Friday, January 30, 2009
What great books have you discovered this week? Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading
"Midori By Moonlight" by Wendy Tokunaga (found at S. Krishna's Books)
"The Makedown" by Gitty Daneshvari (found at A Novel Menagerie)
"My Little Red Book" by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff (found on Books Ahoy!)
"The Only True Genius in the Family" by Jennie Nash (found at she reads and reads)
"What We All Long For" by Dionne Brand (found on FRESH INK BOOKS , granted a little while ago but yay I just won this one!!)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The chapters' narration alternates from Jamie's point of view to Nate's point of view, allowing for the complete range of inner thoughts and emotions from both main characters. Oftentimes they would both be analyzing the same events and it was so interesting to see how vastly different people can perceive the same circumstances.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
* Grab your current read
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12 (which I've modified to 2-4 sentences)
*You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
This week's teaser is:
" He turns his head to look at me when I sit on the edge of his bed, but I don't know if it's just his brain stem telling him to turn toward the source of noise or a conscious decision to look at me. I decide it doesn't matter."
- "Thank You For All Things" by Sandra Kring, page 123
Friday, January 23, 2009
What great books have you discovered this week? Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading
Thursday, January 22, 2009
"Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)adventures of Waverly Bryson" by Maria Murnane
Published by Wink's Ink
About the book:
Anything can look perfect…on paper
When her fiancé calls off their wedding at the last minute, Waverly Bryson wonders if her life will ever turn out the way she thought it would…or should. Her high-powered job in sports PR? Not so perfect. Her relationship with her dad? Far from it. Her perfect marriage? Enough said.
Perfect on Paper is a humorous tale of Waverly’s efforts to cobble the pieces of a broken yesterday into a brand new tomorrow. What does the future have in store for her? Will she finally find what she’s looking for?
Her dates? Cringe-inducing at times, definitely entertaining
Her friends? Often amused, definitely supportive
Her new crush? Possibly intrigued, definitely a catch
The results? Hardly perfect, definitely just right
First of all, let me start of by saying how surprised I am that this book is self-published. It just goes to show how much talent and creativity publishing houses can miss out on sometimes! Maria Murnane's humor and wit are apparent in this adorable story that kept a smile on my face until the very end. Waverly is such a likeable character, not in spite of her flaws but because of them. She isn't exactly the most suave or sophisticated, but she's got a great sense of humor and learns to laugh at herself and make the best of things. Some of my favorite parts of the book are the Honey notes at the beginning of each chapter. I love how they are incorporated into the storyline and wind up teaching Waverly a lot about herself and her capabilities.
Maria is currently an independent business writer and works mostly with technology and financial services companies, but like the main character in her book, she did spend a few years in sports PR. One day she quit her job and ended up in Argentina for a year, where she played semi-pro soccer and also wrote the first draft of what would eventually become Perfect on Paper. She has dedicated the book to any woman who has ever been on a really bad date or realized halfway through the workday that her skirt is on backwards.
Maria graduated with high honors in English and Spanish from UC Berkeley and received a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She lives in San Francisco and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about her business writing services, click here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event
* Please avoid spoilers!
" She took off her nightgown and then sat up in bed, feeling her heart beating so loudly it sounded as if it might leap through her chest. Through the monitor, she heard Arley's breathing - in, out, in, out, gasp. Outside there was such stillness, such intense quiet. How could people sleep through this kind of quiet?"
