Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth

Time once again for our weekly discussion of all things Supernatural. We are at the end of season 2 - Amy has our discussion about episode 21, All Hell Breaks Loose part 1, and I am hosting our discussion about episode 22, All Hell Breaks Loose part 2. Everyone ready??

Episode 22 - All Hell Breaks Loose, part 2

Recap - Dean must deal with the aftermath of the fight between Sam and Jake and pays a steep price for his involvement. The Demon and his spirits threaten to overtake the hunters until they receive help from an unexpected ally.

Our discussion - as usual, Amy's thoughts are in red:

The first several moments were such a tear-jerker, when Dean refuses to bury Sam. You can see him frantically trying to figure out a way to bring his brother back. And then he says, " I had one job and I screwed it up. I guess that's what I do. I let down people I love."

Yes this was heartbreaking. Dean basically lives for his family and he only has one now. He doesn't seem to have any goals apart from taking care of Sam, so Sam's death was almost like Dean's death.

Did you know what Dean was planning when he went to the crossroads? Did you think the demon would make the deal with him?

Yes, I suspected. I like that this show buys back what it puts in earlier. It also helped that they showed us scenes from that episode before. I don't think he got a very good deal, though.

Well, I think the demon knew how desperate he was - I'm sure the more desperate, the worse the deal, because the demon knows desperate people will agree to just about anything.

Bobby immediately knew what Dean had done - do you think it's because that was something John would do, and Bobby can see John in his son?

Probably. I think he can also see Dean. That confrontation was very touching. Bobby cares about the boys and what a completely messed up situation.

How happy were you than Ellen was still alive?? I had to think that, for once, Ellen had to be happy that her daughter didn't stay put like she wanted her to.

I was so relieved!!!!!

It is revealed that a half-blood demon can cross the Devil's Trap - that means that Sam must be a half-blood demon, right? Wow.

From drinking blood as a baby? Weird.

I hope that issue is something they deal with in more depth next season.

Bobby asks Dean, "How certain are you that what you brought back is 100% Sam? You should know that what's dead should stay dead." That has implications for Dean, too, since he was brought back - if Sam isn't completely Sam, Dean might not be completely Dean.

That is definitely something interesting to be explored.

They managed to kill the demon - so what do you do when your ultimate goal has been achieved?

Celebrate? But they have a new problem now.......Dean only has a year and several demons have been released.

Well, that's all for season 2- not as much of a cliffhanger as season 1, but certainly many issues to still be resolved - mainly, how are they going to save Dean? Stay tuned - next week we will be digging in to season 3! Are you a Supernatural fan? We'd love to hear your thoughts on these emotionally charged episodes!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review - Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton

Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton

published 2008 (UK), 4/09 (US)
352 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

This is the story of Mina, a girl at a Sheffield call centre whose next customer in the queue is Peter, a Cambridge geography don who has crashed his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat. Despite their obvious differences, they've got a lot in common -- both single, both parents, both looking for love. Could it be that they've just found it? CROSSED WIRES is an old-fashioned fairy tale. It is about the small joys and tribulations of parenthood; about one-ness and two-ness; about symmetry and coincidence; about the things that separate us and the things that bring us together.

My thoughts:

This was such a charming novel. Part of that, I think, was the sheer English-ness of it -you know how everything sounds better with a British accent? (I know, that's a horribly American thing for me to say, but its true...) Reading this novel, I heard that British accent in my head, and it just made the experience so much fun.

But more than that, this is a great bit of storytelling. The romance is there, but it takes a backseat to the stories of Mina and Peter's lives - their frustrations with work, their difficulties being single parents, their somewhat crazy friends - these everyday situations make up the heart of the novel, and make this a delightful read.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the development of Mina and Peter's relationship. From their first random telephone conversation, to the steps each takes to "find" each other again, I found myself hoping for a happy ending for them from the start. Their slow, tentative steps toward each other almost made me hold my breath, so that when they finally met face to face, I almost had to cheer. Everything about it had a ring of truth, and I was completely satisfied when I turned the last page.

I definitely recommend this lovely novel. I enjoyed it from beginning to end! I will be looking for more work by this wonderful author.

Finished: 6/18/09
Source: Rosy Thornton
Rating: 8/10

Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

Should Be Reading

Shelf Life
2 Kids and Tired
She Reads and Reads

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yikes! I'm late - I went out of town to visit family for the weekend, and I just KNEW there was something I was supposed to do before I left...

Anyway, I placed all the entrants into a hat, and drew out a winner -

and the winner is......


Jenera - send me your mailing info and I will get the book out to you! Congrats, and I can't wait to read your review!! =)

TSS - Review - Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Wings by Aprilynne Pike
published 5/09
304 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful—too beautiful for words.

Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings.

In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.

My thoughts:

This was another random library grab - I loved the cover, and always enjoy it when a publisher tells me Everything I Know About (whatever random topic) Will Be Changed Forever. It's like a personal challenge - really? Everything? Okay, I'll bite.

And for the first part of the novel, it was nice, and pleasant, but I certainly didn't feel like anything much was being changed. Laurel is a fun, spunky heroine, David is her practicaly perfect Prince Charming new friend, Laurel's parents are firm but kind - it was well written, but the basic components were nothing new.

And them Pike introduced Tam, and things started changing. It felt like a burst of energy had been injected into the novel, and the pace picked up, the characters seemed to get a little bit more interesting, and the big reveal was, honestly, shocking. And I loved it. And I'm not telling you any more, because I don't want to ruin it for you.

