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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday Finds 10/30/09

I meant to get this posted yesterday but I didn't get to it in time so these are technically my Saturday Finds ...

  1. The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story, by Richard Preston - found @ At Home With Books - "A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their "crashes" into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction."

  2. Skeletons on the Sahara: A True Story of Survival, by Dean King - also found @ At Home With Books - "Everywhere hailed as a masterpiece of historical adventure, this enthralling narrative recounts the experiences of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the bone-dry heart of the Sahara. The ordeal of these men - who found themselves tested by barbarism, murder, starvation, death, dehydration, and hostile tribes that roamed the desert on camelback - is made indelibly vivid in this gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival."

  3. Someone Named Eva, by Joan M. Wolf - found @ Maw Books - "Just a few short weeks after Milada’s eleventh birthday, Nazi’s storm every home in her town in Czechoslovakia and take everybody away. Milada and another classmate are torn again from their families, placed on a bus and sent to Poland. When they arrive in a new girls school, Milada realizes that each girl there shares two traits in common: blue eyes and blonde hair. In addition, each has exactly the right size head or nose. It is at this school that their indoctrination to Germanization begins. She is renamed Eva and each girl is trained to forget everything about their past. [...] Eva struggles with her new identity, the new language and to remain true to her upbringing and background. [...] And then the impossible happens. Eva can no longer remember her true name. What did people use to call her? Can she recall it? She can’t remember her name. The Germans have taken everything from her." [...] Will Eva be able to remember who she really is? Or will she be lost forever?"

  4. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker - I've been intending to read this book for a long time but Lost In Book's review reminded me that is isn't on my official TBR list. "The Color Purple is a story of suffering, a story of violence, a story of love, a story of sexuality, a story of family, a story of finding one's self."

  5. The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I haven't read either of her novels but I've heard they are wonderful. This Nigerian-born author now has a short story collection (this book) and I heard about it in an article on The Baltimore Sun's site. Adichie "'started writing stories at about age 6 that were just like the books we read in school,' she says, 'about children with blue eyes and poodles who played in the snow. My mother kept all my stories and occasionally threatens to give them to local journalists if I don't do what she wants.' Though Adichie can be critical of her adopted country - The Thing Around Your Neck contains pointed observations about the U.S. - she has 'an immense affection' for her second home. '"It is the only Western country that makes an effort to address its past,' she says. 'And, I have space here. If I'd gone to school in Britain, I wouldn't have developed the sense of possibility I acquired here.'"

And for Kiddo ...

  • The Dragon Keepers Chronicles series, by Donita K. Paul - found @ Book Dragon's Lair - "This is a good vs. evil series written from an obvious Christian perspective. Yes, it is fantasy but there are eternal truths within that, sometimes, we all need to be reminded of. Things like finishing the job you said you would. Always looking for the good inside. Not judging by appearances. Search for truth, even in unlikely places. This is in now way a preachy book, it is just a way of life for the characters that can cross over to ours." There are 5 books in the series, beginning with Dragonspell.

As always, please check in at Should Be Reading for more finds or to join in the fun!

Dueling Monsters: Frank's Recap

Thank you to everyone who participated in this month of Dueling Monsters! I had lots of fun with it - and I think FizzyThoughts did too.

Frankenstein vs. Dracula - who wins?

When I read Dracula earlier this year I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it (here's my review). It was not what I expected but it was much, MUCH better than I hoped. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Frank; I was rather disappointed in this one. On entertainment value alone I'd say that Dracula is the clear winner for me ... and it seems like most of you would agree.

But here's the real question: Who would win in a fight?

Dracula has strength and speed, but then again so does Dr. Frank's monster. The monster seems to be immune to most discomfort, but so does Dracula. Each has his own set of weaknesses/flaws ... so who would win? Let me know in the comments. I'll give you my answer at the very end of this post.

Frankenstein Reviews
If any of the rest of you posted recaps, I must have missed them so please do let me know in the comments. I'll be away from the computer most of the day put I promise to add you to the list just as soon as I can.

Lezlie @ Books 'N Border Collies - - Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies ~ Susan @ Plays With Needles ~ Stacey @ Unruly Reader ~ Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews ~ tokemise @ By Hook or By Book ~ Natasha @ Maw Books ~ ~ Nicole @ Linus's Blanket ~ Joanne @ The Book Zombie

For Dracula Reviews visit Fizzy Thoughts's recap post.

Thank you to all the participants! I hope to do this again next year ... maybe with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and some other "horror" classic?

In answer to my question above of who would win in a fight, I'm going to go with Dracula. Yes he has to stay out of sunlight and all that but even if Dr. Frank's monster came upon him unawares I still think Drac could take him. Of course, the montser is pretty smart so he might bring a crucifix and some holy water so I guess you never know ...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Knife of Dreams

Knife of Dreams
by Robert Jordan
audio book: 32 hours

I'm not really going to review this book ... more like, I'm making a note that I listened to it. This is the 11th book in Jordan's epic fantasy series "The Wheel of Time" (I've written about this over and over again). Suffice it to say that if you enjoy Fantasy in the least bit, you simply must read this. Go pick up the first book, THE EYE OF THE WORLD, and tell me that it doesn't blow you away. Go ahead, do it - I DARE YOU!

I first read this book when it came out 4 years ago. Last year I listened to the audio book when I decided to revisit the entire series (via audio) prior to the release of the next book. I listened to it again this month because I wanted to be completely up on the plots in preparation for LAST NIGHT when I got my copy of book 12, THE GATHERING STORM ... which I will be immersed in reading later today.

I'm currently immersed in writing up a recap of last night's FANTASTIC book signing event. I should have something up both here and at within the next 24 hours ... I hope!

