Throwback Thursday: The Romance Readers' Book Club

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Throwback Thursday – this is an event hosted by me! It used to take place weekly, but is now once a month on this blog. It is the time to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic! Leave a comment here and feel free to take an icon and use it on your blog! Also feel free to do this on as many Thursdays as you like. =)

This month's throwback is:

The Romance Readers' Book Club by Julie L. Cannon
Published December 18, 2007

A southern tale of a teenage girl who opens a Pandora's box of passion and guilt

Bored with her sheltered life on the family farm in Rigby, Georgia, fifteen- year-old Tammi Lynn Elco senses things can change when she acquires a stack of forbidden romance novels. Eluding the watchful eye of her Granny Elco, Tammi forms a secret book club with two girlfriends and her eccentric Aunt Minna, reading about weak- in-the- knees passion and sharing their own stories of love and heartache. When Rigby is seized in an economically damaging drought, local preachers are quick to proclaim sin as the reason for the devastation, forcing Tammi and her fellow book club members to come to terms with the emotions they're feeling and the strict expectations of the community surrounding them. "Dixie Diva" Julie L. Cannon has written a heartfelt coming- of-age tale with true southern flair.

I am not a romance reader. At all. But I adored this little gem when I read it a few years ago! I think anyone who loves reading will enjoy this one. It was fun to revel in their love for these books and being a part of their book club. I have good memories from reading this... definitely check it out!

The Literary Life

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here is the next episode of The Literary Life hosted and produced by Penguin!!

I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but it sounds like a great episode!
Sigrid Nunez, author of Salvation City, discusses where she finds inspiration. I've heard such amazing things about her book and hope to read it soon! This episode includes other great topics: musician Joe Pernice performs and speaks about his new novel It Feels So Good When I Stop; Amy Einhorn, publisher and editor of The Help, discusses how an editor finds and works with prominent authors and Virginia Ironside, author of You’re Old, I’m Old, Get Used To It, rants about why you shouldn’t write in the present tense.

I'm sure I'll enjoy the present tense discussion... I've read books lately in this tense that I've enjoyed, but typically I find it irritating!

In case the embedding below doesn't work for you, click here to go the website.

The World is Bigger Now

Monday, September 27, 2010

Title: The World is Bigger Now
Author: Euna Lee
Pages: 292
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Broadway/Crown Trade (Random House)
Release Date: September 28, 2010

A few months ago I reviewed Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling about Laura's captivity in North Korea for five months. Euna Lee was the film editor also on that trip who was captured as well. I won't recap the whole story or the tid bits I included about North Korea, but it's really interesting so please refer to the linked review above and go read that first!

But back to this review, I definitely think The World is Bigger Now is absolutely worth reading even if you've already read the memoir by Laura Ling; in fact, I pretty much believe that if you're going to read one you should read them both, as they complement each other and are riveting memoirs in their own rights.

Euna Lee had experiences during her captivity in North Korea that were similar to Laura Ling's but ironically were also vastly different. Somewhere Inside focused largely on the political aspect of the events and the measures that were taken by Lisa Ling and the government of the United States in order to contribute to the release of the women. Euna Lee was in the shadows for a large part of these political movements since Laura's involvement was due to her sister. In Euna's memoir, then, the focus was much more on her emotional and psychological reactions to her confinement. Her reactions were genuine -- on the verge of a mental breakdown on many occasions and alternating days of depression with days of hopefulness, I agonized along with her while reading about her experience. Stories like this really illustrate for me the strength of the human spirit because I cannot imagine going through a fraction of what she did. And though she didn't go into it too much, the effect this had on her 4-year-old daughter gave me more to think about as well.

The writing style of both books was different, too, which very likely exemplifies the different women they each are. Euna Lee also was treated somewhat more harshly throughout the ordeal because as a native Korean (despite being from South Korea, not north) she was considered a betrayer to people of her own blood. She spoke, throughout the book, about her conflicting feelings of hatred for the country she was in but the simultaneous reminders of her childhood. North Korea is so stuck in time without the progression of the rest of the world that in many ways the country reminded her of growing up in South Korea.

Euna Lee is also a devout Christian and talked about this in some parts. This section was mild enough that non-Christians won't at all be put off. But for those who are Christians, I believe this aspect of the book will be very inspiring. Euna vacillated between having absolute faith and feeling completely abandoned by God which I feel is an aspect some readers will definitely be able to relate to even without having been in her situation.

There was no lack of tears from me while reading this book, that's for sure! It was definitely an emotional read in some aspects. I'm glad I was able to read about this experience from her perspective as well.

Interesting side note... I went back and read my review for Somewhere Inside to compare to this one and noticed I used the words/phrases "riveting" and "human spirit" when writing both reviews, lol. But they're both relevant!

Click here to see the "trailer" for this book.

The Nook Hook-Up.... Perhaps?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How many of you have a nook?

For those who do, have you ever used the Lend Me feature?

I've never used it for any of my books (or borrowed from anyone else) and was wondering how it worked. I thought if a lot of people had one we could do some type of monthly (or so) "event" where we write up a post with what books we have available and then all sign up on a McLinky so that we can share with each other? I really don't know if there are many of you out there though!

Just a thought..

Update: for those of you who do have a nook... check out my comments below. apparently someone else just recently started a blog for this where we can go and borrow books from each other! Check it out and go add your books! =)

Sunday Salon: I'm a tease

Yes, that's right.
So, this weekend I had made some fairly last minute plans to spend time at the SIBA trade show (Southern Independent Bookseller's Alliance) and to meet up with Heather at Raging Bibliomania, Kathy at Bermudaonion, and Sandra and You've GOTTA Read This...

It was held in Daytona Beach (still is today I believe) which isn't too far from here. Original plan was to take a few hours off of work in the morning on Friday and head over for the blogger & bookseller panel. Then my hubby was going to come with me Saturday afternoon and then join everyone up for dinner! Well, I ended up having to cancel Friday because of some issues at work.. I won't get into it here but it basically came down to me having to choose my battles.. and I was being made to justify why I had to miss an "important" meeting. So skipped that. Then I was on call the weekend and while I realized I could have gotten called in, many times I don't so I figured I'd be safe. Well, we were less than 20 minutes away from the place and my pager went off. And I had to go in to work. I was soooo bummed!!! And I was really looking forward to meeting up with everyone!! So I'm a tease... because I made all these plans and kept having to back out of them! Ah well... there's always BEA again in May... =) Or maybe there will be another bookish event in Orlando...

