Friday, July 31, 2009

Reviews: Princess in Training & Princess Present by Meg Cabot

I've been trying to go back and read the Princess Diaries this year, as a prelude to reading Princess Mia's novel Ransom My Heart. I had read the first two years ago, but never gotten quite this far. This last week, in between grading Daniel Defoe essays, listening to A Thousand Splendid Suns, and reading Fasting and Feasting by Anita Desai, I read two more in the Princess Diaries series as a needed escape. This time around, I read books VI & VI 1/2.

Synopsis: In Princess in Training, Mia is entering her sophomore year of high school, minus her wonderful boyfriend (sorry...I never say his name, in case you should choose to read the series), who has entered college. Not only does she have the sadness of not having her BF around, but has been nominated for class president! Now in the midst of campaigning (something her grandmere seems WAY too into), Mia has been informed that college boys pretty much have to "do it" with their girlfriends, and that's all they care about. Sigh. Poor Princess Mia. She's not ready to "do it," so she spends much of the time she wanted to spend with the boyfriend that I shall not name, by not seeing him...once again, afraid that he'll want to "do it."

Review: Okay, if you read the last two sentences of that review, you can probably hear me giggling. While we like to say that all teenagers are hormone ridden, I actually liked the fact that Mia owned up to being a bit freaked out by the whole "sex" option. While the drama of running for office, getting new classes at school, living life with a new baby in the house were all fun to watch Mia experience, I really thought the drama of her love life took the cake. You think you know how this will end, but I thought the resolution was honest, and as always, very cute.

Synopsis: In Princess Present, Mia has invited her BF & sister to Genovia to celebrate the Christmas holiday with her. This is a fun, very short little 1/2 story that draws on her love life, along with a little Genovian & royal drama.

Review: Too cute. Although I was still thinking about how the previous book had ended, I liked this fun segway into the Christmas season. It's always fun to see Mia in Genovia, to see how she really is as a royal...which is pretty much how she is all the time. Yet another cute installment.

There you have it--two reviews for the reading price of one! I might be able to read one more before returning to the mainland in a week and a half (*sobbing on keyboard*), but I will be finishing this series up before I know it!

For more information: The Princess Diaries, Volume VI: Princess in Training (Princess Diaries) and The Princess Present: A Princess Diaries Book (Princess Diaries, Vol. 6 1/2).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Some books come along and move through your life, ones you can relate to, or can simply enjoy. In the case of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, it didn't move through my life, it moved inside my heart and hasn't left me. Although I know many people are much more familiar with Hosseini's previous work The Kite Runner (which I also really loved), I actually think that this second novel reached me and has left a permanent mark. Before I get sidetracked though...

Synopsis: Set in modern-day Afghanistan, we are introduced into the lives of two indomitable women, Mariam and Laila. Mariam was the daughter of a single woman who had Mariam with a married, wealthy theater owner in town. Her father, who she always felt really loved her, was embarrassed by her "bastard" status, failed to claim her as his daughter and married her to, in my estimation, the highest bidder.

Laila comes into the picture down the road, the product of a loving home, but with a mother who has a debilitating case of depression over the loss of her two oldest sons. Laila is left to spend her days with her father and best friend Tariq, both of whom she loves. After the Taliban rise in power, Tariq's parents beg him to take them out of Afghanistan to escape, but he has grown to love and care about Laila. He is forced to leave her behind, after which a series of horrible tragedies leave Laila completely alone and abandoned in a city being overrun and constantly bombed by rival neighborhoods and factions. It is at this point that Laila and Mariam's lives intersect to bring about the events that unfold in not just the political upheaval of Afghanistan, but also to demonstrate the everyday lives of women of that country.

Review: To say that I was moved and transformed by this novel is to put it mildly. As a woman, I obviously see the domestic lives that other women live to be fascinating. In this case, the lives of Mariam and Laila horrified me. I found the emotional distance of the men in the story to be disturbing, hypocritical, and saddening. Cultural or not, the Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde created by a culture that both needs yet denigrates women is troubling. Mariam and Laila are strong women, but when faced with a complete dependence on the men in their lives for their existence, even the strongest can push aside their own needs and desires to keep the peace and to simply survive.

