Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, May 31, 2010

BEA, BBC, and a new Baby (not mine!)

Tuesday afternoon I took the train to New York City to hook up with the largest gathering of book bloggers EVER.  I had a fabulous time a Book Expo America (BEA) and the first annual Book Bloggers Convention (BBC) but the very best part for me was meeting all the bloggers.  I've known many of them online for a long time and yet there were still an enormous number whose blogs were completely new to me.

After a great few days, I left New York on Saturday afternoon and made it home by 5pm.  At 7pm I was at the hospital with my sister, and at 8:17pm I got to see my third nephew come into the world.  Colton James was 7 pounds 2 ounces and 19 3/4 inches long.  It was an amazing experience to be actually IN the room as he was born.

I had a fabulous time in New York but coming home to this wonderful new addition to the family was amazing.  Of course it also meant that I haven't really had time to think about recapping my trip or sharing the crazy amount of stuff that followed me home.  I promise tell you all about it just as soon as I can!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Welcome, and While You Wait ...

BEA 2010 
Book Expo America


For New Visitors:

Welcome to everyone who is stopping by via BEA or BBC! I hope you'll take the time to let me know you were here - just leave a comment on any post.

You can get to know me better by checking out the links just under my blog's header.  You'll find some personal info in the About Me section, a list of everything I've reviewed here in Reviewed Books, and general info on read-a-longs and challenges that I'm hosting on the Upcoming Events page.  Authors and publicists may also want to check out my Review Policy.

Thank you for visiting my blog today.  Feel free to contact me via email with any questions.  Please stay in touch by subscribing to my blog or following me on Twitter (@Age30Books).  I do hope you'll come back again soon!

For Returning Friends:

If you are at BEA/BBC this week, I hope to see you there! If not, I'm sorry for all the convention chatter but I'm sure you're enjoying Armchair BEA!

While you're waiting for me to get back (because I KNOW you'll be counting down the days ...) I hope you'll enjoy the posts I've scheduled.  I won't be able to respond to every comment like I usually do but I will be reading whatever you care to share.  I'll also be keeping up on new blog posts using the browser on my phone but, needless to say, that makes it rather hard to comment as much as I usually do.

I get home on Saturday and I'm sure I'll have lots to tell you about when I get back, and lots of comments to share on your blogs.  See you soon!

Friday, May 28, 2010

LOST Books Challenge: Recap and Continuation

Back in 2008 I signed up for a new challenge based on the tv show LOST (here's my original post). The challenge didn't take off much that first year, but Amy decided to host again the next year anyway and I volunteered to help. That's when the LOST Books Challenge Blog was born, and what fun I've had since then! I can't believe that the show has finally come to an end. (If you are interested, click here to see what I thought of the final episode, and for pics of the LOST viewing party I attended.)

If you were a fan of LOST then you know how important books were to the development and progression of the show. Whenever I read books from the show list I tried to figure out what significance they held; part of each review is my thoughts on that topic.

The original goal two years ago was to read five books from the show. That first year I read two but since the challenge just seemed to flow seamlessly into it's second year, I didn't do a recap back then. So here is a list of everything I've read for this challenge since the beginning:
  1. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville - Although it was slow, I really did appreciate this book. And I found of a lot of relation to LOST, although the official site disagrees with me.
  2. Island, by Aldous Huxley - Like the LOST island, this island is closed to outside influences. But the book is possibly the biggest waste of time ever.
  3. The Odyssey, by Homer - A true classic, and it parallel's Desmond and Penny's relationship - yay!
  4. The Pearl, by John Steinbeck - I really didn't like this one, but it relates to Hurley so I can't hate it.
  5. On the Road, by Jack Keruac - This one I DID hate, and it had no real connection to the show in my opinion.
  6. The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares - This was an odd little story but it had a lot of connections to LOST, which I realized only after reading Amy's review.
Here's the extra cool part: because there were so many books that we didn't get to read before the show ended, Amy and I decided to make the LOST Books Challenge into a perpetual project.  That means that if you are interested in participating, you still can!!!

If you are a LOST fan - whether you liked the ending of the show or not - please join us in exploring some of these fantastic books ... and get LOST reading. ;) 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Color Purple: A Read-a-long?

Have you read THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker?  Do you want to read/reread it?  It's been on my TBR list for years and I'm ready to do something about it, so ...

Nicole from Linus's Blanket and I are hosting a read-a-long of this classic novel in July.  Want to join us?

You don't need to sign up now. I just wanted to give you a heads-up so you now, so that if you are interested you can plan your reading accordingly.

What do you think ... are you in?