I think this is the first of a series - I sure hope so, because I NEED to know what happens next! It is definitely a young adult novel, but one I'd be happy to recommend to the young girls I know.

Finished: 6/8/09

Source: Franklin Avenue Library

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Poe Fridays (on Saturday)

This week, we read the poem An Enigma - it's short, so here is the full text:

"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet-
Trash of all trash!- how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff-
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles- ephemeral and so transparent-
But this is, now- you may depend upon it-
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint
Of the dear names that he concealed within 't.

So, basically, most poems are fluff. Interesting that he wrote a fluff poem to explain this. The most interesting thing about the poem is that it is an riddle poem - if you take the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second line, etc, you spell the name Sarah Anna Lewis. Lewis was an amateur poet whose husband paid Poe $100 to review her work. I'm not sure it's exactly a compliment to her work that he chose to immortalize her name in this PARTICULAR poem....

Since next week's Poe Friday falls on a holiday weekend, Kristen has chosen a longer story, The Gold Bug, and given us two weeks to read it - we will be back to discuss on July 11. Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

451 Fridays

451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?

Today, I am happy to welcome Cathy, of Kittling: Books, to 451 Fridays. I love Cathy's blog for many reasons - here are a few: she's an avid series reader, and I've added about 1,438 new series to my TBR list because of her; she always has gorgeous book-related art on the top of her page; she hosts Scene of the Blog, a weekly feature that gives readers a peek into the blogging spaces of book bloggers around the world. (I'm planning to participate if I can ever get my space organized enough that I'm not embarrassed to take a picture of it!) If you are NOT reading her blog, you really should be! Welcome, Cathy!

What 5 books do you believe are important enough to be saved, and why?

When Elizabeth asked me if I would like to participate in 451 Fridays, I immediately felt akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand, I knew it was a great idea, and I did want to be a part of it. On the other hand (besides five more fingers), the thought of choosing five books to save scared the puddin' outta me.

Many weeks have passed since Elizabeth's kind invitation, and I've finally decided to stop behaving as though she asked me to solve global warming and world hunger in one blog post.

If there are no books in this world Bradbury created, the human race is going to be in sore need of stories to take their minds off the dire state of affairs--even if it's only for an hour or so around the evening fire.

With no eye toward "classic" or "worthy", here are the books I would save because of the powerful and bewitching stories they tell (and because I love them):

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, a book with one of my favorite beginnings: "Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." Hill House is legendary for being haunted. So legendary that a group of investigators decide to find out if there is any truth to the stories. The results are chilling. In a world without books, what better way is there to take your mind off your troubles than to listen to the scary story of a truly evil house? By the way...didn't you leave that door open?

2. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This history of the Dust Bowl reads like the best fiction. You feel, you think, you learn. In a world gone wrong, it's good to be reminded that we aren't the only humans who have experienced a nightmare. If they could survive a world of dust, we can survive a world without books.

3. Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 by Nathaniel Philbrick. Everyone knows about Magellan, Columbus and Lewis & Clark. How many people know about the U.S. Exploring Expedition that discovered Antarctica, was the first to accurately chart the coastlines of Oregon and Washington, and brought back so many unknown specimens of life that the Smithsonian was built to house them all? In a world without books, we not only need rousing tales of adventure, we also need to be reminded never to stop exploring.

4. Centennial by James Michener is an epic novel of the history, land and people of Colorado. Centered around the fictional town of Centennial, the story contains an extensive cast of characters: Native Americans, French fur trappers, English noblemen, wagon trains of pioneers, and cowboys. In a world knocked off its axis, we'll need epic stories to make us wonder how we fit in the new scheme of things.

5. The Ring and the Book by Robert Browning. And now for something completely different: a book-length poem written in blank verse because poetry should not be allowed to die. Browning's poem is based upon the proceedings of a Roman murder trial in 1698. Each of the twelve "books" is a dramatic monologue in the voice of a different character involved in the story. In reading this aloud, listeners would soon forget they're hearing poetry, and everyone would fall under the spell of the story. I can hear debates over the murderer's identity now. It's not often that one volume can cover two of my favorite genres: poetry and mysteries.

Which book would I become?

The Ring and the Book!

..."it is the glory and good of Art, That Art remains the one way possible Of speaking truth...."

Cathy, thanks so much for taking the time to share YOUR list of books which must be saved. I'm always looking for more passionate readers who want to save books along with us - email me, and I'll feature you on an upcoming 451 Friday!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review - Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

published 5/09
338 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

After tossing and turning all night, thirty-nine-year-old Lisa Barkley wakes up well before her alarm sounds. With two daughters about to start another year at their elite Upper East Side private school and her own career hitting a wall, the effort of trying to stay afloat in that privileged world of six-story town houses and European jaunts has become increasingly difficult, especially as Manhattan descends into an economic freefall.

As Lisa looks over at her sleeping husband, Sam, she can't help but feel that their fifteen-year marriage is in a funk that she isn't able to place. She tries to shake it off and tells herself that the strain must be due to their mounting financial pressures. But later that morning, as her family eats breakfast in the next room, Lisa finds herself checking Sam's voicemail and hears a whispered phone call from a woman he is to meet that night. Is he having an affair?

When Lisa shares her suspicions with her best friend, Deirdre, at their weekly breakfast, Deirdre claims it can't be true. But how can Lisa fully trust her opinion when Deirdre is still single and mired in an obsessive affair with a glamorous photographer even as it hovers on the edge of danger?

