Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another New Contributor!

My friend, Mary, who doesn't have a blog, is joining us here as a contributor! Can't wait to hear about what you're reading Mary!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Burned is the 7th book in the House of Night series written by author P.C. Cast and her daughter, Kristin Cast. It is part of the ever growing Young Adult Vampyre trend; almost a genre of it’s own these days.
The end of book 6 left us wondering what would happen to Zoey Redbird, Fledgling Vampyre High Priestess, whose soul was shattered when she witnessed the killing of her human consort and childhood friend/boyfriend, Heath.  We soon find out that there are only 7 days to bring Zoey back from the Otherworld and it’s up to Aphrodite, Stark and Stevie Rae to figure out how. 
Of course, no one has ever been brought back from the Otherworld successfully, so leave it to these teenaged vampyre fledglings to figure it all out on their own.
The good?  The imprinting between Raven Mocker, Rephraim and Red Vampire Goddess, Stevie Rae looks like it could be a pretty interesting story line.  Light and Darkness, good and evil … I’m all for that hook up and how they will get through it.  But we will have to wait for another book in the series to run with that because it wasn’t covered in Book 7.
I’ll even admit to somewhat liking Aphrodite, who has been a darker influence in books past.  She is coming into her own as a human prophetess and I kind of like her “no BS” attitude.
The bad?  All kinds of bad in my opinion, (and I waited til I was done reading to check the reviews of others … many were not happy either).  I’m not picky about the way a book is written, but I have found I am not fond of a book written from multiple character POVs.  This book changes perspective way too often for my taste.
The second big bad point for me?  The language.  Now I have a potty mouth, but these are 17 year old kids talking like preteens just learning how to curse! Kind of made me laugh when the scene was supposed to keep me in anticipation.
I own the series complete so far and the books are up for grabs if you’re interested.  Honestly, the first few were pretty good if you can allow yourself to pass over some typos, and if you can keep in mind that these are Young Adult Romance Novels.

The Lacuna

I was looking forward to reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, my book club's selection a few months ago.

The book tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, opening with him as a boy living in Mexico with his mother and following his life. It's a very ambitious book. It explores lots of themes--sexuality, politics, art--just to name a few.

I love Kingsolver's writing and her vivid metaphors in this book lived up to that expectation. And her love of history, recounting major events through Harrison Shepherd's life, was very interesting and informative.

However, several things really bothered me. First, most of the book is told through journal entries, letters and the recollections of friend of Harrison, which I found made it hard to really get to know the main character. It was an interesting way of storytelling, but I didn't feel any connection to Harrison because of it.

The other thing that bothered me was the dropping of a fictional character into major events in history. For a while he lives with real Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and is present during Trotsky's assassination. And he becomes an important figure in the Hoover's Red Scare hearings. Then Kingsolver intersperses real newspaper articles with fake ones. Separating fact from fiction was difficult and felt too much like Forrest Gump to me in that sense.

Kingsolver also seems to make several comments reflecting past political situations and relating to our present day ones. She goes on about how the American public doesn't understand the nuances of socialism, complains about how the media stirs things up. The comparisons seem very obvious and I found them distracting.

Still, Kingsolver is an amazing writer and in spite of these flaws, it's a very interesting read, covering parts of history that I was unfamiliar with. I just wish I could have connected with the main character more.

This one's on my Kindle.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller

I picked up Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller while volunteering at my 3rd grader's Book Fair. It's considered a "middle grade" book, reading level ages 9 - 12. Of course, I had to pick it up, since any book about special needs always gets my interest.

It tells the story from Annie Sullivan's perspective. Annie, of course, was Helen Keller's teacher. It's mostly about how Annie got through to Helen, although bits of Annie's life are introduced.

I was really impressed how much Annie was able to accomplish in a short period of time, although I think a lot of her methods would be considered a bit harsh today!

Even though the book is for kids, I learned a lot about Annie and Helen.

I've been trying to get my daughter to read this book, but she's not interested, so my copy's up for grabs.

The Lovely Bones

I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold after seeing all those commercial for the movie (which I haven't seen yet).

The first chapter is about Susie Salmon's rape and murder. It wasn't as graphic or disturbing as I expected. The rest of the book explores the aftermath of the family, trying to find the perpetrator and dealing with the loss, while Susie watches from the other side.

I thought the explorations of grief as the surviving family was very well done, the way each of the family members reacts differently.

I enjoyed about half of the book. But one scene completely blew it for me. If you've ever seen the movie Heaven Can Wait, well, it suddenly just seemed tired and contrived. After that scene, I couldn't take the rest of the book seriously.

This one's on my Kindle.

Water For Elephants

Maybe it was because I had just read several books that were atmospheric and depressing, but I found Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen to be a breath of fresh air.

I enjoyed the storytelling, splitting between the protagonist as an old man in a nursing home and his experience as a young man as a vet in a traveling circus. A love triangle, deaths, and behind the scenes at the circus captivated me. And I don't even like the circus.

It's a quick enjoyable read. Probably not introspective and thought provoking, but entertaining.

