Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What's on My Night Stand? February 2009

5 Minutes for Books Hosts: What's on My Nightstand the 4th Tuesday of every month. And I always miss them! Well not this month!

My nightstand is figurative now, as I relocated the bookshelf (that's right, I used an entire bookshelf as my nightstand!) to another room.

But my TBR pile is ever growing.  Right now, I'm reading: The Widow of the South.  But next month I'd like to finish up the following (in no particular order):

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (His Fic Challenge)
The Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot (Chick Lit Challenge)
The Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot (Chick Lit Challenge)
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (What's in a Name Challenge)
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (because I loved Garden Spells)
Quicksand by Iris Johansen (for fun)

Since I only finished 4.5 books in February (I finished the Russian Concubine on February 1st so I think that should count as a January read - 6 books), I think this list is in line with how much time I provide myself for reading.  At least 3 of these books are quick, 2 day reads.

Happy book blogging!

What's in a Name: Anne of Green Gables

I finally found a book that had a building in the title!  Actually, I found two, in the same series, and I decided book 1 was a more logical place to start.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montogmery is home of one of my favorite characters in all of literature.  There are millions of women just like me who just relate and love little Anne Shirley, but I like to think I'm special and I'm the only one in all the world who understands and sees herself in the spirited 11 year old girl.

For those that have not been introduced, siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert live on Prince Edward Island in a house called Green Gables.  They are both getting on in years and decide that for help on the land they will adopt a young orphan boy.  A mix up in the message brings them a little orphan girl, and the young girl who was never wanted anywhere starts her adventure on Prince Edward Island and at Green Gables.

Some of the most memorable characters in literature are thus introduced; Anne meets her bosom friend Diana Barry, her mortal enemy Gilbert Blythe at school, her inspiration teacher Miss Stacy and half a dozen other girls from Avonlea.  She goes to the top of her class, passes her entrance exam to Queens, and gets a scholarship to college to receive her BA.  Alas sadness hits in the end, and Anne and Gilbert forgive their differences and Anne takes the teaching job at Avonlea.  Her and Gilbert will take their college courses correspondence, and will now be good friends.

I love this book.  I love Anne Shirley, I love Gilbert.  Reading this book is like sitting down with a blanket and a fire place and just a warm feeling in your heart.
"There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting." - Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
And if you aren't aware, there are films of this and the first two are very, very enjoyable.  The third one is garbage, don't waste your money or your time.  But the first one and second one are worth every minute.  Meghan Fellows is a terrific Anne.

Teaser Tuesdays: Anne of Green Gables

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
    Let the book fall open to a random page.
    Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
    You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given
    Please avoid spoilers!
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

Pg. 57

"Marilla," she demanded presently, "do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?"

"A--a what kind of friend?"

"A bosom friend - an intimate friend, you know - a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inner most soul."

Pg. 101

"You'll feel remorse of conscience some day, I expect, for breakin it, Marilla, but I forgive you.  Remember when the time comes that I forgive you.  But please don't ask me to eat anything, especially boiled pork and greens.  Boiled pork and greens are so unromantic when one is in affliction."

I know they are both long but I couldn't help myself.  I love Anne.  Her ramblings remind me of my own brain and all her drama and feverishness and absolute thrilled excitments and her loathsome, terrible, despairing sadness just make me laugh.  I was Anne at 13.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Books Made for Walking: February

I saw this meme while I was perusing the book blogs ... and it spoke to me!

Is there a place that you have always dreamed of visiting specifically because of a book you read? It can be any kind of book: fiction, non-fiction, travelogue, you name it. If you have been to the place, did it live up to your expectations? If you haven't been, do you think you'll ever make it there?

Umm ... yes!  Prince Edward Island if you please!  Reading about Avonlea and all the beautiful places that surround Anne and her childhood just makes me want to go!  And more than that, the scenes in the movie versions just make my passport itch!

Also, I really need to go to London England and do the Tudor thing.  And then, I really want to do the Jane Austen tour and look at all the country homes she espouses about in her novels.  I fully expect I will make it to London, and I really see no reason why I couldn't go to PEI.  All it takes is a plan.  I'm a determined sort of person in that way.

I'm not sure if any of the other places I've been where inspired by novels.  I would say that I read books on Marie Antoinette and when I visited Versaille and her bedchamber it was interesting.  The crowds kind of ruin the pleasant feeling, but I loved the gardens.   I would say it lived up to my expectations.

Lit Flicks Challenge: Wrap Up

What I read:

Confessions of a Shopaholic- Sophie Kinsella

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

The Nanny Diaries - Emma McLaughlin and Nicole Kraus

The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman

The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler

Of those 5, only one is on my original list.  Which is a terrible travesty I do say.  Consequently, the good thing is, I did not buy any of those other books so they are not currently in my TBR pile, save Nights in Rodanthe, which I recently recieved from Jessica at Bluestockings!  (Thanks again).

I loved this challenge.  I am a big fan of reading books and seeing what movie makers make of them.  I enjoy the high and mighty feeling of being in a movie theater and knowing full well what will happen, and saying to myself, "oh that wasn't in the book."  I like seeing a visual representation of what my mind creates.  In my mind, Harry Potter is not very similar to Daniel Radcliffe.  His hair is different, and he doesn't have the cocky demeanor that Radcliffe seems to put into the character (maybe that's just my interpretation of him).  Or, more recently Twilight.  Jacob looked nothing like that actor to me.  And I didn't ... I don't know.  My minds version of Twilight is oh so much more satisfying than the movie version.  Though, achem, I will be first in line to buy the movie when it comes out on March 21st (my birthday!  /end shameless plug).

Of what I read, I'd have to say I enjoyed Secret Life of Bees the most.  Nanny Diaries was a re-read for me, and Confessions was just so campy and silly it won't make a repeat performance.  Compass dragged on (both the literary and film version) and JA Club made a terrific movie (with creative license) and sort of a bland book.  Bees was a quick enjoyable read with great prose and the movie was entertaining and watching Dakota Fanning grow up is sort of marvelous.  She's going to be a terrific little actress some day (stay away from drugs!  And Britney Spears!  And Paris!  And anyone else who works in Holly-wierd!).  The movie was faithful to the story and it was well done.  Latifah and Keys were fabulous.

I will continue to read books that are being turned into movies and I will continue to review movies that were made from books.  Thank you to Jessica for hosting a terrific challenge and I hope you do another one soon!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Historical Fiction Challenge: To Hold the Crown

To Hold the Crown, Jean Plaidy.

I picked this up at Target.  You know they have a section of books dedicated to Tudor England and I saw this there and thought ... oooh, surely it might be good!

It's not.

It's a republished book.  I know mother, I failed you.  My mother, also an avid reader, taught me very early to always check publication dates.  Her point was to make sure she didn't buy something she had read years earlier (who can remember everything one reads?  Especially before the internet!).  I should have followed her sage example.

The write up on the back is misleading.  And calling this fiction is a bit of a stretch.  The story is told to us.  There is no action.  And the chapters are repetitive.  By page 150 I was bored, and had very little interest in the Queen (who was heard from rarely) and had more interest in Henry VII but he was such a minor character in a book supposedly about him that I just skipped to the chapters that I wanted to read.

I'm posting this for the Historical Fiction Challenge but I'm so sad that two of the books I've read have been bad.  Not to worry, I have more His. Fic. to read and will add those when they are finished.  Here's hoping they are better.  But like I said on twitter; life is too short to spend too much time on bad books.

Teaser Tuesday: To Hold The Crown

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

To Hold the Crown, Jean Plaidy (pg. 91)
It was better if death came swiftly. Who wanted to outlive one's power? Certainly not one who had enjoyed so much as Elizabeth Woodville.

For the uniniatated ... Elizabeth Woodville.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Not Sure Which Challenge: Garden Spells

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen

This isn't technically chick lit, and it's not historical fiction.  Can "garden" be a building?  It may not fit.  And since it only took me three hours to finish, that's all right with me.

