Friday, July 31, 2009

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg

From the author's website: When Betta Nolan's husband, John, dies, she honors a promise she made to him to sell their house, drive across the country until she finds a town she likes, and move there. This is a novel about starting life over, and purposely enriching that life with the many pleasures, especially the small and free ones, that are always available to us. It also challenges the notion that a widow must or should behave in a certain way; and it shows how love does not die, but rather changes form.

This was the first book I have ever read by Elizabeth Berg and it was a treat. I loved the characters - Delores the real estate agent, Jovani the roommate and Lorraine the good friend. And, of course, Matthew, the "last puppy in the cage". I even liked the "mean" ones - Melanie and Lydia. Berg made the Midwest seem so romantic I had fantasies about moving to a place that actually has seasons so I could gather fall leaves and lay them across my own kitchen windowsill. When she wrote about awkward moments like the forced friendly conversation with her Boston neighbor Sheila and the first date with Tom, it seemed so real I felt embarrassed for Betta! The Year of Pleasures was a delightful read and I will definitely be looking for other books by Elizabeth Berg. I may have one appear in my mailbox. There was this website that offered, in exchange for a short review, to mail a "classic" Elizabeth Berg book while supplies last. It's the while supplies last that will probably kick me out of the free book line - I'm sure I am late to the party..again!

This book is my "Y" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand? July 2009

This monthly feature is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month. Click on the logo to go and check out all the participants.

Please excuse the blurry photo - not sure what happened there! At the bottom sits John Adams - untouched since last month - I'm still ignoring John for now. Next is Castaways a win from bermudaonion that I am really looking forward to reading. I read reviews of this one at both bermudaonions and bethfishreads and they made me want to read it right away. But, before I start that, I'm working on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I skimmed through it when my DD Bookworm purchased it at midnight on the release date but I never sat down and actually read it through. Now that the movie is out, I want to read it before I go and see the movie. I'm enjoying it and am about halfway through. I really wish I was ambitious enough to think I might read the whole series again because if I was I could join the Harry Potter Reading Challenge but I don't think I can start over again when I have so many things already I want to read.

I have two books in the stack to complete my A-Z Reading challenge. My R book is Reading Lolita in Tehran. ( I really vacillated on this as I also have The Red Tent and Revolutionary Road in my TBR pile - I don’t want to repeat what happened with "I"! My Y book is The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg. I haven't read anything she's written but all of a sudden I keep seeing her name everywhere so I'm looking forward to this one. And for the Everything Austen challenge, I have Bridget Jones Diary although it would be a re-read so I may watch the movie instead.

It's summer reading time in the Round File household so I have Treasure Island that Tween is reading and hence I am reading as well in order to stay on top of him and to make sure he understands what he read! And Youngest has both Holes and Pollyanna to read. Youngest loves to read so reading them is no problem, the problem is the required journal with chapter by chapter summaries. I checked on him not long after he started Holes and he was on Chapter 25 of 50 chapters - hooray! But then I checked the journal and he had one entry for Chapter One and nothing else - boo!

Missing from the pile is Nefertiti the August selection for the historical fiction bookclub on Facebook. I put off buying it hoping I would win the copy the author provided to our leader, Jennifer, from the literatehousewife but, heavy sigh, I haven't heard anything so I guess I didn't win. Oh well - off to Amazon to buy that and then whatever else it will take to get me free supersaver shipping!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday with Colin

I spent my entire Sunday other than my hour at Mass, slaving away to complete my second task for the Everything Austen Challenge. I watched the entire six part mini-series from A&E of Pride and Prejudice. The one with Colin Firth. (Just for the record, if I had any technological skills, I would insert my own head into that photo with Colin Firth, but, alas, I have none.) So here's how my day went - I'd watch a 50 minute episode, then, while it was rewinding, I would go to the bathroom, get a snack, check Facebook, and then return to my bed for the next 50 minute episode. Repeat for a total of six episodes and you have my Sunday. I tell you....the things I do for these challenges! And if I didn't have to work today, I'd be ready to do the whole day over again!

