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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge was selected by my book club The Page Turners, as our November read. Olive Kitteridge was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. After reading it, I can say that I am very pleased with this choice of winners. I have a certain expectation for story telling and writing when I pull a Pulitzer awarded book off the shelf and Olive Kitteridge did not disappoint.

The book is a collection of short stories of ordinary folks from a small town. I didn't feel like I was reading short stories that end and leave me wanting more. After hearing the second story, I was confident that I would be satisfied with another story that would some how connect me to the character, Olive Kitteridge. I was engrossed in the stories as if I was reading a novel. I was reminded of Russo's, Empire Falls. (Pulitzer Prize 2002). Often the best stories seem to come from a day in the life of ordinary people with every day family dynamics and issues.

The book takes place in the small town of Portland, Maine and the stories revolve around a central character Olive Kitteridge. At times she is a grumpy, outspoken, and a rude woman. As the stories unfold, more is revealed of Olive. Who is Olive Kitteridge? Do we love her or hate her? I appreciated her for being ordinary and sensible despite her flawed demeanor. For me Olive is " the town staple" like the local store or any other structure that individualizes a town.

Henry Kitteridge, Olive's husband, is a wonderful man and perhaps it may seem that he is too nice and too kind for Olive. Does he deserve the wrath of Olive? Yet we can sense at times that Olive has a deep love for Henry, her son and others. Why oh why doesn't this come through in her dealings with them at all times. The stories interconnect in a way to reveal Olive's insecurities and the depth of her character in relation to the perils of the community. Outwardly it seems that she doesn't have deep compassion to love those in her life, and yet the stories reveal more to us.

Who of us doesn't know an "Olive." And do we see or feel an "Olive" in our own self? So often it seems that Olive could use a word or two to "mend" a situation. What gets in the way of a kinder word being spoken to heal or mend the situation?

The writing is utterly fantastic. I do regret that I only listened to the audio book of Olive Kitteridge and I don't have any quotes to share as I was driving a lot when I listened. However, I want to say that this audio book was outstandingly well read. This is also book that I want to put into my own library.

How did my group like the book?

A member in Mississippi said, "I liked the book a lot and of course marked several Olive-isms." She had a lot more to contribute than just that and she enjoyed reading the book and savoring it.

Another member had this review to share:

" I gave Olive Kitteridge two stars because I liked the format of the book (a collection of short stories) and thought that some of the stories had profoundly thought provoking points. Unfortunately, the book didn't grab me. It could be because every short story seemed to start off the same... it took a several pages to figure out what was going on because of the exhaustive use of "they," "he," "she," or "it" before anything was clear. Overall, it wasn't a terrible book but not one I may recommend either."
-Chuluota Book Junkie

I give the book high praise for my favorite read of 2009. Have you read it? What do you think? I'd love to know.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winner - The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar, By Slyvia Plath
And the winner is:
DAR, from Peeking Between the Pages.
Thank you everyone for participating in this giveaway.
Congratulations to Dar!
Thank you Harper Perennial.

Winners - Dear John Audio

We have more winners. Congrats to you all. I will be emailing you soon! Thank you for participating.

  1. Edmontonjb
  2. Rebecca Graham
  3. Kaye

A Bit about the Book
An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else.

And it is a soon-to-be-released major motion picture from Sony Pictures starring Channing Tatum ("G.I. Joe") and Amanda Seyfried ("Mamma Mia"). Coming to theaters just in time for Valentine's day, February 5, 2010.

Winners - Seventh Heaven, James Patterson

Well.. Well... Well....
Congrats to the Lucky winners!

  1. Vicki
  2. DCMetroreader
  3. Wanda
  4. Sandy Jay
  5. Marilu
I have more winners to announce this week. I will be emailing you for your mailing address. Thank you for entering.

The Women's Murder Club faces not one-but two-terrifying cases that may tear it apart. The teenage son of California's ex-governor has mysteriously vanished-and the pressure on Detective Lindsay Boxer to find him is overwhelming. When she finally does get a lead, it's devastating. At the same time, Lindsay and her partner, Rich Conklin, must investigate mysterious fires that are destroying some of San Francisco's most beautiful homes-and leaving their owners dead in the debris. But when Lindsay enlists her friends in the Women's Murder Club to help uncover the arsonist, the blazes suddenly rage much too close to home .
Publish Date:12/1/2009
Size: 4-3/16" x 6-3/4"
Thank you Valerie at Hachette Book Group for co-ordinating this great giveaway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Pantry Cheesy Tuna Shells - Time saving, easy cheap meal

You know I don't have a lot of recipes. I don't seem to have time to cook from them. I have been cooking and feeding a family with little or no recipes for almost 25 years. You know spaghetti make a million ways, meatloaf, tacos, burritos, chicken that is grilled, fried, baked, and all the every day meals. I mean I use a recipe here and there to bake, but I don't have a big ole book of recipes.