- "Kissing Games of the World" by Sandi Kahn Shelton , page 187
Monday, January 19, 2009
A Novel about the Life of Katherine Mansfield,
Published by Wordcraft of Oregon http://www.wordcraftoforegon.com/
La Grande Oregon, 2008 225 pages
A Talk with Author Linda Lappin http://www.lindalappin.net/
On January 13, 1923, George Ivanovic Gurdjieff, the much-discussed spiritual leader of the last century, publicly inaugurated his Study House, a refurbished airplane hangar erected on the grounds of the Prieure des Basse Loges, a former Carmelite monastery in Fontainebleau outside Paris which housed Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. Gaily decorated with arabesques, spread with rich, oriental carpets, furnished with a small fountain illuminated by multicolored lights, this exotic corner of the East transported to the environs of Paris exerted a magnetic attraction over a great number of intellectuals, writers, artists, dancers, musicians who flocked there to witness the extraordinary performances of Gurdjieff’s Sacred Dances and Movements, accompanied by stirring, melancholy piano music composed by Thomas deHartmann with the master Gurdjieff. Once open to the public, the Study House welcomed celebrities like Diaghliev and Frank Lloyd Wright, but just days before its official inauguration, another illustrious person had sat in the front row of the audience, wrapped in a fur coat, and watching the dancers intensely: Katherine Mansfield. This pioneer of the modernist short story and exquisite diarist spent the last three months of her life as Gurdjieff’s guest. Katherine did not live long enough to participate in the gala celebration of January 13th, for she had been buried the day before in the Cemetery of Fontainebleau- Avon after dying of a hemorrhage on January 9 at the age of 34.
Mansfield had come here after a long, sterile journey seeking health, which had begun in 1918, when she discovered she had tuberculosis. From that moment on, her life had been a restless pilgrimage, crisscrossing Europe on trains, accompanied by her companion Ida, separated most of the time from her husband, John Middleton Murry, looking for a better climate, a new cure, a home. But how had this writer from New Zealand, a little land with no history, ended up here knocking at Gurdjieff’s door?
This story had interested me for years – and my new novel, Katherine’s Wish, attempts to answer, in part, the question as to why she Mansfield went to Fontainebleau. I worked on this novel for many years – reading and re-reading Mansfield’s work, her letters and diaries, and those of her friends and associates, studying criticism of her stories, gathering historical information, sifting through unpublished articles, memoirs and hard-to-find resources, visiting places connected to her life – including the Prieure, where I managed to take a photograph of the interior while the building was being renovated a few years ago. At one point I became so saturated with content, it was imperative to do something with it all. I began with the idea of writing a screenplay, but then, after a pilgrimage to Fontainebleau, wrote an essay entitled “The Ghosts of Fontainebleau,” which was later published by the Southwest Review. Friends and editors suggested I turn that essay into a piece of fiction. It began as a short story, later nominated for the Pushcart prize, and then became a novel.
Katherine’s Wish closely follows the chronology of Mansfield’s life, explores her artistic and spiritual quest - for writing and spiritual concerns were always linked for Katherine Mansfield, as well as her most intense relationships, with Murry, Ida, and with DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, who appear as minor characters. There is an entire chapter devoted to Mansfield’s friendship with Viriginia Woolf. My technique has been to use some of Mansfield’s own techniques in my narrative, weaving ideas, themes, symbols from the stories, and moods and episodes from the diaries and letters, into a multi-layered fabric, true to the voice and spirit of Mansfield’s own writing. I have taken liberty to flesh out and re-imagine some scenes and events for which conflicting documentation exists, adhering to a sense of truth as a mosaic. A vivid, richly detailed slice of life from Mansfield’s brief and often tormented existence, Katherine’s Wish celebrates Mansfield’s deep love of life, which never abandoned her, and its final message is a life –affirming one of joy and of wholeness achieved.
For readers familiar with Mansfield’s life and writings, I hope they will enjoy the sense of “full immersion” I have tried to evoke. Those who have never read Mansfield or don’t know much about her life will, I believe, be caught up in her spell, and in the drama of her courageous struggle against time.
“Lappin’s achievement is to succeed where medicine failed, and through her words, give Mansfield ongoing life,” The Literary Review, Dec. 2008
“[Lappin’s] writing style, with its rhythm, flow, and sensual detail, richly evokes the significant social scene of a vanished era….Katherine’s Wish is first and foremost the compelling story of an artist fighting against time. Long after the last page, thoughts of her linger like an exotic scent.” Rain Taxi on line, Jan. 2009
“Capturing the latter part of Katherine’s life and world, the author brings vivid life to this novel, which reads like a literary biography of Katherine Mansfieldand her contemporaries.” - Tess Allegra, The Historical Novels Review, Nov. 2008
Free podcasts of Linda Lappin reading from Katherine’s Wish are available from Itunes:
Thursday, January 15, 2009
BIG THANKS to Miriam of Hachette Book Group for sending me this book to review and for organizing this great book tour!