In many sections of the book, I found my stomach in knots over the misunderstandings and mistreatments of its characters. I tried desperately to understand why a husband would beat his wife over poorly cooked rice, shoving rocks into her mouth, and forcing her to crunch down on them to make a point. I tried to comprehend a father ignoring his daughter's presence, allowing her to sleep outside in a yard all night, rather than acknowledging her existence. I tried to understand a system of government that would monthly, weekly, and even daily enter a person's home to take away goods and possessions that came from the "West." In general, I tried to be open to the culture and story being told. In the end though, as a human being and woman, my emotions were wrung to their ultimate level and I found myself crying at times, and even boiling with rage at others. More than anything, I wanted justice for the people of Afghanistan. I wanted Mariam and Laila to find happiness and PEACE. I wanted to see some sort of tied up conclusion that could pull together the loose ends of my agony over all I'd read. Thankfully, Hosseini was able to conclude the story in a believable way that didn't dishonor the characters nor merely gloss over the trials that all had been through. This is an amazing story, that is not easy to read, but well worth every second.

For more information: A Thousand Splendid Suns.

What books have you found transforming? What books could you not shake after reading them?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Author Highlight: Mia King

I've never done an author highlight before, but thought it would be a great new addition to my blog. I should start off by mentioning that I don't generally go after authors, as I'm much too star struck and amazed at their talents to bother them (since I genuinely do think that by contacting them, that I'm bothering them). However, after getting more involved in book blogging, going to a book signing, and having a couple of authors contact me for reviews or posts I've written, I now feel a bit more confident that they really are people who are excited to have people read their books and who let them know it. Interesting, right? Why would anyone enjoy hearing good things about their work, right? Such a bother! Just kidding--we love it. So, this has led me to post this initial "Author Highlight" to share.

Who--Author: Mia King
Where--Resides: Big Island, Hawaii
What--Books Written: Good Things (Feb. 6, 2007); Sweet Life (Sept. 2, 2008); & Table Manners (Aug. 4, 2009)
Blog/Author Site: National Bestseller Mia King
Social Media: Mia can also be found on GoodReads, LibraryThing, Twitter,...see Contact Page for more details.
Where I Come In: About a year ago, I ran across a copy of Good Things perched on an easel set up on the "What's New" shelves at my local library. The cover looked interesting, and I wondered what were the "good things" the title hinted at. The fact that the book is about a professional woman whose life crumbles about her, sounded like something I could wrap my head around. The main character went from being a TV lifestyle guru, to a woman without a job or prospect. I know the premise sounds familiar, but I have to say that the protagonist's age (40), the fact that she cooks amazing delights (recipes included in the book), and that there is a good bit or real-life angst to keep you reading, really grabbed me.

From the first moment, there was something about Mia King's writing that grabbed me. I still haven't quite put my finger on it, but I can say that she has this writing voice that is so clean and crisp, that it really grabbed me. The teacher side of me wants to grab a pen and sit down with her writing to see if I can figure out how she's managed to write with such clarity! For me, it was refreshing (possibly because I can't write that way and would like to), and it kept my focus on the story. Needless to say, I loved it and passed it on to my best friend, who also really enjoyed it. The only bad non-cooking best friend asking, "So, would you make these scones???" (Yes, there's a scone recipe in the book, among many others!) I also just bought another copy to give to my trainer here in Hawaii, who told me she doesn't read (gasp). The tables turned for once, and I scolded her about not reading and told her I'd bring her a book. Now my trainer will have "homework" to complete!

I've since read her next novel, Simple Life, which was gut wrenching in a lot of ways. This second novel is very true to the heart of women, and gets at all we sometimes sacrifice in a marriage and as mothers. Although I'm not married, and I don't have any children, King's writing style grabbed me again and kept me reading. As a side note, this is the only book so far that is set in Hawaii. I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the character in the novel adjust to the "real" living she had to do. Outside of resorts and the tourist experience, it is quite different, which I absolutely love, but it is different than what you first experience upon arriving!

