Friday, October 30, 2009

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

Psychological thrillers have got to be one of my favorite books to read. And yet for the past ten months or so I feel like I have completely abandoned them for the sake of discovering and getting familiar with other genres. In the end, my guilt and my ‘favoritism’ drove me to reach out for A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi and right now I am reminded of what a feast I was missing out on by putting thrillers on a back burner.

The book starts off with a murder of a ten years old girl and it keeps you in its grips from then on. Newbury, CT is a seemingly quiet, peaceful town and the murder is all the more shocking because of that. We have an FBI agent Leia Bines, a child psychiatrist Peter Gram, who is also a nephew of a local senator, and a score of law-enforcement people trying to find a killer who not only murdered the girl but did it in a very twisted way. Dr. Peter Gram also has a new patient, a seven-year-old Naya whose inexplicable nightmares seem to have no medical basis and all of a sudden turn out to be too important to the murder case to be missed. And so, the race to find this brutal killer before he finds another innocent victim starts.

I was really taken by A Circle of Souls and its author Preetham Grandhi. It is his debut work and I think he did an excellent job. I have read scores of thrillers, especially psychological ones, and therefore I do consider myself an amateur expert on this subject. I can tell you that it’s no easy task to write a gripping tale that will keep the reader with their nose in the book until the tale is over. And I can also safely tell you that Mr. Grandhi accomplished just that. There aren’t too many characters which keeps the picture simple and clear enough for the reader to concentrate on the main plot and follow it without getting confused about who’s who and who’s done what. When I write simple, I don’t mean a story with not much depth to it. Quite the opposite, there is a lot happening but it’s easy to follow all the events and I think it’s a plus that readers are given a few main characters to think about without being blindsided by a parade of people who bring nothing to the table and their only purpose seems to be confusion. I think that most of you know what I’m talking about. Many possibly good thrillers got ruined this way. A Circle of Souls is thankfully not one of them. For a debut novel and beyond that as well, it’s a very good, sometimes even scary and full of action thriller. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last (I know it sounds a little cliché but in this case it really is true) and I am already waiting impatiently for what Mr. Grandhi produces next because he certainly is a skilled author that knows how to give us good thrills.

Special Thanks to the author, Preetham Grandhi for sending me a copy of his book for review.
Please make sure to visit his website which dedicated to the book and looks really neat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Silverstein & Me by Merv Gold

What do you know about Shel Silverstein? If you are like I was ten years ago, nothing. Yes, you heard that right. Before I became a mother, I’d had no idea that a person name Shel Silverstein existed. I never liked poetry, I still don’t like it but when my daughter asked me to read Mr. Silverstein’s poems from the Runny Babbit I honestly became enchanted by them because of how simple they were yet each and every one carried a meaning important to me and I like to think my daughter as well. Since then I have read every book of poems by Shel written for children and I thought I had a pretty good image of who Mr. Silverstain was. Here’s the thing: I didn’t, it wasn’t anywhere near and Silverstein & Me by Merv Gold is the book that opened my eyes (at least a little, because I have a feeling there is still a lot more unsaid).

Silverstein & Me is a memoir of sorts written by a person who probably knew Shel the longest (well besides his parents) and is someone you can call life-long friend. I write ‘of sorts’ because it really is a little more than just a memoir and covers pretty much a whole life of Mr. Silverstein. Merv Gold doesn’t just concentrate on one event or certain period but instead chooses to tell Shel’s story from the day they became friends to the day Shel died. And what a story it is! I got shocked at certain things, some things I still can’t bring myself to fully believe, others made me laugh and others yet got very deep and made me cry. There are tons of anecdotes and facts from Shel’s life I had no idea about, including his career as a Playboy cartoonist and his drug use. One thing is certain, if you saw Silverstein as a clever and funny poet for children, you will never see him as such after reading Silverstein & Me.

Despite my image of him is forever shattered (no worries, it's in a good way), I really enjoyed the book. Mr. Gold did a wonderful job writing about Shel Silverstein in two most important ways. First, the writing itself flows very smoothly, it’s quite fast-paced for a memoir and really makes you want to read it all in one sitting (that’s what I did, by the way), not because the poet’s life was so intriguing because we all know how the most wonderful lives can be turned into a bore by an unskilled writer. The way Merv Gold combined prose with a little bit of silly songs and funny cartoons (which I think are a great addition) and not very long but nonetheless necessary descriptive passages with quick dialogue really appealed to me and I think also added to the true, if unknown picture, of who Shel Silverstein was. Second most important things is that Mr. Gold managed to add value and color to his friend’s life, managed to show all the respect due Silverstein and his family and the book never felt to me like a ‘washing-the-dirty-laundry’ kind of memoir. Despite all the shocking things and all the character traits I would never have expected from an author of The Giving Tree, I now think much more of Mr. Silverstein, not less. Like a true friend, Merv Gold paid a real tribute to his friend. As the author himself writes in the opening pages:

“For some this is a tell-all book, telling all that one can recall. But not a tattle tale book, though he was far from perfect, and sometimes a downright arrogant pain in the ass. Its point is to uncover the hidden, unknown Shel, to show he was most often friendly, giving, and above all interested in everyone and everything.”
Special Thanks to Paula K. from AME, Inc for sending me this book for review.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

Today I decided to try and make you laugh a little. Not many people like Mondays and in many place today the weather might just make you want to lie down and sleep. I am also reading a very sad novel right now that already made me cry several times. For these reasons I thought that a little laughter won't hurt. Today, I give you words borrowed from Rodney Dangerfield & company:

I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.
- Rodney Dangerfield

I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
- Rodney Dangerfield

Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh man....I could be eating a slow learner.
- Lyndon B. Johnson.

