Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Firstborn Series by Karen Kingsbury

I knew once I'd started this series that I would have to write all the books up together. Though set across 5 books, this is really one arching story. This series was also my introduction to Karen Kingsbury. She is a best-selling Christian author, and I am a Christian, but generally I don't like to read Christian fiction. A lot of it I find to be poorly written. I'd rather read a book well written, than a Christian book simply because it is a Christian book. That being said, I'm glad I picked this series up. Karen Kingsbury can write and write well. Her books are quick reads (for me) and I finished the series in less than a week. I also stuck to reading it because I was hooked on the storyline and characters.
I didn't realise going in that this is the second series of books based on the same family, the Baxters. That didn't end up mattering to the plot of this storyline as most of the back story was filled in as I went. I do intend to find the first series of Baxter family books the Redemption series, co-written with Gary Smalley. There is a third series of Baxter books called the Sunrise series, that I would like to read as well.
The reading order for this series is 'Fame', 'Forgiven', 'Found', 'Family' and 'Forever'. The series starts by looking at 2 characters, mega-movie star, Dayne Matthews and a small town theatre director, Katy Hart. Dayne has seen Katy in the previous series of books and can't get her out of his head. He believes that she would be the perfect co-star for his new movie. Katy had previously given up any big-time acting dreams and is quite content in her role as a theatre director. The idea of trying out for a Hollywood film does intregue her to at least try out for the part.
You may be wondering what this has to do the Baxter family. Katy lives in the same small town as the Baxters and is good friends with Ashley Baxter. Unknown to the Baxters, but known to Dayne Matthews, Dayne is the oldest Baxter child, given up for adoption before Elizabeth and John Baxter were married years ago. He knows that they are his biological family but has made the decision to keep quiet as to not disrupt their life with his life of fame. That's where the books start. Where they go from there is quite an enjoyable journey.

The Devil in the Junior League by Linda Francis Lee

Oh, what fun this book was to pick up. A little hidden gem on the library shelf. Being Canadian, I really had very little idea of what the Junior League is and how the upper crust of Texan society lived. They are things I'd heard about, but it's not part of the culture of my life, or places I'd been to.
At first, I couldn't help but hate the main character. She is such a snob. So many rules to follow to make her life perfect, but that's how she was raised and what she knows. Of course the a novel can't simply be built on observations of upper crust Texas, so you knew there would be some curve balls to create a plot.
The first curve ball is finding out her husband has had an affair with a lower class woman and is leaving her to continue in his new relationship. Divorce doesn't just happen in Frede's culture, particularily for someone so low class.
Her second curve ball is discovering her husband has secreted away all of her money. The only person who is able to help her is her newly rich neighbor Howard Grout. A self-made rough sort of man. He agrees to help her on one condition, that she find a way to get his wife into the Junior League.
I had a lot of fun reading this one and I hope you do too.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekly Geeks - top 10 of 2009

So I've been away from the Weekly Geeks meme for a couple of months. I do check back every so often to see if there is something that appeals to me or relates to me to make an entry about. This one definitely does.
I've had a thing for top 10 lists since I was a kid. I'm just hoping I read 10 new books (not just new to me books) in 2009. Read on to see the topic and then my response below.

For the second year running, welcome to the Weekly Geeks Book Bloggers Top 10 of 2009.

You always see these “Top Whatever” lists that the newspapers/publishers put out and, for a second year in a row, we the book bloggers are going to put out our own Top 10 list. This week, the Weekly Geeks team and I are asking you to come up with your own Top 10 Books that were published in 2009 (books that were reprinted or re-released are not eligible, sorry).

Now, the idea is to only choose books that were published in 2009, regardless of what country you live in. If a book was released in the US in 2008, but released in your country in 2009, that's okay. I know there is still a month in a half left of 2009, but if you know there is a book coming out between now and Dec. 31st, then it’s still eligible.

This year, I am also asking for something a little more specific. When you submit your novels, you must include the genre it is from as well. Last year, when I was trying to categorize everything, I had to guess on a lot of novels and I know there were some people who disagreed with my choice. If there are any contradictions in genres (say if a book was selected for two genres), then the Weekly Geek Staff will vote on where it goes (please?).

If you see a Top 10 list somewhere else, add it to the Mr. Linky, even if they aren’t a part of Weekly Geeks. We're trying to gather as many lists as we can, so we can come up with a nice comprehensive list. You'll have two weeks to come up with your list before I begin compiling the voting booths. Then we'll put it to a vote. Last year, we ended up with over 1300 individual voters and I know we can make it just as big this year.

For those of you new to Weekly Geeks, join in the fun at .

Now onto my top 10 list (alright, so it is a top 9 list as I realised I only read 9 books published in 2009, and really the 9th book was one I bought for my son at a meet the author reading at a local bookstore - it is lovely and probably deserves to be higher than 9 on my list):

9. Kisses, kisses Baby-O by Sheree Fitch (baby board book - poetry)
8. The Other Queen by Phillipa Gregory (historical fiction)
7. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult (general fiction)
6. Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich (mystery)
5. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella (general fiction-chick lit)
4. Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner (general fiction-chick lit)
3. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy (general fiction)
2. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran (historical fiction)
1. Testimony by Anita Shreve (general fiction)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Warrior by Francine Rivers

The Warrior is the second in Francine Rivers' Sons of Encouragement series. This is the story of Caleb, one of 2 men (the other being Joshua) to live out the 40 years the Iraelites wandered in the desert after excaping from slavery in Egypt. His story begins in Exodus and ends in Joshua (in the Old Testament). He becomes second in command to Joshua when the Israelites enter the Promised Land.
I have to admit that I struggled a bit reading this one. I am not one to normally read battle scenes and there are a lot of them in this story. (It is probably why I've only read through this part of the Bible once). I do enjoy how Rivers brought Caleb's story out. It's why I'm enjoying the premise of the whole series, these are men who walked behind Bible leaders and heroes. I look forward to the next story, The Prince, which tells Jonathan's tale.

A Most Uncommon Degree of Popluarity by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

I almost passed this book by. Really? Did I need to read another book on teen cliques? Wait a minute, that isn't what this book is about. This book is about the mothers of the teen (or pre-teen) girls who are popular. It tells the story of how their own children's popularity and friendship dynamics affect the lives and friendships of the grown-up women. Now that is a new and fascinating twist, one I'd never thought about before.
The women in question have been friends since their children first started at their exclusive D.C. private school. Their lives revolve around their children, the school and the activities involving the carpool. It is when their daughters start middle school that things change. They discover that their girls are popular (something none of them ever was) and that popularity comes with a price.
I really enjoyed this one. I didn't want to put it down at the end of the day. I had hoped to discover that Seidel had written more books, but unfortunately, this gem is her only novel to date.