When I have done WW over the years I do use a few of the recipes from my books. Some good, some really gross.

I hope that some day I can get out some cook books and just cook for leisure. It seems I am always cooking for a family and there isn't time for the frills and gourmet foods that I'd like. Not that gourmet can't be simple... but you know what I mean?

Working the 9-5 grind and cooking and having a family. It is hard. Sometimes it is hard to use recipe books as the ingredients are hard to come by. Well not hard to come by but it is hard to get a list and gather items.

Here is a little recipe for the busy person. It is a recipe right out of the pantry. I only had to buy two items. (Pasta Shells and Alfredo) The rest are from the Pantry.
It is my "recipe" for Cheesy Tuna Shells. I bet most have a recipe that they make that is similar. It is basically no more than a tuna casserole. So this is basically tuna casserole with NO celery chunks, no peas, and no cream of mushroom soup. Not that I mind those ingredients. But some (kids, hubby etc don't want to have to pick out certain bits from the casserole). This recipe is for those. Unless you don't like Tuna. Even that isn't a problem, I made it without tuna last week as a side dish! YUMMO!

The ingredients:
A jar of Alfredo sauce (you can make your own)...or use the packets. This is the 30 minute version. Any Jar will do. I used a four cheese Alfredo for this one. WW fans...buy the lighter version.

Parmesan Cheese (packaged, shredded or grate your own) Once again this is the busy mom version.

Bread Crumbs - any old brand.

Medium Pasta Shells - ( whole box)

1 cube of butter - WW fans use the diet stuff....

1 Cup 1% milk - lucky thin folks use whole milk.. WW use non fat.

2 cans Tuna Fish ( I used one albacore and one chunk light in water) You know whatever is in the pantry

2 - 3 cups shredded Medium Cheddar Cheese. I suppose you can use bagged. I always grate from a block.

Okay... Real Story.

  • 4:30 left work
  • 4:45 pull up to the house, drive into the garage and go out to get the mail.
  • 5:00 I am changed into sweats and the dogs have been let out. A pot of water is on the stove boiling. I am grating a pile of cheese (approx two-three cups).
  • By 5:05 the water is boiling and I add salt and a box of pasta to the water. Set timer for 12 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, I get out a big bowl and slice up the butter, open the cans of tuna (I have it draining in the sink) and open the Alfredo. I get out the 13 inch dish and get it ready.
  • 5:20 or so I am straining the pasta, adding it to the butter and the Alfredo in a bowl and mixing. I add about a cup of milk, then mix in a cup or so of the cheese about 2/3's of the pile. I add salt, pepper (fresh ground) , celery salty, onion powder. Oh don't forget to add the Tuna too! Mix it all up. ( remember if you like real onions, celery or peas, add fresh chopped stuff now, this is the non chunky version)
  • 5:25 - pour into a 13 inch dish. Then spread a layer of cheese on top, a layer of bread crumbs and a layer of Parmesan cheese. Now just put into the preheated over and bake until golden brown for about 25-30 minutes.

At this point there is very little mess. I have been tossing cans and jars as I go along. So there is five minutes to rinse or wash the mess.
After that you have 20 minutes... that is time for a nice treadmill walk, or time to create a blog post, (this blog post was almost finished by the time I pulled it out of the oven), read a chapter in a book. You can set a nice table I suppose or scoop from the dish off the counter. If you have time make a salad, or steam some veggies. You gotta (should) eat your veggies!
  • By 6 pm dinner is ready and you can clean up (5 minute max) and have the evening to do what you want.

And if you are one that likes an evening martini, this is your time to make a Cosmo and sit and blog a bit. Just don't spill it after the photo shoot like someone else did. Wink!

I hope you all like it. I think if I were to critique the recipe I would say it could use more of a creamy factor. Maybe this is where the cream of celery or cream of mushroom soup would come in handy. Depending on how large your family is, you have great leftovers for tomorrow or lunch!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mail Box Monday - December 14, 2010

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is a fun weekly posting to share what we books we got in the mail each week. Join in, leave comments and do a lot of coveting and drooling.

I won To Desire a Devil, Elizabeth Hoyt from a giveaway at Bookfan Mary. Thank you Mary.

I received Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks from Hachette Book Group as a free review copy.

I got American Rust, by Phillipp Meyer from Random House as a free review copy. Thank you Random House. Please look back in January as I am part of the blog tour for this book.

I won The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere in a giveaway at Mari Reads. Thank you Mari. (If anyone is interested Mari has a knitting blog also. Mari Knits).

I received A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve as a free review copy from Hachette Book Group.