When Deirdre's former college flame, Jack, comes to town and the two couples meet to celebrate his fortieth birthday, the stage is set for an explosive series of discoveries with devastating consequences.

Filled with suspense and provocative questions about the relationships we value most, Best Intentions is a tightly woven drama of love, friendship and betrayal.

My thoughts:

This novel really took my by surprise. I expected a nice chick-lit novel, with some suspense thrown in, that I could breeze through in a couple of hours. What I didn't expect was the intense, thorough examination of what it means to truly love someone, and what happens when that love is shattered by a lie.

Listfield does an excellent job of getting into her main character's head - I felt completely in tune with Lisa's emotions as she delves deeper and deeper into the hidden parts of her loved ones' lives. I occasionally felt frustrated with her when she made decisions I didn't agree with, but that just served to make her seem more real. The secondary characters were not quite as well developed, but were each strong enough in their own right to form a solid supporting cast for the lead.

And I loved the writing. In fact, several times I found myself thinking, "Boy, this woman can write." I loved the way she formed her sentences, her word choice - it all resonated with me. Here are a couple of my favorite passages:

"Suspicion crackles and pulls, nags and infiltrates, it coils around your brain, distorting your perceptions, it is the smoke you see everything through that refuses to lift. But a lie, hard and indisputable, freezes in your lungs, its ice spreading through your pores, chilling every synapse; a lie once discovered paralyzes you."

"I begin to cry softly. I don't know what happens to the space people you love take up in your heart once they are gone, if the muscle eventually closes over it or if the wound is always there, aching and raw. All I know is that it feels a million miles wide tonight."

I was so happily surprised by this novel. It is apparently the author's sixth - I am now immediately going to look for the first five. I definitely recommend this one!

Finished: 6/11/09
Source: Lauren
Rating: 8/10

Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

S. Krishna's Books
She Is Too Fond of Books
Find Your Next Book Here
Word Lily
Open Mind, Insert Book

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

I'm currently reading The Magician's Book by Laura Miller. You can read my first post about it here.

Synopsis from publisher:

THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Enchanted by its fantastic world as a child, prominent critic Laura Miller returns to the series as an adult to uncover the source of these small books' mysterious power by looking at their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a more interesting and ambiguous truth: Lewis's tragic and troubled childhood, his unconventional love life, and his intense but ultimately doomed friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Finally reclaiming Narnia "for the rest of us," Miller casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination.

My thoughts so far:

The middle section of this book - called Trouble in Paradise - deals with the author's initial discovery that Lewis' books have a strong Christian allegorical element, and her subsequent anger and disillusionment. She had decided that the Catholic church was not for her at a young age, and saw the Narnia books as a deception, trying to indoctrinate her into a belief system she had already rejected. She felt tricked and cheated. This might seem like an overreaction, but she was about 13 at the time, and overreacting is, after all, probably what 13-year-olds do best.

The author goes on to share other writer's stories about how and when they first realized that the Narnia books were more than just a magical story. She also spends several chapters discussing the criticisms of Lewis's books - that they are misogynist, racist, classist - all accusations that can be backed up within the pages of his text.

I think this section of the book could be hard to read for die-hard Lewis fans. I think we often put people like C.S. Lewis on a sort of pedestal, and don't want to admit that he, like all of us, had faults and imperfections. But I don't feel like this information really changed my love of his novels. I especially liked the following section:

"The honest, educated reader, when tackling the towering literary works of the past, now faces a different, though no less precarious task: how to acknowledge an author's darker side without losing the ability to enjoy and value the book. Prejudice is repellent, but if we were to purge our shelves of all the great books tainted by one vile idea or another, we'd have nothing left to read - or at least nothing but the new and blandly virtuous....In recent years, it's gotten easier to write off complaints about how an author portrays race, class, or gender as "political correctness", but that's just as facile as reducing every author to the sum of his political beliefs; hatred and injustice are wrong, not merely "incorrect"...But perhaps ethics are not all that counts, or even what really counts, when it comes to reading stories. I have hated some morally impeccable novels, and liked some reprehensible ones. I'm not convinced that either kind has altered the moral underpinnings of my own life...Perhaps I did not so much learn from these books as recognize my better self in them."

In any case, I'm still finding the book extremely interesting. I'm enjoying learning more about the life of C.S. Lewis, and the work that went into writing these beloved novels. And I don't feel betrayed or deceived by the darker side of Narnia, or its author - I don't expect writers to be perfect people, even if they write from a Christian viewpoint. I just want them to write great books.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth

It's time for our weekly discussion of Supernatural - Amy and I are currently watching Season 2. Amy will be posting our thoughts about episode 17, Heart, and episode 18, Hollywood Babylon.

Episode 19 - Folsom Prison Blues

Recap - After hearing about a ghost that has been killing off inmates one by one, Sam and Dean decide the best way to investigate this spirit is from the inside and allow themselves to get thrown into the state penitentiary. However, after FBI agent Henricksen shows up to take over their case, getting out of prison becomes a bigger challenge than finding the spirit.

Our discussion - Amy's thoughts will be in red:

I bet there are some seriously scary ghosts in prison.

Yes most definitely. I thought the ghost in this one looked like an alien

Why would they get themselves arrested on purpose when they are wanted by the FBI? Just for a case?? I hate this plan.

