Saturday, April 30, 2011

Readalong: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence: Post 2

This is the second, and final, post for the Lady Chatterley's Lover readalong, hosted by A Literary Odyssey. My first post can be found here.

I generally liked the second half of this book more than the first half. I did not connect with any of the characters right away, but in the second half, the characters become more personable. This is especially true of  Mellors, the gamekeeper and Connie's lover. We know very little about him from the first except that is very reserved. In the latter half of the novel, we see that he really does care about Connie and wants her as she is, she is not just a sex object for him but a person. We also learn more of his history, which I thought was interesting. Mellors served in the army for a while.  He also was separated from his wife, who tried coming back, but she was crazy and just tries to hurt him. One of the things I liked the most was that Mellors could talk both like a refined, intellectual gentleman and with the common dialect of the region. I thought that was interesting way to sort of bridge some of the gap of  classes between him and Connie.
Class differences is definitely an important topic in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Many characters were not shocked to find out that Connie had taken a lover, but they were shocked or upset when they found out that was the gamekeeper instead of a nobleman. Connie's sister is particularly upset with this news, although it does not stop her from allowing Connie to see him.

One of the aspects of Lady Chatterley's Lover that I liked most was Lawrence's notion of the importance of both the mind and the body in creating a fully functional and fulfilled person. Lawrence believes that you can't live well through just the mind (such as Clifford) or the body (such as Bertha Coutts, Mellors estranged wife). Through Connie's sexual reawakening, we see that she becomes a more fully developed person because she fills the needs of both her mind and her body.

Overall, I enjoyed Lady Chatterley's Lover. I thought it was fairly easy to read with some interesting, apparent themes. The history behind the publication/banning of the book is also interesting to learn. I didn't love this book though, I think the characters were still a little too distant for me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: Catching Fire by Sizanne Collins


Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

Collins has followed up the first book in the Hunger Games series with another great book. Catching Fire continues the story of a young heroine, Katniss Everdeen. I cannot talk much about the book because I feel that it gives too much away then, especially if you haven't read the first book yet.

I recommend this series so far (only one more book to go!). I think it is exciting, fairly original, and the characters are great. The biggest problem, which was relatively small actually, for me was that I could predict more of what was going to happen in this book than in The Hunger Games. It was still exciting, I just didn't like that I knew/suspected more than Katniss did throughout some of the parts.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


 the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

Imagine reality TV combined with a dystopic society set in the future North American region. That is what The Hunger Games is about. Collins has created an intriguing and frightening world around the main character, Katniss Everdeen. Every region of their society has two  children selected every year to compete in the hunger game- a fight to the death with only one child left at the end. Katniss is one of the children selected in District 12, her region. Will Katniss survive? If she survives, what will happen to her after the 'game' is over? I can't answer that! You need to read the book to find out.

I rarely read YA books but after my young sister recommended the series and I continually saw them pop up, I decided to give it a try. Expecting to be disappointed in the book and likening them to the Twilight phenomenon, I can honestly say that my expectations were not fulfilled. I found the story original and riveting. I liked the depth of the characters. My main complaint is the idea behind the book- a game where children compete to the death?! Who would want to read about this morbid and cruel plot? Yet, it's okay because it is set in a future that is, hopefully, completely inconceivable for us in the real world and not in a book.

One of the things that I most enjoyed about this was Katniss' character. I thought she was well portrayed in both her strengths and weaknesses. She is a survivor and doesn't give up, but she doesn't always recognize the emotions of the people around her and she has trust issues. All of this gives her a believable character. She is also well portrayed as a coming of age teenager because of the love interests involved in this story. She is always slightly confused and put-off by the boys around her, which is how many young girls feel when they know boys are noticing them but they don't know how to react or feel about it.