Claire and Sydney Waverley's mother was whacked out and left them with their grandmother in Bascom, NC when they were small.  In Bascom, the Waverley women are known for their "magical" cooking with the plants from their garden.  And the apple tree produces fruit that gives people visions of the most important moment in their life.

Sydney runs away when shes 18, gets into trouble, and the book revolves around how both girls lives are turned around when Sydney and her young daughter move back to Bascom and live with Claire.

It was really cute and fun.  I finished it in three hours (the plane ride to Utah).  If you need a beach read or something light, I recommend this.  She has another novel, the Sugar Queen.  Her first novel was good enough I will pick up the second.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What's in a Name Challenge: Midwives

For my first book for the "What's in a Name Challenge" (see my original post HERE) I choose Midwives by Chris Bohjalian for my "Profession" category.  I wrapped it up this evening and it actually took me a bit longer to finish than I anticipated.

As you can see from the picture it's one of Oprah's book club books.  My mother was the one that bought this and she could never get into it, so I swiped it in my "I want to read adult books that look cultured and deep" phase.  I was probably 18 or so.  It was published in 1998.

The book is about a midwife (duh) named Sybil Danforth who is delivering a baby on a really stormy night in Vermont and the mother dies in labor.  Sybil attempts CPR and the phones are down and the roads are covered in ice and they can't get to the ER, so she does an emergency C-section to save the child.

The following day, questions arise about what killed the mother, and Sybil is later charged with involuntary manslaughter, as the coroner believes that the C-section killed the patient.

The story is told from the point of view of Sybil's daughter, who was 14 at the time but is now 30.  So it's all past tense.  And in an effort to create suspense, Bohjalian tells us mysterious cryptic things over and over and over again.  And it gets tiresome.  In truth I think the last chapter is the first chapter repeated.  It felt like de ja vu reading it.

The book was slow and tried to put this big show of home birth versus doctor's on display but it was kind of flat.  He never made a very good case for either and I'm left feeling sort of as if he found a controversial subject that he thought would sell novels and attempted to exploit it.  The book contained all of the appropriate body part references and procedural things, but it sort of was missing emotion.  I just couldn't be bothered to care.

I wouldn't say it was a bad book, I'm not sorry I read it, but it's not my typical cup of tea.  It was dark and moody and sad.  Even when it was happy it was sad.  If I were rating this on a scale, I would give it like a 3 out of 5.  Somewhere in the middle.  It wasn't bad ... but to say I enjoyed it would be overstepping.

I read lots of reviews on amazon and they kept saying how graphic it was.  Eh.  I find I can skim through "graphic" parts and get the jist and not be offended.  But the real issue in this book was (like I mentioned earlier) I just didn't care that much.  And it didn't seem (and this may be because birth and babies and labor aren't anything I've experienced myself) wholly realistic.

But others loved it and raved.  So maybe it just didn't speak to me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lunch Time Reading

This was funny:

"Or how about just feeling the most incredible, awesome love for people - all people - just because they're human and therefore amazingly magic? Ever felt that?"

"Probably not sober."
~ Midwives, Bohjalian, pg 193

Cute. In a book that's almost irritatingly downbeat, the rare moments of glib humor stand out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thank you Jessica!

I won the January Lit Flick's Give Away over at The Bluestockings! I know I can hardly believe it myself! Thank you so much Jessica!

Jessica's January Callenge update is HERE. She's sending me Nights in Rodanthe which is pitch perfect because I didn't get around to reading that one!

Thanks again Jessica, and thanks for hosting a terrific challenge!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: Midwives

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

Midwives , Chris Bohjalian

Pg. 35
She went to Mount Holyoke for two years, but met a slightly older man while waitressing on Cape Cod the summer between her sophomore and junior years and decided to drop out and spend the winter in a cottage with him on the ocean.  It didn't last long.  By Thanksgiving she was settled in Jamaica Plain in Boston, helping the Black Panthers start a breakfast program for the poor, while answering telephones for an alternative newspaper.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page ... this weeks question ...