I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

"I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."

"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'

'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon - End of Event meme

It is hour 24 and I was awake for only 17 hours out of 24. I tried to stay past midnight but my eyes kept closing and I think I spent 30 minutes reading the same page. I am nonetheless happy altogether with how the whole event went. I didn't expect myself to stay up past 10pm and I honestly had lots of fun.

Admittedly I only read one whole book, No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer.
I did read bits and pieces of The Tattoo Machine by Jeff Johnson and listened to The Summoning by Armstrong for about 15 minutes.

Total books read: 1

Total pages read: 374 (one whole book - 346 and The Tattoo Machine - 10)

Total time staying awake and trying to read: 17 hours (8am-12am Saturday & 7am-8am Sunday).

Let's move on to the last meme of this year's event.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
hour 13, 9-10pm

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?
Psychological thrillers definitely. I just read A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi a couple of days before the read-a-thon and I wish I put it away and read it during the event instead.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I honestly don't. I think it went very smoothly and I met new bloggers too which was an added bonus. I am just very happy that there are bloggers who organize this event everytime and make sure it runs smoothly.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Cheerleaders. These girls were absolutely amazing.

5. How many books did you read?
I only read one full book which is still more than I usually manage (the fastest I can read is a book in two days).

6. What were the names of the books you read?
No Wind of Blame, The Tattoo Machine and The Summoning

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
No Wind of Blame but The Summoning is an audio book that I am enjoying a lot as well.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
The Tattoo Machine, not that it's bad but I a
m at the beginning of it and the author comes off cocky and better than....

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I weren't one but whoever decides to be a cheerleader next year just do what the girls do this time :)

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?
What role would you be likely to take next time? I would love to participate in every read-a-thon from now on, preferably as a reader. I want to see if I get better with each event but more importantly make it a tradition and something my family can finally get used to and know not to bother me those two days in the whole year. However, next spring when the read-a-thon comes along I will have a baby boy infant to take care (I am due February 7th, 2010) of so I would have to wait and see how it goes.

I just wanted to finish it up with saying thank you to all the fantastic bloggers, readers,cheerleaders and everyone who visited my blog and commented and kept my spirits up even though they didn't participate in the read-a-thon at all. I am very taken aback by the wonderful atmosphere that permeated the blogosphere (a little rhyming here) and for that alone it is worth participating in this even any and every time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon - hour 9 update

Phew, is it just my life that works this way or do other people have to deal with this as well? The one day that I want to sit down and spend as much time as I can reading, there are people coming over (my sister, my niece and my nephew) and my daughter has all kinds of questions and problems to be discussed, and my husband feel the need to talk to me about his mountain biking and the race he's joining next week. I swear right now I am ready to choke them all.

Anyway, I am still on book no. 1 but I am nearing the end, thank the heavens!

Pages read since last update: 136

Total of pages read: 252

I also had to take about an hour break for my daughter's Halloween party (where she fought a little with her best friend and I was tempted to intervene but decided to let them handle it, I'll find out the outcome on Monday).

I did manage to visit quite a few blogs and am enjoyed what i find there. i try to leave as many comments as possible but I also see that cheerleaders are really keeping everyone's spirits up.

I am counting on staying up for the night with maybe only a couple of hours napping and then reading a lot more :).

I am still very happy though and enjoying No Wind Of Blame tremendously. Ms. Heyer made me laugh out loud quite a few times.

24-Hour Read-A-Thon - first update

Okay, I have been reading now for three hours (from 8 am to 11 am), not counting the 30 minute break in which I visited as many blogs as I could and commented on all of them. I apologize right away if I don't get to leave comments on all the blogs participating but I will try my best to visit as many as possible.

As far as the update goes:

I started with No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer. I am still reading this one but I think I will be switching to something else soon.

Pages read so far since the beginning: 116

Books read : not yet one full book :(

I am still having fun and enjoying the reading but on a side note, my husband is being a little pest and trying his best to distract me. Someone please make him behave!!!! Till next time, HAPPY READING TO EVERYONE & BIG, BEAR HUGS HUGS TO ALL THE CHEERLEADERS!!!!!


Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon warm-up

It is 7:34 am here on Long Island and I am getting ready to start reading. Can I just tell you how excited I am? I am almost jumping out of my socks :-). Anyway, I was thinking how to go about the whole Read-A-Thon thing, the updates, the books, the snacks and all that jazz, and I decided to post short updates every 3-4 hours (maybe even not that often). I also for the first time in a very long time will try reading more than one book within one day. I am currently reading Dragon House by John Shors but I will put it aside for the marathon, at least for the beginning of it because it is a very serious novel and I feel I need something light first. Therefore, I am starting with No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer and see how it goes.