Table Manners comes out in one week from tomorrow, on August 4th. I'm delighted to say that I entered a giveaway on Mia's blog, crossing my fingers that I would win (it was the one I MOST wanted), and actually did come up the winner! Mia had also asked in a blog post about what you most like to see in a giveaway from an author, and I'm not sure how many of you feel about it, but I'm just thrilled to get the book! I have had lovely little notes stashed in the package before though, and those mean the world to me. She was so nice, had read my post on that blog entry, and sent the most lovely card. So, as part of my author highlight, I wanted to thank Mia King for this lovely giveaway (picture of the prize below--signed copy of Good Things, signed ARC of Table Manners, and various pens, bookmarks, key chain, and candy). I am just in the process of reading Table Manners, and can't wait to review this follow up to Good Things. I definitely recommend reading Mia's books!

So, in the heart of Mia King's wonderful giveaway in anticipation for Table Manner's release, what do/would you like to see tucked away in a giveaway from an author? Also, do you visit author sites, blogs, etc., and if so, have you contacted an author before?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Salon #8 -- BBAW, Challenges, & Giveaway Reminders

For this Sunday Salon, I wanted to update on some great things going on in books, reading, and blogging! Although I did quite a bit of reading this past week, and plan on doing some more reading today, I need to catch up on a few "announcements" before I get back to it. (Oh, and my apologies if I haven't yet acknowledged awards, etc. I will get to them!)

First off is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which will be September 15-19. Over at My Friend Amy, she has put together a wonderful retreat for book bloggers to share and go crazy over books. Let me have her explanation say it all!
Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.
If you're a book blogger, and interested in joining in for this great event, head over to register today!

Second, I've joined another challenge! I promised myself NOT to join any more, as I get in way over my head with challenges, freeze up from the pressure of "what am I not reading that I should," and then just end up letting it go by the wayside. I know! I'm terrible. I'm doing much better at organizing my reads though, and only joining challenges that fit in with my interests or things that I have to read. Having said that, when I saw the Harry Potter Reading Challenge over at GalleySmith, I knew I HAD to join! I've had the British version for over a year (maybe two), that I bought myself for a special birthday, but haven't had the chance or time to read them. This challenge gave me the perfect opportunity!

Here are the requirements:
  • Read or listen to all seven of the books.
  • The challenge runs from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. You have a year, so that's plenty of time!
  • Post your reviews, log your books, and enjoy!
I can't wait to get going on this one! To join in, go to GalleySmith's Harry Potter Reading Challenge to sign up today!

Last up! Please don't forget a couple of giveaways going on here at One Literature Nut. The first is my giveaway of The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns. Tell me your idea of what "Hell" would be like for you, and join in today! The giveaway runs through this coming friday, at midnight MST.

The other giveaway is for the Outlander series and various books from the series. This giveaway actually isn't through me, but I'm participating in giving away one of the prizes! Please go to The Outlander Series Giveaway for more information, and for where to go to sign up.

Well, I need to head off! So, what are you reading on this beautiful Sunday?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Darcy and Anne by Judith Brocklehurst

On September 1st, the novel Darcy and Anne will be released for sale. I'm jumping the gun a little in my review, but felt that in light of the Everything Austen Challenge going on, that this might be a fun, short little option for those involved.

Synopsis: What happened to Anne de Bourgh after Darcy married Elizabeth? How did his marriage change the relationship between Anne and her mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh? In this sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Judith Brocklehurst picks up the story by examining Anne's life. For once we get a view into Anne's mind and can see how she felt about Darcy (wasn't interested in him either), and how she feels about her mother's incessant pressures on her to marry titled or wealthy men.

Review: This is an extremely short little novel, and one that is easy to fall into. I have read several other books that have included Anne and who she became after Darcy's marriage, but I really enjoyed reading a book with her as the focus. In a way, it was another side story that rather than tread on any details about Darcy and Elizabeth, focused on Anne and her desires. The one drawback for me, and this could really be seen as quite a positive note to the writer's story, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. There seemed to me to be a lot of build up to the action presented in the last quarter of the book, and I would have liked a bit more explanation for things that happened between Anne, her mother, and the other characters involved. Overall though, I think it was a sweet little novel, and would be a great, quick read for the Everything Austen Challenge, or just for a clean, fun, light afternoon read.

Remember this for your shopping list! It comes out on September 1, 2009.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Review: 52 Brilliant Ideas--Sleep Deep

Okay, it's as if I can hear people clicking past this, yawning and saying, "Sigh. Why would I want to hear about a sleep book?" To that I say, "Because it is a book all about SLEEP and how you can get the best sleep ever! Who wouldn't want that?!?"

