Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Time and A Season

I have come to the rather difficult and painful decision to stop posting over here at my book blog. I have been thinking and debating about this for some time but ultimately decided that shutting it down is what is best for me right now.

I will keep this blog up but will not be posting here anymore or participating in any more challenges (I have completed 15 so far this year so I think I can call it good). :-)
Maybe some day I will have the time to blog again and will start posting here again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finished: Non-Fiction Five

I had some really great books picked out to read for this challenge but of course I did not read them. Instead I read books for bookclub and books that also fit with other challenges.
My final list is a mix of books I did not like at all and books that I really enjoyed.
My favorite was The Journal of Helene Berr and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Here is what my final list looked like(with links to my posts):
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein
Posters for the People by Ennis Carter
At Home with Beatrix Potter by Susan Denyer
The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr

Thanks a bunch to Trish for hosting this one!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Title: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Author: Rodman Philbrick
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Pages: 224
Published: 2009
Date Finished: 11 Aug 2009
My Rating: 4
Challenges: Civil War, Library, 100+

Telling the truth don’t come easy to me, but I will try, even if old Truth ain’t nearly as useful as a fib sometimes (p 7).

I could not help but think of Mark Twain while reading this book. I think Homer P. Figg and some of Mark Twain's more well known creations would have gotten on well. But then again maybe not, since they would always be trying to out lie and out story tell the other.

Homer P. Figg has a difficult time telling the truth. Ask him a simple question and is as likely as not to start telling a very elaborate and mostly made up tale in response.
Even though he is under age, Homer's older brother is conscripted as a soldier into the Civil War. Homer sets off on an adventure to find his brother and get him out of the war before the war kills him.
Kidnapping, runaway slaves, spies, tattooed ladies, being trapped in a pig pin, and riding in a run away balloon are just some of the adventures that Homer encounters on his mission to rescue his brother.
This was a fun romp of a story that still managed to be serious when dealing with war and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Now the only question remaining is how much of Homer's story is really true??

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our Little Surprise

Baby Brother
8 lbs 10.9 oz
20 3/4 inches
Our little baby joined our family on Sunday. The arrival turned out to be a bit of a surprise as the girl we'd been planning for turned out to be a boy.
Ultrasounds are great but obviously not always 100% reliable. All I could do was laugh because on the way to the hospital I had teased Mike about the baby being a boy and here he was a boy after all. Thankfully I already have a boy and a girl so have all the boy necessities and did not buy more than a few small girl things that can be returned or held on to in case we have another girl some day.
Red and Miss L are both very thrilled about having a new baby in the family. Miss L still calls him baby sister but she'll figure it eventually.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Red Princess: Didn't Finish

Red Princess by Sofka Zinovieff

I found this book while browsing the new arrivals at the library. Sophy Dolgorouky was a Russian Princess who fled her homeland as a young girl during the 1917 revolution. During the second world war she was imprisoned by the Nazis and discovered communism, embracing the political thought and lifestyle that had changed her homeland and displaced her family.
The book is written by Sophy's granddaughter and is more a tale of her granddaughter's journey to discover her grandmother than it is about Sophy. I did find some of the remarks and details of life during and after the communist regime in Russia interesting but other than that I just could not get into the narrative. It did not take me long to realize that Sophy was probably not going to be a person I would become vested in or care much about.
I applied the 50 page rule and then returned this one to the library.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I finished a book yesterday and realized it has been almost a month since I finished a book and just as long since I had posted here on my blog. This break from reading and blogging was not planned but just kind of happened. I have been reading. In fact, I have 4 books going right now which is uncommon for me. I am usually a one book at a time kind of reader.
I just have not been able to devote the time I usually do to reading or blogging. I want to jump back in and get all caught back up but with a baby due in less than 2 weeks I don't have great expectations. I am going to try to catch up on book posts etc but if there is another long absence please forgive me and don't disappear all together. I will be around but life is requiring some adjustments be made right now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Finished: War Through The Generations: WWII

Well, once again not a single book that I thought I'd read for this challenge was read. I really expected to read more non-fiction for this challenge so was surprised to find that only 2 out of the 6 I set out to read were non-fiction.
This is a time period I tend to read about fairly often so I still have a lot of titles currently on my TBR list and many that will be added I am sure.
This is a great reading challenge and the hosts have done an amazing job. Just look at the awesome blog they set up. Thanks ladies!

