Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black Hills

Black Hills
by Dan Simmons
512 pages

*** About the Book ***

This is the story of the American West from the 1870s through the 1930s as seen by a Lakota Sioux named Paha Sapa. When Paha Sapa is ten years old he is present at the Battle of Little Big Horn where he meets George Armstrong Custer just before he dies. When he touches Custer, Paha Sapa is suddenly filled with Custer’s ghost; this ghost becomes his constant companion for the next 60+ years. The story jumps from present to past in a series of vignettes that cover such diverse topics as the Great Dust Bowl, the Chicago World’s Fair, World War I, the carving of Mount Rushmore, and the rise of Hitler.

Here's a video of Dan Simmons talking about this book:

*** Why I Read It ***

Amanda chose BLACK HILLS for the 20-Minute Book Club portion of her That’s How I Blog! Show. I was intrigued by the plot and decided to read the book and participate in the discussion.

*** My Thoughts ***

I have mixed feelings about this book. At first I really liked it. Then I hated it. Then I got bored by it. Then I fell in love with it. Then I wanted to throw it across the room. Then I got really confused. Finally – after over 2 months (including a 3 week break) – I read the final pages and closed the book. And I can’t make up my mind about this book!

It is impossible for me to review this without giving some minor plot spoilers, so consider yourself warned. Here are some things that I’m conflicted about:
  • I love the concept of the book and the way that so many historical events are tied into Paha Sapa’s story. This is the greatest strength of the book and the reason that I didn’t quit reading it.
  • This book would benefit greatly from a glossary of all the Indian words used. In addition, there was a term used by the author early in the story that is vitally important ... but the definition isn't given until halfway through the book. I can't be the only one who didn't know what "counting coup" means!
  • I hated Custer’s ghost. In our discussion on the show Nicole referred to him as Custer the Horny Ghost, and that is the perfect description. Why the ghost felt the need to recall his sexual encounters with his wife in graphic detail is beyond me. It didn’t make any sense with the story. Jen said she didn’t feel the ghost was necessary to the story at all, and I have to say that I agree. [Jen had some serious issues with this book that she details in her review.]
  • The remembered conversations between Paha Sapa and his son, Robert, were beautiful. I loved the way that Paha Sapa was conveying his people’s history to his son who had grown up mostly in the society of white people.
  • The imagery of the Stone Giants in Paha Sapa’s visions was very well done and made a lot of sense. But the way that his actions played out in regard to his plan felt like a cop-out to me (Simmons wrote it all out one way then went back and said it was just a dream and wrote out what “really” happened); to me it was like he couldn’t decide which option to go with so he gave the reader both.
  • I can’t decide if I like or dislike the ending and the epilogue. The World War II bits seem sort of tacked on and don’t have any real relevance to the rest of the book. It seems like Simmons wanted to include this part of history and had to figure out a way to get it in there.
Ok, so you can see why I’m conflicted. There are some really great aspects of the book that I just love but then there are some things that really drove me crazy.

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you’ve read Dan Simmons, does this sound like any of his other books? If you’ve read this book, do you agree/disagree with my opinions? Have you read any books that have left you this conflicted?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Sparrow (and link to Rebecca's recap)

The Sparrow
by Mary Doria Russell
408 pages

*** About the Book ***

In the not-so-distant future, scientists pick up signals coming from outer space. Instead of the mathematical code they've always expected to find, the signals turn out to be music - the most beautiful and unusual music they've ever heard. While world governments debate endlessly about how to proceed, the Jesuit Society quietly puts together it's own team of explorers and sends them off to discover the source of the music. Many years later the sole survivor of the expedition returns to Earth physically and emotionally scarred. As his superiors try to get the whole story out of him, the reader is brought to contemplate the big questions - is there a god/God out there? If so, then how could these horrible things have happened?

*** Why I (re)Read It ***

This was one of the first books I read after starting my blog, back when my reviews were only a paragraph or two. Back then I wrote: "the author presents her belief that although there is an all-powerful God out there, He is under no obligation to protect and preserve those who love Him." That has stuck with me since I finished the book in 2007.

When Florinda suggested a read-a-long of this book to encourage more people to read it, I immediately agreed to help out. This is a book that needs to be read and discussed by many more people.

*** My Thoughts ***

Let me address one thing for all you non-SciFi/Fantasy fans out there. Please don't dismiss this amazing book simply because you don't usually read this genre. Yes, this book is SciFi/Fantasy but that is not the POINT of the book. Rather it is the device used by the author to get the reader to examine the "big questions" of life, human nature, and spirituality. If you avoid reading it because of the genre, you are missing out on an incredibly powerful book.

[Getting off my high horse now ...]

If anything, this book is better the second time around. Even knowing what was coming, I still felt anxious enough about the storyline that I couldn't read this before bed or I'd be wide awake all night. Russell is a master at creating suspense in the reader while doling out just enough of the story to allow it to sink in at a steady pace. What amazed me on this read was how much she gave away right from the start, clues that a first time reader simply wouldn't be able to understand for what they were but that a re-reader couldn't miss.

Russell also is adept at realistically capturing the wide spectrum of human emotions and relationships. Her characters are real and dynamic. She uses them to illuminate the changes in a marriage over many years, unrequited love, emotional isolation, loneliness, spiritual passion, dedication, and so much more. Even small sections of the story that are unrelated to the big picture are powerful in and of themselves. So many times in the past few weeks I've found myself referring friends to specific parts of this book to help them see a personal situation in a different light, or to support their own viewpoints. It is a book that is so very relevant to life.

I could go on and on here but I'm going to to leave you with the fact that I think this book is amazing and I recommend that everyone read it.

*** The Big Picture ***

Part of the read-a-long involved responding to discussion questions. For me it was like being in a book club, being encouraged to more deeply examine what I was reading and I loved that. Here are some conclusions I came to that were really eye-opening for me:

Sandoz believed that God brought together the people needed for this expedition and led them every step of the way to its conclusion. But more than that, Sandoz believed that God was leading HIM specifically. When Something Bad happens to Sandoz he feels betrayed by God and questions his core beliefs – did God actually lead him? Does God even exist? If God exists, how could He have led the expedition to where it ended up? The book ends with Sandoz still pondering those questions.