How do you choose what do buy from your local bookstore? Do you have a list, or just browse? What is the selection in your book store like? Do you find what you're looking for? Do you feel pressured to buy the kind of books the store makes prominent? (question courtesy of MizB)

This question spoke to me as I was just wondering this while I wandered around BN wondering what to buy with my $25 gift card.  What would I buy?  I have a want to read pile a thousand titles long, but I didn't have it with me at the time and I knew some of the books on that list, but they were mostly Tudor historical fiction and I can not stomach paying full price for one more book on Elizabeth, Ann or Henry, even though I love them.  There has to be a limit!

So ... my process is generally thus ... peruse the new releases.  This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 depending on what's new.  Then I look at the staff picks.  Usually these are pretty lame (my opinion).  But occasionally there are jewels hidden between the random indie picks and the biographies.  If nothing is there, then I look at the tables.  These are my favorite.  They have more new releases, and are typically newer writers that don't always get into that front shelf with the Dan Browns and John Grishams.

So if there's nothing on these tables, then I check the old faithfuls.  The writers I've read for years who's new releases don't always make the front shelf or who I may have missed throughout the year.  I check Czerneda in the science fiction section, Crusie in romance, Rinaldi in YA.  And some others that I can't remember... Barbara Michaels.

Usually, if I can't find anything that peaks my interest in the Lit / Fic section I hang out in the children's section.

My new favorite bookstore (aside from Amazon, where I can shop for books at work! Joy!) is the used bookstore just south of my house.  And there I take a list.  If I can.  Because otherwise I'd be there for hours.

What's on Your Night Stand?

I always seem to miss these! But my TBR list has grown so much!

Midwives, Chris Bohjalian

The Lady Elizabeth, Allison Weir
Firefly Lane, Elizabeth Hannah (which I picked up at BN with a gift card and I'm afraid is going to be very like Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Which, if you haven't read Summer Sisters you really must.)
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

And then pretty much everything else on my TBR pile. Which grows weekly and daily as I read more reviews and visit the used book store. But I can't help it! I have a compulsion! Buying books just makes me happy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Historical Fiction: The Russian Concubine

For my second book in the Historical Fiction Challenge, I read the Russian Concubine  by Kate Furnivall.  Set in 1920s China in the International Settlement, Lydia Ivanova is a Russian ... immigrant?  Refugee?  Her and her mother fled Russia when the Bolsheviks took over.

Lydia's mother wants her daughter to recieve a great education and grow up and go to college and be a doctor or a lawyer and never have to rely on a man for anything, as Valentina (her mother) has had to do.  She's stopped short of being a prostitute, but has really relyed on her beauty and charm to have men feed and provide for her an her daughter.

So anyway, Valentina is a bit of a drunk and during these periods Lydia steals so they can eat and pay rent.  On one of these such excursions in Junchow, she runs into a gang who try to kidnap her and sell her into slavery when she is rescused by Chang An Lo.  Chaos ensues from this point as the gang is angry with Chang for interfering and defending the foreigner above them, and there's a whole side story on the poppy trade, but you'll have to read it to get to all of that.

The first 200 pages were a bit of a chore, but it got good after that and I finished it rather quickly.  I did do a lot of skimming.  So clearly not my favorite book.  I can tell you why ... Chang is a Communist Freedom Fighter and soon Lydia (who's just been kicked out of Russia by Communists!?!) is wanting to become one too.  For no reason other than, well what's fair is fair and there has to be "balance."

While I can appreciate the backdrop of this story and the romance and the relationships, the political points in it had me rolling my eyes.  Russia fell into starvation and ruin when the Bolseviks took over and they still haven't fully recovered.  Even with the collapse of Communism in the late 80s.  Which, to be fair I'd say they are still quasi Communist today and Putin is inching ever closer to be a dictator that they can not get rid of.  Anyway the author is British and clearly I'm an American who has been raised on capitolism and freedom for all and this ridiculously romantic notion of Communism helping people just ... well is just stupid.

I liked the book, aside from this one fact, and am glad I got it at the used book store.  There is a sequel, The Girl from Junchow, which is set to come out in June so I'll probably pick it up.  So in the end, worth picking up from the library for the story of it all, but the historical accuracy and the ridiculousness of "balance" and Communism just sort of made me want to chuck the book out the window.