The basics of the book are that first, people should understand what happens when we sleep, and second, what might be keeping you and I from sleeping the way we would like. Now, although I'm sleeping wonderfully here, I still have my nights, and goodness knows that when the school year begins, I would almost pay money to have a good night's sleep! Here are some of the great things I learned:
  • About 10% of people are early birds (those who need a little less sleep and enjoy, and are more productive during the early hours of the morning) and 20% are true night owls (those that have higher brain function in the evenings, usually enjoy a bedtime somewhere around 2am, and find that they CAN'T get their brains to function when they first wake up). Although I think some people like to claim they are night owls, they simply are not. I am 100% a night owl. In fact, with an early morning job, I've had morning meetings where I literally have not uttered a sound, and left the meeting completely unaware of what was spoken. Nice, eh?
  • Our brains are set to get a short nap some time in the middle of the day. It's just the way the brain functions, so taking a quick 20 to 30 minute nap is ideal.
  • Women sleep more than men, and according to experts, "'s because women use their brains in a more flexible way than men" (19).
  • Rather than sleeping in, which can actually lead your body to be thrown off and feel groggy, go to bed and get up just 10 to 15 minutes later than usual. This will allow you to get a little more sleep without throwing your body clock off.
  • In chapter six it listed the types of insomnia, what causes them, and how best to tackle them.
  • If you struggle to get to sleep, make your bed and bedroom just about sleep. You should avoid things that excite your brain, such as watching TV, working on the computer, or doing paperwork and bills.
  • It has great ideas for people who snore, women who are pregnant, families with small babies that keep them up crying, illnesses that affect one's sleep, grinding teeth, nightmares, wetting the bed, etc. You name it, they have a chapter about it.
  • 90% of people with depression have insomnia. This chapter outlines ways to battle these types of insomnia, whether through medication, therapy, or stress/anxiety relief.
  • Ideas on how to encourage dreams, or at least manipulate them.
  • Pills that help & can damage sleep.
  • Music, herbs, aromas, and therapies to enhance sleep.
There are so many helpful hints in this book, that you really must check it out if you are interested in gaining a better night's rest. I really appreciated that they first explained the issue or problem that caused insomnia, and then walked through the various treatments or options for solving each one. The chapters are short, and are always followed with a brief Q&A that really answered many of my individual questions.

Overall, this is a fantastic resource, and I would highly recommend it as a healthy resource in your medical library. I'm more than happy with this purchase, and will be keeping it for future use. This also qualifies as my second in the Rejuvenate and Renew Challenge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge Update: 7/13 to 7/26

Yes, this has been a bit of a tricky summer! Besides teaching two very active literature courses, my mother up and moved into a new house this week. That has pretty much kept me frantically looking for an internet connection, or using whatever time I had online in grading. I have had the chance to finish a book for this challenge! I finished 52 Brilliant Ideas: Sleep Deep. While I'm not struggling as much with insomnia as I do during the school year, I still find that good sleep is the one thing I ACHE for. This book was a perfect, handy guide that has given me some great ideas that I'll pass along in my review.

Here is my update of books read:
  1. Suze Orman's Action Plan for 2009 -- A fantastic, economic guide to surviving the recession.
  2. 52 Brilliant Ideas: Sleep Deep -- Great resource for how to beat insomnia and get much needed sleep. Review to come.
If you're participating, how are you doing? Have you reviewed a book for the challenge? Let me know and I'll post something to let everyone know!

If you're NOT participating, why not? There will be a giveaway at the end of the challenge, so check out the Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge, and join in with us!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Outlander Series Giveaway

Michele at A Reader's Respite, and myself, are hosting a giveaway of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Michele has been great, and is hosting the Outlander Challenge. I got involved after I noticed I had two brand new copies of one of the books and wanted to pass it along, and thought there was no better opportunity than to offer it to those involved in the challenge!

The entire series is up for grabs, along with a few individual books in the series, so head over to the Outlander Challenge 2009 for more information on how to sign up, and get in on the giveaway today.