This part of the story bothered me both times I read the book. If Sandoz truly loved God and believed that He had arranged this for so many years to bring this team together, then how could he reject God in the end? Yes, things went very badly. Yes, he has the right to feel angry and possibly even betrayed. But to reject God? This is something I don’t understand.

It took the read-a-long discussion questions prompting me to make m
e really think this through, and I’ve finally figured out my problem with Sandoz’s reaction: he’s looking at the little picture. All along Sandoz has marveled that God has been working through many, many years to bring His plan to fruition. He believes that the whole purpose of God’s plan was to make contact with this alien race. But what if that was NOT the purpose of the plan? What if God is still enacting the beginning part of His plan, and this is only a step in the right direction? THAT is what I think Sandoz is missing – he is making God’s plan all about him, rather than trying to see himself as part of an even larger plan. It’s the same “all about me” attitude that many people have, a understandable reaction to crisis but not one that really makes sense in the big picture.

Now I understand why I like the follow up to this book, CHILDREN OF GOD, better that this book; I feel like it fits better with my "big picture" concept. Of course, now I really want to reread that book ... anyone want to join me?

*** Thoughts (and links) on the Read-a-long ***

This read-a-long was a fabulous experience. If you'd like to check out the responses to the discussion questions, click here. To see how other bloggers reviewed this book, click here.

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you've read this book, what did you think of it? Do you agree/disagree with my thoughts on "the big picture"? If you've never read this book, have I convinced you to give it a shot?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Crocodile on the Sandbank
book 1 in the Amelia Peabody series
by Elizabeth Peters

audiobook: 10 hours

*** About the Book ***

It is 1884 and 32-year old spinster (?!?!) Amelia Peabody has inherited a modest fortune from her recently deceased father. An independent and opinionated sort, Amelia decides to avoid a sudden spate of wealth-seeking suitors and heads off to explore Egypt. Along the way she meets Evelyn, a young woman in desperate circumstances, and takes her on as a companion. The two women head down the Nile to Luxor where they meet archaeologists Radcliffe and Walter Emerson. A romance begins to blossom between Evelyn and Walter while Amelia and Radcliffe butt heads. All this is interrupted however when a mummy begins to haunt the dig site each night. Is this the result of a curse on the ancient holy city or is there a more scientific explanation? Leave it to Amelia (and company) to figure it out!

*** Why I Read It ***

I've heard about this series before but it was a review of the 2nd book in the series over at Historical Tapestry that made me put this on my TBR list. I was excited that my library had it on audio - I needed something new to listen to while getting ready for work in the morning!

*** My Thoughts ***

I went into this book with some incorrect expectations. For some reason I was thinking (hoping?) it would be like Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books. That is decidedly NOT the case. Once I got over that fact, I really enjoyed it. The plot is over-the-top ridiculous and somewhat predictable but lots of fun. But more importantly, I loved the main character; Amelia’s sharp tongue and brusque manner are fabulous, as are her interactions with the other characters (especially Emerson).

This book didn’t leave me hungering to pick up the next in the series RIGHT NOW but I do want continue on with it. I’ll likely read/listen to the next several books whenever I’m in need of a light, humorous read.

*** Your Thoughts? ***

Are you an Amelia Peabody fan? Which of the books in the series is your favorite? Is there another series you’d recommend that is like this one?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

Thank you to Regina @ Tales from a Leakey Faucet for giving me this award.

The rules of this award are:
• Thank the person who nominated you for this award (easy!)
• Copy the award and place it in your blog (done)
• Link the person who nominated you for this award (also done)
• Tell us 7 interesting things about you (I'll give it a shot ...)
• Nominate 7 bloggers and link to their blogs (do I HAVE to?!)

I love reading Regina’s blog. She is able to take everyday experiences and pop culture and learn important life lessons from them. Her posts are short, to the point, and always make me stop and think. Thanks Regina!

Seven things about me that may (or may not) be interesting ...
  1. I don’t own an iPod or any portable music device. I feel very out-of-the-loop.
  2. I love to be barefoot but my feet get cold quickly so I usually keep sandals or socks handy. But I never EVER sleep with socks on. *shudder*
  3. Speaking of feet, my toes are long and skinny – so skinny that toe rings slip right off.
  4. I don’t like change and will stick with the status quo for as long as humanly possible.
  5. I didn’t plan to have only one child but, come to find out, it is a pretty neat thing and I am really enjoying it. (I just hope that the wonderful relationship Kiddo and I have continues throughout his life.)
  6. In addition to book blogs I also read a few ice hockey blogs. LET’S GO CAPS!!!
  7. Hubby and I haven’t been on a vacation without Kiddo since 2004 so I am REALLY excited about the romantic weekend getaway he planned for us in April.
Here's the part I dread, the passing along of awards. It's not that I don't have bloggers that I love it's just that 1) how do you choose just some blogs when there are so many wonderful ones out there? and 2) what if that blogger is bothered by all the "awards" getting passed around?

So I'm going to take the easy road here any not choose anyone. You are all beautiful bloggers and I love reading your posts - keep up the good work!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Finds 03/26/2010

It seems like I get around to doing Friday Finds about once a month so my list of books is a big long ...

Folly, by Laurie R. King - found at the author's blog - "Folly is the story of a woman who builds her house, and herself, under circumstances that straddle the line between drear and dire: her family lost, her blood chemistry ruled by antidepressants, a woman to whom extreme solitude is a positive alternative to the life she leads. Her decision is based on the feeling that, contrary to Dunne, a woman can be an island: bleak, solitary, silent. But, surrounded by other islands."

Mare's War, by Tanita S. Davis - found at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On - "Mare’s War is the story of a journey. Of a pair of journeys really. One journey is a car trip cross country that two young African American girls, Tali and Octavia are taking with their grandmother, Mare. The other journey is the story that their grandmother tells them. And what a beautiful, tragic, strong, admirable, courageous, and ultimately humbling story it is. But Tali and Octavia don’t see it that way at first. [...] But they take the journey with her and learn with her. Mare grew up on a farm [...]. When the opportunity came for Marey (Mare’s name) to go off to war, a new opportunity for women of color, she signed up and left, promising her sister a better life for the two of them. What unfolds in Mare’s story is an awe inspiring story, a story that likely many women of color actually shared in the 40’s. Something that I was not aware of before reading this book!"

