Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, June 30, 2008

June Summary

With the busy IRL (in real life) month I had, I was thinking that I didn't get to read much. Fortunately my June totals are on par with last month so I didn't do that bad at all!

Books - 7 (2,184 pages)

Audio Books - 0
  • That's not exactly true ... I'm still listening to The Wheel of Time series (see my left sidebar, near the bottom, for details). I was stalled this month though. See, my car only has a cassette player, but book 7 in the series is only on CD at my library. So I had to find time to listen at home which is easier said than done! I did finish it - finally - and now I'm on to book 8 (which, by the way, has 17 cassettes that are 1.5 hrs each, so it's one of the shorter books).

Mom & Son Book Club - 3 meetings

  • This has been such fun for my son and I. If you'd like to read about our "meetings" click here. I haven't posted about the 3rd one yet but I expect to have that up this week.

Challenges - 5 in progress

  • (For more info on any of these, check out my left sidebar. There are links to the challenge pages there, and most are still open to new participants.) I have one more book to read for the Historical Fiction Challenge and 4 more for the Irresistible Review Challenge. I've got 8.5 more books to go for the 1% Well Read Challenge, and I haven't even started the Lost Challenge yet. For the Summer Reading Thing Challenge I've read two of the books and started two others, plus made progress on the challenges I committed to completing.

In other news ...


I've been reading reviews of Joshua Henkin's Matrimony for quite some time now. I entered a few contests to win a copy but since I have no luck, I didn't win. However, out of the kindness of his heart, Josh offered to send me a copy to review anyway - thanks Josh!

Here's my dilemma: Does receiving a book directly from the author - and knowing he/she will read my review - change what I will write about that book in my review? Read on to find out ...

As other reviewers have said, Matrimony is a character-driven novel. The book focuses on Julian, a young aspiring writer, as he goes through college, marriage, and life in general with all its ups and downs.

The author does an excellent job conveying the "feel" of each part of Julian's life. His description of life at college with all the friendships and craziness of that time really resonated with me. Throughout the novel there were many times I thought to myself "Yes! That's JUST what it felt like for ME when ..."

The problem is that this book didn't "grab me" ... it took me a while to get into the flow of the story (which is rather slow on purpose I think) and I had no problem putting it down. In fact, it took me over a week to read it because I kept picking up other books rather than completing this one.

I've mentioned before that I'm a "book snob" (meaning I'm very picky about what I read - I usually want to learn something from a book) but that I'm trying to break out of that mold because I'm likely missing out on some really great books. That's the reason I wanted to read Matrimony - it's had some great reviews and reminded me of my own life in some ways. But I need a book to have more than just a good story ... I need it to have a message, or at least to grab my attention and hold it hard.

And that's just not Henkin's style. The Publisher's Weekly review of his first novel, Swimming Across the Hudson, called his writing "quiet" and "fluid". In Matrimony, Henkin seems to be describing himself when he explains the writing style of one of the characters: "The story was quiet; all his work was. He had nothing against muscular prose; it was the flexing of those muscles that he objected to, and, along with it, a disregard for character."

If you want a book with lots of characterization, this it it. It's a relaxed book with no sense of hurry ... great for a vacation read. But if you're looking for a fast pace, lots of action, or a story that jumps up and grabs your attention this is not the book for you.

Many other bloggers will disagree with me - it seems I'm the only one who isn't a big fan of this book (sorry Josh!). Check out their reviews and make your own decision ...

Here's what other blogger's are saying:
My Friend Amy
Books on the Brain
Booking Mama
Book Club Classics
Reading and More Reading
The Literate Housewife
Boston Bibliophile
Why I Failed Math
B&B ex libris
Bloody Hell! It's a Book Barrage!
The 3 R's

this is good too - Joshua Henkin on Book Clubs

I know there are more of you who have reviewed this - I read your reviews! - so please give me your link and I'll add it here.

Maggie Again

Yesterday I read Maggie Again, by John Husband. And yes, I do mean that I read ALL of it yesterday. It's a quick read - only 240 pages - and lots of fun. Here's what you need to know ...
Sixteen year old Maggie lives an idyllic farm life in 1926. Her father gets a new job and suddenly the family is living in New York City. Maggie's three best friends, boys from her home town, hitch a ride on a train to visit her in her new home ... but they never arrive. We find Maggie again in 1984 when she is 74 years old. She's just received news that may shed light on the fate of her childhood friends.
I'll stop there because I don't want to give anything away. If you're interested in reading this, I'd suggest that you NOT read the summary on the back of the book - to me it gives too much away.

This is a great vacation book, one that would be perfect for a quick weekend getaway. It's a fun, easy read and I couldn't put it down.

Thank you to Lisa Roe at Online Publicist for sending me this book - I really enjoyed it!

If you have reviewed this book as well, let me know so I can include your link here.

Update: I posted this on and someone ordered it within 20 minutes!

Also reviewed by:
Booking Mama (caution - spoilers here!)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Show & Tell - DesignHerGals

For Show & Tell ADD LINK!!!! this week I'd like to show off my Design-Her-Gals avatar. This is me in all my book-loving glory!

Click on my gal to check out their website. What I love is that you can create your own gal and make her look just like you. There are several different body shapes (although not enough in my opinion) and tons of clothes/shoes/accessories. Once you create your gal you can have her printed on stationary, cards, and lots of other stuff. I purchased the Print-From-Home so I can make what I want when I want it.

And you know what makes this site so wonderful? They donate 5% of each sale to Breast Cancer Research! This means a lot to me; I have an aunt who died of breast cancer and another who is a survivor.