In the meantime, here's a picture of me from this morning - I CAN.NOT.WAIT to start reading!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1% Well Read Challenge Recap

I've completed the 1% Well Read Challenge for 2009! This year I decided to focus on older books on the list. Below are the books I read, followed by the year they were originally published and a few quick thoughts. The links take you to my reviews.

To keep things fun, I hosted a read-a-long of Cranford (read about it here) and a Dueling Monsters read-a-long for Frankenstein (read about it here). This was a great way to experience these classics and I'll definitely do it again for next year's 1% Challenge.

From my original list ...
  1. The Castle of Otranto (1764) - overly dramatic (but fun), you can definitely tell that gothic literature started here
  2. Evelina (1778) - lots of fun to read, sort of like Jane Austen's books
  3. Castle Rackrent (1800) - meh ...
  4. Cranford (1851) - I loved this book
  5. Frankenstein (1818) - sadly I was disappointed in this one
Added to the list since I read them without knowing they would count for the challenge ...
  1. The Time Machine (1895) - a strange but fascinating little story
  2. Wuthering Heights (1847) - one of my all-time favorite books
  3. Moll Flanders (1722) - the subtitle really says it all (click on the link to read it)
  4. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) - odd but interesting
  5. Jane Eyre (1847) - another all time favorite
  6. Gone With The Wind (1937) - fantastic book
Books I removed from this year's list ...
  1. The Last of the Mohicans (1826) - I started this but got caught up in a few other books - I do want to finish it though.
  2. The Lion of Flanders (1838) - I really wanted to read this but can't find a copy anywhere (for a reasonable price).
  3. An Interesting Narrative (1789) - I've heard this is rather boring ...
  4. The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) - I like the title but know nothing about this book.
  5. The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) - I really want to read this one but just didn't get to it.

This is a challenge that I will continue to participate in each year. I don't plan to read all the books on the 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die list but there are LOTS on the list that I would like to read. This challenge has led me to discover many absolutely wonderful books that I would otherwise never have heard of and also encouraged me to read classics that I've missed out on.

Are you taking part in this challenge this year? How are you doing with it? If you aren't, is it something you'd consider for next year? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this challenge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Histories of England

Two Histories of England
by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens
157 pages

*** About the Book ***

This book consists of two parts. Part one is a history of England written by Jane Austen at age 16 to be performed for her family's entertainment. Part two is an excerpt from Charles Dickens's lengthy work A Child's History of England, a book that was used to teach history in British schools for many years. There is also an introduction by historian David Starkey.

*** Why I Read It ***

I'm not sure where I first heard about this but I was intrigued by a "unknown" Jane Austen work. Plus I love Dickens, so I knew I'd have to read this. I wish listed it on and eventually got a copy about a year ago. And it sat on my shelf until now. I needed a book that I could finish quickly (before I get my copy of THE GATHERING STORM on 10/29) and this fit the bill.

*** My Thoughts ***

This is a great little book. Austen's portion is a completely biased overview of the British monarchy from Henry IV through Charles I. According to Starkey's introduction, it was meant to be something of a parody of the history lessons taught to young ladies at that time. She does things like excusing all of Charles I's faults on the basis that he was a Stuart, and Stuarts can do no wrong. It was quite amusing! The excerpt from Dickens' work covers approximately the same time period. It was fun to compare their differing takes on the same events. Dickens's history is rather biased as well though, and this was the text taught in schools?! Crazy.

I enjoyed reading this but I think I'd have gotten more out of it if I'd been more familiar with this portion of British history. For those who know this era pretty well, I think you'll get a lot of laughs out of this little book. It would have been a perfect read-a-thon choice for some of you!

Oh, and I do have to add that I love David Starkey's introduction. It gave me the background I needed to understand the purpose of Austen's and Dickens's works. Plus I could imagine Starkey reading to me in his lovely accent (I LOVED his TV series on the wives of Henry VIII).

*** Your Thoughts ***

Does this sound like something you'd like to read? Let me know your thoughts!

So far I haven't found any blogger reviews of this book - did I miss yours?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee:
Using Jewish Teachings to Raise a Self-Reliant Child

by Wendy Mogel
258 pages

*** About the Book ***

The parenting skills advocated in this book are based on Jewish tradition ... and lots of common sense. Basically it is a reminder that the parent is the parent and the child is the child, and there are roles and responsibilities for each person in the family that, when followed, lead to a much happier and more functional household.

Mogel was a child psychologist for many years and became frustrated with the lack of parenting skills she came across. Later in life she rediscovered her Jewish faith and has since opened a new practice in preventive mental health. She combines her faith and her knowledge to teach parents and children skills to improve their family life.

*** Why I Read It ***

I'm not sure where I first heard of this book but I remember adding it to my Wish List. It took a while to get the book, then of course it sat on my self a while longer, but I finally got around to reading it.

*** My Thoughts ***

Topics in this book include: respect for adults, chores, keeping expectations in line with your child's temperament, meal-time battles, coping with frustration, avoiding over-scheduling and overindulgence, and others. There wasn't all that much in here that I *didn't* know but there was a lot that I was either ignoring or needing a refresher on.

One chapter near the end is sticking with me at the moment. I've said before that Kiddo is a great kid. He's usually well-behaved, kind, outgoing, and positive - all the things a parent could want. But he IS still a kid (and a boy, at that!) and he still misbehaves ... regularly. Near the end of the book Mogel encourages parents to think of their child's WORST behavior, the thing that drives them batty. It can be a big thing or a little thing, but it has to be something the child does ALL THE TIME. In Kiddo's case, that thing is debating. I tell him to do something and he wants to know why, and give me other options, and explain why it should be done differently, and tell me five stories that are somehow related, and go back to his plan about doing it differently, and on, and on, and on. As a child I swore I'd never use my mom's favorite line on *my* child, but many a time recently I've said to Kiddo "because I said so! And that is the end of the conversation." Of course that is always followed by "But mom ..." which I, in turn, follow with the look. That usually ends things.