As for my reading, I've had such reading ADD lately... I must have started 5-6 different books at least. I'm just reading whichever I'm in the mood for at the time, but that means it's taking me awhile to actually finish a book! And I'm trying not to get too distracted by all the premiers on tv! Did my first short story post this past Friday... hopefully I enjoy the rest better than the first one! Not much else going on in reading. Lots going on in other parts of my life.... the next few months are going to be super crazy but fun! I've also got almost all of December booked already... I'm one of those who starts planning for Christmas in September, lol! Can't wait for the holidays!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Q & A with Joanne Rendell: author of Out of the Shadows

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Today I'd like to welcome to my blog, Joanne Rendell, author of Out of the Shadows, Crossing Washington Square, and The Professors' Wives Club.

Thanks for being here Joanne!

1. So, tell me... why Frankenstein?

It’s a wonderful gothic novel, but it’s very thoughtful, daring, and extremely prescient too – even now, two hundred years after it was written. In the novel, Mary Shelley dared to ask “what if?” She looked around at the emerging technologies of her time and she considered their darker sides and how they could turn monstrous (and even make monsters!). I still find it amazing that she wrote such a daring and thoughtful, poignant and provocative novel when she was just nineteen. Not only that, she was living in early nineteenth century Europe when young girls weren’t supposed to think about monsters and science, let alone write about them!

2. Tell me about the first time you read Frankenstein.

I didn’t read the book until I was at college. It was an assigned text on a “Philosophy and the Novel” course. I remember being blown away by the book. The story was a real page-turner, yet at the same time the book is so rich with questions about progress and technology, hubris and grief, life and love. It’s not an understatement to say that the book hugely influenced the direction I took after I graduated. I went on to do a PhD in literature and even though I didn’t study Shelley I was still very interested in many of the questions her most famous book raises.

3. Did you find anything surprising during your research?

I think the most surprising thing was Mary Shelley’s lost journals and letters. It’s believed that all her personal writings and correspondence were accidentally left behind in a trunk when she eloped to France with Percy Shelley. The moment I found this out I knew I’d found an important plot catalyst for my book!

4. Was it difficult for you to write the historical part of the story?

It was definitely a new challenge, but I ended up loving it! With historical writing you have do lot a lot of research before you can start writing. But doing research is second nature for me. As I said, I have a doctorate in literature so I know a lot about spending hours in dusty libraries!

5. Now that you've written characters in both modern day and historical, which do you like better and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one. Since writing historical characters in this book, I’m itching to try it again in another book. At the same time, I still love contemporary stories. I think if I ever tried historical fiction again I would weave past with the present as I did with Out of the Shadows. I enjoy exploring important stories and lessons from our past and how they still resonate today – and how they speak to our future.

6. There were some surprises in Out of the Shadows. Did you outline it ahead of time or did you start writing and let the characters take over?

I did outline ahead of time, but the outline was pretty rough. As I got further into the story, I found that my characters led me in new and very surprising directions. The book builds into a quite a thriller near the end, and some of the outcomes were not what I originally imagined.

7. Are you working on anything new?

I just finished writing a middle grade novel with my friend and co-author, Dina Jordan. Brave Angel tells the story of a twelve year old girl who must save her best friend, and the world, from a fallen angel. Writing middle grade fiction was a new challenge for me – but an incredibly fun and rewarding one. I hope to write more in this genre, but I won’t be forgetting women’s fiction. I have a number of new book ideas bubbling away…

8. All of your books have had a literary tie in... what is your favorite book? (that you've read, not of yours) =) And if you could choose one author to spend time with who is no longer alive, who would it be??

I’m so hopeless at this question. I like *so* many authors, all for very different reasons. Mary Shelley, of course, is one of my all time favorites and thanks to writing Out of the Shadows I now know that she wasn’t just a great writer but she was also a fascinating, strong, passionate, sad, loving, acutely smart, and perceptive woman. A librarian recommended Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books recently. I read the first two in less than a week! (I haven’t gotten my hands on Mockinjay yet). Like Shelley, Collins’ asks “what if.” She looks at our current world with its huge divides between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” its obsession with reality TV and spectacle, its thirst for violent images and films, and then she imagines the logical extreme of such a world. The dystopia of The Hunger Games is horrifying and gruesome but, when you think about it, it’s not completely outside the realms of possibility.

9. Have you read any of the new literary mash-ups? (ie. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Sleyre, Wuthering Bites, etc.) What do you think? I'm a little scared to!

I keep seeing these books in the bookstores, but haven’t yet any of them yet. I love the concept and have them in my “to be bought” list!

10. Sort of off topic -- you home school your child and are often on fun adventures in the best city in the world! (According to Facebook anyway). =) If you don't mind, tell us more about that experience. What made you decide to home school? How do you keep your home schooling ideas fresh and new?

We decided to homeschool for a whole mishmash of reasons: a desire to spend more time with our son; a want for an education that’s a little different from the norm; the simple reason that our situation allowed it. Also, when Benny was just a baby, we met a couple of homeschooled teenagers who impressed us beyond words with their self-motivation and their ability to see adults, not as authority figures, but as peers. Most of all, we chose to homeschool because we thought it would suit our family. It would be a continuation of the pre-school years that were already working so well for us. “Homeschool” is somewhat a misnomer, though, as we spend a relatively small amount of time schooling at “home.” We live in New York City so are lucky enough to have an amazing array of fun and educational places on our doorstep. Benny and I, together with his homeschooled friends, are always out on trips to the Metropolitan Museum, the Natural History Museum, aquariums, zoos, galleries, libraries, and parks. When we’re not out and about, Benny and I love to read – either together or separately. Benny is already a voracious reader at seven years old and I’m so thankful he loves books as much as I do!