My copy's up for grabs!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wench (novel)

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

This debut novel tells the story of Lizzie, a young slave woman living on a Tennessee plantation in the 1850s who is claimed as what amounts to a concubine by her white master at the age of 13. Lizzie goes on to bear his children and live in the "big house" living a life of relative privilege compared to the field slaves. The trade-off is that she is expected to acquiesce to her master's sexual demands wherever and whenever he wishes, and she bears his children. The arrangement is for the most part accepted, although not without resentment, by the master's white wife, who cannot bear children. There is actually some tenderness between Lizzie and her master, and the reader is left wondering if it can be some form of love, although it is difficult to reconcile the scenes of tenderness with the scenes in which Lizzie is chained or tied up.

Over the course of three summers, her master takes her to a resort (which actually existed, although this is a fictional story) up North, in "free" country, where southern white masters take their slave concubines and live openly as couples for a few weeks each year. At this resort, Lizzie befriends three other slave women who share her circumstances, and it is here that she begins to dream of escape from her bondage, and freedom. Thoughts of her children back on the plantation, who are not only her master's children, but also his legal property, tear at her heart, however, leaving her to struggle with the decision of whether to stay with her master - and therefore her children - or make a run for it.

I think it's pretty common knowledge that white masters in fact did often have sexual relations with their female slaves, and that these unions produced a multitude of offspring. However, this novel lends a new dimension to these relationships. I'm not sure how accurate a depiction it is - is it possible for a person to own another human being and see that person as both a piece of property and a love interest?

It's a good book, and would make a good book club selection. It's easy to get into, a pretty quick, easy and engaging read, and thought provoking enough to facilitate a good discussion.

My hardcover copy is up for grabs.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Beatrice and Virgil (novel)

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

I couldn't wait to read this book, having so loved Life of Pi, Yann Martel's last novel. After finishing it, though, I'm left scratching my head, trying to decide if I liked it or not.

The story centers around an author, Henry, who is living off the proceeds of a wildly successful first novel (throughout the story, you can't help but wonder how much of himself the author projects into his character) but then suffers the brutal rejection of his second book. He meets a mysterious old taxidermist who is writing a play, the two main characters of which are a donkey and a howler monkey, based upon a stuffed donkey and a stuffed howler monkey who reside in his shop. The taxidermist enlists Henry's help in the writing of the play, which is disjointed, largely nonsensical, and very strange.

It's a well-written novel; Yann Martel clearly has a brilliant mind. This story, like Life of Pi, is full of the unexpected. Not everything is what it appears to be on the surface, and the reader is left to figure out - or decide - what is real and what is not, and what is symbolic and what is literal.

It held my interest enough so that I read it in a couple of days, but I don't think it will stay with me like Life of Pi did. Definitely a worthwhile read, though. Mine's up for grabs if anyone wants it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Three Martini Playdate

The Three Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor

Doesn't the title just shout Adult Fun?! Although the book isn't really about booze-soaked playdates, it is about righting the balance in a world where tots have come to rule the roost. We're the parents - the adults! - and we were here first, for goodness sake! It's time to take back our lives (at least to a degree), some authority, and to stop feeling guilty for having and pursuing adult interests.

This is another book by the same author of You Look Fine, Really. I love her wicked sense of humor. And although this book is written very tongue-in-cheek, she definitely speaks the truth about the absurdity of some notions of parenthood in these modern times, such as parents who won't say "no" to their child for fear of breaking his little spirit, babyproofing a house to the point where every object with a corner is covered in foam padding, feeling it necessary to fill up every waking moment of our children's time with enriching activities, and allowing our children's social lives to squeeze the life out of our own.

A sampling of chapter titles:
  • Saying No to Your Child: It's a Kick!
  • Bedtime: Is Five Thirty Too Early?
  • Child Labor: Not Just For the Third World!
  • "Children's Music": Why?
  • Karate, Little League, and Ballet: Your Child's Eighty-hour Work Week
On the subject of playdates, the author has this to say:

". . . I have discovered and easy and fun solution for weeding out the types of parents with whom you would rather not share your afternoons. When forced into a playdate situation, invite the parents over around the cocktail hour. The cocktail hour may be an hour, more or less, around four o'clock, at which time I suggest you noisily and with much gusto mix up a cold batch of martinis. This is a surefire method of separating the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the nondairy soy alternative. If, after you have offered drinks all around, the visiting parents quickly gather the child and child-related paraphernalia and run silently from your house, enjoy your martini with the knowledge that these people were not the sort with whom you would want to embark upon a long-term playdate relationship. If, however, their eyes light up and sighs of relief can be heard (as well as faintly audible whimpering noises), you may have the beginning of a workable alliance."


I'm keeping this one. And I think it would make the perfect gift for new parents!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Best Friends (novel)

Best Friends by Martha Moody

This one was a pretty decent read. I picked it up at a used book sale, drawn in by the "National Bestseller" label across the front. It seemed like it would make for good reading on a relaxing day.

Well, the relaxing day didn't come until last week, when I had lots of solo traveling to do. Once I got a few pages in, I was on a roll and finished pretty quickly. Best Friends is the tale of two women who meet as freshmen in college. One is from Ohio and the other is from LA. They're a bit of a mismatched pair, but their relationship blossoms and the book follows their lives for the next 25 years or so.