When I borrowed the set of VHS tapes from my friend Mary Poppins, she told me that she watched them when her daughter was a baby. She said she would watch them every night over and over again - when she finished one, she'd start the next and then when the series was over, she'd just start it right up again from the beginning. Hmmm, I thought, she may only be "practically perfect" but she is totally crazy. But now I know, if my children instead of being mobile, articulate, demanding pre-teens and teens were instead infants who I could cradle in my arms on the couch all night while I watched Colin Firth, I would do it too. It was so fun to see the story brought to life with such detail and elegance. The words that I confess sometimes seemed awkward to read seemed just right as the characters interacted with each other. The mother and silly sisters were so embarrassing they made me cringe, Jane was so serene, I finally understood how Mr. Darcy could not have truly judged her affections for his friend, everything was magical!

I watched this series as part of the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word. Next comes the new version movie - the one with Keira Knightley. I hate to be pessimistic but I can't imagine that it could possibly live up to this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

From First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has consistently been Jane Austen's most popular novel. It portrays life in the genteel rural society of the day, and tells of the initial misunderstandings and later mutual enlightenment between Elizabeth Bennet (whose liveliness and quick wit have often attracted readers) and the haughty Darcy. The title Pride and Prejudice refers (among other things) to the ways in which Elizabeth and Darcy first view each other.

I am the last woman in the world to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Because I have waited to be the last one, everything that could possibly be said about the book has already been said. The website referenced above is a perfect example - it takes apart the book bit by bit, has maps of the locations, the entire text online all with link after link to explore more. Did I do all that? No. I just read the book and enjoyed the story. Apparently at some point in my life, I had picked up the book and started it because the beginning was vaguely familiar. But I know I didn't finish because I didn't know how it ends and I kept reading this time because I really wanted to know! It's tempting to pick up another, different Jane Austen to read if only to finally be able to put them on as "read" at Library Thing - it's so embarrassing to be an Austen illiterate. But that's not how I mapped out my challenge and I want to stick with my original plan. So I get the pleasure of watching the Pride and Prejudice movies next and seeing the story come to life

I read this book as part of the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long Lost by Harlan Coben

From the author's website: Myron Bolitar hasn’t heard from Terese Collins since their torrid affair ended ten years ago, so her desperate phone call from Paris catches him completely off guard. In a shattering admission, Terese reveals the tragic story behind her disappearance—her struggles to get pregnant, the greatest moment of her life when her baby was born…and the fatal accident that robbed her of it all: her marriage, her happiness and her beloved only daughter.

Now a suspect in the murder of her ex-husband in Paris, Terese has nowhere else to turn for help. Myron heeds the call. But then a startling piece of evidence turns the entire case upside down, laying bare Terese’s long-buried family secrets…and the very real possibility that her daughter may still be alive.

In grave danger from unknown assailants in a country where nothing is as it seems, Myron and Terese race to stay a step ahead of Homeland Security, Interpol, and Mossad. Soon they are working at breakneck pace, not only to learn what really happened to Terese’s long-lost little girl— but to uncover a sinister plot with shocking global implications.

This was an attention getting story. the plot is so intricate and it keeps going unexpected places - I liked that. I liked the main character, Myron's sense of humor too. The romance was alright - whenever a woman is described in such goddess-like terms, it's hard to root for her. You kind of want her to fall on her tush - at least I do! Here was my problem, Winn - not sure if I am spelling it right since it was an audiobook. He was the rich friend who solved every problem. The author developed these great dilemmas, you are on the edge of your seat wondering how it's going to play out, and then..bam.. in walks Winn and solves it all with his unlimited funds, connections to everyone and everything, ability to fight to kill without breaking a sweat - it was all just a bit much. The "sinister plot with shocking global implications" was truly disturbing to consider because you think if some old guy sitting around writing mysteries can plan this out, what's stopping the real bad guys from doing the same?

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I'm adding the extras as I finish them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Family by David Baldacci

From the author's website: It began with what seemed like an ordinary children’s birthday party. Friends and family gathered to celebrate. There were balloons and cake, games and gifts.

This party, however, was far from ordinary. It was held at Camp David, the presidential retreat. And it ended with a daring kidnapping... which immediately turned into a national security nightmare.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell were not looking to become involved. As former Secret Service agents turned private investigators, they had no reason to be. The FBI doesn’t want them interfering. But years ago, Sean King saved the First Lady’s husband, then a senator, from political disaster. Now, Sean is the one person the First Lady trusts, and she presses Sean and Michelle into the desperate search to rescue the kidnapped child.

