Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Inspiring ... Who Knew?!

Yesterday two different commentors both let me know that reading my blog inspired them to start their own book blogs. How cool is that?! Please click over to their new sites and welcome them to the wonderful world of book blogging:
Book-a-holic is blogging for the first time - you go girl! She's looking for suggestions on what to read ... I'm sure none of you can help with that. {sense the sarcasm there?!}

Books in Every Room already blogs about her family but now she's got a site dedicated solely to books. So far she's reviewed books for toddlers, tweens, and adults ... impressive.
I'm so excited about these new bloggers!


Did you see what My Friend Amy has up on her blog today?! It's the first preview I've seen for the next Harry Potter movie! WOOHOO!!!! Click here to go check it out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Are On Our Own

The true story of a Jewish woman and her young daughter who flee their home in 1944 and spend the next year hiding in small villages, surviving however they can.

Sound like something you'd read? What if I told you it was a graphic novel?

A few months back I heard about the graphic novel We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin and I knew I had to read it. Writing memoirs in graphic format seems to be "the thing to do" at the moment, have you noticed?

I thought this book would be fascinating and it surely was. The story is told simply but the black and white illustrations convey so much! I especially like how the author inserts a few colorful pages that depict her life as an adult; this provided a reprieve from the starkness of the rest of the book and also gave insight into the woman she grew to be.

In my experience, there are two types of Jewish memoirs that came out of WWII: those that say God does not exist, and those that say He is always there. Would you agree with that assessment? This book is one of the former. Miriam comes to believe that God is just a story for children and she teaches that to her own child later on. To me, that is the most heartbreaking part of the entire story.

This is only the 2nd graphic novel I've read and I highly recommend it. The story is fascinating, the illustrations grab your attention, and it is a very quick read (I finished in in one evening). Definitely a great intro into the world of graphic novels.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's On Your Nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand? is a new monthly activity over at 5 Minutes for Books. Go on over and check it out! This is the very first month and I'm excited to participate.

I've been reading a LOT lately, but work/home/life-in-general has been very busy and I haven't had time to FINISH books or write reviews. So I'm going to share with you the books that are stashed in my bed, in my bathroom, in my car, in my bag ... all of which I'm reading right now.
  • In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) - This is the one I'm really working on right now. I read it on my lunch break and before bed ... it goes wherever I go.

  • Why the Wind Blows (Matthys Levy) - I keep this on at work in case I forget book #1.

  • Delta of Venus (Anias Nin) - This one deserves a post all of it's own ... it's the first erotica I've ever read (and it's for the 1% Well Read Challenge too!). Oh my, oh my, oh my ... you'll just have to wait for my review for more details. I keep this one around the house and only read it occasionally - it's not an "every day" book!

  • Some Experiences of an Irish RM (E. Somerville) - I keep this one in the bathroom. Sometime I even read it while brushing my teeth.

  • Dracula (Bram Stoker) - This one is laying around the house somewhere. It's the lowest priority on the list right now but I have started it.

  • 12,000 Miles In the Nick of Time (Mark & Rae Jacobson) - I started this one but put it aside ... it's calling to me but I just don't have time to pick it up right now.

  • Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) - I actually finished this one last week but haven't done my review yet. My book club is discussing it on Aug. 3 and I'm participating in an online book club on Aug. 18 so I'll wait until then to post my thoughts.
What's on YOUR nightstand?

A "Brillante" Award

It’s lovely to hear nice things about yourself, don’t you think? I received this wonderful award from no less than THREE bloggers … all on the same day! Here’s what they each had to say:

BookingMama: I love Heather's reviews! I think she's spot on with her thoughts about books. Besides books, we also have something in common -- a young son with severe food allergies.

Just a (Reading) Fool: I don’t know what’s going to happen to the name when she turns 31 on Nov. 4, but I sure hope she keep sharing her list of all the books she reads (or listens to). It’s been lots of fun for us too, Heather.

Out of the Blue: Heather's project is to keep a list of the book she reads during her 30th year of life. Her reviews are good, her giveaways are exciting, and I won a book from her--plus I always enjoy her Mom& Son Book Club.

Thank you all - I love you, love you, love you! I'll be showcasing my Brillante Award in my left sidebar ... please come by to ooh and ahh. :)

This award is meant to be passed on to seven new bloggers. It seems I’ve been handing out awards like crazy lately, but there are about 90 blogs on my blogroll and most of them have never been awarded anything by me. So here is my list:

My first two awards go to Challenge Blogs (is that weird?) ...

  • The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge Blog – run by Annie in Australia, this is the first challenge I participated in. The blog is a place to gather reviews from all the participants and make it easy to see what everything is reading. Each review should follow the format set by Annie; this structure allows readers to quickly see whether or not they’d enjoy a particular book.

  • "In Their Shoes" Reading Challenge Blog – I don’t know who runs this one, but the entire idea of the challenge is wonderful. I love that there is a blog to keep the reviews in one place, and that this is an annual project – I’ll be joining next year for sure!

These get awards because they’re fun to read ...

  • Ranger Sarah – she’s currently LIVING in Yellowstone National Park! She posts fabulous pictures from the trails she hikes and in general gives a unique view of the park. When she’s back home, she knits, reads, bikes, and blogs about all of it.

  • A Lady Scientist – she’s a bit busy right now attending Major European Conference on the Emerald Isle. I love reading her posts about lab experiments, scientists, grad school, and life in general ... since I know next to nothing about science. I especially love the nicknames she assigns to everyone and everything.

  • Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage! - chartroose has received several awards in recent weeks and it's no wonder - she's frickin' hysterical! I love her sense of humor and always get (at the very least) a smile from her posts. Plus she went on a Christian Bale kick last week and we all know he's sexy.
And these get awards JUST BECAUSE I CAN ...
  • There's Hope - After coming across this blog and commenting a few times we realized that we live near each other. Now she's a part of my IRL (in real life) book club - yeah!

  • Plays with Needles - although I'm not a knitter/sew-er/or anything else-er, I love this blog. Like me, she just has one son, but unlike me, she has a gaggle of nieces to do fun, girly things with. I love the pics she posts of family activities, swimming events (Alcatraz, anyone?), and her latest craft projects. And she's another local gal - cool!

Please drop by these Brillante blogs and check them out - it's definitely worth your time!

PS. Here are the "official rules" in case you're interested:

  1. Put the logo on your blog.
  2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
  3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
  4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
  5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Show & Tell

When I checked in with Google Reader after 2.5 days away, I had 179 new posts to read. Ugh. That's what I get for being out of touch for a while.

I'm late for Show & Tell this week but I have a good excuse ... I had a FABULOUS weekend! And now I'm going to Show and Tell you all about it ... (I'll be back to book blogging tomorrow - have no fear.)

Friday: Our 10 year wedding anniversary! Hubby surprised me with an overnight getaway. It started with the "Couples Package" at a nearby spa. We had a room all to ourselves where we both got 1 hour massages. There was a heart-shaped hot tub already filled with warm water for after the massages, then we were served a lovely strawberry and spinach salad. While hubby got cleaned up I had a manicure and pedicure.

From the spa we drove to Annapolis and checked into a lovely hotel right downtown. Dinner was at a fantastic, out-of-the way steak house. Before we ate, hubby gave me a little box. Inside I found a matching necklace/earrings set. Kiddo helped hubby pick it out for me ... how sweet!

I thought that was the end of the surprises, but I was wrong. In the very bottom of the box was a ring. A man's wedding ring. As soon as I saw it, I couldn't help but cry (but just a few tears - I'm really not that weepy). You see, hubby hasn't had a wedding ring in over 7 years. He wore it when we were first married, but his job as a firefighter is risky for rings, so he often left it at home when he went to work. Back in June of 2001 we moved into our current house ... and his ring was lost in the move. I couldn't believe that after all this time, he would finally buy a ring for himself. To me, that was the very best part of the entire weekend.

Saturday: After a lovely evening at the fancy hotel, we had breakfast in bed. Then we headed to hubby's parents to pick up kiddo. From there we drove over to Virginia for the Rascal Flatts concert. What a blast! This was kiddo's first concert and he sang along to almost every song. We were REALLY far back on the lawn so kiddo had to sit on our shoulders for most of the show. Boy, my muscles are really sore today! Here's a video of what we saw of the concert; if you listen, you can hear the three of us singing along.

And here are some pics of us at the show. Enjoy!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Finds, and We Have a Winner!

Happy Anniversary to hubby and me - today we celebrate 10 years of marriage! He has a special overnight surprise planned ... I can't wait to see what it is. :)

(For those who noticed, yes, this does mean that I got married when I was 20 years old.)


Friday Finds

I'm finding something odd here. Each week I randomly add books to my TBR list - there's no rhyme or reason to this, I just add them as I hear about them. So why is it that my lists seem to have themes?! Last week it was WWI and WWII, the week before it was WWII and novels set in foreign countries, and this week it's plagues and "lasts" ... Plagues?! What exactly is going on in my head?!
  1. Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them, by Mark Jerome Walters - doesn't the title say enough?
  2. The American Plague, by Molly Caldwell Crosby - early 1900s, studying yellow fever in Cuba
  3. Joy in the Morning, by Betty White - this reviewer introduced me to another work by the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a book I truly loved
  4. The Last Knight, by Hilari Bell - I think this is the first time I really got excited about a YA novel! It sounds like lots of fun and this review reminded me of Don Quixote ... what do you think?
  5. The Last Queen, by CW Gortner - about "crazy" Queen Juana, daughter of Ferdinand & Isabella, sister of Katherine of Aragon (1st wife of Henry VIII) ... I've been fascinated with her for a long while and this looks like a great read
And this blogger made me realize that - duh! - The Spiderwick Chronicles movie was based on a series of children's books. So now I've got to add those to my Mom & Son Book Club list!

We Have a Winner!

And the winner of my little old copy of Cannery Row is ....

Rebecca from Ramblings by Reba!

Congratulations! I'll be in touch by email to get your mailing address.

Thanks to for picking my number for me.

For all those who didn't win, there's still time to enter my other drawing for a signed hardcover Mary Higgins Clark book - click here for details.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Giveaway Reminder!

Giveaway Reminders - 2 books!

Read my review of Cannery Row and enter for a chance to win my copy. I'm drawing the winner TONIGHT at midnight!

There's still time to enter to win a signed, hardcover copy of There's No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark. I'm drawing that winner on August 3rd. Click here for details.

Google Reader & the Comment Dilemma

I love Google Reader for it's organizational capabilities. It's so easy to keep up-to-date on all the blogs I like to read. At the same time I also hate it.

I used to read each blog on my list by actually clicking over to the blogger's site and scrolling through the posts. By doing that I could see which posts generated the most comments and occasionally learn something new and interesting by following the discussion in the comment section. Yes, I'm one of those bloggers who really does read through all the comments below each post.