Breaks: I will be taking breaks every couple of hours to read blogs and write comments. Also, I don't snack or eat while reading, so those breaks will contain my snacking and eating time. I will also have to drop my daughter off and pick her up at the Girl Scouts Halloween party so this will take some times as well.

Okay, I'm off to have some breakfast and I wish you all luck who participate and cheerlead and an awesome Saturday to everybody.

Friday, October 23, 2009

2-in-1: A Flickering Light & Always Watching

For today’s edition of 2-in-1 I am talking about two very different but equally enjoyable books. First one is a historical fiction novel and the second one, a YA mystery novel. The one thing they have in common is that they are both the first books in the new series.

1. A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick

This is a novel set in early 20th century Minnesota detailing the life of Jessie Gaebele. As a fifteen-year old Jessie already knows what she loves and wants to do for the rest of her life: photography. From the moment she gets her first camera from her uncle, she is enchanted by the nature and landscape and wants to capture their beauty forever. Things get complicated when Jessie gets a job in a photo studio of F. J. Bauer and there is now a real possibility that her dream may become a reality as she

learns the trade of photography from an expert. But working with Mr. Bauer soon turns into something much deeper than just taking pictures and as Jessie grows up to become a woman, she has to decide which path to take: follow her dream career or her budding love for F.J.?

A Flickering Light was my first book that deals with photography. I have read my share of painters, musicians, poets and writers as main characters, but never a photographer. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in this book. Ms. Kirkpatrick managed to turn this not very interesting to me subject into something I found myself intrigued by. Part of it is probably that this book had a personal meaning to the author, as it is based on the life of her grandmother, who was herself a photographer’s assistant. Another part of the book that maybe was even more important than the photography aspect, was Jessie’s drive and determination to overcome whatever troubles may come only to fulfill what truly mattered to her. The book is set in the early 1900’ but this theme of going after your dreams is as timeless and important as it can get.

As I mentioned, A Flickering Light is book one in the Portrait of a Woman series and I gladly will continue with Jessie on her quest for what matters.

2. Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins & Amberly Collins

Always Watching is a YA murder mystery written by a mother-daughter team. The main character, sixteen years old Shaley lives a life of a rock star, or rather a rock star’s daughter. This entails not really having a real home, spending most of her life on tour with her mom and the band and really looking for friendship wherever she may get it, as it comes rarely enough. Shaley’s world gets even more tragic when one of those rare friends, the make-up artist Tom is murdered and Shaley is the first one to find him dead. To say it was traumatic for her is an understatement and Shaley starts questioning a lot more than just who would kill Tom.

I don’t usually read Young Adult novels. The main reason for it is the flood of paranormal that seems to upstage every other sub-genre in the world of books of teenagers. The worst part of it all is, once you read two or three of them, you can pretty much feel you’ve read them all. Another thing is my own daughter who is entering the world of 12 year-olds and up doesn’t like anything that even remotely deals with ghosts, vampires, fairies and such. I reached out for Always Watching because for a change it’s a good ‘ole mystery and I am looking for anything that might interest Karolina as far as reading goes. And I have to tell you, even I, the person who strays as far away from YA as possible, enjoyed this novel and actually read it pretty fast because I wanted to find out how it ended. And it’s definitely going on the list of books I will be recommending to my daughter. What a pleasurable change it was to actually read something for teenagers that doesn’t involve sex, drugs, psychologically damaged kids and silly girls swooning at the sight of their love interest. This mother-daughter team really did a fine job of creating a very likable and down-to-earth character with which many girls her age can identify and it’s okay if they do (even if she has a life that’s completely different from an average teenager’s, she still is a girl that has the same problems, feelings and emotions).

Always Watching is part one of The Rayne Town series and I am looking forward to more books featuring Shaley.


I received a copy of A Flickering Light via the Library Thing Early Reviewer program.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart

When I mention that I don’t know much about American history, there are certain periods of it that basically know next to nothing. The time of Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark expedition and year immediately following belong to that ‘next to nothing’ category. I know it’s a sad state of things but I am trying to correct that situation by reaching out for books set in those times to help me know more. Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart is one such book.

This historical novel is primarily about Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea and a French translator Toussaint Charbonneau born during the famous voyage of Lewis and Clark. It takes place partly in America and partly in Europe. Jean-Baptiste, also called Pompy in the language of his mother’s tribe, the Mandans, is a bi-racial child who spends his early childhood between two worlds, Sacagawea’s Native American world and the world of captain Clark in St. Louis among the ‘civilized’ children. His life isn’t easy but neither is it nightmarish and coming from such a mixed family, Jean-Baptiste has an advantage of knowing not one language but many, including French, English and multitude of tribal languages. This knowledge of language as well as various tribal cultures places him in the company of a young Duke of Wurtemberg, Paul with whom he departs to Europe when Jean is eighteen. He crosses the Endless River (Atlantic Ocean) in search for new experiences and maybe even a new life. What he finds there and learns there may actually make him long for America, his true home.