Thanks again for stopping by, Joanne, and for the thoughtful answers!
I don't read much middle grade, but I will have to check out Brave Angel. =)

The Five Forty Eight (Short Story Review)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Welcome to my new weekly feature where I am reviewing one short story a week from the anthology, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker.

Short Story:
The Five Forty Eight
Author: John Cheever
Year: 1954

Alright, well this is the first story in the book and of this feature. I haven't read many short stories ever, really. And apparently this is like a classic in the "genre" of short stories. But this one went over my head, unfortunately. I feel like I got part of it, but after the build up of tension to figure out what happens, I felt confused at the end. It begins with a man getting off of work for the day and noticing a woman who is watching the elevators he just got off of, evidently waiting for him. He tries to escape out of her sight but she eventually catches up to him. The source of their acquaintance is explained through the pages as well as her reason for following him.

Let me give you a little background though, because according to a little googling, I'm clearly missing out on something good here. John Cheever, well known novelist and short story writer, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his book of short stories which included The Five Forty Eight. Various essays have been written about this short story and its underlying theme of good vs. evil and perceptions of reality. It also was adapted to a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This post over at The Perambulator on the style of this short story gave me some more insight into what this story was relaying and some techniques the author used to do so.

Would I have picked up on these subtleties and underlying themes without glancing at these other articles? Yes, probably, if I really put some thought into it and read it over once or twice. But I more likely would have taken it for its superficial qualities and moved on.

Married With Zombies

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Title: Married with Zombies
Author: Jesse Petersen
Pages: 241
Genre: fiction
Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown (Hachette)
Release Date: September 1, 2010

The tag line says it all: The couple who slays together slays together.

LOL! Hilarious! Sarah and David are a Seattleite married couple on the verge of divorce after six unsuccessful months of couples therapy. On the way to what may be one of their last therapy sessions before the inevitable D word takes place, they notice that the normal downtown Seattle traffic is unusually sparse... as is their therapist's office. Where's the security guard? Or the receptionist? Annoyed at the rude lack of punctuality by their therapist, they walk in her office to find her essentially "eating" her last clients. The next thing you know, Sarah and David are battling a zombie apocalypse.

Married With Zombies was a fun and comical story that was a mix of the movies Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Shaun of the Dead (or maybe just that and Dawn of the Dead). This was a quick, short read that was a fun departure from all the seriosity (yes, I made that word up) that we often read and/or deal with in real life.

Each chapter is titled with a piece of "marriage advice" related to Sarah and David's situation at hand. For example, Chapter 2 is entitled "Balance the workload in your relationship. No one person should be responsible for killing all the zombies." I enjoyed each and every one of these titles, as well as reading the situations that filled each of the chapters.

This is actually the first book in a series called Living With the Dead. The second in the series, Flip This Zombie comes out in January 2011. You know, I might have to take back what I said when reviewing The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves that I wasn't a zombie person.... because I really, really liked this book too!!

So, could your marriage survive the Zombie apocalypse??

How to Be an American Housewife

Monday, September 20, 2010

Title: How to Be an American Housewife
Author: Margaret Dilloway
Pages: 274
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Release Date: August 5, 2010

I wanted to read this book ever since I saw that it was an upcoming TLC book tours book but was too late to make it for the tour. I eagerly read everyone else's reviews and saw how wonderful everyone thought this book was and knew that I had to read it. Especially after reading the reviews by Meg at Write Meg! and my good friend, Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books. I had other reading commitments, though, so I wasn't able to read it the second it came out like I wanted to. At this point it's only been out a month and I felt like I had to wait an eternity to read it!

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book so badly was because of how personal it sounded to me. How to Be an American Housewife tells the story of a Japanese mother, Shoko, and her half-Japanese/half-American daughter, Sue. Though it's mainly a story about Shoko's past and her potentially last wishes, as she is ill, it's also a story about a mother and a daughter, their differences, and the difficulties they experience from experiencing two different cultures. There were a lot of similarities in this book to myself and my mother. In the story, Shoko marries an American GI partly to move to the United States for a better life. She has a daughter, Sue, who she has trouble understanding because of her American ways and vice versa. My mother is Korean and she married my father who was in the Air Force (though they married for love). We've certainly experienced differences and misunderstandings throughout the years due to the cultural differences of having grown up in Korea (for her) and in the states (for me). On top of that, my husband's mother is from Thailand, and she married an American Air Force man then moved to the states and had two sons (the second one being my husband). While my mother and my mother-in-law are two extremely different people, if you combine their experiences, you would find something close to Shoko's in this book.

I really enjoyed reading about the smallest nuances that I could relate to. I'm sure I can only think of a few right now; things like it being rude to stick your chopsticks straight up and down in your rice... that was something I learned a long time ago but it never made sense to me -- I mean it's so convenient! There were lots of those kinds of moments throughout the book when I could laugh in appreciation of the nuance. Sue mentioned a few times in the book how she wasn't close with any relatives and all they had was their immediate family -- again, same here. Oh other things like always taking your shoes off in the house, cleaning the floors not with a mop but on your hands and knees with a rag, etc. I even have vague memories of the short time we lived in Korea when my dad was stationed there when my sister and I were young and I pictured my grandparents' home in the scenes when Sue returns to Japan -- the wooden framed doors with the rice paper screens, etc. Oh, there's a scene where Sue's daughter is interacting with some students in Japan and they are all touching her hair and it reminded me of when I was little and we visited a school in Korea; the kids there were fascinated by my half-American features, and I distinctly remember them rubbing my cheeks and my hair.... it freaked me out! But it made me laugh to remember this during that scene. In another scene she talked about playing the Japanese game "Jan Ken Poi" which is what we know as "Rock Paper Scissors"... That was funny to me because before I ever knew that game with the English title, I knew it as "Gai Bai Boe" which is the Korean version. And that was with me growing up in the states! In fact, here's the part where she talks about this:
One of my favorite Japanese games was rock-paper-scissors, or, as Mom had taught me, Jan Ken Poi. "In Japan, use this for everything, even businessmen," Mom had told me.
Jan Ken Poi became a special game, done to break ties and decide between an eight o'clock and an eight-thirty bedtime. (pg. 177)
I love how I was able to relate to the significance of such a "game". It was all these little things that I really appreciated in this book.