Now that I'm using Google Reader I only click over to posts that I want to comment on. That means I'm missing out on all the good comment discussions and it's depressing me. I feel like part of what I love about blog reading is gone. Of course I realize that I could still click over to each post but then what is the purpose of having a handy Reader?

Anyone else in this situation or am I alone in the blogosphere?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mom & Son Book Club #5 (and some bloggy business)

First, a bit of bloggy business ...

Kristen over at posted an interview with me today! She wanted to know all about the Mom & Son Book Club and of course I was happy to share. Please head over there and check it out - she has a wonderful site. Click here to check it out.

Giveaway reminders:
  • Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a copy of Cannery Row! Click here for details.

  • You have until Aug. 3 to enter to win the signed Mary Higgins Clark book. Click here for details.

And now, Mom & Son Book Club #5 ...

I've been trying to fit in more reading time with kiddo without much success. We seem to go in bursts - no reading, no reading, no reading, read 3 books, no reading, read 2 books, and so on. On this particular night we were able to read three books ... an excellent accomplishment!

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson - Hubby picked this book at the recommendation of the librarian. Kiddo wasn't thrilled because he doesn't like the cartoon based on the book - he says it's boring and it's for babies.

Did you like this book? It was nice. Did you like it better than the cartoon? Yes, much better. Kiddo's learning early that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie! LOL

What was your favorite part? When he fell off the mountain, but it was scary too. I think kiddo liked this part because it surprised him. He didn't see it coming (and he predicted several other parts of the book) and his little eyebrows shot up in surprise when I read what happened.

What was your least favorite part? When he drew the dragon because it was too scary.

Did you like the pictures? Yes, but they need more color. I would like the book a lot more if it had more color.

Would you recommend this book to your friends at school? Maybe, but only if they like the cartoon. No matter how I tried to explain it, kiddo just didn't understand that if HE liked the book but not the show, then his buddies might feel the same. You can imagine how THAT conversation went, so I just moved on to the next book. :)

Dog & Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger - this was on the library's summer reading list. Kiddo thought it was cool that we learned "all three" of the author's names.

Did you like this book? It was really nice! I thought so too - an adorable set of stories.

What was your favorite part? I had a favorite story, not a favorite part ... is that ok? Yes, of course. My favorite story is "Play with me! Play with me!" Hmm, I wonder if that's because it sounds so familiar? The dog wants the bear to play, and the bear wants to read a book!

What was your least favorite part? I didn't have a least favorite part. I liked all of it.

Did you like the pictures? Yes, I like them a lot.

Would you recommend this book to your friends at school?
Yes, but only to the nice kids. And those who like dogs and stuffed bears. Why only the nice kids? Because they're my friends. And this story is about friends? Yes!

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, by Jane Yolen - another from the library's summer reading list. When we started reading kiddo said it was one they had in his Kindergarten class, but then he said that is wasn't the same book but another one by the same author; he recognized the different dinosaurs from the times they read it in school.

Did you like this book? Yes.

What was your favorite part? The first picture (a dinosaur is yawning and dragging blanket down the hall) and the one where the dinosaur is hugging his mom.

What was your least favorite part? I didn't have a least favorite part.

Did you like the pictures? Yes.

Would you recommend this book to your friends at school? Yes, most of them would like it. Did your class like the other book by this author? Yeah, they really liked it!

As I'm writing this, kiddo is in bed talking to himself. Instead of letting him get to sleep I keep hollering down the hall, "Hey kiddo! What did you say about the pictures in the second book again?" "I liked 'em Mom!" "Ok, thanks! I think that's all I need ...." Yeah, can we say Blogging Addict?! Thankfully kiddo thinks it's really cool. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Planets

In a meme I answered here, I said that I didn't really have favorite authors; the few that I love are those who write books in a series, and I love the authors because of that particular series. There are lots of authors I read but none that I "follow" ... or so I thought.

I must revise my answer and say that Dava Sobel is one of my favorite authors (FYI, her first name is pronounced "DAVE-uh"). I discovered her when I read Galileo's Daughter (here's my review), and loved her more after reading Longitude (here's my review) . I received The Planets from PBS over a month ago but I refused to start reading it until I got caught up on some of the challenges I'm mired in. The other night I gave up on that and decided to start reading it now - and I'm so glad I did!

Before I tell you about the book, I have to tell you about MY actual copy of the book. It is gorgeous! The photo here doesn't do it justice, believe me. See that black circle in the center, the one with the planet inside? That black circle is a hole in the dust jacket, and the planet is on the actual hard cover of the book. Plus there are stars scattered across the front and back cover under the dust jacket. It really is a lovely book to look at! I'm one of those people who doesn't keep on the dust jacket when I read and it was a pleasant surprise to see the lovely cover hiding underneath.

I've officially declared that Dava Sobel is one of my favorite authors; now I feel like I need to tell you why. Ms. Sobel is a science writer with a poetic bent. She seamlessly blends factual science with amazing stories, poems, and letters, creating books that (to me) are works of art. Elegant is the only word I can think of to describe her writing.

In The Planets she explains the creation of the universe by combining the Biblical Creation account in Genesis with the scientific theory of The Big Bang.* She then goes on to look at each planet in turn, showing how various cultures perceived them throughout time. This book is a amalgam of myths, science, religions, and masterful storytelling. I am again in awe of her writing.