Mr. Carhart had been a published author before Across the Endless River but this book was my first experience of his writing. I therefore really had no expectations towards the novel other than the fact that it’s historical fiction. Sometimes (or most of the time) it’s better to start a book with an open mind expecting nothing but getting back a lot more. Across the Endless River did give me an inside look to what Sacagwea’s life might have been as well as what a chasm divided the new World and the Old World (and I’m not talking about the physical distance here). I think I enjoyed the comparison of the true wilderness of the Frontier with what the Europeans thought to be the wild places where they lived. I never gave it a thought myself but while reading the passages describing the prairies and hills where there is nothing but the wild nature as far as you can see I did understand the difference because there weren’t such places in the Old World, where as Jean mused, even in the highest mountains there were little villages with houses and people. Thad Carhart’s writing about the two worlds is in my opinion the most compelling part of this novel. The scenes of buffalos’ hunt, of endless prairies and even of the arranged deer hunts in Europe were very vivid and as such quite beautiful.

One part of Across the Endless River that I had any real complaint of was that for a historical fiction with a subject of this one, very intriguing but very lonely, lost between two worlds person, it was way too short. It almost seemed to me as if at some point the author just got tired of writing and decided to ‘cut to the chase’. I don’t mind ‘cutting to the chase’ when I read fast-action thrillers, but Across the Endless River is really a book with a potential for a true saga and it would have benefited tremendously from deeper digging into Jean-Baptiste’s affairs and lives shared between the two worlds. It’s almost as if I didn’t get a chance to completely familiarize myself with him or other characters.

However, I still don’t think this should discourage people from reaching for this book. I think it might be a perfect fit for someone who is not fully familiar with the world of historical fiction, is just making a decision to take a plunge into it but doesn’t want to be drowned in a 600+ epic from the get-go. Thad Carhart is definitely an author that will provide you with a taste for more and even me saying that his novel could have been longer only means that yes, I would definitely read more as I enjoyed his writing.


Special Thanks to Anna S. from FSB Associates for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

My relationship with my mom has never been one full of warm feelings or deep understanding. It gets better as I get older and while I will never be emotionally close to my mom, I am glad for what we have today. On the other hand, I am also a mother myself and I have to admit that it’s probably one of the most difficult roles in a woman’s life. I am a daughter and a mother, and I reached out for Traveling with Pomegranates because it’s a mother-daughter memoir and I think I am having the most difficulty with coming to terms with what motherhood and daughter-hood entail.

Sue Monk Kidd is probably known to most readers as the author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. That’s how I knew about her even though I have yet to read both these books. Traveling with Pomegranates is Sue’s and her daughter Ann’s story recounting their travels to Greece and France and their life in between. It starts with their first trip to Greece as Sue’s birthday present (she turns 50) and Ann’s graduation present (she graduated from college). Beginning with this trip forward, both Sue and Ann learn a lot about each other and about themselves. Ann is struggling with depression and trying to hide it from her mom even though she knows that her mom will know without ever being told. Sue is struggling with her identity, with her ageing, and with her desire to be a fiction writer. The memoir covers a few years of self-discovery and mother-daughter efforts to understand what their destinies are and where exactly it is these two women are heading.

Traveling with Pomegranates moved me on several levels, especially when I least expected it. Sue is already an accomplished writer but this memoir is Ann’s first attempt at writing and I must say that she is a very talented author. I really couldn’t tell the difference in quality between mother and daughter. And honestly, I don’t think I was supposed to. What both of these women wrote was beautiful and emotional because they both put their hearts into it. Their love for each other emanated from the pages of the book and therefore to experience their deeply emotional yet very lonely struggles was all the more heartbreaking. The best part for me was that I could identify with both of them. With Ann because we are close in age and because I also suffer from depression (even though that’s one issue I had a slight problem with, which I will elaborate on) and with Sue because I am a mother and I also struggle with my identity as a woman, mainly I don’t want to be seen as a mom only. Just like Sue, I want to be a woman, breathing, living, beautiful woman with my own goals, my own dreams, separate from those of a mother.

Besides the spiritual side, I also really liked reading about the travel part. All the Greek mythology weaved into the pages of Traveling with Pomegranates got me once again interesting in this topic and also brought on a little bit of nostalgia, as I remember being fascinated by this subject in my late teens and early twenties. Ann especially has a talent for writing about all the places they visited and all the experiences they went through caused by history of those places. I really wish I could go to Greece one day.

As I mentioned, the only problem I had was with Ann’s struggle and eventual recovery? from depression. From the way she described this malady (that’s how I see it) I knew it was genuine, as I have felt the same way countless times. What upset me was the fact that Ann either all of a sudden recovered from it after the three trips with her mom or simply stopped talking about it, as if it was a non-issue all of a sudden. It upset me because I know you can’t recover from depression simply because you get to go to Greece with your mom and maybe Ann wasn’t as truthful about it as I would have liked. The other thing might be that I am just jealous and she did conquer depression (jealous that I don’t seem to progress at all after many, many years of living with it). I guess it’s up to individual readers how they want to perceive it. It certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and crying many times when reading about Sue’s and Ann’s doubts about life, spirituality and their futures. If you are a sucker for memoirs like I am, I think Traveling with Pomegranates deserves a place in your library.