I'm excited to start the second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker


On a cold day in December 1667 the renegade physician Jean Denis transfused ten ounces of calf's blood into Antoine Mauroy, a madman. Several days and several transfusions later, Mauroy was dead and Denis was framed for murder. A riveting and wide-reaching history, Blood Work shows how blood transfusion became swept up in personal vendettas, international intrigues, and the war between science and superstition. In a foreshadowing of today's stem cell and cloning debates, proponents saw transfusion as a long-awaited cure to deadly illnesses, while others worried that science was toying with forces of nature, perhaps even paving the way for monstrous hybrid creatures. Taking us from the highest ranks of society to the lowest, Holly Tucker introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters, all ruthless contenders in the battle over transfusion. Finally, in a feat of historical research, she reveals the true identities of Mauroy's murderers—and their motivations to kill. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

Blood Work is an interesting non-fiction work that chronicles the beginning of blood transfusions in the 17th century in France and England. Scientists started experimenting in blood transfusions long before the knew anything about the composition or purpose of blood- many still did not even believe in circulation of blood throughout the body!

This book describes wonderfully, if that is the right word, the gory nature of blood work before modern practices. Bloodletting was still one of the most common medical treatments for patients and the new technique of blood transfusions was even more 'icky' than bloodletting. Blood Work also describes the political nature of science in the 17th century- especially the feud between protestant England and Catholic France. I found some of this background to be more interesting than the specific blood transfusion debates.

While I think Holly Tucker did a great job of bringing to light this interesting piece of scientific inquiry, I felt like there was too much build up to the end and a little too much background information. Some thingsdragged on, like the description of King Louis XIV when he really had very little involvement in the transfusion debate. The promised murder in the book was also a let down since it was not at all difficult to guess the assumed murderers and their reasons for murder. However, I did not read this because I wanted a thrilling mystery; rather, I wanted to learn blood transfusions in the 17th century, which this book accomplished.

Overall, I think Blood Work was interesting and informative. My main complaint is that there was some extra unnecessary information that bogged down the plot some. Instead of jumping around to explain all of the background, I think it could have been trimmed more to make a more efficient, cohesive narrative.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review: The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher


Still mourning the loss of her husband, Heidi travels with her young, obsessive-compulsive son and her intolerably jaded teenage niece to spend the summer in the south of France. As three generations collide, they'll journey through love, loss, and healing.

My Review:

I think The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is a beautifully written book with wonderful characters. I connected to the story so much that I had a hard time reading it because I didn't want to know if anything bad was going to happen. I didn't want the characters to hurt anymore or experience any more grief in their lives.

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is about a woman's travel to south France to a house that has been in her family for many years and is purported to work great love miracles. Heidi, the brokenhearted woman, lost her husband two years earlier due to a car accident which left Heidi and a single mom of a little boy, Abbot. Heidi brings Abbot and her niece with her to France.

While in France, Heidi connects with her son and niece, as well as the neighbor's son- who she has known since childhood. The Provence Cure shows the joy that come from grief as well as the grief that can come from joy and love. It depicts that pain of losing loved ones and the happiness of a family that comes together.

I loved this story and recommend it to anyone looking for a sentimental story with beautiful themes.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 16, 2011

ReadALong: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence: Post 1

I am participating in A Literary Odyssey's readalong of Lady Chatterley's Lover. I have never read a book by D.H. Lawrence but I did know that this book was controversional because it was banned when it was first published for its explicit dealings of a sexual nature.

So far we have read the first half of the book (the first ten chapters) and I can see why this book was banned in its time. While the sex scenes are tame by today's standards, the narration includes not only sex scenes but also characters discussing sex and the nature of personal relationships between men and women.

Lady Chatterley's Lover follows two main characters, Clifford and Connie Chatterley. Clifford was injured, shortly after his marriage to Connie, in WWI which left him paralysed from the waist down- creating a sexless marriage for him and Connie when he returned home. For many years, Connie was content to be Clifford's caretaker and asked nothing of him in return. After several years, Connie slowly drifts into a depression from a lack of entertainment and, we assume, sex and intimate relations. Connie takes one lover who is part of Clifford's social circle, but she ends up taking another lover who she feels more deeply about- the caretaker of their estate! A man below her rank!

