Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Salon: The Curse & The Challenge

What a glorious last day of May! I've been down with "The Curse," as I've come to call it. EVERY YEAR I get sick on or around the last day of school, and I fell to it once again. It's made it much easier to wander around in a cold medicine haze, reading books, eating Popsicles, watching TV (very bad TV this weekend BTW...nothing good on), and throwing everything on the floor to get to once I feel better. Oh, you mean like tomorrow or Tuesday because you fly out to HAWAII on Wednesday?!? Yes, I'm panicking that I'm sick and trying to just get rid of illness before I hop in a plane and scare someone with my hacking cough! Although, it would be a bit funny too. (Sorry, that's my devious side.)

May for me was an interesting month. I read more than I thought I would, with my minuscule eight books. I keep thinking that's great, until I read how some out in the reading community are hitting 20 to 30 books a month! How?!?

Right now, I'm in the middle of finishing up Abigail Reynolds Impulse & Initiative: What if Mr. Darcy had set out to win Elizabeth's heart? (Pride & Prejudice Variation) In fact, I took it with me for a very slow, rambling walk out in the beautiful sunshine today. (Yes, I wandered out, looking semi-homeless due to being sick, with book in hand.) Since this is another take on Pride and Prejudice, and I'm a real sucker for anything Regency-esque/P&P, I've been giving it a spin. Well, I had an epiphany today and now realize why we love Austen. Maybe I'm the only person who didn't figure this out a long time ago, but every male hero in her novels does something self-sacrificing for the woman he loved. He didn't do things to posture, pose, or position, in fact, he did something so unselfish for the woman (without any indication that she would ever know it was him) that it is almost breathtaking. I don't think we want to believe that a man could be so unselfishly romantic, making a gesture we might never know about, for the basic reasons of compassion and love. So sweet! (Does Darcy do that in the one I'm reading now? You'll have to stay tuned...)

I'm also trying to cram in a few other library books before I cart them all back before leaving for Hawaii. I then get to go over and torture their library staff! :) Honestly, I do think it's torture for them to see me coming. The lady who works at the library knows my mom and I think wonders if she's really reading all those books I check out on her card! Anyway, I'm also mailing about two boxes of books over, since I'll be there from the 3rd of June until the 10th of August. WooHoo!!!

Before I wrap up, if you get a chance, join me in my first reading challenge, "Rejuvenate and Renew." (By the way, the button for the challenge comes from a picture I took on the North Shore of Hawaii, in Haliewa.) The challenge is all about reading those educational, self-help, how to books you've been wanting to read. I'd love to have some others to share this challenge with.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rejuvinate & Renew Reading Challenge '09

This is my first reading challenge, and I've been wanting to do this for awhile! As a teacher, my summer breaks become the time to "Rejuvenate and Renew." I've been wanting to read some nonfiction books that will lend me some good advice and get me back on track. For some reason, self help has garnered a bad name for itself, so I don't want to call my challenge the "Self Help Challenge," as that makes me sad and feel so desperate somehow!

Now that I can kind of "refocus" on myself for a bit, I've been wanting to read things like Suze Orman's Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan, Elie Krieger's Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life, Bethenny Frankel's Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, books of literary theory I've meant to get around to, etc. Why don't you join me?

Here's the challenge:
  • Choose any three non-fiction books that deal with a topic you've wanted to learn more about. This could be money & finance, home decorating, budget tips, weight loss, nutrition, beauty & fashion, writing, religion, philosophy, literary theory, or even a biography. (You get the picture.) Basically, take three how to or self help books that you've been wanting to read, and join in!
  • Read these books between June 1st and September 1st.
  • Sign up by posting a simple comment below. (I didn't want to make things too complicated for this first challenge...for myself, or for anyone else!)
  • Take the button created above and post in your own blog, with a link back here so that we can all see what everyone is reading.
  • Review your books, and once a week I'll put up a post that you can link your own post/review.
  • Enjoy finding out more about what everyone else is learning this summer!

End of Year Curse

I thought I'd get away with it this year, but I was wrong! Every year I have gotten sick either on the very last day of school (graduation), or a couple of days before. Three years ago I got bronchitis, that repeated two years ago. Last year I got a horrible sinus infection. This year I crossed my fingers, said a little prayer, and increased my intake of fruits and vitamin C in an effort to break the curse. NO SUCH LUCK. I wanted to come home last night and post my review of Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael, but the end of year curse has hit again, and I'm off to go crawl back into bed. Sad.

Until my ears stop ringing and my chest stops rattling, don't forget to check out my giveaway of Brandon Sanderson's novel Mistborn, posted on my "Memorial Day Giveaway" post. It closes on Sunday, and I'll be mailing it off before I leave for Hawaii. Until then, Mahalo! (Off to bed to honor the curse.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

As an undergraduate, I had to read Jamaica Kincaid's novel Annie John for my Postmodern Literature class. It's a super short novel, but I remember how the story struck me, and its themes of the African diaspora across the Caribbean. The story of the little girl Annie has always stuck with me. Having said that, several years ago I picked up Kincaid's book A Small Place, and while in Hawaii started reading it. Amazing, and haunting.

Synopsis: This short 84 page, non-fiction writing about Kincaid's home island of Antigua, is written in short chapters that could be individual essays. She opens the book with a poignant piece on the view of the native Antiguan to the tourist, or what I think Kincaid is saying is the view of any native peoples to their modern invaders:
An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, and ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that, and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you, that behind their closed doors they laugh at your strangeness (you do not look the way they look); the physical sight of you does not please them; you have bad manners...; they do not like the way you speak ( you have an accent); they collapse helpless from laughter, mimicking the way they imagine you must look as you carry out some everyday bodily function. They do not like you. They do not like me! That thought never actually occurs to you.
She then chronicles not only the irony of all the beauty the tourist sees as compared to the poverty of those that live there & work for these industries, but then also discusses the dilapidation of their cities and infrastructure after gaining their independence back from their colonizer. Here we have a classic tale of postcolonialism, and the struggle of a nation and its people to be independent and free from those who held them captive as slaves, yet managed to maintain their island in ways they now find that they cannot.

Review: I really loved reading Kincaid's take on postcolonial Antiguan society, on the role of tourism on her country, and on the corruption of big business that prevents "culture" from flourishing on its own. Maybe it was just that this small book filled my fuel tank for deep thinking, or maybe it was that this book pointed out some of the cultural questions I've asked myself every time I visit Hawaii, but I found myself really examining tourist culture, and the way we commodify any place of beauty and forget those that are from there. It doesn't take long to see and feel the differences in Hawaii once you step away from the resorts and nice hotels along Waikiki, or any of those scattered around the islands, and go to any of the small communities that live on the island 24/7. These communities and people really are different, and way more complex than you had even considered. That is actually what I love most about travel to begin with...NOT being a tourist so much as being a cultural observer. Does that mean that packing around a camera and being a toursit is so wrong? No, I don't believe so, but Kincaid reminds us of what we should remember and be aware of; that behind the photo ops, there are people who gain from your presence, and just might resent the dependence that comes from you being there!

In short, I loved Kincaid's pointed words. While the book does seem more about awareness, and not one of ready solutions, I still found that the education from it was priceless. Honestly, I always think about this very subject when I travel, but will consider even more the kind of sensitivity, respect, and awareness I should have for those I might "invade" while there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review: Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Annoyed would be a rather minor description of how I feel as I prepare to review this little book that I picked up at the library. In fact, I had another book that I read over the weekend that I wanted to review, but was so disturbed by what I read (and couldn't even finish), that I put this review first.

Now what pushed me to pick up a book with a title like Skinny Bitch to begin with? Well, I won't claim to be easily offended, nor one who can't laugh at pop cultural references, but after diving into this little beauty, the slander is completely lost on me. I'm now asking myself, "WHY did you pick up this awful book?!?" First off, I won't lie when I say that the credentials of the two authors as: "a former agent for Ford Models, is a self-taught know-it-all," and "a former model who holds a Masters of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition," did immediately turn me off. Yes, that meant that two "models" wanted to wave their fingers in my face and call me a b-yotch. Yep...pretty much. In fact, the blurb on the front cover says:
A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!
Partially true. I do want to stop eating "crap," but honestly, would rather start FEELING good. I guess this wasn't the direction I should have headed. Really, I just thought it would be a more fun, less starched approach to diet and health. Boy, did I have my eyes opened! Let's start with the opening lines from chapter one:
Okay. Use your head. You need to get healthy if you want to get skinny. Healthy = skinny. unhealthy=fat...Don't act surprised! You cannot keep eating the same shit and expect to get skinny.
Nice. They continue on with references to people with words such as: "losers," "fat pig," "@#$hole," and several others that I found so offensive that I literally stopped reading, and skimmed the rest of the book.

The following chapters dive into myths, or what I would presume are their scary facts, about carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, and meat (or "flesh," as they call it). The two chapters I found most offensive were the ones on dairy and meat. I found it so ironic that just today, while I was watching Dr. Oz on Oprah (which I know is only one doctor's opinion), he was presenting studies they've done on nutrition and its affects on the human body. They showed that people who ate a diet with plenty of calcium, which he definitely spelled out as not just including milk, but also things like figs and prunes, helped bind with fat to improve weight loss/management. It's not an answer to weight loss, but serves as a sort of glue to fats to carry them out of your system. Now I will admit that the book is only touching on milk, but the picture they paint is one where you not only will gain mass amounts of weight (because that's what babies and calves do when they nurse), but will also have mass amounts of mucus and health problems coming down the pike for you! (See p. 56 to 58.) They then went on to strangely include eggs in their diatribe and had these jewels of wisdom, in the middle of their "dairy" chapter:
So if you really believe that eating "just egg whites" isn't fattening, we've got a bridge we can sell ya. Eggs are high in saturated fat and are completely disgusting when you think about what you are eating. Try that for once. Actually think about what you are eating!

You will pee in your pants when you see how much weight you lose from giving up dairy... (62)
Wait...was that a transition from dairy to eggs, back to dairy? Nice transition. Totally sold me there! I'm sorry, but that's just BAD WRITING! I've taught writing for years (so yes, let's now tear apart all the bad things I do in writing), but can honestly say that the transitions are awkward, the style is juvenile and conversational (at best), and the tone is replete with negative and degrading language throughout. Not only do they sling around swear words (even the if that will motivate me in some way), but also degrading references as shown earlier. The meat section gets even worse. Almost the entire chapter is filled with references to how meat and poultry are slaughtered. I'm not even sure that's necessary for "dietary" concerns, but in this case is used as a way of scaring or grossing you into a life as a vegan.

In skimming through the last thirty pages, I got their "schtick." They're not for all natural. No. They're for a vegan lifestyle, full of products and name brands that can be found in your nearest (expensive) organic food store (and yes, I do actually really like Whole Foods as a store). Rather than possibly focusing on the positive, restorative properties in the things we CAN eat, they chose to focus on scary facts (not even sure if they were "facts"), degrading name calling of consumers and even the medical community, and a refocus on products that are every bit as processed as those mentioned in the book. For instance, in the dairy chapter, they finish off with a high thumbs up for all things "Earth Balance," "Rice Dream," and "Soy Garden." YUM!

Sigh. I'm sorry. As someone who has suffered with pancreatic issues since my early 20s, and a thyroid removal in my late 20s, I have really tried to eat well, naturally, and consciously. Doctors have been quick to point out the health benefits of being moderate in what I eat, and smart in helping me find what works for me! They've also encouraged me to keep cooking at home, and from whole ingredients. I've switched to organic fruits and vegetables that have thin skins or peels, and hormone-free meat and eggs whenever I can afford them. That's not for everyone, but it brings me a certain peace of mind. Having said that, I also LOVE Diet Dr. Pepper, brownies, Dove Dark Chocolate, and an occasional slice of pizza. Yes, I struggle with my weight like many Americans, but this book was just not for me or any of my friends or family. In fact, I would recommend, and actually quite like Bob Greene's approach, with all of its balance and focus on natural products. I also am in the middle of reading Elie Krieger's Small Changes, Big Results, but am taking forever to read it because the advice is just so darn good, and makes sense to me! (I'll share more on this one later, but for more information Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life)

In short, A vegan diet, as healthy as that may be for some, filled with soy products and a sassy attitude, is not the well-balanced guide I was looking for. My bad. I should have been prepared by the title alone! As much as I hate to really rip into a book or guide, I couldn't let this one slide. If it works for you, that's great, but for's just too kitchy and one-sided.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Giveaway!

Last weekend I attended the Provo Children's Book Festival. Because I had announced the festival to my students, I ran into a good number of them while there. One of my AP Literature students, who is an avid reader, pointed out to me that her FAVORITE author was there and would I take her picture with him. I did remember her talking about these books that were so special to her, and that I "had" to read them, but hadn't put two and two together that it was Brandon Sanderson. You see, I don't know what my problem is, but I really struggle with mystery and science fiction. That doesn't mean I simply don't read them or haven't ever enjoyed these genres, but admittedly lose interest because I think I lack some sort of imagination necessary to build the plotline in my head! Standing in line with my student, she told me all the reasons she loves his brand of science fiction writing, how he's different from all the others she's read, and how he captures a scene or storyline and carries it through. Her passion for his books really caught my attention, so I went downstairs and bought two copies and had him sign them. Brandon was very kind in mentioning how one of his own teachers first encouraged him to start writing, and asked me to email him my thoughts after I finish reading Mistborn: The Final Empire. I haven't yet started it, but it is definitely in my TBR pile now! Thanks to my student and Brandon, I'm going to give science fiction another hearty shot!

As part of my renewed excitement to try Sanderson's first novel, I have an extra, signed paperback copy to give away. If you would like the chance to win this much talked about novel (really, my student couldn't say enough), then please do the following:

1. Post a comment, telling me if you have struggled with a genre. Maybe it's one that you don't necessarily dislike, but simply don't read very often. Earn three points for posting your tastes in reading! (Please include your email address.)
2. Twitter the giveaway, or post about the giveaway on your blog (sidebars are fine). Let me know that you've added it to your blog. (My twitter account is: @mjmbecky)

***The giveaway will close on Sunday, May 31st...yes, it's quick, and I will post the winner on Monday, June 1st so I can get it off in the mail before I leave for the summer!

As a side note, if you want to follow me, I'll be tickled, but won't ask you to do that as part of the contest. :) Honestly, I want you to follow only if you want to. I love adding to my circle of friends who like to read, so please...follow and join in if you'd like!

For more information on the novel: The Final Empire (Mistborn, Book 1) or Brandon's website at:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Memorial Weekend

Happy Sunday, and Memorial Day Weekend to those here in the States. I'm happy to say that it has actually been quite a lazy weekend, but eventful to some degree! My poor wireless router went down Friday night, which had me at Best Buy in my grubby clothes to look for a new one. I then spent the next six hours proving the guy there (who said I needed to pay Geek Squad to come install it) wrong, by hooking and setting it all up BY MYSELF...thank you very much. Yes, it took me forever, but it's up and running. I am now the proud owner of a new, 10X the power, wireless router than before. :) That will come in handy when I move into my new townhome this fall, as I'll be setting up the main computer upstairs.

As for books, this has seemed to be a pretty productive reading week, thanks to things slowing down with the end of the school year. My online job wrapped up this past week, and I'm in the middle of Finals for my kids at school. Since our grades are due the last day of finals, I don't really do a "real" test. That would just be too hard to get graded and in by 2 pm, so I do reading surveys at the end of the year, and have kept them over the past several years to compare reading trends. It's quite interesting. As always, you get the kids who are happy to say they won't be reading until next fall, and then you get the others who eagerly give you a run down on all the books they're planning on reading once school lets out. Either way, it's interesting to see the trends.

Once school gets out, I'll be packing up, mailing boxes, and gearing to head to HAWAII!!! I'm nervous to leave mid-building on my new townhome, with so much to be decided on, but am looking forward to a tropical summer. My Kindle is totally stocked, full of books and series I've been wanting to read. I've kept my eye on prices, and picked up new books whenever they were free or within a $4 range. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my Kindle??? See Kindle: Amazon's 6 for more information!)

This past week I read and reviewed three books: Deep Dish, The Stand, and Living Dead in Dallas. Each book was completely different from the next, but interesting in their own rights. Right now I'm in the middle of My Brother Michael, which is set in Greece, and is taking me back to my own trip through Greece and Turkey. Man, I love that region! I even told my financial adviser the last time we met, that my entire goal for retirement was to be able to spend several months a year in Greece! Besides that, I'm picking away at lots of books. I REALLY want to dive into book two of Sharon Lathan's series, Loving Mr. Darcy, but am trying so hard to hold off long enough to let it be the only thing I have to do. I'm so looking forward to escaping into its pages, that I've had to put the book away so that I won't be tempted to crack it open and read it too quickly! Besides, I'm nervous that I have to wait so long for book 3! (Picture above is of me at the library at Corinth. I can't believe they let you stand up there!)

Well, I do have a few other things that I'm reading, here and there, but am really just clearing things out so that I can leave in a week and a half. No library loot for me for awhile! Anyway, until next time...bye!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Synopsis: Now that the vampires know about Sookie's ability to read minds, Eric and the rest of the bunch see ways that she might come in handy! With trouble always brewing for the vampires, trying to live in a world full of mortals that are both scared and fascinated by them, there is always some trouble around the bend.

As the second installment in the Southern Vampire Series, Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2), sends Sookie and Bill off to Dallas to help solve a disappearing vampire situation. She soon gets in way too far, and finds herself mixed up with an anti-vampire group that wants to get rid of all vampires! In the process, Sookie sees a new side of Bill. Does she like his vampire habits & how they take him away from her?

Review: Part of me wants to like these books, but I can't tell if it's the mystery bit (as I've revealed in earlier posts, I have a real problem with mysteries...they just lose me), or if it's all the new characters we've been introduced to, but my mind kept wandering a bit. If you like mystery, and paranormal romance, then this one might fill both interests. The story is unique and engaging, and I think Harris has created a story that people can sink their teeth into (yes...pun intended), so I see why she has a hit on her hands. If I gave ratings, I think I'd give it a 3 out of 5, but please remember, I'm lousy with mysteries!

For more information: Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two Challenges: 48 Hour Book Challenge & A Shakespearean Summer

Just really quickly, I wanted to post two new challenges I've joined. I suppose that as I look ahead at a wonderful summer of reading and relaxing, I'm thinking about ways I can push myself to read things I want AND need! So, here are the challenges I've joined:

On June 5th through June 7th, I will joining in on "The Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge" being hosted by MotherReader. I so enjoyed cheering on all those who participated in the Dewey, 24 Hour Challenge, that I decided I really should participate by being a reader/blogger in this event! Since I fly to Hawaii for the summer on June 3rd, and will be there until August 10th, I think this would be a fun way to kick off my first weekend on summer break! Check the links above for additional information.

I've also joined the "Shakespearean Summer" Challenge, to read three plays between June 1st and August 31st. The challenge is being hosted by Liv's Book Reviews, and is also being sponsored by Liz Mantchev, who will be giving away a free copy of her book Eyes Like Stars. Here are the rules to the challenge:
So onto the rules.
1. You must read three plays by Shakespeare between June 1st and August 31st. There's a list of all of his stuff toward the bottom of this page.
2. After you've finished reading one, do a post about it on your blog. Link back to this original post in your own post so people can see what it's all a part of.
3. If you don't have a blog, leave your thoughts in the comments of this post so there's some sort of documentation.
4. The Sparknote versions of the plays can count. Because yes, Shakespeare is hard to understand and sometimes we might need a little help along the way. I know that I'll be reading some Sparknotes.
5. Have fun.
Drop by to see all the information about the challenge, and to sign up. (Click on the link above.)

I'm so looking forward to both of these challenges, and can't wait to get my summer started now! If you get a chance, come join in. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: The Stand by Stephen King

I did it! I finished my first Stephen King without putting it in the freezer (like Joey on Friends) or out in the hall at night (like my friend Doc) so that I could sleep at night. (Although, I don't think I would do either because it was on my wonderful Kindle!) This review has been a long time in coming, and I have to say that I'm really proud of myself for diving into a genre and author that had previously scared me a little. Before I go much farther, let me give a brief synopsis of this nearly 1200 page novel. :)

Synopsis: Imagine a pandemic. Imagine the worst flu ever. (No, we're not talking about the swine flu!) Now imagine what you would do if everyone around you were dying, and you somehow managed to live through it all. Would you flock to whatever human being you could find, regardless of how weird, strange, or aberrant they had been or were? In brief, The Stand tackles a global pandemic and considers what we would do as humans, what kind of a society we might form, and how we would survive. Now add onto that a Stephen King-esque twist, a psychological twist that has everyone dreaming the same dark dream of an evil man. Who is he, and how can they get the horrid dreams to stop?!? Now you're headed into a completely different, more sinister world created by King, all for your consideration.

Review: Other than having said that I've never read a Stephen King novel before, I have to add to this story. I had a student this year that couldn't pull a passing grade to save his life, yet never really tried to either. He would sit in his desk with a book, blocking out the world, and never bring a paper to class, nor turn one back in! Here's my story can you not LOVE a kid that reads nonstop? He would pack in a different novel every couple of days, tough guy that he was, and regardless of any ribbing he got from his buddies, he kept on reading and loving it. I struck up a conversation with him during announcements, and I really knew this kid was a gem! Yes, he had troubles, but he was also one of the brightest, most astute kids I've seen. I quickly found though that we read completely different genres! He loved sci/fi, fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, and horror. While I love historical, classical, romance, chick lit., ethnic lit., etc. OPPOSITES. Okay, I wax long in my story. I had this student write me a list of suggestions, so that I could try to get out of my comfort zone, and this was one at the top of his list. After getting my lovely kindle, I ordered it for really cheap, and off I went! Can't wait to tell him I've finished.

With that back story behind me then, I'll say that I really did genuinely enjoy reading The Stand. It was creepy, but it was never so creepy that I felt like some Satan-like creature would jump out of my closet, or that I would wake with bad dreams. (Not like when I finished The Cement Garden and readily went in search of a Disney-esqu film to calm my troubled soul!) In fact, I found the storyline one that I had to bring up with people all the time, hoping that I could find someone to discuss the book with me! The story moves around a lot, has a lot of characters to follow, and is broken into parts or sections. I did have moments where I thought it was dragging along, but realize that in order to bring all the characters together, King had to develop the story. Although reading about a pandemic in the middle of our recent media frenzy over the swine flu made it ineresting, I also was really intrigued by the entire process for hospitals, government, etc. in treating the sick and eventually disposing of the dead. In fact, what would you do if your mother and father died, and you couldn't find a soul alive to help you with the bodies? Could you dig a grave and bury them yourself? Just one of a MILLION "what would you do" scenarios presented in the novel. I don't know if King would call it a "psychological" thriller, but I know I did. Overall, I thought the story and characters were well developed and believable. As a work, it was engaging and felt fresh, so I give my student kudos for recommending it to me, King for coming up with this interesting twist on a pandemic, and myself for finishing it!

If you're nervous about King, and don't mind a really long novel, then The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet) would be the one to tackle!

***This is also my first Kindle, e-book read for the e-book Reader Challenge!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr. President as Mr. Darcy?

I thought this article was a hilarious compare and contrast between Mr. President, Barrack Obama, and Mr. Darcy. Too funny! Here's a quote:
"Okay, so Obama doesn't seem brooding and moody like Mr. Darcy. And we haven't yet seen whether he looks as good in breeches as Colin Firth did in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But this interview has shown me again that, as well as the astute mind, the postmodern and hybrid sensibilities, and his great smile, I'm more than happy to see Mr. Darcy-Obama move into the White House next week."
See Joanne Rendell's article, "Mr. Darcy at the White House," at the Huffington Post for the full article.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Review: Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

If anyone is looking for a foodie/southern lit. sort of book, then look no further!

Synopsis: Regina Foxton has just lost her cooking show, thanks to her lousy boyfriend's antics. Not only must she pick up the pieces left behind by her boyfriend/producer, but she must also now try to convince executives to pick up her cooking show. Enter Tate Moody, handsome southern guy who likes to fish, hunt, cook, and hang out with his dog. Women who wouldn't normally watch anything on the hunting & fishing channel flock to watch Tate fry up fish, thanks to his all-round good looks and charm. Both TV chefs are fighting for their careers, and a spot on a national program for their cooking shows. In order to "win" this spot, executives come up with a reality-sort-or spin to force the two into a cook-off. The basic premise here--who will win, and can they be "friends" although they are competing for a highly sought after position?

Review: I actually listened to this book on CD as I drove to and from work. However, once I reached the last three disks, I wanted to know what was going to happen, and brought them indoors to finish up! As with Andrews' other novels, Savannah Blues and Blue Christmas: Now with More Holiday Cheer (New Recipes Too!), she injects her novel with plenty of southern charm and culture to round out her characters. Although I felt that the story took awhile to develop, and I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Tate and Gina to warrant the sparks she was going for, I did think it was a charming novel. I love the south, I love cooking, and I love a little romance, so this "dished" up all that I expected. Andrews is not gratuitous in any way, and her romantic scenes are brief. All in all, this is a fun, light read that will drop you into the characters' lives for a little while.