Special Thanks to Katrina A. from Wiredset for sending me this book for review.

Also check out this nice widget about Traveling with Pomegranates which includes an exclusive video of Sue and Ann:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BTT: Weeding out my library

Booking Through Thursday's question for today is:

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain? Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

My personal library does pretty much blossom into an out-of-control creature. I haven't done anything to organize it in a very long time and I honestly don't think I will be doing any of it in any near future. My dream of course is to be a homeowner (I am unfortunately still a renter) with a separate room just for my books and nothing else. I do own close to a thousand books (all the read ones are in plastic bins in the basement because I simply have no room to shelf them) and I own that one room really wouldn't be enough but it's still nice to think that I would have a real personal library.

Anyway, I mostly do not get rid of books. Not all of the ones I keep will be reread by me but I do have a daughter and there is a son on his way to this world and I keep all my books for them, so they can browse this future library room of mine and pick up any book they want to (and then, when I am no longer in this world, their children and hopefully grandchildren can still read all the books I left them).

However, there are books that I have a feeling I could pass on to another person without "hurting future generations". I don't really like to think of it as "getting rid of books" because that's not what I do. I simply give them to someone who will appreciate them better than I can. If the quality is almost brand new (meaning, I have read them but you can barely tell), I usually would run a giveaway on my blog. If they look slightly worse than brand new, I then donate them to my local library for the library sale.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

24-Hour Read-A-Thon is coming.

Yes it is and I am probably the last person in the blogosphere who only now posts about it :)
Initially, I didn't plan on writing about my preparations for this super event but then I felt guilty that I didn't so here I come.

This is my very first Read-A-Thon and it will probably be my last for at least another year because next year there will be an infant in the house and I will be trying to catch up on sleep any chance I get. That's why I decided to join now. I wanted very much to do it last time but was afraid I wouldn't last and if there is one thing I hate, it's not finishing what I started (maybe because it's happened to me one time too many?). Anyway, I do have a list of books that I might want to read and I will present it below but before I do that I just want to say that I am in no way committing myself to this list, lol! I will most likely change it in the process but it's good to have one if only as an insurance against my "I don't have anything to read" whining. I put aside six titles, and while I realize not all six of them will be read since I am a rather slow reader, at least it's a good mix from which I will be able to choose if I get bored with one book or the other. Mainly, my goal is to catch up on some of my challenges and the books below are all part of three of them: What's In a Name - 2, Mystery & Thriller Reading Challenge, 999 Reading Challenge.

1. The Mosaic Crimes by Giulio Leoni
2. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison
3. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
4. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
5. No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer
6. The Fourth Hand by John Irving

Have you signed up yet? Try it if you haven't. All you have to do is visit the website, commit yourself by signing up and then just be super excited. I think we all are, the readers and the cheerleaders alike. It is a great fun where we have a chance to meet other bloggers that we maybe haven't heard of and to entertain each other (maybe even steal book ideas). Oh, and you don't really have to stay up 24 hours, you can sleep and you can take breaks as long as you're honest about it. I know I will need my sleep :). I'll see you there!

Monday, October 12, 2009

2-in-1: Amazing Grace & I Do Again

For today’s edition of 2-in1 I have two Christian non-fiction books. And this is pretty much where the similarities end.

1. Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris

It is Ms. Norris’s recounting of her struggles with going back to the Christianity. What seemed to have kept her away from it for many years was the language that is used in connection with this religion and the misunderstandings stemming from it. Amazing Grace is a memoir of sorts with many personal and very endearing stories in which Kathleen rediscovers the meanings of words such as ‘dogma’, ‘antichrist’ or ‘annunciation’. There is also a lot of theology and etymology woven through this memoir which surprisingly is very captivating to read about.

I am a member of the Roman-Catholic Church and I for once found a book where author didn’t bash this close to my heart religion. As soon as I realized that Amazing Grace is more about opening one’s eyes to the art of living with the abstract and turning it into reality of everyday life, I began treating it more seriously than I initially intended. Obviously, I heard and encountered all the words talked about in this book many, many times in my life but I experienced ‘Aha’ moments in pretty much every chapter. I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the way Kathleen writes about her own understanding, her faith and her struggles that brought me closer to the faith I thought I was pretty much close enough. Probably, the best part of the book is that there is no discrimination, no ridicule and no off-putting passages that could otherwise turn an atheist or non-Christian away.

2. I Do Again by Cheryl & Jeff Scruggs

This one is part memoir, part self-help for broken couples and marriages. Cheryl & Jeff write about their paths coming together to join them in marriage and how those paths went separate ways after a few years. Cheryl felt misunderstood and really unloved on a deeper, spiritual level, which pushed her into the arms of another man. What came next is what happens to so many couples nowadays: a painful divorce that affected not only Jeff & Cheryl but also their twin daughters, their families and their mutual friends. That’s the memoir part. The self-help part is that they actually got back together and remarried after seven dreadful years of divorce and are now actively working together to help other couples find the spiritual path to a happy marriage, no matter how broken they might appear to be.