For a classic novel, I think that it is a fairly easy read and moves along at a nice pace. What I'm not thrilled about are the characters. Through the beginning they all seemed rather distant and cold. It's hard to relate to characters who value their intellect above everything else. Clifford's friends sit around 'intellectualizing' sex by examining relationships between men and women. Their discussions are very frank, which I found a little uncomfortable because it was not stuff I would sit around talking about with group of people. They also downplay the intimacy and importance of marriage and sex:

"I believe that sex is a sort of communication like speech, and should be as free as speech. Let any woman start a sexual conversation with me, and it's natural for me to go to bed with her, to finish it"

"'Marriage might-and would-stultify my mental processes. [...] I'd be ashamed to see a woman walking round with my name-label on her, address and railway station, like a wardrobe trunk' [...] 'It's an amusing idea, Charlies,' said Dukes, 'that sex is just another form of talk, where you act the words instead of saying them. I suppose it's quite true. I suppose we might exchange as an sensations and emotions with women as we do ideas about eh weather and so on. Sex might be a sort of normal physical conversation between a man and a women.'"

Connie's lover, the gardener, is also a distant man who seems to like Connie just for her body-- which I suppose is the opposite of her husband and his friends who just admire her mind. I hope we learn more about him in the second half of the book.

I think one of the main themes in this book is the split nature that humans have created. Connie is split in two by the men around her- she is admired for intellect by her husband and for her body by her lover. Connie struggles with this though because she wants to be one, whole person. I hope she succeeds in integrating herself and regaining her happiness.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mother's Day Sale!

Mother's Day is coming up in just a little over 3 weeks!

Do you have a gift yet for that special woman in your life? Show her you care, whether it's your mom, wife, sister, aunt, friend, etc., with a handmade gift!

Get 15% off in my etsy shop with the coupon code MOM2011 when you check out.

Gift ideas:

-Spa set with soft crocheted cotton washcloths and facial rounds and some handmade soaps or lotions that can be found on etsy

-Eco-friendly gifts such as coffee cup cozies, wool dryer balls, cotton sponges, and cotton facial rounds.
Don't forget the coupon code! MOM2011 for 15% off your entire order this weekend in my etsy shop!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. For two main reasons: it's about the love and power of books during hard times and the perspective of the narrator.  I seem to be on a WWII/word lover book spree right now. I recently finished up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Postmistress that had similar messages.

The Book Thief is about a young girl, Liesel, in Germany who witnesses tragedies of the war. She is given up by her mother to a foster family because her mother couldn't afford to feed or care for her. Liesel sees her brother die, helps to harbour a Jew in the basement of her foster family's house, and experiences the bombing of her town. Leisel's story is told, interestingly, through the character Death. Death tells the story about his experiences of carrying souls away when people die during WWII, especially when he is near Liesel and breaks his habit of ignoring alive people so that he can watch her.

Death is an interesting narrator. He often gave away the ending for the characters but it didn't matter, because as he says, "Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound us" (page 243). Here, Death says that we already know what happens in the end of this story, much like we can almost always guess the ending to any story (think of your typical chick-flick movie that just recycles the exact same plot), but it's okay because it is how you get to the ending that makes the story interesting and exciting. Even though Death gave away how the characters survived or died in the war, I wanted to read more because I wanted to know how those characters reached the end of this story. I thought this was a very interesting way to write the story and I'm glad Zusak included the above quote by Death because it put the story into perspective and reminded us that Death already knew everything since he was looking back to tell us about Liesel.

The one thing I didn't like about The Book Thief was some of the formatting. In the beginning of each chapter, Zusak put together a bunch of nouns to say what the next section of the book included. I thought that was a little weird and off-putting. I just wanted to read the story, not pretend I was responsible for getting everything together for the set of a play or something. It was definitely something new and didn't bother me that much, but I could have done without it.