What are you waiting for? Go on over there and make your gal! And be sure to leave a comment here letting me know what you think about the site.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Like most of you, I've been seeing raves about graphic novels for quite a while now but I (maybe like you?) really wasn't interested in trying one out. Then I began reading about the trend toward memoir writing in this genre and my interest was piqued.

When I read this review of Pyongyang by Guy Delisle I decided that it would be my first foray into the world of graphic novels (and that means it counts toward the Irresistible Review Challenge). The book is Guy's recollections of the two months he spent working in North Korea; it's a humorous - and sometimes sad - look at a highly repressive society.

I had a hard time getting into this book at first ... I kept picking it up and putting it back down again. The other night I decided to sit down and really read for a while and THAT made all the difference. Once I read several pages consecutively - without interuption - I was hooked. I completed the remaining 3/4 of the book before I went to bed.

The biggest thing for me was getting used to the lack of words. What I mean is that I'm used to lots of words on a page, lots of words to convey meaning. In graphic novels the illustrations convey just as much meaning as the words themselves,which seem to be used sparingly. It was hard for me to slow down my reading and take in the pictures, but that's what you have to do in this kind of book.

I wouldn't say that I'm a graphic novel convert but I did enjoy this one. I've ordered another from the library ... we'll see what I think after that one.

If you've reviewed this one, I'd love to post your link here - just let me know.
here's a review from the In Their Shoes Reading Challenge

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Finds - It's the 1st Week!

Jenn at The Book Zone has a new weekly event (starting today!) called Friday Finds. The idea is to share titles of books you’ve learned about during the week. To learn more about it click on the lovely button below.

What I’m going to do each Friday is share the names of books I’ve added to my TBR list over the past week, as well as my reasons for adding them. If you reviewed one of these books this past week it's likely that I added it to my list because of your review, so thanks!

  1. The Heart of the Lion, by Jean Plaidy – historical fiction about the time of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquataine (who I found out through my husband is distantly related to)
  2. The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente – I’m not usually into tales like this but it sounds fascinating
  3. The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry – ‘cause sometimes you just need something light and fun
  4. Too Far From Home, by Chris Jones – it’s non-fiction and I love that
  5. The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan – ‘cause I have a thing for books set in Ireland/Scotland
  6. Backwater, Joan Bauer – like me, the main character is trying to put together a family history
  7. I Have Lived a Thousand Years, by Livia Bitton-Jackson – WWII/Holocaust … need I say more?
  8. In the Woods, Tana French – another one with Ireland as the setting
  9. My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes, essay collection – I loved Azar Nafisi’s book Reading Lolita in Tehran, and she has an essay in here
  10. Tracking trash in the Pribiloff Islands, Loree Griffin Burns – it brought to mind Silent Snow by Marla Cone (a fascinating book!) and it focuses on the area where Deadliest Catch takes place … ‘nuff said
  11. Travels With A Medieval Queen, by Mary Taylor Simeti – historical fiction about a time I know little about
  12. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – ok, this has been on my list but I was reminded of it again this week – make a note to read it sooner rather than later
  13. At Her Majesty's Request, by Walter Dean Myers – true story based on original letters about a African woman living in Queen Victoria’s court
  14. Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti – WWII … can’t get enough of that era
  15. Airman, Eoin Colfer – I miss my fantasy novels and I’ve heard good things about his writing
  16. Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, by Fannie Flagg – it’s by the author of Fried Green Tomatoes!
  17. Finding Nouf by ZoĆ« Ferraris – I’ve heard of it before but the review I read today made it sound fascinating
Ok, now you know why I read so much – I keep adding crazy amounts of books to my TBR list every week!

FYI there were 171 books on my TBR list before this week (now there are 188) , and that doesn’t count the books I actually own, only the ones I need to get my hands on at some point. Nor does it count any books I’ve committed to read for challenges. Yeah, I have a pretty big backlog ...

If you’ve read any of these and either loved them or hated them, please let me know in your comments. Which should I move higher up my list?

Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered my two contests! Without further ado, here are the winners:

My First Book Giveaway Ever

Winner #1 is ... Ti from Book Chatter and Other Stuff. In your comment you said you'd prefer to win Ciao America! - you got it!

Winner #2 is ... The Kea. You were more interested in The Avengers - you got it!

Matters of Faith - win a brand new copy!

And the winner of my second contest is ... Alessandra from Out of the Blue. I'll be pre-ordering a copy of Matters of Faith for you!

Thank you to everyone who entered ... I'm sorry I can't send you ALL a book. Congratulations to my three winners! Please email me with your mailing address so I can get your books on the way to you. My email is SharingMyStory yahoo com (you know, of course, to add the @ and . where needed).

I'll be doing another giveaway soon ... stay tuned!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

King Solomon's Mines

Have you ever seen the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I absolutely love that movie. The one thing that bugged me when I first saw it is that I had no idea who Allan Quartermain was. I always intended to look him up and get the scoop but of course I never did.

Just recently I saw a review at Books 'N Border Collies of King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (published in 1885). The first thing that caught my eye was the name Allan Quartermain; I thought, Cool, now I get to figure out who he is! Then I read this: "Hero Allan Quartermain is the original Indy, minus the snake phobia and whip." Ok, now I've GOT to read this book! I mean, who doesn't love Indiana Jones?!

Plus, this book counts toward the Irresistible Review Challenge AND the 1% Well Read Challenge - even more reason to read it ASAP.

Following the advice of the reviewer, I read the book online at Project Gutenberg. Ok, ok, so I printed it out (using very small font to save space) and read it on paper ... online reading just gives me a headache after a while. This is an excellent resource for cheap (read FREE) reading thrills - go check it out!

