Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Next Few Days ... (and Remembering Summer #4)

Hope you all have a great New Year! I'm heading to Florida (on my own, without Hubby or Kiddo) to help my parents care for my grandparents for about a week.  I didn't have time to preschedule any posts so it will be quiet here for a while.  I'll have very limited email access so don't expect to hear from me until I get back.  And though I hate to do it, I'll be marking all posts in my Google Reader as read when I get back - I can't handle all those unread posts hanging over my head! LOL

Stay healthy, enjoy your family and friends, and here's to an amazing 2011!

I'll leave you with my 4th Remembering Summer pic - hope you enjoy another one of Kiddo. :)

Kiddo and N, my best friend's son

I met my best friend when we were both four years old.  We've had our ups and downs over the years and that shared history makes us even closer now.  This photo was taken at her son's 3rd birthday, about a month before her daughter was born.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010 TBR Challenge - Recap

I thought this would be the easiest challenge ever - just read 12 books that I already own from a list of 24. HA! It's almost the end of the year and I'm calling it quits at 9 books.

9 Books Read
  1. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic, by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury - a fascinating look at a true emergency and the people (and dogs) who overcame it
  2. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - a very good Civil Rights era story - not perfect, but highly recommended
  3. Silver: My Tale as Written by Me, with a Goodly Amount of Murder, by Edward Chupak - if you are a pirate fan, this is a must read
  4. Time Bandit, by the Hillstrand Brothers - as a fan of The Deadliest Catch (on the Discover Channel) I really loved this behind-the-scenes look at one of the featured boats
  5. Steve & Me, by Terri Irwin - a touching look at the life of The Crocodile Hunter that reminded me how much I loved him - fans of the show will get a lot from this book
  6. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl - fascinating true story, one of my favorite books of the year
  7. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova - a very complex and gothic-feeling book - I think it would translate very well into a movie
  8. Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir Survivaof l, by Norman Ollestad - interesting survival story but not as good as I'd hoped
  9. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi - reminded me of a mix between Avatar and Starship Troopers - if that sound like a good mix then you'll enjoy this book

15 Remaining Book Choices:
  1. The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections, by Tom Brokaw (this has been on various lists for 2 years now)
  2. Vivaldi's Virgins, by Barbara Quick (I started this but couldn't get into it - it's in the donation box now) 
  3. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (I want to read this one now but I let someone borrow it ...)
  4. The Last Town on Earth, by Thomas Mullen (I started this one then I lost the book)
  5. When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra, by Colin Falconer 
  6. Ireland: A Novel, by Frank Delaney
  7. A History of Celibacy, by Elizabeth Abbott
  8. Mistress of the Vatican, by Eleanor Herman
  9. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
  10. The Toss of a Lemon, by Padma Viswanathan
  11. The Book Lovers Cookbook, by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
  12. Consumption, by Kevin Patterson
  13. The Last Gentleman Adventurer: Coming of Age in the Arctic, by Edward Beauclerk Maurice
  14. Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum, by Richard Fortey
  15. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

I fully intend to read more from my own shelf next year.  Last week I went through every book and gave away any that I didn't intend to read (or re-read) and now I really KNOW what is on my shelves.  There are so many that I really want to get to! I'm intentionally accepting fewer review books - hopefully that will allow me to get to more of the books I already own.  *fingers crossed*

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lots of Audiobook Mini Reviews

Between adjusting to the new routine of not having a job, getting ready for the holidays, and rearranging furniture I haven't had much time (or inclination) to write reviews lately.  I have been reading all your posts though, even if I haven't been commenting!  I can read on my phone while I'm waiting for Kiddo at hockey or at school, and that has been a lifesaver.

I haven't been reading a lot either, though I have finished a few books (reviews of those will hopefully come soon).What I HAVE been doing is  listening to tons of audiobooks!  They have been great companions for me while I move furniture from one room to another, or sweep all the detritus from under the couch, or gather boxes and bags of "stuff" to donate to the Salvation Army.

Here's a very brief look at eight audiobooks I've finished over the last two months.  Take special note of the last review - I think everyone needs to read or listen to that book!