***The challenge is open internationally, and runs until August 15th. Good luck!

Sunday Salon #7--A Stack is Waiting

Although it's technically the night before, I wanted to take the time to post a quick list of what I'm excited to take a time out and read this Sunday. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I finally cut myself some slack when I realized that the summer is just not as big of a reading time as I originally thought. Nevertheless, I am reading a number of great books and can't wait for tomorrow to roll around so that I can take a seat and read for a bit!

Here are some of my reads:
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I'm actually listening to this on audio book, but it's grabbed me and I find myself staying in the car to see what will happen next. Such a gut-wrenching story!
Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai. I recently read and reviewed The Inheritance of Loss by Anita's daughter, Kiran Desai. It was brilliant on so many levels, and I really enjoyed it. Although not an easy read, one that filled my need for a powerful message. Fasting, Feasting is along the same lines, and I'm already up late reading it, so I know it's good!

The Grand Sophyby Georgette Heyer. This was a sadly overlooked book that I forgot to get through last month before the re-release date of this novel. So far, I'm thoroughly enjoying the escape "Regency" read this is for me.
Sleep Deep (52 Brilliant Ideas): Simple Techniques for Beating Insomnia is a book I picked up on sale last weekend and haven't been able to put down. However, it's not a story, so you find yourself reading a bit at a time, writing in the book, and then reflecting on its suggestions. Honestly, the next time I have a really troubling bout of insomnia, this book will be a fantastic resource! (I'm also reading this for my Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge.)

These aren't the only books I'm reading, but are the main ones on my list right now. I can't wait for my "set aside" time so that I can dive back into one, or all of these great reads.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movie Challenge Review: The Affair of the Necklace

As part of the Period Drama Challenge, and part of my effort to review films, I recently watched The Affair of the Necklace (2001). The story takes place during the French 18th century, centering on the court of Louis XVI who has stripped a countess and her family of their title and home. The countess is played by Hilary Swank, and the majority of the film she spends her time trying to break back into the graces of the court, to rebuild her family name.

The necklace comes in to play as it was a necklace that Louis XV supposedly had made for his mistress at the time. The jewelers spent years collecting the best diamonds to outfit this larger-than-life necklace, and with the death of Louis the XV & the banishment of his mistress from court, it put the jewelers into great debt. Louis the XVI then tried to offer the necklace to Marie Antoinette, who refused it. Reported conartist, Jeanne de Saint-Remy Valois (Swank's character), tried to use this necklace as a way of winning her way back into court.

Review: My initial reaction was great interest, as I hadn't actually heard of this film before, and was shocked that it had slipped past me. I also think that Hilary Swank is a great actress, so I was eager to see her in the film. Unfortunately, this is exactly where my excitement stopped. For some reason, Swank, along with characters such as Christopher Walken (the actor in all those comedic spoofs), absolutely threw me. I wanted to fall into the story, but the characters were not believable, and I honestly wondered if there was a comic element somewhere that I had missed. Because I had taped this off of a movie channel, I didn't have a film case to review the plot to know that it really was a romantic drama. The acting simply wasn't believable, and the scenes seemed put together in a very awkward sort of way. I will say though that Joely Richardson, who played Marie Antoinette, did a fantastic job. Maybe this was because she had an over the top character to play, but I found her to be icy and very much the diva that I could see this queen being. However, this alone couldn't save the movie for me. In the end, I wanted to like it, but just didn't.

For more information: The Affair of the Necklace

If you've seen this film, I'd be curious to hear your response to it. Was I too critical, or was the experience different in the theater or with a different introduction to it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Times and Seasons

I've been reading this summer, and I'm getting through many of the books I wanted to read this summer. I also noticed that I'm not reading as much as I usually do. This prompted a little panic and anxiety on my part, so I went to my handwritten book log that I've kept for the past 15 years (which is a priceless jewel to me), to look at how much I read and when. Across the board, EVERY YEAR my reading slows down over the summer! In a way that made me feel a bit better, but then I started to wonder why? So, I read A LOT from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I think it's the cold that drives me indoors? Is there more to it?

Most summers I travel, and can't always read in planes, trains, and automobiles (ha, ha), because I'm a big motion-sickness person. I hate it, but there it is. Sometimes I can read in a moving vehicle, but usually I can not. Also, over the past two summers, I have taught multiple online courses that have made me sit in one place so much that I'm always dying to get outside! I always have two or three books on me at any given time, but I can't always say that I want to read and ignore my surroundings. I really AM a book person, but I have definitely noticed that I'm just not reaching for a book as much as usual.