One site I found summarizes the book this way:
Improbable and fable-like, the story tells of English adventurers who travel to the interior of a remote African country, a vanished empire with legends of lost treasure.
That's a pretty good summary, really. Of course there is much more to the book than that, but that IS the basic idea. I also found this tidbit of info which I thought was fascinating. Cool, huh?

I had some issues with the first several chapters of this book. The problem for me comes when I read older books (keep in mind this was published in 1885) and find myself judging the characters by modern standards.

Allan Quartermain's job is hunting elephants. Ugh. With all we know about these majestic animals today, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to kill them; reading about it in some detail was really depressing. I tried to remember that people thought differently in those days but it didn't help all that much.

Then we have the relationships between the white/European characters and the black/native African characters. Racism was part of life when this book was written but again, I'm looking back on it with "modern" eyes and it's pretty sad. Most of the black African characters were stereotypical, as were the white Europeans and white Africans.

However, that being said, it was when Quartermain and his companions get where they're going the story really got entertaining for me and I found it hard to put down. There's nothing in here that is completely surprising but it is still fascinating and exciting all the same. The author's use of language - although somewhat antiquated - was very entertaining. The book is written as a letter from Quartermain in Africa to his son in England; it's full of side notes and PS-type items that Quartermain throws in from time to time to shed light on his story. Plus, Quartermain has that dry sense of humor that I appreciate.

On the whole I truly enjoyed it and am glad that I read it. I don't know if I'd agree that Quartermain = Indy, but he's still lots of fun to read.

And for those of you who are, like me, huge Indy fans, check out the 19 Things We Learned from Indiana Jones. My favorites are #5 & #12 ... which are yours?

As always, if you've read and reviewed this book please comment with your link and I'll add it to my post.
Puss Reboots has a review ... and others?

Today is the FINAL DAY to enter the two contests I'm running! Winners will be announced tomorrow morning so be sure you've got your name in. Click here and here to enter.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Reading Thing ... I'm IN!

Not that I need to join any more challenges or anything like that ... but THIS one is different ... really. I mean it. Don't you believe me? (imagine me batting my eyes very sweetly ... is it working?!)

The reason I'm joining this challenge is that I can choose any books I want to read - I just have to set a goal and list it here. That's the whole challenge!

Here are my goals:
  1. complete the Irresistible Review Challenge
  2. complete the Historical Fiction Challenge
  3. read and review the following books I've promised to review for authors and publishers
  • Matrimony, by Joshua Henkin (in progress now)
  • Live Your Road Trip Dream, by Phil & Carol White
  • Maggie Again, by John Husband
  • Castaway Kid, by Rob Mitchell (in the mail to me now)
  • Why the Wind Blows, by Matthys Levy
The challenge ends on Sept. 21; according to the list above, I need to read 11 books between now and then - a completely reasonable goal.

Get in on this challenge and set your own summer reading goals! Click on the Summer Reading Button above to go to the main site and sign up. Happy Reading!

Oh, by the way, there's still time to enter the two contests I'm running right now! I'll announce the winners on Friday so be sure you've got your name in. Click here and here to enter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My First Blogging Award!

Thanks to My Friend Amy, I am now the proud owner of the Share the Love Blog Award. She gave it to me for being one of those commenters who "make the hobby of blogging so much fun." Wow, thanks Amy!

This award was created by the mom of a lovely little boy who received a life-saving heart transplant. You can read her story here. Her purpose in creating this award is to bring attention to organ donation by sharing the bloggy love.

So in the spirit of the award, I'm passing it on to a few of my favorite bloggers...

First, I'm passing this to Books on the Brain. This is one of the very first book blogs I found and it inspired me to expand my plans for my own blog, to make it something that people other than just me would enjoy reading.

Second, this award goes to Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? Trish gave me tons of help improving my blog whenever I asked her, and she's just a great bloggy friend. Plus she just got married so there's LOTS of love to go around over there!

I'm also giving this to Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm. Her blog is full of beautiful pictures that brighten my days, and she also has fantastic recipes and occasional book reviews. Visiting her site is a highlight of my blog-reading day.

And finally, I'm passing this on to my in-real-life friend (and fellow book club member) Jessica over at Emerging from the Cocoon. Jess could use some love right about now ... her first child, Caroline, was born still eight months ago. Please keep her and her husband in your prayers.

Thank you to these four wonderful bloggers - I love you all for different bloggy reasons. And to all my other blogging friends, you are wonderful as well! Thanks for the great posts and comments ... you ALL make blogging a great thing.

NOTE: For my lovely recipients, the only "rule" is that you must link back to this post (the one about little Noah) whenever you write about this award.

Monday, June 23, 2008


First off, I added a link in the upper left sidebar to all the books my book club has read. The link takes you to a list of books. From there, if you click on the title or author it takes you to my book club's blog where you'll find a recap of our meeting. You won't find a traditional book review, but you WILL find random thoughts from the group and often, discussion questions or links to additional info.

Second, I just figured out that Blogger has a new feature. If you use Google Reader you can import ALL the blogs you read into your Blog roll in one quick & easy step! I've been putting off updating my Blog roll because it takes so long - now I'm glad I waited because this was SO simple. So now YOU can check out all the people that I'M checking out every day.

Third and finally, although I don't usually mention NEWS type items here, this story absolutely floored me. Please read it if you haven't already. I mean, I KNOW teens think they know everything - I certainly thought so when I was a teen - but these girls have no idea what they've gotten themselves into! My son is 6, and I had him when I was 24. It is a tough job, being a parent; I wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything, but it IS really hard ... and tiring ... and time-consuming ... and life-changing ... and ... and .. and ...