The Hound of the Baskervilles, with eBookThe Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle - narrated by David Case - 5.6 hours - I've read this at least twice before and really love it.  I revisited it this time so I could discuss Sherlock Holmes on the podcast "What's Old Is New" - check it out now if you missed it! (We had some issues recording the episode so I apologize in advance for the sound quality.)

The Count of Monte Cristo: Blackstone Audio Classic CollectionThe Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas - narrated by John Lee - 46.9 hours - I've wanted to read this one for years but was intimidated by the ridiculous length (something like 1300 pages!). I'm glad that I went with the audio; although I did enjoy it for the most part, it was really REALLY long and I think I might have given up on it had I been reading rather than listening.  I also realized that although I truly love the movie version, it is so different from the book that it really can't be called an adaptation ... I'd refer to it as a movie inspired by a book.


Ender's GameEnder's Game, by Orson Scott Card - narrated by too many people to list - 13 hours - So many people have recommended this book to me that I figured I really ought to check it out.  My husband and I have a hard time finding books to listen to on road trips but he thought this one sounded interesting as well, so we got it from the library for our drive to the Poconos.  It's the story of a boy (Ender) who has been chosen since before his birth to be part of an elite military training program.  The book follows his advancement through years of war games to become a battle commander.  Hubby and I enjoyed the book but we didn't think it was as fantastic as people made it out to be.  Maybe our expectations were just too high? We did like it enough to continue with the series, so that's saying something.

World Without End [UNABRIDGED CD] (Audiobook)World Without End, by Ken Follett - narrated by Richard E. Grant - 14.2 hours - After completely falling for the mini-series based on The Pillars of the Earth (Medieval Bookworm reviewed the show in case you missed it) I wanted to check out this follow-up to the original story. It starts several hundred years after the end of Pillars and follows descendants of the characters from the first book. Although this book had some parts that were extremely similar to the storyline of the first book, I still enjoyed it very much. I'm not sure I'll go back and listen to Pillars but I might - I'm still very intrigued by this whole story.

Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down [SARAH 3D]Sarah: How A Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down, by Kaylene Johnson - narrated by Cassandra Campbell - 3 hours - I saw this while browsing the downloadable audio section of my library's website and I thought it might be interesting.  It follows Sarah Palin's rise through the Alaskan political system but stops before the 2008 presidential campaign.  Although brief, it helped me understand a bit of Palin's background and how she got to be the person she is.

Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck,and a Few TurtlesRescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck, and a Few Turtles, by Rescue Ink with Denise Flaim - narrated by Tom Weiner - 5.9 hours - Another book I found while browsing the downloadable audio section of the library.  It's a simple story about some very complex guys and their passion for animals.  The book was a good reminder that people are not always who they seem to be, and that under an intimidating exterior is often a truly kind heart.

The Complete Works of O. Henry Holiday Classics, by O. Henry - narrated by Katherine Kellgren, Oliver Wyman, and Jonathan Davis - .9 hours - This was a free download for the holidays from to all their members.  It included three stories: The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Last Leaf.  It was a quick and fun listen, but still didn't convince me to be a short story fan. I did enjoy it though!

The Sense of Wonder: Library EditionThe Sense of Wonder, by Rachel Carson - narrated by Kaiulani Lee - .5 hours - What a gorgeous little book! If you haven't read or listened to this before you absolutely MUST do it.  It is only a 30 minute audiobook so it won't take much of your time but it will inspire you for a lifetime.  Carson tells about the ways she encouraged her young nephew to explore and appreciate nature at all times and she shares ways that all people, no matter where they live, can do the same.  This little story has inspired me try to rediscover for myself that child's sense of wonder at the world that we all started off with, and has also given me ideas for things to do with Kiddo to ensure that he keeps that sense of wonder.  Highly, highly recommended.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

War Through the Generations: Vietnam - Recap

I was excited to take part in this year's War Through the Generations Challenge because it focused on the Vietnam War, and my dad fought in that one.  I had hoped to use my reading to open a discussion with my dad about some of his experiences.  Unfortunately my parents spent most of this past year caring for my grandparents (my mom's parents) when their health suddenly declined, and that meant that there wasn't a lot of time for dad and I to talk.  Hopefully we'll still get that chance, but it definitely won't be before the end of the year.