The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin - found at Fizzy Thoughts - From the publisher: "A searing, fiercely beautiful love story for the ages, The Disappeared — already a best seller in Canada — traces one woman’s three-decades-long journey from the peaceful streets of Montreal to the humid, war-torn villages of Cambodia, as a brief love affair turns into a grand passion of loss, mourning, and remembrance, set against one of the most brutal genocides of the twentieth century." from Softdrink: "Please, read this book. It will break your heart, but you’ll forgive it because of the beauty of the writing and the things it makes you think."

Henrietta's War, by Joyce Dennis - found at Things Mean A Lot - According to Nymeth, this book "is a humorous epistolary novel set in a village in Devonshire during WW2. “Humorous?”, you might be thinking. “WW2?”. Well, yes. And unlikely though it may sound, it actually works rather splendidly. The story is told through the letters that Henrietta, a middle-aged woman, writes to her childhood friend Robert, who is fighting at the front. In these letters, she satirically describes life in her hometown during the war."

Long Way Home, by David Laskin - found in an email from - from the book summary: "When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation's population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers—most of whom had been drafted—knew little of America outside of tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes. [This book] traces the lives of a dozen men, eleven of whom left their childhood homes in Europe, journeyed through Ellis Island, and started over in a strange land."

Decoding the Universe, by Charles Seife - found at Twiga Tales - Regina says: "I was hooked from the moment I read the subtitle: "How the new science of information is explaining everything in the cosmos from our brains to black holes." How could I resist? Then I read the first line: "Civilization is doomed." Yep. This one was going to to be a winner. *grin*"

The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doige - found at books i done read - Raych says: "This book will fascinate your pants off. You think I'm being metaphorical here but I suspect that this is how Dr Doidge picks up chicks, with the fascinating. I can't even begin to explain to you how geekily awesome it is, because my Geeko-Mc-Geek-a-meter broke about half a chapter in, and that is how I measure geek-awesome. So." Seriously people, if you don't read Raych's reviews, you are missing out!

Did any of these books catch your eye as well? What books have I missed hearing about in recent weeks?

For more Friday finds please visit Should Be Reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Rambles

Here's some of the bad and good stuff that's been going on lately ...
  • I'm sad to report that we are now dog-less. We had to put our 11 year old dog, Jasmine, down on Friday (3/19/10). She was not in the best of health and she spent that day having continual seizures. It was a hard day for all of us. We've decided not to get another dog, at least for the present. Jasmine's death comes two years after the death of our other dog, Dopey, from cancer at age 9. This is the first time Hubby and I haven't had a dog together since we've been married, and Kiddo has never been without one. (And is it just me, or has there been a spate of bloggers losing dogs lately?)

  • Kiddo had another endoscopy on Tuesday (3/23/10). The procedure went well, no complications. We'll get the results late next week - that will let us know whether he can continue to eat eggs or whether they are causing problems in his esophagus. (For those who are new here, you can get overview of Kiddo's disease at this link.)

  • Kiddo's doctor did find a problem though - he has a stomach ulcer. This makes no sense (to us or to the dr) because he is already on such a high dose of antacid - more than most adults are prescribed - that there is no way an ulcer should develop. So they did a biopsy of that as well, and we'll get those results along with the others late next week.

  • On a lighter note, I am ridiculously excited by the box that arrived today - in it is my copy of 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, the revised edition, which just came out this month. The book is more than 3 inches thick and has almost 1,000 pages. I can't wait to browse around inside and see why specific books are included on the list. My first task is to read the segments that pertain to all the books I've already read, then I'll check out books that I should read in the future.

  • In other bookish news, I started reading Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show last night and I really like it. I only read a few chapters before I forced myself to turn off the light, but I can tell already that it will be a struggle to put it down each evening.

  • I'm still struggling through Black Hills. I put this book aside for over three weeks but I do want to finish it so I can discuss it via Skype with a few bloggy buddies. There are parts of the book that are amazingly beautiful and (more) parts that are incredibly tedious. I'm trying to read a few pages each day but it doesn't seem like I'm getting any closer to the end.

  • Yesterday was Grandparents Day at Kiddo's school. All four of his grandparents were able to attend - they sort of overwhelmed the classroom, considering that most of the kids didn't have any grandparents with them, and the others only had one each. Luckily Kiddo's grandparents don't mind being shared. They all had a great time!

  • I found a spare calendar in my office that has a "tea" theme. Each day there is a tidbit of info about tea and I'm finding it fascinating. If you follow me on Twitter (I'm @Age30Books) or Facebook you may have noticed that I've been posting some of these tidbits there.

  • Several TV shows I watch are coming back from their mid-season break soon. What does it say about these shows when I can't seem to care whether or not they come back at all? Sad.

  • Next month my book club is meeting at a tea house to discuss Three Cups of Tea. I've heard mixed reviews about the book so I'm not sure what to expect but I'm REALLY excited about the place we're meeting.

  • Why is is that's spellcheck tool doesn't recognize "blogger" as a word?

That's about it for my update. How is life treating all of you, my lovely readers?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Silver: My Own Tale As Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder

Silver: My Own Tale As Written by Me
with a Goodly Amount of Murder

by Edward Chupak
288 pages

*** About the Book ***

Remember Long John Silver, the pirate cook/captain from Robert Louis Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND? This is his story, written down by him after he's been captured and is being transported to England to be hung. We learn about his childhood, how he first went to sea, and his eventual "promotion" to captain, all in his own words. But more than that, and sprinkled between the parts of his life, he includes all the ciphers that led him to find the Treasure Island treasure, and how he decoded them. And he may or may not have left clues to the new location of that treasure in his tale ...

*** Why I Read It ***

I first heard of this book in an email from back in January 2009. The blurb from the author really intrigued me. Here's an excerpt:
Why are people attracted to tyrants and malevolent individuals? Is there such a thing as "negative charisma"? How do we account for all of the evil in this world? [...] Long John Silver is charming, likable, witty, funny, strong, good with a sword and a pistol. He rises from low beginnings to great wealth and power. He is a hero by our standard definitions of a hero, and yet...he is greedy, murderous, duplicitous, scheming and treacherous. [...] He seeks a unique treasure, spending most of his life solving the riddles and ciphers that will bring him the ultimate prize. What drives him to commit unspeakable acts?