Okay.. I am a lucky girl wouldn't you say? I am happy to get the two audio books as I joined the audio book challenge. Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My last 2010 Challenge.. Audio Book Challenge!

Okay, just one more Challenge for 2010.

Since I plan to continue to enjoy audio books in 2010, I have joined this challenge.
It is hosted by Royal Reviews. I can download from audible right onto my Kindle 2. I love it!

Audio Books Reading Challenge

I plan to enjoy about 12-15 books this year via audio, So I have selected the Addicted level.

This is where I will keep track of my selections.

1. Bel Canto ( Finished 2/2010) Click here for my review
2. Cane River (Finished 3/2010).  Read book and listened to the audio.
3. Envy (Finished 3/18/2010) Click Here for my review.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County - Giveaway

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker

Book Description:
When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

I read and reviewed this wonderful book last year with Dar from Peeking at the Pages. I really loved this book it was one of my favorites of last year. Dar and I had a four part Discussion last November. To see my four posts on the book, go to the side bar (archives) and go to November 2008. You will see links to the four chats I had with Dar.

There is so much to discuss in the book, I recommend it fully for a GREAT book club selection. If your book club is looking for a good book, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County gets my vote! Don't forget to utilize the Reading Group Guide (see below).

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group I have three copies to offer! US and Canada only. Will not ship to P.O. boxes. The books come from the publisher. This contest will run through January 2nd.
  • For an entry into a random drawing, please leave a comment here with your email.
  • For an additional entry, Follow my blog. If you already do, let me know in your comment.
  • For five entries, Blog, Tweet, Facebook about this giveaway. Let me know in your comment.

Join the Facebook Discussion.
Check out the Author Website.

Reading Group Guide
(warning sometimes the Guide Questions contain book spoilers)

1. Truly is the “little giant” of this book, yet her size seems to make her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her outsider status?

2. Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining “the reason the two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that pretty can’t exist without ugly.” (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly and Serena’s connection? How is it different from Truly’s relationship with Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?

3. As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors, Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however, the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen’s last Dr. Morgan. How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town “more modern” without a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore’s restaurant instead? Is the replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a symbolic replacement?

4. Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a gardener, Marcus’s aim is to “make things live,” but, as Truly realizes, “wasn’t it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death, whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden, Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life.” What other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and death?

5. Truly’s size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other characters have trouble “fitting in” in a more figurative way. Examine how this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of conforming?

6. What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?

7. When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you think? How do you feel about Truly’s actions? What in Truly’s character draws her to “collect souls” as she comes to call it?

8. When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says “We’re not exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we’re good enough for here on earth” (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

9. Why doesn’t Robert Morgan “care” that his son runs away? What does it say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane’s leaving and his reaction to that event?

10. After Robert Morgan’s death, Truly gradually takes on some of his responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she’s gained from Tabitha’s quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?

11. What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chunkster Challenge 2009

Quite sometime ago, I joined the Chunkster Challenge. Remember this?
I did read Drood by Dan Simmons. (click here for blog tour and review) and yes that was quite a chunky book. However I did not read the other two books. I may have to add Annette Vallon to the From My Shelves book Challenge for 2010. I didn't finish this challenge but I had fun and thoroughly enjoyed the big ole chunker that I did read.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mailbox Monday December 7th

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page.
Check it out. It is fun way to share what we received in the mail each week.

I don't have a lot to report. I did buy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for for my Kindle. It would be pointless to note all the classics that I have added to my Kindle. But for now I like to keep track of my purchases. After I get this post finished I am going to peruse and find another book to buy (hoard) onto my device. I also get to spend two credits in my audible account. It is a good Sunday morning. I will report my shopping results next Monday.

I received for review 7th Heaven, by James Patterson. (a free book for review)
Thank you Hachette books.

(check out my sidebar for a giveaway). It is a nice pretty blue color and being the book-a-holic that I am, I just wanted to curl up and start it at the kitchen table before I finished opening the rest of my mail.

I feel like I got something else and I can't for the life of me find where I stashed it. I mean I am pretty organized and books go in "book places" in my house. I will post when I figure it out. Or was I just dreaming. I know always hold my breath when I hear Mr. UPS driver in the neighborhood maybe it resulted in a brain fog?

I was a lucky lucky girl last week and I won TWO books from the blog world. I will save that information for a future Mailbox Monday!

Have a great week.

Reading From My Shelves 2010 Challenge

Here it is. Challenge number two for me!
This challenge is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea. You have to check it out. To me this is almost a Blogger Community Service Challenge! The Challenge is as simple as this.