The book is full of interesting facts that I may or may not have learned in high school science classes. Either way, the knowledge is new to me now. I drove my husband crazy as I read because every few minutes I'd say "Wow!" or "That's amazing!" or "Hey honey, did you know ...". He wasn't thrilled. Since you - my faithful blog readers - are my captive audience, I'm going to share some of that info with you. I don't want to give too much away because you really should read this book, but here are some (very simplified) things I learned:
Sun: Since the sun is not solid, it spins at varying speeds (the equatorial region spins slower than the polar regions, etc.). This causes "solar winds" that can be extremely violent. NOW I understand all those Star Trek and Stargate episodes where they used "solar sails" to travel through space!

Mercury: The MESSENGER space craft was launched in 2004 and just started reporting its findings this year. You can get updates on discoveries from MESSENGERS home page, this article, and this page.

All the land formations on this planet are named for ancient goddesses or famous women except for one mountain range ... it was named after a man.

Mars: This chapter is told from the point of view of a Mars rock ... a fascinating perspective.

Jupiter: This planet radiates more heat out into the atmosphere than it receives from the sun.
In writing this post I found out that Dava Sobel has a wonderful website. If you take a look at it, you'll get a sense of who she is in her books. That elegance I mentioned is apparent in the design of her site; like the covers of her books, her website is quite lovely to look at. You can also listen to the author discuss this book on NPR at this link.

PS. Is there anyone else out there who thinks that Tycho Brahe is a fantastic name? I just love to say it out loud: "Tycho Brahe". Lovely! (FYI, he's a Danish astronomer from the 1500s and the author mentions him once or twice in the book.)

* This is by no means a Biblically based look at our universe though. The author was going more for the poetry of the story and how it ties in with scientific theory.

As always, if you've reviewed this book (or any others by Dava Sobel!) I'm happy to post your link here:
An Adventure in Reading
The 3 R's

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekly Geeks #12: Questions for My Reviews

This week on Weekly Geeks we get to ask our readers to help with our reviews!

I'm supposed to make a list of books I have read but not reviewed and you're supposed to ask me questions that I'll answer in my reviews of those books. Get it? If not, you can read all the "rules" here.

I stay pretty up to date on my reviewing so there aren't any outstanding ones at the moment. Instead I offer you two lists: the books I'm reading now, and the books I plan to read shortly.

Currently Reading:
  • The Planets, by Dava Sobel (almost finished)
  • Dracula, Bram Stoker (just started)
  • Some Experiences of an Irish RM, by E. Somerville (halfway through)
Upcoming Reads:
  • Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is for my book club)
  • In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
  • Life is So Good, by Miriam Katin
  • We Are On Our Own, by George Dawson
  • Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin
You can find summaries of all these books on

So go ahead - ask away! My only request is that your questions don't include too many spoilers - everything else is welcome!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Show & Tell: My blog is "Excellent" ... or so I'm told

I got an award - yeah! (And I'm showing it off for today's Show and Tell - woohoo!) Thanks so much to Bookworm for the Excellent Blog Award. Here's quick quote from her blog explaining why she chose me (as well as a few others) for this award:
Heather and I have very similar taste in books, and I love the way she writes her reviews. She does what I try to do — she writes about the experience of reading without giving too much detail about plot, and she draws generalizations that allow other people to comment even if they haven’t read the book.
Now it's my turn to pass this on and that will be difficult. There are currently 89 blogs in my Google Reader, and I do read all of them every day. I like each for different reasons, but I'm going to choose a few that I think are worthy of the title "Excellent"... here they are in alphabetical order:
  • Alicia- This gal cracks me up! She writes partly about her ongoing journey to have a child (she's pursuing infertility treatments and adoption right now), her fabulous shoe collection (you can vote for your favorites) and her all around crazy life (which includes pole dancing at the moment). What I love is that she is positive and funny in almost every situation. Oh, and her cat is named Tissue!

    Why is Alicia "Excellent"?
    Her blog is entertaining, organized, easy to navigate, and constantly updated.

  • The Hidden Side of a Leaf - if you are a book blogger, you likely know Dewey. Her blog is chock full of wonderful reviews and there is always something new going on over there. She runs Weekly Geeks, monthly book blog carnivals, and several reading challenges including the 24-Hour Read-A-Thon.

    Why is Dewey's blog "Excellent"? Her blog is motivational, organized, gets lots of people involved, and is updated at least once a day.

  • Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters - if you are in any way connected to the world of infertility/infant loss/adoption/parenting after infertility, this is the blog you need to read every day. Mel is THE source for info and "connections." She answers questions, runs ongoing activities (including an online book club), reads all our blogs, and keeps list of who is going through what and when. I think her list of IF-related blogs is up to 1,400!

    Why is Stirrup Queen Mel "Excellent"? She brings together tons of resources in an organized, easy-to-find manner, and is available to answer questions and provide support at all times.

  • West of Mars - this blog has only one purpose - to inform the blogosphere about great books, usually through other bloggers' book giveaways. And they do a wonderful job, usually adding several posts per day.

    Why is West of Mars "Excellent"? This blog has one job and does that one job very well.

So that's my "Excellent" post. Thanks again to Bookworm, and I hope you all enjoy exploring these "Excellent" blogs!

Historial Fiction - COMPLETED! & Giveaway Reminders

I finished my first challenge!!! And get this - I did it with a few months to spare! Check out the cool button I get for that - sexy, huh?!

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge was the very first challenge I ever signed up for. It was perfect for me because about a third of my TBR list fits in this genre.

One thing I loved about this challenge - other than the genre - is that the host set up a Challenge Blog where participants can post their reviews. This makes it easy to keep up with what others are reading, and allows those who aren't book bloggers - or bloggers of any kind! - to post their reviews as well.