Anyway, Mogel says that parents need to realize that that one behavior can be turned into their child's greatest strength if it is channeled properly. She gives an example of a bossy 4-yr old who likes to be in charge. Her mom made it the girl's job to organize the bookshelves and issue reminders to family members to shut off lights, start the dishwasher, etc. This gives the child an outlet for her desire to be in charge while allowing the parent to work on stopping the inappropriate bossiness in other areas. Now I just need to find a way to use Kiddo's chatty argumentativeness in a positive manner ...

I really enjoyed this book even though it is based on religious beliefs I don't share. Christianity and Judaism have many core beliefs in common so even though I'm not Jewish I still found this book very practical and helpful and (usually) in line with my core beliefs.

*** Your Thoughts ***

I haven't come across any other blogger reviews of this book, have you?

Oh, and do you have any great parenting tips or tricks you want to share? Good suggestions are ALWAYS appreciated!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Frankenstein: or,
The Modern Prometheus

by Mary Shelley
256 pages

*** About the Book ***

Do I really need to tell you about this one? Ok, ok, here goes. This is the classic tale of a man who creates a being from lifeless parts, gives it life, then is horrified by what he has created. The majority of the book details the conflict between the creator (Dr. Frankenstein) and his creation (aka "the monster").

*** Why I Read It ***

When I read Dracula a few months ago I unexpectedly found that I really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give some other classic horror stories a try (nothing really scary mind you - I'm a chicken!). Then Fizzy Thoughts and I decided to host the Dueling Monsters Read-A-Long to make our classic horror reads more fun.

*** My Thoughts ***

I LOVED the beginning of the book: the letters from Walton to his sister as he explores the arctic regions, the sighting of an unknown but massive creature out on the ice, the rescue of Dr. Frankenstein (hereafter known as Dr. Frank) from an ice floe, Dr. Frank telling his story to Walton. The first few chapters were great! I love stories set in the polar regions; I didn't know this book would take place there, so that was a bonus. I also love epistolary works so again, bonus.

I hate to say it but I was disappointed with most of the rest of the book. Dr. Frank made some very poor decisions and I wanted to smack him more than once. Things happened in the story that made me want to wring the author's neck too. Add that to the abundance of overblown language and you get a book that was rather bothersome most of the time. (Dracula had flowery language as well, but once I got used to it I enjoyed that book. Here the language didn't seem to fit and I never could get used to the way the monster talked.)

On the whole, not a book I'd want to read again though I am glad that I did read it once.

*** For Those Who've Read It ***

Here are some of my thoughts from my read ... feel free to chime in with your opinions.
  • There are no details of how the creature was created - did this bother anyone else? I'm not looking for gory details but SOME details would be helpful.
  • I figured out from the start that Dr. Frank misunderstood his creation; did anyone else feel that way?
  • @fizzythoughts tweeted that she thought Dr. Frank was really whiny - do you agree? I thought he was rather unfeeling (and, frankly, stupid) but not necessarily whiny.
  • As Jill pointed out in her review, there's no Igor?! And also no "It's ALIVE!!!" Darn, I was looking forward to that.
  • My my, but that monster is wordy! Is it just me or was his intelligence a bit overdone?
  • The wedding night threat: OF COURSE he doesn't want to kill YOU Dr. Frank! DUH.
  • What the heck happened to Ernest? Did the author just forget about him? Did Dr. Frank?
  • And then there's the ending - what happens to Walton, I'd like to know?!

Come back on Halloween (10/31) to see the round up of reviews for the Dueling Monsters Read-A-Long.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


by Helen Humphries
177 pages

*** About the Book ***

This is the story of the Nov. 14, 1940 bombing of Coventry in England, told from the point of view of three people in the city. The majority of the book takes place during that one night, but there are also flashbacks to WWI and a concluding chapter that takes place in 1962. Everything centers around the city of Coventry.

*** Why I Read It ***

The moment I saw the title of this book I knew I had to read it because my grandma lived in Coventry during World War II; I've grown up hearing stories about the repeated bombings she survived. I intended to get a copy of the book for myself but Amanda was kind enough to send me hers after she read my comment on her review. I was very excited to share this book with my Gram.

*** My Thoughts ***

First I have to say that I loved the cover of this book. The picture doesn't really do it justice; in person the cover is simply gorgeous.

As for the book itself ... I'm not sure exactly what I expected but it wasn't what I got. I did really enjoy it though!

The best way to describe this book is to say that it is a "small" story - the main focus is the intense overnight bombing of Coventry and the ways that the three main characters attempt to survive it. There are some other plot lines but they seem to be there only to explain the actions of the characters on this particular night. The same goes for characterization; there is just enough for you to understand the story and not a drop more.

I gave the book to my Gram and she was really excited to read it since it was basically about her life. In case you missed it, I wrote about her reactions to the book here. Gram read it before I did and when she told me how much she enjoyed it, I had to start reading right away.

If I'd had some uninterrupted time I could have finished this in one sitting. The story had my attention from the beginning and I didn't want to put the book down. I was caught up in the intensity of the bombing, imagining my Gram living through this same experience.

Once I finished reading I couldn't wait to talk it over with Gram. Unfortunately I have a cold and since she's going through chemo, I can't be around her until I'm better. Hopefully that will be soon ...