I do hope that reporters follow this story for the next 10+ years ... I wish the girls the very best, but I'm afraid to see how things turn out down the road ...

Update on NaComLeavMo

To all my regular readers, I'll be back to my bookish posts soon!

June 25th marks the end of NaComLeavMo. Whew! I really enjoyed it but it's a LOT of work and I need a break. For those who don't know, it's basically a month of visiting new blogs and leaving comments ... and it is ridiculously addicting!

Like I mentioned before, there are MANY infertility bloggers participating - logically, since it was started by someone "in the trenches" - which is sometimes difficult for me (since I had my own infertility issues) but still, I'm glad took part.

This post will be sort of a wrap up for NaComLeavMo, a chance for me to say a lot of the things that crossed my mind during the month.

First off, many people dropped by who don't usually visit my blog, and most of them aren't book bloggers. Do you want to know the comment I heard most often? "Oh, I wish I had the time to read ... it's so relaxing but I'm just too busy." This comment drives me crazy. I mean, do they think I'm not busy? I have a 6 yr old boy and a husband, I work full time, am involved in my church, run scrapbook workshops every month, am part of a big family who loves to get together, and in general I have a life. Yet I still find time to read - and to read a lot - because it is a priority for me. Ok, that's my only rant ... the rest of this post is productive info! ~LOL~

The biggest issue that I was reminded of during NaComLeavMo is that people can be REALLY insensitive to each other. The bloggers I met were very lovely and kind. However pretty much every one of them has experienced some degree of insensitivity relating to their infertility. Read on to see what I mean ...

We all know people say STUPID things sometimes. All of us have some particular issue in our lives that other people just don't get. Currently, my big issue is my son's food allergies (check out my previous post for details). But I also deal with infertility issues. At this point, hubby and I are not trying any more medical treatments and have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will not have any more children ... and we're ok with that. We STILL get insensitive comments though. As a public service to other infertile women out there, here's a primer on the do's and don'ts of what to say in regard to several big issues:
  • the "baby question" - no, it is not always ok to ask someone if or when they plan to have children - click here for an excellent guide to the do's and don'ts - and here is another take on the same matter - and here's one for those of you who love sarcasm
  • miscarriage - for those of you who know someone who has lost a child, click here for some excellent advice on what to say and what not to say (this applies to anyone dealing with any type of loss) - also, don't assume that because a woman doesn't have any children, that's she's never been pregnant ... many women are mourning the loss of their unborn children but you'd never know it, because it's a difficult subject to talk about
If you really want to be informed about the issue of infertility, please watch the video below. It's a bit long but includes excellent info that most people just don't know. I wish I had this video to share with friends/family when I was going through fertility treatments.

Ok, that's probably about enough for now. This blog is supposed to be about BOOKS after all!

Thanks again to Mel for putting together NaComLeavMo. If you'd like to participate, the new format will be IComLeavWe - a WEEK of comment-leaving once a month, which seems much easier! I hope we'll have even more participants from the farthest reaches of the blogosphere. In the meantime, find a good book and get reading!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Weekly Geeks #9 and Show & Tell

This week on Weekly Geeks our challenge is to update our challenges! And since it's Show & Tell day today, I thought "Why not share this with the rest of the class?"

For those of you unfamiliar with reading challenges, the idea is to commit to read a specific number of books with a specific theme within a set amount of time. The reasons people sign up for challenges vary - I'll give you my reasons as I update you on my challenges. Oh, and if you'd like to read the reviews I've written for any of the books I've completed so far, just click here.

Here are the 4 challenges I'm involved in, in order by ending date. Click on the challenge logos to link to the challenge host sites.

#1: Irresistible Review Challenge

This challenge just makes sense to me. The idea is to read books that you wouldn't have decided to read had it not been for another bloggers excellent review. So really, it just means actually committing to read some of the books I've been adding to my TBR list.

Completion Date:
September 1, 2008

Completed Books: 2
Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams
Stone Creek, by Victoria Lustbader

Completed Books: 1
King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Completed Books: 5
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Life is So Good, by George Dawson
Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
and one more TBD

#2: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge


This is the very first challenge I ever signed up for. Why? I figured it would be easy, since much of what I want to read fits into this challenge.

Completion Date: October 1, 2008

Completed Books: 5

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
The Good Earth, Pearl Buck
Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
Cane River, Lalita Tademy
Water for Elephants, Sarah Gruen

To Be Read: 1
Cannery Row, John Stienbeck

#3: "Lost" Books Challenge

My Friend Amy

I absolutely LOVE the tv show Lost, so I had to join this challenge. Even though I'm only just now starting Season 3 I'm completely addicted! I'm hoping that reading some of these books (which were all mentioned on the show at some point) will give me further insight into the complexity of the show.

Completion Date: December 31, 2008

Completed Books: 0

To Be Read: 5

The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
Island, Aldous Huxley
Moby Dick, Hermann Melville
The Mysterious Island, Julies Verne
The Survivors of the Chancellor, Jules Verne

#4: 1% Well Read Challenge

As I mention in my left sidebar, the list of 1,001 books you must read before you die seems a bit daunting to me. This challenge makes the list much more doable - you only have to read 10% of the list! And since there are so many interesting books on the list I'm up for THIS challenge.

Completion Date:
February 28, 2009

Completed Books: 0

In Progress: 2

King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard
Some Experiences of an Irish RM, E. Somerville

To Be Read: 8
The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie
Delta of Venua, Anais Nin
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Phineas Finn, Anthony Trollope

The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, Paul Gallico

100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

- I'm giving myself alternates on this one, just in case ...
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Herzog, Saul Bellow
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

So that's my update. I'm pretty sure I can complete all these book on schedule ... wish me luck!

