Monday, March 31, 2008

March Mom Daughter Book Club Meeting

I may be a little biased, but I think we had another wonderful meeting of our Mother Daughter Book Club. This month, we read and discussed LIFE IN HIDING: ANNE FRANK by Johanna Hurwitz. I was really looking forward to reading this book because it was an age appropriate story (for 8 year olds) about Anne Frank and her diary. I remember being fascinated by Anne's story when I was younger; and I was excited about introducing the story and sharing it with my daughter.

A few days ago, one of the moms called me to warn me that the first chapter covered a lot of information on Hitler and the persecution of the Jewish people. I kind of figured that the book would have to mention this information as background, but I guess I wasn't prepared for the amount and type of questions that our 8 year old daughters would ask. I was very proud of my daughter for asking these questions and wanting to understand what happened, but I have to admit that I found it very difficult to explain this horrific part of history to a child -- I hope I did it justice. I still find it hard to believe that something this horrendous was allowed to happen, so I can't imagine how hard it is for an 8 year old to process all of this information.

I was a little worried about what direction our discussion would take, but the girls were extremely interested in talking about Anne -- thank goodness! Two (out of four) of the girls said that they didn't like the book because Anne died. I wasn't surprised by this, but I hope we were able to explain that a book can still be worth reading even if we don't always like how it ends. Once again this month, some of the girls came up with a list of questions to discuss. I don't think I will ever stop being amazed at the questions these little girls can come up with. They discussed whether they would be willing to risk their lives to hide a friend; and they all talked about what they have in common with Anne.

I was impressed that the girls' discusssion lasted for over a half hour. They really did a great job of talking amongst themselves about the book. In fact, they got frustrated that the moms talked too much about other things and didn't stay focused. Well now! I guess I better just let them run the meeting next month!

Our next book that we will be discussing is SOUNDER by William H. Armstrong. SOUNDER is the winner of the 1970 Newberry Medal and the story of a poor African-American boy in the 19-century South. I don't know how I managed to miss this book growing up, but I'm glad that I now have the chance to read it with my daughter.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mistress of the Revolution Book Giveaway

A few days ago, I posted a review of MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION by Catherine Delors. I thought it was a wonderful book, and everyone who reads it seems to agree. I just so happen to have an extra copy that I want to share with one lucky person. If you are interested in receiving this book, just leave me a comment with your e-mail address. If you would like to double your chances of winning, you can write about this giveaway on your blog (linking back to this post). The contest will be open until Friday, April 4th at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Review: Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir

Summary: Heather Summerhayes was six when her four-year-old sister Pam was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and given only months to live. "Sixtyfive roses" was the way Pam pronounced the name of the disease that forever altered the lives of her siblings and parents, who in turn helped alter the community's response to the disease by founding the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. With the help of the CF Foundation, research, and new treatments, the fight to save Pam's life lasted for years, until her death at the age of twenty-six.

This beautifully written memoir offers a compassionate yet unflinching eyewitness account of the hope, pain, and courage of a family in crisis as it falls apart and puts itself together again and again, to emerge stronger and more loving. The heart of the story explores the relationship between the two sisters -- one devastatingly ill, the other healthy but burdened with guilt -- as they journey through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. -- book jacket

When Heather Summerhayes Cariou author of SIXTYFIVE ROSES asked me if I'd like to read her book, I was extremely flattered. Even though I have never had to face a loved one with a life-threatening illness, I still thought I could learn a great deal from a book like this. When I started reading this book last night, I thought it might not be an easy read. But within a few pages, I knew I just had to keep reading about Heather and Pam. This was an amazing story about two very strong women.

Any person who has ever had to deal with the sickness or loss of a loved one would find this book extremely valuable and definitely should read it. While I have never faced anything even close to what the Summerhayes did, I still learned so much about the beauty of the human spirit from their story. I was blown away by how much this family had to deal with, yet their love for each other remained so strong. Despite all of the challenges that they faced, they never gave up -- they just kept on going.

What I especially liked about the book was the author's honesty in telling her story. She freely admitted the difficulties the family had in coping with this horrific disease. She also openly discussed her resentment and anger towards her sister and her parents. I loved seeing how much Ms. Summerhayes Cariou changed by the time she set out to write this book. I was so happy to learn, that even though she misses her sister, she has found happiness and contentment in her life.

While all of the people in the Summerhayes family were special in their own right, Pam was just an incredible person. Even though she only lived for 26 years, the wisdom and insight she acquired in that time were so valuable. Her faith in God and others, despite knowing that she was going to die, are truly an inspiration to me. There were so many wonderful things that Pam said through the pages of this book, but one of my favorites is:

"While we are here we must make the best of what we have and where we are. Soon my purpose will end, and I will leave the world bodily, but whatever I have given to anyone, that will remain."

Ms. Summerhayes Cariou has written a beautiful tribute to the memory of her sister and their friendship. While parts of this book were truly funny, I found myself crying on more than one occasion. This is such a bittersweet story about the strength of a dying woman and the sister who thought she wanted to die with her. I know this book will resonate with me for a very, very long time.

If you are considering reading SIXTYFIVE ROSES for your book club, the author is available for speaker-phone book club appearances and in-person appearances if you live near New York (or occasionally LA.) She also has a monthly contest where book clubs have the chance to win a set of SIXTYFIVE ROSES for all group members. Click here for more information.

"If we take the chance and opportunity of seeking out the beauty in the world about us, every moment of every day can be treasured. I have learned that no matter what misfortunes or joys one may be faced with -- life will surely go on...with love." - Pam Summerhayes

Thursday, March 27, 2008

For the Love of Books.....

About a week ago, Lisa at Books on the Brain shared the name and website of an on-line book publicist who can "hook you up" with books! Of course, I was interested -- who doesn't love free books? As a result, I discovered Lisa Roe and her on-line "book business." Ms. Roe is in the business of connecting people who write on-line (like us bloggers) with books that she is working on. All you have to do is check out the books she has listed on her website ;and see if there are any you are interested in reading and reviewing. Just fill out her contact form and she'll send you the books -- it's a win-win situation for everyone!

I just think it's awesome that Ms. Roe has found a way to merge her love of books with her career. I know I was interested in how she became an on-line book publicist, and I thought many others might want to hear her story too. I asked Ms. Roe if she would be a guest blogger and tell us about she got her business started:

I am an online book publicist. I just launched a website. I am not rich. I may never be. I never really set out to start a business. I never really had a plan at all for life. So, how did I get here? It’s all for love of the books…

True to my lack of a plan, direction, or any real clue on where I was headed, I started college later than most. I was 25. I majored in theatre as well as creative writing. Finally on the verge of graduation, I suddenly realized that I never really performed in the theatre (too much drama!) and I certainly wasn’t going to pursue it at that point. As for the prospects of the other major, well, with no cabin in the Northwoods (that’s way up Nort Wisconsin, there, eh!) or typewriter on which to write my best-selling novel, I was lost on what to do.