Go over to Bibliophile by the Sea and:
  • grab the button
  • decide how many books you want to read from your shelves (minimum of 20 - no maximum)
  • find a new home for the books once you read them
  • post the titles and the authors of books you've read and passed on
  • project runs from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010
  • crossover challenge books are allowed
I am committing to reading 20 books from my shelves. And I will pass them along when I am finished.

This is where I will keep track of my progress. I want to read these books for this challenge. (I will red and bold text the books as I read).

  1. Signora Da Vinci, Robin Maxwell
  2. The Piano Teacher, Janice Y. K. Lee
  3. When Everything Changed, The Amazing Journey of American Woman from 1960 to present, Gail Collins
  4. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
  5. Everyone is Beautiful, Katherine Center
  6. The Italian Lover, Robert Hellenga
  7. The Puzzle King, Betsy Carter
  8. A Friend of the Family, Lauren Grodstein
  9. The Darcy's and the Bingley's, Marsha Altman The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
  10. The Heretics Daughter, Kathleen Kent
  11. Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant
  12. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  13. The Day The Falls Stood Still, Cathy Marie Buchanan
  14. Scottsboro, Ellen Feldman
  15. The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
  16. Taltos, Anne Rice
  17. Cane River, Lalita Tademy
  18. 7th Heaven, James Patterson
  19. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  20. Testimony, Anita Shreve
Wish me luck!

*** edited to correct duplicate book and fill in book #20!!

E-Book Reading Challenge - I am in!

I am in! I am doing the 2010 Ebook reading challenge! I hope to enjoy my Kindle 2 to the tune of 12 ebooks this year! This is the addicted level. There are four levels. If you want to see what this is all about, click on over to Royal Reviews the official host of this challenge. The challenge runs from January - December 2010.

I will be keeping track of my books read on this post. There will be a link on my side bar.
1. Last Night in a Twisted River
2. Wolf Hall.
3.  Pride Prejudice and Zombies

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath - Giveaway

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

I have a lovely, hip copy of The Bell Jar to offer! I absolutely love this new snazzy version from Harper Perennial, the Olive Edition. It is a lower priced smaller edition. I have to say I'd be grabbing this one even it it wasn't priced lower. I love the cover, and it is just even nicer in person.

I have one copy to offer. Please leave a comment on this post and I'll enter you in a drawing. I have one book so this is a one entry per person drawing. US and Canada Only. This contest ends on December 18th, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hachette Audio Book Giveaway! Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks

Hachette Audio Book Giveaway! Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks
This is for the audio book!

And it is a soon-to-be-released major motion picture from Sony Pictures starring Channing Tatum ("G.I. Joe") and Amanda Seyfried ("Mamma Mia"). Coming to theaters just in time for Valentine's day, February 5, 2010.

A Bit about the Book
An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else.

The audiobook edition of DEAR JOHN is read by actor and voiceover artist Holter Graham.

Listen to an excerpt.
Watch the movie trailer.
Visit the official movie website at DearJohn-Movie.com
Available in CD and Digital Download formats.
Also available in ebook, mass market, and trade paperback.

Now for the scoop on the giveaway. Thanks to Anna from Hachette Book Group, I have three copies of the Audio book to giveaway.
  • NO P.O. Boxes
  • US and Canada Only
  • Books are mailed from Hachette Book Group
  • Simply leave a comment on this blog for an entry.
  • Followers get two entries. If you don't blog or use a google reader, in your comment tell me how you keep up with my blog and I'll throw in the "followers" entry for you.
  • Leave a comment by December 17th, 2009. Winners to be announced shortly after.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Upcoming events - A Circle of Books

Happy First Wednesday in December 2009!

I haven't had a lot of blog content lately so I thought I would check in. I mean just because I don't have a giveaway, a mailbox to share or a review, I hope some (one or two ) will pop in and read... pretty please.

I wanted to just post. It is always a bit strange when a blog gets quiet a for a while and then we wonder if they are coming back.... and if the days of that particular blog are gone....sigh... well... Fat chance you'd be rid of me! Aha! I did want to check in and share what I am reading, and what is coming up for my blog.

I am reading:

Breaking Dawn (Finally)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Kindle)

and I am listening to:

Olive Kitteridge (Audible)

I should have reviews for everyone in the next weeks to come.

I will have an exciting audio giveaway that should post on Friday as well as The Bell Jar giveaway. So be on the look out for some great stuff.

I have a pile of TBR review copies that I intend to read and review in January and February. Better late than never. I hope to post some of these books on my side bars and decorate the blog a bit with the books in my life. My own little circle of books.

What are you reading? I am behind in my google reader and my own blog reading. Do you have anything you want to share? Post a link to this post and I will be sure to check it out. Non-bloggers, I'd love to hear from you too. Post links to anything your like to share, kid, dog, horse.... you name it.

I also wanted to say that I have listened to two fun interviews in the past week on Blog Radio. Jenn from Jenn's Book Shelves and Amy from My Friend Amy's Blog did a great job. It was really tremendous fun to join the chat and listen. ( I need to link you up with some details on this later).

I am going to select a challenge for 2010. So I will be scanning around for one that will also be of some use to my TBR piles and fun.

I can't seem to keep up on Twitter, Facebook, Google reader, my own blog, emails, and my knitting blog (which requires actually knitting to be done). Actually, I do keep up well enough. What I am saying is that I have come to the conclusion that I can't keep up like some of you remarkable bloggers. 2010 is my year to just exist within the confines of my own schedule and limitations and to just enjoy this fun process of reading and blogging minus the panic.

Happy week to you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hachette Book Giveaway - Seventh Heaven - James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

7th Heaven

By James Patterson, Maxine Paetro

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group. I have five copies of Seventh Heaven to give away.

The Women's Murder Club faces not one-but two-terrifying cases that may tear it apart. The teenage son of California's ex-governor has mysteriously vanished-and the pressure on Detective Lindsay Boxer to find him is overwhelming. When she finally does get a lead, it's devastating. At the same time, Lindsay and her partner, Rich Conklin, must investigate mysterious fires that are destroying some of San Francisco's most beautiful homes-and leaving their owners dead in the debris. But when Lindsay enlists her friends in the Women's Murder Club to help uncover the arsonist, the blazes suddenly rage much too close to home .
Publish Date:12/1/2009
Size: 4-3/16" x 6-3/4"

The giveaway ends December 15th and winners will be selected by random drawing through random.org. I will announce the winners sometime after that date and send and email to you.
  • US and Canda only.
  • No P.O. Boxes and
  • I am going to say it is for 18 and over only.
  • Hachette books will send you your copy.
To enter just leave a comment with your email address. This will get you one entry. You get another entry just for following this blog. Let me know if and how you follow. Tweet, Facebook, or post about the giveaway and you get five extra entries.

Good Luck!

There is a reading group guide for this book: (click here for other book extras)

Reading Group Guide Below (May Contain Spoilers)

1. Arson is a very curious crime to commit. Why do you think someone would be drawn to this crime? Do you believe in Freud’s theory as stated in the book?

2. In your opinion, would Junie’s occupation affect her credibility in the courtroom? Should it? For example, is a lawyer or doctor a more credible defendant/witness than a garbage collector?

3. In trying Junie Moon, Yuki tried to use public sympathy for Michael Campion to turn the jury against the defendant. What do you think of that type of tactic in a trial setting?

4. Conklin suspects Chuck Hanni, the arson investigator, for actually committing the arson crimes in the book. Why do you think serial murderers would choose professions close to their crimes?

5. Junie Moon’s intelligence and self esteem are brought up by the defense as reasons why she could have given a false confession. Do you think everyone who confesses is guilty? Do you believe interrogations should be taped?

6. In Junie Moon’s trial, much of the prosecution’s case is based on spoken testimony. What is your opinion on convicting someone for murder without physical evidence, but compelling testimony?

7. The Moluccan cockatoo Peaches, formerly known as Horndog, was described as depressed when it was living in the pet store. Do you think it is possible for animals to get depressed or have psychological problems like people?

8. Joe voices his worry that Lindsay’s relationship with Rich has become more intimate than the typical office relationship. Do you think Lindsay’s relationship with Rich could lead to something inadvertently? Should she request a change of partner out of respect for her relationship with Joe? Who do you think is better suited to Lindsay?

9. Connor Campion was very controlling of Michael because he feared for his son’s life. How can modern parents set appropriate boundaries with their children in an age where kids have access to cell phones, computers and other devices that allow them to live lives fairly independent of their parents?

10. As prosecutor it is Yuki’s right to believe the Junie is guilty and her duty to try her as such. There is a moral dilemma if a prosecutor feels that a defendant could be innocent or if a defense lawyer feels their client may be guilty. How do you think defense lawyers and prosecutors reconcile these conflicts?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kindle Review - A Device Review by Toni

I just have to report in on my Kindle. I haven't read single full book on it yet, but will report when I do.

I can't stay quiet any longer. I have to say I am becoming Kindle addict. So shameful, but I have a feeling in book blog land I will be understood. Right? Please tell me that you understand.

Here are my thoughts:

The screen: Clear and easy to read with six font sizes to select.

The audio: The text to speech function is not bad. (This is where the text can be read to you). It gave me a few laughs hearing A Tale of Two Cities "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.." in male and then female robot voice, but it would do the trick if you needed your eyes for something else at the time..like knitting!

The functionality: I don't know about a lot of you but a lot of times when I get a new gadget, phone or what not, I am lost for a few days figuring things out. I didn't find that to be the case with the Kindle 2. I was able to navigate in simple ways and ways that made sense right from the get go.

The basic web function: It works great. Not for surfing the next but it is capable to get a message across if needed. If you want to google something or even send a Tweet. Not that I need the Kindle 2 for that but it is nice to have the option. And since I belong to an online book club I can easily send a quick note if needed right from the device.

Downloading books: I have downloaded classic BIG FAT books in 16 seconds or less. I have used Kindle's document service to convert pdf's in a very short time for a very small fee. I have also used Kindle's document free document service and it works great and quickly also. On the the free service you have to actually hook Kindle up to the USB to get the file to the kindle. It was as easy and drag and drop.

Audio Books: The Kindle 2 plays my MP3 audio books from Audible just great. It is nice not to have to carry the Ipod and the Kindle. I know, I know, how big is an Ipod? But again.. One little 10 ounce device is really cool.

The problem: I lay in bed or just about anywhere I go and I am so indulgent. I read a little Moby Dick, a little Charles Dickens, a little Jane Austin, and then I listen to my audio books. I browse and browse for books and before I know it, It is past my bedtime. It is definitely slurping away hours. But you know hours lost to books, authors or literary reasons, are not hours lost at all. It is over all life enrichment. I also am a bit unfocused right now with my piles of ARC's to be read and reviewed. And the Kindle calls .....

Have I lost my craving to wander among the book stores? No! Have I love to the desire to stare into the artwork of a lovely book cover, NO! Have I lost the urge to hold a chunker book in my hands? No! Have I lost my urge to go to the library and check out books? Nope nope. This is a great way to have my literary options at my fingertips and control the number of books coming into this house. (please don't quote me on that or hold me to it).

I really love my Kindle as a modern day device to enhance my bookish pleasure. Is it just a new gadget? Or will it stand the test of time like my first copy of Gone with the Wind? Time will tell and I will keep you posted.

***I bought my kindle and I am reviewing for my own pleasure. I am not affiliated with Amazon or any amazon companies. This is not an ad.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mailbox Monday 11/23

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page:

I had another great week. I know I need to be forthcoming with some reviews. Things got so out of control with many things in my life. I really want to settle down and read, knit and blog. So I just need to calm down and read some books!

This week I got a copy of: I will be getting two. One for me and one for a giveaway.
(Check back.. I will post the giveaway this week)

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, (Harper - Thank you!)

Say You're One of Them, by Uwem Akpan ( From Hachette, thank you!)

The Piano Teacher, Janice Y. K. Lee ( From Penguin- Thank you!)

I will post more about these books later in the week or with their reviews. I received these books as free copies to review.

I have two more giveaways coming this week. Don't forget to check back and have a lovely week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mailbox Monday - November 16th

Hello there! Happy Monday! What showed up in your mailbox this week? Care to Share?
Join this fun Blog meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is where we all link up to share what books came in our mailboxes this past week.

This week I got:

The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks
( A free review copy from Hachette books)

About the book:
#1 bestselling author Nicholas Sparks's new novel is at once a compelling family drama and a heartrending tale of young love.

Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.

The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels--first love, love between parents and children -- that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

A Separate Country, Robert Hicks
( A free review copy from Hachette books)

About the book:
A Multi-Cast Production Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins.

I also have a bit of great news. This weekend I became the proud owner of a Kindle 2. Stay tuned for my review. So far the only thing I have read in full was a Fairy Tale called, "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes." And I have to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it. So far I have to say that the device exceeds my expectations and I am thrilled over my purchase. (I was happy about the new lower price).

It took less than 17 seconds to download War and Peace. I have also added two knitting patterns that I am knitting. NO MORE printing paper patterns. I can highlight as I work on a row and make permanent notes! I can enlarge the font for easy following! Oh shush my mouth, I need to save it for the review. Have a great Week

Winners - November Hachette Audio Book Giveaways.

Hey everyone!
Thanks for signing up for the giveaways. We've got winners to announce!

9 Dragons, by Michael Connelly, Audio Books:


A Change in Altitude, A Novel by Anita Shreve, Audio Book


Say You're One of Them, Uwem Akpan, Audio Book

It's Just Me Wendy
Belinda M

You can click on the titles to link for information on the audio books. If you didn't win, I'd like to say I have read a lot of great reviews on these titles which is one of the reasons I wanted to host a giveaway for them. A great big thanks to Anna at Hachette books for the opportunity to offer these great books.

Check your emails this week for a winners announcement email. Thank you everyone.

Have a great week. I close with a photo of The Pirate and The Hound two of my favorite guys!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mailbox Monday 11/9

Mailbox Monday is Hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Thank you Marcia.

This week I won the first book over at Bookin' with Bingo. You have to trek on over there to see her giveaways and her great blog.

I got:

Love Your Body, Love your Life (5 steps to End Negative Body Obessession and Start Living Happily and Confidently) , by Sara Maria

I also got The Heretics Daughter, Kathleen Kent from Valerie at Hachette Books. (Click here to check out the details of this one)

That is about it for the week. I am busy busy and I am trying to make up my mind over a Sony Pocket Reader vs. The Kindle 2.

Rain - W. Somerset Maugham - A Review by Toni

Rain, W. Somerset Maugham

Rain is a short story by W. Somerset Maugham. I really enjoyed the story. I am a newbie to Maugham, even though I have acquired quite a collection of his works. If the writing in this story is any indication of the rest of his works, then I will be immersed in more of his works this winter. I read this from a paperback book off my shelf called: The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham Vol. I, Rain and other stories. It looks like I have the second edition printing, 1968 by Washington Square Press. I got the book at a library book sale for less than 50 cents.

The story is descriptive and well written. I enjoyed getting into the plot and scenery from the very onset of the story. We have a doctor and his wife traveling with a missionary and his wife. They end up on a Pacific South Sea Island called Pago-Pago. The story takes place over a short period of time while the travelers are detained on this island due to an outbreak of measles that causes a temporary quarantine.

The missionary and his wife are self righteous. While of the same class/race as the missionary couple, the doctor and his wife are a bit less pious and judgemental. They have "paired" as traveling companions with the missionary couples if only for the reason that no one else "qualifies" to be companions with them. They look down on the sins of the fellow travellers as well as the natives whom they view as completely sinful. They are forced to share a place of lodging with a woman who is less than pious and righteous in her ways and that sets the stage of the story. At first we don't quite know the extent of this woman's brazen behavior, but she does drink, play the gramophone, and entertain men at night. Regardless of her state of "righteousness," the doctor's wife and missionary's wife have judged her by her appearance before they even know, claiming she "looks fast."

The wives are bent of gawking and judging while the missionary husband is set on a mission to cleanse her of her sin. He is bent on bringing her to her knees to repent. He makes a visit to her room one night to stop her behavior.

What unfolds is interesting and the author clearly exposes the religious hypocrisy of the missionary man.

The "fallen" woman in the story was quite funny at first. I couldn't help but be reminded of Cathy Bates role as Molly Brown in Titanic. I am not sure if you recall but she wasn't bad at all, but the others looked down on her for her spunk and her "new money. " Sorry, I digress.

I won't reveal any more. I enjoyed the descriptive, eloquent writer. I really love the mastery over writing that Maugham displays in this story. I love books that are written in a South Seas setting.

Here is a sample:
When he came on deck next morning they were close to land. He looked at it with greedy eyes. There was a thin strip of silver beach rising quickly to hills covered to the top with luxuriant vegetation. The coconut trees, thick and green, came nearly to the water`s edge, and among them you saw the grass houses of the Samoaris; and here and there, gleaming white, a little church. Mrs. Davidson came and stood beside him. She was dressed in black, and wore round her neck a gold chain, from which dangled a small cross. She was a little woman, with brown, dull hair very elaborately arranged, and she had prominent blue eyes behind invisible pince-nez. Her face was long, like a sheep`s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of extreme alertness; she had the quick movements of a bird. The most remarkable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony, irritating to the nerves like the pitiless clamour of the pneumatic drill.

This story gave me just want I wanted out of a short story. It was fast, well written, engaging, descriptive. So much better than a 30 minute sit-com. If you want to read it on line you can do so HERE.

Have a great week. Enjoy your books. If you have a review of this work, feel free to link in a comment so we can check it out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bear Portraits - A Review by Toni

Bear Portraits, by Jill Greenberg

Full Description:
(from the publisher)

A top celebrity portrait photographer, Jill Greenberg has a unique ability to coax powerful emotions out of her subjects - whether human or animal. Her portraits of bears, collected here for the first time, surprise and engage. We encounter cubs as cute as a child's Teddy, grizzlies that look like they might swallow you whole, and Polar bears seated in Sphinx-like tranquility.

Full-grown brown bears, grizzlies, black bears, Polar bears, and bear cubs are photographed on location against a portrait backdrop. The poses and facial expressions are at turns oddly comedic, pensive, terrifying, and sometimes unexpectedly human. Alive with Greenberg's signature lighting and seen through the unique perspective of her lens, these startling bear
portraits bring us face to face with our fears and fantasies.

About the Author: (From the publisher)

Jill Greenberg regularly shoots advertising and celebrity portrait photography for such clients as Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, HBO, Bacardi, Rolling Stone, Time and Newsweek. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and began her career in New York City. Jill now resides in Los Angeles with her husband Robert and children.

