Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cleaving by Julie Powell

From the author's website: Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer’s, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

Welllllll...this is a tough one to talk about. There is a huge ICK factor. I fell in love with the sweet Amy Adams version of Julie but this Julie is much darker. The "insane, irresistible love affair" is really hard to get past, it just feel very wrong to me. There was such a contrast between the healthy marriage of the couple who owned the butcher shop and Julie's love triangle - you wondered how she could not see it. A similar triangle in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn't bother me nearly as much because it was fiction. The result, I just don't like Julie anymore. I wonder if others feel the same and if there is any fall out for her from the book. This is a memoir; it all really happened and these are real people having their lives splayed out for all of us to see. She talks at one point about her relationship with her parents and for the rest of the story I kept thinking, "Your dad is reading this!!!" It's really more than any father needs to know about his daughter!

The other half of the ICK factor was the butchering. I've read other reviews that objected to the graphic descriptions of dismembering the animals - I really wasn't bothered by most of it. My only moments of real disgust came when she visited Tanzania - way too much raw meat and fresh blood consumed there for my taste and, then again, when she made head cheese - yuck. I almost had to fast forward through a few of these bits - sitting in the parking lot at work with one hand over my mouth and the other hovering near the controls - but I made it through. That about sums up the whole book. I made it through not because I loved it but because I was curious enough to want to be brave enough to finish.

Click on the Weekend Cooking button to see who else is linked up over at Beth Fish Reads.

Psst, I have a giveaway posted. It's Chicken Soup for the Soul; Living the Catholic Faith. It's a perfect book for Lenten reflection and the giveaway is open until tomorrow!

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand? February 2010

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.

This is the same picture I used for my Mailbox Monday post a few weeks ago - I have made very little progress on this stack since that post! I have almost finished Cleaving and will try to put my post about it up this weekend for Beth Fish Read's Weekend Cooking event. The Thomas Jefferson is for the US President's Project, The French Mistress is for the Facebook Historical fiction Book Club. Book Of Fires is another Historical fiction and was a win from reviews by lola. Both of those would count for the Year of the Historical challenge if I was in a Historical fiction mood - which I am not. What is not in this pile but I still have every intention of reading in what is left of February are the two Judy Blume book I selected for the Shelf Discovery Challenge. Bermudaonion is hosting a mini-challenge of just Judy Blume this month and I want to get in on the action. I didn't necessarily want to buy them so I was thinking I might check them out of the library. That idea had a prerequisite which you can read about here - hanging head in shame.

Finally, I have a giveaway posted. It's Chicken Soup for the Soul; Living the Catholic Faith. It's a perfect book for Lenten reflection and the giveaway is open until the end of the month.

The Book List meme - 3 Books That Should Be Made Into Movies

Rebecca at Lost in Books has started a new weekly meme - The Book List. This is perfect for me because I love making lists of books. I am more likely to make a list for a challenge than to actually complete a challenge! So here it is - all lists, no pressure - just right for me.

Here's this week's list..
3 Books That Should be Made Into Movies

This was an easy list and I am hoping that my wish to see each of these on the big screen really does come true! Click on the cover if you would like to read my post about each book.

****Catholic? Know one? I've got a giveaway you might like! It's open until the end of the month.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield

From the back cover: Do you find yourself constantly picking up toys and clothing that clutter your home? Has your desk drawer become your filing cabinet? Do dentist appointments and important events seem to sneak up on you - if you remember them at all? If so, then Confessions of an Organized Homemaker is coming to your rescue!

Learning that I read this book would make half my friends roll their eyes and laugh saying, "She'll never get organized!" and the other half would drop their jaws in surprise and say, "She's the most organized person I know." They'd both be right. I have areas where I rock in organization - I could give seminars on efficiently grocery shopping, doing laundry, and packing lunches. Time management - I can juggle schedules better than most. But my car is always a mess, I have a deep seated phobia that prevents me from going to the post office in a timely fashion, and I am a paper hoarder which leads to lots of other problems! This book didn't solve my problems. I already know what I am supposed to be doing. But it was a nice kick in the rear for a few of my problem areas - menu planning and getting the family to pitch in on chores.

