but it does make me want to read the other books that precede this one.  This novel contains so much more than what I have listed above.  Anne and Isabel's sisterly relationship is compromised at one point, and it is a hard journey for them to find their way back to one another.  With themes of sisters, love, power, and loyalty this was an amazing novel to listen to and I highly recommend it!

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox in exchange for an honest review.     

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Giveaway: American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

Thanks to Anna from Hachette I am able to give away up to 3 copies of the trade paperback of this novel PLUS 1 audiobook!  Here is a summary of the book from the Hachette website:

Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat's mother's oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah's doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat's skeptical father can't deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family's Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina's side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act -- with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.

American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life. Ayad Akhtar was raised in the Midwest himself, and through Hayat Shah he shows readers vividly the powerful forces at work on young men and women growing up Muslim in America. This is an intimate, personal first novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.

Now for the giveaway!

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

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

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S. or Canada. No PO Boxes please.

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.  Please indicate in your comment if you are interested in the audiobook.

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

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.

You will have until September 30th to enter and I will draw for winners on or after October 1st.

Good luck everyone!

**This Giveaway is closed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teaser Tuesday-Sept. 11

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

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

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

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

This week my teaser is from The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh:
For dinner that night, she served me a bowl of peas, still frozen.  If I was hungry, she said, I would eat it.

pg. 26

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Goodbye Grandma

September 30, 1922 - July 18, 2012

Many of you may remember that my Grandma passed away in July.  She was a very special woman in my life and I sure do miss her.  She lived with us for the last few years of her life, so I do have some solace knowing I helped to make her end days more enjoyable.

Just before Memorial Day, Grandma ended up with a bad case of bronchitis, putting her in the nursing home to recuperate.  My son was married on June 30th, and grandma was there, looking pretty good I might add.  She had a wonderful time.  She must have given up after that wedding, because every time I went to see her after that she seemed more and more withdrawn.  On July 16th, the nursing home called me indicating I should come down to be with her right away.  They told me her body was shutting down and it wouldn't be much longer.  I told my friends that I thought she would leave us on July 18th, her anniversary.

I received a call early on the morning of July 18th, informing me Grandma had just passed.  Grandpa had come to take her home and she is now reunited with her parents, husband, daughter (my mom), and  granddaughter (my sister).  Quite a reunion it must have been!

On my birthday I was missing her desperately.  So I decided to sit down and write a little flash story about how I felt about my Grandma right then and there.  I want to share with you what I wrote:

Loneliness and sorrow follow me today, as I begin my forty-fourth year in this world.  Looking back on past birthdays, a family member was taken from me almost every ten years.  As survivors Grandma and I developed a special bond.  Roles became reversed.  She cared for me as a young child and I cared for her as an aging adult. 
For forty-three birthdays I heard Grandma say, “Happy Birthday Jo-Jo.”  But not today. 
Less than three weeks ago I told her, “I love you Grandma.”
“I love you too, Jo-Jo,” was her final response to me.  We can’t choose our final words to our loved ones, but I wouldn’t trade these for a million bucks.
Grandma was a connection to my childhood, the last physical link to my heritage, and now she is gone.  She may be gone from this earth, but will always remain in my heart.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mailbox Monday-September 3

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at BookNAround.

Only one book showed up in my mailbox last week:

I was very excited to find this surprise in my mailbox!  It was a win from  My life has been pretty busy so I know I won't be able to read it any time soon, but I know it is on my shelf when I get a chance.

I haven't had much time for reading or blogging lately, but I'm hoping once I get settled into my new job, I will be able to do this more regularly once again.  Take care everyone and have a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day!