My thoughts:

Do you like Bears? Actually it doesn't matter if you love them or not because you probably will after reading this book. I love bears. I love to knit bears and just see them. Not that I'd want to run into a live one, but I do love them.

This book is chalk full of stunning Bear Portraits. Once again I jumped into the book to look at the pictures without reading the wonderful detailed introduction from the author. I had a lot of questions, when I went back and read all about the author and the bears the pictures meant so much more. The photos are stunning and there are a lot of celebrity/famous people quotes to flavor up the portrait viewing.

This is a wonderful tribute to bears. I really really enjoyed the book and I will enjoy it for a long time to come. I recommend this lovely book to anyone. It is a perfect gift Idea. Even for yourself.

Thank you Anna From Hachette Book Group for sending this great book.


The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck - A Reivew by Toni

The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck - 1961

This book, as well as John Steinbeck's complete works, has been on my list of books to read for quite a while. I choose this book for our Sept/ Oct reading selection for our reading club, The Page Turners. The book was not a hit with my book club. I will go on a limb to say it is possibly because after reading East of Eden, and Grapes of Wrath, perhaps the bar is raised to high story and character-wise for some to enjoy this particular work of Steinbeck. Also perhaps this story does not compare to a lot of the more dramatic story/plot driven themes of fictional books that are out currently. So, I think this is going to be a very challenging review for me to write. I will give a little summary and let you make up your own mind.

Brief Summary:
The book is about Ethan Hawley. He comes from a family that has generations of respect and wealth. The family fortune has drizzled and been depleted by the time we get to the story, all Ethan has is the family house and a small inheritance that came to his wife from her brother. Ethan is a clerk in a store owned by Alfio Maurillo an Italian immigrant. Ethan has also survived serving in WWII so we see how that experience has affected his life and his views on morals and integrity to country, family and self.

In my opinion Ethan could be happy with this life if not for the needs and wants of his wife and children along with social pressure. He is a man with a wonderful work ethic and very high moral ground. He knows that his wife (Mary) and kids (Allen and Ellen) are wanting material things that he can not afford such as cars, TVs, and other things that he can not provide for them. Even a simple family vacation is not in their grasp. He sees signs of moral decay in his children. He sees the decline in respect for their elders and work ethic. Ethan is a man of high moral integrity and he has no desire to bend and stoop to the lowered standards of morality in which seem to surround him and yet he is tempted.

In this story we watch Ethan struggle to justify bending the rules to get ahead in life. We have an inside view to his actions and thoughts via the awesome first person narrative voice. He comes across opportunities to get ahead that very from lightly sinister to very criminal. Through Steinbeck's clever and elegant prose we get to see how these actions and behaviors are justified and played out to bring Ethan the opportunities for wealth. Some of the opportunities are whether or not he will turn in Maurillo for being an illegal immigrant? Will he go after a sexy middle aged seductress? Will he take a surcharge on supplies for the shop? Will he rob a bank?

Opinion and Thoughts
I liked the story. I have a hard time saying, "go get this book and read it, you won't regret it," because I think it could be one of those hit and miss books. It might not seem relevant, and yet it can be relevant. But it took some thinking on my part to see it as relevant. Once my mind got going with moral corruption and decay I couldn't help think in our time we are so desensitized to moral corruption because of all the high profile people in one money, sex, or corrupt scandal after another, that Ethan's actions may seem commonplace. Or maybe we can't see why he is so conflicted.

When the book opened up, it read like a 1960's movie. While reading I was thinking of what the other members were thinking of it and I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy it now in my memory. It was witty, sarcastic and well written.

I am a huge John Steinbeck fan and for me the book did not disappoint. I would read it and I couldn't seem to put it down. But I did not find myself rushing to pick it back up even though I knew that each time I didn't want to put it down. I read it in three to four sitting over a month. That is rather strange for me for a book that I like. The first time I stopped to keep pace with the group. Then it felt like a chore to pick it up. Perhaps I knew I knew I wouldn't get lost in a super plot driven book. And perhaps I knew I would feel Steinbeck's agitation. Yes, I think so! I could feel Steinbeck in there struggling it out with Ethan. Sometimes it was frustrating and seemed like work. Oh! The power of a good writer!

The book has lingered with me and even today in my office I sit here observing others and wonder if they are having an "Ethan Hawley" moment. For me that mean holding high moral integrity, or being able to justify the wrong action as reasonable, as an end to a means. For East of Eden fans, this will bring to mind Timshel. I believe that John Steinbeck had this always in his mind and his thoughts and in his writing. And that is why I continue to be a fan and will continue to savor his works. This was the last work published before he died. A year later he won the Nobel Prize for literature. It was a prize he didn't feel he deserved. I firmly believe as much as any one has ever deserved it, he did.

I found a detailed amazing review here.