The Invisible Man

by HG Wells
audiobook: 6.2 hours
narrated by Scott Brick
originally published in 1897

*** About the Book ***

In this classic of science fiction a young scientist invents a process whereby he makes himself invisible. He didn’t think things through ahead of time though, and quickly realizes that surviving in secret as an invisible man is very difficult. He also realizes that he can get away with just about any crime …

*** Why I Read It ***

I recently upgraded from a “you-can-only-use-it-to-call-people” phone to the Droid phone, complete with lots of bells and whistles. One of the greatest things about this phone is that it can run my library’s audiobook program! As soon as I figured this out I immediately began browsing for something I could download right away, and this book was available. I love the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and the character of the Invisible Man is one of the only characters whose original story I had not read; hence my decision to check this one out. AND it will count for the Mind Voyages Challenge.

*** My Thoughts ***

What a deliciously creepy tale! I absolutely loved listening to this book! Not only did the narrator do a wonderful job but the story was fascinating and kept me on the edge of my seat. (I ran my phone’s battery down more than once while listening to this!)

There is a definite moral question in this story: if you can do something and get away with it, does that make you more likely to do it? It’s an interesting question to consider …

*** Your Thoughts ***

Are you familiar with this story? Do you agree that knowing you could get away with something makes you more likely to (at least consider) doing it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Awards, and how I suck at thank you notes

I'm horrible at sending thank you notes and that has apparently carried over to the blogging world as well.  Two bloggers were kind enough to give me awards back in March (yep, as in almost-three-months-ago-March) and it has taken me until now to acknowledge them.  But I AM doing it now, and that's got to count for something, right? RIGHT?!

Both Amanda from The Life and Times of a New New Yorker (who has now moved out of New York ...) and Suey from It's All About Books gave me the Sunshine Award.  Thank you Amanda and Suey! 

Here are the "rules":
Put the logo on your blog in your post.
Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
Link the nominees within your post.
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

I'm going to give some Sunshine-y love to some of the people I'm having fun with in New York this week (I'm at Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention right now!).  This is by no means a complete list of my convention buddies though! In fact, since I'm writing this before I leave, this is actually a list of people I'm expecting to have fun with this week. :)
  1. Shanyn from Chick Loves Lit - one of my roomies - her blog is new to me
  2. April from Good Books and Wine - another of my roomies - her blog is new to me too
  3. Monica from The Bibliophilic Book Blog - the third of my roomies - and yes, her blog is also new to me
  4. Rebecca from The Book Lady's Blog - I've been looking forward to meeting her since we co-hosted THE SPARROW read-a-long a few months ago
  5. Nicole from Linus's Blanket - I've met her before, but now I'm in HER city!
  6. Jen from Devourer of Books - I loved chatting with her on That's How I Blog.
  7. Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves - we ALMOST took the same train up and back
  8. Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books - the kid-centric posts on her site always remind me that I need to do more reviewing with Kiddo
  9. Anna from Diary of an Eccentric - hilarious that we live in the same state but have to go to NYC to see each other!
  10. Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit - ditto what I said for Anna :)
  11. Kathy from Bermuda Onion - I love her accent!
  12. Lenore from Presenting Lenore - she came all the way from Germany
I'm sure I'm meeting and hanging out with all kinds on fantastic bloggers this week and I'll definitely tell you about them when I get back.  In the meantime, go spread some Sunshine in your corner of the blogosphere. Go on, just do it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One Amazing Thing

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
240 pages

*** About the Book ***

An earthquake traps a random group of people in the basement office of the Indian Passport Agency in a big American city.  This disparate group quickly realizes that they cannot get themselves out without help, and that the basement is slowly flooding.  To keep their mind off their troubles and to bring them together, a young woman suggests that they each tell a story from their own lives, specifically a story about an amazing thing that they experienced.  As the situation deteriorates around them, each person shares a story that causes the others to view them in a new way.

*** Why I Read It ***

I received this book from the author after having been intrigued by it online.  Then I convinced my book club to choose it for our June book.  Gotta love it when you can kill two birds with one stone!

*** My Thoughts ***

I'm not really sure what I think about this book.  For one thing, I think the title is misleading. I expected to learn something "amazing" about each of the characters, but that didn't exactly happen.  Rather than one "amazing" thing, each story focused on one "defining" thing - a situation, an action, an experience - that helped mold the person into who he or she is today.  Of course, "One Defining Thing" doesn't have quite the same ring as "One Amazing Thing" when you thing of book titles, and really, this is more a matter of my perception and expectation and not really a critique of the book.