*** Your Thoughts ***

I truly loved this book, but my opinion is definitely influenced by my personal connection to the story. Here are links to other reviews that might give you a less biased opinion:

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Gram Reads WWII Books

I've written before about my Gram and Grandpa and how they met during WWII. I've never told you the whole story nor will I today (hopefully I'll get around to it one day - it's a great one!), but I do want to tell you a few things because they are related to some books Gram has read recently.

Eileen (aka Gram) was 16 years old in 1940. She lived in Coventry, England with her parents, 2 sisters, and 1 brother. This was the year that Germany began regularly bombing Coventry. All my life Gram has told me stories about her father loading the family up into their car at night and driving them out to the middle of the fields outside town, and how they'd spend the night sleeping in the car to escape the bombings. She's told me about her older brother, Jimmy, and how he was a fire watcher who had to stay on the rooftops in town during bombing runs to warn of fires that might spread through the town, and how the rest of the family would worry about him every night. She's also told me about hiding under metal staircases during air raids.

I recently asked her if she ever hid in the bomb shelters and she said no. Her father said they were too dirty and he preferred to take the family into the fields in the fresh air. Gram said the bomb shelters were used by drunks as a place to have sex, and that you could smell the urine from outside - she never went into one.

A few years later she got a job doing "war work" in a factory in Coventry. The factory was on Spawn Street and Coventry Road. Her job was to make needles and some little brass things, and she was paid by the gross. She still has one of those little brass things somewhere in her house. Her boss's name was Mr. Bolton and he was a very nice man, nice to all the girls who worked in the factory. Whenever there was an afternoon air raid he'd tell the girls to go home and they'd all run as quick as they could. Gram would run down Spawn Street and make a left onto Hollyhead Road. Her house was on that street, less than a mile from the factory. One day she came to work to find that the factory had been bombed during the night and the roof was gone. They were still able to work that day, but when they came to work the next day, the entire factory was gone.

One night, after sleeping in the fields, Gram's family came home to find an unexploded bomb sitting in the middle of their road. It had a fin that was sticking up into the air. Everyone was excited and touching it. Gram says she realizes now that they were all crazy, that it could have exploded at any moment, but no one seemed to realize that then.

When I heard about the book COVENTRY by Helen Humphreys I knew I had to read it, if only to get a better idea of what Gram went through. After I commented on her review, Amanda offered to send me her copy of the book so I could share it with Gram on her next visit. Aren't bloggers wonderful?

Well, Gram's visit finally came around but things haven't gone as planned. She and my Grandpa were supposed to stay in Maryland for a month and return to Florida in September. Unfortunately, while she was here Gram was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lymphoma and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She's really struggling with it, and it is, of course, difficult for the rest of the family as well. This woman who was bowling three times a week in August now can hardly sit up at the table for more than a few minutes. But she's been reading when she can, and she was very excited when I brought over COVENTRY for her to try.

I can give no better endorsement to the book than to say that according to Gram, Humphreys got everything right. She would have loved to see her street, Hollyhead Road, mentioned but otherwise she loved this book. In fact, Gram enjoyed the book so much that she gave it to her younger sister when she came to visit; Aunt Hilda read it in 2 days and loved it as well. So if you want to know what it was really like to live in Coventry during World War II, you definitely need to read this book - I'm doing that right now.


I also brought Gram my copy of THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. She breezed through that book in just a few days (before starting COVENTRY) and loved it as well. She absolutely loved the character of Elizabeth. Gram doesn't remember hearing anything about Guernsey back during the war; like me, she was completely surprised that the German's occupied the island. She was, however, very familiar with the fact that children were sent away from their families and into the countryside to keep them safe. It didn't happen in her family but she knew that it was happening in others. Gram highly recommends this book as well. Her sister Hilda was planning to get it from the library when she went back home after her visit with Gram.

The book currently on Gram's shelf is THE MIRACLE OF THE NORTH PLATTE CANTEEN. I've had this book for quite a while and have been meaning to read it. As with COVENTRY, Gram is beating me to it. I'll let you know what she thinks about this WWII book as soon as she finishes.

Zombie Chicken award & Lemonade award

This is a belated recognition of two awards ...

Thank you to Lit & Life for presenting me with The Zombie Chicken Award:

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

So ... in order not to find myself hounded by a pack of zombie chickens, I'll give this award to the first 5 bloggers to comment on this post. That should keep me safe, don't you think?


I was especially honored to receive this one because it was the very first award Books, Just Books received, and she chose to pass it along to me. Thank you so much!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

War Through The Generations Challenge - Recap

I've completed the War Through The Generations - World War II Challenge! This challenge will continue next year with a focus on a different war - I can't wait to see which it will be.

The goal of this challenge was to read five books that pertained somehow to WWII.

I only read one book from my original list:

  1. Red Rain - about the Japanese incendiary bombs that were dropped on the Western US - I couldn't get into this story
These books were added to my list during the course of the year:
  1. Number the Stars - a young adult book about children in Denmark during the war - highly recommended for introducing kids to this time period
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- this book deserves all the hype I'd heard about it - it's one of my favorites this year
  3. Beside a Burning Sea - fictional account of the survivors of a bombed hospital ship who are stranded on an island with a traitor - somewhat predictable but still good
  4. A Thread of Grace - a novel about how Italians protected Jews during the war - a fabulous book
I intended to read the following books as well but didn't get to them:
  1. The Greatest Generation Speaks
  2. Once Upon A Town
  3. The Rising Tide
  4. The Steel Wave
Books 3 and 4 on that list are part of a trilogy that hasn't been completed yet. That's why I removed them from this year's list; I hate reading part of a series and not being able to finish it! I do hope to get to each of these books in the coming year though.