On the flip side, looking at things from Shoko's perspective made me incredibly sad -- I can't imagine the things she experienced in Japan and then trying to assimilate in a country where being different wasn't appreciated. This is also another one of those stories where you realize, again, that your parents truly had other lives before you were born and that there is this entire history we aren't always completely aware of. In How to Be an American Housewife, Shoko asks her daughter, Sue, to return to Japan in her place to reunite her with her brother, Taro, with whom she has had an estranged relationship for over 30 years. In doing so, Sue embarks on a journey not only geographically but also in her relationship with her mother as well.

Each chapter of the book starts from a quote from a fictional non-fiction book based on an actual non-fiction book basically about how to be a housewife (redundant, eh?) These quotes were all interesting because they gave insight into the thought process behind the way to assimilate into American culture... some may be surprised at the things they say, but I don't think there was one quote that I didn't understand on a somewhat personal level.

So in all, I definitely enjoyed this book. It was a fast, engaging read. The only thing I would have probably liked better was if the focus had been more on Sue (but only because I could relate better) and the relationship. Instead it was pretty much more focused on Shoko's past, her brother, and Sue's quest to help her mother which ultimately has a significant effect on her own life. Definitely a must read!

BBAW Giveaway WInners.....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog this past week, as well as those who have been stopping by since before that! Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaways. Both these books are wonderful books that I absolutely recommend and I'm excited to be able to share them with others!

The winners will have 48 hours to reply to my e-mail before an alternate winner is chosen.

The winner of Room is: Andrea B!

The winner of The Outside Boy is: Nicole S!

BBAW: Future Treasures (and Book Blogger Hop)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today's BBAW topic is about what we enjoyed with this year's Book Blogger Appreciation Week and what our goals are for the future.

My favorite part is the sense of community you can feel with all the book bloggers out there... that community feeling is always there but with BBAW it's just in the air so much more. Sort of felt like Christmas, lol! Everyone telling each other "Happy BBAW" and appreciating each other's blogs. I love meeting all the new bloggers and taking part in all the topics. Fun times!

As for goals, it's hard for me to really make any concrete blogging goals right now because I have so much going on outside of here. As most of you probably know, blogging is a lot of work! Especially when it's a book blog and you have to also find time to read the books you're talking about, lol!!! However, I will finish school and internship in March (2011) and I'm really hoping then I'll be able to put a little more energy into the blog! For now one of my main goals is to accomplish the task of starting and continuing the new feature I first mentioned a few weeks ago! I never got to around to starting it and I'm hoping to start that next week. The feature is each Friday I'll be reviewing a short story from an anthology of short stories that appeared in The New Yorker. My other main goal is to be a little more social in the world of book blogs... I'm going to try to put more effort into commenting and keeping up with all the blogs I follow!!

And today I'm also joining the book blogger hop. Jennifer says that in honor of book blogger appreciation week we are to highlight our favorite bloggers. Ack! This question is always so hard for me! I have so very many favorites! Jennifer with Crazy-for-Books (and host of the blogger hop) is one of course. She and I "met" on paperbackswap a long time ago and hung out this past May in NYC for BEA. As she said in her post, we have almost identical taste in books. We have talked about books in the past prior to reviewing and laughed at how similar our thoughts were about the books! There are so many more that are my favorites and who I consider friends that I can't honestly name them all here. So I just want to mention two other blogs that I love reading: The New Dork Review of Books and The Five Borough Book Review... both review mainly literary fiction and have insightful things to say. Love reading all their posts!

BBAW: Forgotten Treasure (and giveaway)

Today's topic is the forgotten treasure -- a book that maybe hasn't gotten the buzz you think it deserves. You know the buzz books, the ones you see reviewed everywhere. The ones where you're pretty much forced to read them just so you can have an idea what everyone is talking about. The forgotten treasure could be a forgotten classic or an under marketed contemporary fiction.

The book I've chosen to highlight today is one that I read earlier this year -- one that I was a little hesitant about because of the topic but that I ended up thoroughly enjoying! That book is

The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins

You can see my review here. When I say I wasn't sure about the topic, it's because it's about Pavee Gypsies in Ireland in the 1950's. Everything about that is sort of foreign to me and I feared it wouldn't interest me. BUT, I found their culture more fascinating than not and found that the main character, Christy, was absolutely lovable and relatable. He was self-conscious about his differences and trying to fit into the group of kids at school, and this was a topic almost anyone could relate to. As I said in my review, I loved the writing and the characters. The lifestyle of the characters might also bring up some interesting discussions or thoughts as to fitting in with society and the decisions parents make about how their family will live. Definitely read my review for the rest of my thoughts. But I thought this was a book that had many different aspects to it that were well put together. I haven't seen much about this in the blogosphere and thought it deserved some more attention!

I will be giving away one copy of this book anywhere in the world which I will order from the book depository. Anyone can enter. Just fill out the form below. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010.

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today's BBAW topic is about an unexpected treasure -- a book or genre that we tried due to the influence of another blogger.

There are plenty of books I've read because of the influence of other bloggers. Two series that come to mind are The Hunger Games series and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I like young adult books but still don't read them that often. On top of that, neither of these series are in the genre I read much of (dystopian and zombie). But all the reviews swayed me and I've really enjoyed both series! These are just two examples of books I very likely would not have picked up otherwise, but I'm sure there are plenty more!

BBAW: Interview Swap -- Part 2

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Through a course of events I won't get into, I ended up with two partners for the interview swap and I am introducing you to both. This time I introduce you to Jenn from Picky Girl. She reviews both books and films! Thanks for stopping by Jenn!

1. Tell us about your blog!
I began my blog as a way to get back into writing and to start (hopefully) interesting discussions about the books I love to read. I blog about all sorts of books, anything from classics to mysteries to literary fiction to romance. In fact, this week I am posting a couple reviews of romance novels at the request of my best friend.