With Michelle still battling her own demons, and forces aligned on all sides against them, the two are pushed to the absolute limit. In the race to save an innocent victim, the line between friend and foe will become impossible to define... or defend.

This was my first David Baldacci and it was great. The story was compelling, the characters were likable, and the narration was excellent. I was just amazed at how the narrator was able to define each character with his voice - there were so many and they were all different. The characters ranged from sophisticated political players to backwoods hillbillies and the narrator brought them each to life with a feeling of truth. I am brainwashed by the media because I could not picture the first lady character, Jane Cox, as anybody but Michelle Obama! But unfortunately for her, the president didn't come up in my imagination as Barack but instead as Dan Quayle - probably because his name was Dan Cox. I did have an idea of how it was all going to play out a little earlier than I would have liked but there were so many layers of the plot that it didn't spoil it for me. When I first started listening and it switched back and forth between the East Coast setting and the rural Alabama setting, I didn't see how they would ever become entwined and really, I wanted the book to just stay in Washington with all the interesting behind the scenes stuff about the Secret Service and the presidential office. But eventually the story came together and I was hooked.

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I think I'll keep adding the extras as I finish them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

This time last year I had been blogging for all of about two weeks so, needless to say, this event passed by without me even noticing! This year I am still such a newbie that I am not sure what exactly is going on and when I tried to complete a nomination form I had no clue about several categories! But, it sounds like fun and I am all for fun. The week is the creation of My Friend Amy. Clicking on the logo will take you to the home page - registration and nomination await you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Devil in the Junior League by Linda Francis Lee

From the author's website: Former Junior Leaguer Linda Francis Lee has crafted a scandalously delicious novel that takes you deep into the heart of Texas blue-blood society. Fredericka Mercedes Hildebrand Ware (Frede to her friends) lives her life by the rules—the Junior League of Willow Creek Texas’s rules, that is. And with a big house, a handsome husband, and plenty of money (albeit her Daddy’s), she fits the JLWC mold to a tee. But when her husband betrays her, steals her money, and runs off to places unknown, Frede’s pristine reputation is in serious jeopardy. To make matters worse, there is only one person in town who stands a chance at helping her get revenge—Howard Grout, a tasteless, gold-chain-wearing lawyer who has bought his way into Frede's tony neighborhood. The price: Frede has to get his tacky, four-inch-stiletto-and-pink-spandex-wearing wife, Nikki, into the Junior League. Hang on tight for an irresistible tale of getting in and getting even, as Linda Francis Lee shows us that some rules are made to be broken.

I guess this would be described as Chick Lit - it was cute and a little bit of romance. The caricatures of the Southern Junior League ladies were humorous but even as you're laughing at how ridiculous they are, they are still likable. I especially liked the main character, Frede. The idea of the girls being such good friends when they are young and then going their separate ways in high school mainly because of financial/class differences sure is sad. The website had an announcement that Universal Studies has bought the rights to the story and Jennifer Garner is slated to star and produce. I really like Jennifer Garner so I'll look forward to that one coming out!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chronicles of Narnia Challenge wrap-up

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

Yesterday marked the conclusion of the Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know. If you click on the logo, it will take you to Carrie's conclusion post and you can check out everybody who used Mr. Linky to post their own wrap-ups.

How did I do? I did the exact opposite of what I planned. I said I was going to be relaxed about it and read one book, maybe more. Instead I got all competitive with myself and read all seven. I enjoyed them very much but rushing through was probably not the best way to read them. Although if I remember right I am in good company as I think Carrie did the same thing her first time!

What I didn't do...I did not go Google and learn about the Christian imagery. I decided this first read just to enjoy them and see what popped out and then, later go look and confirm or refute what I thought. I will need a good resource for this project. I'm waffling about whether to go out right now and search or to wait and see if Carrie holds the challenge again next year and do it then.

I also did not watch the movies. I discovered that my children own both movies - yes, the days of mom prescreening what they watch have passed - I don't even know what we own anymore. Again - am not going to jump in and watch them right away. Now that the challenge is over, I'm taking a Narnia breather!