What I can say about the book is that I did not like the style of writing the author used to tell each person's story.  It was almost an omniscient narrator but not quite.  I would have much preferred if each story had been told from that person's point of view, or at least from the point of view of one specified listener.  I was pulled out of the story over and over again by the author's odd narrating technique.

That said, the stories that each person shared were truly defining moments for them and they did often change the way that the other survivors viewed the storyteller.  It reminded me of the way that I came to appreciate some of my older relatives after hearing my Gram tell stories about their younger days.  The book is an excellent reminder that there is more to people than what we see, and more even than they choose to show us on a regular basis.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you heard of this book before?  What do you think of the premise? If you've read it, what did you think about the narrating style?

We could have an entire conversation about the way the book ends but I don't want to spoil it for anyone; if you want to talk about it, feel free to shoot me an email.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meeting Laurie R. King

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to see author Laurie R. King at a nearby library.  I'm a huge fan of Laurie's Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes books and this was a real treat for me, especially since I missed her when she came to town last year.

She is touring to promote the latest book in the Mary Russell series, THE GOD OF THE HIVE so the first part of her talk included a few short readings from the book. She then moved on to audience questions, and here's where things got really interesting for me.

Being a history buff myself, one of the things I most appreciate about the Mary Russell books is the wealth of historical information I gain from them.  But one thing I didn't realize was that the relationship Laurie created between Russell and Holmes was truly based on historical circumstances.  What I mean is that, due to World War I, there was an enormous shortage of young, eligible men (I knew this already) and a corresponding abundance on young, eligible women (which I also knew).  Many women of this time period did not marry, and many others became single mothers.  What I didn't realize (duh!) is that many young women married men who were much older than would normally have been acceptable.  So Russell and Holmes as a couple would not have been that unusual in this time.  I don't know why that didn't occur to me before, but it didn't, and it hit me like a ton of bricks when Laurie explained it.

She went on to tell the following story, which had the audience laughing out loud ...

When she was on tour for one of the early Mary Russell books, a man approached her signing table and said "I want to talk to you about this relationship between Russell and Holmes. It doesn't seem right. He's too old for her!" Laurie responded by saying that she herself was married to a man 30 years her senior and that she was well aware of what a man of that age was capable of.  The man turned beet red and walked off as quickly as possible.  Poor Laurie didn't realize what she'd said - she only meant to imply that her husband was quite capable of taking out the trash and helping around the house!

After Laurie's talk I got in line to meet her.  I'd been in touch with her publicist via email so Laurie knew I'd be there to say hello.  I was so excited to get the chance to talk to her!  I had her sign my copy of the first Mary Russell book, THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE.  This is the only book in the series that I currently own - I use it to lure unsuspecting friends into the series, then tell them they are on their own for the rest of the books. :)

I had a great time meeting Laurie and chatting with other fans that evening.  Now I've just got to make time to read THE GOD OF THE HIVE ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith
audiobook: 8.25 hours
narrated by Lisette Lecat

*** About the Book ***

After the death of her father, Precious Ramotswe uses the money he's left her to start her own detective agency - the very first ladies' detective agency in Botswana.  In this first book in the series, Mma Ramotswe hires a secretary and dives into her first cases; these include a wife who suspects her husband is cheating, another wife whose husband is missing, and an inconsistent doctor - just to name a few.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

I'd already seen the HBO miniseries based on this book series so I wasn't really planning to read it. But then my book club chose it for our May read, to bring something light and fun to kick off our summer.  So I checked it out from the library and gave it a shot.

*** My Thoughts ***

I think the fact that I watched the miniseries first may have ruined this book for me.  I loved the show - it was fun, sweet, amusing, and much more - and I was expecting to love the book just as much.  Unfortunately, I felt the the book was a bit slow.  It was still a great story with great characters, but things seemed to drag in places and the humor was much more understated.

The narrator did a fantastic job with this book; I'll definitely look for other books she's worked on!

Here's a preview of the show from HBO.  It doesn't capture all the best parts of the show but you can get an idea of what it was like:

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you've read the books and seen the show, which did you prefer?  Which did you first experience - the book or the show?  Have you ever found that you actually liked a tv/movie adaptation better than the book i was based on?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DVD: The History of Christianity

I had the chance to watch and review the first DVD in the BBC series The History of Christianity.  Here's an excerpt from the publicist's email that captured my attention:
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years is a six-part series co-produced by the BBC, the Open University, and Jerusalem Productions and presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch, one of the world’s leading historians and Professor of History of the Church and Fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford. As MacCulloch reveals the true history of Christianity, he explores the question, “What does it really mean to be a Christian?”