Anna and Serena did a wonderful job hosting this challenge. In addition to posting our reviews (yes, they did get behind sometimes, but I'll forgive them since they did so many other things too) they also posted author interviews and WWII-related news on the dedicated challenge blog. As I said, I can't wait to see which war they will focus on next year!

NOTE: I'll be posting within the next week about my Gram who lived in England during WWII and her thoughts on several WWII-era books she's read lately - I hope you'll enjoy hearing her opinions!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Transformation Study Bible

The Transformation Study Bible
edited by Dr. Warren Weirsbe

One of the most wonderful things about book blogging is having a publicist offer a book for review that turns out to be something you never knew about but that you now have to have. That is how I feel about this version of the Bible.

First, let me show you a picture of a page in my own Bible. You may have to enlarge it to see it clearly, but all that jumble along the edges? Those are notes I've taken during sermons and classes over the past few years. (By the way, if you DO enlarge it, please ignore my horrible handwriting - how embarrassing!) There are MANY pages in my Bible that look like that. I even bought a wide-margin Bible so I could have room for lots of notes. I write about the meaning of the passage, cross-references to other verses, comments about other translations, etc.; I want to be sure that I don't miss a vital piece of information that may come in handy later on.

I know myself, and so when I read the press release for The Transformation Study Bible I knew it would be an amazing resource that I simply had to have. And I was so right!

So far I have only skimmed it but I can't wait to spend time reading it. This is the type of Bible I have always wanted. Each book in this Bible begins with an outline listing the main events/topics of the book and also an overview. Then there is a section summarizing the lessons that we should apply to our lives. The book itself has TONS of footnotes with background history, clarification, and explanation on a verse-by-verse basis. Plus there are cross-references to verses in other parts of the Bible. Basically everything I was trying to record on my own? Yeah, it's all here. Wow.

The only thing that could make it better would be big margins for me to take notes in - because I know there will be more note-taking in my future.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended for anyone wanting to understand the Bible better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Photo Update on Bookish Events

A quick update (with photos!) of the bookish things I've been up to lately ...

~ At the Mobbies ~

Jenn, me, and Nancy

My blog was recently nominated for a Mobbie Award which honors Maryland's Outstanding Blogs. Even though I didn't win (thank you to all who voted - I was solidly in the middle of the pack, and I'm quite happy with that!) I had a lovely evening at the awards ceremony. I spent some time with Read Street blogger Nancy Johnston and her boyfriend Pat, as well as Jenn (aka Raven) of the collaborative sports blog Ladies.... In the hilarious random occurrence of the evening, Jenn was at the Washington Capitals game that Kiddo went to recently and she saw him on the JumboTron - too funny!

~ Storm Leader Preparations ~

check out the prices on these Wheel of Time books - unbelievable!

I already shared my excitement over the upcoming Brandon Sanderson Wheel of Time tour and how I was doubly thrilled to be chosen as a Storm Leader for the Baltimore tour stop. This past weekend I met up with two of the three other Storm Leaders to have lunch, discuss our love of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, and scope out the bookstore where the tour will be stopping. Poor Matt was home sick but Mike, Susan and I had a great chat about when we first started reading the series (consensus: 10-15 years ago), and we also speculated on what might happen in the end. Then it was off to the bookstore (Books-A-Millions in Arundel Mills Mall) to meet the store manager and firm up the details of the event. We had a great time and we can't wait to meet Brandon and Harriet on 10/29!

Mike, me, and Susan at Books-A-Million

What bookish things have YOU been up to lately? Any author tours coming to your area? Are you going to any of Brandon's tour stops? Fill me in!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fantasy Firsts Contest Winners Are ...

The three winners of my Fantasy Firsts contest are:

#22 - Daniel M
#2 - Nicole
#1 - Lilly

(results chosen by

Congratulations! Once I have your addresses, will be sending you each a copy of Robert Jordan's THE EYE OF THE WORLD and Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN. YAY!!!! I do hope that when you eventually read them you'll come back and tell me what you thought. ;)

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph:
A Practical Guide for Growing Great Kids
by Linda Massey Weddle
220 pages

*** About the Book ***

This book is a step by step guide for Christian families that explains how to help children (from birth through teen) learn to know who God is and also to love him and serve Him, just as Joseph did in the Biblical Old Testament. It based on the book RAISING A MODERN DAY JOSEPH, by Larry Fowler and is associated with the Christian organization AWANA.

*** Why I Read It ***

I heard about this book from a publicist, and I was interested for two reasons: Hubby and I are Christians and we're raising Kiddo that way, and Kiddo is involved in the AWANA program at our church. For those reasons I requested a copy for review.

*** My Thoughts ***

This book is exactly what is claims to be: a practical guide. There are sections for children at every age from birth through the teen years with helpful tips for imparting Biblical knowledge at each age. Each section is followed by a worksheet to fill in based on your family's specific needs.

The book is very successful as a stand-alone guide. Although the book it is based on would likely be good as well, I didn't feel it was necessary to read it in order to understand this one.

If you are a Christian family looking for help raising your children in your faith, this is an excellent resource and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm co-hosting a challenge - want to join?

I'm excited to announce that Rebecca Reads and I are hosting a challenge together ...

The challenge is simple - read one "really old classic" between Nov. '09 and Feb. '10. What is a "really old classic"? We define it as anything written prior to 1600 AD. Both Rebecca and I have come to love many of these old stories and poems and we are excited to get others to read them as well.

Of course you can always read more than one. In fact, there's an optional second level to the challenge for those of you who want to take it on. And for extra credit you can read a modern retelling of one of the really old classics. See, there's something for everyone here!