"Love and Other Natural Disasters" by Holly Shumas
Published by 5-Spot, a division of Hachette Book Group
Book description from publisher's website:
Eve is eight months pregnant and in the middle of a Thanksgiving celebration when she discovers that her husband Jonathan has developed an intimate relationship with a woman over the past year. Jonathon asserts his innocence (an affair involves physical intimacy, and he didn't have any), while Eve feels deeply betrayed by the emotional connection he shared with someone else. What Jon has done seems so terrifyingly out of character that Eve finds herself questioning her entire reality. Did she ever really know Jon at all? Was their happiness together a lie? Is emotional intimacy more forgivable than sexual intimacy? And can their marriage survive?
What really intrigued me about this book was the subject matter itself. We see and read so much about affairs in books, movies and the media but they are always the physical and sexual kind. Holly Shumas, being a practicing family and marriage therapist, has the perfect amount of insight in order to write about an emotional affair. It is an often overlooked topic and I think she handled it in a very respectful and thoughtful way, being careful not to assign too much blame to either spouse.
This book is not a light read but it was an enjoyable one in the sense that it made me think a lot and question the characters' decisions, while simultaneously contemplating what I would have done instead. At times I felt frustrated by the roller coaster of emotions Eve endured but ultimately I think she learned a lot about herself as a person. One of the important messages I will take away with me from this story is that we need to first know and love ourselves before we can commit to someone else, which Jon and Eve struggled with at first.
I like Holly Shumas' down to earth writing style, as well as the comic relief infused throughout the novel to lessen the load of such an emotionally charged topic. I look forward to reading her first book, "Five Things I Can't Live Without"!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible" by A.J. Jacobs
Published by Simon & Schuster
Rating: 5 stars
A.J. Jacobs set out to follow the Bible's words, as literally as possible, for an entire year. As ambitious of a task as this seems, it is not entirely uncharacteristic of Jacobs, given his previous book, “The Know-It-All”, which documents his reading of the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. With the guidance of Rabbis, Priests, professors and friends, Jacobs sets out on his quest and ends up learning a lot about himself along the way. He explores a number of religious sects and groups, including Chassidic Jews, Red Letter Christians, the Amish and even a trip to Israel to visit the Samaritans.
When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect but I was intrigued by the concept and I had to find out more. From the start, I found this book incredibly interesting and really easy to read, despite it being a work of non-fiction. Jacobs has a witty and fun way with words which kept me amused and informed at the same time. His anecdotes are always humorous and in keeping with important themes that he discusses in the book.
Jacobs does a great job of addressing misconceptions found in the Bible and lending explanations to the seemingly bizarre commandments that are seldom understood or even contemplated. While it is difficult to remain completely objective when exploring topics like religion, Jacobs approaches each experience with an open mind and an open heart with just the right amount of inevitable skepticism.
“The Year of Living Biblically” is very funny and yet simultaneously insightful. Because Jacobs gained a great deal from this quest, readers will too. I really appreciated the respectful way he addressed the laws of the Bible and tried to show their greater purpose and meaning.
This book is required reading for anyone, no matter what your beliefs, there is something each and every person can learn from this thought-provoking book.
Monday, January 12, 2009
"This is a historic moment to promote tolerance and multiculturalism in America," Klug says, "and to shine a light on creative expression dedicated to the human spirit, artistic innovation, and cross-cultural dialogue."
For more information, contact Lisa Alcalay Klug here
Sunday, January 11, 2009
“The Impostor” by Damon Galgut
Published by McClelland & Stewart, an affiliate of Random House of Canada
Rating: 4 stars
“The Impostor” is the story of Adam Napier, a lost soul who was recently fired and forced to leave his house. He takes residence in a country house that his brother purchased years earlier but has since been vacant. He seeks to reconnect with his inner poet, and spends much of his time alone in the quiet community in a rural part of South Africa. After a chance encounter with a childhood acquaintance named Canning, Adam’s quiet existence begins to take on new meaning. It does not take long however, for Adam’s involvement with Canning and his wife Baby, to become complicated and dangerous.