Here are the books I read: (linked to my posts about them)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
Saplings by Noel Streatfield
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Second Look: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Title: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Author: Laurie Viera Rigler
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2007
Date Finished: 5 August 2009
My Rating: 3 Stars
Challenges: 100+, Library, Everything Austen

This is actually the second time I have read this and I have to say I think I enjoyed it more this time around. The first time I read it I was still in a up all night feeding my baby sleep deprived mode, so that might have something to do with my original dislike and confusion (Now I am just in a exhausted from being 8 months pregnant stage). While I still don't consider this a great work I did find myself a little more caught up in the story during my second reading.
There is a lot of Jane Austen fanfic out on the market these days. A lot! And lets face it, a lot of it, I'd wager to say the vast majority of it, is tripe. What I like about Rigler's contribution to the genre is that it is not a continuation of Austen's creations but contains an original character. This is no Elizabeth and Darcy marriage saga, nothing about Mr. Darcy's point of view and no attempt to gather all the characters from all six of Jane Austen's novels into one story. Aside from a sad, as in pathetic, encounter with Miss Austen herself this book does not really have much to do with Jane Austen or her novels. (The title is rather misleading in my opinion, a Jane Austen addict, yes, but where are the confessions?)
Courtney Stone, a self professed Jane Austen addict, wakes up one morning, after being drunk the night before, in the body and life of Jane Mansfield, a woman living in Regency England. Courtney must now learn to maneuver through a life that is not her own and that she has no memory of.
I could be really nit-picky with this about the things that bothered me about this book, and there were plenty but I am going to refrain. This was a quick and mostly fun read which is kinda what I could use right now.
I read this the first time in my pre-blogging days but was already using Goodreads. Here are my thoughts, as posted on Goodreads, after reading it the first time:

The book did not hook me at all. It was a quick read but not an “I can’t put it down” read. I felt it took too long for anything to really happen. There was too much “Why I am here? How do I get back? Ok. I accept that I am here.” And then back to the “why am I here” etc etc. I kept waiting for something to actually happen. I felt like the author kept introducing ideas and plot points that could have been interesting but then never developed them. Like the journal with the names written over and over again and Jane telling James about Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks. About half way through things started to pick up but then just slowed down again.

I did find the meeting with Jane Austen comical if not a bit odd. If you had the chance to actually meet Jane Austen would you really go off about movie adaptations and other things that Austen would have no idea about?
The biggest disappointment was the ending. What happened? Did Courtney wake up in LA without time passing? Had Jane inhabited Courtney’s life while Courtney inhabited Jane’s? How did Jane know about Abraham Lincoln etc? When/where had she learned these things? So much left unexplored or explained.
My favorite part of the book was the start of chapter 14 when Courtney describes why she reads and re-reads Jane Austen."There is comfort in the familiarity of it all, in the knowledge that it will all turn out well..." That is exactly how I feel about reading Jane Austen.

Like I said, I think I enjoyed it a little more this time and was all around less critical. Although many of the same things did stick out as being left unsaid or resolved. All the same, a light hearted romantic little story with some allusions to Jane Austen thrown in. One of the better Jane Austen fanfic books I have read.
So why did I re-read it? Because I am about to read the sequel and did not really remember much about the first one and wanted a refresher. I am hoping Rude Awakenings will answer some of the questions left behind from the first book.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

Title: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
Author: Nancy Springer
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Pages: 170
Published: 2008
Date Finished: 29 July 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: 100+, Library, Young Adult