It drives me crazy when I hear about the good challenges after they've already started (like this one here - I would LOVE to be part of this!). No so with the Historical Fiction Challenge! If you'd like to join this one you're in luck. The challenge is now perpetual, with deadlines set depending on when you start. Go check out the blog and sign up!

Here's a list of the six books I read for this challenge. Click on the title to check out my review:

Suite Francaise - (WWII France) I liked it more for the author's life story than for the novel, but still worth the read.

The Good Earth - (1920s China) I'm not really a big fan ...

Year of Wonders - (1500s England) Quick read, well-written, enjoyable despite the depressing subject matter.

Cane River - (1700s-1900s America) FABULOUS! I loved this one.

Water for Elephants - (1930s America) After refusing to read it because "everyone's doing it!" I finally succumbed ... and it really is very good.

Cannery Row - (1930s America) Different than I expected but very good. Very short too.

Giveaway Reminders - 2 books

Read my review of Cannery Row and enter for a chance to win my copy. The drawing is set for July 25.

You have until August 3 to enter to win a signed copy of There's No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark. Click here for details.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Finds and a book for guys

Friday Finds*

Here are the additions to my TBR list for this week:
  1. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton - pre-WWI, lost child ends up on boat to Australia, story goes from 1913-2005
  2. Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War, by Sebastian Faulks - another WWI era book ... I think I'm seeing a trend! I'll have to be sure to read these books near each other.
  3. The Man With the Iron Heart, by Harry Turtledove - I'm not usually a fan of alternative history (I like my non-fiction and my fantasy separate, please) but this one sounds really interesting: what if WWII Germany reacted like modern-day Iraq and mounted a resistance after losing the war? It's basically like examining modern events by setting them in a different time period. I'm not really explaining myself well though ... just check out this review and you'll see what I'm talking about.
  4. The Mitford Girls, by Mary S. Lovell - the true story of six British upper-class sisters living before/during/after WWII - they knew the heavy-hitters of the day (Churchill, Hitler, etc.), were involved in myriad political movements, etc.
  5. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett - I've been creeped out by even hearing about many Gaiman books (I am NOT a horror fan, and yes I do know he writes other things), but this 0ne sounds great. This description got me thinking of the movie Dogma, which I thought was hilarious and horrible at the same time.
  6. Washington's Lady, by Nancy Moser - I've seen this George & Martha Washington book several times before but this reviewer pointed out that there is a extensive section at the back that clearly states what is fiction and what is fact in this book - THAT'S a reason to read it right there.
* I'm not sure that Friday Finds is still really going on ... I tried to click over to the host blog and wordpress says it's been deleted. Do you know anything about it? Fill me in if you do. Either way, I like doing Friday Finds so I'll continue doing it.

A book for guys ...

My husband is not really a reader. It takes him a long time to get through a book and it doesn't bring him the same pleasure that it brings me. But recently he found a book that he just can't stop talking about: Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson.

I'm not going to summarize the book - I haven't read it, and you you can go to for a summary. Instead I'm going to tell you what I know ...

Hubby picked it up in the airport and was hooked. He worked his way through it over the next two weeks, often choosing to read rather than watch TV (and that never happens!). He told me that the book actually made him cry. Of course he wanted me to read it but I said no for now. Then he told me to let my boss read it. My boss got back from a trip the following week and said "I'm glad I was in the back of the plane when I finished this because I was reading the end and tears were rolling down my cheeks." He, in turn, passed it on to his personal trainer who devoured it in three days. I have it back now, and it's my job to pass it on to my dad.

I don't plan to read this book for several reasons. First, my TBR pile is completely out of control, second, I think some of the graphic descriptions would be a bit much for me, and third, it's just not my kind of book. But even if I don't read/review it here, I wanted to tell all of you about it. If a book is getting this kind of reaction from the guys I know, it definitely worth talking about!

Have you read it? Would you want to? Are there any guys in your life who would enjoy this? Let me know!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cannery Row ... and Giveaway

I chose to read Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck, for three reasons ...
1: I loved East of Eden when we read it for book club
2: It fit with the Historical Fiction Challenge
3: It fits with the 1% Well Read Challenge.

Knowing that I loved East of Eden, I expected something like that from this book. They are NOT similar at all.

I had a hard time getting into this book ... I couldn't quite figure out what the author was trying to do. However, once I figured it out, I loved this short little book!

Cannery Row is about the people living in on the row (it's in Monterey, California, in case you didn't know). It's about their lives, what they do from day to day, how they interact. The story is set in the 1930s when money is tight but Prohibition is over.

In brief, somewhat unconnected chapters, Steinbeck introduces you to the men and women of the town. What I realized about halfway through the book is that he's actually giving you the events of a week or so in chronological order. He updates you on one group of people, then in the next chapter fills you in on what another group is doing across town. Sometimes those stories relate to each other, sometimes not. Once I "got it" the book completely made sense to me and I really enjoyed it.

I do have to mention Steinbeck's amazing writing. His descriptions are vivid and unique. For those of you familiar with the coast of California (I've been there a few times) you'll immediately recognize the towns and physical features he includes. But even if you've never seen a tide pool, for example, you'll be able to see it clearly in your imagination. I wanted to include the entire tide pool description here but it's too long. Instead, I'll give you this snippet:
The creeping murderer, the octopus, steals out, slowly, softly, moving like a gray mist, pretending now to be a bit of weed, now a rock, now a lump of decaying meat while its evil goat eyes watch coldly. ... suddenly it runs lightly on the tips of its arms, as ferociously as a charging cat.
You really have to read that entire section - it's is so ... vivid is the only word I can come up with.