Here's the list of the five books I read for this challenge.  The one I recommend most heartily is #5, Once A Warrior King. I have yet to find anyone else who has read it but I'd certainly love to discuss it with someone!

  1. The Time In Between, by David Bergen - this book didn't really work for me
  2. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien - the concept of truth and the way that is conveyed through stories is a major theme
  3. We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young, by Col. Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway - first-hand account of a defining battle - I also watched the movie and compared it to the book 
  4. We Are Soldiers Still, by Col. Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway - got a bit preachy near the end but still a fascinating conclusion to their previous book
  5. Once A Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam, by David Donovan - excellent book that also had a strong personal impact for me
If you participated in this challenge let me know which book from your own list that you'd recommend most highly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

20-Minute Book Club Challenge - Recap

Last year Nicole @ Linus's Blanket started a blog talk radio show called That's How I Blog! which featured a different book blogger each week.  You can check out some of the recent episodes through the link in my left sidebar. 

At the end of each show Nicole and her guest do a mini-book club on a book chosen by the guest.  Nicole challenged her listeners to read the book as well and then call in to join the discussion.  I took her up on that challenge and committed to four books. 

I read the following books and called in to discuss each of them:
  • The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters - VERY good book - I like it more the longer I think about it 
  • The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan - ok, I cheated ... this was for the episode that featured me :) - but still, it's a great book and every fantasy fan should read it
  • Black Hills, by Dan Simmons - I loved the "idea" of this book  but the execution wasn't such a success
  • Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel - um ... yeah ... not really sure what to say about this one ... you'll have to check out my review, though I don't know if it is much more coherent ...

I have to admit that I really haven't been listening to the show much over the last few months.  Although I really did enjoy it I found that I just didn't have the chance to listen to anything on the computer all that often.  Still, what I did listen to I really enjoyed; it was great fun getting to know other bloggers a bit better!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remembering Summer #3

Kiddo and his great-grandparents
Sept. 12, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Christmas Book Review

Today I'm over at Book Journey to tell everyone about a Christmas book that is perfect for the whole family.  I hope you'll head over and check it out!

Also, if you are a praying person please keep Sheila @ Book Journey in your prayers.  She is currently in Honduras on a missions trip!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mind Voyages Challenge - Recap

The Mind Voyages challenge isn't actually over until December but I've completed it - yay!  The goal was to read 12 science fiction or fantasy books and I did just that. In my original post for the challenge I mentioned a few titles I wanted to read this year.  From that list of 6 books I only read 2 (?!?!) but there are two more that I plan to get to early in 2011.*

Here's what I read:
  1. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood - (audio) a bleak look into our possible future - interesting but not a favorite
  2. Kindred, by Octavia Butler - (audio) time travel to the pre-Civil War American South - HIGHLY recommended
  3. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell - (a re-read) Jesuits in space - HIGHLY recommended
  4. Genesis, by Bernard Beckett - (audio) short novel about a dystopic future - not a big hit with me
  5. The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares - novella featuring a machine that (sort-of) recreates life - a strange and fascinating little story
  6. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi - fighting aliens in the future - it felt like a mix of Starship Troopers and Avatar
  7. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein - a human is raised on Mars by native Martians - had a promising start but I didn't end up liking it much
  8. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow - teens fighting against an oppressive government in the near future - again with the promising start, and yet it didn't work for me in the end
  9. The Invisible Man, by HG Wells - (audio) what if invisibility were truly possible? - excellent classic that more people should read
  10. Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell - (a re-read) Jesuits go back to space - HIGHLY recommended
  11. The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - (audio)(a re-read) excellent continuation of Jordan's Wheel of Time series, proving that Sanderson is worthy to carry this literary torch
  12. Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - (audio) I haven't reviewed this one yet but I really REALLY enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing how the series concludes with the next book
Did anyone else participate in this challenge? How did you do?

    * I'm planning a read-a-long of Dune, by Frank Herbert in February and I'd love to have you join me if you are interested. I'm also planning to read Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, early in the year but I don't know when yet.

    The "Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood (York Notes Advanced)KindredThe SparrowOld Man's WarStranger in a Strange LandThe Invention of Morel (New York Review Books Classics)Little BrotherThe Invisible Man (Signet Classics)Children of God (Ballantine Reader's Circle)The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, Book 12)Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time)

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