The Book Thief was a beautiful and tragic story that was told in a new way (through Death). I recommend this book because of the story and because it was told in a unique way.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis


The conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician's Nephew.

NARNIA...where you must say good-bye...and where the adventure begin again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia's only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, "The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do." Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter? (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I loved this conclusion to the Chronicles of Narnia!

The theme to this story was definitely the positive aspects of death, i.e.- reaching Heaven and life with God.

The story opens with a talking ape, Shift, and donkey, Puzzle. The ape convinces the donkey to wear a lion skin, which Shift then uses to convince Narnians is actually Aslan returned. Shift pretends to speak for Aslan and makes Narnians work for him.

Tirian, the last King of Narnia, and Jewel, his friend a unicorn, hear of the trouble going on and the appearance of Aslan, so they go forth to learn more. They are both captured by Shift and aren't rescued until Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb show up again from our world to help save Narnia.

The eventually discover that the Aslan figure is an imposter. Adventure and fighting ensues.

Eventually, Eustace, Jill, Tirian, Jewel, Puzzle, and the other believers of Aslan in Narnia cross into the real Narnia since the Narnia they knew was coming to an end. The read Narnia is part of Aslan's world, or Heaven. Jill and Eustace, we are led to believe, also died in their world in a train crash, but everyone is ecstatic to be in Aslan's world with everyone who came before them. Aslan's world is a wonderful place to be.

The Last Battle is definitely a way to teach kids that dying andgoing to Heaven is not scary or terrible. C.S. Lewis, through The Chronicles of Narnia, has created a version of the Christian religion that is easy for kids to understand and love. The adventures of the characters, from both Narnia and our world, are exciting and would keep kid's attentions. I think this conclusion is appropriate and an excellent end of the series.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake


Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women-and of two countries torn apart by war.
On the eve of the United State's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter. In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.
The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen. The Postmistress is an unforgettable tale of the secrets we must bear, or bury. It is about what happens to love during wartime, when those we cherish leave. And how every story-of love or war-is about looking left when we should have been looking right. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

This book was beautifully written and started out with an intriguing premise. What if the postmistress of a town didn't deliver the mail during a war. What chaos may ensue?  How would people communicate with those overseas?

But after that promising entrance, the book kind of meandered. At first I thought the book would focus on the postmistress of the town in Cape Cod, but we followed a journalist (who was narrating the story) through Europe for most of the plot. When we were in the town with the postmistress, the reader followed two women, the postmistress, Iris, and the young wife of the doctor, Emma. The two women both seemed kind of depressed. I understand why Emma was since her husband was in England treating hurt victims of the war, but Iris just never seemed happy about anything in her life, even when she started seeing a man.

The part that I liked the most was when Frankie Bard, the reporter, traveled to and from Germany collecting voices of refugees on her new recording device. It was during this time that we saw the tragic impact of WWII. Frankie witnessed brutal murders and exiles of Jews from Germany.

I understand that this book was suppose to weave the story of 3 characters, Frankie, Iris, and Emma during WWII and the tragedy that they each face. However, I felt that each story from the characters lacked enough breadth to make their story convincing. I was also disappointed that the story started out with the postmistress supposedly not delivering mail... but she only kept one letter and I don't think that had any impact on the characters. So, why was that how the story was introduced?? This book should have been called the journalist, not the postmistress.

The Postmistress was written beautifully, but the story didn't match up to the writing. What did you think about this book if you read it?

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up

I wish I had been able to stay up later, but I kept falling asleep on the couch with a book open in my lap around 1 or 2am, so I just went to bed then. I also had to do a few things during the day that distracted me (go to the post office, pick up pizza for dinner, do a load of laundry), but I did get some significant reading done during the day. Overall, I really enjoyed the Read-A-Thon and I hope I can join in again for the next.