Get all the details at the challenge blog - and be sure to subscribe so you can keep up to date with any challenge news. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Finds 10/16/09

Giveaway Reminder: My "Fantasy Firsts" contest ends on 10/19 - three winners will receive both THE EYE OF THE WORLD (Robert Jordan) and MISTBORN (Brandon Sanderson). My contest for one copy of SUNNYSIDE BLUES (Mary Carter) ends on 10/23. There's still time to enter both, so get over there and do it!

This is the first Friday Finds I've participated in this month and I only have 4 titles to share - it's a miracle!
  1. Man's Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl - "Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory -- known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ('meaning') -- holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful." (From the back cover of the Beacon Press, 2006 edition.) Thanks to Books 'N Border Collies for recommending this one.

  2. The Myth of Bloody Mary, by Linda Porter - S. Krishna's Books highly recommended this new biography of Queen Mary Tudor. "When the name Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and sister of Elizabeth I, is mentioned, what immediately comes to mind? A bloodthirsty monarch who burned heretics? A women who was so sure of her own faith that she murdered everyone that didn’t agree with her? According to Linda Porter’s insightful new biography of “Bloody Mary,” that isn’t necessarily the case. Porter draws on an amazing amount of research in order to present a new side of the much maligned Queen." I've always been fascinated with Mary - how she could be the daughter of the amazing Katherine of Aragon and yet turn into such a horrific ruler. This book sounds wonderful.

  3. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, by Ross King - Another book I can thank Books 'N Border Collies for recommending. She says, "As much as I love history, I find it difficult to find non-fiction history books that capture and hold my attention. So many of them are so very dry. The problem is exacerbated when the historical topic is not something in which I've had anything beyond a vague curious interest." Yet this book (in audio form, which I love) kept her "so engrossed in the presentation that [she] often forgot it was non-fiction." I LOVE those kinds of books! I'll definitely be getting the audio version of this one.

  4. The Book of Fathers, by Miklos Vamos - I heard about this book in the author's guest post at (an excellent post by the way!). This book is "both a family saga, chronicling twelve generations, and a 400-year history of Hungary." In concept it reminds me of Edward Rutherford's and James Michener's books, both authors I enjoy very much. I'll definitely be on the lookout for this book.

Have any of these titles made it to you TBR list this week?

For more Friday Finds visit Should Be Reading and join in the fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dueling Monsters: Frank's Check In

Frankenstein Check In

Hello all! How is your read of Frank coming along? What do you think of it so far? I have to admit that I'm behind on the schedule I set for myself, but not by much. I'm in Chapter 11 now - where are you? I liked the beginning of the story very much but I'm struggling a bit with the part I'm at right now; I'm finding it rather hard to believe that the monster is so articulate (but maybe that is explained later?).

Share your thoughts on the book so far in the comments and be sure to post a link if you've done any recaps or updates on your own blog.

Frankenstein Participants

Anna @ Anna's leesreis - Lezlie @ Books 'N Border Collies - Robin @ My Two Blessings - Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies ~ Susan @ Plays With Needles ~ Stacey @ Unruly Reader ~ Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews ~ tokemise @ By Hook or By Book ~ Natasha @ Maw Books ~ Valerie @ Life Is A Patchwork Quilt ~ Nicole @ Linus's Blanket ~ Joanne @ The Book Zombie ~ softdrink @ Fizzy Thoughts (she's also hosting the Dracula read-a-long)

Sunnyside Blues + Giveaway

Guest Review:
Sunnyside Blues
by Mary Carter
326 pages

A while back I received a book for review and my book club pal Nancy asked to read it. She is not a blogger so I can't tell you to go visit her site, but I can show you a picture of my book club with Nancy in it:

Nancy is back row, center, in purple - I'm in front in red

I hope you enjoy Nancy's review:
I am a member of the Storie delle Sorelle book club, a wife, mother of two young adult children, crafter, cook, gardener, and friend. I had the pleasure of reading Mary Carter's novel SUNNYSIDE BLUES. One will not be disappointed. The author focuses on Andes, a snake handler from West Virginia who is running from her past, and Chase, the 10-year-old son of Jay, the drunken owner of a houseboat in Seattle. There are many twists and turns that begin when Andes wants to rent Jay's houseboat. Andes soon finds herself responsible for Chase. They embark on a journey through which they find a sense of family, love, and discover their true selves.
Nancy really enjoyed this book, as she told me in several different emails. And thanks to author Mary Carter, you can enjoy it too!


For a chance to win a copy of SUNNYSIDE BLUES simply leave a comment below telling me why you want to read this book. Per the author, this contest is open to US residents only. I will announce the winner on 10/23.

Note: If your email address is not easily to access through your blog or profile, please be sure to leave it in your comment.

Other Reviews

For more opinions on this book check out these reviews:
Book Chatter and Other Stuff
Should Be Reading
Did I miss yours?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Literary Connections

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Literary Connections post so I’ve got quite a list for you today.

Literary Connections are those times when something you’ve read in one book comes into play in another book you read shortly after. I love those fortuitous finds – they never fail to make me smile. Here are the links I’ve found lately (the titles take you to my reviews) …
  • While reading Till We Have Faces I found a mention of Alcibiades. If I hadn’t read Tides of War, I’d have had no idea who he was.

  • Ines of My Soul begins during the final days of the reign of Juana la Loca, the Mad Queen of Spain. Juana’s presentation here is in contrast to the new look at her life presented in The Last Queen, I book I really loved.

  • While I was reading The Lightning Thief to Kiddo my in-the-car audio book was The Iliad. It gave me the background I needed (and couldn’t quite recall) to explain Greek mythology to Kiddo.