I mentioned above that I am Catholic. I am also a divorced and remarried person, although not to the same man. Talk about two things that cannot possibly exist together. But yet, here I am. Needless to say, this book brought upon a lot of feelings of guilt and sadness. I Do Again might be good for people who are better Christians than I am and want to fix their marriages before it’s too late. But I also felt that there was no place for people like myself in this book. The Srcuggs’s apparently are full of faith that every marriage can be fixed if there is God in a relationship. But what about a person like myself, who from the day of the wedding until the day of divorce knows that the marriage is a mistake? I was pushed into marrying, even though I knew this wasn’t what I wanted. I honestly felt like the biggest sinner in the world while reading this book and kept asking myself what was wrong with me that I couldn’t fix my relationship even though I had been a spiritual person. So, all and all, this book might be a saving grace for someone who is teetering on the verge and wants to turn to God for help. But if you already are past the divorce and (God forbid) building a life with someone who should have been your partner all along, then I think you should skip this book. You might otherwise be thrown into a guilt trip of your life.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee

I have a strange attraction towards memoirs. I think they at once draw me away from my own life and give me many reasons to somehow compare my life to the person a memoir is about. When it came my turn to pick the next read for my book club, I knew right away it would be a memoir. Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee was the one democratically chosen. I was both glad I read it since it had been on my reading list for a long time and slightly disappointed with it.
Trail of Crumbs is a story of Kim’s life from the day she was abandoned by her Korean mother and adopted by American parents at the age of three until the time when she is in her late twenties going back to New Orleans, the town she grew up with, after ten years of living in Europe. It is also a food memoir as hunger and the need to make wonderful food are two of the main forces in Kim’s life (she finishes chapters in the book with one or more recipes of very elaborate and sometimes complicated recipes). The whole memoir is mainly focused on Kim’s life when she enters the world of adulthood and decides to study and live in Europe. She takes us through the cities of Paris, Stockholm and then back to France as she grows more and more apart from her adopted family, especially her mother left in America. Kim finally lands in a place she thinks might be her true home. She moves in with Olivier, a wealthy founder of L’Occitane and tries to take on a role of the mistress of his beautiful house in Provence and a step-mother of Olivier’s eight-year-old daughter, Laure. But even having what most people can only dream of, Kim is still unhappy and still searching for the ‘real’ idea of home she claims she never really did get to grasp.
I’ll get right to the bottom of it all and put on the record I did not like Trail of Crumbs. It’s difficult to explain why because it is a memoir and it does deal with real people not some fictitious characters. I hate getting personal in my critique but Ms. Sunee is the main reason I didn’t like the book. Granted, she certainly has a talent for writing. It’s obvious from the first pages to the last. There really isn’t much, if anything that I could frown upon in terms of quality of the book. In that respect, Trail of Crumbs reads like a breeze.
However, if I was supposed to feel sorry for Kim I am confused because I didn’t. I did sympathize with her and did feel a lot of her pain initially when reading about how she was left by her mother on the sidewalk with only a piece of bread in her hands. The scared, three-year-old Kim spent three days on that sidewalk waiting for her mom to return. It did break my heart a little, I admit. But then, the whole book turns into a sort of bashing of Kim’s adopted parents, especially her mom, and Kim’s wallowing in how unhappy she is, how she can’t find her true self and how her life is pretty much worthless. Forget about having an opportunity to live and study and then work in not one but two beautiful countries in Europe. Forget that she used this opportunity when she was barely twenty (when most of us peons are stuck doing menial and boring jobs just to get us through college with as little debt as possible). And finally, don’t even pay attention to the fact that at the age of twenty one she captures the heart of a very wealthy man who gives Kim anything she wants, and I mean anything (he even buys her a bookstore just for poetry books, which brings nothing but financial loss)and truly loves her. I guess I did start to dislike Kim because of how selfish she turned out to be and how she would stamp on other people’s lives just because she couldn’t figure hers out. I hope that nowadays Ms. Sunee is able to look at how egocentric she really was in those days of what could have been pure happiness had she made an effort.
As far as food goes, the recipes were truly yummy and I would gladly eat the dishes if someone else prepared them for me. I am guilty of hating cooking. You have no idea how many times I have been told by others to start cooking because it had therapeutic qualities. Well, it doesn’t for me. And as delicious as all the dishes talked about in Trail of Crumbs must be, I am still not convinced or encouraged to try any of them. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

European history, or really any history at all, has never been my strongest forte. I couldn’t tell you why exactly but I struggled with that subject even in my college years. I do however love historical fiction because it allows me to get familiar with history the only way I know, through reading. Even if a book is not necessarily historically 100% accurate, if captivating enough it makes me want to look up the facts afterwards. The War of Roses, or the period immediately preceding the Tudor era is one such subject I am not greatly familiar with. Therefore I was really excited to read The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes, because this is the time this novel is set in.
The subtitle to the book is The Novel of Elizabeth of York but it’s really not only about her. Elizabeth is the oldest daughter of Edward IV and a sister to two brothers who were imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle Richard as he usurps the throne of England after his brother’s untimely death. In the novel, the boys get murdered on the order of Richard who thinks that this will clear his way to be the ultimate ruler without any pretenders to the throne. Well, he got that wrong, since there is his niece Elizabeth and she is seen by the people of England as the legitimate Queen. Richard can’t really murder her therefore he proposes a marriage, as incestuous as it is. But there is one more candidate to the throne and to Elizabeth’s heart. This person is a Lancastrian, Henry Tudor. It is now up to Elizabeth to decide the fate of England and make the unthinkable decision to merge Yorks with Lancasters and give birth to a new dynasty.
As with every historical novel, it is a difficult task for a writer to create something both historically accurate and captivating to an average reader. And then there comes a question of how we really deem what is true and what isn’t. Every few years new facts are discovered, new theories made and so what might have been accurate fifty years ago, doesn’t necessarily have to be today. Ms. Barnes wrote The Tudor Rose in 1953 and besides portraying some characters differently to what contemporary historians agree on, I think that all the major facts she really did get right. And I appreciated the fact that she breathed life into this period of history that until now was shrouded in mystery for me. I guess this is just a convoluted way of mine to say that I truly enjoyed The Tudor Rose. It brought me closer to the period of British history that just may be far more interesting than the pounded-into-our-heads-in-all-the-media Tudor era. I will admit here that I was getting slightly sick with Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. For that reason, I read Ms. Barnes’s that much more eagerly.
Putting all the accuracy questions aside, The Tudor Rose is a very entertaining read. For the first time in months (I’m not exaggerating) I read a book in two days and was extremely upset when I had to stop reading because my daily life called. Ms. Barnes was a skilled writer that managed to give personality to figures who were long dead. And what complicated personalities they were. Not one person was purely good or all evil. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate Richard despite his awful deed or completely admire Elizabeth despite of what she had to go through or sacrifices she made. It’s just like real life; we are all a mixture of both. I think this book is definitely worth recommending especially for people who do not read historical fiction because they think it’s boring, or harrowing to get through. The Tudor Rose is not. It is instead an interesting glimpse into history with action flowing smoothly until you’re at the end and want to know more.
Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Note: If you read and reviewed this book on your blog, please let me know, as I would love to link it to my review to give readers as full a picture as possible.
Book Info:
Author: Margaret Campbell Barnes
Title: The Tudor Rose
Published in : 2009
By: Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc
ISBN: 9781402224683


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Bermudaonion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

This week's words come from The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes, which I am actually enjoying very much.

1. obsequy n. pl -quies: a funeral or burial site (usually used in plural)

There were all the outward forms and ceremonies to go through, the solemn obsequies in the Abbey to be borne.

2. impecunious adj.: having very little or no money usually habitually

And woman-like, she let her tender heart yearn a little over her impecunious but practical husband, so that it drove her out into Goldsmiths Row to empty her own slender purse in exchange for some of the brightest jewels she could find.

3. extortionate adj.: 1. characterized by extortion 2. excessive, exorbitant

And the people who were left alive found it rather a poor one anyway, because Archbishop Morton and Sir Reginald bray not only set their underlings to collect the promised sums from every individual, house by house, and town by town, but were so extraordinarily thorough and extortionate in their demands that they were soon suspected of having enriched the King's coffers by a sum far in excess of the agreed amount.

Have you heard these words, have you known of them? And what interesting words did you learn this past week?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How To Rule The World From Your Couch Giveaway.

It's time for another giveaway, courtesy of Katrina A. from Yay! This time it is a non-fiction book, How To Rule The World from Your Couch by Laura Day. And there will be two (2) winners.
Here's the publisher's description:

In her new book, How to Rule the World from Your Couch, Laura Day teaches you or your company how to create success in any area by using your brain in unique and compel-ling ways so that your innate intuition can propel you ahead to successful solutions.

The step-by-step exercises included -- many of which can (and should!) be done from the comfort of your couch -- will show you how you can:

• Find and secure your dream job
• Maintain solid relationships, even at a distance
• Lose weight by reclaiming the body you were meant to have
• Know how to spot your perfect mate
• Make better investments and business decisions
• Negotiate differences in the workplace
• Have an understanding relationship with your child
• Identify which opportunities will pan out
• Project a desirable image for yourself or your product
• Anticipate and resolve difficult conflict before you walk into a situation

Laura's work has helped demystify intuition and demonstrate its practical, verifiable uses in the fields of business, science, medicine, and personal growth. Her list of clients and students includes doctors, financial investors, scientists, engineers, and celebrities. Day has shown that 98 percent of success is planning and that you, therefore, have the power to transform your life

Sounds like a very interesting read especially for all of us who want to finally get on the 'ruling train'. The book goes on sale today, October 6th and if luck is not on your side this time, you can first read an excerpt and then proceed to order it either from Simon & Schuster or

Giveaway details:

1. To be entered in this giveaway, please leave a comment plus your email address.

2. There will be two (2) winners - one copy each.

3. This giveaway is for U.S. and Canada residents only.

4. It ends on Tuesday, October 20th.

Good Luck to you all!!!


September Reads

Even though I yet again haven't read as much as I'd have liked to last month, I am very happy with the quality of what I did manage to read. despite there being a couple of titles I didn't really enjoy, most of the books were really worth my time. I have also managed to review all but two books which wil be talked about on my blog pretty soon as well.

1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - it's a classic in Gothic romance and I am extremely glad I read it. Now I can watch the movie.

2. God Is an Englishman by R. F. Delderfield - a superb historical fiction novel written by an author that until now was completely unknown to me. It made me very happy to discover Mr. Delderfield and add him to my list of favorites.

3. Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris - one of the two titles that I haven't yet reviewed but I will soon. For now, all I'll say is that it's a good read that puts a lot of perspective on my own faith.

4. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner - one of the saddest reads this month but very enjoyable nonetheless.

5. I Do Again by Cheryl & Jeff Scruggs - book two of the ones waiting for a review. Unlike Amazing Grace, I did not enjoy it at all and had a feeling that at least for me, it came a little too late.

Audio Books:

1. Dark Desire by Christine Feehan - book two in the series about Carpathians and also the last one I will waste my time on.

2. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran - an entertaining read about ancient Egypt and definitely one that encouraged me to read more of Ms. Moran's.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Traveling With Pomegranates Giveaway results.

The Traveling With Pomegranates Giveaway ended on Thursday. As usual, I have taken my sweet time posting the actual results and I sincerely apologize.
With the help of, the winner of this memoir was chosen and it was the lucky commenter no. 1. This just proves that just because you are the first one to comment, it doesn't mean you will not be picked.

This lucky commenter turned out to be:

Congratulations to Diane! And to all of you who participated I am sending huge thanks and hugs. I will be having another giveaway soon, so make sure you stop by and enter.

To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield

My dream profession had always been teaching. I got my degree and then I did work as a teacher in Poland for a period of two years and even now, ten years later, I look back at it as my best times working. Somehow, life didn’t work out the way I wanted and while living here I gave up teaching and became a translator instead. But I still do look back with nostalgia and sentiment at the time when I felt most fulfilled spending time in a classroom with my students. Therefore, reading To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield became a very personal and beautiful experience to me.

The novel gives us a story of David Powlett-Jones, a young man traumatized by three years fighting in WWI , who ends up getting a teaching position in Bamfylde, a public school for boys in England. P.J., as he is called by all who know him, applied for this job at the suggestion of his war doctor to heal his mental and emotional wounds acquired while fighting in this war meant to end all wars. David soon finds out that teaching is not merely a job but that it becomes a way of living and true healing. He makes dear friends among teachers and students alike and discovers that he was born to be a teacher, a guide for all the boys who change from children into adolescents right in front of his eyes and under his guidance. And miraculously, his own wounds do heal and the school prepares him for what’s to come in life just as much as it does those boys he teaches. It’s another wonderful saga by Delderfield spanning the years between the end of WWI and the beginning years of WWII in which there is a lot happening in England just as much as in all other parts of the world.

In my review of God Is An Englishman, I already expressed my great affection towards Delderfield’s writing talent. To Serve Them All My Days not only confirmed it but turned out to be actually better even though I didn’t think it possible. It is not an easy book to read in terms of the subject it deals with. There are many heartbreaking moments when I was reminded how much havoc WWI did wreak in lives of all people, especially the ones who survived. David, who as a boy went through the death of his father and his two older brothers who died buried in a collapsed coal mine, emerged from the three years spent on the battlefield shattered and without hopes for ever being able to deal with war experiences. Bamfylde’s headmaster, Algy, deals with the deaths of boys he came to treat as his sons, he raised to adulthood only to send them to their demise. Many times I cried because I was reminded how real all these war experiences were even to us, almost a century later. Not to mention, David’s commitment to his students and his life lived through his teaching, was something I could identify with to the point where I would stop and think that by giving up teaching myself, I defied my destiny somehow.

I truly adored this novel and I was sad to let it go. I wish there had been more of David and all others that came after him. R.F. Delderfield is now officially on the list of my favorite writers. The book is quite big, with 600 pages but once I started reading I didn’t notice the length at all. Reading To Serve Them All My Days is an experience, not merely an activity and it is one of those books that give you a story you will not soon forget, that will give you characters that you will know, inside out, and you will crave to meet one more time.

Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Book Info:

Author: R.F. Delderfield
Title: To Serve Them All My Days
Published In: 2009
By: Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
ISBN: 1402218249

If you would like to get other points of view, please visit:

Kristen's review @ We Be Reading

Tricia's review @ Library Queue

Carey's review @ The Tome Traveller's Weblog


Thursday, October 1, 2009

BTT: Lies, lies, lies.

Saw this article (from March) and thought it would make a good BTT confessional question:

Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?

Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, there is not much to confess here. I have never made up a lie about reading books. Not that I am a person who abhors this kind of behavior. I don't. It has simply never occurred to me to say that I read a certain book when in reality I haven't and probably never will.

I read books for myself only. There is no other motive than love of reading what I want to read and not what others might think I should read. The days of school assignments are over for me. And even then, I read all the books on the required reading list. Yep, I was that nerdy.