The reasoning seemed incredibly weak to me as well. But it didn't really matter, because the episode was in many ways amusing.

I would really like to know how the relationships work between hunters. John kept so many of them hidden from the brothers, but some of them are nearly family to them, enough that Dean & Sam are willing to go to jail to help one. What do you think the deal is with that?

I think it's like being in the military or something, in a way they are doing something altruistic and risking their lives. I think that probably forms an incredibly tight bond.

What do you suppose Deacon did that the boys owed him so much? Do you think it involved their dad?

I think they said he saved their dad once didn't they? I don't think Sam really thought they should be there.

I'm pretty sure Agent Erickson is way scarier than any spirit the brothers have been up against.

I hate him.

Why do you think the ghost cared that Deacon had let the brothers go?

She probably recognized them as hunters. Or maybe she just hates prisoners.

Something I thought was interesting about this episode was when Sam asked Dean if it bothered him how well he fit in at the prison. In a way, Dean is like many of the prisoners...a person o
n the fringes of society. He is probably more comfortable in that environment than elsewhere, echoing Hollywood Babylon where Dean enjoyed being a part of a team.

That's an interesting insight - I think Dean does feel more comfortable with people outside the mainstream. Probably because he has spent so little time with "normal" people, he doesn't know how to relate to them.

Episode 20 - What Is, and What Should Never Be

Recap - While hunting a djinn - a genie - Dean is attacked and transported to a world where his mother is alive, Sam is in law school and engaged to Jessica, and Dean lives a very normal life with his girlfriend. However, after he starts seeing a strange girl and learns all the people he has saved in the past have died, Dean must decide whether he wants to stay in this new safe life where everyone he loves is alive, or if he should return to the hunt.

Our discussion -

I'm finding myself having trouble forming coherent thoughts, because this whole episo
de was so emotionally charged for me. I've watched all the way to the end of the season and this episode, for me, was the most affecting. These are just my thoughts about the episode, written as I was watching it.

I agree. It was the best of the season.

Dean's wish has always been to have a normal life, and the djinn gave it to him. This is heartbreaking
. Watching Dean realize how his "perfect" life is not so perfect after all, and that he isn't the man he wants to be.

Very sad, but necessary. Sort of a lesson in why pain matters.

Realizing that all the people he'd saved in his other life are dead now. "But why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero? Why do we have to sacrifice everything?" This has a very "It's a Wonderful Life"-esque feel to it, because Dean realizes that he DOES have a purpose, even if he doesn't want it.

Yes, a very heartbreaking scene. You're right....kind of like It's a Wonderful Life.

The symbolism of him talking to his dad's grave & not getting a response - this was tragically similar to his real life, where his Dad was never able to say the things that Dean really needed to hear.

I was curious as to why their Dad was dead in the first place. I guess he didn't wish his dad would be alive and the whole family would be together?

I think his Dad died from a heart attack. I think the djinn gave him his ultimate wish - to have a normal life - but didn't really spend too much time on the details.

And despite their difficult relationship, Sam still gets into the car with Dean - because even in this alternate reality, they are still a team.

I loved that. The loyalty transcends.

How do you decide between real life and the most beautiful dream - the dream you've always wanted?

I think the dream wasn't everything that Dean ever wanted, though very close. Also, it wasn't real. And once you know it's not real, how can you ever live in that?

I'm not sure Dean thinks its worth it anymore - he made the right decision, but everythin
g in him wanted to make the other one. How does he go on now that he knows he could have had another life?

Well, he still knows he needs to help Sam. That will give him an immediate purpose. I thought that was part of why he went back, as well, Sam still living in the other world. I have to admit when Dean saw a happy Sam is when I started crying. He constantly has so much weighing on him. I pretty much started crying in this episode and didn't stop until the end of the seas

Next week will be the last discussion about season 2 - what sort of cliffhanger do you think they'll come up with this time?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Relative Reads Review - The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer

I was given the great fortune of growing up in a family of readers. Both of my parents read, and so do the majority of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. In fact, my Great-Grandma had cataract surgery in her 90's, because she couldn't bear to not be able to read. I thought it would be interesting to read some of the books THEY have discovered and enjoyed over the years, so I asked them to send me some recommendations, and the fun began! I have a list of the titles various family members have suggested on the side of the blog, so if you want to see what will be coming up you can take a peek.

The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer (recommended by Aunt Irlowain)
published 2/07
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

In Boston, a disgraced medical student is sent to deliver a research paper that could save her career… In a hospital four thousand miles away, a reclusive scientist, dying from an incurable disease that threatens to make each tortured breath his last, is on the verge of perfecting a serum that could save millions of lives—and bring others inestimable wealth… In Chicago, a disillusioned detective is hired to determine the identity of a John Doe, killed on a Florida highway, with mysterious marks on his body.

Three seemingly disconnected lives, surging unrelentingly toward one another—
and linked forever by THE FIFTH VIAL

My thoughts:

I've always loved medical thrillers. Whenever I'm having trouble deciding what to read next, or finding it difficult to settle into reading, a good Robin Cook or Michael Crichton novel always gets me back in the groove. This is the first book I've read by Michael Palmer, but now he's definitely on my list of "to read" authors.

His three main characters - Natalie, Ben, and Joseph - are the kind of leads that work perfectly in this type of novel. Each has a specific goal, and Palmer throws enough challenges in their path that the goal seems just out of reach. Each also has a flaw or two, making them realistic and just imperfect enough that they don't appear pompous. I really liked all three, and felt like they'd be interesting to know in real life.