Rogue by Danielle Steel

It must be my time for catching up on books I was avoiding because here's another one. There was just something about this book that I didn't want to read. Probably because of the too handsome man on the cover. I just thought, "oh please", but here it is a few years later and I've picked it up and read it.
I actually ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would. Contrary to the title, the book is not just about a womanizing man (my assumption). The book actually parallels the lives of a man and a woman who were once married and now see each other only because they have children together. The man is the rogue. He made a lot of money early on in life in the dot com industry and promptly retired to live out the life of a playboy. The woman is a successful psychiatrist and expert in teen trauma and suicide. That was the most fascinating part of the book to me. If Danielle Steel wanted to write a more serious novel one day, I would recommend that she pick up this character and go further into the depth of her work. The parts where it was featured were quite well done.
As I said I enjoyed this more than I thought would happen, probably because I had such low expectations for it (I apologize for that).

Bungalow 2 by Danielle Steel

So I feel very foolish to admit this, but I avoided this book for a few years because I thought it was a sequel. The problem was I never could find Bungalow 1. It turns out that there is no predecessor to this book. Bungalow 2 is named for the Bungalow that the main character of this story stays in while writing a Hollywood screenplay at the Beverly Hills Hotel - whoops! Maybe it would have been better for me if she'd stayed in Bungalow 7.
The storyline does indeed focus on a writer who is making the transition to Hollywood screenplays. She has always thought of herself as the average mom (who happens to have a successful writing career) living in Marin County. The opportunity to spend time in Hollywood is one she has to be convinced to do as it would take her away from her family for close to a year. (Though close enough still to visit on weekends when possible).
As you would expect with a Danielle Steel novel, you get to see some of the glitz and glamour of life. The story does take predictable turns that you can see coming as well. But you know it will and you just have to enjoy it for what it is.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Monday

Happy Monday! Today I'm still reading through Francine Rivers, "Sons of Encouragement" series. I also started "A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, which looks at parents of popular girls and how their popularity affects the parents and their own friendships.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Monday

I played a lot of book blogging catch-up last night, posting the last 5 or 6 books I'd read. I feel better now. I started reading the second book in Francine Rivers' Men of Encouragement series - The Warrior which tells the story of Caleb in the Old Testament.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Priest by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers is an author I adore. I've been waiting a while to read this story as I knew it was part of a series and I wanted the series to be complete before I delved into any of the books.
The series is called the Men of Encouragement. Each book is based on a man in the Bible who has a supporting role to another man. The Priest tells the story of Aaron, brother to Moses (found in the book of Exodus). (Coincidentally for me, my pastor has just been working through a series on the book of Exodus so the writings are freshly familiar in my mind.) Having just read through Exodus I can honestly say that Rivers stays true to the scriptures. Yes, this is a novel. She has added thoughts and dialogue to a familiar story. She does it very well. She is historically accurate and biblically faithful. It is why I call her one of my favorite authors. She is very good at what she does. I thoroughly look forward to the next book in the series, The Warrior, which tells the story of Caleb.

A Mormon's Unexpected Journey, vol. 1 by Carma Naylor

I picked this one up by chance at our local bookstore. It intrigued me as I have a friend who is a Mormon. I know that we share a belief in Christ, but that her theology is different than mine. I've never really understood what the differences are and why Joseph Smith and his writings are so important to her. Each time I've tried to investigate and find out more I come away with more questions than answers. I'm confident in my own relationship with Christ and belief that the Bible is the Word of God in full.
Carma Naylor comes from a background as a lifelong Mormon with a family history dating back to the time of Bringham Young and the first Mormons in Utah, their promised land. She writes with such respect for her background and the people of the church that she grew up in that I found it easy to take her story to heart. This is not someone who is biased against the Mormon church. This is someone's personal journey to faith in Christ. It details her own struggles in life. She writes with love and truth each step of the way.
I really enjoyed reading her book, so much so that I was disappointed when I came to the end and found a family cliffhanger. Unfortunately, I had to special order in the next volume and have to wait until it is in to find out what happens in the next steps of her life.
I really do enjoy autobiographical works and am glad that she decided to put her story on paper to share with the rest of us.

Sisters by Danielle Steel

Yes, my foray into my yearly visit with Danielle Steel continued with a second novel. This time it was Sisters, appropriately centering on a group of 4 sisters. They are of course beautiful and successful in completely different ways. Candy, the youngest, is a supermodel, next up the line is Annie, an artist studying in Italy, then there is Tammy, an LA TV producer and finally Sabrina, a workaholic, New York lawyer. They are all summoned to the yearly family 4th of July family gathering where tragedy unexpectedly shakes the family up. As they deal with what life has thrown them you gt to see the flaws behind their perfections and their need to support each other. If you enjoy Steel's style of writing, this will not disappoint.

Honor Thyself by Danielle Steel

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that I have a love-hate relationship with Danielle Steel novels. I first started reading her books when I was 15 or 16. Some I like better than others. By know I know what I'm getting into when I pick up something new to me by her. Yes, her books are formulaic. I can almost guarantee some of the lines that her characters will use. Her characters will be beautiful and/or rich, but unusually unspoiled for their attributes. That's where my frustration with her writing comes in, I get the "oh please" moment as a reader. However, I do keep coming back to them because they are mindlessly entertaining. And isn't that the point sometimes, just to be entertained?
So this story centres on Carole Barber, an extremely popular actress who tragically ends up as a Jane Doe in a coma following an accident. You learn of Carole's life, loves and children as the events unfold through her accident and recovery. It is what it is, enjoyable entertainment.

Seven Sunny Days by Chris Manby

This book had all the markings to be chick lit - that's what I was hoping for anyways. I was wrong. It had the requisite cover art and back jacket description. Very promising. 3 friends on a week long hen party at a resort in Turkey. It was alright, but nothing particularly memorable.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Monday

Oh to play catch up! I realised that I'm really behind on my posts. I like J. Kaye's Monday meme as it keeps me on track! I just finished the first of Francine Rivers "Men of Encouragement" series, "The Priest" and instead of starting the second, I got distracted by "A Morman's Unexpected Journey" by Carma Naylor, Vol. 1. It's a true story of one woman's search for truth in her life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Monday

Last week a lot of you were curious about "The Girls" by Lori Lansens. I did finish it and posted a review here. I do hope you get a chance to seek it out, it's a worthwhile read.
I'm looking towards this reading week and and hoping to start Francine Rivers "Sons of Encouragement" series. It's been sitting there calling my name while I worked through some library books. The library books are done and I'm ready to go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Girls by Lori Lansens