Here are my stats for the day:

Books Read- 1 (I only read one book cover to cover yesterday)

  1. The Postmisstress by Sarah Blake. Page 238 to the end
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Book 3, pages 277-391
  3. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Beginning to end.
  4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Beginning to 80.
Total Number of Pages: 88 + 114 + 211 + 80 = 493 pages

Next time, I hope to read at least 750 pages. That will be new goal. :)

How was your experience with the Read-A-Thon?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Starts Now!

Before I start reading, I'm going to use the introductory questions on the Read-A-Thon website to officially start my 24 hours. Here I go:

1)Where are you reading from today?

I live in Pittsburgh, PA, USA

2)Three random facts about me…

Hmmm. 1- I have a B.S. in Neuroscience. 2- I wish I had a dog but my apartment building doesn't allow pets and my husband doesn't want one. 3- My husband won a trip for us to Germany with a great video he made for his research group. We're going in May!

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

Well, I have 9 books from the library as well as unread books on my book shelves. I will definitely not get to the majority of them, but I wanted a variety so I can pick up whatever strikes my fancy today.

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I think I'd like to finish at least one full book. I plan to finish up the Chronicles of Narnia (I only have the last book left, so I can definitely do that). I'm almost done with The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, so I will finish that this morning. I also want to get half way through Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence as part of a read-a-long from Then, if I have any time left, I'm still working my way through Middlemarch or I may pick a different book.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

This is my first read-a-thon! Yay!

P.S. I love comments! Please feel free to leave me comments here or anywhere throughout my blog!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

What a sweet and uplifting book! Seriously. I laughed several times and found the characters highly endearing- in a book that takes place during (actually, just after) WWII in areas occupied or bombed by the Germans.

Juliet wrote a semi-weekly column during WWII in London, bringing humor to the ravaged landscape around her. After the war, though, Juliet is tired of trying to be light-hearted and witty about the war and starts her search for her next muse. It's at this time that she receives a letter from an inhabitant of Guernsey Island, the only part of Englad to be occupied by Germany during the war.

Dawsey, the writer of the letter, says that he found a book that used to belong to Juliet in a used-book shop, and he is interested in finding more books by that author, would Juliet please help him find books since it's difficult to get new books to the island. This letter sets off a series letters between Juliet and many of the inhabitants of Guernsey.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a novel in epistolary form (letters between characters). This style worked for the book since that is how many people still communicated in the 1940s, especially since the Germans had cut the cable from Guernsey to the mainland. However, it's not my favorite style of writing since I think it can prevent a depth to characters that you can get in first or third person narrations. But overall, I think the authors did a great job creating fun and quirky characters through their letters to one another.

The main thing that I enjoyed about the characters was the funny and light-hearted characters. They had all just experienced terrible tragedies in the war, yet they maintained their human-ness enough to come out of the war with their sense wit still about them. I also loved that what kept them human was books and the community they formed in their literary society. Each member of the society had a particular book that they loved to read and talk about, and this kept them free of being sucked completely into the wartime melancholy.

The one part that I did not like was the ending. Because the book is written in letters, there are no chapters or natural breaks in the story. When I got to the end of the book.... it just didn't feel like the end. The things that I wanted resolved were still left open. If you've read this book, what did you think of the ending? Did it end too quickly for you too?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a fairly quick book to read and I highly recommend it for someone looking to read a enjoyable book about people of love books and their community, and those who want to read something based during WWII.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday

Q. Do you judge a book by it's cover?

My answer: A great book cover can initially attract me to a book, especially if it's bright or really stands out from the books around it. However, I still read the summary on the back or inside flaps (and maybe a page or two to really tell) to see if it's a book that I would like. So, I guess my initial judgement about a book is by it's cover since that's the first thing I see, but I'm willing to change my judgement regardless of the cover once I've checked it out further.

Book Blogger Hop

This hop has been postponed until later today. I will update my post once I see the question go up. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Library Visit

In preparation for the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, I was requesting books online through my library so I would have a couple books to choose from throughout the day.

I may have gotten carried away and requested quite a few, some of which had some holds already on it so I thought it would take awhile for me to get them.