Here are links to my reviews if you are interested in my ramblings...
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince CaspianThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

Now, I'll say THANK YOU to Carrie at Reading to Know for hosting a great challenge!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

From the Back Cover: The conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician's Nephew… Narnia … where dwarfs are loyal and tough and strong -- or are they? … where you must say good-bye … and where the adventure begins. The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now. A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia's only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, "The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do." Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter? Enter this enchanted world countless times in The Chronicles of Narnia.

The series started with creation and now it ends with judgement day. The idea of being misled by false leaders takes up most of the story. Tash has to be Satan. In the end, Aslan shows God's mercy as he forgives the soldier who has lived his life serving Tash. (That is one of my grumpy points of faith, that you could live a life of debauchery and then be welcomed to the fold at the last minute - just doesn't seem fair! I know that jealousy shows a serious void in my quest for sainthood.) The Dwarfs are those people who insist that they are smarter than God -the ones that demand proof, science.

"They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."

The representation at the end of heaven is lovely - everything I would hope for.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my seventh for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

This is the end of the challenge, tomorrow I'll get to my wrap up post.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

From the Back Cover: NARNIA . . . where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans (and, if carefully cooked, on Marsh-wiggles, too), where a prince is put under an evil spell . . . and where the adventure begins. Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor . . . or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rilian is to be saved.

Nothing really struck me as I read this book. When I look into it somewhere else, I will probably be chagrined for all that I missed. Prehaps the idea that God has given us our directions (the commandments) and if we could simply follow them, all would be well.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my sixth for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

From the author's website: Kay Lansing grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman that ends with the man's caustic response: "I heard that song before." That same evening, young Peter Carrington drives the nineteen-year-old daughter of neighbors home from a formal dinner dance at the Carrington estate, but she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Decades later, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter, not only for his neighbor's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool. But when Kay Lansing, now a librarian in Englewood, asks Peter's permission to hold a literary benefit cocktail party on his estate, she comes to see Peter as misunderstood?and when he begins to court her, she falls in love -- and marries him. However, she soon makes a discovery that leads her to question her husband's innocence. She believes that the key to the truth lies in the identities of the man and woman whose quarrel she witnessed as a child. What she does not realize is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost Kay her life.

This was a good Mary Higgins Clark mystery. After being disappointed in the last one I read, I was so happy that I Heard That Song Before was a good read. The main characters were a likable couple. Neither was described as overly beautiful and they both enjoyed reading - maybe that helped me like them so much! There were a few of the Mary Higgins Clark standards including the wealthy setting but this time it seemed a bit modernized by acknowledging the fact that grand estates are not the norm. She made the grand estate the setting of a charity function - that's a common fundraiser plan around here so it seemed more real than just having ultra-rich people floating around all suspected of murder. I guessed "whodunit" early enough but the "why" escaped me so the story held my interest until the end - of course Clark's books are so readable that they only have to hold my interest for an afternoon - but I enjoy a light read and this was perfect for that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

From the back cover: NARNIA . . . the world of wicked dragons and magic spells, where the very best is brought out of even the worst people, where anything can happen (and most often does) . . . and where the adventure begins. The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle Miraz banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan's country at the End of the World.

This book features a baptism with Aslan removing Eustace's dragon skin and then dunking him in the water to make him new again. I'm sure the stupid Dufflepuds blindly following the wrong man when the right one is so close at hand is somewhere in scripture but in the modern day I am reminded of televangelists. The journey to the very end of the world must be a glimpse of heaven and, of course, Aslan appearing as a lamb is a familiar image of Christ. I think the overarching story of looking for something and going to all the wrong places before you surrender to Christ's will pretty much sums up a lot of lives between the ages of 16 and oh maybe 30 years of age.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my fifth for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

And, what do you know, it works here too....
This book is my "V" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

From the author's website: HE WAS BORN WITH GREAT POWER The greatest superpower of all isn't to be part spider, part man, or to cast magic spells–the greatest power is the power to create.Daniel X has that power. AND A DEADLY SECRET Daniel's secret abilities–like being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind or to re-create himself in any shape he chooses–have helped him survive. But Daniel doesn't have a normal life. He is the protector of Earth, the Alien Hunter, with a mission beyond anyone's imagining. NOW THE FATE OF THE WORLD RESTS ON DANIEL X From the day that his parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, Daniel has used his unique gifts to hunt down their assassin. Finally, with the help of The List, bequeathed to him in his parents' dying breath, he is closing in on the killer. Now, on his own, he vows to carry out his father's mission–and to take vengeance in the process.

This book was a surprise. I didn't know that James Patterson wrote any juvenile fiction - I only knew him from the mysteries he writes for adults. So I was surprised that he wrote it and then....I was surprised that I liked it! I didn't really know what it was all about when I bought it - it was an impulse buy at the local bookstore because I needed an "X" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! I was in the store picking up my boys' summer reading books for school (Tween reading Treasure Island will be the subject of another post - much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth) and that big "X" on the cover just called to me. I spread myself out on the couch Sunday afternoon and started and there I laid for the next few hours fascinated at this child who is an alien hunter and his battles with the beasts. I'm definitely not a science fiction/fantasy kind of girl but I enjoyed this one. That may have a lot to do with the fact that it is written for children so it was in no way a challenging read - had it been difficult I might not have had the motivation to stick with it. I'm saving it for after Tween finishes Treasure Island and perhaps it will appeal to him too - that's called optimism!

This book is my "X" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

From the back cover:Narnia . . . the land between the lamp-post and the castle of Cair Paravel, where animals talk, where magical things happen . . . and where the adventure begins. Peter, Susan Edmund and Lucy are returning to boarding school when they are summoned from the dreary train station (by Susan's own magic horn) to return to the land of Narnia -- the land where they had ruled as kings and queens and where their help is desperately needed.

When Prince Caspian went around and met the animals and called them into his service it reminded me of Jesus recruiting the disciples. However, if the imagery is supposed to be consistent from book to book then Aslan would still be Jesus and that wouldn’t make sense! There was the good versus evil as the Narnians battled the Telmarines. The healing of the mouse was reminiscent of all the New Testament stories of Jesus' ability to heal. And Lucy following Jesus despite not knowing the way was "trust in God" come to life.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my fourth for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Horse and His Boy by C.S Lewis

From the Back Cover: Narnia … where horses talk and hermits like company, where evil men turn into donkeys, where boys go into battle … where the adventure begins. During the Golden Age of Narnia, when Peter is High King, a boy named Shasta discovers he is not the son of Arsheesh, the Calormene fisherman, and decides to run far away to the North -- to Narnia. When he is mistaken for another runaway, Shasta is led to discover who he really is and even finds his real father.

Another good tale. So Shasta coming to Arsheesh via the water makes me think of Moses and then the next you know he is leading his little party across the desert - yes, definitely Moses-like. The welcome upon Shasta/Cor's return is somewhat like the ending of the prodigal son and Shasta's small versus big confrontation with Aslan reminds me of David and Goliath and then, Rabadash commanding the death of all the males "down to the the child that was born yesterday" is Herod so I'm really not sure what I was supposed to take away from this story!

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my third for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

From the back cover: Narnia … the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy … the place where adventure begins. Lucy is the first to find the secret wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the Magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever. Enter this enchanted world countless times in The Chronicles of Narnia.

This book was just as enchanting as I remembered from my childhood. The story this time was the passion of Christ. In this book, Aslan is another person of the Trinity, Jesus. He gives his life at the Stone Table for Edmunds and then he is resurrected and comes again to battle evil. I wonder if I saw any of this as a child? I wonder if the Professor is Digory from the first book?

The imagery I saw was the old rhymes prophesying like the Old Testament and the group's journey carrying the packs that Lucy thought were heavy were like Christ carrying the cross. And, of course, Peter, the Rock upon which Christ built His Church.

When Aslan told Peter that he must clean his sword after each use. I thought that kind of stood out and must be important but I haven't figured out any significance yet.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my second for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

From the Back Cover: NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cool, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins. Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory's Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion's song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis, before they finally return home.

This book was not the first book published but it is the first book in the series..kind of like how George Lucas worked the whole Star Wars thing. I decided that for the sake of this challenge, I am just going to read the series (as much as I can) and I'm not going to look at all the resources out there yet and seek to interpret it. I'm just going to see what speaks to me about the Christian imagery and then later, I'll go back and mull over the rest.

Well this seems pretty obviously the story of creation. Aslan (God) sings and the world appears out of darkness - the stars and the sun, the land and vegetation, and then the animals. There is a tree and the evil sorceress eats the forbidden fruit. I have to admit, I really enjoyed the brief section where Jadis came to earth - the fish out of water scenario is always ripe with humor and I could just picture that as a funny movie scene!

Even before this world, when they have just gone away from the human world, the cabby feels the peace and says, "I'd ha' been a better man all my life if I'd known there were things like this." That made me think of heaven and trying to be good in order to get to heaven.

When Uncle Andrew couldn't understand the animals speaking and only heard their sounds as growling, I thought about how we as Christians have to be open to hear God's word. So often, my prayer life is completely one way - please, please, please with the occasional thank you but not often any time spent in listening for a reply or reading His Word.

This was a fun read - I don't think I ever read this one as a child. I'm not sure why I skipped over it because I have clear memories of how much I enjoyed some of the others.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeThis book is my first for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Reading to Know

And it works for this too....
Click here to see my progress towards completing the challenge!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Literal version videos

I just discovered these on you-tube - "literal version" videos. There were dozens to view and some were just awful. These four were (in my opinion) the top - the creme de la creme of the literal version video art form. And, of these four, the first one - Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart is the best - it is most funny because the video itself is so outlandish. And yet...we watched it on MTV without question, probably thought it was high art. Enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ants, ants, ants

I'm kind of in a random thoughts mood about ants probably because..they're everywhere and I have a bunch of bites.

They're everywhere. Springtime and summer mean ants in South Carolina. I think Lowe's has an entire aisle devoted to ant killing products. I walk around my yard and treat mound after mound only to walk around the next day and find more. I have this idea in my head, that the ants are burrowing one gigantic mound under the concrete slab that my house is built on. They are tunneling away deeper and deeper. Then one day, a little shake of the planet, a nudge of plate tectonics, will cause the collapse of the ant world under our house and the whole house will kaboom! sink down three or four feet. I'll open the door to be greeted with three feet of dirt staring at me - with tunnels like you see in an art farm full of frantic ants trying to escape.

I think about this when I'm standing in the shower and an ant walks across the ceiling. Or when things like this turn on the bath tub and ants come running out of the spigot before the water begins. The pipes? They're in the pipes! I am grateful they prefer the bathrooms over the kitchen but really, why are they here at all? Everyone can tell you why the ants try to come into the house... it's because it's so dry, they're looking for water, unless it has rained recently and then it's because it's so wet, and they want a dry spot. Hell, the ants aren't stupid, it's summer in South Carolina, I'm betting they just want the air conditioning.

The ants coming out of the bath tub spigot happened to Youngest. That was a really cruel happening because Youngest has always had a little fear of ants. I'm not sure where it came from but as a toddler, he would get very frightened when there were ants around. With that in mind, imagine my horror when for some reason we were at the Atlanta Airport with Youngest in his stroller and I looked up there at the baggage claim and on the ceiling was a traveling art exhibit, a sculpture kind of thing, of enormous, million times larger than life ANTS! What's everybody's favorite keep the baby in the stroller quiet trick? Why, tilt him backwards, of course... oh noo... keep him looking down at the floor! Whatever you do- do not tilt the baby backwards to see the GIGANTIC ANTS! What a day.

And my final ant thought is how much ant bites hurt and itch. I stepped in a mound the other day. I frantically swiped them off my shoes and dug them out of my socks and thought I had done a good job. But later I realized that a few must have gotten past me and Ihave bites. Not on the feet, not on the ankles, not near the knees,...I have bites up where my bathing suit stops. (No don't think bikini line, my bathing suit stops where the ruffled skirt ends a good three-six inches below the bikini line!) I have three bites just high enough up that scratching them in public is verboten. So, of course, all I want to do is scratch and then go kill more ants.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers Review: "Monster" is what the prosecutor called 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the "all clear" to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? In this innovative novel by Walter Dean Myers, the reader becomes both juror and witness during the trial of Steve's life. To calm his nerves as he sits in the courtroom, aspiring filmmaker Steve chronicles the proceedings in movie script format. Interspersed throughout his screenplay are journal writings that provide insight into Steve's life before the murder and his feelings about being held in prison during the trial. "They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can't kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment."

I read this one because it is what Tween is reading in summer school and I was curious. The screenplay format was interesting. The author leaves some question as to whether or not Steve is innocent or guilty. But at some point, I don't care anymore, I decide he is too young to go to prison even if he did participate in the crime. I guess my maternal instincts kick in and I want him to have a second chance. I thought the book seemed realistic - I wonder what actual thugs would say about that. There's all sorts of interesting tidbits about the author at the end including his typical daily schedule that includes getting up at five am for a walk each day, writing five pages, and being back in bed by ten pm each night. Seemed surreal that such a regimented old man could write of such a youthful disaster.

And just for the record, after I agonized about whether or not to give Tween A Child Called It, he turned his nose up at it when I finally did. The assigned summer reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is going to be a battle, I'm dreading it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

From the author's website: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, is an enigmatic figure, shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time?

In this stunning novel, C.W. Gortner challenges centuries of myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.

This was another great pick by Jennifer at the Literate Housewife for the Facebook Historical Fiction book club. I was most excited about this pick because Juana was mentioned briefly in The Constant Princess and I was eager to read more about her. I find Queen Isabelle their mother such an interesting blend of faith and ruthlessness; I am curious as to how all her children fared growing up in her shadow. The Last Queen was everything I hoped it would be and once I started I didn't want to put it down. Juana's life is a 14th century version of an Oprah book - she just gets beaten down and stymied again and again. The agony just goes on and on. I knew her father wasn't an award winner from The Constant Princess when he left Catalina hanging high and dry but Juana loves him so much you just keep hoping that he is going to come through for her.

Additional random thoughts include..

I'm thankful for the modern USPS - the intercepted letters were devastating. What's 42 cents to know your letter will reach it's intended destination?

I'm always surprised when a man is able to write in a woman's voice so well. Gortner addresses it in the readers guide at the end.

Reading the afterword, it is amazing that humanity survived such an incestuous time. Each of these royal children ends up betrothed to another and I'm sure the intertwining family trees are just a mess!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Angels and Demons: A book and a movie

Loved them BOTH! I think Dan Brown is great. When The DaVinci Code first came out, there was a little Catholic "discussion" - should we read it, should we not read it? Finally, our parish priest stood at the pulpit and said, "Okay, read it, just remember, it's FICTION!" So I did. And then I read Deception Point and Digital Fortress too. But Angels and Demons was my favorite of all. It was such a great combination of mystery and art and architecture and Italy and Catholicism....some of my favorite things! (Aside:There aren't many times that I regret not purchasing something but one of my shopping regrets is that I was in the Savannah airport a few years ago and they had a big beautiful book that was the "Illustrated" version of Angels and Demons. It had pictures and maps and all sorts of great things to examine as you read. But, did I mention it was big? I decided I didn't want to haul a big book around on my trip and that I would pick it up on the return leg, but on my return it was gone - bummer.)

So often the movie that follows a great book is a disappointment - not this time. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie too. It was so fast paced - I couldn't believe when it ended that I had been there for over two hours. The bulk of the story takes place over the course of one evening and it just moves so quickly through each scene that you stay at kind of a high level of intensity throughout. And can we just pause and reflect on what a perfect man Tom Hanks is? He's handsome, witty, rich, sensitive, creative, handsome (again!) - he's pretty much my ideal man, I would throw Ex-Marine over in a heartbeat if Tom Hanks came calling.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark

From Barnes and Nobel synopsis: It's a hot, humid July night in New York City. Where were you when the lights went out?

A New York City resident for many years, Carol Higgins Clark was there during the blackout of 2003. Not surprisingly, she felt that Regan and Jack Reilly should one day share the experience!

As Zapped begins, the Reillys return home from a summer weekend to the loft in Tribeca they are in the agonizing process of renovating and expanding. They are looking forward to a quiet supper on their newly acquired rooftop terrace. But it's not meant to be. While Jack goes to pick up Chinese food, Regan enters their apartment, unaware that a nervous thief, who preceded her by minutes, is hiding in the front closet. A thief who knows about a hidden safe that Regan and Jack have yet to discover. Minutes later, the blackout strikes, and both Reillys are called into action.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Aren't those the words every author longs to hear? Zapped got a lukewarm review by my book club friend that passed it on to me. Carol Higgins Clark, in general, seems to be considered not as good as her mother. So with those two thoughts in my head, I just read this one because I needed a "Z". But, really, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was kind of like a Harlequin romance but a mystery. I finished it in about two hours without taxing my vocabulary or powers of logic. It has a zillion characters and they are all intertwined and then at the end, everything wraps up neatly. The main characters - a "husband and wife team" pair of detectives who are constant throughout the series - are appealing; they were just the right mix of cute and cop. The other characters were kind of stock - starlet/golddigger, spoiled princess daughter, blue collar workers, psycho chick with a branding iron, nobody you haven't seen before (ok maybe the branding iron was unique). Carol Higgins Clark has a website - you can check out the other eleven books in the series.

This book is my "Z" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

From the website ReadingGroupGuides:Life in suburban Upchurch is anything but picturesque for Kate Klein. Along with three small children and a husband who is hardly at home, Kate has to contend with living up to the standards set by her fellow Upchurch mothers. They're designer-clad, perfectly coiffed---at the playground---and feed their kids organic food. They make motherhood look effortless while Kate, with uncombed hair and a stash of bribe lollipops, "hasn't done one single thing right" since moving from Manhattan to this small Connecticut town.

When Kate arrives for lunch at the home of Kitty Cavanaugh and finds the Upchurch mom murdered, she's jolted from her malaise and sets out to uncover the killer. As her investigation heats up, Kate finds out not only that Kitty had a few dark secrets but that they had a mutual acquaintance---a man from Kate's past who will lead her to reexamine the life she's chosen.

This was such a fun book to read! There was something particularly humorous for me that I read this book about all these prissy perfectly coiffed woman as I sat, a sweaty dirty mess, in a canvas folding chair outside of my tent with Youngest at Cub Scout summer resident camp. I knew I was going to like the book right away. In one of the first scenes, the author described the neighborhood women and I could picture each one. This is not something I can usually do...I'm one of those people who reads too quickly and doesn't visualize description well, I do much better reading dialog. So for the women to come to life so easily was a treat. And, unfortunately, I know these women. Southern women are notorious for their care with appearance. I used to be. I can remember when ex-Marine and I were dating and he'd say, "Let's run to the store." and I'd need thirty minutes to do make-up and hair just to go to Walgreens. Maine changed all that for me. I went up there the girl who didn't own a pair of blue jeans - I always wore skirts. I left out of there three years later with no make-up and a pair of flannel lined jeans as my uniform. But I digress..back to the book.

The book goes back and forth between young Kate starting out in life in New York with her BFF Janie and older Kate, married with kids, stumbling across a murder in her snotty suburb. My favorite young Kate quote was when she compared herself to a model and said even if the model "could lose all her limbs in an industrial accident? Even if she was just a torso, she'd still be better looking than me." For old Kate, I liked when she served Janie a Pedialyte and vodka cocktail because she had no orange juice and when she was given instructions by the neighborhood queen bee about baking for the school bake sale - no nuts, no dairy - and Kate thinks, "How about crack? Would crack be okay?" Needless to say, I liked both young Kate and older Kate. She reminds me of Wendi Aarons of Lessons Learned Last Week - especially this post.

The mystery part of the story was something new for Weiner - I gather from reviews and such that she usually just sticks to romantic chick lit. She did a good job with the mystery. I didn't figure it out before the end and I stayed interested in figuring it out until the end. I'll have to check out Weiner's other books because I enjoyed this one a lot.

This book is my "G" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

As I have ventured into the world of book challenges, I've discovered some gaps in my reading history. One of the biggest seems to be that I have never read anything (not a page!) by Jane Austen. I did see the movie Clueless which I know is based on something Austen but that is as close I have gotten to the author that everyone else seems to love. So when I saw the Everything Austen challenge, I decided it was a sign that I should put my toe into the pool. You can read all about the challenge here at Stephanie's Written Word.

I have decided to focus on one book, Pride and Prejudice. I chose this one because my DD Bookworm owns both the book and the new movie and because the zombie book intrigues me! So here is my list...I'm excited to begin!

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (the book)
2. Pride and Prejudice BBC version (movie)
3. Pride and Prejudice 2005 version (movie)
4. Bride and Prejudice (movie)
5. Bridget Jone's Diary
6. Pride, Prejudice & Zombies by Sean Grahame-Smith