And the bad guys - oh, the bad guys. They were mysterious and powerful, and even when you start figuring out what's really going on, they can still surprise you. I thought Palmer's use of Plato's ideas about the Guardians of the Republic were especially effective in fleshing out the twisted logic of the group. And, when the Baddest of Bad Guys was finally revealed, I didn't see it coming.

Of course, as in many novels of this genre, there are a collection of incredible coincidences that propel the action forward - but honestly, I don't read these novels because they are perfect, I read them because they are fun! And this one was certainly a lot of fun. If you enjoy this type of book, I would definitely recommend The Fifth Vial. It's a fast, suspenseful, engrossing read.

Finished: 6/20/09
Source: Franklin Avenue Library
Rating: 8/10

This book counts toward:

Movie Review - Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In (2008)

12-year-old Oskar lives a very lonely life. His parents are not together, and each seems to busy with their own lives to pay him much attention. He is bullied horribly at school, and doesn't have anyone to turn to. When he meets Eli, the new girl who has moved into his apartment building, she tells him she cannot be his friend - nothing terribly new. But she keeps hanging around, talking and asking questions, and soon a relationship develops that surprises them both.

Eli is......not your average girl. When Oskar discovers her secret, he is intrigued, and as situations deteriorate for each of them, they must learn to rely on each other for their very survival.

This is a movie where it's almost better to NOT know a whole lot about the plot - because the twist, when it comes, is pretty surprising. Oskar is lonely, ignored, bullied - so the lure of Elie's dark world isn't surprising. Watching the unfolding horror was mesmerizing. This is not a traditional horror flick, although it has its share of gore, but rather a psychologically terrifying story as the truth of the situation becomes clear. The two young principal actors were magnificent, capturing the essence of their damaged characters perfectly.

This movie will not appeal to everyone - it does develop somewhat slowly, so you have to have patience, and it does have a fair amount of violence and blood. But it is a story that you will not forget, I am quite sure!

This movie from Sweden counts toward the Orbis Terrarum film mini-challenge.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

To all the wonderful fathers I know - most especially mine - Thanks!

A father is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman he turns her back again. ~Enid Bagnold

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father! ~Lydia M. Child, Philothea: A Romance, 1836

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys." ~Harmon Killebrew

I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich. ~M*A*S*H,
Colonel Potter

"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty." -- Unknown

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” -David O. McKay

"I never had a chance to choose the man to be my Dad - But I sure thank my lucky stars for the taste my Mother had."

TSS - Review - All Other Nights by Dara Horn

All Other Nights by Dara Horn
published 4/09
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, it is a question his commanders have answered for him: on Passover in 1862 he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln.

After that night, will Jacob ever speak for himself? The answer comes when his commanders send him on another mission - this time not to murder a spy but to marry one.

A page-turner rich with romance and the history of America (North and South), this is a book only Dara Horn could have written. Full of insight and surprise, layered with meaning, it is a brilliant parable of the moral divide that still haunts us: between those who value family first and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

My thoughts:

Dara Horn is a great storyteller. From the very first sentence I was hooked on the tale of Jacob Rappaport, and what he would be willing to do.

"Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport felt a knot tightening in his stomach - not because he was about to do something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong."

From that moment on, Jacob's story was fascinating. This is a not a novel that will dazzle with it's beautiful language, though it is well written - it is much more concerned with telling a great story, which I found to be refreshing. Additionally, I enjoyed Horn's unique perspective on the Civil War.
This is the first time I've read about the experiences of American Jews during this time, and I found myself interested in this period of history in a new way.

I found Jacob to be an incredibly sympathetic character - he almost seems doomed, with first his father, and then the army forcing him to accept horrible situations because he has no other choice. She deftly explores the issue of a person's actions defining their character through the decisions Jacob is forced to make - can you still be a good person if you do bad things? If you do bad things for good reasons, does that justify your actions? I also loved Eugenia, and would love to read an entire novel about her.

My one complaint about the novel is the extraordinary number of happy coincidences that occurred just in the nick of time, and the rather abrupt ending - but really, those are small problems in an otherwise wonderful novel.

I highly recommend this one - I didn't want to put it down, and definitely plan to read more by this author!

Finished: 6/7/09
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Rating: 8/10

This books counts toward:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poe Fridays (on Saturday)

This week's short story is The Island of the Fay. A man travels into a beautiful, garden-like island setting, with trees, and flowers, and a river. As he sits in the idyllic scene, he sees a fairy in a boat, moving around the river. The fairy's travels take her from light to darkness, and the man sees her mood change, darkening each time she makes another cycle.

This was quite a lovely, descriptive story. I found myself wishing I could join the narrator on his beautiful island. I'm not sure what the deeper meaning is, although I'm sure there was one. Honestly, I was lulled into the mood of the story, and didn't really think that much about significance and meaning and such. Another great choice, and another surprise from Poe.

Next week, we will read a poem, The Enigma. Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.

Friday, June 19, 2009


When the package arrived in the mail containing this book, I was surprised to find not one, but TWO copies. So, of course, I am going to spread the love around to a lucky reader!!!

This contest will run until next Friday, June 26, at midnight, and I will announce the winner on Saturday, June 27. To enter, just leave me a comment. The contest is open to anyone - overseas welcome! I only ask that you read and review the book on your own blog, or if you don't have a blog, send me your review and I'll post it here!

You can read an excerpt from the novel here - what are you waiting for??

451 Fridays

451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?

Today I am especially lucky to have author, world traveler, and all-around cool lady Nadine Dajani share her 451 list with us. You can visit Nadine at her website or blog, and you can also read my review of her novel Cutting Loose. Welcome, Nadine!

What 5 books do you believe are important enough to be saved, and why?

This must be one of the most difficult questions to ask a writer or passionate reader. The thing with books - and what makes them so wonderful - is that there are never too many great books, or worthy ideas. Every single book is worthy for the simple reason that every book expresses a fundamentally passionate desire to communicate and be heard. If we listened more to the passions and the motivations of the people who inhabit our world, we might be facing a different world altogether (and probably a more pleasant one).

That being said, here are my five - a mix of books I read a long time ago and could never shake, and some I recently discovered and wished I had read before.

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The first book that came to mind when I thought of important ideas that desperately need to be conserved was '1984', because, really, that book is all about guarding against events and choices that might bring about the scenario you describe in Fahrenheit 451. In 1984, it's not just books that are removed, but the language itself is changed so that people are left with feelings of confusion and discontent but not the words with which to express them. But I'm choosing The Handmaid's Tale because it deals with issues that present the same dangers to individuals and society as those in 1984, but are mostly ignored, probably - or at least partly - because the book is written by a woman and from a woman's perspective (and is therefore considered "feminist" literature instead of just plain literature).

In this book, Margaret Atwood takes the world we live in and spins a worst case scenario of religious extremism. There are no books allowed in Offred's (the handmaid - one of the few remaining fertile women enslaved so they could bear children for the ruling religious class) reality either, except for the bible. Offred - that is, Of Fred, Fred being her "Commander" - can't have access to money or freedom, or "luxuries" of any kind. She is enslaved not so much by the men around her - who are all horny and hapless - but by the bitter women who helped bring about the revolution in the first place.

My favorite thing about this book is how it cleverly shows that those hurt most by this regime are the men (the "Commander" is a perpetually baffled, pathetic figure), because no matter how you look at it, this world needs both men and women, and needs them to be strong and able to affect their destinies however they see fit.

2. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgemery

I've lost count of how many times I have read and reread this book. Anyone who enjoys Jane Austen's wit will love Valancy Stirling, of the Deerwood "snobocracy". She is a funnier, more daring Elizabeth Bennet, who finds out she has one year left to live, and must decide if she will live this year as she has lived the last 29 - that is, in total misery and under the thumb of her acrid clan - or live it up. The tone and themes are also surprisingly current for something that was written so long ago.

3. Roots by Alex Haley

I read this when I was twelve and remember crying when I got to the end. And I'm not prone to weepiness when it comes to books (at least I wasn't at 12, when hormones hadn't kicked in yet....). Oprah should make everyone read this to get a sense of just how devastating slavery was and why it's important to acknowledge its impact on the American psyche. Ultimately, I think this book is about one man's journey to heal his soul, and it's a journey I think many people need to embark on instead of trying to pretend the past is irrelevant.

4. My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

When I grow up, I want to be Isabel Allende...she is an all-round wonderful writer, so it was hard to choose which one of her books to include. I settled on My Invented Country, a memoir she started after the twin tower attacks, when she finally accepted her American identity and realized that the Chile of her past was in fact her "invented country" because it was distorted by nostalgia and old memories. This book reminds me of the saying: "you can never go home again" and this has been very true in my life. I've relocated many times (Lebanon to Saudi, Saudi to Canada, Canada to the Cayman Islands, and back, and then back again, and I'm only 30!). Every time I left a place, I was never able to find it again because though the place itself might have remained the same, I had changed. This book helped me accept my nomadic experience, and did so in Allende's signature funny, witty, and wise way.

5. The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz

This was such a sad, haunting, and unforgettable book by a celebrated Egyptian novelist (and Nobel laureate). Like so many books by Arab authors, it was really depressing, but I think that its treatment of gender roles in Arab society is unflinching (and unusual) and for that, this book deserves a special place in literature. It's about a middle class Egyptian family that sinks into destitution when the father dies suddenly, leaving behind a wife, daughter, and two sons still in school. The sons can't support the mother yet (or themselves), so it falls on their sister to use her skill as a seamstress to support everyone until the boys graduate. But since "good girls" aren't supposed to work for a living, the sister becomes a sort of pariah, even to her own brothers, ashamed of having a sister who has to work (yes, the irony and stupidity of this was intentional!). As the boys go through school and their situation improves, the girl's reputation spirals downward until the tragic end. The tragedy is ironic and completely futile, and that's what's great about this book - through the lens of one downtrodden women's life, the absurdity of social mores (and why we need to do away with most of them) is held up to the light.

Of those 5, which book would you choose to "become"?

I think I already "am" My Invented Country, but since that was something imposed on me by circumstance and not by choice, I'm going to go with The Blue Castle. I love the idea of sincerity triumphing over hypocrisy, in a spunky, optimistic way.

Do you have any favorite quotes from the book, so we know why you love it so much?

From My Invented Country:

"Several times I have found it necessary to pull up stakes, sever all ties, and leave everything behind in order to begin live anew elsewhere; I have been a pilgrim along more roads than I care to remember. From saying good-bye so often my roots have dried up, and I have had to grow others, which, lacking a geography to sink into, have taken hold in my memory. But be careful! Minotaurs lie in wait in the labyrinths of memory."

"Writing, when all is said and done, is an attempt to understand one's own circumstance and to clarify the confusion of existence, including insecurites that do not torment normal people, only chronic nonconformists, many of whom end up as writers after having failed in other undertakings."

From The Blue Castle:

"Valancy was enjoying herself. She has never enjoyed herself at a 'family reunion' before. In social functions, as in childish games, she had only 'filled in'. Her clan had always considered her very dull. She had no parlour tricks. And she had been in the habit of taking refuge from the boredom of family parties in her Blue Castle, which resulted in an absent-mindedness that increased her reputation for dullness and vacuity.
'She has no social presence whatsoever', Aunt Wellington had decreed once and for all. Nobody dreamed that Valancy was dumb in their presence merely because she was afraid of them. Now she was no longer afraid of them. The shackles had been stricken off her soul. She was quite prepared to talk if occasion offered. Meanwhile she was giving herself such freedom of thought as she had never dared to take before. She has let herself go with a wild, inner exultation, as Uncle Herbert carved the turkey. Uncle Herbert gave Valancy a second look that day. Being a man, he didn't know what she had done to her hair, but he thought surprisedly that Doss was not such a bad-looking girl after all; and he put an extra piece of white meat on her plate."

Nadine, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us YOUR list of books which must be saved.

Would you like to see your list featured on an upcoming 451 Friday? Send me an email and we will chat!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tube Talk with Amy and Elizabeth

Time to talk Supernatural! Amy and I are currently watching season 2, and we chat about several episodes each week. Head over to My Friend Amy, where Amy is hosting our discussions of episode 13, Houses of the Holy, and episode 14, Born Under a Bad Sign.

Episode 15 - Tall Tales

Recap - The brothers need their old friend Bobby's help when they visit a college campus and encounter some pretty bizarre deaths. Can this really be what is seems, or is it simply just another tall tale??

Our discussion - as usual, Amy's thoughts are in red:

I'm not going to have a lot to say, because I didn't really enjoy this episode very much. I understand the concept of the trickster, and now that I know that's what they were dealing with, the episode made more sense, but I didn't really like watching it a whole lot.

I'm sorry you didn't like it! I pretty much laughed through the whole thing.....I loved it. Someone even told me this is their favorite episode of the whole series! The slow dancing alien really cracked me up...Dean was full of great lines, actually.

I was entertained by the segments that showed Sam's version of the story vs. Dean's version of the story - it really illustrated what irritates the brothers about each other.

Yes, it certainly exaggerated things about them, and was very realistic about life on the road or how when you live with someone 24/7, they start to annoy you. It was a nice lighter break from the Dean must kill Sam theme we'd been falling into....a break from the angst and drama.

I assume that leaving the trickster alive at the end means he will come back to mess with the brothers again at some point.

Um, you've watched farther than me, so I guess, but maybe it was just a nice open ending with a trick! ;)

Anything you want to add?? This one just wasn't that great for me.

Again, I thought it was really funny and enjoyed it a lot. But I'm strange like that.

No, I'm sure I'm the strange one - I was just so confused by the tone of this episode! I'm sure it was supposed to be a light, fun break, and I just didn't get it.

Episode 16 - Road Kill

Recap - The brothers meet a young woman named Molly when she runs into the road one night in front of their car. She is scared and disheveled, and tells the brothers she is being chased by a farmer. Is Molly telling the truth? Is it a simple misunderstanding, or is the farmer more spirit than man.....

Our discussion:

As a Battlestar Galactica fan, I was thrilled to see Tricia Helfer as Molly - she's one of my favorites from the series. Did you watch BSG? I bet you'd love it!

I haven't watched it yet. I want to! (she's also quite pretty!)

Wait till you see her as Six on BSG - quite a transformation. =)

Sam and Dean would be some pretty amazing people to find on a deserted road in the middle of the night!!

I would be happy to find them on a deserted road at any time.

I appreciate that for the first time, someone seems apprehensive about the brothers. Their life is SO incredible, and people always just accept it - didn't it seem realistic that Molly was scared of them, especially when she saw their trunk full of weapons?

Yes! I would have been totally freaked out, and she was right to be.

"Salt repells impure and unnatural things - that's the reason you throw it over your shoulder." I had no idea that was the basis for that legend. I love the way this show teaches me things.

I thought the same thing! I was like....oh, so that's the reason!

Best line of the episode - Dean says, "You know, just once I'd like to round a corner and see a NICE house."

I KNOW!!!! I laughed at that!

Why do you think Dean always makes Sam stay behind to guard the person? Is he trying to protect him, or does he just not like dealing with people that much?

I definitely think Sam deals with people better. Dean's almost a little like Bones (do you watch that show?) always saying things as they are without thinking of people's perceptions of it and feelings.

I don't watch Bones, but I've read some of the books - it's on my list of shows to rent someday.

Did you guess that Greely was going to jump through the window and grab Molly? I jumped about a mile high!

Me too!!

I loved the Molly twist!

Very Sixth Sense-ish, so it made sense that Dean called Sam "Haley Joel".

This is the first time they've talked about what happens to the spirits that Dean and Sam kill, and they admit they don't know. Do you think the show's mythology will adopt a traditional "heaven and hell" scenario, or do they have something different in store?