It comes as no surprise to me that Damon Galgut has received much recognition and praise for his writing, as his words and imagery were incredibly powerful throughout the novel. I felt Adam’s intense loneliness, as if it were a tangible presence, with the turn of every page. That is exactly why I have contradictory feelings about this book. On the one hand, Galgut’s writing transported me into the novel and I couldn’t help but read on to see how he would continue to convey such raw emotion. And yet, it is that same beautiful writing that left me with a gloomy feeling that was hard to shake.
It’s not that I only like books with happy endings or light material, but the bleakness of this book was striking. In that respect, saying that I enjoyed reading the book would be incorrect. Rather, I was in awe of the beauty of the writing and just how much I internalized Adam’s conflicts. I recommend this book because it is wonderfully written, even though the writing itself evokes some difficult emotions.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
“The Likeness” by Tana French
Published by Viking Adult, a division of Penguin Group
Rating: 5 stars
“The Likeness” takes places six months after Tana French’s first novel, “In the Woods”. Detective Cassie Maddox has been through a lot of trauma and she wants nothing to do with murder cases and has transferred out of that unit. One day, a young woman is stabbed to death and Cassie is called in to help solve the murder. Things start to get creepy when it turns out that the girl looks exactly like Cassie and her ID mysteriously reads Lexie Madison, an alias that Cassie had used years earlier. By lying to those who knew the woman, a plan is hatched to have Cassie go undercover as Lexie and find out who killed her. Things become complicated when Cassie begins to develop genuine feelings for Lexie’s roommates and gets too personally involved with the potential suspects.
"The Likeness" drew me in right from the start and I became immersed in Cassie's world of deception, danger and drama. While I usually appreciate an author's vivid descriptions of his or her characters, Tana French outdoes herself by painting such elaborate portraits of each character, along with their nuances, quirks and thought patterns. I could easily envision the tight-knit group of friends and Cassie slowly letting her guard down and becoming close to them. Most mystery books tend to focus a great deal on the plot but this one builds up momentum slowly and French never neglects the characters’ development.
I don’t know if this book will be made into a movie, but I can easily envision it all on screen perfectly. I found myself becoming really attached to the characters, especially to Cassie, and I was really sad when the book finished. I hope there will be more books about Detective Cassie in the future!
Monday, January 5, 2009
BIG THANKS to Jeff for sending me his book to review!
“Little Stories” by Jeff Roberts
Published by Outskirts Press
Rating: 4 stars
Jeff Roberts’ collection of short stories depict life’s moments, from the most seemingly mundane to the most powerful and life-altering. They offer a glimpse into life and explore themes of loneliness, love, life and death.
As with all short story collections, I enjoyed some more than others. While I didn’t feel connected to the subject matter in some of the vignettes, the writing is consistently great and always kept me reading further.
My favorite story depicts the beauty and miracle of birth along with the pain and finality of death, as a dying man gets to see his great-granddaughter for the first and last time. There is something really subtle and quiet about the writing that really speaks to me and in my opinion, that particular vignette emphasizes Roberts’ talent as a story teller.
These stories are all well-written and moving, leading me to conclude that there is certainly nothing “little” about them.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
“In the Shadow of the Sun King” by Golden Keyes Parsons
Published by Thomas Nelson
Rating: 4 stars
The story takes place in 17th century when King Louis XIV ruled over France and ordered that all citizens must convert to Catholicism or else they’d be imprisoned or even murdered. Madeleine Clavell and her family are Protestant and refuse to convert, thus enraging the king’s soldiers. Madeleine decides to journey to the king, with whom she once had a romantic relationship with to ask him for help but it ends in disaster. The Clavell family is split apart and they must fight to survive and ultimately reunite.
Golden Keyes Parsons writes very beautifully and she is a wonderful story teller. I was intrigued to learn that the tale is loosely based on her personal ancestry and I think this enhanced my experience with the book. This story itself was interesting to read, despite some predictable and convenient turn of events. I also enjoyed the lovely descriptions of France and its landscapes. The overall message of the book was one of hope and was as inspirational as I think was intended.
This book is the first installment in the ‘A Darkness to Light’ series and while there was a conclusive ending, there are also many loose ends left to be resolved and more to be uncovered. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.