Well, I went to go pick up the 6 books which were listed in my email that they were ready to pick up. I get there, and there's 10! Add that to the two I got late last week, and I have 12 books from the library!

Whew! That's a lot of new books floating around my apartment calling out for my attention!

Any recommendations for what I should start first??

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor


Sue Monk Kidd has touched millions of readers with her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair and with her acclaimed nonfiction. In this intimate dual memoir, she and her daughter, Ann, offer distinct perspectives as a fifty-something and a twenty-something, each on a quest to redefine herself and to rediscover each other.

Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann travel throughout Greece and France. Sue, coming to grips with aging, caught in a creative vacuum, longing to reconnect with her grown daughter, struggles to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and benumbed by the classic question about what to do with her life, grapples with a painful depression. As this modern-day Demeter and Persephone chronicle the richly symbolic and personal meaning of an array of inspiring figures and sites, they also each give voice to that most protean of connections: the bond of mother and daughter.

A wise and involving book about feminine thresholds, spiritual growth, and renewal, Traveling with Pomegranates is both a revealing self-portrait by a beloved author and her daughter, a writer in the making, and a momentous story that will resonate with women everywhere. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

I think the reason I found this book so enjoyable was because I could relate to one of the women in the book. Traveling with Pomegranates is the story of a mother and daughter going through turning points in their lives (menopause and entering adulthood, respectively).

Ann, the daughter, is a recent college graduate in the beginning of the book who did not get accepted into the graduate program she wanted. From the moment I read that, I identified with her. I recently graduated from college in December, and was promptly rejected from the two graduate schools I had applied to shortly thereafter. One was a longshot, but the other school was my alma mater and I had been interviewed for the program, so I really thought I would get in. Ever since my rejection, I've felt loss and disconnected from the life I had while I was a student. Ann's rejection slid her into a depression which only a renewed sense of self could make her emerge.

Ann and Sue's travels in Greece and France and their home lives in South Carolina are chronicled in a back and forth manner between the two women as they forge new identities for themselves and their relationship between each other. As I read both of their thoughts and emotions, I thought about myself and my life, as well as my relationship with my own mom. Using their experiences, I tried to form words about to describe my own life, identity, and relationships to my family. I think this book may be a jumping off point for some of my own personal growth and development.

Another interesting thing the two women did was use divine female images as a way to bond to the world around them and seek inspirations for their own identies. Sue focuses largely on the Virgin Mary, especially the Black Madonna while Ann sought a divine trinity- the goddess Athena, the Virgin Mary, and Joan of Arc. The use of myth and religion played an integral roles in their journeys (both internal and external journeys) and it was interesting to learn more about the figures.

While I think many people will find this book boring (even I thought the middle part got to be long and redundant), anyone who can relate to either of the two women should find this an interesting and inspiring read. Because I identified with Ann, I wanted to know how she dealt with her rejection and how she moved on with her life. Like Ann, I wonder if my rejection is maybe the universe's way of telling me that neuroscience and research shouldn't be my life's goal. Maybe I'm meant to do something else. Or, maybe I just need to try harder next time...

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Tuesday teaser is from Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor:
"Growing up, it's all I wanted to do. Now I feel the way it pulls at me. Not like a dramatic allurement, but like I've been away from home and have returned ot the quiet thinngs I love." -page 188

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dewey 24 Hour Read-A-Thon

I recently found out about the Dewey 24 Hour Read-A-Thon and I am super excited for it to start!

The Read-A-Thon is this Saturday, April 9. I have already signed up and checked out several books from my library to keep me well supplied.

This date is perfect for me since my husband will be taking an 8 hour test that day (the FE for engineers) so he won't miss my company, even when he comes home since he'll probably just want to have a beer or go to bed and stop thinking. ;-)

If anyone else is also participating, let me know so we can help each other out to stay awake that day! If you haven't heard of the Read-A-Thon, the link to their site is in the top line, so you should check it out!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev

Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Imprint:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pub Date:10/20/2011

Wife, mother, leader, warrior. Caterina Riario Sforza was one of the most prominent women in Renaissance Italy--and one of the most vilified. In this glittering biography, Elizabeth Lev reexamines her extraordinary life and accomplishments.

Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the pope's corrupt nephew, Caterina was ensnared in Italy's political intrigues early in life. After turbulent years in Rome's papal court, she moved to the Romagnol province of Forli. Following her husband's assassination, she ruled Italy's crossroads with iron will, martial strength, political savvy--and an icon's fashion sense. In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family, she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny--including Cosimo de Medici--to follow her example to greatness.

A rich evocation of Renaissance life, The Tigress of Forli reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler, and a tragic but unbowed figure. (Image and synopsis from the publisher from
My Review:

The Tigress of Forli is an historical account of a courageous woman, Caterina Sforza, which is her maiden name. She was married three times to a Riario, Feo, and Medici. She had 8 children, held her fortress under a siege for many days, and spent a significant amount of time imprisoned in a dungeon. Yet, have you ever heard of her? She was a woman known throughout Europe for her spirit and fearlessness. This account of Caterina appears very well-researched and all-encompassing, it spans from Caterina's young childhood to her death and includes a lot of the history of her family and Italian politics of the day.

In the late 1400s and early 1500s, Italy was a divided country with constantly warring city-states. Assinations and political corruption were rampant. Depending on the who was the Pope at any given moment, your family could be blessed with good fortune or thrown in a dungeon and forgotten about.

Caterina was schooled as a child that family matters more than the individual and one must do anything to keep the family in good standing (even complacently accepting a marriage at the age of 10 to a much older man) and that military skills are extremely valuable. Surviving three husbands, Caterina proved herself to be an able warrior and protector of her children, since she had to fight to keep her lands so that her children would receive it as an inheritance. Elizabeth Lev's portrayal of Caterina shows her as a caring mother with the spirit of a hundred men in battle. It was inspiring to read about Caterina's life and actions.

I liked that Caterina's struggles were always placed well within the Italian politics of the day. If someone was attacking her, the reader understood why (mostly because they wanted her land). The reader also got glimpses of what else besides military actions were going in Italy and the world. For example, there is a brief mention of Columbus setting sail from Spain in 1492... and we all know where he is heading! Artists were also frequently mentioned and placed within the narrative, such as Botticelli and Michaelangelo.

However, while there were many good parts of the book, I found the beginning a little hard to get into. First, while Caterina is a child, she doesn't control her life, she only watches it around her without making decisions. This makes it hard to connect to the girl until she begins to be an individual for herself. In addition, most of my history comes from historical fiction, where the author takes some creative license to imagine the person is thinking and feeling and spins an historical narrative around the character. The Tigress of Forli, however, is non-fiction and relies only on documented facts. Therefore, the reader is never inside of Caterina's head with an all-access pass to her thoughts and decisions. This makes the book read more like a textbook than a novel.

I think The Tigress of Forli is a great book for anyone interested in strong women in history, Italian politics, European history, or well-written non-fiction books.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book free of charge as an eGalley from the publisher via I was not compensated for this review in any way and the review is my own opinion.

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

"Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?"

My Answer:
Well, I'm not much of a prankster nor do people really go after me on April Fool's Day, so I don't have a good answer to this question. However, I do know that my younger sister got my mom with quite a few things last year. She put something (saran wrap? a rubber band? I can't remember) around the kitchen sink faucet, so that when my mom turned the sink on all of the water squirted up at her. She also got a detention slip from the band teacher saying that she was always late to class and a big disruption. My mom freaked out over that (especially since she has three girls, all of whom are perfectly well behaved and had never been disciplined in school before). Of course, the band teacher was just helping my sister trick my mom!

Q. What is the book that you really don't want to admit to loving?? 

There aren't really any books that I would never admit to loving if I actually love it. However, I guess since I like to read classics and literary works, I'm a little slow to admit to loving the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. But we all need some quirky humor, right?!