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Lost Challenge List

My Friend Amy

My Friend Amy is hosting a challenge based on the (EXCELLENT) tv show, Lost. I've been waiting to choose my books because the book list was located on a site that talks about Season 4 ... and I'm only on Season 3! Luckily for me, Amy posted the list on HER site today - yeah!

Here are the books I've chosen to read:
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Island by Aldous Huxley
  • Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
  • The Mysterious Island by Julies Verne
  • The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne
Of course, there are others on the list I'd like to read as well. I haven't decided if I'll add extras or just hope that Amy does a 2nd round of this challenge in 2009 ...

FYI here's the list, excluding the ones I chose to read. If it's highlighted in yellow, I've already read it. If it's highlighted in blue, I've seen the movie.

Are you There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume - I grew up on this one.
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Lancelot: A Novel by Walker Percy
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Watership Down by Richard Adams - this completely depresses me
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - a CLASSIC!
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Bad Twin by Gary Troup
After All These Years by Susan Isaacs
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dirty Work by Stuart Woods
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
Hindsight by Peter Wright
Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy
The Third Policeman by Flan O'Brien
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - one of my all time favorites
Stranger in a Strange Land by Roger Heinlein
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye - the whole series is fascinating
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Carrie by Stephen King
The Oath by John Lescroart
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
An English Interpretation of the Holy Quran
Valis by Philip K. Dick
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Prey by Michael Crichton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - loved this in high school
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - my husband's favorite book
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
NIV Holy Bible
The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne
The Chronicles of Narnia
Dark Horse by Tami Hoag
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Hotel by Arthur Hai
The Stand by Stephen King
Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Shining by Stephen King
The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells
Rick Romer's Vision of Astrology
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Manservant and Maidservant by Ivy Compton Burnet

Thursday, June 19, 2008

List of Everything I've Reviewed

For the past few months, I've had a list in my sidebar of all the books I've reviewed on my blog. It was getting a bit out of hand (as in, taking up the majority of my sidebar) so today I got rid of it. *gasp*

But fear not - I wouldn't just callously remove such a wonderful resource!

Instead I created a listing of all the books I've reviewed - sorted by title and by author - in a separate post. You can get to the list by clicking on the link near the top of my left sidebar, or just by clicking here. I'll continue to update it whenever I finish a new book.

I'm going to add a separate link (within the next few days) to the books my book club has read. Of course if you are impatient to see that list you can always click over to my book club's blog and check out the list there.

REMINDER: There are just 7 more days to enter for a chance to win one of three books I'm giving away! Links to the contests can be found at the top of my right sidebar. Good luck!

UPDATE: AAHH! I just realized that this is my 100th post! So much for planning to do something really cool ... ~LOL~

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mom & Son Book Club #2, Giveaway Reminders, and Today is Special!

Mom & Son Book Club #2

On Monday night kiddo and I held our 2nd Mom & Son Book Club. This time he chose a book I brought home from the library called The Prairie Fire, by Marilynn Reynolds.

After we finished reading I asked kiddo if he liked it and he said yes. Yea! This is a great improvement because lately all I've gotten is "it's ok."

I liked this book because it actually has real content. Kiddo and I talked about what a fireguard is, what oxen are, how in "old times" people didn't have running water to put out fires, and why you'd want to blindfold a horse during a fire.

His favorite part was the very last page where Percy's dad lets him come along to help, treating him like a grown man rather than a boy. His least favorite part was when the family hugged each other after the fire was over, because they were all dirty and kiddo said Percy looked like he was burned.

On the subject of recommending this to his friends kiddo was uncertain. He really liked it but he wasn't sure his friends would.

As a side note, I'm LOVING this book club thing with kiddo. My husband thinks it's funny/adorable/silly/sweet, and kiddo and I really look forward to picking out our books and reading together. What fun!


Just a few reminders about the THREE books I'm giving away right now.

- Win a copy of Matters of Faith, by Kris
ty Kiernan! Click here to read my interview with the author and find out how to win this book. Drawing to be held on June 27.
- Win a copy of The Avengers, or Ciao America!, two of my favorite books from this past year. Click here for more info on how to win. Drawing to be held on June 27.

Today is Special

Back in 1995, just after I graduated from high school, I met the man (boy? he was only 20 then...) who would become my husband. Today, June 18, marks the 13th anniversary of our first date. Hubby and kiddo are meeting me for lunch today, but I don't think hubby remembers what today is; he'll be pleasantly surprised when I remind him. ;)

Next month we'll celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary - go us!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Interview with author Kristy Kiernan & Giveaway

UPDATE: This contest is closed as of June 27. The winner is Alessandra from Out of the Blue. I'll be pre-ordering a copy of Matters of Faith for you!

Author Kristy Kiernan was kind enough to send me the very last ARC of her new book, Matters of Faith - thanks Kristy! I posted my review yesterday (click here to read it) and today I'm
thrilled to share her answers to my many questions. And don't worry, there are no spoilers here (or in my review)! [Scroll to the very end of this post for info on how to win a free copy of this book!]

Heather: At first I felt like what happened with Marshall/Ada/Meghan was really far-fetched; it just came out of the blue and I found it hard to believe. But as the book progressed and I learned more about Ada's background and Marshall's desperate search for "truth" everything started to make sense. Was it your goal for readers to be completely surprised at the beginning of the book, or did you think they would “see it coming”?