Well, we definitely know there's a hell, so it's hard to imagine there isn't some sort of place for the good people. I thought the whole, "what happens after" was long overdue and I'm surprised it doesn't weigh on them more.

There you have it - our episodes for this week. Are you a Supernatural fan? We'd love to hear from you - let us know what you think about these episodes!

Review - Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani

Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani
published 9/08
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Meet three women who are as different as could be—at least that’s what they think—and the men who’ve turned their lives upside down as their paths collide in sizzling, sexy Miami. . . .

Ranya is a modern-day princess—brought up behind the gilded walls of Saudi Arabian high society and winner of the dream husband sweepstakes . . . until said husband turns out to be more interested in Paolo, the interior-decorator-cum-underwear-model, than in his virginal new wife.

Smart, independent, but painfully shy, Zahra has managed to escape her impoverished Palestinian roots to carve out a life of comfort. But she can’t reveal her secrets to the man she adores or shake off the fear that she doesn’t deserve any of it. She also can’t shake the fear that if she holds on to anything—or anyone—too dearly, they will be taken away in the blink of a kohl-lined eye.

Rio has risen above the slums of her native Honduras—not to mention the jeers of her none too supportive family—to become editor in chief of SuĂ©ltate magazine, the hottest Latina-targeted glossy in town, and this in spite of Georges Mallouk, her hunky-yet-clueless boss, and in spite of Rio’s totally wrong but oh-so-sinfully-right affair with the boss’s delicious but despicable younger brother, Joe.

In this city of fast cars, sleek clubs, and unapologetic superficiality, Ranya, Zahra, and Rio wrestle with the ties that bind them to their difficult pasts, and it just might be time for them to cut loose. . . .

My thoughts:

I'm not sure I've read a book that was this much fun in a long time. Things are heading toward summer in my neck of the woods (I say heading, because we've had a pretty gray and gloomy week, but I still have hope), and Cutting Loose just FELT like a summer book. It's set mainly in sunny Miami, and has a light, breezy tone that would make it perfect "sitting in the sun with a tropical drink in your hand" fare.

Dajani's three main characters take turns narrating the novel, and each voice is distinct and developed. I felt an immediate empathy with both Ranya and Zahra - each was facing issues I could completely relate to, and it made me feel a connection to the characters right away. Rio took a little bit longer to click with me, but I came to appreciate her strength and drive, and by the end of the novel was rooting for her as well.

When I say the novel is fun and light, I don't want to imply that it is lacking in depth or emotion. All three women have serious obstacles to face - from money and job situations to difficult family and personal relationship issues, each has to face up to their past and decide which path to take, and how to grasp happiness for themselves. It was this honest journey for each of her characters that kept me turning pages, eager to find out what happened next.

I completely enjoyed this novel. It would make a perfect beach or vacation read! It does contain adult language and situations, so if that bothers you, you might want to steer clear of this one. However, if you are looking for a novel that goes deeper than the usual chick-lit fare, but still retains the fun and romance, I would definitely recommend you pick up this book.

Finished: 6/13/09
Source - the author - thanks, Nadine!
Rating: 8/10

Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:

S. Krishna's Books

Be sure to stop back tomorrow as Nadine will be my guest for a special "author edition" 451 Friday!

This book counts toward:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

Starting a new book this week -

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

Synopsis from publisher:

THE MAGICIAN'S BOOK is the story of one reader's long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Enchanted by its fantastic world as a child, prominent critic Laura Miller returns to the series as an adult to uncover the source of these small books' mysterious power by looking at their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a more interesting and ambiguous truth: Lewis's tragic and troubled childhood, his unconventional love life, and his intense but ultimately doomed friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Finally reclaiming Narnia "for the rest of us," Miller casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination.

My thoughts so far:

I have seen some pretty mixed reviews for this book - some people loved it, some REALLY didn't like it. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, based on the rather mixed reactions.

So far, I am completely enjoying it. Laura Miller is mixing literary criticism and memoir with the history of Lewis and his books to create a very interesting volume. Each chapter encompasses a new topic - chapter 1, why she loved the Narnia books; chapter 2, the importance of the animals in Narnia; chapter 3, why readers love books about gardens; chapter 4, why children are drawn to books where kids get to be heroes.

I haven't quite figured out the method behind her arrangement of the varying subjects, but each chapter itself I've found to be fascinating.
My favorite so far has been chapter 4, called Boxcar Children. Miller talks about the value of children seeing other children being the hero - children following the quest.

"I was stirred by how much was expected of the Pevensies. I wanted to be challenged in the same way. I wanted to give me all for a cause I could be sure was worthy. (And even at that tender age, I had an inkling that finding such a cause would be the hardest part of the quest.)"

Additionally, she talks about why kids love books that feature kids - where one or both parents are absent. I hadn't thought about this before, but I can certainly see that trend in the books I loved as a child - Little Women, Lazy Tommy Pumpkinhead, Pippi Longstocking - all have strong, adventurous kids who don't depend on their parents for their adventures. I especially related to her comment, when describing her response to another reader's reaction to the great children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins -

" 'I can't believe they give a book like that to children', she remarked. 'It's about being abandoned by your family! What could be more disturbing?' I was startled; it had never occurred to be before that the novel described a terrifying scenario, although the girl's situation was occasionally desperate. I didn't see her as abandoned. To my child's mind, she was liberated."

I don't really know where this journey through Narnia will take me next, but I'm enjoying the journey so far. It's making me remember how much I love the novels - I can sense a reread in my future!