In other parts of the book the author uses interesting word choices as well. At one point some men are smelling the stew they've been cooking for hours and the smell is "heartbreaking" ... I can feel that. Several of the men say "idear" rather than "idea" ... my uncles all use that word too.

At just over 100 pages, this is an easy and entertaining read with excellent use of language. Because it's so small and because it fits in with so many challenges out there, I'm giving away my copy of Cannery Row to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and I'll draw a random winner on July 25. Good luck!

Also reviewed by (give me your link and I'll add you here):
The Bluestocking Society

Matters of Faith is an IndieBound Notable Pick!

I'm excited to share this email I received from author Kristy Kiernan:
Hello all,

I am absolutely delighted to report that my new novel, Matters of Faith, has been chosen as an IndieBound Notable Pick for September. The book comes out August 5th, and I thought I'd missed my shot, so it was a truly wonderful surprise.

For those who are friends and not in the industry, IndieBound is a part of the American Booksellers Association, which is the national organization for independent bookstores (and you've ALL heard me supporting the indies!). Every month they produce a list of the titles they feel deserve special attention from their booksellers. Considering the number of titles they have to choose from every month, this is truly an incredible honor, and I am beside myself.

For those in the industry, hey, you know what this means!

For the independent booksellers who have gone out of their way to support me, I am so humbled and grateful, and thank you from the bottom of my chocolate-coated heart.

My very best wishes to you all,

Kristy Kiernan
I was lucky to get an ARC of Matters of Faith directly from Kristy earlier this summer. I reviewed it here and interviewed Kristy here. I even gave away a brand new copy to a blogger in Italy.

I'm thrilled that this book is getting such wonderful attention from the book world. Congratulations Kristy!

Now a question for my readers ... does this information make you want to read this book? Do you pay attention to the Indie Bookstore lists, or the NY Times bestseller lists, or any book lists out there? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mom & Son Book Club #4

The past few weeks have been crazy at our house. Between the Boston wedding, kiddo's drama camp (highly recommended!), vacation bible school, running an all day scrapbook workshop (I'm also a Creative Memories Consultant), and my sister's baby shower, we've had very little time to read together. Summer is getting away from us though, so I'm making a big effort to get to kiddo's summer reading list.

For the 4th meeting of our Mom & Son Book Club kiddo and I read two books: The Great Big Wagon That Rang, and One Green Apple.

Our first book is one I chose based on kiddo's fascination with the Revolutionary War era. It's called The Great Big Wagon That Rang: How the Liberty Bell Was Saved, by Joseph Slate.

Did you like this book? Yes! Kiddo definitely liked it more than I did; I thought the writing was a bit odd. Honestly, I didn't like it all that much.

What was your favorite part? Inside the cover, because there's a map. I agree! The map was quite interesting.

What was your least favorite part? The page with the Indian. Why? Cause he looks creepy, like he might be mean. Oh ... sure ... ok ...

Would you recommend this book to your friends at school? If they like history, they will like this book. Smart kiddo!

(This question was suggested by Bookworm - thanks!) Did you like the pictures? Yes. I mean sort of. I don't like all the lines. Let me explain that. The pictures have lots of "pencil line shading" or at least that's what I'd call it. Personally I wasn't a big fan either.

One Green Apple, by Eve Bunting was on our library's summer reading list. Hubby really wanted me to read this one with kiddo because it's about a child from another country trying to adjust to life in America. Hubby thought it would help kiddo understand how kids can feel out of place or lonely, just like kiddo does sometimes because of his food allergies.

Did you like this book? Yes! This time we both really enjoyed the book.

What was your favorite part? When the boy tried to stop her from dropping her apple in. Again, let me explain. Each child picked a red apple, but our main character picked a GREEN apple. When they began to make cider from the apples hers was the only green one. One of the boys tried to stop her from putting in the green apple, but he wasn't quick enough. I asked kiddo why he liked this part and he said because the boy thought the apple was cool and he wanted to save it. Ok, so that's NOT what the author was getting at, but sure, why not?!

What was your least favorite part? I didn't have a least favorite part. Wow, that's a first!

Would you recommend this book to your friends at school? Maybe. If they like picking apples, then yeah. I love the logic!

Did you like the pictures? Yes. Better than the last book? Yes, much better than the last book.

Thanks for reading along with kiddo and I!

Author Interview: Carol White, Live Your Road Trip Dream

I recently read Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil & Carol White (read my review here) and really enjoyed it. Carol was kind enough to comment on my review and offer to answer any questions I might have. You KNOW I took her up on that!

Heather: You mention that your time on the road made you and Phil a closer, more connected, couple. You had to work together to handle a variety of situations and you had lots of time to talk, but you still made time to be apart whenever you needed it. What I want to know is ... what did you do every evening? There were many times at campgrounds or motels where you made dinner and had the rest of the evening free ... did you play cards? games? read? did you have a tv? How did you occupy your evenings, and was that different that what you would have been doing at home?

Carol: Good question! We actually spent many evenings working on our website/journal that we maintained during the year. You can see it here: If we were doing the trip today, there are many great services that provide a place to map, place your pictures, journal and keep email conversations alive - my favorite is and you can see our "converted" journal there by using this link:

When we weren't working on those kinds of things, or chatting with the grandkids - we would often take a walk, go for a swim or partake in events around the campground. We are both avid readers, so that was often a good outlet for us on rainy or cold days - and there is always TV! Really not too different than being home - just a little more purpose each day. Sightseeing is tiring - we were usually in bed
pretty early.

Photo of Carol & Phil at Stone Mountain, Georgia (I've been there too!)

Heather: Although you didn't travel with any children, you met several travelling families along the way. Did they share any tips about keeping the kids occupied? We only have one child ... if we do a trip like this, I'm concerned about him being too bored after a while (with the travel, not the cool places we'd go). Do you have any tips or suggestions for us?

Carol: We travel frequently with our grandchildren - and we have found that after an active day of sightseeing they fall into bed dead tired! There is a great discussion group for families on the road here: Kim provides all kinds of great ideas to keep the kids busy and learning. I also advocate keeping a photo and written journal - use the computer if they are old enough - maybe their own mytripjournal pages! I also believe that the kids should help plan the trip and make decisions along the way - they can help cook, clean the vehicle, police campsites, choose the next days activities and so forth. AAA (at least in Oregon) has a great kids section of car activities and books that I have used. You would also want to do the Jr. Ranger program put on by the National Park Service if you are doing National Parks as part of your trip. Learn about it here:

Heather: You met up with several friends/family members during your year of travel, and I think one (or two?) of them travelled IN the RV with you. How did having an additional person on board change your lifestyle? Did you consider taking your kids or grandkids along for a week or so? Why or why not?

Carol: We didn't actually have anyone stay in our van - it was strictly a 2-person vehicle - although they now have vans that will sleep a couple of kids in addition to the adults. See some examples here: If we had had room, we would have invited the grandkids along - I think it is a great idea. We did have a couple of them visit us along the way, but we all stayed in motels during that time. We had one family join us in Washington DC and one in Disneyland.

Heather: The book has been a wonderful success, and you've received tons of press and other attention for it. Has that required additional travel? If so, did those trips have the same "feel" as your dream trip?

Carol: LOL - Somehow "work" trips never feel quite the same, do they? No matter how much fun you are having along the way, it just isn't the same. We are now national spokespeople for the "Go RVing" folks and get to do some traveling on their behalf, as well as doing some travel promoting the book, giving talks around the country on road tripping and RVing. We are having a ball - something we never would have dreamed of when we took our trip. If you go here, you can see our trip last fall on behalf of the RV association.

Heather: And finally, would you do it all over again? Are you planning to?

Carol: ABSOLUTELY!! It has been the best experience of our entire lives - you just can't imagine how much there is to see in our great country until you get out there and explore it for yourself. You will never again look at the news the same way - because you know every part of our country - how the people think, what the geography is like, what kinds of work they do there, and so on. We could do a whole additional year and never see any of the same places. Our next big road trip will be Canada - but we haven't set our date yet - we need to do that! Our next big trip is to Vietnam and Thailand in January, 2009 and then to Kauai, Hawaii in March and April to be with, yet another, new grandbaby being born over there!

Heather: Thank you, Carol, for answering my questions. I loved reading your book. My copy is now making the rounds to several friends but I've told each of them that I want it back when they're finished! This book will have a permanent home on my shelf, within easy reach.

I highly recommend this book if you have EVER fantasized about a long road trip. It's a quick and easy read, chock full of the basic info you need to know and a sampling of life on the road.

Click here to buy this book from Amazon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tracking My Blog Stats

A big THANK YOU to Natasha at Maw Books for introducing me to Google Analytics. I'm having lots of fun tracking the # of visitors to my site and all that goes along with that. I've been blogging since January but July 10th marked exactly 30 days since I starting tracking statistics, so I thought I'd share a bit of what I learned about my blog.

About my visitors ...
  • # of visits = 1,165
  • # of unique visitors = 620
  • % of those who are 1st time visitors = 53%
  • total # of page views = 1,961
  • average time spent on my site per visit = 2.5 minutes
  • average # of pages viewed per visit = 1.7
My most popular pages ...
Search engine terms ...
  • most searches were for specific book titles or authors
  • many searched for my blog by name ... please bookmark me once you find me!
  • some wanted to know what books they should read by age 30 ... not sure there's a real list, but I can make lots of recommendations
  • one was looking for Sgt. Heather Johnson -... that's not me, sorry.
Other things I've learned ...
  • One person spent over an hour on my blog and read 18 different posts - woohoo!
  • Blogger and Google both send me tons of referrals
  • 4% of my visitors come from what google calls OTHER sources (not direct traffic, referrals, or search engines) ... where exactly are they coming from?!
  • I don't know if google analytics counts the people who subscribe to me on google reader or other reader programs - any idea?
  • I check my stats way too often during the day
I must say, I do enjoy this stat thing. It's sort of like a pat on the back letting me know I'm doing a good job. People wouldn't be coming back if they didn't like reading what I wrote, right? That's how I see it and that makes me happy. Thank you all my wonderful readers! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Show & Tell: Book Giveaway - Mary Higgins Clark

For Show and Tell this week, I'm showing off one of my favorite things about book blogging - giveaways! I've won several books from other bloggers and really enjoy giving some of mine away. Even if you're not one of my regular readers please feel free to enter the contest. Good luck!

New Book Giveaway!

There's No Place Like Home
Mary Higgins Clark
Contest Ends on Aug. 3

I have an unread, hardcover, SIGNED copy of this book to give away to one lucky person this month! I received this as a free gift and it's been on my shelf for months. I'm happy to give it away since I know this author has lots of fans out there who would love a signed copy of one of her books.