*** My Thoughts ***

This book took a few chapters to really capture my attention but when it did, I was hooked.

From the first page I was immersed in pirate-speak. I must admit that it was a bit overwhelming at first, but once I got into the mood of the book the language began to make a lot of sense and (more importantly) to feel right.

Long John Silver has been captured and is suffering from a raging fever that makes it hard for him to write down his story. Because of this, the tale jumps from topic to topic, from reminiscences of the past to interactions with the cabin boy who is bringing him meals during his imprisonment. This too took a bit of getting used to, but it worked for me in the end.

To help me recall the original story, I listened to an audiobook of TREASURE ISLAND whenever I wasn't actually reading this book. It helped me to recognize minor characters in SILVER and see why they might be significant. It isn't until the very end of SILVER that the events of TREASURE ISLAND occur, and when they do they are significantly different from the original tale (but with good reason).

Chupack took a famous, and dare I say well-loved character -Long John Silver, and gave him a life and a story of his own ... and a very entertaining one at that. Not to say that the book didn't have it's flaws, but on the whole I very much enjoyed it.

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you've read this one, what did you think of it? The only other review I found was at Blue Archipelago, and she really enjoyed it as well.

Have you read any other books that are "true stories" of fictional characters? Would you recommend any in particular?

LOST Discussion

Just a reminder that I'm recapping each week's episode of LOST over at the LOST Books Challenge blog. Come on over and share your thoughts on last night's Richard-centric episode. Even if you are not a part of the reading challenge, we'd still love to have your input on our episode recaps!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Treasure Island

Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson
audiobook: 5.8 hours

*** About the Book ***

For those unfamiliar with the story: Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper, comes into possession of a treasure map when an old pirate dies in the inn. Being fatherless, Jim trusts his map to the local doctor who decides to provision a ship to find the treasure. The cook hired for the journey turns out to be a famous pirate, Long John Silver, and he plans a mutiny in order to get the treasure for himself. Jim overhears Silver's plotting and helps the few loyal crew members to escape. And I can't tell you more because that would ruin the adventure.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

This book was a favorite of mine when I was in middle school. I didn't intend to revisit it until I started reading SILVER. Then I realized that I really didn't remember the details of the book and that they might be help me appreciate SILVER if I did remember them. So I downloaded the audiobook from the library and started listening.

*** My Thoughts ***

Wow, I really DIDN'T remember a lot of the details! I've clearly been influenced by The Muppets Treasure Island movie and other adaptations. I forgot that Long John Silver really was a violent pirate at the start of the story, despite his kindness to Jim. I also forgot all about the loyal sailors being trapped in the fort on the island, and Jim finding the marooned Ben Gunn.

Although I did enjoy revisiting this book, I didn't love it quite as much as I did when I was a kid. It DID give me the background I was looking for to help me with SILVER though, and that's all I really wanted.

As a side note, the narrator of this book was Ralph Cosham. He did a good but not great job. I think the book would have been much, MUCH better had the narrator been closer in age to Jim Hawkins - a young teenage narrator would have added a lot to the telling.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you read TREASURE ISLAND? Seen the movies? What is your impression of Long John Silver?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mom & Son Book Club #15: The Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse
Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3
by Rick Riordan 320 pages

I started reading this to Kiddo back in November, I think. In December we took a break to read A Christmas Carol together. Between Hockey, Cub Scouts, AWANA, school, and family activities, we didn't finally finish the book until the end of February.

Do you want to know another reason that we took so long to read this? Kiddo started reading some of it to me! As you may recall, he's struggled with reading but has been improving steadily. I am so very impressed that he is able to read parts of this book to me, even if he still has trouble with lots of the words and his pace is very slow. All that doesn't matter - the fact that he is trying really hard, and (for the most part) enjoying it ... that makes me a very happy momma indeed.

I don't have much to say about this book that I haven't said about the previous ones in the series. Although it is fun to read with Kiddo, it is not a series that I would really have enjoyed on my own. The Greek mythology theme is clever and interesting but to my mind the book is geared more to it's intended audience: kids. This book does stray slightly into romantic situations but those are an undertone to the main plot, and more a part of the growing-up process of the characters. Kiddo didn't seem to notice it at all.

One thing I did notice, and this is more about our experience reading than about the book itself, is that Kiddo is getting better at putting the clues together and anticipating what might be coming next. In previous books, I'd have a plot twist figured out chapters ahead of time but he'd be completely surprised by it. Now he is catching on to the hints in the story and is quite pleased when he realizes he was right about something.

Kiddo intended to do a video with his thoughts on the characters but time got away from us. By this point he is focused more on the next book in the series and doesn't really have much to say about this one. Hopefully next time we'll have it a bit more together and we'll be able to do a video just after we finish reading ...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Introducing My BEA/BBC Roommates

I'm REALLY starting to get excited about BEA and the BBC. I know it is still over a month away but I like to plan in advance - it makes me happy.

My biggest stress was finding people to share a room with. I have no problem meeting new people or sharing a room with someone I don't know, my problem was how to FIND these people. So I was very grateful when another blogger posted about the roommate finder survey going on at Neverending Shelf. I filled out the form then browsed the comments and guess what I found there? Three people who were looking for a 4th roomie - WOOHOO!

Without futher ado, here are my three roommates:
We'll be staying at the Comfort Inn just two blocks from the Convention Center. I couldn't be happier! Now I just need to buy my train ticket and I'll be all set to go.

*** Questions For You ***

Are you going to any part of BEA or the BBC? If so, I'd love to know what days you'll be there and which hotel you'll be at.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reading too much?

The following list was posted at Both Eyes Book Blog and I thought it was hilarious! I've put the things that apply to me in bold, just for the fun of it.

Both Eyes Book Blog's clues that you are reading too much:
  • Moss is growing on the back of your head.
  • Your hands refuse to unbend from book-clamping position.
  • You lose circulation from the waist down.
  • Neighborhood children run screaming when you get the mail, because they think you’re a witch.
  • It’s been so long since you watched TV that you think X Files is still running.
  • Librarians visibly react when you walk in – either in pleasure or fear.
  • You know instinctively how to find a book because you memorized the Dewey Decimal system so long ago.
  • You think in text.
  • Audio books take up more space on your iPod than music or photos.
  • When someone asks if you’ve seen a movie, everyone recites along with you, “No, but I read the book.”
  • You anticipate the Booker and Pulitzer award announcements but can’t tell the Super Bowl from the World Series or the Grammys from the Emmys.
  • When you move, it’s a given you’ll have more boxes of books than clothes or cookware.
  • Your computer is nearly a decade old but you’re saving for the next-generation e-reader first.
  • The bar code sticker is wearing off your library card.
  • There is a designated space on your bookshelf for library books.
  • You track your reading on a spreadsheet.
  • You keep any kind of list of books read or to read.
  • You know the meaning of the acronym TBR and sigh when you hear it.
  • There are books stacked next to your bed.
  • There are books stacked in your bathroom.
  • You would consider purchasing a device that allowed reading in the shower.
  • When reading while eating, you’re more likely to let your food go cold than leave your page unturned.
  • When you pick up a book, the dog runs over because he knows it’s couch time.
  • You read standing up.
  • You read while walking.
  • You’ve read during sex. Or wished you could.
What do YOU think of this list? Does it remind you of yourself?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Favorite Reads: The Poisonwood Bible

My Favorite Reads is a way to revisit books you love but that you read before you had a blog. This week I'd like to tell you about Barbara Kingsolver's THE POISONWOOD BIBLE.

When I first heard about this book I thought it was some sort of sacrilegious novel, something that I'd never choose to read. You have to admit that the title DOES sound strange! One day I saw it on the shelf of ta thrift store's book room and picked it up, just to see what it was actually about. I ended up paying about 50 cents for that very beat-up copy and taking it home with me.

This book hooked me from the first few pages when I read that there is a woman who has four daughters and that one of those daughters has died - which one? and how? and why? What is the whole story here?!

In case you aren't familiar, the book tells the tale of a Southern family in the 1950s (I think) who move to Africa to be missionaries. If ever there was a more unprepared and prejudiced group of people, I 'd be very surprised. The story follows their experiences over approximately 40 years.

Each chapter is told by one of the women - the mother or one of the four daughters. Only the father doesn't get a say in the story. The women each have a distinct voice and you can easily "hear" which one is narrating.

This book is beautifully written, has engaging and dynamic characters, deals with difficult topics, and tells a fascinating story. I've read it twice and recommended it to numerous friends, each time with good results. I even convinced my book club to read it; it turned out to be one of our very best club books. [If you are interested you can read about our discussion here and here.]

I got my mom to listen to the audiobook and she gave it rave reviews. Of course, she also fell in love with Anatole (one of the characters) while listening, so that may have influenced her just a little bit ... ;)

If you still need more encouragement to read this book, you might like to know that it is on the 1,001 books list.

I can't recommend this book highly enough.

For more My Favorite Reads please visit At Home With Books every Thursday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black Wave

Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them
by John & Jean Silverwood
audiobook: 7.5 hours

*** About the Book ***

This is the true story of a family living on their boat for a year and the accident that sank that boat.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

Work has been slow and I really wanted something listen to during the day. I browsed my library's downloadable audio website and found it there.

*** My Thoughts ***

I can't give a very thorough review of this book because I only half listened to it as I worked. That said, I did really enjoy it. The first two thirds of the book are told from Jean's (wife/mom) point of view. She explains how the family ended up living on their boat for a year, the places they visited, the problems they had, and, of course, the accident that sank their boat. The final third of the book is told by John (husband/dad). He focuses on his injury during the accident, the history of other wrecks on that same reef, and how the family is doing now.

When I started listening to this book I was struck my how familiar parts of the story sounded. That's when I realized that I'd heard about this family before. Check out this 4 minute video that was released earlier this year (if you're in a hurry you can scroll to time marker 2:06, but the beginning is good too).

Pretty cool, huh? (And that Boy Scout Adventure Base is traveling around the country right now in case you'd like to check it out. Details can be found here.)

If you're interested, you can read more about the Silverwoods in this article.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that there are lots of quotes and references from Moby Dick in this book. They were well placed and added a lot to the book IMO. (My review of Moby Dick is here.)

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you heard of this family before? Have you read the book? If you've reviewed it please share your link in the comments.

Does the idea of a year living on a boat appeal to you? I have to say that is does not appeal to me. Not only am I claustrophobic, I also get creeped out by large open spaces with nothing in sight (I know there is a name for that but I don't know what it is). I've always wanted to take a cruise, but I'm afraid that looking out over the railing and seeing nothing but ocean would send me back to my cabin for the rest of the trip. My idea of a great year would be traveling the country in an RV. There are so many place to see and things to do! That is Hubby's and my retirement dream.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Answers (A Flock of Readers for The Sparrow)

Discussion Question Responses to
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell

Welcome fellow SPARROW readers! I hope you are enjoying this amazing book and the read-a-long we've put together.

Below are my answers to some of the discussion questions and also a few quotes that stand out to me. I welcome your comments and am looking forward to reading your discussion posts.

  • From the beginning of the book we know that Something Bad happened during the mission but it takes until almost the end of the book for the reader to get the whole story. Do you think the author built the suspense to the perfect pitch or do you feel that she drew it out too long?

    The first time I read this, the suspense really got to me. I simply could NOT put the book down and I read until 4am one night, even though my eyes were closing and I had to get up just a few hours later. I thought that this time would be different, that since I knew what is coming there wouldn’t be so much suspense. How wrong I was! I finally realized that I cannot read this book before bed or it will make me so anxious that I’m unable to sleep. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just shows that this author can write a very powerful book.
  • Many people, in times of crises, ask how God can let bad things happen to good people. If someone asked you this, what would be your response? How do you think the author is choosing to answer that question in this book?

    This is a question I have never struggled with, although my husband has and we have debated it extensively. The way I see it, God gave everyone free will. Sometimes our own choices result in heartbreak for us, sometimes it is the choices of others that do it, and sometimes there is no fault to be handed out. It is those cases that are the hardest to reconcile, but I see it this way: we live in an imperfect world, a world that God did not intend for us (he gave man perfection and man chose sin). While we are here on earth we have to deal with that imperfection. But more than that, God uses all things for a purpose – even horrible things, even when we can’t see the purpose; something good will come out of it for someone, somewhere. Does that make is any easier to deal with? No, and yes. It doesn’t make the heartbreak go away but in my case I do get a sense of peace from it.

    As for how the author is answering that, I can't say just yet - I want to finish the book first.
  • A basic premise of this story is an evaluation of the harm that results from the explorer's inability to assess a culture from the threshold of exploration. Do you see any parallels between the voyage of the eight explorers on the Rakhat mission and the voyages of other explorers from past history--Columbus, Magellan, Cortez, and others--who inaccurately assessed the cultures they discovered?

    I don’t have an answer to this except to ask are we CONTINUING to incorrectly evaluate other cultures? I came across this post recently and it has really stuck with me. I haven’t read that book but the premise is one that really caught my attention.
  • "It is rare to find a book about interplanetary exploration that has this much insight into human nature and foresight into a possible future.” - San Antonio Express News

    But isn’t that what GOOD scifi – actually, any good book in any genre – is supposed to do - give us insight into ourselves? I want books to give me a new way to look at people, myself included, and a new way to view society. I want books to open my eyes to things I haven’t considered before.

I'm only up to chapter 27 in my re-read but here are some of the quotes that have stood out to me so far:
  • p59 – Anne realizes that she is attracted to Emilio but rather than throwing away her marriage she reviews herself and her life in the most honest way possible and makes a conscious decision to love Emilio as a son and to continue to love her husband.
  • p156 – Anne: “I’ve been married at least four times, to four different men. […] They’ve all been named George Edwards.” This section is one I love for its realistic look at the way a marriage and its partners change over time but can still remain strong.
  • p106 – Emilio’s prayer: “Lord, I believe. Help me in my disbelief.” What person of faith hasn’t felt that conflict before? It really resonated with me.
  • p201 – Marc, discussing faith in God: “Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable.” There are things we will simply never understand, and we have to be okay with that.
  • p212 – John: “There is a difference between being responsible and being culpable.” This is really a profound statement and it speaks to many people who hold themselves responsible for what happened to someone else.
  • p288 – Anne: “What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can’t swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God’s in charge or He’s not.” I love this discussion between Anne and Emilio. He goes on to ask her if this is the only thing standing in the way of her believing in God. I think this is something that stands in MANY people’s way, and I love the discussion that follows.
My co-hosts and I were discussing the book on Twitter and realized that the author gives SO MUCH away right up front, but that none of us noticed it the first time we read the book. Re-reading it now, knowing what is coming, we were able to pick out all the times we should have figured out "the big secret"; however, at the same time, were were all in complete suspense about the ending. Nothing has been ruined for us by knowing the end - in fact, the book is even better for it in my opinion.

Now I'm off to see what the rest of you thought about this book ...

A Flock of Readers for "The Sparrow": Discussion Questions

It is the year 2019. From an outer space listening post on Puerto Rico come the sounds of exquisite singing—emanating from a planet that will be known by earth as Rakhat. While the international community debates endlessly about sending a mission, a scientific team of eight Jesuits quietly launches its own. What they discover on Rakhat makes them question the very basis of what it means to be human. Four decades later, Emilio Sandoz, the sole survivor, attempts to tell what happened. – summary via LitLovers

Welcome to the discussion question portion of A Flock of Readers for THE SPARROW. Florinda, Rebecca and I are thrilled that so many of you have committed to read this book with us.
(It's not too late to join in if you haven't already!)

In this post you’ll find a lengthy list of questions and reviewer quotes. Look them over and choose a few to respond to on your blog, or simply share your thoughts on the book so far. You don't have to be finished the book to participate in the discussion! You can post your answers any time prior to March 30 (that is the date your review should be posted). Once your post is up, leave a link to it in the comment section of this post. If you don’t have a blog please share your thoughts in the comment section.

NOTE: If your answers to the questions include spoilers for the end of the book, please note that at the start of your post; we don't want to ruin the book for any of the participants!

I’ve created a new post that will list the links to your answer posts. I’ll update it whenever new links are added here. Click here to see the list so far. I encourage you to read the other participants answers to the questions. This book gives us so much to talk about – let’s get the conversation started!

Discussion Questions - courtesy of me
  1. For first time readers, how does your reading so far match up to what you expected from this book?
  2. This book is set in a not-so-distant future in which the balance of world power has shifted from the United States to Japan. Poverty, indentured servitude, ghettos, and “future brokers” are common. Based on this projected future, would you classify this novel as dystopian? Do you think this future is a real possibility based on where the world is today?
  3. From the beginning of the book we know that Something Bad happened during the mission but it takes until almost the end of the book for the reader to get the whole story. Do you think the author built the suspense to the perfect pitch or do you feel that she drew it out too long?
  4. If you've gotten to the end, was the final truth one you expected or were you taken by surprise?
  5. Many people, in times of crises, ask how God can let bad things happen to good people. If someone asked you this, what would be your response? How do you think the author is choosing to answer that question in this book?

Discussion Questions - adapted from Reading Group Guides
  1. How do faith, love, and the role of God in the world drive the plot of this story? One reviewer characterized this book as "a parable about faith--the search for God, in others as well as Out There." Do you agree? If so, why?
  2. A basic premise of this story is an evaluation of the harm that results from the explorer's inability to assess a culture from the threshold of exploration. Do you see any parallels between the voyage of the eight explorers on the Rakhat mission and the voyages of other explorers from past history--Columbus, Magellan, Cortez, and others--who inaccurately assessed the cultures they discovered?
  3. Despite currently popular revisionism, many historians view the early discoverers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries not as imperialists or colonists but as intellectual idealists burning to know what God's plan had hidden from them. Do you agree? Does this story make you reconsider the motives of those early explorers?
  4. One of the mainstays of the Star Trek universe is the "prime directive" which mandates the avoidance of interference in alien cultures at all costs. Would the "prime directive" have changed the outcome of events on Rakhat? Why or why not?
  5. The discoverers of Rakhat seem to be connected by circumstances too odd to be explained by anything but a manifestation of God's will. Did God lead the explorers to Rakhat--step by step--or was Sandoz responsible for what happened? If that's the case, how could God let the terrible aftermath happen?
  6. One reviewer wrote, "It is neither celibacy, faith, exotic goods, nor (as Sandoz bitterly asserts) the introduction of one of humanity's oldest inventions that leads to the crisis between humans and aliens. The humans get into trouble because [...] in short, they fail because they fail to put themselves into the aliens' shoes." Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
  7. The Jesuits saw so many of their fellows martyred all over the world throughout history. Why aren't they more sympathetic in dealing with Sandoz--a man victimized by his faith?
  8. What is this story about? Is it a story about coming face-to-face with a sentient race that is so alien as to be incomprehensible, about putting up a mirror to our own inner selves, or something else entirely?