I didn't think such a small What are you reading Monday's? entry would get the attention of so many people, but it did. It seems most of you have never heard of this fabulous book (and I do mean fabulous!). I hadn't heard of it either but I'm so glad it found it's way to me.
Even reading the back cover didn't give me insight as to the plot of this story. I thought I was getting myself into another round of chick lit based on the cover, boy was I wrong!
The story is written mostly from the perspective of Rose Darlen, a (fictional) craniopagus conjoined twin. (There are small chapters written from the perspective of her twin, Ruby interspersed without.). Rose has set out to write the story of her life.
To be honest I really had not given the lives of conjoined twins much thought before. Like many others I was riveted to CNN when they were separating Mohamed and Ahmed Ibrahim in 2003 (shortly after I made myself stop watching CNN as I got caught up in the story but disillusioned with the lack of follow up once the surgery was successful). I've heard tell of Chang and Eng Bunker and wondered how their married lives worked (they fathered 21 children between the 2 of them). But that was about it really.
This story fascinated me. I couldn't put it down and it was the cause of some very late nights (reading until my eyes literally wouldn't stay open and focused anymore). It isn't just that the characters are conjoined, it is also that the book is very, very well written. The girls have extremely distinct voices (just as separate people would). And that is something that had me thinking. Of course conjoined twins are separate people, they just can't separate from each other. But they are individuals all the same.
If you are looking for a wonderful read, I highly recommend this book. I loved it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

27 to go

I was just updating my reading list for 2009. I'm working though the 100+ Challenge and I realised I have 27 to go. 27 left and just over 2 months...eek! I'm not sure I can do it. I've been struggling off and on with the "do I read it because it's quick, or do I read it because I love it?" notion this year. Too bad I'm not counting the stories I read to my boys because I'd be way over 100 just with theirs already. Anyways, I've leaned more towards the "reading because I want to" rather than "reading because it's quick" side of things. I really do hope I make it though.

Learning Curves by Gemma Townley

Reading Gemma Townley is exactly what I expect it to be, a nice, light read. A friend of mine at work would put this in her pile of "nice, fluffy, girl books" (I love that description) and that's exactly what it is. It's entertaining. It's fairly happy and you know you aren't going to come out of it snapping at your family. (Or is that just me that gets so entrenched in a book that I do things like that).
This story centres around Jennifer Bell. She's kind of wandering aimlessly through life, currently working for her mother but talked into doing some spying on her father's company via taking her MBA through them. (Her parents are divorced and she has little to no relationship with her father). The plot sounds like it should be more involved than it is. She and her mother are eco-activists. Her father is all about corporation. We find Jen really doesn't know where she fits as she glides through life and life's decisions. We know she is looking for some truth, but stumbles along the way. Take it for what it is, an enjoyable quick read and don't read too much into it.

It's Not About Me by Max Lucado

It's been a while since I've read any of Max Lucado's books. I don't know why really. I enjoy him so much when I read them. His books are based on his own sermon series and bible teachings. I think the reason this one jumped out at me was because of some of my own personal struggles in my walk with Jesus. I often do make my life about me and my actions about me rather than reflecting the me I want to be which is more like the life Christ led and taught us about.
I found this book very helpful in rejuvenating my own personal bible study and prayer life. I also used part of it as an inspiration for a bible study night that I led last week.
I would recommend Lucado to anyone searching for gentle Christian teaching, or someone who is searching for answers and direction.

It's Monday

Today I'm reading "The Girls" by Lori Lansens. I'm absolutely riveted by it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Monday

Today I am almost finished "Learning Curves - a novel of sex, suits and business affairs" by Gemma Townley. I have a stack of books waiting to be delved into all crying "pick me! pick me!" that grew while I was stuck on one book a couple of weeks back. I haven't yet decided which the next read will be.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

As a general rule, I'm not a fan of ghost stories. This one was a little different. This was not new-agey. This was not spooky. This was Sophie Kinsella. Humour and personality chemistry was all over this one.
My first impressions of the main character, Lara was that this girl needed help. She's floundering in a business she knows next to nothing about. She's hung up on her ex-boyfriend and she has a difficult time standing up for herself. Who better to help her along (though she does not know it) but her great-aunt Sadie that she never knew?
Lara first encounters the ghost of Sadie at Sadie's dismal funeral. 105 years old and all to show for it were a few relatives that never knew her. Sadie bursts on the scene shouting, "Where's my necklace?". Certainly Lara is hallucinating right? She's the only one who can see Sadie and Sadie certainly becomes a distraction in her life, shaking it up as Lara never thought possible.
I quite enjoyed the charm of the story. It was a book that you can pick up and relax into. I spent most of my quiet Friday night curled up with it and a hot chocolate while my husband was away at a conference and the kids were mercifully asleep. An enjoyable way to spend an evening.

Summer of the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson

I am a Christian. I am a reader. By all accounts that should mean that I like Christian fiction, should it not? Not really. True, one of my favorite authors writes Christian fiction (Francine Rivers), but I love her because she is truly a gifted writer. God gave her a gift and she is using it. I can't say the same of most Christian fiction I've read, some is good, most is mediocre. I'd rather read something well written.
Tracie Peterson is one of those Christian authors whose work I enjoy. I wouldn't consider her among my favorite authors, but I know when I pick up one of her books it will be generally enjoyable. A lot of her work has been written in trilogy format. Summer of the Midnight Sun is book 1 of 3. The story centres on a brother and sister pair who live in Alaska in 1915. They've lived in Alaska since they were kids and know the rough land well. They are accepted among the native community and run a trading outpost.
The first thing that struck me in this book were their names, Jacob and Leah Barringer. I know I'd seen those names before. I did a little investigating and sure enough they were featured in an earlier series of Peterson's when they were children (Yukon Quest Trilogy).
As also with a Peterson book, this is Christian Romance. This story sets up Leah with a man from her past that she never quite got over. Also introduced is a woman I strongly suspect will be romantically linked with Jacob in a further book.
As far as Christian romance goes, Peterson knows her audience. She writes well enough to keep your interest. (and with a cliffhanger so you'll look for the next book)

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Monday

Sorry, no icon today - my computer has a new hard drive and I haven't had a chance to set everything up yet. What are you reading Mondays is hosted by J. Kaye and is a great way to connect with other book bloggers.