Kristy: In real life I rarely know the background of the people around me, and frankly, they constantly surprise me, and not always in good ways. But I've found that as I get to know them better, get to know about their childhood, their parents, how they were raised, I find myself making connections to how they've behaved as an adult, or, in the case of Marshall and Ada, young adult. I tend to write the same way I experience life, and the way I believe most other people, women especially, experience life. I definitely wanted the writer to wonder what was going on with them, perhaps to even dislike them, but to, hopefully, once they found out about their backgrounds, begin to empathize with them.

Heather: What led you to create a main character with food allergies? Do you have any personal experiences with this?

Kristy: I've known that I would write about a child with food allergies for several years after I, and millions of other people, read and was horrified over the case of Christina Desforges of Quebec. It had originally been reported that Christina, who had a peanut allergy, died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten peanut butter on toast earlier in the day. Months later it was announced that she had died of asthma related causes, but I had already internalized the story and done research about exactly how sensitive these allergies are. After learning more about it, I couldn't get over how any parent could even let their child out of the house, much less out of their sight. But of course you have to, you have to let them live their lives, don't you? [Heather's note: click here to read more about Christina Desforges]

Heather: Chloe both embraces the growth she sees in her children and dreads it at the same time. I could so relate to that! Have you experienced this in your own life, or are you just that good at intuiting what moms are feeling? Or maybe a little of both?

Kristy: I'm just that good! No, really, a lot of people are surprised to learn that I don't have children, but I remind them that I was a very perceptive child, and I had a mother. I've also watched most of my friends raise their children, and I think in many ways that objectivity is helpful. I'm still a woman, I still have great empathy for children, for their pain in trying to become their own people, and for their parents, who have to let go at some point.

Heather: You describe the crumbling relationship between Chloe and Cal with amazing detail. I didn’t sense any real animosity or blame between them, but rather a lack of trying. Do you think this is how many marriages fall apart? Or is this an exception to the rule?

Kristy: My husband and I have reached an age where we're seeing a lot of the people who got together around the same time we did breaking up, or simply no longer invested in the relationship. It breaks my heart, because I've often noticed the decline in a thousand small ways throughout the relationship. The little things add up, the small slights, the opportunities to be kind that are ignored, the daily loss of respect. Gosh, it sounds like all I do is watch my friends and then write about it, doesn't it? I promise you can be my friend and I won't write about you! It's more that these small examples are part of a larger picture going on in marriages all over. I'm fascinated by how long-term relationships work, or don't, and I try to be very conscious of not letting things slide in my own relationship. I'm sure there are things I'm missing!

Heather: The points of view you use in this book were somewhat unique. Parts of the story are told by Chloe in a 1st person narrative; other parts are told by a 3rd person narrator who relates what’s going on with Marshall. What was your reason for telling the story this way?

Kristy: It all had to do with how they were experiencing life. For Chloe, it was all right there, personal, immediate, and so 1st person seemed the natural choice. Plus I felt that I had a natural connection with her, being a woman and near in age. With Marshall, for me, he was still half-formed in his own mind, there was more distance, and therefore there was less of a personal connection with me, and the reader, thus the distance of 3rd person.

Heather: Some authors “write what they know” while others thoroughly research a topic/location/etc. before writing. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Kristy: I'm both! I write books set in Florida, mostly on the west coast. I came here when I was an infant, I grew up on the beaches all up and down the southwest coast, and as an adult I've explored northwest Florida, so this I know, I know it back and forth and inside out. What's more, and what I hope comes across in my books, is that despite Florida's many flaws, the overcrowding, the overbuilding, I still love it with a real passion. So that's writing what I know. I know relationships, I know weakness and strength, I know estranged families and bitter siblings and anger, and I also know deep, abiding, and joyful love, and I know humor. I guess you could say I know the emotional pieces of my books, and the settings. What I rarely know are the interesting things my characters know: music, math, genius, art, food allergies, fishing, boats, medicine. And those things I am desperate to get right, and so I research heavily. Ninety percent of my research never winds up in the book, but I hope it comes across in some sort of knowledgeable undertone.

Heather: Were there any particular challenges for you in writing Matters of Faith? How long did it take to complete?

Kristy: Matters of Faith was very similar in actual writing time to the rest of my books. It took about five months of fingers to keyboard, but I tend to THINK forever, usually years. About a year before I'm really ready to write I'm making notes. Once I have an opening scene, or an opening line, I start, get about a quarter of the way through, then stop, do a synopsis, tweak it, and then revise the first quarter, and then for heaven's sake don't even try to talk to me because my head's down and I'm going for the next several months. In fact, I'm at that point on my next book!

My main challenge in writing Matters of Faith was to be authentic enough to be respectful of the families who are dealing with food allergies. I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to people with food allergies, and did a tremendous amount of online research. FAAN, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network ( was very helpful. These are families who have to let their children out in the world every single day, knowing full well that someone who's either ignorant or simply doesn't believe that the issue is as serious as it is, could kill their child.

Heather: Not having read your first book, Catching Genius (sorry!), can you tell me how it differs or is similar to Matters of Faith?

Kristy: I'm a bad judge of this! They're sort of all life, to me. They're both set in Florida, both deal with a family in crisis, with missed connections and opportunities. Catching Genius was an exploration of a sibling relationship, and Matters of Faith is more about the parent/son relationship.

Heather: Are you a part of a book club, or have you ever been?

Kristy: I am! And I love it, and, in fact, I just recently blogged for Reading Group Guides, thanks to the divine Carol Fitzgerald, about this very thing. Heather, could you link to that post, please?
[Heather's note: just click here to go to Kristy's post. FYI, I "met" Kristy when I commented on that post.]

Heather: Do you have any plans for book signings for Matters of Faith? Where can my readers meet you?

Kristy: Since I'm in that major head-down-ignoring-everything-else-in-my-life phase of the new book, I've been woefully neglectful of setting up appearances. However, I do have some booked, and in the next weeks I expect to start getting pretty filled up. The book is out August 5th, so between now and then I'll be adding dates every week. My schedule appears on the right side of the News & Appearances page of my website (, so check often, and though I don't post every day, my blog at Red Room ( will have information on it also.

Heather, thank you so much for such great questions and for your thoughtful review of Matters of Faith. It's been a pleasure. I'll check in over the next day or two to see if there are any questions for me in the comments section, so readers, do feel free to post some!


And a big THANK YOU to Kristy for the ARC and for this interview. I love the fact that I get to bring new books and authors to the attention of my readers, especially when the book is as good as this one!

Readers, please post your comments or questions for Kristy, and remember that Matters of Faith is available for preorder through right now.

And because I enjoyed this book so much, I'm going to preorder a copy for one lucky reader! Everyone who posts a comment is eligible to win, and if you mention this giveaway on your blog I'll double your chances.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Matters of Faith, by Kristy Kiernan

I just finished reading an ARC of Kristy Kiernan’s new book, Matters of Faith. I’m having a hard time summarizing this book, so I’m going to rely on this excellent blurb from Publishers Weekly:

In this tense, well-paced novel about belief, Kiernan explores what happens when faith and love test the limits of family fealty. In southwest Florida, college student Marshall Tobias is in search of something to believe in. He thinks he’s found God and the woman he’s always dreamed of when he falls in love with fundamentalist believer Ada Sparks. But Ada’s against medical intervention for illness, and tragedy results when she sets out to “help” Marshall’s 12-year-old sister, Meghan, overcome her life-threatening allergies. Switching points-of-view between Marshall and his mother, Chloe, Kiernan (Catching Genius) movingly portrays a 20-year-old marriage gone flat and torn apart by crisis, a troubled son, a daughter hovering between life and death, and the hard-to-discern boundaries between true faith and unhealthy fanaticism. She handles her difficult material respectfully. Most interesting is her portrayal of the well-meaning traps parents fall into when encouraging open-ended exploration of faith without context, or choosing to remain silent. The thoughtful themes, interesting characters and page-turning drama of this novel will likely make it a book club favorite.

Honestly, the reason I decided to read this book is because of my son’s food allergies (click here to read more about this); I thought than any book touching on this topic deserves a chance from me. Of course, this book isn’t a novel of food allergies (thankfully!) – it’s an intimate look at one family dealing with multiple crises all at once.

As I thought about this book and how to explain it – without too many spoilers! – I found myself thinking of the recent tragedy in Steven Curtis Chapman’s family. The situation in Kiernan’s book is not the same, but the parents in both situations are facing the same reality: harm has come to one of their children as direct result of another of their children. How you deal with life from that point on is one of the main ideas in Matters of Faith.

Kiernan’s real strength is in her description of the emotional issues the characters – but mostly Chloe - face. As I read through the book I found myself over and over saying “yes! I know exactly how that feels!” The way a mom looks at her children and is both proud and heartbroken over the way they’ve grown up so quickly, how a married couple can “read” each other after so many years of being together and expect their spouse to respond appropriately, how what we see as patience with our spouse can often in reality be a passive battle to see who outlasts the other, the recklessness of being a teenager in love believing that THIS love can see you through anything … all this and so much more is what Kiernan makes you feel in this book.

I read recently that readers are looking for one of three things in a book: to think, to learn, or to feel.* Matters of Faith is definitely a book that will make you feel.

I'll be posting an interview with Kristy Kiernan within the next few days. If you have any questions about Matters of Faith, or her first novel, Catching Genius, please post them in the comment section and I'll be sure to ask them for you. Matters of Faith will be released on August 5 but you can preorder it on now.

And as always, if you decide to read this book please give me the link to your review and I'll post it here.

UPDATE: Click here to read my interview with Kristy!

* According to the current results of the poll at, the majority of readers want to think or feel. I’m in the minority because I read mostly to learn. Hey, me in the minority … that’s nothing new!

Contests and Upcoming Review and Author Interview

Are you a Stephanie Meyer fan? I wasn't ... at least not until I saw the movie trailer for Twilight! Natasha over at Maw Books has a FANTASTIC contest going on right now where you can will ALL of Stephanie's books plus lots of other goodies. Check it out here, and be sure to tell her you heard about the contest here! :)

Her contest sure makes mine seem paltry! But with MY contest you have a great chance to win because there are fewer entries - so click here to get in on the action ... and good luck!

I just finished reading Matters of Faith by Kristy Kiernan; I'll have my review up either today or tomorrow. After that I'll be posting an interview with Kristy! If you have any questions about her first novel, Catching Genius, or this new one, please let me know and I'll ask them for you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Show & Tell

In keeping with the bookish theme of my blog I'm doing book-related Show & Tell again this week. :)

Back in the early days of my book club we read Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees (click here for our rating of this book). We had lots of fun with the meeting on this book and I think that everyone enjoyed reading it.

So of course I was very excited to hear that they've making it into a movie! Here's what the author's website has to say about it:

Movie production begins for
The Secret Life of Bees

Fox Searchlight began principal filming for the screen adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees on January 9th in North Carolina.

Written and directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood, the movie stars Dakota Fanning as Lily Owens and Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson as her caretaker and "stand-in" mother, Rosaleen. The two soon discover a trio of beekeeping sisters played by Queen Latifah (August), Alicia Keys (June) and Sophie Okonedo (May). Completing the cast is Paul Bettany as T. Ray, Tristan Wilds (Zach), Nate Parker (Neil) and Hilarie Burton (Deborah).

Producing for The Donner's Company are Lauren Shuler Donner and Jack Leslie and for Overbrook Entertainment, Will Smith and James Lassiter. Joe Pichirallo will also produce.

In theaters on October 17, 2008
I'll be setting up a Girls Night Out to see this movie in October (our last movie night was for The Other Boleyn Girl). If you're anywhere in the Baltimore/Annapolis area you're welcome to join us! Drop me a line and I'll email you when we go. :)

UPDATE on NOV. 7, 2008: We went to the movie! Here's my recap post.

Weekly Geeks #8

This week on the Weekly Geeks it's Scavenger Hunt time. Unfortunately for me I just don't have the time to do this. But if you're up for a challenge click here to participate - there's even a cool prize for the winner!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Children's Books, Harry Potter, Lost, and other Randomness

Thanks to Book Chatter for turning me on to this cool link on Paper Cuts. Anyone who loves children's books or needs to shop for them should definitely check it out!

Harry Potter fans - check out the VERY BRIEF prequel that JK Rowling did for a charity event. Read ABOUT it here, and actually READ it here. It's very short but cool all the same.

As a side note, I've finally let kiddo watch the Harry Potter movies without fast forwarding anything. Out of all the movies, do you know the only two things that even partly give him the creeps? The basilisk (giant snake) in movie 2 and the creepy mer-people in movie 4. He's much braver than I am!

My Friend Amy has a great new challenge going on that ties in with one of my favorite shows, Lost. Click on the button to check it out. The challenge includes 5 books and we have until the end of the year to read them, so I'm definitely in ... piece-of-cake!
My Friend Amy

FYI, I've only watched the first two seasons so PLEASE no one drop any hints about what happens next. And no, I don't know which books I'll be reading yet but I DO know I'll be participating.

Blog help needed - again! This time I want to know how to make a tag cloud. I actually don't like them all that much but my tag list is getting out of hand ... I mean, it takes up A LOT of my right sidebar. So can anyone tell me how to do the cloud thing?!

And of course, here's my daily reminder about my book giveaway - don't forget to enter! I'll give an extra entry to you if you help with the tag cloud thing. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Book Club is Famous!

Ok, well maybe not famous, but we ARE getting some hometown attention!

The Baltimore Sun newspaper recently started a book blog and they contacted me because they wanted to profile my book club on their blog. According to one of the editors, my book club blog "is the best one I've ever seen!". Cool, huh? Click here to read what they wrote.

I also have a new post up at It's dated June 13, in case you click the link after today. This is my first post since I became an "Official Contributor". The post is about my book club's recent meeting and how we don't know how to be quiet ... I think you'll enjoy it!

Hey, did you notice my new layout? What to you think? I asked Kristi at Passion for the Page for help setting up a 3 column layout and she directed me here (this site is only useful for those of us using blogger). Thanks Kristi! It was pretty easy to do once I got the hang of it. Please, dear readers, let me know what you think - does this make my site easier to read? harder? more balanced? etc. I'd love your input.

Don't forget to enter my monthly book giveaway!
Click here for the details.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mom & Son Book Club #1

I've been reading lots of other blogs lately (no, really?!) and several times I've come across Mother/Daughter book clubs. Each time I do, I find myself wishing I had a daughter or even a niece so I could start a cool club like that. It look me forever to realize the simple fact that I have a son who likes to read with me and that we could do our own Mother/Son book club - duh!

My son is 6 and just finished Kindergarten. He knows about my book club although he doesn't like the fact that I leave him home when I go to the meetings. He also knows about this blog and loves it when I post stuff about him (like here, here, and here). So the other night I asked him, "How would you like to have our own little book club, just you and me? We can take turns picking books to read, then I can write what you think on my blog." The smile on his face was priceless!!!

Tonight we kicked off our little club with two books, one picked by each of us. At the end of each book I asked him a few questions that I hoped would spark some discussion:
  • Did you like this book?
  • What was your favorite part?
  • What was your least favorite part?
  • Would you recommend it to your friends?
For our first book I chose a one that belonged to me when I was a child, The Horse in Harry's Room, by Syd Hoff. I have the original edition from 1970. Kiddo was a bit disappointed by the sketch-style illustrations; he would have like more color. Half-way through the book I asked him if the Harry's horse was imaginary and he said "No, but it can be invisible when it needs to be." His favorite illustration was the cover, and his least favorite was the horses in the field. It seems that he like the "invisible" horse much better than the real ones.

Next it was kiddo's turn to pick. He chose Star Wars: Episode I, Play-a-Sound book. Now if you knew kiddo this would be no surprise; he's absolutely fanatical about anything Star Wars. [When we decided to do the Mother/Son book club I made a rule that he can't choose Star Wars books all the time, but since this was our first time I made an exception. Also, this book is one of those where you push the buttons during the story and it makes sounds that match what's going on. I really didn't want to do this type of book for our club but oh well - I made another exception! Besides, I'm giving this book away to my nephew next week so this will be kiddo's last chance to read it although he doesn't know that yet.] Of course he loved this book. His favorite part is when Qui-Gon, Jar-Jar, Padme, and R2-D2 go to Watto's shop and meet Anakin. His least favorite part is when Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar-Jar are being chased through the swamp by the battle droids. When I asked why, he said "there's too much detail for me ... there's too much going on in the picture." I found that rather intriguing - who knew you could put too much in an illustration? Kiddo says he would recommend this book to his friends but only if they like Star Wars.

All in all I'm very pleased with our new Mother/Son book club. What do you all think? Do you like the idea? I'd love to hear some book suggestions from all of you. Which books do you think are "must reads" for a 6 year old boy? Any and all tip, suggestions, and comments are welcome!
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