  • We're now in the middle of the 2nd Percy Jackson book, The Sea of Monsters. I recently finished listening to The Odyssey and this was the PERFECT complement to that book – the monsters in both books are the same!

  • In Cranford one character mentions the work of Ms. Edgeworth. I could be wrong but I think she’s referring to writer Maria Edgeworth, who I know of only because I read Castle Rackrent.

  • My current book club read is The Unlikely Disciple. I found out in the first chapter that the author worked as an intern for AJ Jacobs when he was writing The Year of Living Biblically – that book was already on my TBR list.

  • I'm reading Frankenstein (for the Dueling Monsters read-a-long) and there is a quote on the very first page about being fascinated with the polar regions. That same passage was quoted in the beginning of The Voyage of the Narwhal.

  • Near the end of A Thread of Grace one of the characters describes the disparity in the numbers of soldiers on each side of a skirmish as being "of Agincourt proportions" - and I knew what that meant only because I recently listened to a book called Agincourt.

Phew, that was a long list! It is fascinating to me – and I hope to some of you as well – the way my reading seems to overlap. I’m sure it has to do with the amount of books I’m reading lately because I don’t remember this happening before I started blogging. Or maybe it is that I am spending more time analyzing what I read and therefore it is sticking with me ... I can't say for sure.

Does this happen to anyone else? Does it fascinate you when it does happen, like it fascinates me?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In The Arms Of Immortals

In the Arms of Immortals:
A Novel of Darkness and Light

by Ginger Garrett
291 pages

*** About the Book ***

In this historical-fiction-with-a-touch-of-the-supernatural novel, angels and demons are battling for the soul of a young woman. To save her, the angels take her back in time to learn some important lessons. Unfortunately, the time they take her back to is the Middle Ages - and the Black Death is breaking out.

As a side note, I really love the cover of this book - not sure why, but something about it intrigues me.

*** Why I Read It ***

I was intrigued by the publicist's email and agreed to accept a review copy based on the synopsis. I was hoping it would be something like a mix between YEAR OF WONDERS by Geraldine Brooks and THIS PRESENT DARKNESS by Frank Peretti.

Although it is book 2 in The Chronicles of the Scribe trilogy, I understood that it could be read as a stand-alone novel.

*** My Thoughts ***

I really hate to say it but this book was a disappointment.

The characters were under-developed and very stereotypical. Garrett seemed more interested in conveying the moral of the story as quickly as possible than in allowing the characters to make meaningful - and understandable - choices.

In addition to under-developed characters the plot seemed to jump ahead in spurts, almost without explanation. Time and again characters were put into situations and I asked myself "how did he/she get there?"

In the author's note at the end, Garrett explained that she wanted to examine the way the role of women in relation to the Catholic Church changed during the Black Plague. For being her main theme, this seemed to be a relatively minor plot point and one that was rather blatantly stated in the story itself.

The author had a great idea for a story but she seemed to only give the reader parts of it and she didn't allow her characters to become real. This book had lots of potential but unfortunately it failed to pan out.

*** Second Thoughts ***

I just read Amy's review of the first book in the series, IN THE SHADOW OF LIONS. Having read that, the beginning of this book makes a lot more sense to me. I would definitely not recommend this as a stand-alone novel; this is a situation where you should read the books in the order they were written.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you reviewed this book or others in the series? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Thread of Grace

A Thread of Grace
by Mary Doria Russell
426 pages

No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves
for us, there's always a thread of grace. (p421)

*** About the Book ***

There is so much going on in this book that I'm having a hard time summarizing it. So I'm going to cheat and use part of the description from the back of the book.
Tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters - a charismatic Italian resistance leader, a priest, an Italian rabbi's family, a disillusioned German doctor - Mary Doria Russell tells the little-known story of the vast underground effort by Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the final phase of World War II. A Thread of Grace puts a human face on history.
Seriously, I couldn't have said it better than that.

*** Why I Read It ***

Russell has written two other books, THE SPARROW, and a follow up to that book called CHILDREN OF GOD. According to THE BOOK CLUB COOKBOOK, her first book is an excellent way to introduce non-SciFi fans to the genre. As a SciFi fan, I'm always looking for books that will do this so of course I picked it up. And I loved it. Then I read CHILDREN OF GOD and loved that one even more. (I reviewed both books on this blog but it was way back in the beginning of blogging and my reviews were really just for me back then.) Russell's writing style and characterization are phenomenal. When I found out that she'd written an historical fiction novel set during World War II, I knew I had to read that book as well.

September was my month to lead the online discussion at Reading With Becky's Google Group so I chose this as the group's read. It was the excuse I needed to finally read the book.

*** My Thoughts ***

This is an amazing book. As I said above, Russell's writing is phenomenal and this book certainly did not disappoint. I shared several quotes here that really jumped out at me; they give you a taste of Russell's writing and the impact of her words. This book is not an easy read; it takes concentration and effort. The multitude of characters and locations, the occasional comments in Italian or German, and the way the story moves from person to person all mean that you have to give this book your undivided attention or you will be completely lost.

The story is told in the present tense and it works well in this case. It conveys a sense of immediacy, of being right there as events are unfolding. And in at least one case it allows you to be in the head of a person who suddenly dies.

Speaking of death, Russell is not afraid to kill off characters, even major ones, and I respect her for that; it makes the book so much more real. It was heartbreaking to read about the deaths of people I'd come to care about but at the same time it drew me even more into the story. There was one situation where I literally covered my mouth with my hand in shock when I realized one particular character had died - I certainly didn't see that one coming.