I'm not sure why the title of this book is "confessions" but I do have a few confessions of my own that are the result of my lack of organization. The big one is overdue errands. I am good at the side of errands that is 'picking up what I need', I am bad at the side of errands that is 'returning what I am done with'. I'm taking Lent as a time to make my peace with this world of overdue errands. I have movies from Blockbuster that were never returned (about three months overdue), I have a Play station game from the game store that was rented about four years ago, lost, and never paid for, I have the ball gown destroyed and never returned, and I have the library books from the summer of 2005 that deserve a post all their own. I am tackling each of these neglected chores and doing my penance. In the case of the library books, the penance was fines to the tune of $70.00. See...lack of organization is painfully expensive.

Would I recommend this book? Sure, if it's on a good sale. Most of the organizational/housekeeping tips are very similar to what is to be had for free over at Flylady but sometimes it's nice to hold a book in your hands, curl up under your Snuggie, and imagine what your life could be if you just got organized!

This book is my "C" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Plot summary from the author's website: Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece Harriet. Henrik suspects that someone in his family, the powerful Vanger clan, murdered Harriet over forty years ago.

Starting his investigation, Mikael realizes that Harriet’s disappearance is not a single event, but rather linked to series of gruesome murders in the past. He now crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, an asocial punk and most importantly, a young woman driven by her vindictiveness.

Together they form an unlikely couple as they dive deeper into the violent past of the secretive Vanger family.

I read this one at my parent's house over Valentine's weekend. It was my mom's copy so I had to leave it behind and now can't thumb back through to include some of the juicy tidbits I loved. I did love it. I saw it described somewhere as a classic "closed room" mystery; the main mystery, the disappearance and presumed murder of Harriet, did take place at a time when the island was closed to traffic so that comparison makes sense to me. The plot was twisty (and twisted) enough to keep me guessing for most of the book about which character was the villain. I enjoyed all the characters. The possible suspects were so numerous at the beginning that I thought I would never sort them out without using a graphic organizer but Larsson let their personalities shine through and made them into individuals. My favorite character would be Lisbeth, our young heroine; she is interesting through and through. The excerpt from book two that is included at the end might possibly be about Lisbeth's past - I really hope the book takes us there because it will be fascinating to unveil her history and see what made her the way she is now. I read another review that thought after the main mystery was solved, the book then dragged on a bit tying up other plot lines. I agree and disagree. Yes, that section feels deflated because there isn't as much interest and suspense but I really REALLY like to know what happens. I don't like vague endings so I'd rather suffer through a little plodding to get that level of satisfaction. And, of course, he had to set up book two - The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines to me...random life happenings

I spent Valentine's Day driving back to South Carolina after spending the weekend with my father. He handled his first dose of chemotherapy very well - kept his appetite, kept his hair (what there is of it!) and, most importantly, kept his sense of humor! His next dose occurs later this week. The first week of March he has a repeat of the brain MRI to check for new growth. That will be a red letter day.

While I was away, I missed snow here in coastal South Carolina. The last time it snowed here was 1989. I missed that snow too - again I was away visiting my parents - what a coincidence!

I got home Sunday night and found a sweet Valentine's gift from Ex-Marine - a Snuggie! As seen on TV! I hinted around quite a bit at Christmas time but nobody took the bait so I was very pleased to see it now. Along with it came a big box of chocolates - diet to follow.

Less than an hour later, Bookworm said, "Somethings wrong with my tub." That something was the septic tank backing up and soon all three tubs had an inch of YUCK covering the bottom. An emergency plumber visit to dig up the tank lid by flashlight revealed that the drain into the tank was clogged with PAPER TOWELS. Some child...and there are really two equal suspects....decided that rather than walk down the hall to get a new roll of toilet tissue, he would just substitute the Brawny paper towels that I keep under the bathroom sink so they are handy to wipe the mirrors. Never dreamed a child would consider using them to wipe something else entirely. And, more than once. Boys really are a different breed. Sigh. Aren't you glad I chose a picture of paper towels rather than a picture of a septic tank.

This post is late getting up but Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mtchard

From the Amazon product description: Jacquelyn Mitchard gives the reunion novel a dark twist in this story, which takes four women on a dream vacation that goes very, very wrong. As the group is sailing in the Caribbean, a storm leaves their sailboat adrift, and the women must battle dwindling food supplies, sharks, and, worst of all, pirates.

I am a Jacquelyn Mitchard fan...most of the time. This was eventually one of those times but it did take me two tries to get started with this one. The introduction of the characters left a lot to be desired - they just seemed silly and one-dimensional. They revealed a little more depth later but not like other Mitchard novels that I would consider better The Deep End of the Ocean and Cage of Stars,this one is closer to Breakdown Lane. The "big secret" was no secret to me, I figured that mystery out within the first few chapters. What Mitchard did well with this book, was the pirate scenes. I expected not to like that aspect of the story because I like relationship books, but it was the best part. The pirates were scary, lecherous, evil men and all the action was described in enough detail to create a good image. The story drags on a bit at the end but that's because she takes the time to wrap up all the storylines. I do like a well-defined ending!

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Giveaway: Chicken Soup for the Soul:Living the Catholic Faith

From the Amazon product description: Chicken Soup for the Soul's first book written just for Catholics is relevant to all Catholics, from the once-a-year attendee at Christmas Mass, to the devout church volunteer and daily worshipper. With 101 poignant and spirit-filled stories written by Catholics of all ages, this beautiful book covers the gamut, from fun stories about growing up Catholic to serious stories about sacraments and miracles. Whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert, simply curious or struggling, these stories describe what it means to be a Catholic. They bring happiness, hope, and healing to everyone in all stages of life and faith.

I read and posted about this Chicken Soup book about a month ago (here). I opened up the book looking for a quick light read and ended up being really touched by the stories. Several turned me into a weepy sentimental mess but in a good kind of way! It was absolutely a lift to my spirits.

After that post, the publisher sent me an e-mail and offered a few copies to giveaway. So, here we are! If you would like to win a copy for yourself or as a gift for someone else, just leave a comment on this post before the end of the month. On the first day of March, I'll select a few winners. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

From the Amazon product description: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

I both loved the book and was mildly disappointed at the same time. I think it was a case of inflated expectations; there were so many reviews out there praising the book that I don't believe any book could have met my expectations! It was a fun read. I've seen it compared to Harriet the Spy and I have to agree except that Harriet is definitely written for children and Sweetness is not. As I read, I kept considering it, debating with myself whether or not Youngest would possibly enjoy it. I think he would EXCEPT that there are so many references to literary works that are beyond his years, like Bleak House, that he would have to skim quite a bit and end up losing the storyline. I can imagine this though as a movie that children will enjoy. The scenes described are perfect for film - opening with Flavia being tied up in the closet, the car crashing into the shed, teetering on the rooftop - all great images. I googled but could find no mention of plans to make a movie, there were mentions of the second book - it is due out March 9, 2010. As much as I have vowed NO MORE BOOKS until I read what I've already got....I want this one!

This book is my "S" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I have not had a mailbox post up since November! Does that mean no books have come? No, but it does mean that life got derailed and it has taken me three months to regroup!
Without further ado (or whining) here is what I have recently received...

At the bottom is FINALLY something other than John Adams, yes, after a mere twelve months, I finished that one! Now we have Book of Fires which was a win from reviews by lola.

On top of that is the Facebook Historical Fiction book club selection for February, The French Mistress.

Next in line for the U.S. President's Reading Project is Thomas Jefferson so that's a biography of him by Bernstein (the main attraction to this particular one over all the other possibilities was brevity).

And topping it all off is an audiobook that I won from Nely at all about N, Cleaving, it's the sequel to Julia and Julia and I am happy to have the chance to listen to it - I'm told it is darker than her first book which is fine with me, I do dark.

Just an FYI, tomorrow I'll get my review up for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie but then on Wednesday, I plan to put up a giveaway post. The publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living the Catholic Faith contacted me after I read it last month and said I could give a few away. So if you are Catholic, or have a friend you might gift it to, please come visit Wednesday or until the end of the month to enter to win.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Overlook by Michael Connelly

From the author's website: Harry Bosch is called out to investigate a murder that may have chilling consequences for national security. A doctor with access to a dangerous radioactive substance is found murdered on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Retracing his steps, Harry learns that a large quantity of radioactive cesium was stolen shortly before the doctor's death. With the cesium in unknown hands, Harry fears the murder could be part of a terrorist plot to poison a major American city.

This was a good, basic murder mystery. It is the 13th in a series of 16 so I was missing just a little of the main character, Harry Bosch's history:)! It didn't interfere with my enjoying the plot - there was enough information for me to stay with the story withut any difficulty. But I didn't like him (thought Harry was an arrogant jerk actually) and perhaps that's because I didn't know his history. Nothing really stood out in thsi book making me want to continue the series, however I liked it well enough that if another comes along, I'll listen to it.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

This book is my "O" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

From the author's website: Into a Tudor court on the brink of treason comes Hannah, a young Jewish girl on the run from the Inquisition. Sworn into the service of a handsome Robert Dudley, he sends her as a Holy Fool to spy on Princess Mary Tudor, the forgotten heir to King Edward’s throne. Instead of the tyrant of popular legend, Hannah finds a woman waiting for her chance and only wanting the best for the kingdom – while her sister Elizabeth waits to take advantage of any mistakes, and longs for her death.

Everyone tells me that The Other Boleyn Girl is Philippa Gregory's best book but I seem to be reading all her others first - is it my being stubborn or maybe saving the best for last? I enjoyed The Queen's Fool. The romance went back and forth so many times - who would she pick, the arranged marriage or the rogue in the Tower? That kept it interesting. I liked all the shenanigans of the royals - life at court is fascinating. I would have liked to learn a little more about the experience of being Jewish at this time in history. So many of the books I have read focus on the Catholic versus Protestant conflict but this was the first I've read that had a Jewish family. All in all, a pleasant enough read - not a "couldn't put it down, stayed up all night to finish book" but enjoyable.

This book also counts toward the Year of the Historical 2010 Reading Challenge hosted by lurv a la mode. Click on the button to see my progress.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Year of the Historical 2010 Reading Challenge

I'm a little late to the party for this one, I see on the sign up post that most people signed up back in October and November. But I am on track as far as the actual reading. I've had a Tudor start to 2010 with The Queen's Mistake and The Queen's Fool so I'm ready to participate. The goal of this challenge is one Historical fiction book a month for a total of twelve for the year. If this challenge interests you, click on the button and you can read more about it and sign-up!

Here's my list thus far...
1. The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger
2. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch

From the Amazon product description: Josie Tyrell, art model, teen runaway, and denizen of LA's 1980 punk rock scene, finds a chance at real love with art student Michael Faraday. A Harvard dropout and son of a renowned pianist, Michael introduces her to his spiritual quest and a world of sophistication she had never dreamed existed. But when she receives a call from the Los Angeles County Coroner, asking her to identify her lover's dead body, her bright dreams all turn to black.

Oooh - this one was sooo good; I wish every book I read could just suck me in like this one did! I listened to it on audio but I wished I had a paper copy too because some of the writing was just incredible and I wanted to go back and reread bits and pieces. Fitch doesn't just paint images with her words, she makes you feel the emotions - the shame, the dirt, the longing. One bit I remember is Michael's mother scornfully telling Josie how poor a match she was for Micheal saying that she didn't belong with Michael that she didn't deserve to be near him, that she 'doesn't even deserve to be in the same sentence with him'. I found a spot on goodreads where people place quotes they like and there was this one from Paint It Black, Josie thinking about Micheal's suicide..."Death like a lover, caressing him, promising him peace, running its fingers through his hair, its tongue in his ear. She put her own two fingers in her mouth. Im so sorry. And pulled the trigger" Janet Fitch has one other book besides this oen and White Oleander, it's Kicks a middle grade story; it's on mental wish list now.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

This book is my "P" book for the 2010 A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.