This week I'm so glad to be finished The Weight of Water! Yes, I trudged through it and reviewed it over the weekend. I'm now reading something lighter - Tracie Peterson's Summer of the Midnight Sun.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

I've been reading through Anita Shreve's books this year. I got started off on Testimony and the Pilot's Wife (both of which I loved). Along the way I've found that for me Shreve's books are hit and miss. Some are fabulous page turners and others get draggy. The Weight of Water fell into the draggy category for me. I seriously contemplated not finishing this book at all.
The story is a 2 in 1 book. There is a present day story of a photojournalist who is investigating an old murder that took place on the Isle of Shoals in the late 1800's. The story of the murder is the 2nd story. It was the murder story that kept me going. I really had no interest in what was happening in present day. I could see what was coming in that story and I didn't want to get to that part of it. From close to the first page I was thinking "oh please don't let..." happen. Knowing that it probably would.
Unfortunately, Shreve doesn't do a great job of flipping back and forth between stories. You will be reading right into one and the next paragraph will be the other story with no transition. It get disorienting.
The murder story itself is based on a true one. Though one man was convicted and hanged for it, historians continue to debate what really happened. This is Shreve's take on what could have happened. I would have much rather seen just this story and left the other out of it. The other just seemed pointless to me.
I found out more information about the murders from links on wikipedia

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Monday - or almost anyway

I have to admit it, I'm still working my way through "The Weight of Water" by Anita Shreve. I've been having a tough time with this one. I'm halfway through it now and want to finish because I want to know the whole story (there's a murder that I still don't know what happened), but it keeps bouncing back and forth from past to present, and I'm really not interested in the present storyline. I've been debating leaving it and moving onto the book calling my name on my bedside table - The Sons of Encouragement Series by Francine Rivers (all nicely bound into one book), but I don't do well at reading more than one book at once. I guess I'm just trying to look for a way to push though this so I can move on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

I discovered Jennifer Weiner's writing sometime in the past year and devoured her books. I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Best Friends Forever in a relatively short time after publication.
Best Friends Forever tells the story of Addie Downs and Valerie Adler. They had met when they were 9 becoming close as children but then 'breaking up' in their final year of high school. Valerie returns into Addie's life 15 years later, shaking up Addie's quiet life.
We get to know Addie the best of the two. Addie, who was raised by good parents, but not very well liked by others has suffered by low self-esteem and is a victim of circumstance.
Valerie is quite her opposite. At first you wonder why Addie would give Val a second chance, but as more of their back story is revealed you can see how life made Val the way she is (and how Addie's soft heart can take her in again).
What I enjoy most about Weiner's writing is how she gets it right. The characters in this book are one year off my own age so the memories they tell match the time I grew up in. I can see the 80's and 90's very clearly in this tale. Weiner also really writes feelings well. I can relate to Addie, I can hurt along side her and heal with her too. There is a great combination of humour and reality inside this book.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Winners of Cleopatra's Daughter and The Heretic Queen!

I'm pleased to announce the contest winners of Michelle Moran's books! The first winner is Angela from Teaching Here, There and Everywhere!. Angela will be receiving an autographed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter!
The second winner is Natashya of Living in the Kitchen With Puppies! Natashya will be receiving an autographed copy of The Heretic Queen!
Thank you to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

This was a book that was sent to me by the author. I have to admit that part of me is leary about accepting books to review straight from the author because there is fear that I won't like the book. That happened the first time I reviewed due to author request. My fears were alleviated first by the endorsement of the cover by Margaret George (one of my favorite authors) and then again by the first chapter of the book. Michelle Moran does write well. She is able to put you in a historical place in such a way that you can see where you are understand the times you are in (very important in historical fiction).
The story centres around Kleopatra Selene, Cleopatra's daughter. It tells the story of her life after her mother's death. It is a story and premise that I wasn't previously familliar with. I knew a bit about Cleopatra (but I think a lot of people do). The notion that her daughter would have been taken to live in Rome was new to me and I can see why Moran would have taken this part of history to delve into. It is quite fascinating.
I think she does quite a nice job of telling Selene's tale. Yes, Selene is written as a rather mature pre-teen/teen, but then again she would have been. She would have been raised to learn to rule, among adults. She would have been quite educated. I think Moran does a nice job of balancing her maturity by contrasting her with other characters similar in age who become Selene's friends.
One of Moran's goals with this story was to write for both adults and young adults. As an adult, I enjoyed the read. Would I have enjoyed it as a young adult? I think so. It may be a good book for a mother and daughter to read together and discuss, bookclub style (I'm a big believer in parents knowing what their children are interested in). I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this story and thank Michelle Moran for sending me a copy.
If you would like your own copy (or one of her earlier books, the Heritic Queen), I'm hosting a book giveaway. Click here for details!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Monday

While I still have my list that I was sorting out last week, the book fairies have been kind to me and delivered Jennifer Weiner's new book, Best Friends Forever into my lap. That is my next offering to delve into.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm hosting my first contest! - Win Cleopatra's Daughter or The Heritic Queen by Michelle Moran!

I'm very excited to host my very first book giveaway! Michelle Moran has graciously offered to giveaway an autographed copy of her new book, Cleopatra's daughter as well as an autographed copy of The Heritic Queen to a second winner.

The Books:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but only two—the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander—survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters:

Octavia: the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra
Livia: Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife
Marcellus: Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir-apparent
Tiberius: Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power
Juba: Octavian’s ever-watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place —the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the time. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of Imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of history, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the 18th dynasty’s royal family—all with the exception of Nefertari, niece of the reviled former queen Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But all of this changes when she is taken under the wing of pharaoh’s aunt, and brought to the Temple of Hathor where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the crown prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

How to Enter

You can enter this contest in the following ways (1 entry per each)
1. Comment to this post - don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you!
2. Become a follower of this blog
3. Post this contest on your blog (post the link in the comments)
4. Add this blog to your blog roll on your blog
Let me know all the ways you have entered!
Contest closes one week today - September 23, 2009

BBAW - Reading Habits Meme

The book bloggers appreciation week is hosting the following meme - if you wish to join in check it out here

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? - Sure do-I'm a muncher, I love crunchy things like popcorn
Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you? - the only book I write in is my bible
How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? - usually dog-ears, sometimes flat open
Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? Mostly fiction, but I love biographical writing
Hard copy or audiobooks? hard copy
Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you
able to put a book down at any point? - I try to get to the end of the chapter, but late night my eyes don't always cooperate with me
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? nope
What are you currently reading? Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
What is the last book you bought? I bought 4 at once: Ginger, my Story by Ginger Rogers, Light on Snow by Anita Shreve, Weight of Water by Anita Shreve and It's not About me by Max Lucado
Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time? I have 3 on the go now - one that's my main read, the Max Lucado which is more of a devotional and Vanity Fair which I've been working my way through this year
Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? I can read anywhere, anytime, but my favorite time is when my kids are in bed, sleeping, everything is ready in the house for the next day and I can just relax
Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? I read more stand alone books, but I like when characters connect in books, not necessarily series. Sometimes authors will use the same characters in future books (like Jodi Picoult). My current favorite series is the No. Ladies Detective Agency books.
Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? Sure, I love Francine Rivers and Margaret George. I find Margaret George is a master at historical fiction and I'm always amazed when people haven't heard of her.
How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) I don't, I keep books by the same author together, but my bookshelves aren't organized alphabetically or anything. I used to be more anal about this when I was a kid.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