This is a book whose stories will stay with me for a long time. It was worth all the effort it took to read and I will definitely be keeping it as part of my permanent collection (a rare honor in my house!).

One more thing - at times this book reminded me of SUITE FRANCAISE, by Irene Nemirovsky, or at least, what SUITE FRANCAISE could have been had the author lived to finish it. If you liked that book you will definitely like A THREAD OF GRACE.

*** The Real History ***

The author's note in the back explains that the stories in the book were all based on actual people and events in Northern Italy between 1943-1945. Russell did extensive research for this book; she even traveled with a Jewish refugee from the era as he retraced his journey through Northern Italy during the last 20 months of WWII. Much of what she learned is incorporated into this book. If you want an historically accurate novel, this is the book for you.

As a side note, VioletCrush and I discussed this book in the comment section of one of her recent posts. At the time I thought that part of the story would revolve around concentration camps in Italy but that didn't end up being the case. This book does examine the Jewish experience in Italy, just not in the Italian camps. But I stand by my recommendation of this book as a way to learn more about Jews in Italy during WWII while enjoying a well-written and gripping story at the same time.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Does this sound like something you'd like to read? Do you like your Historical Fiction to be extremely accurate, or does that not matter to you? Any thoughts you'd like to share?

Other review can be found here:
  • Quotidian Grace - she give a bit more of the plot in her review than I did - she also loved this book
  • Your review could be here! Let me know where to find it and I'll add you in.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Exciting News + "Fantasy Firsts" Giveaway

Regular readers of my blog know about my tremendous love for the epic fantasy series "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan. You probably also know that upon Jordan's death author Brandon Sanderson was contracted to complete the series using Jordan's extensive notes. I've been anxiously awaiting the release of the first of the final three books (entitled THE GATHERING STORM) for about a year, and the date is almost here!

Brandon Sanderson and Harriet Rigney (Robert Jordan's widow and editor) will be at a bookstore near me on October 29th and you'd better believe that date has been circled on my calendar for quite some time. There's no way I'd miss the chance to meet Brandon and other WoT fans!


I just found out that I've been chosen as one of four "Storm Leaders" for the 10/29 tour stop. What is a Storm Leader you ask? Here are the official details:
Storm Leaders will get the rare opportunity to meet with Brandon and/or possibly Harriet in a casual setting before the actual book signing. Typically this will be at a nearby coffee shop, restaurant, or inside the bookstore cafe. Food and drinks will be provided, so there’s no cost to you. You’ll get the opportunity to meet with Brandon (and/or Harriet), and discuss whatever you guys like. You can also get your books signed and personalized in advance. The amount of time you’ll have to hang out will vary from city to city depending on Brandon’s schedule, but right now we’re estimating that it will be about an hour. And, of course, you’ll receive an Official Collector’s Edition 2009 Gathering Storm Tour T-shirt. (Oh yeah)

In return for this opportunity, we’re going to put you to work. Each of the Storm Leaders will be asked to help document the event in different ways. Some Storm Leaders will take photos. Another will take notes and do a blog write-up for DM to share with the wider community. Some will hand out promotional material to people standing in line. If the bookstore needs help organizing lines, a Storm Leader will be there to help.
I was dancing around for joy when I found out I'd been chosen - WOOHOO!!!!!


Dear blogger friends, I know that many of you have never read any of the Wheel of Time books. Many of you have never read fantasy period (for shame!). Here is your chance to remedy that. is giving away two "Fantasy Firsts": THE EYE OF THE WORLD, by Robert Jordan (book1 of the WoT series) and MISTBORN, by Brandon Sanderson (book 1 of the Mistborn Trilogy) to three lucky winners.

To enter, simply comment and tell me ONE of the following things:
  • why you love Robert Jordan
  • why you love Brandon Sanderson
  • why you want to try them out if you haven't read them before
  • how excited you are for me that I get to be a Storm Leader!
Per the contest is open to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

I'll announce the three winners on 10/19 - good luck!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Authors at the Aquarium

For those in the greater Baltimore area ...
Lecture Series at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

In Search of King Solomon's Ring: Studies with Alex, the Grey Parrot
Thursday, October 22, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg, research associate at Harvard University, will discuss her research on bird intelligence and cognitive capability, based largely on her personal relationship with a special parrot named Alex. She will explore Alex's learning capabilities, which she found match those of a 5-year-old child, and discuss her book, Alex & Me.

Reservations are required: Call 410-727-FISH.

Members: $15 adult, $10 child (ages 8-15); non-members: $25 adult, $15 child Code: PEPPERBERG-M


Animals Make Us Human

Tuesday, November 10, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University, has been described as "the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world." Autism has not stopped her from earning a Ph.D. and becoming a best-selling author. Grandin will share her unique perspective and explore the connection between animals and humans by discussing animals' emotional and intellectual processes.

Reservations are required: Call 410-727-FISH.

Members: $15 adult, $10 child (ages 8-15); non-members: $25 adult, $15 child Code: GRANDIN-M


For more details on this amazing lecture series click here.
Dr. Pepperberg's book, ALEX & ME, has been on my TBR list for a few months and I'm participating in a blog tour for it in November. Unfortunately Thursdays are Cub Scout nights and I'm the Wolf Den Leader (and I'm already missing one week this month) so her lecture is a no-go for me.

I've also heard amazing things about Dr. Grandin (including some mentions in THE HORSE BOY). But I don't know that I can make that event either.

As a side note, I realize the the Aquarium is not a non-profit organization so of course they have to charge for these events ... but there is something that bugs me about paying to see an author since so many author events are free. Regardless, I would still have gone to see Dr. Pepperberg if I could.
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