Benjamin Percy, my most inspiring writing professor, steered me towards a NYU program for publishing, thinking that I may find something I liked with it. I had always been a voracious reader. I love the feel of a book in my hand. I thought it was worth a shot. So, there I was. Never having set foot in NYC before, I showed up with 4 suitcases, no subway map, and no clue.

I finished my program and lucked out with a job at an independent publishing house (got laid off), moved to a PR firm where they were better able to weather the storms of the publishing world (missed my previous job) and got my first real shot at pursuing online publicity (woo-hoo! Happy days again!)

I was thrilled to find that personal connection that I had been missing out on since the publishing house, but it was an exhausting amount of work. I tried to be as respectful as I could when it came to suggesting books to bloggers/online writers, never wanting to overwhelm or scare anyone off. I would send info on one book. If it was turned down, I might wait a bit and try suggesting another one. I knew there had to be a way to streamline the way I worked so that it benefited everyone involved.

It was a request made by business blogger Michael Wade at that kick started the old idea machine. I sent him a list of titles I was working on. He requested a memoir and gave it a rave review. Huh? A business blogger? Hmm. How many other opportunities had been missed by only offering a certain type of book to bloggers?

I spent several months in this position, befriending online writers, and mulling over the idea of a website and going out on my own. The first problem to tackle: I was not happy in NYC. The 2 years spent there were chock full of wonderful memories and experiences, but I longed for the laid back, easy manner, friends, family, all-Packers-all-the-time, let’s-go-Brewers baseball of my home town: Milwaukee, WI.

So here I am! I’ve moved back home, struck out on my own, launched my site, and have had an overwhelmingly positive response to it. I’m proud of the work that I do, happy to be personally involved in my work and your interests, and thrilled to offer books to those who love them.

So, do tell me what your interests are…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Review: Mistress of the Revolution

Summary: Set in decadent, turbulent revolutionary France, Mistress of the Revolution is the story of Gabrielle de Montserrat. An impoverished noblewoman raised in a remote province, Garbrielle is only fifteen when she meets her first love, a commoner named Pierre-Andre Coffinhal. In accordance with social customs and laws that give Gabrielle's brother and guardian absolute power, Gabrielle is forced into a marriage to an aging, wealthy cousin, while Pierre-Andre leaves for a legal career in faraway Paris.

Gabrielle arrives at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in time to be caught in the emerging storm. Determined and inquisitive, she strives to find her own freedom while around her opposing currents of thought clash over the fate of a nation. As the revolution take an ever more violent turn, she glimpses her first love as he ascends from obscure patriot to the bench of the Revolutionary Tribunal. At last, confronted with the prospect of the guillotine, she reaches for him and an impossible happiness.

Replete with period detail and characters inspired by real-life figures such as Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and Pierre-Andrew Coffinhal, Mistress of the Revolution is an unforgettable debut from a new voice in historical fiction. - book jacket

I was just thrilled when the Fedex man delivered MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION by Catherine Delors. I couldn't wait to get started on it! Even though I don't read a lot of historical fiction books, I almost always enjoy them when I finally get around to reading them. Maybe it's the blend of romance and history that combine to make them so much fun. Whatever the reason, I thought this book was a wonderful read!

Out of all the historical fiction books that I have read in recent memory, I have never read one about the French Revolution. Of course, I had heard of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; but beyond that I was kind of clueless about this whole period of history. I found this time period to be fascinating, and I want to read more about it (maybe a historical fiction book about Marie Antoinette). Ms. Delors did an excellent job of weaving the story of the Revolution throughout the entire book. While the main character of Gabrielle was fictitious, many characters in the book were real-life figures. I thought the plot was at times difficult to follow since I had no background on the history or characters; however, the book kept my interest throughout and I was very interested in the futures of the characters.

The story told by Gabrielle only covered a small part of her life, but what a life it was! I felt her life was so terribly sad and I had so much compassion for her. She did have a few friends and some brief times of happiness, but so much of her life was tragic. She fell in love at 15 with Pierre-Andre Coffinhal who was a commoner, but she was forbidden from marrying him. Just weeks later, she was forced into an abusive marriage with an older man. Within a few years, she became a mother and a widow who was left with almost no money.

While it may have seemed that she did have the ability to make some choices, I felt she had almost no control over the direction of her life. At times I would find myself getting frustrated with her behavior, but I had to remind myself that she was so young and basically on her own -- she was a victim of the times. From a very young age, she basically had to ensure her daughter's and her survival no matter what it required. At least towards the end of the book, she was able to find some happiness with Pierre-Andre; however, like every other time in her life, it was short-lived.

I was very impressed by Ms. Delors' knowledge of French history as well as the research she conducted to write this novel. This book actually had a lot more historical content than I was expecting -- but that's a good thing! Ms. Delors was born and raised in France and she is from a family of French aristocrats, yet she wrote this book in English (which is her second language.) That blows my mind because I felt this book was extremely well written.

If you want to learn more about Ms. Delors, she has a website and a blog which are very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Q&A section of her website, and I thought it definitely enhanced my understanding of the novel. I think many book clubs will be reading MISTRESS OF THE REVOLUTION in the upcoming months. There is already a discussion guide available here which will help focus the conversation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review: Kiss Me, I'm Single

Summary: Note: This is NOT a book for single women on how to find a man; it is a guide for women who want to find their truest selves and celebrate them. As the author of the daily meditation book for teenage girls, Be True to Yourself, Amanda Ford's message of fierce individuality and even stronger identity has grown up with her audience. In her new book Kiss Me, I'm Single, Ford exhorts single women not to get lost in the pressure to be in a relationship (single women's mantra: Any relationship will do!) and not to lose themselves in a relationship. The bottom line is that the most important relationship they can have is with themselves.

True love is an inside job and begins with you. It is a basic fact of life that in order to be truly happy and fulfilled with another person, you must be truly happy and fulfilled on your own first. A good relationship can enhance life for sure, but it cannot take what is just "okay" and turn in into perfect. In Kiss Me, I'm Single Amanda Ford urges readers: "Get off your derrieres and get to work on yourself. Go inward and be relentless in your search. Discover what is in you that you must do in order to bring joy into your own life."