Now that I know it's just a "phase" or season for me, and that once Thanksgiving to Christmas rolls around I'll be reading stacks, I'm a bit more calm. I suppose I can go back out into the sunshine and just enjoy playing for a bit!

How about you? Do you read more at a certain time of year? Is anyone else out there struggling to read as much as you usually do this summer, and why do you think that happens for you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Giveaway: The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes

Last month I had the chance to read and review The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes. Thank you again to Harrison Demchick from Bancroft for sending me this book to review! He was also nice enough to let me offer my copy as a giveaway. Because I have STACKS of books that I need to mail home, what's one more, but to a different address?!? Besides, I'd love to pass this fun, beach read along!

This giveway will close on Friday, July 31st, at midnight MST (yes, I'm going to close it at midnight, mainland time...just easier that way), and is open internationally. To enter:
  • Post a comment, answering the question, "If Hell exists, mine would require me to __________ for eternity." In other words, my uncle used to say that hanging Christmas lights for eternity would be his idea of Hell. :) What would your's be? Please include your email address.
  • If you're a follower, let me know, and I'll give you one additional entry.
  • Twitter the giveaway (I'm @mjmbecky), or include a mention about the giveaway on your blog for another entry.
Good luck again, and I'll draw for the book on 7/31. Mahalo!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Authors Against e-Readers? Would You Buy Your Favorite Books Again?

So, here I am in Hawaii, spending the summer at my mother's place. As movie number six in the Harry Potter series gets closer and closer, my desire to read book six again has increased exponentially. However, I'm here in Hawaii, don't have a copy, and you can't download it to your Kindle because Rowling hasn't/won't release them to electronic format. Sigh. That is truly her prerogative, and she has every right to do with her craft as she chooses, but from my perspective...why, oh why won't you just let me download it so I have it wherever I go?!?

I already own the American version in hardback, because seriously, who could wait for them to come out in paperback? I was definitely part of that, reserve or wait-in-line-at-midnight crowd, so I definitely have them all already. Then, as a belated 30th birthday present, I purchased the UK, adult version all in hardback. What a pleasure and joy to track them as they went from Glasgow, to London, to New York, and across the country to my doorstep (until DHL misdelivered them, which is another story altogether). I felt as though my special books had taken the Hogwarts Express, and were every bit as special as the magic the books held. (For more information on the British version, you can visit

So here's my quandary. I already own two sets of the novel. I just can't carry those huge books when I travel, and I refuse to let my UK versions out of the house, so I'm stuck when I go on vacation! It doesn't seem that I'm one of those people who is losing the book-holding experience with these novels, especially since I own two copies of them, and would gladly purchase them all a third time for my Kindle. Am I wrong in thinking that real fans of the books would be willing to own more than one version/copy?

At the recent BEA conference back in May, many of you might have heard about the comment author, Sherman Alexie made about e-Readers being "elitist," and how he wanted to "hit" a woman on a plane that he saw using one. (Wait...remind me again how expensive hardback books are! So, are they elitist too?) This really gutted me! I love Sherman Alexie, and even studied his work for my MA. I get that Alexie, along with many other authors, which include Rowling, are against e-Readers for the manipulation of the market and possibility of piracy that they pose. Sometimes, however, I do feel like by holding out, I'd be a lot more tempted by the masked person in the back alley saying, "Psst...I have a free copy of that book you wanted to download!" No, I don't pirate materials, and I won't, but I sure would love the option of legally purchasing them for my Kindle. (Here is a great follow-up article to that response, where he clarifies those remarks over at Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits.)

My argument/question here is not whether e-Readers are good or bad (I obviously have one and love it), but rather about people's book buying habits. If you owned one, or if you already do, would you be willing to legally purchase your favorite books again, and why?!?

Well, since the library here doesn't have book six in, I'm off to see if I can buy a cheap copy at the local bookstore! I know. I should have planned ahead. Sigh.

Wait...they DO have third party sellers for the UK version! See: The Complete Harry Potter Collection Box Set: The Philosopher's Stone; The Chamber Of Secrets; The Prisoner of Azkaban; The Goblet of Fire; The Order of The Phoenix; The Half Blood Prince; The Deathly Hallows (The Complete Harry Potter Collection, 1-7)

Everything Austen Challenge: Winner of the Hawaiian Bookmark

To launch my participation in the Everything Austen Challenge being run by Stephanie's Written Word, I hosted a quick giveaway. Here in Hawaii, I discovered these great wood bookmarks that I've fallen in love with! Well, since I have a few that I've purchased, I thought it would be fun to give one away.

Four people guess the picture correctly. It is from the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, when Darcy hands Lizzy into the carriage after her stay while caring for her sister Jane. I love this picture, and it's my screen saver. :) I swear, almost every time I used my laptop to run PowerPoint presentations at school, my students would say, "What's that?!?" Then I'd have to admit to my obsession with all things Austen!

Anyway, I digress! Heidenkind (Tasha), Jemima, Melissa, and Stephanie each guessed it correctly. I drew numbers through, and the winner is:


Congrats! I'll be emailing you for your mailing address!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Review: Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Thank you to those who stopped by to give me some great advice on conquering my book slump. I did end up setting aside the books that I think were tripping me up, and slowing me down a bit. Thankfully, I have been able to read a couple more since then, and now feel almost back to my old reading self again! In fact, I had been reading Club Dead by Charlaine Harris for a little while, which once the action got going, grabbed me and kept me reading.

Synopsis: ***Some spoilers*** Picking up from where book two left us, with tension between our two main characters, we find Bill has been "kidnapped." As with previous adventures, Sookie is called on to help get inside all the action, to help solve crimes and mysteries. New to this adventure is a Were named Alcide, who is getting over his relationship with his girlfriend. Alcide and Sookie bond as they work towards finding Bill, and so we add yet another character that is smitten with Sookie and her charms. Where has Bill been taken, and what sort of future does Sookie have now that she's become so fully involved in the vampire world?

Review: As I expressed in my book two review for Living Dead in Dallas, I can't say that I was terribly smitten with book two, and now I know why. In book two, you could see that Harris was going to be manipulating her characters into new relationships and adventures, and at the time, I didn't care for it. Book two seemed too rushed to me, pushing and pulling characters in directions I couldn't see for them (mostly on an emotional level). And, to top it off, I couldn't completely understand some of Sookie's passivity, even though she was being a brave cookie. Book three is then the answer to most of my frustrations.

In book three, Sookie works through her feelings for Bill, and how she then relates to the rest of the men she associates with. I'll still admit to rolling my eyes at the "everyone's attracted to me" bits, but I understood where they were supposed to be taking us in evolving Sookie's character from the supposed "freak" she used to feel that she was. What I could readily hang on to in this book was that Sookie expressed her anger and frustration. I know that if I was continually put in danger, I would be ticked off too! Sookie didn't just fold and let others wimper and moon over her, but took matters into her own hands, saved herself, and let everyone know that she was tired of all the drama.

Overall, you can still see where Harris is taking the story in regards to characters; however, in storyline and action, it's anyone's guess. I liked book three much more than book three, and am glad to see characters making more sense to me.

This book also fulfilled book #3 for my e-book Reader Challenge.

For more information see: Club Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 3)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge Update: 7/6 to 7/12 and a Giveaway!

No new, real progress for me this week. I have been happily trying to find my way back into reading after HOURS a day working on the online classes I teach. Thankfully, I have finished a few books this week, and am feeling a bit more chipper about life again. :) Hopefully, I can finish my second book in the challenge, soon!

On another note, I would like to announce a giveaway associated with the challenge. Some of you might recall that I'm an avid fan of Bravo's hit show, "The Real Housewives of _______" (fill in blank w/ location). Yes, I've watched them all, and yes, I can tell you about any and all of these ladies (and a few husbands/boyfriends). I'm in good company being hooked on this show, as Anderson Cooper has admitted to his own love of the show, so I feel much better! Having said that, one of my favorite "housewives," Bethenny Frankel (of "The Real Housewives of New York City"), is a chef and writer who put out a new book about dieting, Naturally Thin. As part of the challenge, I have one signed copy of her book to give away at the conclusion of the challenge on September 1st.