A few times, I felt like I could guess how it was all going to end, but then I'd realize that I still had hundreds of pages to go and there was more likely more to it than I was anticipating. There are secrets and lies and some unexpected twists. I found myself wishing this could be turned into a movie. Why remake old stuff when we can have a good story like this one on the big screen?

If you're interested, I'd be glad to send you my copy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mommie Dearest (memoir/expose)

Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford

Originally published in 1978, the year following Joan Crawford's death, this is Christina Crawford's account of a harrowing childhood lived out under the tyranny of an abusive, alcoholic adoptive mother. The book and the movie based on the book have become virtually iconic; most everyone is familiar with Mommie Dearest, whether in paperback or on the big screen, so I won't bother giving any more of a synopsis of the story.

Naturally, the author's claims of abuse have been disputed over the years. I won't judge as to whether I think her claims are credible; I think when such claims are made publicly, it is only to be expected that there will be some who will staunchly deny the claims, and those who will stand behind the accuser. Only the author knows what really happened.

What I found frustrating was the fact that the author never manages to divorce herself from this woman who was allegedly an absolute terror, a complete tyrant. Even in adulthood, she allows herself to be pushed around and bullied by her mother, and much of this has to do with allowing her mother to continue to hold the purse strings. You start to get the feeling after a while that Christina was a willing participant in the twisted, abusive relationship she shared with her mother.

Regardless, I think it's a pretty well-written book, and certainly compelling. The author is not always likable, but I'm not sure if that even matters. The drama of the story keeps the reader turning pages.

I read this the first time back in high school, and I doubt I would ever have picked it up again except that it's my book club's current selection - in honor of Mother's Day being in May. Some of us thought that we may see things a little differently now that we're parents - maybe tying a kid down in bed at night wouldn't seem like such a bad idea, some of us laughed. But you know what? Even now that I'm a parent, I'm still pretty horrified by the things the author describes, and tying a kid down in bed still seems heinous.

If you're looking for a real-life soap opera, this may just be the book for you.


We have a new contributor: Diane, who can be found at My Mind's Ramblings.

Can't wait for her to post a review!

I am culling the list of contributors, as I'd like to have fairly active contributors. So, please don't take any offense if I've removed you, and if you want back on, just let me know.

And anyone who follows this blog, loves to read, and would like to be a contributor (meaning you can post reviews of books you read and participate in book swapping among contributors), please send an email to me at bloggymamaATgmailDOTcom.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just for Fun - a Survey

If you follow this blog, even if you never comment, could you take a minute to answer these questions? Please? Just for fun.

1. What's the best book you ever read?

2. What's the worst book you ever read?

3. When you start a book, do you stick with it to the end even if you don't like it? Or do you cast it aside in favor of a different, hopefully better, book?

4. Are you more likely to buy your books or check them out from the library?

5. Do you read every single word on every single page, or do you skim through parts?

6. Do you ever cheat and read the last page before you get to the end?

7. What's your favorite genre?

8. What are you reading now?

Monday, May 3, 2010

You Look Fine, Really

You Look Fine, Really by Christie Mellor

I'm not sure exactly what category this book falls into . . . beauty, fashion, life advice, humor?? All of those, really. It's a really fun read - it reminded me in a lot of ways of reading some of my favorite bloggers: lots of wit and wisdom.

When you are a woman who has reached a certain point in life - say, 40ish (ahem), according to the author, it is not necessarily time to become subtle and understated. It may just be time to buy yourself a fabulous red lipstick, throw a dinner party (even if you've never thrown a dinner party before), wear a ball gown to said dinner party (even if you've never worn a ball gown), paint your living room Tangerine, and take hula lessons. The point is, life is not over at 40 - not by a long shot. There is still much to learn, much to do, much to enjoy, and much to celebrate - namely, YOU.

The book is choc full of recipes (for things like A Perfect Martini and Chutney Meatloaf), instructions on things like How To Sew Yourself an E-Z Ballerina Cocktail Frock (the author regularly says "frock" instead of "dress," which just sounds a lot more fun, don't you think?) and How to Build a Campfire (a skill every woman should have, apparently), and tips on things like making your own facial scrub.

And also just practical life advice, like getting enough sleep, how to throw yourself a birthday party (instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for you), celebrating your friends' successes, and so on. Probably my favorite little nugget:

"For many years - too many years - I had convinced myself that I was not 'successful.' I had not attained whatever it was that I had made up in my head that I should have attained by a given age, so therefore, somehow, I was kind of a loser. But at some point, preferably before the age of ninety-five, you really need to have a cold, hard look at what the heck you have been doing for the last forty or fifty years. Have you been learning stuff? Are you interested in learning new stuff? Have you become friends with some good people? Do your friends love you, and do you love them? Do you laugh on a regular basis? Are you excited about what's coming next? Then you're a very, very successful person. Stay engaged, stay interested, and don't forget to celebrate yourself and your successes, great and small, as often as possible!"

So true! I really enjoyed this book.