Sunday, June 28, 2009

Humane Award


I received the Humane Award from Natalie at The Book Inn! Thank you so much!!

"The Humane Award is in order to honor certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world.”

I nominate the following blogs:

Books and Such
Find Your Next Book Here
Julie's Jewels
Just Jennifer Reading
Missy's Book Nook
One Literature Nut
The Reading Journey
Tender Graces
Scuffed slippers and wormy books
Starting Fresh

Read-it-First: Strange Nervous Laughter


This week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was Strange Nervous Laughter by up-and-coming novelist Bridget McNulty. This is a novel about what love does to us. Told by the all-knowing narrator, it contains moments of magical realism - not something that I usually read; however, the few instances that surfaced in the first fifteen pages were OK. There are also touches of black humor.

The story follows six individuals during the summer months in Durban, a large city in South Africa. They are total strangers who are brought together during a grocery store robbery. At first, we are treated to a cursory glance of all six characters during the robbery. The next two chapters start to delve into the characters of Beth and Pravesh. Ms. McNulty is able to vividly convey the human nature of these individuals. We know what they are thinking. Better still, we are given explanations as to why they think the way they do and why they behave in a certain way - allowing the reader to catch a glimpse of himself/herself or someone they know.

I was intrigued by this book. Possibly more by the characters than by the plot. I will pick it up in the store and see where it goes from there.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - East of the Sun



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At the beginning of November, all the children started to get excited because the full moon would soon be in Kartika, and that meant their biggest festival of all had come: the Festival of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Held on the darkest night of the year, it marked the arrival of winter, the return of the Hindu divinities, Sita and Ram, a time for celebrating light over the forces of darkness.

-East of the Sun by Julia Gregson, p 432

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of Bees and Mist


Of Bees and Mist, a debut novel by Erick Setiawan, has been labeled as a fable that chronicles the lives of three generations of woman under one family tree. A fable it is. There are magical elements peppered throughout the novel – staircases that grow and shrink depending on the emotional state of the climber, mirrors that reflect one's true self, etc.... Additionally, there is symbolism galore. The two major symbolic elements being the bees and the mist. At first, this is a unique twist to the same old story – unloved girl meets boy, falls in love, gets married, clashes with mother-in-law, etc... - ; however, as the novel progress, the incessant droning of the bees became too much for me.

At the core of this novel lies a severely dysfunctional family. Love is either non-existent or couched in falseness. Yes, there is first love and the attempt to really love but, I think it falls flat and is not really accomplished.

I was also disappointed in the ending. Namely, with regards to one of the recurring characters. I do not feel that we, the readers, truly understand what she was meant to represent. I was fortunate to read an advance copy of this book through the Barnes and Noble First Look program and participate in an on-line discussion with the author. From that discussion, I expected an outcome to this loose end. Sadly, I didn't get it.

On a positive note, Mr. Setiawan provides vivid descriptions of each locale and develops several of the characters to some extent. I say several because, as in real life, some things never change. His use of imagery is nice.

If you enjoy magical realism or are interested in discovering a new voice in the literary world, you may want to read this novel; otherwise, go away from the mist.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sacred Hearts


Sacred Hearts is the latest novel by Sarah Dunant. Set in a convent in Renaissance Italy, Ms. Dunant paints a revealing picture of a nun's life during the latter half of the sixteenth century. In a time when young women were subject to the will of their fathers, one's options were limited. Either you married who was selected for you or you joined a convent – neither choice is very appealing.

The novel revolves around Serafina, a defiant young lady who is forced into religious servitude, and Suora Zuana, the dispensary mistress who was also an unwilling addition to convent life. From the start of Serafina's incarceration, the relationship that develops between these two women is one of trust, betrayal and survival. We watch as they navigate through religious dogma and convent politics. Ms. Dunant has brought them to life – we cannot help but feel for them through their struggles and triumphs, when their hopes are dashed, when they give up their dreams, when they accept their fate, .... I know that I am grateful that I did not live in during that time period.

The writing kept me interested and the plot is filled with drama and intrigue. I was hooked from the beginning and wanted to know what would happen next to these two women. I highly recommend to those who have read previous works of Sarah Dunant and to those who like historical fiction.

Thank you to LibraryThing and Random House for this ARE.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Read-it-First: Beverly Hills Adjacent


This week, the St. Martin's Read-it-First selection was Beverly Hills Adjacent. A debut novel by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jessica Hendra. The story is intended to be a satirical view of the entertainment industry in L.A.; however, I did not find any satire in the sixteen pages that I received. The story starts with a network party. Real actors/writers names are thrown in, no doubt for realism, but it just feels like name-dropping and does not add any reality to the story. The main characters are Mitch Gold and June Dietz, a husband and wife who really just face the normal struggles of married life. Although not in the pages I received but alluded to in the blurb, there will be the affair. Do I care? I think not. The characters are not interesting. Maybe I am a bit biased as I do not find the life and struggles of actors to be any more important/interesting than the average Joe. They have been elevated to some state of superiority that I do not feel is warranted. Stepping off the soap box now.

Unfortunately, I do not want to read anymore of this book and will not be purchasing it.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Saving Fish From Drowning


The report was a terrible thing to read: “The body of Bibi Chen, 63, retail maven, socialite, and board member of the Asian Art Museum, was found yesterday in the display window of her Union Square store, The Immortals, famed for its chinoiserie ….” - p 2.

A terrible end to Bibi Chen and the strange beginning to Saving Fish From Drowning, a novel by Amy Tan.

Bibi Chen, a San Francisco art patron, had planned the journey of a lifetime for herself and eleven of her friends. Death was not going to deprive her of this adventure. Her incorporeal spirit accompanies her friends on a prearranged tour through China and Burma. If only her friends had followed her original itinerary, they would not have gone missing.

The story is narrated by Bibi Chen. This is an interesting start to the novel; however, it soon becomes tedious as the character seems to drone on and on about everything. The remaining characters were very real, each having several flaws; however, they were overdeveloped to the point that one did not really care about them. Bibi's spirit interacting with the real world was not an aspect that I enjoyed. The mystical fantasy was too much for me and the story lost its' charm; however, the novel was pure Amy Tan, delving into the pot of human nature, discovering our basic insecurities and strengths, and examining our relationships with one another.

This would not be my favorite Amy Tan novel. I prefer The Joy Luck Club; however, I would recommend to those who have read Ms. Tan's other novels to judge for themselves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - The Last Dickens



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The house, in fact, was being drained of it before their eyes. Some workmen were removing paintings and sculptures from the walls and tables; other somber-faced intruders in silk vests and linen suits were examining the furniture and prodding each object and fixture. The atmosphere was completed by a melancholy rendition of Chopin on piano floating on the air.

-The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl, p 138

Friday, June 12, 2009

Read-it-First: The Wedding Girl


Twenty one pages, that is all it took for me to form my opinion on the current St. Martin's Read-it-First selection, The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham (Shopaholic series author Sophie Kinsella's alter ego). Can I say anything more than it is a total chick-lit book? I probably should. This is a story about a young woman set to embark on her new life and marry the perfect man. Of course there is drama, you know, the best laid plans ... when she is confronted with her secret past shortly before the wedding.

The characters, that I have been introduced to, are not deep but they are pleasant. Although the book is not for me, I don't read a lot from this genre, I would recommend to those who enjoy Sophie Kinsella. A light read - perfect for the beach!

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - The Woman in White



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

No house was near; no one was passing whom I could consult; and no earthly right existed on my part to give me a power of control over her, even if I had known how to exercise it. I trace these lines, self-distrustfully, with the shadows of after-events darkening the very paper I write on; and still I say, what could I do?

-The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, p 26

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first novel in a trilogy written by Stieg Larsson. Unfortunately, the author passed away in 2004 and the public will see no more (beyond the trilogy) from this talented author.

This novel is part financial intrigue, part family saga, and part murder mystery. The three parts are woven together to form a complex, thinking man's thriller. With the exception of approximately the first fifty pages, providing an inordinate amount of financial jargon and detail, the novel is a page turner. And, most of the remainder of the novel is necessary and adds to the story; however, there were one or two scenes that I could have done without. Not because of their graphic nature – as there is a good deal of that in the novel – but rather because they were not required. Why do so many authors throw in these predictable and highly unnecessary scenes?

Although the translation is not seamless, it is not too bad. I enjoyed the touches of Sweedish that pepper the story as it adds to the atmosphere, helping me experience Sweden for myself. The plot was interesting but not really unpredictable for me as I have the tendency to figure out every movie, television show, etc... within the first five minutes. The characters were well developed to the point where you wanted to know what would happen next to them.

Let Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo and a genius computer hacker, take you on a journey to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger, a girl who disappeared forty years ago.

I recommend to those who like mystery/thrillers. I think you will like this novel. I am looking forward to the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Read-it-First: Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs


This week I received and read approximately twenty three pages for the current St. Martin's Read-it-First selection, Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs by Michael J. Collins, M.D.. A memoir of the author's journey from construction worker to medical student.

Although the topic may be of interest to some people, it did not grab my attention. There are too many people in this world who have altered their life's course, going from one career to another, and I did not read anything compelling in the excerpts provided that would convince me to buy this book. I actually found it a chore to read. This may have to do with the first day's reading. There were seventeen two to three line paragraphs that stated two plus two doesn't always equal four along with a variation of the comment: It didn't for me, and I guess that's a good thing. One set was more than enough. I found this to be annoying and it certainly determined whether or not I wanted to read anymore.

Looking forward to next week's preview!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) "teaser"; sentences from somewhere on that page (BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The strange story of the flowers had never been reported in the press; only a very few people knew of it. Thirty years ago the regular arrival of the flower was the object of much scrutiny - at the National Forensic Laboratory, among fingerprint experts, graphologists, criminal investigators, and one or two relatives and friends of the recipient. Now the actors in the drama were but three: the elderly birthday boy, the retired police detective, and the person who had posted the flower.

-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, p 5