To enter the giveaway:
  1. Join the challenge! There is a small handful of us working on this, but I'd like to limit the giveaway to those who participated with me. So, if you would like to join in, check out the Rejuvenate & Renew Challenge for more information.
  2. Read at least one book for the challenge, and then review it with a link here to share it with the rest of us! We're reading three, but if you can even get through one, that would be great!
That's it! I've got her signed copy with me here in Hawaii, and unless something horrible happens in the transport back to the mainland (please no!), then I will do the drawing on September 1st!

For more information about Frankel's book see: Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting

***One last reminder. Don't forget to stop by and make a guess as to the origin of the Jane Austen film clip I've included in my Everything Austen Challenge introductory post. I'll be drawing one winner on 7/10 to win the cutest wooden Hawaiian bookmark. I buy them at the gift shop in Waimea Valley, which is this awesome natural and archeaological site. They are awesome, and I thought I'd share one for fun. Aloha!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

I finally settled down enough to finish off Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth. Now I know that most people believe that English teachers just adore Shakespeare. Well...I don't. I have plays that I like, and that I like to teach, but I'm not a die-hard fan. It's not that I don't think that Shakespeare is brilliant, with an amazing range and ability to utilize language and human nature. I know how amazing he is, but for whatever reason, it just wasn't my big interest in college or as an adult. Yes, be shocked. My English department teases me from time to time when/if it comes up. (I try to keep quiet about it!)

This particular play not only fulfills my requirement for "What People Expect a Teacher to Read" (of my own making), but also for the Shakespearean Summer Challenge, being hosted by Liv's Book Reviews. I have now completed one of my three, to be completed by August 31st.

Synopsis: Semi-good guy gets power hungry. Kills or schemes the murder of multiple characters. Gets just reward for said murder and killing.

Okay, so not a good synopsis, but I will say that the overriding theme of this play is power & greed. Set in Scotland, Macbeth and Banquo return from battle having pushed back the enemies. They are told by three witches a prophecy of their futures, which includes titles and even crowning as king. Rather than wait to see how this prophecy might be fulfilled, Macbeth returns to his wife and they set out to make it come true, even if that means the killing of those who stand between them and said title.

Review: Since it's been about 17 years since I last read this play, I only remembered the broad ideas and plot, so revisiting the language and story again were well worth my time. As Shakespeare was known to do brilliantly, he showed how even the most common man can fall victim to vices of pride, greed, lust, hate, envy, etc. The thirst for power, and the ensuing paranoia that endeavour creates, really sent the message across loud and clear. Overall, I found this to be a great cautionary tale for myself, reminding me that even the most centered person can be enticed by worldly pursuits to the point that they would cause harm or injury to another to get ahead.

Now for the big question. Why in the world are these lines from Act IV:I so well-known and famous?
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Are they famous just because three witches recite them and they are lyrical and use assonance and alliteration to cast their spell? I get that they are increasing the trouble to come to Macbeth, but what else am I missing here? What has given these lines their power and popularity?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Drive: Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Somehow, in getting behind on my Google Reader, I missed seeing the information about a book drive going on over at My Friend Amy. After a lot of discussion about whether book blogging and reviewers actually drive sales toward the book market, this book drive was put together to show support for a great book, Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart. I have not personally read this novel yet, but it is getting great reviews. As I have a horrible book addiction, I thought why not! Not only can you get in on a book discussion and get what is said to be a great book, but there are prizes involved for those who purchased the book and signed up for the book drive. For more information, please visit My Friend Amy.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Salon #6 -- Feeling Book Pressure

It's another beautiful Sunday, and I hate to say it, but I'm feeling pressure. Why? I'm reading too many different things and not really zoning in as I should. I'm currently reading about seven different books, and my lack of reading ability doesn't reflect on the books in any way.

Some great book blogging friends on Twitter (@BiblioEva, @Vasilly, & @heidenkind right there at the end) recommended that I switch over to children's stories or even mangas for awhile. Maybe, in that way I can focus on one story for an amount of time? I think that sounds like a great idea, and as I'm in Hawaii, it might be interesting to see what they have in local children's fiction?

So, what do you do when you get stuck? Do you ever find that you've started a million different books, but just can't settle down to one? Do you just force yourself to read one until you get into it? Please tell me you're not all instant "fallers" (you fall in to the point where people have to shout to get your attention)! What do you do when you don't fall? I have ideas, but I'm curious to see what you do?