In the first Enola Holmes mystery Enola's mother disappeared on her fourteenth birthday leaving behind only some cryptic ciphers. Avoiding the corsets and boarding school that her brothers Mycroft and Sherlock want to send her to Enola runs away to London dressed as a widow. (See my post about The Case of the Missing Marquess.)
In the second book Enola has set up shop as a finder of lost things and continues to hide from her brothers while solving mysteries in a fashion similar to her brother Sherlock (Case of the Left-Handed Lady).
That brings us to book three, The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. While this book was shorter than the others, it was much more packed with adventure and mystery. And I think had the most interesting plot thus far.
Dr. Watson has gone missing and even though she knows it will bring her into closer contact with her brother Sherlock than she would like, Enola feels compelled to take on the case and help find the missing Watson. When visiting Watson's wife Enola notices a strange bouquet that she is sure was sent as deadly message from Watson's kidnapper. When Sherlock thinks nothing of them Enola knows it is a clue that should not be ignored and pursues the lead.
Relying once again upon her wits and intelligence Enola makes her way through a male dominated Victorian England, putting her life in peril as she searches for Watson.
I read this book in one sitting. It was filled with suspense and had a great story line.
Enola continues to be a great spunky character. I just wish, like Sherlock, that Enola would begin to trust her brother a little. She makes a great sleuth but her name is still "alone" when spelled backwards.
These books are fun, light reads and if you are not reading them, you should!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

TSS: Where I Get My Books

I don't know if this is really interesting to anyone besides myself but several people around the book blogs have been posting about where they got the last 20 books they read from. Most of them were doing it to get a percentage of ARCs that they read and review but I don't do ARCs so I am just doing this to satisfy my own curiosity about some of my reading habits.

  1. Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn- Library book
  2. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy-Library book
  3. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton-Purchased from Barnes and Noble
  4. At Home with Beatrix Potter by Susan Denyer -Purchased from Barnes and Noble
  5. Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein- Library book
  6. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See -Library book
  7. Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson- Library book through Inter-Library Loan
  8. Posters for the People by Ennis Carter-Library book
  9. Two People by AA Milne- Purchased from Book Depository
  10. The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson- Library book through ILL
  11. A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild -Library Book through ILL
  12. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer - Library book
  13. The Green Bay Tree by Louise Bromfield- Library book through ILL
  14. The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen by Teri Edwards and Serena Thompson-Purchased from Barnes and Noble
  15. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale- Library book
  16. The Five Bells and Bladebone by Martha Grimes -Purchased from Barnes and Noble
  17. The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr-Library book
  18. The Case of the Left Handed Lady by Nancy Springer -Library book
  19. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer -Library book
  20. Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold-Purchased from Book Depository

Not surprising at all that most of them came from the library.
70% came from the library
30% I purchased (20% from Barnes and Noble, 10% from Book Depository)
Pretty simple and cut and dry. Of course, the books purchased percentage is just off the last 20 books I read. I have bookshelves full of books I've bought and not read...I'll be doing something about that next year.
One thing I did find of interest is that ever since I paid for a membership in Barnes and Nobles rewards program last Christmas I have purchased most of my books from them. Before then I rarely shopped at Barnes and Noble...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

Title: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
Author: Nancy Springer
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Pages: 234
Published: 2007
Date Finished: 28 July 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: Young Adult, Seconds, Library, 100+

***I've tried to leave this spoiler free and concerning this volume I have. However, if you have not read the first volume there might be a little spoilerish detail concerning that book. Make sense?***

The Second installment of Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes mystery series finds Enola firmly established in her life of hiding in London. Enola has opened up shop as Dr. Leslie T. Ragostin, Scientific Perditorian (finder of lost things.) Because "Dr. Ragostin" does not actually exist Enola spends her days posing as his secretary Miss Ivy Meshle, meeting with and interviewing any potential clients of Dr. Ragostin. Enola also spends her nights in disguise as a sister who roams the streets of East London helping those in need.
Enola finds herself drawn into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the young Lady Cecily and uses her many identities to try and solve the case.
Still trying to communicate with her missing mother through ciphers placed in the personals of many newspapers Enola has more than one close encounter with her famous detective brother. Through her tenacity and reasoning Enola continues to display how much she and her older brother have in common.
I enjoyed this second book even more than the first. As with many series much of the first book was taken up with setting up the characters and settings etc while this one jumped into the action and mystery much more quickly. Enola has her hands full, trying to evade her brothers, trying to locate the missing Lady Cecily and trying to track down her own missing mother.
I am still thoroughly enjoying accompanying this young sleuth on her adventures through Victorian England.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Journal of Helene Berr