While most Christian histories start with St. Paul’s mission to Rome, MacCulloch asserts that the Christianity stayed much closer to its Middle-Eastern roots and that, in fact, the first Christians actually took the eastern road from Jerusalem, spreading their faith across Asia, even to parts of China
I am fascinated with the way that Christianity has, over time, adapted itself to the cultures that it comes up against so I figured this DVD would be right up my alley ... and I was right.

MacCulloch takes the viewer on a tour of Asia, following the route that Christianity took as it expanded eastward.  He gives a little of the history of each area and the controversies relating to the spread of Christianity there.  He also interviews religious leaders from a variety of faiths to get their perspectives on the historical events he's exploring.

I found this show so interesting that I've watched the DVD twice already. I'd love to watch the entire series - I can only imagine what I'd learn!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Time In Between

by David Bergen
audiobook: 8 hours
narrated by Anna Fields

*** About the Book ***

Vietnam Veteran Charlie decides to visit Vietnam thirty years after he fought there. When his family doesn’t hear from him for a while, two of his children, Ada and John, head to Vietnam to look for him.

*** Why I Listened To It ***

I saw it while browsing the audiobook section of my library and knew it would count for the War Through the Generations: Vietnam Challenge.

*** My Thoughts ***

I really didn’t like this book. I enjoyed the portions of the story told from Charlie’s point of view, but most of the book was told from Ada’s point of view and I just didn’t get her. Nor did I get John. If I flew around the world to look for my missing (and semi-estranged) father, I think I’d be searching a bit more actively. I do understand the appeal of losing yourself in a new place, acting differently than you would at home where people know you, but hello people! You are here to look for your father!

I could go on but it really isn’t worth my time. The only reason I finished this book was because the narrator did a pretty good job and I wanted to see how things turned out in the end. If I had been reading it (rather than listening) I’d have given up on it.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Has anyone read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you have. Am I missing something profound here? I doubt it, but I’ll listen to your argument if you think that I am.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Day for Alex from One Day at a Time

Back in August I dared several of my bloggy friends to read and watch some of my favorite SciFi/Fantasy book and shows.  Two of the four people who took me up on that dare actually completed it - yay!  As a reward for their efforts I sent each of them a box-o-goodies which should be arriving any day now.  I also promised to dedicate a day to each of them on my blog, so ...

Today is Alex's Day!

Alex (aka Goddess) blogs at One Day at a Time where she shares what's going on with her and her family.  Any idea why this is important to me?  It's because Alex is Hubby's cousin!  I think I met her for the first time the day I married Hubby back in 1998.  Over the years we've realized that we have quite a lot in common, and we get along fabulously.  I was so excited when she started blogging because it helped us to stay in touch (we live in different states) and to get to know each other a bit better.

Alex has three boys and one of her goals is to use her blog to remember special moments with them.  Here are a few she's posted recently, one for each of the boys: oldest son, middle son, youngest son.

Just 6 months after starting her blog (in Feb. '08), Alex's father passed away.  She's used her blog to share memories of him with family and also just to save those memories for the future.

She also writes occasionally about what she is reading/watching.  In keeping with that, here's a list of everything Alex did for my dare (links take you to her posts) INCLUDING the dreaded vlog: 
Perhaps the greatest thing to come of out of this dare is that Alex really took to the concept.  She's already accepted another dare from another blogger friend AND she's coming up with dares to challenge herself - woohoo!

A huge thank you to Alex for taking me up on this dare and for completing the entire thing!

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    A Day for Robin from My Two Blessings

    Back in August I dared several of my bloggy friends to read and watch some of my favorite SciFi/Fantasy book and shows.  Two of the four people who took me up on that dare actually completed it - yay!  As a reward for their efforts I sent each of them a box-o-goodies which should be arriving any day now.  I also promised to dedicate a day to each of them on my blog, so ...

    Today is Robin's Day!

    Robin blogs at My Two Blessings where she shares her thoughts about books, her family, homeschooling her son, and her own writing.  I've been reading her blog for a long time now and have come to realize that we have a lot in common - despite living on opposite sides of the country. :)

    Currently Robin is hosting the Mind Voyages Challenge, which she also created.  This year-long challenge focuses on award-winning science fiction.  She has done a great job with the blog, and I'm really enjoying my experience with this challenge so far. 

    Another big deal for Robin this year is her Year of Writing Deliberately.  She has three novels in progress and plans to make this year about working on them in a more deliberate way.  I can't wait to see how far she gets by the end of 2010!