Author Quotes - courtesy of LitLovers

Does this quote from Mary Doria Russell give you any additional insights into this book?
  • "I learned that intentions are irrelevant and regrets are useless: it doesn't matter what you thought would happen, or that you meant no harm. Unintended consequences of good intentions are a theme I return."

Reviewer Quotes - courtesy of Reading Group Guides and LitLovers

Do you agree or disagree with the reviewers quoted below? Are they right or wrong in their assessment of the book? Did you view the book in the same way?
  • "Important novels leave deep cracks in our beliefs, our prejudices, and our blinders. The Sparrow is one of them." —Entertainment Weekly
  • "It is rare to find a book about interplanetary exploration that has this much insight into human nature and foresight into a possible future.” - San Antonio Express News
  • “Readers who dislike an emphasis on moral dilemmas or spiritual quests may be turned off, but those who enjoy science fiction because it can create these things are in for a real treat.” - Science Fiction Weekly If you are a SciFi fan, do you prefer your books heavy on adventure, heavy on philosophy, or a mix of the two?
  • "The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz's degradation isn't the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together.” - Publishers Weekly
  • “The dense prose in this complex tale may at first seem off-putting, but hang on for the ride; it's riveting!” — Jennifer Henderson, Booklist

I look forward to reading your responses. Thanks for participating!

Your Answers (A Flock of Readers for "The Sparrow")

Continuing our read-a-long of THE SPARROW, by Mary Doria Russell, please visit the following links to see how other readers responded to the discussion questions posted here. Feel free to comment on each of these posts to keep the discussion going.

(I'll add to this list as links are submitted on the Discussion Questions post.)
  1. Heather J. @ Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books (me)
  2. Florinda @ The 3 R's (co-host)
  3. Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog (co-host)
  4. Suey @ It's All About Books
  5. Heather @ Book Addiction
  6. Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Randomness ...

I am exhausted after a very busy/stressful/fun weekend. Combine that with the one-hour-earlier deal that is is Daylight Savings Time and you've got one fried brain here. So here's the random bookishness that's on my mind today:

THE SPARROW read-a-long update: Tomorrow I’ll be posting discussion questions for participants to answer. You don’t need to be finished the book to join in so don’t worry if you are still reading.

What I’m reading now:
  • THE SPARROW, by Mary Doria Russell – This is my 2nd time reading this book and it is just as good as it was the first time. The first time I read it I stayed up until 4am one night; I was so anxious about what was going to happen that I literally could not close my eyes, even after I put the book down. I didn’t think that would be the case this time since I know the ending but it is happening again. I’ve realized that I just can’t read this book before bed – it is a daytime read only.
  • Silver: My Tale As Told By Me, With A Goodly Amount of Murder, by Edward Chupak – This is the tale of Long John Silver reimagined and is currently my bedtime read. I’m only a short way into it but I like it so far. It is a bit heavy on the pirate jargon though, so we’ll see how it goes …
  • Black Hills, by Dan Simmons – I had to put this book aside for a while. I was enjoying it but it is rather slow, and I was falling asleep every time I got one page read. Not a good thing.
I’ve also got three audiobooks going right now. Not sure exactly how that happened, but despite some initial confusion it IS working for me.
  • Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them, by John & Jean Silverwood – I’m listening to this one while at work so I’m not really paying close attention but it is quite fascinating regardless. And it’s a true story, so that’s a bonus.
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters – I’ve got this book playing while I get ready for work in the morning. It is the first in the Amelia Peabody series. It isn’t what I expected so I’m not sure what I think of it just yet.
  • A Darker Place, by Laurie R. King – This is my in-the-car book. It’s the fictional story of a woman going undercover to investigate a potential cult and I’m really enjoying it so far!
I need to get Kiddo to vlog his thoughts on the latest Percy Jackson book that we finished, THE TITAN’S CURSE, but getting that kid to stay put long enough to discuss a book is increasingly difficult …

How is your reading going? Anything you are particularly enjoying or not enjoying?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The winner of The Wives of Henry Oades is ...

Congratulations to Bookie - you are the winner of a shiny new copy of THE WIVES OF HENRY OADES! Please respond to my email by Monday evening to claim your prize. :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Snow Pictures

I promised to share some photos from the Snowpocalypse we had back in February. Here's a quick sample ...

That snow feel in early February and there are STILL a few piles of snow around town. CRAZY!

If you'd like to see the rest of my photos you can view more at this link.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mini Challenge: New York Woman

To help us all get excited for BEA/BBC in New York in May (like we need any help with that, right?!) Softdrink is hosting several NY-themed challenges between now and then.

Last month she had us write ten things we love about New York. My list included my mom's Brooklyn accent. There were 16 people who participated in that challenge and guess what? Softdrink randomly choose ME to receive this super-cool tote bag from The Strand. YAY ME! The bag also came with a mint tin that says "I Love NY" and a pen from The Strand. Thanks Softdrink - you are super cool!

This month's mini challenge is to write a post that features "women, New York, and history" - sounds simple enough, right? For me, at least, it IS very simple. Who else could I write about except my mom?!

This is my younger sister, my mom, and I last summer. No, mom is not really that much shorter than us - we both had on heels and she had on flats. At 5'1" she IS the shortest though, since I'm 5'3" and my sister is 5'5".

