Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June's Over Already? Mid Year Progress

June is over already--hard to believe! June was a great reading month for me. I competed several reading challenges and celebrated my (1) year Blogging Anniversary. I also committed to a personal challenge of exercising on a regular basis (a biggie for me) and so far it has been great.

As far as reading goes, I read (3) more books in June than I did in May and I was successful reading a few more review books this month (9/15) , as well. I liked most of the (18) books that I read in June. I am thrilled with the fact only (5) of the books were library books and the other (13) from my stacks. This is something I have been trying to get better at.

By Title: JUNE

80. Who Do You Think You Are?; Alyse Myers - 4.5/5
81. The Black Girl Next Door; Jennifer Baszile - 4/5 (review)
82. Burnt Shadows; Kamila Shamsie - 3.5/5 (review)
83. Water, Stone, Heart; Will North - 4/5
84. The Plague of Doves; Erdrich - 4.5/5 (audio)
85. No One You Know; Richmond - 4.5/5 (audio)
86. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Alan Bradley - 5/5 (review)
87. The Chosen One; Williams - 4.5/5 (audio-review)
88. Broken: A Love Story; Lisa Jones - 4/5 (review)

89. Beach Chair Diaries; Janet Spurr - 4/5
90. A Disobedient Girl; Ru Freeman - 3.5/5 (review)
91. Perfection; Julie Metz - 4/5 (review)
92. The Shop on Blossom Street; MacComber - 4/5 (audio)
93. Die for You; Lisa Unger - 4/5
94. Swimming Lessons; Mary Alice Monroe - 4/5 (audio)
95. A Short History of Women; Kate Walbert - 4/5 (review)
96. After Dark; Haruki Murakami - 4/5 (audio)
97. Labor Day; Joyce Maynard - 5/5 (review)

Favorite Books of the Month
  • Labor Day; Joyce Maynard - 5/5
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Alan Bradley - 5/5

Challenge Progress - 2009
  • Total Books Read in 2009 - 97
  • 100+ Books Challenge for 2009 - 97/100
  • A - Z Challenge for 2009 - 21/26
  • Support Your Local Library Challenge for 2009 - 48/50
  • Read Your Own Books Challenge for 2009 - 51/100
  • John Steinbeck Mini Challenge – 1/2
  • Spiritually Speaking Challenge - 4/6 - DID NOT COMPLETE/ ended 6/30/09
  • War Through the Generations Challenge - 2/5
  • Cozy Mystery Challenge - 2/6

Completed 2009 Challenges
  • 2009 Spring Reading Thing Challenge – 15/15
  • 2009 In Their Shoes - 4/4
  • 2009 Pub Challenge- 50
  • 2009 Audio Book Challenge- 25
  • 2009 Summer Vacation Reading Challenge - 6/6
  • 2009 Non Fiction Five - 5/5
  • 2009 New Authors Challenge - 60

How did you enjoy your month? What kind of progress have you made in the first half of 2009? (post a link if you can, please).

Tuesday Teasers

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) sentences from that page.
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!

Here is my teasers -- ---"The truth is, Emma's worried that her plans are backfiring. Her mom and dad seem oddly frightened by the message she and Mel painted on the trees".

(p.225) Dismantled: A Novel; Jennifer McMahon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

97 - Labor Day; Joyce Maynard

Can you remember what Labor Day meant to you when you were 13 years old? Back then the last weekend of the summer, most of us were busy doing some last minute back to school shopping with mom. We were probably a bit nervous, but anxious for the new school year to begin.

For Henry, the 13 year old narrator of Joyce Maynard’s soon to be released new book (pub date July 28): Labor Day: A Novel, this is a time that will dramatically change lonely, friendless Henry’s life forever.

Henry has lived alone with his long divorced mother, in Holton Mills, New Hampshire since he was very young. His mother, Adele has become somewhat of a recluse over the years and although her love for her only child Henry is deep, she burdens poor him with far too much baggage than a mother should. Henry is all she has left since his father left her for another woman many years earlier.

On a rare shopping excursion for some back to school items, an unlikely event takes place, which forms the foundation for much of the story. A bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry in the department store, and he tells Henry he needs help. Henry introduces Frank to his mother, and they take the stranger home with them for the long Labor Day weekend. Before long they learn that “the man with kind eyes” has just escaped from prison. But all is not as it first appears on the surface.

What happens next simply captivated me, but I can't say much more without revealing too much.. The author captured the character of Henry beautifully, a wounded adolescent who felt responsible for his mother’s sadness.

Labor Day is a wonderful coming of age story that might bring a tear to the eyes of some readers. Gripping with emotion, and the power of love and forgiveness, in the end you will be thrilled you read this wonderful story. Fewer than 250 pages, I read Labor Day in just one sitting, and it will surely be in my Top 10 list for 2009. There was no way I could put this rare find down before learning what would happen to the lives of Henry, Adele and Frank. DO NOT MISS this one; highly recommended.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 6/29/09
Where From - My Stacks (review copy)

Mailbox Monday - June 29, 2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Here's this week's loot:

  1. The Devlin Diary; Christi Phillips (thank you Simon & Schuster)
2. The Forgotten Garden: A Novel; Kate Morton (thank you Simon & Schuster)

3. The God of War: A Novel; Marissa Silver (thank you Simon & Schuster)

4. The Bride's Farewell; Meg Rosoff (thanks Amazon Vine)

5. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven; Susan Gilman (thanks paperback swap member)

6. A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond between Two Friends and a Lion; Bourke and Rendell ( thanks visa credit card for my impulse purchase)

7. In the Wake of the Boatman; Jonathan Fuqua (another impulse purchase)

Please share your loot, so others like myself can expand their wish lists.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Did You Win My Giveaway???

And the winners are :
(thanks to random.org)

1st Prize - $25.00 Barnes & Noble Gift Card - Tara - Books and Cooks

2nd Prize - Audio Book - Chosen One - Lynne's Little Corner of the World

3rd Prize - The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook - Staci - Life in the Thumb

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!

Winners: PLEASE be sure to email me with your full name and mailing addresses within the next (3) days.

Thanks to everyone who participated; I appreciate all who visit my blog.

96 - After Dark; Haruki Murakami

After Dark, by Haruki Murakami (a new to me author) provided for me, what I would have to call a surreal reading experience.

Totally bizarre, but addictive, I listened to this audio book for the last 5 evenings, well into the night. The reader, Janet Song, was amazing, and did an excellent job describing what the reader was seeing as the story unfolded in what I would have to describe as a "book without a plot".

Curious....well the story starts out pretty much at a Denny's in Tokyo, and the entire story takes place in one night, beginning at just minutes before midnight. It is here at Dennys that we meet Mari Asi, an insomniac who seems to never sleep, and Takahashi a trombone player, and an old aquaintance. The two strike up a conversation about whether to order chicken at this restaurant. Mari seems to spend her nights at Denny's with a large book she carries around. Mari and Takahashi continue to meet at night and they become friends. It is through some profound conversations by the two, that we learn more about the other characters. There is Mari's sister Eri, who seems to do nothing but sleep as she suffers from some sort of social withdrawal, along with (2) other equally troubled souls, who have a story to tell: a prostitute and a software manager. Though the course of this story these people will find their lives intersecting.

This story is so different, so strange, yet so vivid, descriptive and haunting. I am really at a loss for what else to say about this unique book, except that although this is my first book by this author, it will not be my last. I plan to explore more books by this author, as I get the feeling I could be on to something new and pretty great with this author.

Although the audio book was excellent, in the future I plan to read the print version by this author if possible, as there were parts I would have wanted to reread and ponder (not so easy with a audio book). RECOMMENDED.

Has anyone else read Murakami? If so, what books do you recommend?

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 6/27/09
Where From (my stacks)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Don't Miss Out on my Giveaway - Time is Running Out

I probably won't have much computer time on Saturday, so I just wanted to remind everyone that the my 1st Blogiversary Giveaway is this Sunday 6/28 at 8PM EST. If you haven't signed up for a chance to win, do so now (see details) -- your just a click away.

Thanks again to everyone for their support, and Good Luck to all.

95 - A Short History of Women; Kate Walbert

A Short History of Women: A Novel, by Kate Walbert is a story that follows five generations of women, each struggling to find balance in their lives.

It is a subject that has been written about numerous times. The story started out well and drew me in, especially for Dorothy Trevor, who was a suffragette in the early part of World War I England. She starved herself to death for her cause, leaving her young children behind.

One thing I did not like was how the story jumped back and forth over a period of 109 years. I found myself having to often flip back and forth to the family tree chart to understand what was going on.

The writing is beautiful and very thought provoking. As I read the book I kept thinking about how in some ways women have come a long way over the last 100+ years, but yet in other ways nothing much has changed.

This is the type of book, that I think would be appreciated even more, by it being read a second time. It's not a terribly long book, but it does give the reader a lot to think about. Well done overall (boring cover).

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending this one my way.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 6/26/09
Where From - My stacks (review S&S)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Author - Marie Bostwick

Has anyone read any of Marie Bostwick's books? The author kindly sent me a copy of her new book to read and review, but after reading just a few pages (which were great), I soon realized that her newest book, A Thread of Truth, is actually a sequel to her 2008 book: A Single Thread.

So since I am a little weird about trying NOT to read series books out of sequence (i just did that with Swimming Lessons; Monroe) , I plan to hold off on her latest book until I get my hands on a copy of: A Single Thread.

Both books sound wonderful. I'll be sure to post reviews once I finish each book.

Those of you who have already read some of the gems by this author, please post your thoughts along with the title.

Marie, thanks in advance. Wishing you continued success.

94 - Swimming Lessons; Mary Alice Monroe

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Swimming Lessons, by Mary Alice Monroe seemed to be the perfect audio book to ease into summer with. I generally love most books set on the shores of lovely South Carolina, and when I read that this one included a story about the cycle of life of the Loggerhead turtles of the Isle of Palms, it had a special meaning to me.

A few years ago while on vacation in Aruba, we were fortunate enough to be able to see the "leather back sea turtles" prepare to lay their eggs along the shore. It was fascinating even though the area was later roped off as to not frighten the turtles away.

In this story, we meet the Turtle Lady, Toy Spooner. She is a single mother who fled with her young daughter, Lovie, from an abusive relationship. She finds work at an aquarium, and it is here that before long we begin to see sparks between Toy and her boss Ethan.

Some of the sea turtles in this story are sick and some weigh over 200 lbs. Toy is convinced to apply for a grant at the aquarium so that a turtle hospital can be set up to help these sick creatures heal.

But this story has a bit more to it than just Toy, Lovie and sparks flying with Ethan. Lovie’s father comes back into the picture complicating matters, all while several of Toy’s friends are dealing with their own personal issues.

Swimming Lessons is a light sort of read, in the style of Dorthea Benton Frank, or Anne Rivers Siddons. The ending was satisfying in that as the turtles begin to heal and prepare to go back out to sea, Toy, too, a once wounded woman also begins to heal.

I did not realize that this story was in fact a sequel to an earlier book, The Beach House, which I never read. I don’t feel it was necessary to have read that book to appreciate this story. If you are looking for a light summer read to add to your list, give this one a try.

RATING – 4/5 COMPLETED - 6/25/09
Where From - My stacks

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Waiting of Wednesday: The Sari Shop Widow

Hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine, Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

The Sari Shop Widow

Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Pub. Date: August 25th

(from bookpleasures.com)

Accomplished storyteller Shobhan Bantwal immediately grabs your attention and doesn't let go until the last word with her latest romantic novel, The Sari Shop Widow.

Bantwal has authored two previous novels with an Indian setting, both of which have tales woven around hot-button social issues. She decided to set The Sari Shop Widow in the United States in order to give her readers a glimpse into the lives of Indian Immigrants. Nonetheless, her deep interest in women’s issues resonates in this book as well.

Anjali Kappadia is The Sari Shop Widow. She lives with her family in Jackson Heights, New Jersey or as it is referred to as Little India. The characters are so vivid that you befriend the whole family and can’t wait to avidly read their charming story. You are even sorry that it ends.

Anjali, despite her westernization, is deeply rooted in her traditionalism. She knows how Gujarati widows lead a rough life in India, however, in the West her situation is not as precarious. She is a 37- year old widow who lost her husband to an aneurysm a few years ago. Her heart is still numb with pain as she returns to live with her parents and her brother. She throws herself into working at her parent's store, Silk & Saphires where she designs luxury saris and wedding attire for the Indian immigrants who are still holding on to their traditions. Her only relief is her secret white Protestant boyfriend, Kip Rowling.

Apparently, they are into deep financial trouble and Anjali’s stern uncle Jeevan is coming from India to “fix” things up to the dismay of Anjali and her mom Usha.

Jeevan is an autocratic man with an agenda of his own. His entry into the lives of the Kappadias apparently disrupts their daily lives, until they discover his secret and his true self. Jeevan brings with him his friend and business partner, Rishi Shah, a reluctant and unwelcome third party who will fix their financial woes by transforming Silk & Sapphires into a bigger modern store.

We can guess from his good looks that Anjali is going to fall in love with him. But, first, he has to gain her trust, and that is something she is not ready to give, especially that she knows that he had a girl friend, Samantha, in England.

Will they get together Indian style with the approval of her family? Will Samantha be out of the picture?

Bantwal’s writing is fluid; there is a lively chatter throughout the novel. The story permeates with the smells and tastes of Gujarati cooking. Her descriptions of saris and salwar kameez and Indian fashion generally are tactile and vivid. We can readily see the beautiful silks and jewelery. We really feel that we are in Little India. Although, her sex scenes are a trifle genteel as if the author was embarrassed for fear of being too risqué, nonetheless they still were quite titillating.

(I love the cover and the sound of this one). What's your pick for this week?

You still have a few days left to enter my giveaway.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

93 - Die for You; Lisa Unger

Isabel Raine was single and a successful writer until she was swept off her feet by Marcus Raine. The two marry without knowing very much about each other. Marcus is charming, handsome and career driven. One morning Marcus kisses his wife goodbye, heads off to work, and disappears. At first Isabel simply thinks her husband is working late and forgot to call, when her calls go to his voice mail, but then a mysterious call from his phone to her, sparks fear and she tries to get the police involved.

At first the police do not take the disappearance seriously, as according to them “men disappear all the time”, for lots of reasons. Isabel is desperate to locate her husband, and soon is on a mission to find out more. Before long she finds herself hospitalized with a head injury after a surprise attack. The FBI raid her husband’s office and, soon it becomes clear that there is a lot more that Isabel does not know about the man she is married to.

Die for You: A Novel, by Lisa Unger, will have you holding your breath and anxiously turning the pages to find out more about the mysterious disappearance of Marcus Raine. With lots of twist and turns along the streets of New York City, and then again in the city of Prague, Isabel is determined to find her husband despite the risks she faces along the way. Die for You is an great thriller which kept me engaged, and guessing along the way. Recommended

I also enjoyed: Beautiful Lies (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) and, Sliver of Truth: A Novel, by this author. Her other thriller, Black Out (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard), is on my shelf waiting to be read soon. Give this talented author a try if you enjoy suspenseful thrillers.

RATING – 4/5 - COMPLETED – 6/22/09
Where From: Library

Tuesday Teasers

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) sentences from that page.
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!

Here is my teasers -- ---"Fight or flight? Until recently it's never been a question. Not for me. Whenever I feel frightened or threatened, my first instinct has always been to flight. I do it pretty regularily".

(p. 11 ) A Thread of Truth; Marie Bostwick. (I was thrilled to receive a signed copy of this one from the author (many thanks). It sounds so great!

(5) more days to sign up for my Giveaway.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Borrowed Words - Monday

I first learned about Borrowed Words on Monday while visiting Reading Extravaganza's Blog. I immediately thought about a Rushdie quote, I wrote down sometime ago that really made me stop and think, so much so, I had to write this one down. Here goes:

“For a long while I have believed…that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as “natural” a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams…: alone in our beds (because we are alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves, we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveller, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.” — Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Still time to enter yourself in my giveaway.

Musing Mondays - Library Borrowing

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about library borrowing…

Do you restrict yourself on how many books you take out from the library at a time? Do you borrow books if you already have some out? Do you always reborrow books you don’t get to?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.


I don't limit myself as to how many books I take out. Thank goodness my new library sets a limit of (10) books per patron to be put on reserve (20 in my case since I use my husband's library card as well :) My last library had an unlimited reserves policy, and I was "out of control", with as many as 60 books on reserve. I am weak what else can I say?

Unfortunately, receive quite a few review books so I don't get to read everything I take out (new books go out for only 2 weeks; all others 3 weeks). I have been known to take out the SAME book again if I did not read it the first time. If I have not read it a second time, though I add it to my personal wish list (that's another story in itself) to possibly buy in the future. I do feel sorry for me own lonely books just sitting there hoping to be read. I really do want to read them, and told my husband I plan to stop sleeping soon, just so I can read more! I could never live without 7 hours of sleep so that one is out too :(


Today I started reading Die for You: A Novel, by Lisa Unger. If you like a good thriller that sucks you in from the first few pages, try this one.

Don't forget to enter my Giveaway! Deadline to enter is June 28, 2009.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Salon and 1st Blogiversary Giveaway

I'm having a Giveaway to celebrate my 1st anniversary as a book blogger.

The Giveaway is open to new and old followers, no matter where you live, and you do not have to have a blog to win.

About the past year......I started this blog on June 28, 2008 because I live and breathe books. Now just 51 weeks later I've posted 306 entries; received approximately 1,100 comments (but just 69 in the 1st 6 months of blogging - in the future I plan to help new bloggers by commenting often -- starting out is tough). I've also had 1,000 profile views, 90+ subscribers, and 50 (+) followers. I'm pleased to say the least, and in case you haven't guessed, now at the one year mark, I'm also Blog Obsessed!

Two blogs in particular inspired me to begin blogging. These blogs are truly terrific in my opinion, and if my blog is someday just half as interesting as theirs, I'll be thrilled. My inspiration and thanks goes to: Wendy at Caribous Mom and another Wendy (maybe it's the name......ya think?) at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Thanks ladies :)

It's not just Wendy and Wendy though, in the past year I have met so many wonderful book lovers through blogging. All of your reviews and your eclectic choices in books h
ave added to my ever expanding wish list. I'd like to thank you all, by giving you a chance to win a little something (book related of course).

The Prizes:

1st Prize -
$25.00 Barnes and Noble Gift Card (If the winner is from outside the US a $25.00 Amazon Gift Certificate will be sent to the winner instead).

2nd Prize - The Chosen One; Carol Lynch William
(audio cd book - like new, played one time)--it's very good!

3rd Prize - The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook; Joseph Hall and Elaine Sullivan - (a popular place in my neck of the woods) .

HERE'S HOW TO ENTER...............

I don't want to make you jump through a lot of hoops. So if you'd like a chance at the giveaways, here is all you have to do.
  • Become a follower of my blog, and tell me the best book or books you've read so far in 2009.
  • If you are already a follower, just tell me the name of the best book (s) you've read in 2009. and you will be entered in the drawing.
  • BE SURE in either case to include your email in the same post.
  • Winners will be drawn at 8PM EST on Sunday June 28th (My 1st Blogiversary) using random.org . All winners will be notified on that same day. (You will have (3) days to respond or alternates will be selected).
Thanks for your support and Good Luck to everyone. It's been a great year!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

92 - The Shop on Blossom Street; Debbie Macomber

The Shop on Blossom Street (Blossom Street, No. 1), is a first in the Blossom series, and also the first book I've ever read (in this case listen to) by this author (oops --just realized I read a Christmas book of hers one years). I chose this book because I wanted sometime relaxing to listen to before bed. This one hit the spot.

Read by Linda Emond who does a great job with the four characters in this story. Four very different characters become friends while taking a knitting class at (you guessed it) The Shop on Blossom Street. For Lydia, the shop's owner, a two-time cancer survivor, the shop represents a new beginning.

The first project is : how to knit a baby blanket. The participants in the class are struggling with various personal issues: cancer, divorce, miscarriage etc, and from each other they learn how to accept life's setbacks and find happiness in their lives once again.

I was happy I tried this book. A light read, nothing too depressing or heavy, this book turned out to be a good listen well into the wee hours of the morning on some nights.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 6/20/09
Where From: My stacks

91 - Perfection; Julie Metz

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal , by Julie Metz is an extremely personal account of a not so “perfect” life. After the unexpected death of her husband Henry, and 12 years of marriage, 44 year old Julie Metz finds herself alone with a six year old daughter to raise. She spent the greater part of the next seven months living in a fog and missing the love of her life terribly. When a friend tells her about a woman Henry had been seeing in New York, Julie is shocked. Before long Julie learns it is not just one woman that Henry had strayed with, but a succession of at least five women, including a good friend.
Obsessed to find out more she searches emails and journals tracking down the women and setting out to meet them, and to understand “why” Henry had been unfaithful over and over again.
For Henry it seemed, was always looking for thrills in life, in love, and in lust, in other words “perfection”, but as Julie Metz points out “true perfection comes when you enjoy the whole of your life, and not just the good bits”.
Little by little Julie went from a “you are so lucky to be dead attitude Henry”, to one of forgiveness, moving on, and learning to love again.
A painfully honest memoir, without a “poor me” tone, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, kept me engaged as a reader. Certainly not an easy story to tell, it was very well done. I was also impressed to learn the Julie Metz is a graphic artist that designs book jackets, and that the picture perfect tulip on the cover really seemed to fit the title beautifully. My only negative comment about this book is that I thought there was a bit too much detail into all of Henry’s romantic involvements; other than that I really enjoyed this memoir.
RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED 6/19/09
Where From – My (review) Stacks