2. Now, you also review films, right? Tell us about that.
This one actually made me laugh because I started off intending to blog about film quite often but realized I don't watch movies all that often. Or I watch them once they are out on DVD and feel silly reviewing something most have already seen. However, my brother lives in New York and has written a couple reviews for me. I love it when he does that as he has such a different, refreshing approach.

3. How long have you been (book) blogging and what made you decide to start blogging?
I have only been blogging since February 2010. I teach and really enjoyed classroom discussions of books but wanted discussion about personal reads as well. I also missed writing and felt as though if I ask my students to analyze and discuss books, I should be willing to do it as well. I had found a few blogs and Iliana at Bookgirl's Nightstand convinced me.

4. I read that your favorite books is Jane Eyre. Tell us why this is your favorite book.
I first read Jane Eyre in fourth grade and have read it over a dozen times since. At first, I didn't know words like "rendezvous" and "hors d'ouevres" - in later years, I heard them and couldn't believe I had never figured those words out. However, even in fourth grade, I loved the story. I loved Jane. She is strong, independent, stoic when need be but still is intensely emotional. She is passionate, headstrong, and willing to take flak for being a bit different. I identified with her in a lot of ways, and I love the love story. I'm not a romantic at heart, but I felt so much for Mr. Rochester. I've read a lot lately criticizing him as a character and criticizing women who like his character, but for me, Mr. Rochester is it. I'll always love him a little bit, I think. (OMG, I cannot believe I just admitted to that. And that I used 'OMG'.) Do yourself a favor and read it - not because you have to but because it's worth it.

5. What are your favorite books of the year so far?
Favorite books of the year? Wow. Favorites are tough for me. I'll go with favorites of my reading year not favorite books out in 2010. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers blew me away. It is such a quiet novel, but I enjoyed it so much and found so much to think about. That's what makes a favorite for me. I enjoy books that, after setting them down, I still come back to again and again and that teach me a little something. Push by Sapphire is another. It was uncomfortable and ugly but boy, did it make me appreciative of my life. It also made me want to do something for those who don't have the option of reading like you and I. The Known World by Edward P. Jones was another to top my list. I keep a list on the left sidebar of my blog with all of the books I've read in 2010. I've enjoyed most.

6. What about favorite movies of the year so far?
As for favorite movies, I am woefully uninformed since I never go. Maybe I should change the title of my blog. I do have some favorites, though. Sherlock Holmes is fantastic. In fact, I have re-watched it several times, which is a testament to its worth. Full disclosure: Robert Downey, Jr. is unbelievably sexy, but still - the directing was stellar. I thought Guy Ritchie did a fabulous job. I am keeping my fingers crossed for another. It also made me want to read the entire Sherlock Holmes catalog. I also re-watched Rebecca, the 1940 adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's novel, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I know a lot of people rave about this book, and although the movie switches things up a bit, it's still fabulous.

7. Do you have a favorite film of all time?
Jenny! You are killing me with all these favorites. I feel so guilty picking them, but just for you, I will. Or, at least, I'll give you my top three. 1. Bringing Up Baby, the 1938 slapstick comedy directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. I've loved classic film since I was a girl, and Cary Grant.... he just tops them all. He began his career as an acrobat, and this film utilizes that very well. Love it, and the zaniness of it. It makes me happy, and that is what I require of a movie. Hmmm. Ok, maybe I'll stick with that one alone. I have other favorites, but this one hits on all pistons for me.

8. I wrote a post a while back about how I strongly dislike book-to-film adaptations. I've been given plenty of points of view to now see it from another perspective. But what are your thoughts about them?
You can probably already tell my answer to this because of my previous answers. Sometimes I abhor the adaptations. Other times, I think they are genius. For instance, I honestly thought the film for The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan was better than the book. Riordan has such a fantastic idea, but his writing is not what I expected it to be. It doesn't match the idea. He dates himself in a way that J.K. Rowling did not in the HP series. Speaking of HP, I enjoy the anticipation of the films. The books really surprised me all those years ago when I began them, and seeing them come to life is a great pleasure. That is why I think many dislike adaptations. They anticipate certain aspects of the movie and are disappointed, which I totally get. That said, I also took film courses as an undergrad, and I appreciate movies in a new way because of it. For instance, Rebecca, the film I mentioned earlier, does change from the book, but it's still a really, really great movie in its own right. I think sometimes you have to take it as just that, a movie and appreciate it for how well it succeeds in that light.

9. If you could spend time with any author who would that be?
Oh this is tough. I'll come back to it. Wow. I don't know why this one is so difficult. I think I have to answer - Toni Morrison. I have so much I would like to ask her and discuss with her. African-American literature is probably my favorite sub-section of literary fiction, and studying and talking about race and gender fascinates me. I think she has such an interesting perspective on both and would be thrilled to just listen to her.

10. Have you had any experiences meeting any authors in the past?
I have met authors in the past. I met E.L. Doctorow when he came to my university when I was still an undergraduate. He was so interesting to speak with and really, I think, enjoyed being in an atmosphere with students. This past year, I helped steer a committee in charge of bringing a writer on campus to speak to students. We chose Sarah Vowell as our lecturer, and I actually got to spend a good bit of time with her. I have a whole post up about it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's refreshing to know writers are just people - disciplined people.

11. What do you do when you're not reading, watching movies, or blogging?
Are you kidding? Bloggers do something else? Just joking. I have seen bloggers who have read almost 500 books this year and think, WHAAA? I have to have more balance in my life. Kudos to them, but it wouldn't work for me. If I get too wrapped up in myself, I get down. I live on my own, so I need other activities to pull me outside of myself. I jog at the gym, play with my dog, work on projects around my house. I also have a great group of friends who get together for Wine Night once a week. We started informally a couple of years ago, and now it's a weekly deal. I've gotten a bunch of them involved in salsa dancing, which is another one of my loves/obsessions. We frequently take off on a Friday evening for the salsa clubs in Houston. Other than that, teaching takes up a lot of my time - or rather, the prep work does. Luckily, a lot of that involves reading, so I'm ok with that. I absolutely love teaching college and really enjoy trying to find ways to reach my students and help them to enjoy reading and writing.