Here are some things about Mom that you might like to know.
  • She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.
  • She is 1/2 Italian (on her father's side) and 1/4 English, 1/4 Irish (on her mother's side).
  • After 40+ years living out of the city, she still sounds like a New Yorker most of the time.
  • There were 8 siblings in her father's family. Each sibling had 3-5 children. And most of those families lived within a few blocks of my mom's rowhouse in Flatbush. Family dinners were at her grandparents house on Sundays and took place in the basement, the only spot where all the aunts, uncles, and cousins could fit in one room.
My mom is the reason that I know so much about my family history and I'm very, VERY grateful for that. She always encouraged us to ask questions of my grandparents and other family members, and she always tried to record their answers if possible. In addition, she is a wonderful storyteller. My sister and I would ask for the same family stories again and again - we never tired of hearing them. Here are tidbits from some stories mom told me over the years.
  • Mom had three younger brothers who were bad-to-the-bone. She would tattle on them whenever possible and they would try to get back at her however they could. One time, when she was a teenager, her parents were out of the house and her brothers rolled her up in a rug, wrapped chains around it, hooked the chains to the top of the stairs, then pushed the rug so that she was dangling down the staircase. They only let her out when they realized her hair was caught in the chains and being yanked out. Ouch!
  • Those same brothers were just as rotten when they were small. Mom had a beautiful baby carriage that she just loved to death. One day she went outside and noticed that the carriage was MUCH heavier than usual. She burst into tears when she saw that her brothers had filled the inside of it with cement.
  • Mom's grandparents - my great-grandparents - moved from Italy to New York via (we believe) Massachusetts. For the longest time we thought they came through Ellis Island but this doesn't seem to be true.
  • According to family stories, my mom's grandfather basically tricked his new wife into coming to America by telling her it was only for a short trip; he even had her leave her trunk with all her trousseau items behind in Italy. She never did get her beautiful tablecloths and other treasured items over to America.
  • That same grandfather drove an ice delivery truck in Manhattan where the family first lived.
There are so many more tidbits I could share with you but I really don't think they are of great interest to anyone outside my family.

When I told Mom I was going to NYC for a book convention she was so excited for me. She and my Grandpa started listing places that I should visit if at all possible, places that are significant to our family history - streets where family members used to live, the park where Grandpa used to swim, and so on. Of course we quickly realized that these places are all either on the other side of Manhattan or way out in Brooklyn so they really aren't feasible for this trip. But I can see that a family-history trip to the City is in order one of these days ...

Thanks to Softdrink for the excuse to write about my Mom, family history, and New York. And yes, I am even more excited for BEA/BBC now!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


by Octavia Butler
audiobook: 11 hours

*** About the Book ***

It is 1976 and Dana and Kevin are married writers who have enjoyed some moderate success, enabling them to purchase their first home. While they are still moving in, Dana gets dizzy and feels like she is passing out. Suddenly she finds herself outside near a river where a young boy is drowning. She pulls him from the water, saves his life, then find herself looking down a shotgun; the boy's father is ready to shoot her, thinking she is trying to kill his son. Then POOF!, she's back in her new living room. Kevin has no idea why his wife disappeared, he's simply happy she's back. But it happens again, and then again and again, over the next few days, and each time Dana is gone longer. She soon realizes that she is not simply moving through space, she is moving through time as well. Somehow that young boy she saved, Rufus, calls her back through time whenever he is in a life-threatening situation and Dana arrives just in time to save his life. The problem? Rufus is a young plantation owner living in the early 1800s and Dana is an African American woman. AND Rufus is Dana's ancestor.

*** Why I Read It ***

I first heard of Octavia Butler through this post at I immediately added her Pattern series to my TBR list. Then I read this post about her time travel/slavery novel, KINDRED, and that book went onto my TBR list as well. When it was time to look for a new audio book at the library I came across this one and checked it out immediately.

Plus, since there is time travel (albeit unexplained time travel), this counts toward the Mind Voyages Challenge.

*** My Thoughts ***

Oh Octavia Butler! WHY have I not read you before?! You are wonderful, simply wonderful!

(Do you get the idea that I liked this book, maybe just a little?)

I don't usually read books set in the American South during any time period and I can't recall the last pre-Civil War book I read (other than GONE WITH THE WIND, and we all know how very realistic that book is ... *sarcasm*) so this was definitely a break from my usual reading habits. I listened to this while driving and let me tell you, I did NOT want to get out of the car at all.

Let me explain what is so wonderful about this book ...

As a white female living in a relatively non-racist community there are thing that I will simply never understand about racism, things that I will never personally experience. Many times authors write about this topic in a way that doesn't help me to understand racism any better than I already do. Butler's writing was different. The fact that her main character is coming into her slave-life from a safe, comfortable, and generally non-racist home/work life allowed Butler to show the readers the reality of slavery through modern eyes. Dana was shocked and horrified over the same things that I would be shocked and horrified over; our reactions mirrored each other in a way that helped me understand the horrors of slavery as I never have before.

Butler didn't take the easy way out as I thought she might. I expected Butler to protect her main character, give her a way to keep from getting hurt, give her someone to watch over her, give her something. This didn't happen, and every time it didn't happen I was forced to acknowledge the realities of life as a slave - sometimes there simply are no choices or ways to get away.

One other thing that made the book hit home for me is that is takes place in Maryland. The main setting is a town called Easton which is about an hour from my house. I have friends who live there. Other parts of the story take place in Baltimore, which is just 20 minutes away. Stories like this (minus the time travel, of course) took place practically in my back yard.

This is an amazing book, one that I've been recommending to people since I got through the first few chapters. I would have even let Kiddo listen to it with me (it would be an excellent way to get him to understand slavery) except for the repeated use of the "n" word; it makes sense in the context of the book, but I don't want that word in Kiddo's vocabulary at all just yet.

*** About the Audiobook ***

The audiobook was narrated by Kim Stuanton and she did an excellent job. She had different accents and voices for the various characters in the book which made it easy to keep track of who was talking. She also conveyed the emotions of the characters very clearly, something not all narrators can do.

*** Your Thoughts ***

This book needs to be more widely read! The only other review I could find was at Linus's Blanket and she loved it as well.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? If not, have I convinced you to give it a try?
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