Refreshingly honest, ruefully witty and wise, Ford has also dug deep down and done the work she recommends. From her soul-searching sojourn, Amanda Ford brings back news that will empower all young women: "Love has nothing to do with another person; it is a condition of your own heart." - conari press

When KISS ME, I'M SINGLE by Amanda Ford arrived in the mail, I thought it was definitely the cutest book I've ever seen. As you can see from the picture above, the book is totally "girly" with the pink, red and purple on the front cover (so it's pretty cute to start). The book arrived with an added bonus -- there was a burgundy tulle bow around the book with a pink button that read "Single." There was also Ms. Ford's pink business card with hearts, as well as a postcard promo for the book. It was just too adorable and I just wanted to read the book right away! When I opened the book, it was very eye-catching to someone who loves all things girly. The pages are filled with pinks and reds as well as stripes, polka dots and hearts -- TOO CUTE!

Let me preface this review by saying that I am not currently single, nor have I been for a long time. I have been with my husband for 18 1/2 years and married for 14 1/2 years of it. I actually questioned whether I would even be able to tell if this was a good book. After reading this book, I want to say that KISS ME, I'M SINGLE can be beneficial to any woman, not just the single ones.

The book is set up by chapters; however, it's not your typical self-help book. Each page is either a very short story, an anecdote, or just a few words of insight The book is a very quick read, but it is full of great lessons. I have a feeling that a woman could read this book again and again with a different interpretation of the stories each time. There also might be times where different stories resonate with the reader at different times of her life.

While the book does focus on single women, the author wants women to realize that their value is not based on the man they marry. Rather, all women have to find love in themselves. Ms. Ford is speaking from first-hand experience. She is very honest in this book about her failed marriage and the growing and maturation she has done as a result of it. Her words of advice (or should I say wisdom) are what every woman needs hear -- it's hard to believe that Ms. Ford is so young.

As a wife and mother of two, I wasn't sure that there would be a whole lot of things that are pertinent to my current life. There were actually many pages that I found myself noting as I read the book. One of my favorite pages said this, "Learning to be comfortable with being alone and all the silence associated with it not only allows you to know yourself, but it allows you to be available to those around you. Developing a relationship with quiet makes you a better listener, a better lover, a better friend, a better daughter, a better mother, a better woman." I don't know if that touches a nerve with anyone else, but I couldn't agree with her more. Unfortunately, I all to often find myself reading a book, or playing on my computer, or watching tv, or......I never just sit in silence and reflect.

One other page that really resonated with me said, "Could it be that "making it" means being grateful for this very moment in life? Could it be that the key to fulfillment is learning to live fully in the present instead of constantly contemplating the future? Could it be that happiness can only be found in this moment, that the elusive "there" for which we endlessly strive is actually here, in front of use, easily within reach?" Hmmmmmmmmmmm..........

I really enjoyed the final chapter of the book titled "Every Day She Did the Impossible ." Ms. Ford writes fondly of her mother and how she continued to survive through many trials and tribulations. Not only is the final chapter a beautiful tribute to her mother, but to the resilience and strength of women everywhere.

KISS ME, I'M SINGLE is an ideal book to give to one of your single girlfriends (especially is she's always looking for Mr. Right.) This book does a great job of explaining the importance of self-worth and loving yourself with or without a man. One word of advice: you might just want to take a little peak at it first before you give it away!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Review: Feather in the Storm

Summary: Emily Wu’s account of her childhood under Mao opens on her third birthday, as she meets her father for the first time in a concentration camp. A well-known academic, her father had been designated an “ultra-rightist” and class enemy. As a result, Wu’s family would be torn apart and subjected to unending humiliation and abuse. Wu recounts this hidden holocaust in which millions of children and their families died. Feather in the Storm is an unforgettable story of the courage of one child in a quicksand world of endless terror.

I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have ever picked up this book. I don't read a lot of non-fiction unless the book is highly recommended or on the best-seller lists. Fortunately for me, I received FEATHER IN THE STORM by Emily Wu and Larry Engelmann from Anchor Books a few weeks ago. I have had it sitting in my TBR pile and kept reading other books first. What a big mistake! If I had known how incredible this book was, I would have read it immediately.

This book did take me a little bit longer to read than most books this size. I have a lot going on right now, but that usually doesn't stop me from flying through a good book. I think because this book was so tragic, I couldn't read more than a few chapters at a time. I just had to absorb/process all of the heartache and pain that the author experienced at such a young age.

I hate to even admit how ignorant I was on the subject of China's history, especially the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (1958 - 1977) that were covered in this book. This book definitely opened my eyes and taught me so much. I will not hesitate to read additional books, both fiction and non-fiction, on this subject matter. While I was saddened by what so many Chinese people went through during these years, I have to say that I was fascinated by the story. Their strength and resilience was incredible uplifting and helped to off-set the horrors they faced. I have no idea how so many of them persevered and still found things to be grateful for. I was very much reminded of books that I have read about the Holocaust.

I thought this book was beautifully written. Many of the descriptions were very vivid, and I could clearly picture all of the scenes. What I really loved about this book was that the story of these horrific times was told from a child's point-of-view. Ms. Wu was a particularly bright child and understood way too much for a child her age, but she still was innocent enough to continue holding out with a hope for better times.

The book ends shortly after Mao dies and Ms. Wu gets accepted into college. I know that she and her family currently live in the United States, so I can assume that she has had somewhat "happy ending." In fact, the only negative thing that I can say about this book is that it left me wanting more -- that's probably not a bad thing. I found her story fascinating and would like to know what happened to her after she began college.

Ms. Wu comes from an amazingly strong family -- her parents were incredible through this entire experience. Her father, Ningkun Wu, also wrote an autobiography called A SINGLE TEAR which was a New York Times Notable Book. I would love to read this book sometime, too. Ms. Wu is also one of the featured subjects in the movie Up to the Mountain, Down to the Village.

This book was so beautiful and yet so touching. It is not a book that I will forget anytime soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Keeper and the Kid Giveaway

Lisa from Books on the Brain (one of my favorite blogs) is having a wonderful giveaway. She has a copy of KEEPER AND THE KID by Edward Hardy to share with one lucky person. I read her review (along with a few other ones) and decided that I have to read this book -- everyone loves it. Lisa also has a wonderful interview with the author on her blog too. The giveaway runs until March 27th -- good luck.

Spring Reading Thing 2008

I've been debating about joining Callapidder Days' Spring Reading Thing 2008 for a few days. I finally decided that I'm going to be reading books anyway, so I might as well sign up. There are a ton of people who have already joined, so hopefully I can get a lot of new reading ideas from their lists.

If you're interested in signing up, you have until March 25th to do so. Basically, you just make a list of books that you hope to read this spring. Then, you report out on/or before June 24th about your challenge experience. You can also do reviews on the books, but it is not required. It should be a lot of fun!

Here's my list:

The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle - completed 4/7/08

The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker - completed 5/23/08

The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose - completed 6/06/08

Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Tom Corwin - completed 4/22/08

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay - completed 3/25/08

Feather in the Storm by Emily Wu and Larry Engelmann - completed 3/23/08

The Secret Scroll by Ronald Cutler - completed 4/30/08

Life in Hiding: Anne Frank by Johanna Hurwitz - completed 3/29/08

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin - completed 5/08/08

The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring - completed 4/1/08

Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky - completed 4/28/08

After Hours at the Almost Home by Tara Yellen - completed 3/28/06

Journey from Head to Heart by Nancy Oelkhaus - completed 3/26/08

Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson - completed 4/29/08

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mother Daughter Book Club Resource

A few months ago, Cindy Hudson from the stumbled across my blog and contacted me. I am so glad that she did because she introduced me to a terrific resource for Mother Daughter Book Clubs. I immediately bookmarked her website because it has reading lists and reviews (by both moms and daughters) of books for many different age groups. There is also a very nice section with author interviews. I especially like meeting ideas that she has listed which would really enhance the mother daughter reading experience. (I'm still working on that part of our club!) You can also sign up for her newsletter here.

Cindy is the mother of two teenage daughters and actually participates in two mother daughter book clubs -- how lucky is that! Cindy is also a fellow blogger who has been blogging for a little over a year. Please take a look at her website and blog. I'm sure you will find that they are extremely beneficial and will enjoy reading them as much as I do.

"Booking Daughter" would be very upset if I didn't mention that she has a review posted on for Sarah: Plain and Tall. It is our hope that after every meeting of our Mother Daughter Book Club, at least one of us will be able to submit a review. If you are a member of a mother daughter book club or looking to start one, I'm sure Cindy would be thrilled to hear from you too!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Review: Now You See Him

Summary: His name was Rob Castor. Quite possibly, you've heard of him. He became a minor cult celebrity in his early twenties for writing a book of darkly pitch-perfect stories set in a stupid upstate New York town. About a dozen years later, he murdered his writer-girlfriend and committed suicide. . . .

The deaths of Rob Castor and his girlfriend begin a wrenching and enthrallingly suspenseful story that mines the explosive terrains of love and paternity, marriage and its delicate intricacies, family secrets and how they fester over time, and ultimately the true nature of loyalty and trust, friendship and envy, deception and manipulation.

As the media takes hold of this sensational crime, a series of unexpected revelations unleashes hidden truths in the lives of those closest to Rob. At the center of this driving narrative is Rob's childhood best friend, Nick Framingham, whose ten-year marriage to his college sweetheart is faltering. Shocked by Rob's death, Nick begins to reevaluate his own life and his past, and as he does so, a fault line opens up beneath him, leading him all the way to the novel's startling conclusion.

In this ambitious and thrilling novel, award-winning author Eli Gottlieb—with extraordinarily luxuriant and evocative prose—takes us deep into the human psyche, where the most profound of secrets are kept. - harper collins

I mentioned last week how excited I was to receive an ARC of NOW YOU SEE HIM by Eli Gottlieb in the mail. The book was released in January 2008, so I'm guessing that Harper Collins had a few leftover ARCs -- not that I'm complaining. This is a book that I had tried to "win" from various book websites for a few months to no avail. I thought the premise of the book looked incredibly interesting. In addition, NOW YOU SEE HIM was the #1 Book Sense Pick for February too.

At the beginning of the ARC Lisa Gallagher, a senior VP and publisher for William Morrow, wrote a letter to the reader admitting that she couldn't put the book down. She also used the phrase "utterly riveted" to describe her reading experience. I pretty much had the same reaction - I read the book in two sittings.

While I didn't love any of the characters, I was fascinated by their lives and their interactions. All of the characters were flawed, in fact some were deeply flawed, but I couldn't stop reading about them. I felt as if I were on a roller coaster ride, and I just knew something major was going to happen before the book was over. There were quite a few twists and turns along the way where the reader makes many startling discoveries. The more I read, the more I had to keep reading because I just had to find out what happened.

Mr. Gottlieb's writing style made this book very, very good -- it's just so well written. I was actually more blown away by how he wrote the story than the actual story. His prose is just beautiful and his descriptions are so vivid. I love how he took the reader on a ride (back to my roller coaster analogy) throughout the course of this novel. If you would like to know more about the author, there is a great interview with him here.

I have a lot of friends that will just love this book, and I can't wait to share it with them. If you are looking for a well-written page-turner, I highly recommend NOW YOU SEE HIM.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Review: The Knitting Circle

Summary: After the sudden loss of her only child, Mary Baxter joins a knitting circle in Providence, Rhode Island, as a way to fill the empty hours and lonely days. The women welcome her, each teaching Mary a new knitting technique and, as they do, revealing their own personal stories of loss, love, and hope. Eventually Mary is able to tell her own story of grief and in so doing reclaims her love for her husband, faces the hard truths about her relationship with her mother, and finds the spark of life again. - ww norton

I love to read and knit so I thought THE KNITTING CIRCLE by Ann Hood would be perfect for me. I enjoyed the book and the characters, but I have to admit that I didn't realize the book was going to be so sad. Each character that Mary meets in the knitting circle is there because knitting has helped them through some major life crisis. I agree with the idea that knitting is therapeutic -- I'm just glad that the therapy it provides for me is more stress-relieving. After reading this book, I realized that I would love to be part of a weekly knitting circle!

What I didn't know when I started reading this book was that this book was semi-autobiographical. The author tells the reader in the foreward for the reading group guide that she, like Mary, lost a 5 year old daughter. She credits knitting with saving her life. Ms. Hood also says that she met many troubled women through different knitting circles; and knitting "gave comfort and even hope through life's trials" for them too. Knowing that the author was writing this book from her own experiences definitely made the book more touching for me.

One thing I really enjoyed about the novel was how Ms. Hood had quotations from various knitting books at the beginning of each chapter. I also liked how she tied the different parts of the book into knitting terms such as casting on, knit 2 together, and casting off. For example near the end of the book when the characters had developed and began to recover from their trials, the part heading was called "Casting Off." (In knitting, casting off is removing your project from the knitting needles after you have finished.)

While this book didn't really have many surprises for me, I still thought the book was enjoyable. I think that the overall messages in the book are very true. I know that knitting is an outlet for some people and can help them with their troubles. In addition, I believe that finding people with similar interests can lead to beautiful friendships. But what I liked most about the book was the message that you can't start healing yourself until you help others. I hope I can remember this message next time I'm feeling sorry for myself and my little problems.