Thanks for stopping by Jenn!

BBAW: Interview Swap -- Part 1

Today's BBAW activity is the interview swap! Without going into further explanation I'll just say I ended up with two partners. So today I am pleased to introduce you to both of them!

One interview partner was Dana with Much Madness is Divinest Sense. I'm new to her blog, but I can tell by what I've read already that I really like her blog! I'd like to thank Dana for taking the time to stop by for an interview!

1. What brought you to book blogging?
I started book blogging by accident. I originally had a sort of eclectic blog where I wrote about whatever struck my fancy, but I really wanted it to have more of a focus, and people who read it seemed to like my book reviews, so I decided to devote my blog to books and reading full time in about February 2008 (I think). I love reading other book bloggers' posts, and I like being a part of the community.
2. Tell us about your blog.
Well, it's kind of an old blog in Internet terms maybe, but it has only been focused on books for about two and half years. I write reviews, discuss book news, and participate in the odd meme.
3. How did you come up with the name?
The title comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson. I think when I named the blog I chose the title because the blog didn't have a read focus, and as a result it felt a little bit "mad," but if you put it together, you might find it actually made some sort of sense, or at least that was the idea.
4. What makes Wuthering Heights your favorite book? (I was given this info when I got her name and website!)
That's an interesting question because I don't really know. I don't particularly like the characters, and usually I have to like the characters to love a book. I think Brontë's description, the way she evokes the setting and the truth I see in her language draws me. It's a difficult book. It demands a lot of the reader, but I think it can truly get in your head. I have had at least two students tell me later it's their favorite book or that they have an odd fascination with it they can't explain. There are also some truly beautiful passages in the book that just take my breath away when I read.
5. What are your favorite books of the year so far?
My favorite books this year so far are without a doubt The Hunger Games trilogy. I tore through them. I found them extremely disturbing, but compulsively readable, too. I wanted to find out what would happen to Katniss next, whether Panem would fight the Capitol and put an end to the Games, whether Katniss would wake up and appreciate Peeta. They kept me up nights and crept into my dreams.
6. So are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?
I am team Peeta. I just think that scene when Katniss is starving and he burns the bread on purpose so he can give it to her is so sweet. It's one of the only examples of a moment when someone did something for Katniss out of kindness. And he always came across as so genuine. Not that I dislike Gale or anything, but I just liked Peeta better, and it seemed to me like Katniss didn't discover she might be in love with Gale until she was sort of thrown together with Peeta anyway.
7. The Hunger Games is being made into a movie but I'm not sure yet who's being casted. If you could choose, who would you cast?
Cast. Let me see. I think they've already cast Katniss, but I forgot who they said. Jackson Rathbone would be a good Peeta, but he may be getting too old. So let me think of a teen-ish actor. An Entertainment Weekly poll said Hunter Parrish, so I looked him up, and he'd do really well, I think. He looks a lot like the Peeta in my head. Bradley James who plays Arthur on the series Merlin would work, too, but he sort of has the same problem as Jackson Rathbone. A little too old.

The same poll has Gaspard Ulliel as Gale, and provided he grew his hair long, I think he'd be perfect.

Chloe Moretz is supposedly in the lead for Katniss. I don't see it personally. The EW poll picked Kaya Scodelario, and she looks the part to me. Other than those three characters, I would have to think about it a lot.
8. If you could spend time with any author who would that be?
I would absolutely love to sit down to dinner with J. K. Rowling. I loved the Harry Potter books so much, and it would be great to be able to talk with her about all aspects of the HP world. I have so many questions for her, and I am waiting on tenterhooks for that encyclopedia she said she will write one day.
9. Any interesting author experiences?
I have met a few authors at book signings. Diana Gabaldon was so kind when I met her, and she even listened to me babble about my own writing and said encouraging things, too. I enjoyed meeting Jasper Fforde because he said something I think is so true: reading is a creative act, and readers bring so much to the experience of reading that even if an author didn't intend something, it doesn't mean it's not there. I loved that. Katherine Howe and Matthew Pearl are the kindest to their fans. Katherine and Matthew are so friendly, and it's a small thing, but they remember you. I have been to two signings of Matthew's, and he remembered me the first time from a blog post I had done about The Dante Club and the second time from our first meeting. I was really impressed. He sent me an ARC of The Last Dickens. Howe and Pearl are two authors I will read no matter what because of how open and kind they are to their fans.
10. Can you tell us anything about your writing?
My writing—well, I did NaNoWriMo last year and wrote a book about characters Katniss would find familiar. My grandmother is from the mountains in Breathitt Co, Kentucky, and I set my second book there. It's about a girl named Imogen whose family is falling apart. Her father is an alcoholic, and her mother throws him out and marries his brother, whom she's secretly been having an affair with anyway. It's a little bit of Hamlet in the hills, as it were. Imogen's stepfather is murdered, and her mother can't support the family. One son dies, and she has to send the others out to be adopted—it's a combination of some stories in my grandparents' background. I haven't published it. I haven't even proofread it. The first book is set in medieval Wales. Gwenllian is a teenage girl living with her uncle after the deaths of her parents. She is accused of a crime she didn't commit and runs, but ultimately can't really get away from her problems, so she returns to face whatever fate has in store for her. I actually published that one on Lulu mainly because I wanted to get it out there, and I worried about having time to find an agent/publisher. I figured a few people ordering it from Lulu is a few more people than would read it otherwise.
11. What do you do when you're not reading or blogging?
I'm a high school English teacher. I also have three children, and they keep me pretty busy. I am currently in grad school to earn a master's in Instructional Technology. I should graduate this December after about two years of hard work, and I'm looking forward to taking that "extra" time to relax and read.
Thanks for stopping by Dana!!

BBAW Giveaway: Room

Monday, September 13, 2010

In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and in honor of a wonderful book that just came out that I recently reviewed... I am doing a giveaway that is good worldwide....

The giveaway is for Room by Emma Donoghue!