Here's how you can win:
  1. post a comment here saying why you like Mary Higgins Clark, or why you want this particular book
  2. add me to your blog reader - google, yahoo, whatever - and let me know about it in a comment (if I'm already there, that counts too - just let me know!)
  3. post about this contest on your blog and let me know in a comment
  4. leave a comment with a link to your review of ANY Mary Higgins Clark book
The four tasks are optional, but you do get one entry for each so it's a great way to increase your chances of winning!

Just so you know, I have never read a book by Mary Higgins Clark. That's why I want links to your MHC book reviews ... I want to see what other people are saying about why I should read her books. :)

Note: This contest is for US residents only. I'll do another worldwide contest again soon. I gave away three books last month - one within the US, one to Canada, and one to Italy - so I need a break from the postage this time. :)

If you've reviewed this book, I'll post your link here:
Letters from a Hill Farm

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Live Your Road Trip Dream

I read Live Your Road Trip Dream by Phil & Carol White because I do have a "road trip dream". Doesn't everyone, really? Hubby and I talk about our retirement days (yes, we're only in our 30s, I know!) and how we'll buy an RV and drive all around the country. HIS dream is to attend every NASCAR race for a year. MY dream is to see the museums, national parks, and historic sites that show the history of our country. Will we ever actually go on this dream road trip? I doubt it ... but that was before I read this book.

To be clear, this book is actually called Live Your Road Trip Dream: Travel for a Year for the Cost of Staying Home. I showed it to hubby when it came in the mail (thanks to Online Publicist!) and he immediately skipped to the section on financing your trip - he wanted to know "secret". I did too, but I'm much more patient ... and I have a thing about skipping ahead in a book ... it's sort of like a crime for me.

The book is split into three parts. Part One shows how it is that you can plan, finance, and organize a year-long road trip. In just over 100 pages you get tons of info: what to do with your house while you're gone, how to deal with negative people who don't think you can really do this, pre-trip planning, handling emergencies en-route, and much more. Part Two, by far the longest, contains excerpts from the travel journal the Whites kept during their dream road trip. The final part is filled with worksheets to help you budget and plan your itenerary.

I loved reading this book! The planning section (part one) was simple and straight-forward. I quickly switched from reading it and DREAMING to reading it and PLANNING - we WILL do a road trip, and it will happen BEFORE we retire. Those worksheets in part three will be very handy but we will have to update the gas prices; the highest price the White's saw on their trip was $2.49 - I'd drive 100+ miles for that price!

Part two was entertaining, but I'm suggesting that hubby skip it when he reads the book. For one thing, our dream trip differs from the Whites so much of what they did won't interest hubby. For another, you have to remember that this section was taken directly from their trip journal just as they wrote it from the road. Imagine writing a quick email to a friend about the wonderful national park you visited today ... you'd have sentence fragments, lots of exclamation points, and you'd ramble quite a bit. That's what this section is like. It is valuable though; it gives the reader an idea of what it's like to really be on the road for an entire year.

Usually I read books then give them away or swap them for new ones, but THIS book will be staying on my shelf. I plan to browse through it every month to remind me that this is one dream that WILL become reality!

The White's have a website chock full of planning resources and tips in case you're interested:

If you've reviewed this book too, I'll be happy to link to you here:
Random Wonder

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Finds

I can't remember if I posted about this before, but my book club is currently being featured on LitLovers! You can check it out here if you like. I really enjoy that site for all the "classes" it offers to readers on ways to improve our understanding of books. Let me know if you've tried any of them - I'd love to hear about it.


You may have noticed this already, but I add LOTS of books to my TBR list each week. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I read 87 (mostly bookish) blogs every day ...

Here's what I've added since last Friday:
  1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer - thanks to this review
  2. Farewell to Manzanar, by J.W. and J.D. Houston - b/c I've always wanted to learn more about the Japanese interment camps in the US during WWII
  3. The Time in Between, by David Bergen - this book has to do with a soldier missing during the Vietnam War, and since my dad fought in that war I try to read as much as I can about it
  4. The i Tetralogy, by Mathias B. Freese - this is said to be a very disturbing Holocaust book, so I likely won't read it any time soon but it's still on my list
  5. 1001 People Who Made America, and 1001 Events That Made America, by Alan Alexrod - good books to keep on hand for when you want to read a few tidbits of history (oh, and his last name reminds me of Eben Alexroot from The Poisonwood Bible!)
  6. The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, by Alexandra Robbins - just in case my son turns into an overachiever in high school (which I seriously doubt)
  7. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, by Jennifer 8. Lee - first off, who has the middle name 8?! Regardless, the book sounds fascinating!
  8. The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland - something about this review got me interested
  9. My Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin - according to Suzanne, this was mean to be the Jane Eyre of Australia but caused an uproar when it was published - how can I NOT read it after that?!
  10. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell - not my usual fare, but the review I read says it takes place in Scotland and India in modern day and the 1930s and the author is "gradually putting together the pieces until the full picture is revealed in all its shocking glory in the final pages." Sounds good to me!
  11. Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal, by Diana M. Raab - this reviewer says it's a true story and very interesting
  12. Dear John, by Norma Betz - pre-Revolutionary War historical fiction/time travel/Abagail Adams ... what fun!
  13. The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters - women living in WWII London during the bombings, etc. (just like my gram did)
No idea when I'll get around to actually READING any of these, but the are officially on my list!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin