Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November in Review

After 10" of snow and power losses at the end of October, November turned out to be a seasonably mild month for us (they cut our grass yesterday and usually stop in mid-October).  Makes me kind of nervous about what winter will be like here.  November flew by so fast, but it was a really enjoyable month and I feel like I did a lot for some reason.

I'm actually looking forward to December because we get the week between Christmas and New Years off with pay, so i am already thinking about how lazy relaxed I will be.  I am so looking forward to seeing the English version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which releases on December 21st. I MUST read that book first! It's a December priority.

Are you planning on joining any Challenges for 2012. I'm not sure, but thinking I may join a few (not more than 5), as I found that totally manageable this year. I was considering: 100+ Book Challenge; Classics Challenge; eBook Challenge; Audio Book Challenge and probably (1) more.

How was your November in books? Here's what my month looked like:

  1. The Marriage Plot; Jeffrey Eugenides - 4/5 (audio and eBook)
  2. Troubling Love; Elena Ferrante - 4.5/5 (library) 
  3. America's Test Kitchens Menu Cookbook - 5/5 
  4. The Language of Flowers;Vanessa Diffenbaugh - 4/5 (eBook and audio)
  5. Awkward Family Pet Photos; Mike Bender and Doug Chernack - 4/5 (eBook)
  6. Close Your Eyes; Amanda Eyre Ward - 2.5/5 (audio book) 
  7. The Litigators; John Grisham - 4/5 (audio) 
  8. Steve Jobs; Walter Isaacson - 5/5 (eBook) 
  9. Treasure Island; Sara Levine (no review yet)
  • Favorite Fiction Book - Troubling Love; Ferrante - 4.5/5
  • Favorite Non-Fiction Book - Steve Jobs; Isaacson (5/5) 
  • Favorite Audio Book -  The Litigators; Grisham (4/5) 
  • New authors -   4/9- YTD - 66/109
  • Review Books - 5/9 -YTD - 51/109
  • 5 star books - 2/9 -   YTD -  25/109
  • 4 star books - 5/9-    YTD - 70/109
  • 3 star books - 1/9 -   YTD - 9/109
  • 2 star books - 1/9-    YTD - 4/109
~~~~~ Challenge Progress ~~~~~
  • 100+ Reading Challenge - 109/100 - COMPLETED
  • Reading From My Shelves Project - 50/50 COMPLETED
  • Audio Book Challenge - 33/20 - COMPLETED
  • eBook Challenge - 17/20
  • Europa Challenge - 5/ 4 - COMPLETED
  • RIP VI Challenge - 5/4 - COMPLETED
~~~~~Tentative Plans for December ~~~~~
  • Finish - Cat's Table, Anatomy of a Disappearance and 11/22/63.
  • Read - Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Girl Who Played With Fire; Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest; The Elegance of the Hedgehog (audio); A Different Kind of Pretty; (2) Children's Books;
How about you? Any bookish plans for December?

Waiting on Wednesday - The Translation of the Bones; Francesca Kay

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's my pick (I think it sounds so good) :

(Scribner - January 3, 2012)

Mary-Margaret O'Reilly is seemingly a harmless enough young woman, ready and willing to help out Father Diamond in the Sacred Heart church in Battersea. She may not be very bright, and she is sadly overweight, but she can certainly clean. She is also very good with children, and helps out an Asian woman on her estate whose little boy Shamso is adorable. 

It is the statue of Jesus on the cross Mary-Margaret is especially drawn to, and one day she decides to give Him a thorough and loving cleansing. But then something strange happens, and moments later she lies unconscious, a great gash in her head, blood on the floor. Word gets out that this strange happening is the opening of the statue's eyes and the flowing of blood from its head. Soon a full-scale religious mania descends on the quiet church, and everyone, from Father Diamond to his small but loyal band of parishioners, is affected by it. When she has recovered, Mary-Margaret returns to the church, and to her duties caring for her housebound and even fatter mother Fidelma. Among the parishioners, Stella Morrison meanwhile impatiently awaits the return of her son Felix from boarding school, and Alice Armitage the return of her much older son from Afghanistan.

Mary-Margaret goes back obsessively to the statue of Jesus. He has told her things, things she must act on, and urgently. But He has become remote and uncommunicative once again, and she is in despair. The act she decides on is a shocking one, and it will bring together the lives of the O'Reillys and the Morrisons in a way that will change their lives forever.

Francesca Kay's second novel, after the prize-winning AN EQUAL STILLNESS, is at once a profound meditation on the nature of faith and motherhood and a riveting story of passion gone tragically wrong.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along. This week's "intro" is from an October 2011 release.

"HE WASN'T TALKING.  He was looking from the window of the car all the way.  Two adults in the front seat spoke quietly under their breath.  He could have listened if he wanted to, but he didn't.  For a while, at the section of the road where the river sometimes flooded, he could hear the spray of the water at the wheels. They entered the Fort and the car slipped silently past the post office building and the clock tower.  At this hour of the night there was barely any traffic in Colombo.  They drove out along Reclamation Road, passed St. Anthony's Church, and after that he saw the last of the food stalls, each lit with a single bulb.  Then they entered a vast open space that was the harbour, with only a string of lights in the distance along the pier.  He got out and stood by the warmth of the car."

What do you think? Would you continue reading?
(it is better than the intro paragraph IMO)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday - November 28th

November's host for Mailbox Monday is Marcia. Join in and share the new books which arrived for you last week. Last week several new books arrived. Hope you received so good books as well.

sent by Simon and Schuster
(you know I mean the audio books books right?)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Steve Jobs; Walter Isaacson

Title: Steve Jobs
Author:  Walter Isaacson
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: Kindle
Source: purchase
Date Completed: 11/23/2011 
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

My thoughts - a powerful, yet not entirely flattering biography, of a charismatic, temperamental, narcissistic genius who was driven by perfectionism. (You may wish to skim this review if you plan on reading this book).

Steve Jobs, a man who will not be easily forgotten, passed away on October 5, 2011 at the age of 56.  In 2009, knowing he was dying, he got Walter Isaacson to agree to write a book about his life. Over the course of the next two difficult years of Job's illness, Isaacson conducted over 40 interviews with him, his friends, family and former coworkers.

Jobs grew up in Mountainview, CA, outside of Palo Alto, the adopted son of Paul and Clara Jobs. His biological parents --grad students, a Syrian father and American mother,  he referred to as his "sperm and egg bank". Even when he later found out who his real parents were, he always referred to his adoptive parents as his "real" parents. However, it appears apparent from reading this book, that being abandoned by his biological parents was a real issue for Job's throughout his life, and it affected the way he treated people as an adult.

As a young boy, early on Job's realized he was brighter than his parents. This made him feel more detached. In fact in the 4th grade he tested at a 10th grade level.  Bored with school, he was also somewhat socially awkward and was often bullied at school.  He demanded that he be sent to another school or that he would stop going to school, so his parents moved to a better neighborhood. It was here where Jobs began tinkering with electronics in his garage. This is where is all begin in 1976 for Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. The two were both loners and "music geeks" introduced by a friend. Jobs experimented with pot, hash, and LSD and embraced the hippie lifestyle.  The only college that Jobs had any interest in attending was Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It was at Reed that Jobs became interested in Buddhism, attended a Hare Krishna Temple,and became obsessive about dieting and vegetarianism. He was on a personal unending search for enlightenment, which he never quite seemed to find. Jobs dropped out of Reed College to travel around India on a spiritual journey.

Job's biography covers his 30+ year career which includes not only the start up operation of Apple Computer out his garage, but also his involvement at Atari, Pixar and NeXT. Just four years after Apple's start up, the company went public and was worth 1.79 billion dollars. By the age of 25 Jobs was worth 256 million dollars and made 300 other people millionaires in the process.  In 2011 Apple is a 40 billion dollar Company. Yet despite his wealth Jobs was a minimalist, believing that in home and in business, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". 

Job's opinion of himself was that "he was special". He had the uncanny ability to read people and to know exactly what their weak points were.  He used that to his advantage, and created a fear factor in those who worked for him. He was eager to put people down, often in front of others, and wasn't afraid to tell those who worked for him that their ideas were dumb. His prickly behavior caused a high burnout in staff, and because of his high expectations his goal in hiring was to find creative, super-smart people who had a rebellious spirit.

He was a genius in business,  but not so much in his personal life. His biography covers his tumultuous relationship with daughter Lisa who he fathered out of wedlock in 1978, to his marriage in 1991 to Laureen Powell and the birth of his first child that same year, who for the first two weeks of his life was known simply as "baby boy Jobs".  In 1995 and 1998 two more children, daughters were born to Steve and Laureen.  His was described as aloof to his daughters and often "prickly" to his wife, thus by no means an easy man to live with.

His illness,was first diagnosed in October of 2003, with what was believed to be, a curable form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs decided against surgery despite the urging of his doctors and those closest to him. Instead he chose to try some radical diets and fastings in the hope they would cleanse his body of cancer. His was obsessed with body image and did not want to have a surgery he believed might not be entirely necessary. The nine month wait caused his cancer to spread, and his health and quality of life would deteriorate as well, ending with his death on October 5, 2011. 

Steve Jobs is a fascinating read about a complicated and extremely fascinating man. As prickly as this man could be at times, there are a few paragraphs that were able to bring me to tears.  Apparently, according to Jobs, much of your thinking is changed in the face of death, and suddenly you no longer worry about "having something to lose."

A highly recommended read.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - The Effects of Too Much Turkey

 Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

"I can't eat another thing!"
(I'm right under that comforter with them)

We had a wonderful wonderful day with family, and as always we had too much food.  We have much to be thankful  for, and ...guess what?  I am going to be a first time Grandmother in May. Everyone is so excited. I'm sure you understand why I have not said too much here.  Of course, I am sure you will see a photo or two in the future.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for visiting my blog throughout the year. It really makes it all worthwhile.  Have a wonderful day!
(I'm cooking ~ it's something I enjoy doing on holidays.)

Waiting on Wednesday - The Snow Child; Eowyn Ivey

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's my pick:

February 2012 - Reagan Arthur Books

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~ Treasure Island!!! Sara Levine

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along. This week's "intro" is from a book that will be released in December.

(Europa - Tonga Books)

"In the aftermath of my adventure, I decided to write down the whole thing, starting with my discovery of TREASURE ISLAND and keeping nothing back, not even the names of the friends and family members whose problems plagued me; and so even though I'd love to go into the other room and stab someone with a kitchen knife, I take up my pen--a nifty micro-ball which had been incorrectly capped and would have dried out had I not, at the crucial moment, found it and restored its seal."

(Intro quote has been take from review copy)

What do you think? I'm thinking that this sounds quirky enough to have the entertainment factor I need with hectic holiday times approaching.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Litigators; John Grisham

Author:  John Grisham
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Random House Audio
Edition: audio book
Reader: Dennis Boutsikaris (excellent)
Setting: Chicago, IL
Source: Library 
Date Completed: 11/18/2011
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

I use to enjoy the earlier novels by John Grisham and then for some reason, I lost track of what's been published in the last few years. When I saw his latest book was available in audio, I felt it would be a perfect selection for my work commute, especially since the reader was Dennis Boutsikaris one of my favorite readers.
In this novel, the law firm of Finley & Figg, has been in business for 20+ years, but it would be hard to categorize this firm as successful.  The partners are Oscar Finley and Wally Figg, a couple of ambulance chasers who specialize in fast divorces and auto accidents for the most part.  Their run down office is located in a seedy area of Chicago next to a massage parlor. Oscar is unhappily married and waiting until he can retire from this small time operation. Wally is a recovering alcoholic, married and divorced numerous times. He recoups in fees in other ways when his female clients are low on cash. Needless to say Oscar and Wally's firm is unlikely to win any prestigious awards or high profile cases, but they do manage to create some wild and crazy situations for themselves.

Then one day it seems like their luck is about to change.  David Zinc, is a young 30-something, Harvard Grad. A high profile attorney from a huge hot-shot firm, David is fed up with the pressure of the fast track corporate life.  One day he has a panic attack at work and up and leaves. He heads for a downtown bar, spends the day and night drinking and ends up passed out in front of Finley and Figg. When he realizes what he's done and finds himself without a job, he convinces Oscar and Wally that he can help them out.  Before long the threesome sees that a class action lawsuit filed by an out of state law firm, against a huge pharmaceutical company called Varrick Labs may be the big break they've been waiting for.  The drug Krayoxx, a cholesterol drug, may have caused heart attacks and even death for some who have taken the drug.  All is not as easy as it appears on the surface, especially for some bumbling lawyers who have never argued a case in Federal court.

I actually enjoyed listening to the audio book a lot. It's a story that held my interest, I didn't need to hang on their every word and still was able to follow and more importantly, enjoy the story. I loved when a story like this can make me chuckle. It's certainly a lighter story than what I've read recently, but was fun all the same.  This would be a fun one to listen to on a longer trip as well.

Mailbox Monday

November's host for Mailbox Monday is Marcia. Join in and share the new books which arrived for you last week. Last week just (2) new books arrived, but I was SO VERY excited by both of them.

Simon and Schuster sent my the unabridged audiobook version of Stephen Kings new book, 11/22/63. (I started this one and it is terrific so far).
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best. 

The Magical Christmas Horse, by Mary Higgins Clark was actually sent to me by the very talented painter/illustrator Wendell Minor. The illustrations are lovely. I've so enjoyed his childrens books in  the past.


Johnny's wish had come true. His family would be visiting his grandparents for Christmas. His grandparents lived in an old house in New England where his father had been born. The family together, the smells of the cookies baking, the snowy Christmas tree farm with trees of so many shapes and sizes, and most of all the wooden horse he had told his brother Liam about would make this the best Christmas ever. In his grandparents' attic Johnny finds many treasures, but the wooden horse he remembered so well is missing. How can Johnny make his brother's Christmas wish come true?

Beloved and internationally bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark's loving story together with Wendell Minor's captivating paintings make The Magical Christmas Horse a book that captures the true heart of Christmas and one that families will make part of their Christmas tradition year after year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Even the Birds Were Confused!

 Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Even the birds were confused - Snow in October ?
Snow is gone and November has been mild thus far.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Close Your Eyes; Amanda Eyre Ward

Author:  Amanda Eyre Ward
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Random House Audio 
Edition: audio book
Reader: Meera Simhan and Phoebe Zimmerman ( poor choices)
Setting: New York
Source: Library
Date Completed: 11/11/2011
Rating: 2.5/5
Recommend: no

Back in 1986, when Lauren was only six and her brother Alex was eight, their mother was murdered as the children slept outdoors in their tree house. Their father was arrested and subsequently convicted of the murder.  The children were sent to live with their grandparents, but for the most part grew up in boarding schools.

Twenty-plus years later Lauren and Alex are grown, Alex is a doctor, and is in Iraq working with Doctors Without Boarders. Lauren is in real estate and lives with her boyfriend, believing marriage is not for her.  Lauren and Alex have different views on whether their father could have really murdered their mother. Lauren, has never contacted her father, believing he was guilty.  When Alex goes missing in Iraq, Lauren decides to spend time trying to find out what really happened on the night her mother was murdered.  Her investigation leads her to a person who can provide the information about what really happened on that awful night when she and her brother were so very young.

I like the way this novel started out and it was really holding my interest, even though the two female readers were a poor choice, in my opinion for this particular story.  Their voices, tone and expressions made them sound much younger than what was appropriate for this particular story.  The second problem I had with this novel was that, very abruptly a character by name of Sylvia takes over. Sylvia is looking for her friend Victoria when she was a young girl.  I listened and listened, and even ejected the cd to see it by chance the wrong cd was in the player.....nope, still the same book, but the story is not making much sense.  I decided to keep listening anyways to see where this was all going, and eventually the events of the past come to light. Unfortunately, by the time it begins to make sense, I sort of lost my enthusiasm for the story.  I have enjoyed this author in the past so I felt a little let down by this one.

Has anyone else read or listened to this book? What did you think?

A Dog and His Seeing - Eye Guide

Some of you may have already seen this around the web, but when my dear friend Pam sent this my way, I just felt like I had to share it. The pair were in need of a forever home, and it seems that they have found one.

Lily is a Great Dane that has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last 5 years, Maddison, another Great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable.

"People will forget what you said; People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel."  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giveaway - Lions at Lamb House; Edwin Yoder - Europa Edition

I've been so hooked on the quality of books published by Europa, that I went a bit overboard and purchased one title twice, so my foolishness calls for a giveaway.  If interested, please leave a comment with a way to contact you should you win.  Entries will be accepted until Sunday (just 3 days). Winner will be announced on  Sunday evening.

Edwin M Yoder Jr

Lions at Lamb House imagines what happens when an Austrian psychiatrist responds to the urgent request of a Boston colleague. The colleague, who fears his brother’s intention to rewrite his early novels may be the sign of debilitating neuroses, urges the Austrian psychiatrist to visit and evaluate his brother at home in the south of England. The time is 1908. The Austrian is Sigmund Freud. The Bostonian is William James and the novelist is his brother Henry. What comes of Freud’s ten-day visit to Lamb House is fiction of a high order, at once artful and entertaining.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - The Book of Madness and Cures; Regina O'Melveny

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's my pick:

Rebecca O'Melveny
(Little Brown and Co. - April 2012)

(about the book)

Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired in her a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body.

Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father's patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and France, entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, the Netherlands, and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father's flight, and open new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.

Filled with medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life, The Book of Madness and Cures is an intoxicating and unforgettable debut.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along. This week's "intro" is from a book that will be released in January of 2012, by one of my favorite authors: Thrity Umrigar.  Have you read any of her books?

"The tooth broke three days after she received the awful news. There was no blood. No pain, even. For three days she had believed that it was her heart that had broken into tiny fragments, but turned out it was another part of her body that decided to mourn the news. No pain, no blood.  Just a moment of puzzlement as she bit into the soft French toast she made for breakfast this morning and felt something hard and brittle in her mouth.  She spat out two small pieces into her cupped hand.  Adish stared at her for a stunned second and then said, 'Oh no. What happened?'"

Would you continue reading?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday

November's host for Mailbox Monday is Marcia.
Join in and share the new books which arrived for you last week.

Last week I treated myself to (3) new Europa Editions, since I have enjoyed every book by this publisher that I have read so far. I was so excited about my purchases, and then I discovered that I already have (1) of the titles I ordered :(  Lions at Lamb House - so watch for a future giveaway!

The other (2) Europas are: French Leave; Anna Gavalda and In a Strange Room; Damon Galgut.

I also won Margaret Atwood's new book, In Other Worlds, from Meg@ A Bookish Affair (many thanks Meg).

A Sense of an Ending; Julian Barnes, came from a Paperback Swap member - sounds really good.

Chalk Girl; Carol O'Connell - (arrived from Putnam and Shelf Awareness) (sounds like a good thriller)

Out of Oz; Gregory Maguire (arrived from Harper Audio - thanks so much)

Hope you received some new books as well.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Awkward Family Pet Photos; Mike Bender and Dave Chenack

Title: Awkward Family Pet Photos
Author: Mike Bender and Dave Chenack
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Edition: eBook
Source: Net Galley
Date Completed: 11/8/2011 
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

As an animal lover in need on a good laugh, I was pretty sure this book would fit the bill.  I wasn't aware that there was a website devoted to this as well as Awkward Family Photos until I got my hands on this eBook.

Unfortunately, the eBook was read on my black/white print Kindle, so for a book which consists mostly of photographs, this is not the ideal way to view this book. I was able to flip through the actual book at my local bookstore as well, so that made the book much more fun for me. The book is a quick read, and does include a few brief stories along the way.  Many of the photos are totally ridiculous and it made me wonder about the people submitting the photos for consideration -- some are certainly cringe-worthy.

There is a section of Holidays and I think these were may favorite --very funny. In addition there is a section of farm animals which were very fun, vacations with people and their pets.  Other sections feature, cats, dogs, exotic pets and just plain "awkward pets".

This is one of those books that would be perfect to have on your coffee table when you are have company over --a perfect conversation started for sure.  This book would also make a fun holiday present for the animal lover who has everything.  Check it out and see what you think.

The Language of Flowers; Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Edition: eBook and Audio Book
Source: Net Galley and Library Audio
Reader: Tara Sands (very good)
Date Completed: 11/7/2011 
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

 The Language of Flowers tells the story of  Victoria Jones, who by the age of nine had lived in over thirty different foster homes.  She's described as "detached and quick-tempered", but because of her experiences within the foster care system, she is just mistrustful of everyone she meets and thus prefers to be alone.  At the age of eighteen she is "emancipated", (pushed out) of the foster care system to fend for herself.  With no place to go, she sleeps in parks at night and even plants a small garden for herself there. By day she lives, lives on the streets and finishes the leftover food left by people in restaurants.

She manages to find a job in a local flower shop where her talent quickly really shines through. She is perfect selected just the right flower for the customers depending on various situations, and her ability has the capacity of changing lives for some. One vendor of the flower shop, gets Victoria to confront the painful experiences of her past. The Victorian language of flowers is used to convey meaning of various flowers, and through flowers Victoria is able to communicate her feelings and what others are feeling as well.

The Language of Flowers was a very good debut novel. Victoria was one of those characters that you couldn't help rooting for. I found myself hoping her adult life would make up for her lousy childhood. I liked the short chapters which alternated from the past to the present.  It was easy to get wrapped up in her story, and it was easy to see why she was so afraid to trust and experience love for the fear of being abandoned or hurt once again.  I did find parts of the story to be a bit contrived and after a while all on the constant references to flowers and their meanings became a bit much for me.

Readers who enjoy stories with the power to transform lives and stories of second chances will most likely enjoy this novel. I read both the eBook and the audio version, which was read by Tara Sands who did a great job.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

 Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

It's still Fall here in New England!
(despite the October snowstorm)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The America's Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook: Your Guide to Hosting Stress-Free Dinner Parties and Holiday Feasts

Title: America's Test Kitchen Menu Cookbook
Author: Americas Test Kitchens
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Boston Common Press
Edition: hardcover
Source: personal copy / Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 11/8/2011 
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

I've always loved looking at beautiful cookbooks, especially ones that have beautiful, mouth-watering illustrations, and recipes that are not too complicated or time consuming.  This is my first experience with ATK's Cookbooks, and it's all that I look for in a cookbook and more (some recipes are a bit more involved and/or take longer to prepare.)

The book  has (51) different complete menus for every occasion, special occasions and holidays included. There are about (250) different recipes all together.  What is great is that there are seasonal recipes with  lighter dinners, cold soups etc. for summer entertaining, and more substantial meals in fall and winter months. All the recipes are for 8-12 people, and the idea is that you can prepare these dishes ahead of time so that when your guests arrive, you can spend less time in the kitchen, and more time with your guests.

There are several things I like about this book, especially if I were to give it as a gift to someone just starting out.  At the beginning of the book there is a section on cookware and tools to make your life easier in the kitchen. (with all the gadgets now available, this can be very confusing when you are a novice in the kitchen). Every menu shows what can be done in advance and when, but they leave it up to you to actual do the implementation, and there is even an emergency substitution list that is terrific if you've run out of an item.   I also liked the sections on Quick Preparation Tips and Clever Serving Tricks and Clean-Up Ease.  Last minutes appetizers and Easy Desserts were also great.

All this plus simply gorgeous, glossy illustrations, and this book will be one that you would be proud to display on a coffee table.

Some of my favorites (all of the desserts make me drool) which I plan to try are:
  • Elegant Salmon Dinner - Israeli Couscous with caramelized fennel and spinach
  • New England Cod and Potato Dinner
  • Tomato and Mozzarella Tart (made with sheets of frozen pastry puff)
  • Mushroom Pasta Supper
  • Beef Tenderloin Dinner - potato and fennel gratin
  • Individual Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes served with ice cream
  • Lemon cheesecake with hazelnut crust
  • Lemon Tarts (to die for)
  • Oatmeal fudge bars
  • Cranberry upside down cake
If you aren't familiar with ATK's Cookbooks, you must check them out!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Troubling Love; Elena Ferrante

Title: Troubling Love
Author: Elena Ferrante
Publication Year: 2006
Publisher: Europa Editions
Edition: trade softcover
Source: Library
Location: Italy 
Date Completed: 11/4/2011 
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

Troubling Love is my third book by an Italian author, who goes by the pseudonym, Elena Ferrante.  The other two books, The Days of Abandonment and The Lost Daughter, also published as Europa Editions were a treat to read. All three books were translated from Italian, by Ann Goldstein who did a great job.

Troubling Love, packs a punch, beginning with the opening sentence...."My mother drowned on the night of May 23rd, my birthday, in the sea at a place called Spaccavento, a few miles from Minturno. "

Told from the POV of Delia, the 40+ year old daughter of the late Amalia. While waiting for her mother to visit her traveling from Naples to Rome, Delia receives several strange telephone calls from her mother. One indicating that a man was following her and wanted to wrap her in a carpet, and then another saying that she was going to have a bath.  She was discovered floating in the sea, wearing only a lacy and expensive bra, the type of undergarment that her mother would not normally have worn.

Early on the reader learns that when Delia was young, her mother's absences caused Delia much anxiety, as she would stare out of the window endlessly waiting for her return.  As an adult, Delia and her mother had a rocky relationship. When her mother would come for a visit she would reorganize her daughter's home to her own liking, causing friction between the two.  At her mother's funeral, Delia feels relieved about not having to worry about her 63 year-old mother any longer --she doesn't shed a tear at her funeral, like her two sisters did.  Amalia's husband, who she had been estranged from for many many years, did not attend the funeral.

After the funeral, Delia goes to her mother's "dirty and ugly" 4th floor apartment, and begins to look around. She sees several more things that make her wonder about what her mother had been doing the days before she died.  Her mother was poor and she typically dressed shabbily; a frugal woman, yet why did she leave the water running in her apartment, and what was that expensive men's shirt doing in her drawer, and what about her other odd possessions?

Delia becomes obsessed with finding out more about her mother's life, and how she died, and in the process she unearths more of her own painful childhood, growing up in an abusive home. Each step along Delia's journey while searching for the truth, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, and at times it seemed as if she was hallucinating. Yet how valid are those memories from our past, especially when people tend to repress painful happenings? 

Probably even more so than the two other books by this author, Troubling Love is an emotionally charged, at times - sexually raw, and cringe-worthy story. It's not an easy story to read, even though it is just 139 pages, but once you've begun you will not want to put it down.

Waiting on Wednesday ~ Carry the One; Carol Anshaw

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's my pick:

Simon and Schuster - March 2012
This stunning, break-out achievement has already been hailed by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, for presenting “passion and addiction, guilt and damage, all the beautiful mess of family life. Carry the One will lift readers off their feet and bear them along on its eloquent tide.” 

 Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidently hits and kills a girl on a dark, country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, connect and disconnect and reconnect with each other and their victim. As one character says, “When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.”

Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest tragedies and joys of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect. Deceptively short and simple in its premise, this novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s beautifully precise use of language; her sympathy for her very recognizable, flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

Do you like the sound of this one?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along. Today is the big release day for Stephen King's new book. I pre-ordered it for my Kindle. (I have so many books started right now --it's crazy), but this is another I really, really, really want to read.

"I've never been what you'd call a crying man."

"My ex-wife said that my 'nonexistent emotional gradient' was the main reason she was leaving me (as if the guy she met in her AA meetings was beside the point). Christy said she supposed she could forgive me for not crying at her father's funeral; I had known him only six years and couldn't understand what a wonderful, giving man he had been (a Mustang convertible as a high school graduation present, for instance).  But then, when I didn't cry at my own parents' funerals--they died just two years apart, Dad of stomach cancer and Mom of a thunderclap heart attack while walking on a Florida beach--she began to understand the nonexistent gradient thing.  I was 'unable to feel my feelings,' in AA-speak."
Will you be reading this one at some point?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday

November's host for Mailbox Monday is Marcia.
Join in and share the new books which arrived for you last week.

No internet last week so these are the books I received for the last (2) weeks.
Have you read any of these?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Marriage Plot; Jeffrey Eugenides

Author:  Jeffrey Eugenides
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Macmillian Audio 
Edition: audio book and Kindle Edition
Reader: David Pittu ( very good) 
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 11/1/2011
Setting: Rhode Island (mostly)
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

A huge fan of Jeffrey Eugenide's earlier novels, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, I couldn't wait to get my hands on both the eBook and audio versions of his recent release The Marriage Plot.  Did I like his new novel? Yes, but.....

The Marriage Plot, for the most part takes place in Rhode Island, on the campus of Ivy League, Brown University, in 1982.  Madeleine Hanna, is a pretty girl from New Jersey. Her father is a College President, and her childhood was pretty normal.  At Brown she majored in English (Victorian Literature), because......."she loved books".  Her senior thesis is called:  "I Thought You'd Never Ask: Some Thoughts on the Marriage Plot." 

Opening paragraph of the novel
" To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters.  There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov.  There were the Colette novels she read on the sly.  There was the first edition Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn't trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for 'Artistic,' or 'Passionate,' thinking you could live with 'Sensitive,' secretly fearing 'Narcissistic' and 'Domestic,' but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: 'Incurably Romantic. "

The real focus of the novel, however, is not on Madeleine and her books, but rather on Madeleine and the (2) young men who are trying to win her affections. It's 1982 and all (3) are graduating from Brown, and much like today, finding a job after college will be challenging.  The two men who are crazy about Madeleine are, Leonard Bankhead, who is brilliant in the classroom as well as the bedroom, he's handsome and charming as well.  He also comes from a poor family in Portland, Oregon and has battled mental illness (manic depression) since his teens. The two meet in a senior semiotics seminar, and immediately hit it off. 

Mitchell Grammaticus and Madeleine had met early on in freshman orientation, and have been good friends ever since.  Mitchell believes he and Madeline are meant to be together.  After graduation, Mitchell is off to Europe and India on a spiritual/religious journey, hoping to find himself and some meaning and direction in his life.  While in India, he even volunteers at a clinic in Calcutta founded by Mother Teresa.

Over the course of the next year, Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell will face the harsh realities of the real world, and life beyond college. When they are reunited each  will see life in a different light.

I liked this novel, but didn't love it. The writing is very good and the story well constructed, but yet I became a bit bored at certain sections of the novel.  The portrait of Leonard's illness and his often crippling bouts of depression were very sad to read about, as was reading about Madeleine's struggle to be there for him, when he was at his worst and it was painful thing for her to witness. 

This is the type of book that will definitely get mixed reviews, for a variety of different reasons; although it wasn't perfect, I'm happy I read it. The audio book reader, was new to me, but did a very good job.