Title: The Journal of Helene Berr
Author: Helene Berr
Genre: Non-Fiction
Date Finished: 27 July 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: NF-5, WWII, Library, New Author, 100+

"It makes me happy to think that if I am taken, Andree will have kept these pages, which are a piece of me, the most precious part, because no other material thing matters to me anymore; what must be rescued is the soul and the memory it contains."

Helene Berr was an intelligent, caring, and highly talented young woman living in Paris during WWII. She graduated from the Sorbonne with a degree in English Language and literature and would have earned further degrees and distinctions if not for anti-semitic laws that prevented her from doing so. She was a highly accomplished violinist and in 1941 she became involved with a clandestine group established to save Jewish children from deportation.
Helene began keeping her journal in 1942 and kept writing in it, with a few breaks along the way, until she and her parents were deported in 1944. After spending time at Auschwitz Helene was transferred to Bergan-Belsen where she died, just 5 days before the camp was liberated, after being brutally beaten. Her journal is a vivid eyewitness account detailing many of the acts of persecution perpetrated against the Jews living in France under Nazi rule.
Jean Morawiecki, the man Helene probably would have married had she survived the war, said this of Helene, "Beings like Helene-and I'm not sure there are any like her-are not only strong and beautiful in themselves. They spread a sense of strength to others who are able to understand them. For me, Helene was the symbol of strength-a radiant strength composed of attraction, beauty, harmony, persuasion, confidence, and loyalty. It has all vanished. Her death takes away the woman I loved and, even more, a soul that was close to my own. She has taken with her all that I could give her-my confidence, my love, my energy."

I believe Helene's words express who she was better than I could ever attempt to do. Here are a few samples of her writing from her journal.
A friend of Helene's made the comment "I can't stand seeing people with that on" referring to Helene's yellow star of David that the Jews had recently been required to wear. Helene wrote in her journal, "I realize that: it offends other people. But if they only knew what a crucifixion it is for me. I suffered there in the sunlit Sorbonne courtyard, among my comrades. I suddenly felt I was no longer myself, that everything had changed, that I had become a foreigner, as if I were in the grip of a nightmare. I could see familiar faces all around me, but I could feel their awkwardness and bafflement. It was as if my forehead had been seared with a branding iron."

On why she continued to write even though it was difficult for her at times Helene wrote, "I have a duty to write because other people must know. Every hour of every day there is another painful realization that other folk do not know, do not even imagine, the suffering of other men, the evil that some of them inflict. And I am still trying to make the painful effort to tell the story. Because it is a duty, it is maybe the only one I can fulfill...So I must write to show people later on what these times are like. I know that many others will have more important lessons to teach, and more terrible facts to reveal. I am thinking of all the deportees, all those in prison, all those who set off on t he great adventure of escape. But that should not make me a coward; each of us in our own small sphere can do something. And we can, we must."

"On the metro today I wondered: Will anybody ever be able to understand what it was like to live through this appalling tempest at the age of twenty, at the age when you are ready to grasp life's beauty, when you are completely ready to trust in humanity?"

I would have preferred some additional foot notes to help me know what some of the events and incidents that Helene referred to were. A couple of times I found myself googling the date to find out what was going on in Paris at that time. I also think it would have helped to read the two sections at the end of the journal about Helene and Paris during the war before I read the journal. Having that background information would probably have enhanced my reading.
The Journal of Helene Berr is well worth a read through by just about everyone.