The copy I have is a signed ARC so I will be ordering the winner their own copy of Room from the book depository.
Anyone can enter. The winner will be chosen on Saturday, September 18, 2010.
To enter please fill out the form below.
I have included a question about where/how you found my blog. If I obviously already know you, you don't have to say. The question is a required one on the form, though, so just type in some letters to bypass it if that's the case. =)

BBAW: First Treasure

Today starts off Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Today's topic is our First Treasure. We are to discuss a great new book blog we've discovered since BBAW last year. I almost didn't participate in today's discussion because it's hard for me to pick just one and I honestly have a difficult time figuring out which blogs I've only started to follow within the past year, lol! Fortunately, I was able to narrow it down to a few of my favorites that I believe I didn't start reading until sometime within the past year. So the blog I've chosen to highlight is Raging Bibliomania.

Heather is a local (to me) book blogger who reviews mainly literary fiction. She posts long, in-depth reviews/discussions that are incredibly well-written and insightful; yet, I don't think I have ever come across what I would consider a spoiler! I love that she's so reliable in that her reviews are always so well done and I know I will enjoy all that she has to say about the books she reads. Sometimes I don't have the time or energy right at that moment to read a long review, but if that's the case, I always make sure to go back and read her reviews when I do have the time because her reviews are well worth the read. She also has great taste in books. =)


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Pages: 321
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown & Comp. (Hachette)
Release Date: September 13, 2010

Room is such an amazingly unique read that I'm absolutely sure will be adored by many. It's perfect for those looking for something different to freshen up their reading. This book received an extensive amount of buzz at this year's BEA, was just recently short-listed for the Man Booker prize (yay!!) and it definitely lived up to the hype!

Room is narrated wholly by 5-year-old Jack who has lived his entire life in a small room with only a skylight and no windows. The room is kept locked by a keypad to which only "Old Nick" knows the code. Biologically, "Old Nick" is Jack's father. Jack, however, knows this man only as the elusive stranger who enters the room at night while Jack is sleeping in Wardrobe or brings them "Sunday treat" once a week based on their requests. The reader quickly learns that "Old Nick" kidnapped Jack's mother 7 years prior when she was 19-years-old, has kept her imprisoned in this tiny room for all those years, and fathered Jack.

Emma Donoghue extraordinarily accomplished the task of telling an entire story from the perspective of a 5-year-old child. Though other novels have been narrated by children, Room stands out in that the entire novel is narrated from Jack as his present 5-year-old self; never is there a point where his narration is from looking back on his life -- rather, his thoughts and perspectives illustrate the genuine experience of speaking to a young child. Furthermore, the innocence he possesses is on such a completely different level because of the extreme naivete gained from living his entire life in a 12 x 12 room, the only other human interaction being with his mother.

Shortly into Room, Jack's "Ma" devises a plan to escape. She fails to anticipate Jack's resistance, however, as he loves his life and can't imagine why his mother would want it to change. The reader can easily relate to "Ma's" frustration, as her ability to escape relies greatly on Jack's cooperation. While the author never specfically relays this it is assumed Ma has contemplated her plan for a while, waiting until Jack is old enough to understand and carry it out. Both her frustrations and those of Jack's are palpable and create genuine tension. I empathized with Jack for his lack of understanding, but also felt for the mother. How agonizing to finally believe escape is possible only to have the plan dwarfed by her seemingly all-knowing child.

Many elements of this story related to the well-known story of Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped at age 12 and imprisoned for 20 years during which she birthed 2 children. It's as though the author took this news story and contemplated what life must have been like for the children -- the only difference being that Ms. Dugard's children were sometimes exposed to the real world while Jack never was (except via television which Jack never really fully grasped anyway). On the one hand, Jack believed that everything in the television was fake (outside, supermarkets, etc.) yet, on the other hand, he believed the people were real and were speaking to him directly.

A significant element in the story was the relationship between mother and child. This was a powerful facet to the book; however, not any fault of the author's, I think this book will hit home on an even more powerful level for mothers who have sons of their own. While I could certainly empathize as I do with most books I read, I felt that I was missing out what would have had an even more crucial impact on me if I had children. This is not at all to say that those without children won't enjoy the book -- only that those who have experienced this bond may come away from reading this with just that much more.

In Room, Emma Donoghue simultaneously creates a heart-breaking and heart-warming read. Readers will love Jack as I did, and will be enraptured by the world he describes. Reading this book was truly an experience; relish the read because this is one of those that you'll wish you could read again for the first time.

Definitely plan on reading this book!!!

Also, check out this fascinating article Emma Donoghue wrote about the research she did for this book.

Starvation Lake

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Title: Starvation Lake
Author: Bryan Gruley
Pages: 370
Genre: Mystery, Literary
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: March 3, 2009

Starvation Lake was a great, solid, mystery novel that read not just like a mystery genre book, but with more literary elements -- a story about a small town with great characters encountering a mystery of their own. Though this was only his debut, Bryan Gruley has already been compared to the likes of Dennis Lehane. (For the record, I haven't read any of his books yet but have heard wonderful things)!

Starvation Lake centers around the town of the same name. Gus Carpenter is the editor of the local newspaper, The Pilot, which is sort of bittersweet for him. He was able to escape from his small town years prior, but after a scandal he became involved in at The Detroit Times, he was forced to return home shamefacedly to his peers who never left. So while he has risen to status of editor, he is still running from the drama that ensued in Detroit, wishing he could do more with his career. Ten years prior to the start of the novel (the actual novel, not the epilogue), a popular hockey coach is killed in a snowmobile accident when the snowmobile goes down in the lake. At the beginning of this novel, the snowmobile miraculously surfaces -- only it's on a different lake miles away from where it went down. What does this mean?? Why was the snowmobile never found in the first place? Rumors abound about underground tunnels connecting the lakes or alternate theories to the death of the hockey coach.