I've spent a lot of this year reading through Anita Shreve's books. Some I really love and others I could go either way. Every one of them though is well written. What I like about Shreve's writing is there is an immediate sense of mood to her stories. She can engross you to feelings of happiness, mourning, and uncomfortableness with ease. This story is no exception.
Light on Snow centres on a father and daughter who find a newborn infant left out in the snow, abandoned. Finding this child and saving her life throw a spotlight on the pair who have spent the last two years trying to live in anonymity. They have their own past hurts and mournings. They have lost half of their own family to tragedy, moving from a bustling life in New York to a quiet retreat in New Hampshire. The story switches back and forth to the days following the baby's discovery and the life they once lived in New York. It explores the question of what is a family?.
Personally, this story engrossed me as I am a mother, I'm also currently pregnant. The thought of abandoning a child is so beyond my comprehension. The idea of losing a child terrifies me. Shreve handled these situations with grace. Yes, there are moments of feeling uncomfortable, but you would if you were in this place where these characters are. Very well written!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Contest find

I have just discovered a new to me blog via J. Kaye's Monday reading meme. Jennifer at Rundpinne is hosting a contest to win "The Smart One and the Pretty One" by Clare LaZebnic. You can find out the contest details here.

It's Monday

I continue to read through Max Lucado's "It's Not About Me" and am about halfway through Light on Snow by Anita Shreve. Coming up is Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve and Ginger, my story by Ginger Rodgers.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jennifer Lancaster

I can thank my old college roomie, Angela for this treat. (thanks Ang!). Jen Lancaster's writing is memoir style. It's her thoughts, her life and I'm glad she has invited us in. She's very funny and she wants to set the record straight about what city life is really like (the anit-Carrie Bradshaw version). Each chapter is a vignette of her life. This was her second book (I believe) written while her first book was waiting to come out and she was working a series of temp jobs avoiding unemployment. She also interspersed emails to her good friends and letters to various people/companies.
I can relate to her. She loves food the way I love food (although I love to cook, she loves to garden). She loves her sanctuary the way I love her sanctuary. She writes well, so you really get a sense of who she is and the people around her. An enjoyable read!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekly Geeks - What's the Plan?

Here's this week's Geek topic:

It's hard to believe we're approaching the last quarter of 2009. Soon those of us in the northern hemisphere will be curled up in front of the fire (or solar heater) with our favorite wintry reads, and those in the southern will be off to the beaches with their summer books.

Do you have a plan of what you're going to read the rest of the year? Have you had a master plan all along? If so, have you stuck to it? What helps you to decide what you're going to read next? Challenges? Book groups? Or do you have the luxury of closing your eyes and picking any book off your shelf?

I know some of you have spreadsheets and other devices to help you keep track of your books and challenges. (I even succumbed to using a spreadsheet this year after teasing my friends relentlessly about theirs.) If you have online spreadsheets, such as Google, can you give us a peek at them with a link or a screen shot?

The plan is, I have no plan. I read what I want in with no particular rhyme or reason in mind. I hope to finish the 100+ challenge hosted by J. Kaye (I'm about 40 pages away from finishing book #65) but that's about it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekly Geeks - All About Reviews

This week's geek challenge gave 3 options to respond to an author's curiosity. Here's the challenge:

Hello Geeks.

Shannon Hale (author of Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife, as well as many other books) recently posted on her blog about reviewing books. Take a moment to go read her post, in which she talks about going beyond saying simply whether or not you liked a book when writing a review.

For this week’s Weekly Geeks, we challenge you to respond to the questions Ms. Hale asks in one of three ways.

1. Find a negative review that you have written. In your post, link to or include the original review and then rewrite it to answer these questions:

* Why did you react negatively to the book?
* What was it about the story or characters or style that hit you so strongly?
* Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities?

2. Write a new review about a book you loved, keeping in mind these questions:

* What was it about the story that resonated?
* Would you have loved this book as much ten years ago? Five years ago?
* Will you keep loving it in the future?
* Where are you in your life that this is the story you wanted and needed?

3. At the end of her post, Ms. Hale posed six questions for those who review books on their blogs or other sites. Write a letter to Ms. Hale explaining your position on each of these questions, then return to her post and leave a comment with a link to your post. And remember her request to speak freely, but kindly and respectfully!

* Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
* Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
* Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
* Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
* What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
* If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

I'm choosing option number 3 to respond to

* Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
-No, I started this blog to remember my own experiences in reading, not to influence others in their own reading. I will admit that I struggle in how much I write now knowing that others are reading what I'm writing. I don't want to say too much and give too much away. I would like to participate more in book discussions because of this. There are things I think about the book that I don't write down in respect of not spoiling the book for those who haven't read it yet.

* Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
-I wouldn't say I'm rating the book as I read it, I would say I'm reacting to it which is different. I want to write down my honest reactions to books.

* Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
-I don't think so. I'm pretty honest in what I read (good or bad). There are a couple of books I've read that I wouldn't have picked up had an author not asked me to read and review it, but most of what I write about are books I'm genuinely interested in reading.

* Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
-No. I write my reviews pretty close to when I've finished reading them to stay true to my memories and experience.

* What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
-I don't rate books

* If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
-I'm in no way a professional reviewer, I'm a lover of books. The purpose of this blog was to document my experiences in reading.

It's Monday

I've missed a few of these, I'm glad my life is settling down again to participate. Last night I started "It's Not About Me" by Max Lucado. I've also got a couple of Anita Shreve books on the horizon for the week ahead.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

At this moment in time I have now officially read all of Jodi Picoult's novels. I know that status will change as she keeps writing and publishing engaging tales such as this one.
This story centres around the O'Keefe's, a New Hampshire family whose youngest child is born with OI, also known as brittle bone disease. Their daughter suffers from the most extreme form of this disease that isn't fatal. She lives a life that will cause her to have hundreds of broken bones in her lifetime. The book asks the question, would it have been better if this child had never been born? Should this have been diagnosed before this child's birth? Should the parent have had the option to abort?
It is a heartbreaking tale. The parents clearly love Willow and each want what they believe to be the best for her. The choices they make and stances they take could break the family apart. Willow's life and the decisions of her parents affect not just their marriage, but Willow, their other daughter Amelia, their relationship with their closest friends and even the lawyer representing them.
The story takes an interesting perspective of multiple 2nd person narrative (each character telling their tale to Willow).
I think I enjoyed this one because it does ask hard questions about raising kids with Special Needs. I teach. I have taught a lot of kids with Special Needs over the past 11 years (more if you count student teaching). I think this has biased me. I love these kids. They are some of the most wonderful children I've ever met. I couldn't imagine what any of my classrooms would have been like had these kids been missing. They deserve the best that we can give them.
As difficult as it was to watch the mother's questions in this book, her character was written in such a way that you could understand her thought process, she was desperate. (Although I do admit to wanting to hit her over the head more than once).
As with most of Picoult's novels, I was riveted. My poor husband loses me into my own world when I get into a book like this. Picoult is a gifted storyteller and I look forward to her next offering.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was Helen Fielding's first novel, published before Bridget Jones made her a household name. It is a wicked satire paralleling the third world needs and celebrity needs. The needs of the third world are not humorous, the celebrity response is.
The story centres around Rosie Richardson. She is running a refugee camp in Nambula, Africa. In between getting to know the others who work at the camp and their needs, we get flashbacks of Rosie's life pre-Africa, running with the celeb club in London. I found both sections fascinating and haunting.
I will warn those looking for a book like the Bridget Jones books that this is not it. It is nothing of the copycat Brit Chick Lit books either. This has a more serious edge to it. It is enjoyable, but in a completely different manner.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Immediate Family by Eileen Goudge

Okay, so I grabbed two of Eileen Goudge's books and read them back to back. I did enjoy this one more than the first of hers I read. Immediate family focuses on a set of 4 best friends. They had first met and bonded in college and kept close ever since. The story opens at their college reunion.
The book progresses though about a year in their lives. It does do a lot of meandering through story lines. I did wonder if their stories would have been better told through 3 or 4 short stories (Maeve Binchy style) rather than wandering back and forth. I think that would have held my attention a little bit better. Once again, this book served its purpose. A quick, easy read just when I needed one.

Otherwise Engaged by Eileen Goudge

This was another book that jumped out at me as a promising 'I think I can read it quickly' sort of book. The name of the author started to drive me nuts. I knew I'd heard it before, but where? Somehow I connected it to being a pre-teen. It's been so long since I read pre-teen/YA books that I wasn't sure. I went to the author's website and still found no evidence of her writing YA books. Then I found an obscure site with author listings. She was on there and sure enough, I found her YA books. The ones of hers that I had read came from two series. One entitled 'Seniors' and the other were the 'Swept Away' books. I remember loving the Swept Away books the most as they were teen romances that whisked the girl away to a time in the past.
Now Goudge concentrates on her adult fiction. Otherwise Engaged focuses on two best friends living completely different lives on other sides of the country. They have an opportunity to switch places for 6 months, asking the question, is the grass greener on the other side. They both wonder what might have been had they made different life decisions.
I liked the book for what it was. It did play out to another easy read. I did get somewhat frustrated with the characters as at times I thought they both needed to grow up a bit and be a little more adult in their actions and relationships, but the kinks worked themselves out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wild Orchids by Jude Deveraux

Where to begin with this one? Ahhhh! Perhaps I should explain my trepidation at even picking this book up to begin with. Years and years ago I spend much time loving Jude Deveraux's books (I was in my late teen's/early 20's). I loved them so much I even created a Geocities site proclaiming these grown up fairy tales as some pretty special romance books. And then something happened. Her books started to become less romance, more new-agey. Lots of psychic type stuff and past lives and things I'm generally not interested in and fell pretty icky about. I just couldn't read her books anymore. I took down the website. I gave all the books away to a local bookseller and I moved on.
So why now? Why would I pick another one of her stories? Well, I was wandering through my local library this week. I knew whatever I picked had to be a quick read as we're getting ready to move on Monday. It had to be something that I could glance at in between boxes and cleaning things out and still know where I was in the story (nothing heavy). For some reason this title stood out to me from amongst the shelves. I thought, why not? It didn't sound like there was any psychic stuff involved, it was about a widower writer and his research assistant. So I started to read. It stayed pretty basic and enjoyable for the first half. And then wouldn't you know it the occult element entered in halfway through. No past lives or ghosts, but a devil story instead. I wouldn't have a problem with a devil story if the theology of it wasn't so off. See I really enjoyed C.S. Lewis' Screwtape letters (written by a devil) but the theology behind it was correct. It wasn't in this story. So I can't really recommend this one. It served its purpose, an easy read for me and that's about it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weekly Geeks - Why Haven't I Read This Yet?

I think just about every reader has a least one book that they've been meaning to read for awhile (months or even years) but, for one reason or another, they just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe it's a book a friend recommended last year, or a title you've flirted with in a bookstore on more than one occasion, or maybe it's a book that's sitting right there on your bookshelf, patiently waiting for you to pick it up -- but the thought is always there, in the back of your mind: Why haven't I read this yet?

This week, tell us about a book (or books) you have been meaning to read. What is it? How long have you wanted to read it? And, why haven't you read it yet?

I can think of a lot of books that fall into this category for me and most of them are classics. I have some (I'm sure) wonderful books sitting on my bookshelf (or more accurately, in boxes - we're moving on Monday) that have been loved for generations, but I haven't yet managed to read myself. I was just thinking about this as we were packing up. We're downsizing for the move and many books have landed themselves into the "I've loved it, now let someone else love it pile", then there were these books, the ones that I've had for years, not read, but can't get rid of. They follow me from place to place crying "read me!" but I haven'. Here's a list of some of these books:
1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I fell in love with his book Dubliners and promptly bought this one, 15 years ago and still it sits on my shelf unopened
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - This one has been with me for 17 years now, I've started it 2 or 3 times.
3. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas - I bought this for my original move across Canada, 7 years ago.
4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Bought at the same time as the Three Musketeers
5. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach - I took this off my parents shelf when I was 15, I turn 34 on my next birthday
6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck - I love, love, love the Grapes of Wrath, so my mom passed on her copy of East of Eden a couple of years back, the good news is this book is getting used this summer, but by my husband, not me - he's raving about it as he goes
All of these books intregue me, enough to keep them around. I will get around to reading them one day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free Book Offer from Chatelaine

Hello Canadians - Chatelaine is offering a free book starting today to the first 10000 people who sign up for it, no purchase necessary. The book is The Girls by Lori Lassens. Go here to sign up

It's Monday

Out of nostalgia I'm reading Jude Devereaux today - this one is called Wild Orchids. I haven't read this one before or touched any of her books in years and years. We'll see how it goes.

Monday's Child by Louise Bagshawe

"Monday's child is fair of face..." this seems like such a joke to our lead, Anna Brown. Anna has been extremely self conscious of both her height and looks since she was a child. She dresses as plainly as possible figuring it's just best not to draw attention to herself. Anna works as a 'reader' for a film company. Basically, it is her job to read through scripts and discern which have potential and which are pure rubbish. She has a terribly demanding boss and an awful boyfriend.
As we learn and begin to cheer for this girl, she is in fact quite clever about everything except herself. We want her to do well in her job (and get credit for it). We want her to pursue her dreams of true love. We want her to become more confident about her looks and not hide them away.
I had never heard of Louise Bagshawe before. This book literally jumped out at me while perusing the shelves of our local library. I'm glad it did. I felt like I was in the middle of a good chick flick. I love it when authors write scenes that I can see happening and she does this well. I enjoyed this one and will look for more by this author.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weekly Geeks - 2nd Chances

Better late than never - I almost missed this week's geek topic but back in time from vacation to just squeak in. Here's what's going on this week:

There have been times in my life where I reread a book (or author) I hated--or thought I hated--but the second time around ended up loving. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever changed your mind about a book or author the second time around? Have you ever given a book or author a second chance?

If you have, I'd love to hear your stories. Blog about your experience(s) in giving second chances.

If you haven't, I'd like you to consider giving a book or an author a second chance. You can blog about your intentions to do so--or if you're a quick reader, maybe you can even squeeze something in!

Can't think of a single book or author? Don't worry, you can stretch this one to include movies or music if you prefer.

It is just very interesting to me how time can change tastes and perceptions. How subjective the reading experience is and always will be.

Coincidentally, I just gave an author a second chance this summer. I first tried Anita Shreve about 10 years ago. I wasn't yet married, I didn't yet have children, basically I was just out of university and starting out in life. My first go at an Anita Shreve novel was The Pilot's Wife. I liked it okay, but I didn't really get why it was getting so many rave reviews.

I picked up The Pilot's Wife again this summer. 10 years down the road, I'm now married, I have 2 kids, I've been in my career for a while now, I've travelled and lived on both sides of the country. Basically, I've gathered some life experience. I know I've grown up a lot too. I totally 'got' Anita Shreve this time. So much so that I've been on a bit of an Anita Shreve kick this summer. My favorite of hers so far is Testimony (which is her newest novel).

So why did I give her another try? Not an admirable explaination, but basically I was bored. I didn't have a novel on the go and this one was one sitting on my shelf that I didn't remember so much of that I knew I'd be bored reading it again. I'm glad it's a book I bought and held on to.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Sometimes it is a case of thank God they made it into a movie so I can know about the book! No, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will, I've got a girl's night planned soon :o)
I picked this up on my way to PEI for our family vacation. I needed something to read that wasn't a library book (I have this fear of losing books when I'm away ever since I accidentally left one on an airplane!). For me this was the perfect vacation read. It was light, it was true, it was very entertaining.
I'm a food blogger too ( so I totally can relate to posting and having a following (though mine is much, much smaller and my blog is a lot less purposeful than hers). I did find Julie's blog when I got home and have enjoyed reading through a few of her posts, I do want to go back in time to see some of her originals.
I know I didn't give much of a book description here, but I think most people are aware of the story by now (Julie decides to cook through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 in a year). I do look forward to the movie, especially seeing the other side of it (the Julia Child side that I haven't read - I'm a huge Meryl Streep fan). Loved it and recommend this book!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

I wanted and didn't want to read this book pretty equally. I wanted to because I love the way Picoult tells a story and this was one of the few books of hers I hadn't read yet. I didn't want to because of the subject matter. Child abuse and sexual preditors are not fun reading, particularly when the victim is a 5 year old boy and you have a 5 year old male child.
I did push past the ickiness of it and get into the book. What I found was a woman who is caught between a law system that often fails the child and a parent enraged that something like this would happen to her own son.
The story was well told and being a Picoult novel it did have some unexpected and unseen twists and turns along the way. If you can handle the subject matter, then pick this one up. It's worth the read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick

For those of you following my what to read on Monday indecision, you'll be happy to know that I did decide and yes, this book by Elizabeth Chadwick won out.
I flew through this one much faster than the last Chadwick book. Probably because I was already in that mindset era and didn't feel the need to be distracted and look up historical facts :o)
This story follows two main characters: Miriel, a young woman forced into convent life by her cruel step-father and Nicholas, a young man recently escaped from arrest under King John. Miriel and Nicholas meet when Miriel and a nun from her convent find Nicholas near dead close to the convent. Miriel is one of the people who helps care for and heal Nicholas. She then joins him to escape life in the convent.
Though the two part ways you know that in a book like this they are likely to meet again, which they do under much different circumstances.
This book was much more of a romance novel than I was expecting. I haven't read a lot of romance in the past number of years (I read a lot of it in my early 20's). The historical accuracy of the book is what kept me going. Elizabeth Chadwick is extremely well researched and has had much recognition for that. I will continue to read her books. I like them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Monday

So I'm in debate as to what I'm reading today. I had every intention of my next book being Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult. Then I finished the Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick and thought while I was in the 13thC mindset I'd start the Marsh King's Daughter. I began both last night (read both introductions) - at this point I'm thinking The Marsh King's Daughter is going to win out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

15 Books

Here is a Facebook Meme that I got today that seemed worth putting on my blog - go ahead try it :o)

Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Copy these instructions and tag 15 ( or more or less) friends, including me - because I'm interested in seeing what books are in your head.

1. The Bible
2. The Autobiography of King Henry VIII by Margaret George
3. The Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers
4. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy
5. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
6. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
7. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
8. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
9. The Trouble with Jenny's Ear by Oliver Butterworth
10. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards
11. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
12. Little House Series by L.I. Wilder
13. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
14. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
15. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick

I can thank the online book blogging community for introducing me to this author. I had never heard of her, but according to people who have read her she is one of the best historical fiction writers out there.
My local library had 3 of her books in so I got all three. I started off with The Champion as it was written the earliest and you never know if an author has repeat characters in later books or not.
It has been a long time since I've read a book set in this point of history (the late 1100's-early 1200's). It took me a little bit to get into just reorienting myself with the time period, but it was well worth it.
The story centres on three main characters: Hervi - a tournament knight, making a living on the circuit, Alexander - his brother, recently having left monastic training, and Monday, a girl who is the daughter of Hervi's best friend.
The story takes us from the tournament fields to the courts of medieval England/France. We watch these characters grow and change throughout time. At times they are close together and at others they live lives apart and separate from each other, but they always remain connected. I don't want to give too much of the plot away (one of my big fears in book blogging).
Something that always gets at me when reading historical fiction is to find out how accurate the real historical characters are portrayed (such as King John). I think that's why it takes me longer than usual to get through these sorts of books, I get sidetracked while looking up my own information. It seems to me that Chadwick is well-researched (while she does admit to a little creative licensing) and mostly stays true to the time period and the real historical characters involved. I look forward to my next Chadwick novel.

Weekly Geeks - It's a Mystery

So I'm super-excited for this week's Weekly Geek topic. Mostly because I suggested it and I'm just really blown away that it would be used :o) Read on...

1."Do you love a little suspense in your life? Have you ever read a book that keeps you twisting and turning until the last page? Tell us about it (but not too much , we want to be left hanging ourselves). Or maybe there is a series of mysteries that you adore. Why do you keep reading about the same detectives?"***

2. To expand on that a little: the new TV series Castle revolves around a popular mystery writer. There's even talk that a novel will be published supposedly written by Castle himself. TV and books will muddy the entertainment waters once again. I think we all know of the Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes series on PBS and BBC as well. Not to mention the new movie Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law will open December 25, 2009. Looks pretty exciting!

If you were to be given special TV or movie producing powers, which mystery novel character(s) would you create a TV series or movie for? Who would you cast in the major roles?

You can:

Get creative and post photos of the cast, even the locations you'd love to see them in. If you're really feeling artsy, create a fake imbd page on your blog or make a trailer for your fantasy show.

Have fun!

I actually haven't read a lot of mysteries myself - strange I know. I really got into the Stephanie Plum Books (by Janet Evanovich) last summer and was hoping for some mystery ideas to further my knowledge of this area of writing.
I love the Plum books as they are funny and sassy. I know they aren't traditional mysteries (more crime solving than whodunnits). There must be other books out there that fit the bill. When you read a series like that do you stay in order? Is that important? I did read the Plum books in order and think it added to the series (as character histories and relationships were being built).
As to the movie side of things, I love a good mystery on film. I've seen more than I've read. And I am very much looking forward to the new Sherlock Holmes movie this winter. The best mysteries are the ones that you really just don't know until the very end. I feel I've gotten my $10+ worth out of it then.
I think I read more mysteries when I was a kid. I definately remember a series about 3 siblings who would run into mysteries quite a bit (One was called the Haunted Tree House, anyone remember it?).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Show Us Your Library

Trisha at Trisha's Book Blog has challenged us to show each other our libraries. I actually had a mental debate in my head over this one. We have 3 libraries in town. Which one to show? Well, that can be narrowed down to two, the main branch and the east branch (closest to me and the one I use the most). I happen to be taking my youngest to the toddler time program this summer at the main branch so the main branch won.
This is an overview of the library. I'm upstairs near the computer lab. Upstairs houses the archives, reference material and community rooms. Downstairs is home to the general fiction, non-fiction, videos and children's section.
Looking down at the check-out desk and CD library.
My boys in the video section. The ended up with 2 DVDs (Charlie and Lola, Bob the Builder) and one VHS (Magic School Bus). I didn't get a picture of my regular section as my kids tend to hurry me through to get to the children's section faster.
Where the Wild Things Are.

My oldest reading to my youngest in the kids section - a great place to relax and play. I hope you enjoyed this mini view of my library and get a chance to show off yours :o)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raising a Reader

This is a post that I wrote for my parenting blog

"I love books, I love the library!" my 5 year old shouted at me, holding his new treasures in his arms.
"Mama, read this me?" my 2 year old asked holding a copy of Max's Toys by Rosemary Wells up at me.
How did I create such a joy of reading at young age? Well, it's something I didn't really think about at all, it's just something I did. Reading is something that I love and naturally shared with my children. I didn't think much of it until my husband mentioned to me that reading wasn't a big part of his childhood. He never would have thought to bring the kids to the library as a regular occurrence, but he's happy and appreciative that I do.
So you may be wondering where to begin. How do you get kids to like books? How do you raise a reader?
I started reading to my little ones at quite an early age (infants). Books for infants have a lot of repitition and soft words. As they get to be a little older, their books can become part of their toy collection. Soft books for chewing on and books with texture and bright colours to capture their senses. I also enrolled my children in a local library program called, "Babies in the Library". This was geared for infants to 18 month old babies and involved a lot of rhyme, finger play and dancing with other parents and their babies. The program lasted for 4-6 weeks at a time and rotated through the local libraries.
As my kids grew older going to the library just became a regular part of our lives. We would go every couple of weeks, each checking out books and DVDs that interested us. My 5 year old is a huge hockey fan and knows exactly where the hockey books are located. We've gone to many different library programs including toddler time, preschool time and the summer reading club. Most libraries will offer such programs. If you aren't sure where to begin, your local children's librarian can be a wealth of knowledge for you. They can help you find age appropriate and interest appropriate books for you and your child to enjoy.
We've also made reading a part of our night-time routine. Each of our kids has story time with mom or dad every night. We read anywhere from 1 to 3 books together. My husband is a great one for making the stories more dramatic with interesting voices for the different characters which makes our kids laugh. I often will ask questions about the pictures or what they think will happen next in the story. I will also mix up words of familiar stories intentionally to see if they catch me (they usually do).
Sometimes my kids and I will read side by side. I'll be into my own book and they will be 'reading' theirs. Kids imitate and learn what they see. If they see mom or dad into a book, chances are their interest in reading will be elevated.
Neither of my children read words yet, but they both do a great job at storytelling. They will use the pictures as cues to tell what is going on. This is a great first step to reading. My older son can pick out the letters and some common words, which he finds encouraging.
As your kids get older it becomes even more important that the books they are reading are ones that interest them and isn't at a too difficult reading level. There is no point in forcing a book about horses onto your son who is really into detectives. Find a good mystery book instead.
Once you've opened the mystery of reading with your children you've unlocked a lifelong treasure.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Free Book Offer from Oprah!

Only good until Wednesday, August 5 10:59PM ET - Oprah is offering members of her website a free download of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (part of her summer reading club.) To find out more visit

Awards Time

Wow, I've been blessed this past month on this site to be nominated for a few blogging awards. This one is from Sue at Book by Book. The premise of this award is this:
The Humane Award is to honor certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a regular basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world.

Thank you Sue!

My nominees for this award are:

TeddyRee at The Eclectic Reader

Maree at Just Add Books

The second award is the Heartfelt Award and it is from Yvette at True Crime Book Reviews
. Here is the premise for this award:

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you’re relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family & friends?
You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea or a hot toddy?
That is what the Heartfelt award is all about: feeling warm inside!

The Rules:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

My nominees for this one are:

Melissa at the Book Nut
Kim at MetroReader
Michelle at Reader's Respite
J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog