Monday, March 30, 2009

Historical Fiction Challenge ReCap

As you recall I committed to the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews.  The challenge was to read three historical fiction books in 3 months, and the only rule was it had to take place prior to WWII.

I had set out to read The Other Queen, The Lady Elizabeth, and To Hold The Crown.  As many of you know, I have a terrible time with book lists.

I actually read the following:
The Other Queen
To Hold the Crown
The Russian Concubine
The Widow of the South
and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

What happened was, I read (skimmed) the first two and hated them and then felt like that didn't really complete the challenge and so then I read the final three.  And sigh, I didn't read what I originally set out to read.  But two out of 3 ain't bad.

So, another challenge complete!  This is one of my favorite genres of literature so it's not like I won't be reading any of this in the future.  Thanks to Royal Reviews for hosting!  I enjoyed!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's on Your Night Stand March 2009

Hosted by 5 Minutes for Books

Otherwise known as ... why can I not remember to do this on the last Tuesday of the month?  Or why can't I plan what I will read in any given month?

Last month I said I would read, The Birth of Venus, The Queen of Babble books, Friday Night Knitting Club, the Sugar Queen and Quicksand.

What I actually read?  Widow of the South, Countdown, Between Sisters, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, and The Host.

I am terrible at this.  The good news?  I still read 5 books this past month.  The bad news?  All but one of them were light reads, and um ... none of them were on my TBR pile.

So for next month ...

The Birth of Venus (if I don't get it done before Wednesday)
Friday Night Knitting Club
The Sugar Queen

I'm going to just try and stick to those three.  If I get those three read in April I will consider it a victory.  Because I also know that Nora Roberts new series comes out next month and I'm a sucker for those.  And Marisa de los Santos has a new book coming out on the 1st which I know I won't be able to pass up.  And in perusing Amazon right now I found this: Romanov Bride, which just came out last month, which I may have to pick up as well.

See?  I can't even stick to a list when I'm making the list.  I'm hopeless.

The Host

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

If you live under a rock and are not familiar with Stephenie Meyer, she is the woman responsible for the Twilight series ... those black books with red pictures on the front that take up entire bookshelves at your barnes and noble.  May of last year (two months before the final Twilight book came out) The Host was published.

I bought it for my Kindle as my inaugral read on the new device.  And I really enjoyed it.

It's some time in the future and earth has been inhabited by Souls, an alien species that are parasites and require a host body to survive.  They are thousands of years old and the little creatures can pretty much live forever, jumping hosts and planets as they see fit.

Wanderer is placed inside a human host, Melanie, and takes over all of Melanie's memories.  Well Melanie doesn't want to disappear, so Wanderer and Melanie inhabit the same body / brain at great cost to them both.  Wanderer takes on the same emotions Melanie has, falling in love with Melanie's boyfriend and brother, and wanting to find them and the rest of the human resistance.

It's billed as sci-fi but it really isn't.  Meyer's talent is in character development and not so much background or technical plot lines.  I have to say though, as a novel this was far superior to the Twilight books, and much better written.  You still had some cheesy moments and some melodrama, but nothing at the level of Twilight.

Overall, a good quick read for a rainy afternoon.  Just wish it fit one of my challenges!  Though I have now heard there is an eReader challenge ... so if I decide to join that ... well I've already got one done!


For my birthday, my husband bought me a Kindle.  The Kindle is's eReader.  And technologically speaking, it's fairly cool.  The screen is some sort of e-ink.  It's not a normal screen, it's designed to look more like a printed page of a book.  And it really succeeds at that.  It's not back lit, so it's easy on the eyes (but you can't read in the dark - which shouldn't be an issue cause you can't read a traditional book in the dark either).
This is the second version of this device.  The first one is much boxier.  This new kindle is thinner than my ipod or my iphone, and it lasts 4 times as long.  I got it on Friday, and didn't have to plug it in until yesterday (Wednesday).  And I've been using it.
Okay so if you want a full download of all the tech specs check out Amazon's site (link above).  But to the more important question ... what do I think of it?
I like it.  It's sleek, it's cool, its easy to read.  I finished my first book on it yesterday (review coming next).  It's going to be great for traveling.  And I'm pretty sure that after my dad sees it he'll want one too.  I might almost be ready to up my like to love, because I do love it.  I asked my husband for books for my birthday ... and he decided that translated to a kindle.  And I think that's pretty cute.
But when I first opened it, he did have to assure me that it did not replace my book buying.  It did not replace my trips to the library.  It did not replace the used book store.  It's an addendum.  An additional way to read / purchase / enjoy literature.  Because I still love my books.  I just love my kindle too.
In conclusion: if you read a lot and travel a lot, it's a cool device that will save you space.  If you're like me and pack 3 paperbacks for a weekend trip (just in case you can't get into one of them and need a back-up!) you'll probably love it.  If you're like me and you always have a book in your purse and maybe you're backs starting to hurt ... the kindle might be for you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Historical Fiction: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Courtney Stone wakes up in Regency England and has no idea how she got there.  She had been in L.A. hiding from a former fiancee and his traiterous friend who helped him "impose" on her.

With no understand of what's going on, Miss Courtney now inhabits Miss Jane Mansfield's day to day life; including her mother who's trying to arrange a marriage, the suitor who seems to be a "libertine," and his mousey sister who is the epitome of decorum and propriety.  Things which Miss Mansfield, or Courtney, care very little about.

This was fun and quick and painless.  It got a bit redundant, "or those my thoughts, or Jane's?" "since when did I use words like 'thither'?" but it was harmless entertainment.  My favorite parts were when she comments about bleeding and when they go to Bath and the waters there.  I can only imagine how disgusting it would have been with no chlorine, antiseptic, or filters.  Eww.

Some of the characters did feel a little flat but I have high hopes for the second installment, which takes us to 21st Century LA and Jane Mansfield inhabiting Courtney's rough and tumble life.

It's definitely worth getting from the library or the used book store.  And it's a good distraction.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday March 10

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!
Between Sisters, Kristin Hannah
Pg. 205
"Meghann?  You're getting that mushy look again.  ARe you thinking about the hors d'oeuvres?"
Pg. 289
Nuclear. Claire felt Meghann's grip tighten.
"Here we are." The nurse paused outside yet another closed door.
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Are awesome.  They are the greatest of all the inventions, of all the public buildings, of all things that my taxes pay for ... libraries by far are the thing I most enjoy.

The internet has made libraries even more awesome.  Now I can peruse their shelves online, find what I want, and reserve it!  I can extend my kidnapping of the books already in my care, and I can determine what's new and what's coming soon.

Sigh.  I love libraries.  Did I mention they are free?

I've moved frequently in my young life.  12 times in 18 years.  And I can say, pretty certainly, that one of the first places we visited at each new destination, was the public library.  Some were better than others.  New Hampshire's library was the bestest.   They had reading clubs for kids, storyhour, and a large (in my 11 year old mind) kids section.

When I moved back to Boston, my first stop was the Waltham Public Library.  Oh I still love that library.  It was within walking distance of my house.  And look at it!  It was breath taking.  They were part of the Minute Man Network too so any book - really, almost any book - I could have at that library within 24 hours.
Libraries are an awesome resource.  They offer computer classes (for nominal fees), movie screenings, book groups, and the staff are almost always nice and friendly and knowledgable.  Both about the library and about the community in general!  I think they are nice because they get to hang out with books all day.  I would be nice too!
I go on like this, because yesterday I made a visit to our local library.  It does not have near the selection the library in Waltham had, but it's still very nice.  I got Countdown (90% certain I'd already read this, but couldn't be sure), Stalemate and Quicksand.  All part of a series I started years ago.  And after some of the dry stuff I've been reading (see Midwives, To Hold the Crown, Widow of the South) I needed light, quick fare.  These books that take me over 3 days to complete are for the birds!

I also got Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.  Now, sadly, none of these help me with my challenges this year.  And only one is on my TBR pile.  I find I can not stay dedicated to any list of books I create.

Still.  I finished Countdown in half a day, the other two in that Eve Duncan series will be as quick (they're really good, but not worth a review).  Confessions ought to be similar.  Than I think I'm attacking The Friday Night Knitting Club for the What's in a Name Challenge.

I love the library.  I quenched my book addiction and didn't spend a penny!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Historical Fiction Challenge: The Widow of the South

The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks.

In an attempt to actually finish a book for the Historical Fiction challenge, I picked this one up.  I had had enough of Tudor England and Europe in general so I thought I might try and find some his. fic. centering on life closer to home.

This book is about Carrie McGavock and The Second Battle of Franklin, TN in 1864.  We used to live near there, about an hour south, so I thought it might be cool to read about it.  Even though, in the two summers I spent in Tennessee, I never made it over there, and in fact, never knew this battle even existed.  I blame my government school education.

In summary, the Confederates suffer devestating losses at Franklin, including 6 Generals (that Carrie lays out on her front porch) and the McGavock plantation is used as a makeshift hospital for the injured.  Carrie nurses some back to health, and in a fictional twist, has a very bizarre relationship with one of them, Zacariah Cashwell.  Later, two years after the war, Carrie and her husband oversea the moving of the dead from their group burial ground to a part of their own land, which is where the cemetary still exists today.

Reading this book, I imagine is how many Europeans feel reading books like The Other Boleyn Girl which are just filled with errors.  Hicks claims 9,000+ people died that day in Franklin, but everything I've read said it was a 2-3,000.  Hicks says Carrie cared for thousands, wikipedia says 300.  Obviously dramatic license was taking to make things seem more dire, or more disasterous.  But 300 men, fighting in the tail end of a war that was about to end is a story of itself, and I don't think it needed dressing up.

He also tries to make a villian for his narrative, out of a character named Mr. Baylor.  Some fictional drama ensues and a supposedly climatic confrontation result in him "allowing" Carrie to remove the dead from their original graves to the McGavock's land.  According to what I've read, a couple of years after the battle the original grave markers (wooden) were detereorating and it was becoming difficult to identify the dead.  So the McGavock's donated their land, and the city raised funds to arrange for the plots to be moved.

What I don't understand, is why Hicks villianize the town of Franklin.  In his novel, they city is full of horrible people who would as soon shoot each other as soon as lend a hand, and if the truth is that they all raised the money to honor the fallen boys of the South ... well isn't that worth telling?  Isn't that better than reducing Franklin to a town of villeanous, angry, racists?  No doubt they were racist - but I'm sure that's not all they were.  Especially not when it concerned the young men that had died within their city limits.

I finished the book through, but it was long and drug on and I didn't care for any of the characters.  Carrie made absolutely no sense and was crazy and inconsistent.  She lost three children to fever and became a recluse and strange.  While I can only imagine that such a thing is a fate worse than death, in the late 1800s it was common, and the infant mortality rate was very high.  It just wasn't believable to me.

And ... spoiler coming ... somewhere near the middle of the book as Cashwell and Carrie are forming their very odd and unbelievable (literally - I didn't beleive it at all) friendship, they are yelling at each other about something and then Cashwell says inadvertently that he loves her.  She then decides that she will hit him repeatedly with a shovel and almost kills him.  She sits outside with his beaten corpse for several days, and when he finally comes to, it's like it never happened.

I couldn't get passed it.  I know that Hicks intended for this to be some sort of emotional, dramatic cresendo that releases Carrie from her doom and gloom morbidity and awaken to the prospect of life and love, but it just felt odd to me, and wrong.  And strange.

It was worth a read for the history of it all, but it was far too long and the author is too in love with the sound of his own voice.  That was the other thing ... we start off with several different POVs, Carrie's, Cashwells, and unsundry Confederates and Yankees as we go through the battle and it's diversities.  This was good.  I liked hearing all the different sides.  But then the author gets lazy, especially in the third part of the novel.  We have Carrie, Cashwell, and the Carnton and then Franklin.  In the Carnton and Franklin chapters he switches back and forth between either John McGavock, Mariah their former slave, Theopolis, her son, Eli (fictional back story), Becky (ditto), and I think that's it.  But it just felt lazy.

I think I'm going to have to develop a scale for rating these books.  But I have to think on it.  I don't want to do numbers or stars ... I have to think on it.  If you've read this book let me know what you thought.  Maybe I'm just ... silly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TEASER TUESDAYS (hosted by Should be Reading) 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!

The Widow of the South, Robert Hicks
Pg 121
And so I spent some time just paying attention to the way the floor moved under me, and how I could almost feel it's grain against my shoulder blades.  Those are my shoulder blades.

Pg 167
I straightened the dresser: moving the miror to one corner, a tin of matches to another, a stocky littlecandle in its holder to another corner, and Cashwell's belt--rolled up tighlty like a snail's shell or a snake--to the very middle.  I thougth he was sleeping, but he must have been watching me.

"What are you doing, Mrs. McGavock?"

Happy Tuesday!