    Robin is involved in several other challenges and she's on Twitter as well (@my2blessings59).  You've probably seen her around the blogosphere before!  I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit more about her, and that you'll drop by her blog to say hello.

    Before I go, here's a list of what Robin did for the challenge (the links take you to her posts).  The last one was a vlog, in case you want to see and her Robin for yourself.
    A huge thanks to Robin for taking me up on this dare and for actually completing it all!

      Friday, May 14, 2010

      Remarkable Creatures

      Remarkable Creatures
      by Tracy Chevalier
      audiobook: 10.25 hours
      narrated by Charlotte Parry and Susan Lyons

      *** About the Book ***

      In the early 1800s in the English coast town of Lyme Regis, young Mary Anning helps support her family by finding “curies” on the beach. These “curies” (short for “curiosities”) are actually fossils and Mary is fascinated with them. Despite her poor, working class status, she becomes the local expert on fossils – much to the despair of her family – and spends the majority of her time on the beach searching for them. One day Mary discovers something different: a complete, intact skeleton. At first everyone thinks it is the remains of a giant crocodile but Mary and several others soon realize that this is a new creature, never before seen by man.

      This time period is one of great upheaval in the geological community. The concepts of an ancient earth and of extinction have rattled both the religious community and many intellectuals. This novel looks at that history through the eyes of Mary and also of Elizabeth, a middle-class spinster fascinated by fossil fish.

      *** Why I Read It ***

      I first heard about this book back in November 2009 when The Book Case posted the trailer for it. I watched that trailer and was COMPLETELY HOOKED by the author’s words. I’m posting it here and I’d love to know what you think of it.

      I've been on my library's wait list for this audiobook for months so I was thrilled when it was finally my turn to check it out.

      *** My Thoughts ***

      In my opinion, this is an example of excellent historical fiction.

      I was sucked into the story from the very start and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It’s one of those books that made me not want to get out of the car, ever. (In fact I spent several of my lunch breaks eating in my car so I could continue to listen to the audiobook.)

      I was fascinating by the history of fossil hunting and the way accepted “facts” about fossils were beginning to change. The newly developing ideas of an ancient earth, the concept of extinction, the budding conflict between religion and science – all these topics were fascinating to me. Then there was the situation of women in society, the class distinctions, the concepts of property and propriety … there was just so much in this book that I loved!

      Not only did enjoy the writing and the characters and the narration, but when I got to the end and found out how closely this book is based on fact I was beyond excited. This is the kind of historical fiction I truly love – the kind where I learn tons of facts not just about a time and place but about real people who really lived, all couched in a story that keeps me entranced all the way through.

      *** The Real History ***

      Tracy Chevalier includes an excellent, detailed author’s note at the end of this book. She explains that all the main characters in this book actually existed and that the vast majority of the book is based on fact. Of course she had to fill in a lot of the details, but Mary and Elizabeth DID actually discover all the fossils discussed in the book, and Mary DID actually work with many of the leading geological minds of the day. She explains that she did truncate time somewhat, in order to make the book flow better, but all the most important facts in the book are based on reality.

      *** Your Thoughts ***

      I know not everyone will agree with me on this book. When I mentioned on Twitter how much I was enjoying it, a friend sent me the following private message: “That book bored me to tears, and I normally love boring, literary books.” When I expressed my shock she followed up with “Oh, her writing is always beautiful. I just thought there wasn't enough plot for a novel. Would have made a great short story.” See? And I loved every second of this book!

      Here are a few other reviews I’ve found:

      What did YOU think of this book? If you haven’t read it, does it appeal to you?

      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      NYC Challenge - Recap

      To help us all get excited for BEA (like we really need any help with that!) Fizzy Thoughts hosted the NYC or Bust! Challenge.  There were four parts to the challenge and I completed each of them. 
      1. I wrote a list of the 10 things I love about New York.
      2. I shared about my mom: a New York Woman.
      3. My lack of poetic skills was showcased when I wrote a limerick.
      4. And I reviewed a book set in New York: Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt.
      I've found roommates, purchased my train ticket, made a (tentative) schedule of things to do at BEA, and organized my BBC panel.  Now all I need to do is pack and I'll be ready to go to New York - yay!

        Wednesday, May 12, 2010

        Book Trailer: The Lunatic Express

        I came across this trailer and just had to share it with you.  It's for a non-fiction book called THE LUNATIC EXPRESS, by Carl Hoffman.  Check it out then tell me what you think about it:

        I find the whole idea both fascinating and terrifying ... what about you?  Have any of you read this yet?

        Your BEA Schedule? Mine?

        For those of you planning to go to BEA later this month, what are the do-not-miss events/authors for you?  Devourer of Books is asking the same question at her blog so be sure to post your comment there and see what everyone else is looking forward to.

        I've come up with a very tentative list of authors/events I'd like to see on Wednesday and Thursday and I'd love to know if any of you will be at these events as well.  When you check out my list please note that there are TONS of conflicting events!  I put everything on there that I might want to do and will be narrowing it down over the next few days. 

        Oh, and the list is organized by date and time ... 'cause I'm a nerd like that. ;)

        Tuesday, May 11, 2010

        The Invention of Morel

        by Adolfo Bioy Casares
        90 pages
        originally published in 1940
        translated from Spanish by Ruth L. C. Simms

        *** About the Book ***

        In this short story, the main character is a fugitive from Venezuela who has somehow escaped to a tropical island. The island has several buildings on it but no people. After a long time alone on the island, the fugitive suddenly sees people in the buildings! He is terrified that he’ll be captured so he runs off to the forest and hides. From there he observes these new people and he falls in love with a beautiful woman named Faustine. When he finally gets up the nerve to approach her, she doesn’t even acknowledge his existence. Things become steadily more mysterious and the fugitive becomes more and more confused. Finally he decides to sneak in to the building to see if he can figure out what is going on. What he finds out is strange, unexpected, and life-changing …

        (This is technically PART of a book, since I read it from a book of collected short stories, all by the same author. )

        *** Why I Read It ***

        This book counts for the LOST Books Challenge (since it was mentioned in the show) and for the Mind Voyages Challenge (since it won the 1941 First Municipal Prize for Literature of the City of Buenos Aires). Lately I’ve been on a roll with books that count for more than one challenge!

        *** My Thoughts ***

        This is an odd little story. I could probably have read it in one sitting had I had that much time; instead I read about 15 minutes before bed each night, making the book last about a week. It gave me more time to consider what exactly was going on.

        The pace is quick, the writing/translation flows nicely, and the story is intriguing. I really enjoyed reading it, although the entire plot is somewhat disturbing. I can’t say why or I’d be ruining it for you, but suffice it to say that there is definitely some “funny business” going on with Morel!

        I do have to point out that the idea of falling in love with someone you’ve only seen from a distance and expecting her to love you back is not only far-fetched but demeaning to the other person in my opinion. That part of the story really bothered me. [I read later that this situation is based on the author’s own appreciation of silent film star Louise Brooks (details can be found here); it does actually make a bit more sense now. Oh, and that's her on the cover of the book.]

        On the whole, I did enjoy reading this; it is a story that will stick with me for a long time.

        *** Connection to LOST ***

        For the fugitive, life on this island is not what it appears to be. The same could be said of the LOST island, that’s for sure. In the story Morel has created his own version of the world just the way he wants it to be (or, at least, mostly the way he wants it to be). Again, the same could be said of LOST; Ben ran Othertown the way he wanted it to go, at least for a while. And neither Morel nor Ben – nor many other characters on LOST – are averse to manipulating people to get what they want with little regard for the feelings of those people.

        That’s MY opinion … let’s see what Lostpedia has to say:
        [In the episode Eggtown] Sawyer is seen reading this book at the barracks.
        Seriously?! That’s all you’ve got?! Even I did better than that …

        *** Your Thoughts ***

        I can’t imagine that many of you have read this one, but maybe I’m wrong … if you have, what did you think of it? If not, are you intrigued? Also, if a book disturbs you in some way is that a good thing or a bad thing for your enjoyment of the book?

        Monday, May 10, 2010

        April '10 Recap

        Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been doing around here this past month …

        Books = 5 (1,869 pages)

        Audiobooks = 5 (38.6 hours)
        • Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen (13.5 hours) – I wasn’t a fan
        • Genesis, by Bernard Beckett (3.85 hours) – predictable but not all bad
        • Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt (9 hours) – loved this one
        • Star Trek, by Alan Dean Foster (8 hours) – just like the movie
        • Candide, by Voltaire (4.25 hours) - satire. enough said.

        DNF = 1
        • Folly, by Laurie R. King – I’ve realized that I need to stick with her Mary Russell books; they are more my cup of tea.
        Other Things

        That was my month … how was yours?

        Friday, May 7, 2010

        Mother's Day Letter

        This post is part of the Mother’s Day Letters Project at Charm City Moms.

        Dear Kiddo,

        Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend. Your dad has been asking me what I want and, as usual, I haven’t given him much of an answer. Do you know why? Because I already have exactly what every mom wants for Mother’s Day – a wonderful child who I love and who loves me back.

        You are kind, loving, and generous. Your magnetic personality draws everyone in around you, no matter what their age. You don’t ever make fun of people and you do your best to make sure no one else does either.

        You are huggable and kissable and you don’t fuss when I do all that hugging and kissing. You are not (yet) embarrassed by me or by your dad and you like to have us around (you are 8 years old now … I wonder how many more years that will last?).

        Despite all the difficulties that have been thrown your way, you continue to think positively. You don’t complain (much) about your restricted diet or your feeding tube, and your outlook on life is fantastic.

        That’s not to say that you are an angel. You try my patience on a regular basis, and you can’t seem to remember anything I tell you (unless it is about something you want to do – then you never forget!). But that is to be expected; you are only human, and a boy at that.

        Regardless of who you are or how you act, I am your mother and I will love you always. It just makes things that much better when I can honestly say that I am proud of you every day.

        I am so enjoying watching you grow up, and I can only imagine what an amazing man you will become one day. I love you Kiddo!

        Love, Mommy

        Thursday, May 6, 2010

        DisneyNature: Oceans (and some Aquarium Photos)

        Kiddo and I went to see OCEANS a week or so ago. Here's the conversation we had that morning on the way to school (please note that Kiddo rarely gets in trouble at school).

        Me: Now remember, we're going to see OCEANS after school today.  But that's only if there are no problems at school.
        Kiddo: What do you mean?! We HAVE to go today.
        Me: Seeing a movie is a reward, and if your behavior isn't good ... well, you don't get a rewarded for bad behavior.
        Kiddo: But it's not really a reward, and we HAVE to go see it today.
        Me: What do you mean "it's not a reward"?
        Kiddo: Today is the last day of opening week.  We have to go today so part of our tickets will be donated to save the coral reefs!  So it's not a reward - we're saving the planet.

        It took all my parental skills not to burst out laughing at this point ...

        Needless to say, Kiddo had a great day at school and we happily headed to our favorite movie theater (the one where the popcorn is safe for Kiddo to eat).

        Kiddo and I were both expecting something along the lines of the Discovery Channel's PLANET EARTH or LIFE shows.  We've really enjoyed watching them together and love the creative ways the cameras are used to capture nature in action.  This movie was definitely not what we were expecting.

        Instead of a modern, stylish nature film, OCEANS was more like an old-fashioned nature program, similar in feel to the documentaries I watched on Disney Channel as a kid.  There was a beautiful orchestral score throughout the film, and the camera angles were both grand and (mostly) static.  [My mother would have appreciated the static shots.  She can't stand what she calls "modern" filming where the cameras zoom in and out or move at fast speeds; it actually makes her dizzy and nauseous.]

        Although it wasn't what I expected, I still really enjoyed this movie- it simply had a very different feel to it than the PLANET EARTH documentary.

        Kiddo noticed this as well.  When I asked him how he like it, he said that he thought they'd have some time-lapse scenes (he didn't use those words, but that is what he meant), but that it was still good. He was also disappointed that the song Make a Wave wasn't used until the end credits.  We talked about that though, and he decided that it did make sense, since the song wouldn't have fit anywhere else in the movie.

        A quick side note: Both Kiddo and I have loved Demi Lovato (she's part of the duet on Make A Wave) ever since she did this:

        (Yes, that IS the disorder Kiddo has.)

        Kiddo and I had a great time at the movies even thought OCEANS didn't turn out exactly like we expected.  We're both still glad we went to see it - and we helped to save the planet. ;)


        To get you in the underwater mood, here are a few pics I took recently at the our Aquarium, most of the new Jellyfish exhibit ...

        Wednesday, May 5, 2010

        Stranger in a Strange Land

        by Robert Heinlein
        525 pages
        originally published in 1960
        revised version published in 1991

        *** About the Book ***

        In this science fiction classic, life has been discovered on Mars. The first expedition to Mars was never heard from again. About 20 years later a second expedition travels to the red planet and discovers something amazing: a human baby, born to the crew of the first ship, has been raised by the Martians after the rest of the crew died. When the second ship returns to Earth they bring this strange young man with them. What will happen to him on Earth? What lessons of Martian life and culture did he learn and what does he not know about humanity? How will he be treated by “regular” people? By the government? What will happen to him? Is he even really “human” anymore?

        *** Why I Read It ***

        This book is a classic of science fiction and I’d never even heard of it until recently. It won the 1961 Hugo Award so it counts for the Mind Voyages Challenge. Plus it is one of the 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die AND it counts for the LOST Books Challenge. One book that counts for three challenges is a must-read for me. :)

        *** Original vs. Revised Editions? ***

        When Heinlein first wrote this book his editors insisted that he remove large chunks of it because it was so very different from what was then acceptable in science fiction, and also because some parts would be considered too scandalous. After he passed away, his original manuscript was discovered. When the time came to renew the copyright on the book, his estate decided to publish the original work instead. They reasoned that the book as originally published was completely different than Heinlein had meant for it to be, and they wanted his complete story to be told as he intended it. The revised edition, published in 1991, has almost 100,000 more words than the first edition from 1960.

        *** My Thoughts ***

        If you’d have asked me my opinion of this book after I’d read about 1/2 of it, I’d have said that I was really enjoying it. It is creative, fun to read, the characters are interesting, and the plot was unexpected. But then, about two-thirds of the way through, it got all preachy and utopian on me. Ugh.

        There were a few flaws in this book before that point. The biggest example? The literary treatment of women left MUCH to be desired. All the women were good looking and their sexuality was an integral part of who they are. Not that there is a problem with that, but there was also much of what today we’d term sexual harassment going on, and the women were not allowed to be non-sexual (does that make sense? I’m not sure I’m getting my point across correctly.)

        There were also some things that dated the book, but I rather enjoyed those. The news broadcasts in the book reminded me greatly of the radio broadcasters of the 1930s-1940s – the over-the-top personalities, programs sponsored by one product (like a particular brand of soap) with repeated mention of it throughout the show, lots of alliteration by the announcers, and so on. Plus the “newest” inventions either didn’t make sense in today’s world or were dated in other ways. But all that didn’t bother me at all; in fact I enjoyed the book more because of it.

        What really bugged me was the last third of the book. Without giving any of the plot away, let’s just say that this section reminded me of a 1960s hippie commune. The book was clearly stating that this is the correct way to live, the only way to be truly fulfilled as a person. It was all a bit much for me. [And to show you how important this idea is to the whole book, and how convincing the author tried to be, there was actually a church founded on the ideas presented in the book.]

        I’m really glad I read this book, even if the last section was rather disappointing. I like to be familiar with books that have made a mark on society (this IS a cult classic after all). Oh, and I now understand the work “grok” ...

        *** Connection to LOST ***

        I don’t recall what happened in the LOST episode entitled “Stranger in a Strange Land” but that could fit any number of situations on the show. In the book the “Man From Mars” is a complete outsider on Earth. Likewise, in the show LOST, there are many characters thrust into groups where they don’t fit or don’t belong.

        Here’s what Lostpedia had to say about this book:
        • The title of the book is taken in turn from the Bible passage Exodus 2:22: "And she [Zippo'rah] bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
        • Episode Summary: Jack bargains with Ben to save Juliet while Kate and Sawyer struggle with the consequences of their escape.

        *** Your Thoughts ***
        • Have you ever read this book – either the original or the revised version?
        • Are you familiar with any of Heinlein’s MANY other works?
        • Do you mind when older books are “dated” by some of the references they use?
        • What is your thought on utopian-themed books?

        Tuesday, May 4, 2010


        by Voltaire
        audiobook: 4.25 hours
        narrated by Donal Donelly
        originally published in 1759 in French

        *** About the Book ***

        This is a satire of the morals, opinions, class structure, etc. of Voltaire’s time. It follows the experiences of young Candide as he is kicked out of the castle where he worked as a servant and thrust out into the cruel world. Candide had been taught to believe that “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” but that belief is sorely strained as he arrested, beaten, robbed, and much more during his travels. Will he survive his ordeals? Will he be reunited with his love? Will he continue to be optimistic about the world?

        *** Why I Read It ***

        I was somewhat certain that I’d read this in college (now I’m thinking that I only read an excerpt of it) but I couldn’t recall anything about it. I figured it was one of those books that everyone seems to know about but few have actually read. And it is part of the 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die list and therefore counts for the 1% Well Read Challenge.

        *** My Thoughts ***

        Listening to this book has merely cemented my opinion that satires and me just don’t get along. I had that same thought before but I gave satire another shot anyway. Alas, to no avail; we are just not meant to be.

        Not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book. There were parts where I laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it, and I definitely wasn’t bored or upset by the story. I just fail to appreciate satire for what it is.

        *** About the Narrator ***

        I've never heard Donal Donnelly narrate before, but I like him!  He did a wide variety of voices for this audiobook and gave it that "over-the-top" feeling that the book required.

        *** Your Thoughts ***

        If you’ve read this – either on your own or in school – what did you think of it? Do you like satirical works? Why or why not?
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