I was so engaged while reading this novel. Mystery lovers will enjoy the mystery involved, but lovers of fiction in general, especially those of small towns, will also find something to love about this book. Each of the characters had their own quirks; they were greatly defined and contributed to the story so well. Hockey is a huge part of this novel as it sounds like it's quite the popular sport in Michigan. It's the football of Friday Night Lights. If you love hockey or watching sports this whole factor of the novel might reel you in. One of Gus's flaws as emphasized by the rest of the town was his failure, as goalie, to stop the last goal from being made against his team during the championship game when he was a kid. Even though he's grown up and plays for an adult league for fun, he has never lived down the event in itself or the manner in which it effected his self-esteem, knowing he is to blame for disappointing the dreams of the entire town.

Another aspect I really enjoyed that I haven't seen much in other books was the behind-the-scenes look at putting together an entire newspaper. They had the job of the typical media wanting to be the first to get certain news out, but being in a small town, they also had to deal with politics in what scandals they published. And if Gus Carpenter was okay with something he still had to run it by the big guys who didn't always see things the same way. I think the thought of being a journalist is so fun and interesting, so seeing it from this perspective was one of my favorite things about this book. They get to write, they get to interview people, investigate situations, etc., and when they decide to report on the story of the previously submerged -- newly surfaced snowmobile, they run into secrets that are scandalous and dangerous.

This is definitely the beginning of a series to pay attention to! The second book in this series just recently came out and I can assure you I will be reading it soon, so look out for that review!

Out of the Shadows

Friday, September 3, 2010

Title: Out of the Shadows
Author: Joanne Rendell
Pages: 336
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: NAL (Penguin)
Release Date: September 7, 2010

In her third novel, Joanne Rendell explores the life of Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley, and the connection she has to modern day Clara Fitzgerald. I've followed Joanne's novels since her first one, and I adored her last book, Crossing Washington Square. I also love how she has tied all her books in with literary themes. But I can't say I enjoyed this one as much as her past books.

Out of the Shadows tells two alternating stories -- that of Clara Fitzgerald who is chasing her connection to Mary Shelly and that of Mary Shelley as she grows up and eventually becomes the author of the well-known novel, Frankenstein. Clara's been engaged for five years to Anthony who is more committed to his budding notoriety for his research than he is to her. Clara recently lost her mother, and her relationship with her somewhat narcissistic sister, Maxie, is lacking, if not frustrating in itself. Clara's mother had always told her and her sister stories before bed, often including stories of their relation to Ms. Shelley. The novel starts out as Clara makes the decision to complete a DNA test to confirm this relation. Mary Shelley's alternating story starts out when she is a young girl at home with her father and stepmother listening to stories.

For the most part, the narration in this book was a bit too drawn out for my taste and many of the paragraphs felt too minutial for me. I also would have preferred a larger amount of dialogue and showing of the story than being told about the thoughts and goings on of the characters. I will say it picked up though about three quarters of the way through and increased in action and excitement which surprised me!

My favorite part of the book was the story of Mary Shelley. I found her story interesting and engaging. I had fun learning about her past since I knew next to nothing about Frankenstein or the author prior to reading this. I also found it intriguing the way Joanne Rendell wove together the story of Frankenstein one the one hand with the modern day overzealousy of the character's fiance and his scientific research. I think if I had read Frankenstein before then I may have gotten more out of reading this, so if you have read this book, you may enjoy this book.

The Blessings of the Animals

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Title: The Blessings of the Animals
Author: Katrina Kittle
Pages: 424
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Release Date: August 3, 2010

I don't know how Katrina Kittle does it... this is the third book of hers that I've read (with her first published book recently added to my TBR) and I have absolutely adored all of them. The Blessings of the Animals was no exception. It's just something about the way she brings the characters to life and makes them (and everything about the novel) feel so genuine. There was just a certain quality to this book (and the others I've read) that sets it apart from many of the other books I've read, but I haven't quite put my finger on what it is specifically. I just loved it!

The Blessings of the Animals is about a veterinarian, Cami, who also volunteers for the Humane Society rescuing animals who have been abused and neglected. Cami is shocked when her husband leaves her, and she turns to her friends and family, but especially her animals, for love and healing. It's so true that animals/pets can be healing. Reading this made me want a farm full of animals, including a horse, and I'm not a "country" type of person, lol! Even the characters of the animals in this book were each unique and well defined! Whether it was Moonshot, the initially angry but loving to Cami horse, or Muriel, the HILARIOUS goat that they keep finding in the funniest places, or Gerald, the three legged cat. Blessings had a great cast of characters in addition to Cami and the animals to love including the 17-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who is an independent, lovable, deep thinker kind of girl whose character I loved as well.

The main subject of this book, however, other than animals' abilities to heal was that of marriage... What does marriage mean? What's the purpose of it? Can it really last? etc. I found this topic fascinating as Cami's marriage ends and she embarks on this philosophical journey. A variety of other couples and relationships were scattered throughout the book that provided different perspectives to think about. Cami's brother is part of "The Davids" as he and his partner are both named Dave, and they battle with the inequalities of the laws of marriage; another couple chooses not to marry despite making a commitment to each other; Gabriella deals with young love and heartbreak, and she enacts a "marriage ban". It was an interesting topic to read about and one that would be great for book clubs.

One other aspect I thought was well done was the narration; the book was mainly narrated in first person by Cami. Then every once in a while there would be one chapter narrated in third person from the perspective of another character. There were probably five (or so) of these. It was a great way to get a sneak peek into what the other person was thinking while maintaining the majority of the story from the perspective of Cami.

In all, such a well written novel with characters you will love. The reading is engaging from the very beginning and just flowed so well. Cami's growth throughout the book was inspiring as well. Must-Read book by a Must-Read author!

Check out Katrina Kittle's website or follow her on Twitter @katrinakittle. Click here to listen to her interview with Book Club Girl on Blog Talk Radio.

I reviewed this book as part of the blog tour for TLC Book Tours. I was the last stop but in case you are interested in other viewpoints, check out the previous stops below.
Tuesday, August 3rd: Reviews From the Heart
Wednesday, August 4th: Rundpinne
Thursday, August 5th: Chick With Books
Tuesday, August 10th: Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, August 12th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, August 18th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, August 19th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, August 24th: The Little Reader
Thursday, August 26th: Books and Things
Monday, August 30th: Café of Dreams