THE KNITTING CIRCLE does have a lot of themes to talk about such as death of a child, mourning, marital issues, illness, healing and friendships. It would definintely be fun to discuss it with your friends (or your knitting circle or your book club.)

Also reviewed at:
Book Club Classics

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Comes to TV

I read THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith when it first came out in 2003; and I read it again last year for my book club. Both times, I loved the characters and thought the author did a great job of infusing lots of humor into these mysteries. I have since read every book in the series as soon as I can get my hands on them. I just love how the main character, Precious Ramotswe, is always making "spot on" observations about the people she encounters.

I was very excited to hear the HBO has just finished a 2-hour pilot based on the series. Thirteen more shows will be filmed this summer in Botswana. I have high hopes for this show because 1) I love the books and 2) HBO knows how to do t.v. Click here for more information on the show.

If you haven't read this book or any in the series, you should give at least one a try. My entire book club liked the THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY, even those that don't like mysteries. Here is a link to a discussion guide just in case you might be interested in reading it for your book club.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hello...You Won The Woman Who is Always Tan...

And the winner of THE WOMAN WHO IS ALWAYS TAN AND HAS A FLAT STOMATCH AND OTHER ANNOYING PEOPLE (whew!) is.........Andi! She mentioned that she was having a tough week and feeling a little bitter, so I hope this helps! Andi, please e-mail me your mailing address.

Here's how I picked the winner: I associated a number to each comment in the order they were left -- the first comment was 1 and so on. If you mentioned it on your blog, you were assigned the next two numbers. Then, I went to the handy dandy (can you tell we watch a lot of Blues' Clues in my house?) to pick a random integer and therefore the winning number.

I plan on having a few more giveaways in the next couple of weeks, so keep checking back! Thank you all for playing.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Great Giveaway

Shakepeare Geek is giving away three copies of THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS by Michael Gruber. I think it looks like a wonderful read. If you want to sign up for this contest, click here.

Giveaway at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? has a great contest going on right now. She has two copies of DID I EXPECT ANGELS? by Kathryn Maughan, and she wants to give them away! Click here to enter before March 21st. I really want to read this book based on her review -- it looks terrific. I hope I win!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Review: Fifteen Minutes of Shame

Summary: What happens when America’s favorite TV dating expert finds out on national television that her husband is cheating? Darby Vaughn’s fifteen minutes of fame quickly spins into fifteen minutes of shame: Not only is the most humiliating moment of her life splashed across every supermarket tabloid and celebrity gossip show, but her reputation as America’s love guru is shot. To make matters worse, her fans are turning on her, her book sales have tanked and her love life is fodder for late night television. If Darby breaks her own zero-tolerance policy for cheaters and takes her philandering husband back, her career will be over. But if she sticks to her own rules, she’ll lose the only man she’s ever loved. -

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME by Lisa Daily is chick lit at its best! I have a huge stack of books that I need to read, but I was really in the mood for something fun so I decided to read it. I thought it was a great book, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an entertaining read!

The book arrived with some promotional materials that were just as cute as the book. A glossy magazine-like brochure called BUZZ was filled with "buzz" about the author, the book, the reviews, etc. It was almost as fun to read as the book.

I loved the character of Darby, and my heart went out to her right away when she found out her husband was going back to his ex-wife (while she was being interviewed on the Today Show.) I had so much fun following her ups and downs as she figured out how to resolve her problems. I found myself rooting for her against her husband and his ex-wife; and I thought her dedication to his children was so admirable. She's just a great, likable character!

One of my favorite parts of the book were the quotations at the beginning of each chapter. The character of Darby was a relationship expert, so the author tied in Darby's advice from various books and speeches to what was occurring in each chapter. I thought this technique was very telling about how easy it it to give advice, but how difficult it can be to follow!

As funny as this book was, I also thought it was kind of sad! I didn't go so far as the cry, but the last few chapters definitely touched me. Even though the ending was kind of predictable, I still enjoyed it (and it was actually the ending I wanted.)

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME will be available on March 25th. Lisa Daily's website is fantastic; and if you think you might be interested in the book, you should definitely take a look. Right now, you can get the first two chapters e-mailed to you so you can get a sneak preview before you buy it. There are also discussion questions available for your book club. I'm thinking about asking my book club if they'd like a change of pace from our "normal" selections and try something a little more fun for the summer!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Review: Secondhand World

Summary: Isadora Myung Hee Sohn—Isa—has just spent ninety-five days in a pediatric burn unit in Albany, New York, recovering from the fire that burned her house and killed her parents. Moving back in time, Secondhand World casts a devastating spell, revealing the circumstances that led to the fire. Growing up the daughter of Korean-born parents, Isa is bullied by American classmates and barely noticed at home. Seeking the company of another outsider, Isa falls in love with Hero, an albino boy. But what starts out as a small teenage rebellion sets in motion a series of events and revelations Isa never could have foreseen. - anchor books

I received SECONDHAND WORLD by Katherine Min in the mail a few weeks ago, and I thought it looked like a book that I would really enjoy. I read a few reviews about the book and they were very, very good. In fact, the book was even a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize. After reading the book in less than 24 hours, I'd have to say that it was amazing!

It sounds funny to be talking about the cover after completing such a beautiful piece of fiction, but the cover is just perfect. I loved the girl and the flowers and it drew me in right away. After reading the book, I appreciated the cover even more. I don't want to give too much away, but I found the young girl and her hair extremely symbolic.

This book starts out a little mysterious because Isa is recovering in the burn unit of a hospital after a fire that kills both her parents. The reader isn't actually sure how the fire started, and the book goes back in time to reveal the events that led to the fire. The book is really more of a coming-of-age story about Isa, a girl with Korean parents, who doesn't feel that she fits in anywhere (especially her home and school.)

I was deeply touched by Isa's story -- she had more heartbreak in her young life than many people do in a lifetime. I loved seeing how her character developed and matured throughout the book. Isa, with all of her flaws and fears, was such a "real" character to me. I have a feeling that she will remain in my thoughts for quite awhile even after I've finished the book.

Ms. Min is an incredibly gifted writer! I know I'm not going to do justice to her writing style, but her prose is almost lyrical. She made me understand Isa's insecurities and feel her pain. I also found that there is a great deal of symbolism in this book. Ms. Min also did an amazing job of weaving with the themes throughout the story.

Trust me on this one -- this is a perfect book club selection! There are lots of discussion questions available for this book, but I'm sure your group could even think of a few more. I also found some ideas for suggested reading if you enjoyed this book.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lucky Me and a Another Giveaway for You

It's been a really good week for me as far as books go! On Sunday night, I received an e-mail from Heather Summerhayes Cariou. She asked me if I would like to read and review her book SIXTYFIVE ROSES. Of course, I jumped at the chance! I had read the review on the hidden side of the leaf and thought it looked like an incredible book.

Then on Monday morning, I heard from My Friend Amy that I won a copy of A SOLDIER'S FAMILY! I also received IMMORTAL in the mail that day -- I won this book from Iliana at Bookgirl's Nightstand last week. Then on Monday night, I heard from MJ Rose, author of THE REINCARNATIONIST, asking if I'd like to read a copy of her book. She graciously offered to do an author chat with my book club and even an interview on my blog. You will definitely be hearing more about this in the near future.

On Tuesday morning, I got an e-mail saying that I was a winner of a mousepad in the Penguin Classics Giveaway. It's not a book, but I'll take it! Then, the UPS man delivered a package with two more books -- THE KNITTING CIRCLE and THE MEANING OF NIGHT!

Wednesday started out the same way. The FedEx guy brought me FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME by Lisa Daily. It looks like a cute Chick Lit book! Then a few hours later, the UPS guy brings and ARC of NOW YOU SEE HIM by Eli Gottlieb. The book actually came out a few months ago, and I've had it on my TBR list! Yippee!!

At this point, I'm beginning to feel a little panicked about how I'm ever going to read this many books! Of course, it's a good panicky feeling! All I can say is WOW -- I feel so incredibly lucky right now. Should I be playing the lottery?

Because I've had such an amazing week, I'd like to share my good luck with you ! I have an extra copy of THE WOMAN WHO IS ALWAYS TAN AND HAS A FLAT STOMACH AND OTHER ANNOYING PEOPLE by Lauren Allison and Lisa Perry. You can read my review here. If you are interested in winning this book, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post --please include your e-mail so I can let contact you if you win. Want to double your chances? Mention this contest on your blog, and post a link back here! The contest will run until Sunday, March 16th at 11:59 pm EST. I will anounce the winner on Monday morning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 2008 Book Club Meeting and April Selection

Last night, the Preschool Moms Book Club met to discuss THE DARKEST CHILD by Delores Phillips. We met for almost four hours which is definitely a record for us. I'd like to say that we discussed the book for the entire time, but of course we didn't. We started out discussing the book; however, we ended up talking about our children which then led to lots of other stuff!

We all agreed that it was a terrific book and a great book club pick! One member of our book club actually chose this book when she read about it in the 2008 Reading Group Choices guide. While the subject matter was at times very disturbing, we felt that the author told an intriguing story. There were lots of issues to disucss such as racial tension, integration, and child abuse. We did have a few minor criticisms of the writing style, but we all felt it didn't hinder our enjoyment of the book one bit. We used the discussion questions in the back of the paperback book to get our discussion flowing (not that we needed much help with this book.)

Summary: Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Yet everyone in her small Georgia town knows. Rozelle's ten children (by ten different daddies) are mostly light, too. They sleep on the floor in her drafty, rickety three-room shack and live in fear of her moods and temper. But they are all vital to her. They occupy the only world she rules and controls. They multiply her power in an otherwise cruel and uncaring universe.
Rozelle favors her light-skinned kids, but insists that they all love and obey her unquestioningly. Tangy Mae, thirteen, is her brightest but darkest-complected child. Tangy wants desperately to continue with her education. Shockingly, the highest court in the land has just ruled that Negroes may go to school with whites. Her mother, however, has other plans.

Rozelle wants her daughter to work, cleaning houses for whites, like she does, and accompany her to the "Farmhouse," where Rozelle earns extra money bedding men. Tangy Mae, she's decided, is of age. - soho press

Our April selection is THE BOOK OF BRIGHT IDEAS by Sandra Kring. I'm pretty excited about this choice because the last few books we have read have been kind of downers. I have a lot of books on my plate right now, so it's good for me that this is an "easier" read.

Summary: Wisconsin, 1961. Evelyn “Button” Peters is nine the summer Winnalee and her fiery-spirited older sister, Freeda, blow into her small town–and from the moment she sees them, Button knows this will be a summer unlike any other. Much to her mother’s dismay, Button is fascinated by the Malone sisters, especially Winnalee, a feisty scrap of a thing who carries around a shiny silver urn containing her mother’s ashes and a tome she calls “The Book of Bright Ideas.” It is here, Winnalee tells Button, that she records everything she learns: her answers to the mysteries of life. But sometimes those mysteries conceal a truth better left buried. And when a devastating secret is suddenly revealed, dividing loyalties and uprooting lives, no one–from Winnalee and her sister to Button and her family–will ever be the same. - bantam dell

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review: The Woman Who is Always Tan...

Summary: The overprotective PTA mom who needs to be resuscitated after she finds out her son's been fed a hotdog....The couple who sends out the annual holiday letter about how their little Timmy invented an alternative to fossil fuels—while the rest of us are still struggling to replace the lint catcher in our dryer.

Readers will encounter these familiar characters in Lauren Allison and Lisa Perry's laugh-out-loud compendium THE WOMAN WHO IS ALWAYS TAN AND HAS A FLAT STOMACH. No one is off limits as Allison and Perry take on soccer moms, video dads, rabid gardeners, and "perfect" couples in this collection of short, sardonic essays. Everyday moms and dads will laugh out loud and sigh with relief at these blisteringly funny send-ups of the most annoying over-achievers around! - hatchette book group usa

THE WOMAN WHO IS ALWAYS TAN AND HAS A FLAT STOMACH: and Other Annoying People by Lauren Allison and Lisa Perry is a pretty funny book. I wasn't sure that I was going to like it because I don't read a lot of humor, but I found myself chuckling at quite a few of the essays. I even found myself laughing out loud at many of the essay titles. For example: "The Woman Who Has a Better Way to do Everything (Like Make Jell-O) and Wants You to Know It," "The Husband Who Doesn't Notice When His Wife Redecorates the Living and Dining Rooms," and "The Husband Who Has a Cold but Believes It's Malaria" were especially amusing to me.

There are 50 essays in this book mainly poking fun at perfect people; however, there are some stories about other annoying types of people too. A few of the chapters almost seemed as if I could have written them. There is one called "The Husband Who Spends Thirty Minutes Taking a Picture of Jasmine at Disney World" that was a little too close to home for me. Another chapter that cracked me up was the one called "The Woman Who Puts All her Photographs into an Album the Same Day She Gets Them Back." From someone who has boxes (and baggies) of photos all over her basement, this one hit a nerve! "The Couple Who Write the Holiday Letter Telling You How Their Little Timmy Came Up with an Alternative to Fossil Fuels" was also a cute story. I don't know about you, but we definitely look forward to a few of our friends' Christmas letters.

I have no doubt that everyone will find at least a few essays that they can relate to, especially if you are a mom. We all know those "perfect" moms that surround us and make us look bad. You know the ones that handknit their children's clothes, or the ones that bring so much to school parties that they have to rent a U-haul, or the ones who have scrapbooks so large that they need piano movers to carry then downstairs, or the ones who have their Christmas cards, shopping and decorating done before Thanksgiving. I could keep going on, but I think you get the idea!!!

I would love to meet or even talk with Ms. Allison and Ms. Perry because I'm sure they would be very entertaining. They originally self-published this book in 2005, and it won two awards in the categories of humor and best title from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. Besides writing this book, they give speeches to women's organizations and business across the county.

THE WOMAN WHO IS ALWAYS TAN AND HAS A FLAT STOMACH was just released by Grand Central Publishing on March 6th. If this book sounds like something you'd enjoy reading, check back here in a few days. I have an extra copy and I will be running a giveaway very soon!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vera Bradley Magazine

I am a huge Vera Bradley Fan! I love her purses and I am always tempted to buy another one every time a new pattern comes out. Recently Vera Bradley has come out with a quarterly magazine that I've been mysteriously receiving in the mail (evidently, if you spend enough money on her purses, you get the magazine for free.) This month I was thrilled to find that there is a feature on starting a Mother Daughter Book Club. I was so excited to find this article on something so near and dear to my heart. What was even more special is that the book club they are featuring is for girls around the same age as my daughter (late elementary school age.)

The article gives instructions on how to start your own club. There is also a listing of some junior book club favorites to help you pick some selections. In addition, the writer walks you through on how to conduct a meeting; and the tips are actually helpful for running any type of book club meeting. My favorite part of the article, though, is the recipes and crafts they provide to tie-in with the book.

The book they feature is STUART LITTLE by E.B. White. They suggest serving mini hamburgers and sparkling lemonade (recipes provided) in addition to other mouse-sized snacks. The craft is absolutely adorable -- a mouse bookmark made of ribbon and felt. Right now, my mother daughter book club doesn't have STUART LITTLE on our immediate reading list; but I want to add this book to our list so I use these cute ideas! I was hoping that we could eventually make some crafts or snacks that relate to the book, so maybe this will give me the jump-start I need.

The Vera Bradley Magazine is available where Vera Bradley bags and accessories are sold for $4-- some of our local Hallmark Stores carry them. It's a really great article so you might want to check it out.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hello - You Won!

We have a winner in the CARPOOL DIEM giveaway..................Karin! Here's my methodology for picking the winner. I took each comment and then assigned a number to each name. If someone posted the contest on their blog, they received an additional number. Then, I went to and let it do it's magic. Congratulations Karin, and I hope you enjoy the book.

Friday, March 7, 2008

More Girls In Trucks

A few weeks ago, I did a review for a a wonderful book called GIRLS IN TRUCKS by Katie Crouch. Well, last night Ms. Crouch left a comment on my blog -- you can imagine how excited I was since I think authors are the best types of celebrities! I'm predicting that it's going to be a huge book this spring, and everyone should run out to get it on April 9th. In the meantime, you can learn more about this book by watching this video of Ms. Crouch. She answers many of my questions about this book, especially whether she is at all like the main character Sarah. Or you can read about her here, where she opens up about her writing and what books she loves. I really enjoyed watching this clip and reading her background information, and I think it definitely enhanced my reading experience.

Girls Just Reading Giveway

Girls Just Reading has a great giveaway right now. One lucky winner will receive a copy (maybe autographed) of Jodi Picoult's CHANGE OF HEART. The winner will be announced on March 13th! Good luck to everyone (but I really hope I win!)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Review: The Birth House

Summary: An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare—the first daughter in five generations of Rares.

As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care. - Harper Collins

I'm not exactly sure where I first learned about THE BIRTH HOUSE by Ami McKay, but I do know that the description of the novel caught my eye. I finally got around to reading it, and I'm really glad that I did. I thought this book was terrific! I read the entire book in less than 24 hours because I couldn't put it down -- I was hooked from the start.

I should probably mention that I have read a few fictional accounts of midwives and enjoyed these books as well. I beginning to think I might just really be interested in the tradition of midwifery. I also enjoyed reading about all of the natural healing that the characters in the book practiced. At the end of the book. there are lists of herbs and cures for common illnesses that I found fascinating.

I absolutely loved Dora and Miss Babineau because they were such strong, smart and brave female characters. They truly felt that they were put on this earth to help and support other women -- they didn't take money or even charge for their services. When the doctor came into their town and tried to make all women deliver their babies in a clinic, these women stood up for a woman's right to give birth how she chooses. I thought these characters, as well as some of Dora's friends, demonstrated how powerful women can be if they come together for a common cause.

Ms. McKay wrote this book after she learned that the house she purchased once served as a birthing house. It's obvious that she did a great deal of research on the subject matter of midwifes before she set out to write this book. I also like the time period in which the book takes place (during WWI) because it was such a huge time of change for women. She did an incredible job of incorporating current events such as the war, prohibition, disasters, influenza, and the fight of women to vote into the story.

One of my favorite parts of the book occurs right after Dora attends the delivery of her first baby. She says that giving birth isn't the miracle (that's natural and supposed to happen). Rather she says, "How a mother comes to love her child, her caring at all for this thing that's made her heavy, lopsided and slow, this thing that made her wish she were dead . . . that's the miracle." I found such wisdom about motherhood amazing in the seventeen year old!

There is a great website devoted to the book with lots of resources. You can read an excerpt of the book, learn more about the author, and even read her blog. In addition, there are some fun things to do like take a test to see if you're hysterical or have your tea leaves read! There is also a sneak preview of Ms. McKay's new book THE VIRGIN CURE.

I think every all woman book club should consider reading THE BIRTH HOUSE in the very near future. There are wonderful discussion questions here to get your club talking (as if you'd need much help with this book.) There are so many issues to discuss in the book such as a woman's right over her own body, natural healing, infertility, motherhood, modern medicine versus traditional medicine, and various kinds of relationships (friendship, parental, romantic love, etc.) I highly recommend reading this book -- I loved it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sharing the Love with a Giveaway!

I have really enjoyed being part of the book blogging community these past few months, and I've been so lucky with contests and giveaways that I've decided to do my own giveway. I have an extra copy of CARPOOL DIEM by Nancy Star to give to one lucky person! In short, the book is a very funny satire about a working mom who becomes involved with her daughter's soccer team. I reviewed the book a few days ago; and you can read more about it here.

If you would like to win a copy of CARPOOL DIEM, all you have to do is leave me a comment here by midnight EST March 7th. If you want to double your chances, please mention the giveaway on your blog (with a link back to mine); and let me know so I can enter your name twice. The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 8th. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Review: The Monsters of Templeton

Summary: “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.”
So begins The Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl’s search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family.

In the wake of a wildly disastrous affair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on the doorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton, New York, where her hippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mom, Vi, still lives. Willie expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but the monster’s death changes the fabric of the quiet, picture-perfect town her ancestors founded. Even further, Willie learns that the story her mother had always told her about her father has all been a lie: he wasn’t the random man from a free-love commune that Vi had led her to imagine, but someone else entirely. Someone from this very town.

As Willie puts her archaeological skills to work digging for the truth about her lineage, she discovers that the secrets of her family run deep. Through letters, editorials, and journal entries, the dead rise up to tell their sides of the story as dark mysteries come to light, past and present blur, old stories are finally put to rest, and the shocking truth about more than one monster is revealed. - Hyperion

As many of you already know, I "won" THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by Lauren Groff a few weeks ago from Girls Just Reading. I have been dying to read this book for a few months; and almost as soon as I received it in the mail (I had to finish the book I was already reading), I settled down on the couch and cracked it open. I read the first quarter of the book in one sitting and I couldn't put it down. I don't know what happened after that, but the middle part of the book was very slow for me. I did read the last 125 pages in one sitting and I was definitely caught up in the story, but I have to admit that I didn't quite love the book like I was hoping.

Having read so many wonderful reviews (especially Entertainment Magazine's and Stephen King's), I was under the impression that this might be the best book that I've read in quite awhile. I did enjoy it, and I'd even say that I really, really liked it. It's just that I think my expectations for the book were so high that I'm having a little bit of a let down. But even saying that, I thought that this book was very interesting and unique. I'm not even sure how to classify this book -- mystery, suspense, thriller, historical fiction, supernatural, etc. I have to admit that I've never read a book quite like this one!

I do think that Ms. Groff's story-telling abilities were incredible and her writing style is definitely something special. It's very hard for me to believe that this is her first novel. I have a huge appreciation of the amount of research she conducted for this book, and I'm in awe of how she organized the entire novel with all of Willie's ancestors. I thought the genealogy charts and actual pictures were such a great touch to this novel. In addition, I thought Ms. Groff did an amazing job of writing in different voices and styles depending on who was telling the story in each chapter.

I'm not sure that I entirely "figured out" all of the symbols in the book -- I think that's what might be bothering me. I read in an interview with Ms. Groff (and I'm paraphrasing) that each reader can interpret the book in their own way. I think I understand a lot of the symbols, but I guess I just want to know for sure! I always say that a good book should keep you thinking about it even after you've finished it -- I guess if I use that criteria, THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON was definitely a good book for me.

I strongly recommend reading this book with your book club or just talking about it with some friends. There are so many dimesions to this book that make it a great book to share -- here are some discussion questions (either in html or pdf format) to get the conversation started. I have a feeling that this book will be a huge hit with book clubs, especially when it comes out in paperback.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bargain Books

Yesterday I was trying to kill some time so I ran into the Dollar Tree. I don't know about you, but I always go in needing nothing and come out with a few things (sometimes like $20 worth.) I have had some luck in their book section in the past -- mainly for my kids, but sometimes for me too. It's always hit or miss there, but I couldn't believe how many hardcover books they had. I wanted to pick up a few, but I did manage to show some restraint! It's hard to justify buying more books (even when they are $1) when I have hundreds of unread ones at home.

I did come home with SLOW DOLLAR by Margaret Maron. It's the ninth book in her Deborah Knott series. Last fall, my book club was fortunate enough to have the award winning author join us via telephone to discuss her latest mystery (#13) in the series, HARD ROW. I had read BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER (the first in the series) years ago and really enjoyed the book, so I was thrilled to read another one in the series and get to talk about it with the author. My entire book club enjoyed HARD ROW, but the reading experience was definitely enhanced when we talked to Ms. Maron about how she came up with the ideas for this book.

One book that I didn't pick up (but I'm now kicking myself) is Kate Atkinson's short story collection NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I'm not a big short story reader so I passed on it; however, I did love her book CASE HISTORIES. They also had HOOKING UP by Tom Wolfe and MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS by Pete Rose to name just a few.

Let me know if you have found any good books at Dollar Trees (or other discount stores). I might find myself checking another Dollar Tree this week to see what they have in stock. While I do love reading a good book, I also love getting good bargains!!!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lots of Goodies

Although this hasn't been the best week for me since I've been fighting the flu, it has been a wonderful week for receiving books in the mail! On three different days this week, I opened packages with books in them -- that might be a record for me! That is even on top of winning an ARC of IMMORTAL from Iliana (aka bookgirl) on Friday.

On Wednesday, I received a copy of THE READING GROUP by Elizabeth Noble from The Reading Group follows the trials and tribulations of a group of women who meet regularly to read and discuss books.Over the course of a year, each of these women become intertwined, both in the books they read and within each other's lives. (Harper Collins) I think this book sounds like a great potential read for my book club; and there are already discussion questions available.

I got so excited when I saw the FedEx man pull up in front of my house on Thursday! He delivered a copy of THE SECRET OF LOST THINGS by Sheridan Hay. I requested this book from Random House based on a promotional postcard that they sent to me. This books looks so intriguing, and I can't wait to read it. Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city. (Random House)

On Friday, I received a copy of THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by Lauren Groff. A few weeks ago I won a giveaway from Girls Just Reading. I have wanted to read this book ever since I found out that it was the first selection in Barnes and Noble's First Look Book Club. The Monsters of Templeton is a novel spanning two centuries: part a contemporary story of a girl’s search for her father, part historical novel, and part ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one town holds the secrets of a family. (Hyperion) I can't remember the last time a book has gotten this much positive press. Entertainment Weekly magazine raves about it almost every week.

I am dying to read all of these books, but unfortunately for now they are sitting on my TBR pile. I reserved some newly released books from the library that I have to read first (I only get two weeks.) I love getting new books, but somehow I seem to make getting free books a stressful situation! I have so many books in my TBR pile that I want to read -- I don't even know how to prioritize anymore. Does anyone else ever feel stressed out when they look at their TBR pile, or am I just crazy?