For more information, go to: Deep Dish: A Novel.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Salon #4--Provo Library's Children's Book Festival

For those that are unfamiliar with what "Sunday Salon" is all about, here is their blurb: "Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book." While I usually would talk about my reading, I wanted to update a little on the awesome Children's Book Festival that took place yesterday at the Provo City Library. By the way, can I just say how awesome that library is? It used to be nothing more than this broken down old building, that while historical, was blocked off and condemned looking. Today, it is this beautiful old building, distiguished and dedicated to all things book related. (How can you not love a building that does that?) My friend Doc took some time off from studying for the boards to come with me, and after a little drama from the fire alarm being pulled by a "small child," we went in to enjoy.

Provo City Library Before & After

Because I only had a couple of Shannon Hale's novels to bring to the festival, I stopped off to buy some books by other authors present. I picked up two copies of Brandon Sanderson's first book in his Mistborn series, Mistborn. (See Mistborn: The Final Empire for more information.) One of my AP Literature students, who is an amazingly well-read student has been telling me how much she LOVES his novels, so I had to pick those up. I also grabbed Aprilynne Pike's brand new novel, Wings. (See Wings (Aprilynne Pike (Hardback)) for more information.) I finished off with Brandon Mull's first in a much-loves series by my students, Fablehaven. (See Fablehaven for more information.) I'm excited to read each of these great novels!

Besides running around to visit with my awesome students that were standing in lines and mulling around, I had the chance to stop in and see Shannon Hale (See Austenland: A Novel for more information on one of Hale's great novels), Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, and Aprilynne Pike. I wish now that I'd done my homework a bit more and visited with a few more of the other authors and illustrators there. Let's be honest, they each add to our love of all things reading, and delight us with the stories they create through words and pictures.

I can't include the pictures of my wonderful students, as cute as they all were, but I wanted to include a few of the pics I had taken with several authors.

Shannon Hale signed my book, "Mr. Darcy thinks you're hot!" So funny. Wouldn't that be awesome? :)

Brandon Mull actually signed this poster and encouraged me to try his fantasy series with my students. I was actually in line with two of them at the time (they took the picture), and he was great with them. I love it when authors break through to young readers!

Isn't Aprilynne Pike pretty! I had to rip this book out of my friend's hands so that Aprilynne could sign it. My friend finished it about 20 minutes later and said, "It's really good!" Can't wait to get started on it.

Sorry to be in so many pictures!!! I was just thrilled to meet so many great local authors. Why no picture with Brandon Sanderson? I forgot! I went with my AP student that loves him, took her picture, and then forgot to get one taken when I had my book signed! Silly me. :) I also wish I would have had a chance to get a picture taken with Natasha, from Maw Books Blog. It's funny that I so readily knew who she was from the pictures and vlogs she's posted. We didn't get a chance to visit for long, but I was so glad to meet her. There were other local book bloggers there, but as one of them later joked, we needed little bubbles above our head that said something like, "I blog" or "I twitter." So true! I also met a couple of soon to be published authors, and hopefully I'll be able to post about them down the line! We struck up a conversation in Brandon Sanderson's line, and our time just flew. What can I say, the festival was just a great all-round time. I met many wonderful people and added to my TBR in a staggering way. What more could you want for a Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Library Loot -- 5/14

How the weeks continue to pass on by! I've wanted to read more than I have this week, but have just seemed to bounce from one thing to another. Also, since I leave on June 3rd to spend two months in Hawaii, I've been trying to winnow out my reading pile from the library so that I can return everything and empty my account. Talk about hard! Having said that though, tonight I went in to pick up a few DVDs I had reserved, and noticed their book sale. I was really fortunate, and found a copy of a great little cookbook in the "Luscious" series, Luscious Berry Desserts. For 10 cents, I got the cutest cookbook full of great things like: lemon cake with raspberry curd, raspberry truffle tart, and strawberry hazelnut crisp. The pictures are great, and in reading through the recipes, I can see that it will be very easy to make many of them.

So, for my library loot for this week (hosted by Eva and Alessandra ), I not only returned quite a few books (in the hopes that I can check them out once I get to Hawaii), but I also checked out a few. I forgot that I had Evermore (The Immortals), by Alyson Noel, on hold. It came in yesterday, so I'll see if I can't get it read before I leave!

Besides a stack of DVDs to watch (Into the West, etc.), I checked out the O, The Oprah Magazine Cookbook because of the great pictures and innovative recipes I noticed in it. To be quite honest though, I think I'm checking out DVDs and cookbooks because I can't stand the thought of not checking SOMETHING out while I'm there! :)

Anyway, that's it for my haul for this week. I really can't be loading myself up too much. I already have a nice stack of novels sitting at my mom's place, that I've let accumulate for each of my trips. I'm almost finished with several of the books that I'm reading, so I'll return soon. Mahalo!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Give Away Winner: A Hopeless Romantic

(Sorry...the picture is because of my ties to Hawaii! Just thought it was too cute!)

Congratulations to:

She won my first honor of my AP students finishing their test (have I mentioned that enough by now), A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans. Truly, a fun read! Kaye your email is on its way. (Number generated by

For more information about the book: A Hopeless Romantic

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review: Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan

After putting off finishing Sharon Lathan's beautiful novel Mr. and Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One, simply because it was so sweet that I hated to finish it, I picked it back up and devoured the last 1/3 of the book. This took me past midnight, but it was one of those escapes that one rarely notices, and moreover, enjoys so much that one feels a sense of sadness when it's over. It's that read that grabs you, and you realize will never be as it was the first time through! And oh how I love those kinds of reads! Before I continue rambling though, let me give my review. :)

Synopsis: Picking up where Jane Austen's famous, and iconic, Pride and Prejudice left off, we find Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth married and off to start their lives together. With momentary flashbacks at the beginning of the novel, that gather in some of what the engagement was like--torturous and long for the young lovers--, Darcy and Elizabeth are eager to share their mutual affection and adoration for one another, and essentially, to share their lives with one another. Thus, we begin with their honeymoon, journey back to Pemberley, and setting up of household routines and duties. Elizabeth is anxious about her role as the Mistress of Pemberley, and how she should assist Darcy in reaching his tenants and staff. We are carried along a beautiful journey as Darcy and Elizabeth meld into a happily married couple, and create new habits and traditions over a wonderful holiday season. Though the story is dream-like and long-awaited (by the Darcys and readers alike), there are hiccups along the road to establishing their lives together, that while small, do challenge the Darcys to communicate more clearly, and to continue to eliminate their pride...and building a strong marriage and family unit.

Review: What can I say? I fell in love, with love, once again! As mentioned in some of my previous posts, I admittedly felt hesitant about all the early romantic interludes between Darcy and Elizabeth. It somehow felt jarring from a cold-read sort of perspective, but I was so enchanted by Sharon Lathan's beautiful writing, that I kept reading. Lathan has a beatiful writing style that has a fluid nature to it, setting a control over the language and storyline that I found reassuring. Besides her fluidity, I thought her way of describing and creating an omniscent narrator to tell the story, really allowed us to get inside the story and witness it all first-hand. As an example:

"Rather like a fine bottle of aged red wine. The cork must be removed; the wine poured out and allowed to breathe. One must wait patiently for the aroma to rise in the air to captivate those who wish to partake of its delights. The wine warms in the glass as the flavor softens and mellows, exposing its true essence." She paused, her gaze locked on Darcy's startled but tender eyes as he focused on her to the exclusion of all others in the room. "Some people are structured so and are abundantly worth the wait," she finished in a soft whisper. (133)

In all honesty, I really began to realize that it was my own pessimism about love, and the possibility of love and romance to that degree, that made me scoff in the beginning. However, once I began to understand the characters that Lathan had crafted, from what Austen had left us, I felt I knew them better, and appreciated seeing these characters from a more personal, grown up perspective. As with any truly romantic read, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable to the idea of what this might be like if you were in their shoes...and from my perspective, once I stopped my own prejudices, the possibility of true romantic love seemed real again. To be frank, I'm jealous of their relationship, and don't know if it's one that can be achieved, but definitely wouldn't mind giving it a shot!

Having said all this, I don't think I would readily recommend it to my high school students, but only because of the more mature scenes between husband and wife. (The sex scenes leave little the imagination, but were not gratuitous.) However, I think that to any adult that can appreciate what it takes to meld a couple together, heart and soul, will love seeing what could be for Elizabeth and Darcy!

As a side good friend Doc (that's what she insists I call her here), just returned from Peru. I had dropped her an email while there, about this great new P&P sequel she had to read. Well, she hit my door earlier this afternoon, we visited for about an hour, after which she said, "Where's the book?" I handed it over, and she's been reading it ever since! :) I asked her what she thought, and she sighed and said, "This is so good. (Sigh) I'm definitely going to have to buy this series!" (Continued sighing...) If that's not an endorsement, then I guess I don't know what is!

For more information see: Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One (Mr & Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy)