Monday, November 29, 2010

A little idea...

A little idea sprang into my head last night.  It's not a secret that I have sleep issues, so I take Ambien every night to get to sleep (please do not feel the need to comment on how bad this is for me unless you are my doctor).  Once I take my Ambien, I get a lot of ideas.  Sometimes these ideas aren't so great - like the time I decided to put all of our cereal into ziplock bags so it would be easier to have a single serving.  Or the time I thought it would be nice of me to volunteer to help an author edit their next book.  Thankfully I fell asleep before sending out that email.

But last night I think my idea was actually awesome.  I've kind of been on a zombie kick since The Walking Dead started.  Its my new favorite show and I'm basically obsessed.  I've been reading a few zombie books and watched a few zombie movies.  So what if, inspired by Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August, I did a zombie month?  Would anyone be halfway interested in that or would you all quit following me?  Some ideas I have are to review zombie books (of course), watch and review zombie movies, interview some zombie "experts", and post some photoshopped zombie pictures of me and the family.  Is it too narrow a focus for a whole month?  What do you think?  Interesting or another idea I should chalk up to an Ambien haze?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review Preview: Delirium

I have a little story to tell you, little readers.  Three years ago on Thanksgiving, I picked up a book that I'd checked out of the library on a whim - The Hunger Games.  I wasn't blogging yet, didn't read blogs, and really knew nothing about it.  But I thought I'd give it a try.  I had a nerve block done the day before Thanksgiving, so I was completely numb from my rib cage down.  I was stuck in bed without tv and Luke was sleeping, so I was having a pity party when I decided to pick up this book and give it a shot.  From that point on (I read it in one sitting) I was in love.

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving.  I'm in Lubbock seeing Baby George (and the rest of the family, but serious we all know who this trip was about) and there's not that much to do when Baby George is busy nursing or sleeping (which is the vast majority of the time since he's only two weeks old).  Since I was bored, I decided to try another dystopian novel - Delirium.  It's not released until February, so I'm holding off on my critical review until then, BUT.  Oh my stars in heaven.  God knew I needed something to replace my love for the Hunger Games and he sent Lauren Oliver to create Delirium.  Love, love, love!  And, there are at least two more books being released - although I'll have to wait until 2012 for the next one.  But I'm totally fine with that.  Anticipation only made the Hunger Games that much more sweet, and I'm trusting that Delirium will be the same.  Look for my critical review closer to the release date.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We made it to Lubbock...finally...and I couldn't be happier to be spending my week with this little angel!  My  nephew and I are pretty busy bonding, but I thought I'd take a break from the snugglefest to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!  Besides my family, my husband, and my faith, I'm also truly thankful for all of you who take time to read my little blog and care about what I have to say.  I'm honored to "know" you all - and really know some of you IRL.  Thanks for reading and caring!  Outside of the baby, not much is happening in Lubbock, so I'll probably make my way on here to post another review tomorrow.  I wish you all the best of Thanksgivings and if you're not in America then I wish you a very happy Thursday!  

Book Review: These Things Hidden

I wasn't familiar with the author, but the subject of this one really interested me.  It tells the story of a young woman who has recently been released for prison.  At eighteen she was convicted of the murder of her infant child.  Now that she has been released, she is attempting to reconnect with her family, particularly her sister, who has her own secrets about the night the baby was born.  While there is some element of mystery to the book, it's mainly focused on the relationships between the women and the way the main character copes with her guilt and shame over her child's murder.

As I started it, I saw it was a Mira book (an imprint of Harlequin) and I was a little bit concerned because of my bad experience with Saving Max (you can read my review here).  I was worried that this would be another one with a completely irrelevant/unnecessary romantic/sexual relationship.  But Mira completely proved me wrong!  I'll definitely continue to read the imprint - and I would love to read more from this author. 

A few passages jumped out at me as really good, the rest were just average.  The story was more entertaining than it was particularly beautiful writing.

Perfect!  Such an engrossing read - I liked the characters and their development; I liked the story and how it played out; I liked the emotion that it brought out in me.  It's one I definitely recommend.  BUT, I also have to say that it is a hard read emotionally.  It does deal with the murder of an infant, and it does replay that scene more than once.  It's a huge focus of the book, so if you aren't sure how you will feel about a book centered around the death of a newborn, you may not want to read this one.  It's not graphic or bloody, but it's certainly emotional. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Latest pictures of the little boys

I want to post an IMM before I leave for Lubbock (where I will be continuing to blog, don't you worry!), but I'm too tired to vlog tonight, so instead I'll post some pictures we took at the dog park today.  Bestie and Bestie's Husband went with us to take our Christmas picture and we got a few good shots, which was amazing since we were requiring two very excited puppies to cooperate.  Then we headed over to a meetup with some people from our Dane group.  I also spent a huge portion of this weekend making another book wreath and some book page Christmas trees.  I can't lie - they're pretty awesome.  Pictures of those tomorrow maybe!
I know!  Aren't they huge!  And yes, I'm really that pale in real life.  Try not to look directly at my skin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blog Hop!

Welcome to Book Hooked Blog!  This week's prompt for the Blog Hop at Crazy For Books is:

"Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!"

This year I'm very thankful for the healthy arrival of George David III, my older brother's baby son!  I'm thrilled to be an aunt (and Luke is just a little bit excited to be an uncle)!  I'm doubly thankful that I'll finally be holding this little snuggle muffin on Thanksgiving:

They call him "Our little bundle of George".  Could there possibly be anything cuter?  Answer: no.

So there you have it: my thankful for the year.  Of course I'm also happy for the additions to our own little family - which is getting bigger every day now that we have two Great Dane puppies!  I will hopefully be posting pictures and/or videos of them on Sunday - we're having our family portrait done tomorrow!  Poor Sly won't be in it this year - there's no way we can keep those two boys AND a cat calm enough for a picture.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: The Deadly Sister

Abby Goodwin is the typical responsible older sister.  She's spent her entire life looking out for Maya, her younger sister who has dropped out of high school and is rarely seen by her family.  They know she's involved in drugs and hangs out with a rough crowd.  When Abby finds the body of her sister's GED tutor in the woods - next to Maya's cell phone, she steps in once again to save Maya.  She's determined to locate the true killer, but all clues point to Maya.

I'm combining my writing/MST3K review for this one because they're about the same.  It was the latest in a string of so-so books for me.  I feel like had I recently read a lot of deep books and turned to this as a light, fluffy read, I would have really enjoyed it.  It's fast-paced, plot-driven, and intriguing.  And I have to say that I really didn't see the end coming (this isn't saying a lot - I never see the end coming).  The writing is nothing to write home about -  but nothing really awful either.  It was fine.  And I enjoyed reading it. 

I think I'm kind of brain candy-ed out though.  For the past few months I've been sticking with light bubble gum reads because I'm finishing up my last semester of grad school.  I also helped edit a book and I'm working on a proposal for a second book.  So for pleasure reading I've stuck to very easy reads.  I love candy, but eating too much makes me feel queasy and I think I'm at that point with my reading.  Even a fun, easy read like this one doesn't jump out at me because that's all I've read lately.  Unfortunately my brain is way too fried to jump into something deep right now.

BUT, in only one month I will officially graduate with my MSLIS degree.  So I've been rounding up some very serious, much heavier reading starting after December 18th - in particular some great literary criticism from Harold Bloom (swoon) and Pat Conroy.  I think that will even out my feelings on books like The Deadly Sister.  I enjoy fluff more when I get it with a good wholesome meal of "real" literature.  If you're looking for something intriguing but light, I definitely recommend The Deadly Sister.  I did enjoy it and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more had I "eaten" more than junk for the past three months.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Potentially Unpopular Opinion

I emailed Amazon this morning to cancel my account.  At this point, I'm sure everyone is aware of the recent "scandal" (for lack of a better word) surrounding Amazon's decision to make a how-to book on pedophilia available for sale through their website.  I won't be naming the book or author on here because I refuse to provide any further publicity for something so disgusting.  I will be including links at the bottom to news articles as references, so if you are unaware of the situation, please check them out.

When the first wave of complaints were heard, Amazon defended their listing of the book as an issue of free speech.  Although the book has since been removed, Amazon has issued no further statements.  Then, yesterday, I read an article from MSNBC on books featuring nude photographs of pre-pubescent girls from Eastern European and Asian countries (areas well known for their ties to child sex trafficking) that are available for sale on Amazon.  Again, I won't be linking or naming names, but the news article is linked below.  Amazon has not given any statements on their decision to make these books avaialble for sale.  I have also not heard that the books have been removed, although it's possible that they have been.  It's not really something I care to go looking for.

Regardless, my decision was immediately to remove all business and personal ties to Amazon.  My decision had nothing to do with free speech issues and I won't be discussing that here.  There are a TON of blog posts already discussing the free speech issues, and it is a fascinating conversation so I do urge you to check it out.  I'll include links for that as well.  My issue with Amazon is one of corporate responsiblity.  A company's decision to stock handbooks for pedophiles has nothing to do with free speech.  I'm not requesting a government ban of the book or that the author be arrested simply for having filthy, disgusting beliefs.  I'm asking that companies I support with my money refuse to sell such material.  Bookstores, even large ones like Amazon, are not denying an author free speech by refusing to stock a book.  If that were true, Amazon would need to stock every book ever written by any author. 

In recent years we've heard a lot about corporate responsibility in terms of our environment.  Amazon has a wonderful web page listing all the things they've done to "go green" and I support all of their efforts to do so.  But just as corporations have a responsibility to citizens of earth to take care of our environment, they also have a responsibility to society to refuse to make available materials that we know are dangerous and harmful to society.  I realize that this can be seen as the "slippery slope".  And I agree that it is very hard for a company to know where to draw a line as to what is appropriate and inappropriate.  But I don't think you will find much room for argument that pedophilia is acceptable.  Selling pictures of naked children/how-to books for those who wish to abuse children is wrong.  We all know it.  It's not up for debate except among those like the author who wish to make such practices legal.

I don't propose Amazon begin arbitrarily removing books because they deem them inappropriate.  I would suggest that, like most libraries, Amazon develop a policy regarding the content they sell.  I realize that there are many risks involved in deeming materials unfit for selling.  But I would like to see Amazon say that they are willing to take on those risks and start determining as a company what they will and will not sell based on their responsibilities to society and their customers.  We would all be appalled to learn that a company dumped toxic waste into our rivers, right?  I think we should be equally appalled and angry that Amazon is dumping the toxic waste of pedophilia and child pornography into our communities.  I'm angry about it - angry enough that I can't sit back and do nothing.  So as much as I love using Amazon and as convenient as it is, I'm done supporting them.  I've started a personal letter writing campaign and I'm encouraging others I know to do the same.  And I'll be telling everyone I know how angry I am and exactly why I won't support Amazon's blatant disregard for a very serious social problem.

News Stories (I tried very hard to find stories that do not advocate for or against Amazon OR present both sides - if you have a neutral article to add, please let me know!):
Seattle Times
MSNBC (on availability of nude photos of children)

Blogs Discussing Free Speech (I'm not debating the First Ammendment implications of the issue, but many are - here are some blogs open for those discussions - if you've blogged about it, let me know and I'll add your link):
The Book Smugglers
Back of the Book
The Goddess of YA Literature
The Zen Leaf

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reviewlet: Five Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin In The Mouth

Are you guys familiar with The Oatmeal?  It's one of those hilarious internet comics that can easily steal several hours if you're not careful.  It's quite possibly one of my favorite web comics, along with Hyperbole and A Half.  And if you like Hyperbole and a Half, then you'll probably like the Oatmeal.  It's smart humor - there are quite a few grammar strips AND at least one hilarious comic about Tesla.  So when I saw a copy of the book available on NetGalley I jumped at the chance to review it.  There's not much to say as far as a review of writing or even of enjoyment - you either like web comics or you don't.  If you are a web comic fan, you'll love it.  And if you're not sure, check out the website - but make sure you've got a few free hours!  Here are links to some of my favorites:

How To Pet A Kitty

7 Things You Don't Really Need To Take A Photo Of

How To Suck At Facebook

Fair warning: some are crude and have bad language, so don't check them out if that's an issue.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Hop, hosted by Crazy For Books.  This week we were challenged to choose a new blog to follow and to leave comments on their posts.  First of all, I'm completely honored to have had Crazy For Books checking out my posts this week!  Thank you for all of your comments and I hope you enjoyed the blog as much as I enjoyed having you visit!

As far as my own choice goes, I have to admit that I didn't pick just one blog.  I try to comment on several every day, and this week I made sure that I commented on every post that jumped out at me as particularly interesting.  So instead of highlighting just one person, I'm going to link to a couple of blogs that consistently draw me in:

Each of these blogs includes a wide variety of books/genres, much like myself, and I find myself consistently commenting on their posts.  You guys are awesome!  Now for today's question:

"If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title?"

Definitely.  It's actually something I'm really anal about.  I can't stand to start in the middle of a series - it just seems weird.

What about you?  Who did you follow this week?  And can you jump into a series in the middle?  If you stopped by, leave a comment - I'd love to visit you and read your answers to this week's questions!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cooking For Geeks Series: Author Interview

Bet you all thought I'd forgotten about this feature right?  It's turned out to be really hard to make it a weekly thing, so I'm thinking now that I'll do bi-monthly.  I'll cook once a month and post my interview with Jeff Potter, author of Cooking For Geeks, once a month.  So about three weeks ago I made steak tips and rosemary mashed potatoes for dinner.  You can read that post and see those pictures here.  A few days later I was able to interview Jeff and get some tips on how I can improve my cooking skills.  Here's the interview (with Jeff's replies in bold):

On Saturday night I made steak tips and rosemary mashed potatoes using your recipes. They were delicious, but I have to admit that my skill is a little bit lacking. I had a very hard time getting my timing right. I just couldn't seem to get it all ready at the same time. By the time I finished the potatoes the meat was cold and had to be reheated and the rice was burned. Do you have any suggestions for figuring out how to get all of your food prepared at the same time?

In general, you can hold starches at temperature for a while; whereas meats and fishes can overcook if held even slightly too warm. I'd suggest starting with the potatoes and midway-through starting the meat. But this is something that will come with experience! Don't expect to be able to line everything up on a first pass.

Where do you suggest shopping for ingredients? We went to our local grocery store, but I wasn't able to find fresh rosemary, so I had to use dried from a jar. I'd love to try your recipe for duck confit, but I have no idea where to find duck! It's definitely not stocked at the Ingles in Ringgold, GA!

It really depends upon the ingredient. Duck legs are often seasonal—I know my local default grocery store doesn't carry them during the summer, but there is a local butcher who does. I'm lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area that has enough interest in food to support a specialized butcher (more than one!); but of course not everyone has that. You can always ask your store "Do you have duck legs? Can you order them? If not, do you know who would be able to get them around here?" And, remember the telephone! One quick call to a grocery store to see if they have something in stock can save you a lot of driving and aggravation.

We loved the rosemary mashed potatoes, but I'm not sure that I cooked them correctly. I did them in the microwave, but I peeled them first, so the outsides were really cripy. Should I have left the peel on while they cooked?

Yes; leave the peel on while microwaving them. Otherwise the water will steam out and leave the potato before it cooks, resulting in a rubbery, dry, uncooked potato at the extreme. You can poke a few wholes; or even quarter or eighth them, but peeling and dicing them too small won't work.

Finally, any suggestions for making the beef tips more tender? Because I was unprepared for the recipe (which I realize now is why you stress preparedness so much in the book) I had to cook them in a ziplock bag instead of a vacuum bag. Do you think that completely messed them up?

Ziplock is fine—SC Johnson says their bags are heat-stable to 170°F. The issue is more likely the quality of the meat you were using. Make sure to get a cut that's low in collagen; and also slice it on the bias—i.e. against the "grain" so to speak—which will reduce the chewiness as well. Steak tips should be fine; and work well in my experience, but experiment!
My panel and I have been trying for several weeks now to get together for a dinner of pork chops, black eyed peas, and carrots, but it's been difficult.  This weekend my younger siblings and I are headed to south Georgia for a visit with our Mema, so it's not looking good for cooking.  I may try to do a dessert night on Sunday though if I'm not too exhausted from the trip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, by Jeather Sellers, is the memoir of a woman who suffers from prosopagnosia - face blindness.  She can see people's faces, but she can't remember them.  She identifies people by their clothes, the way they walk, and their voices, but never by the faces.  As an adult she deals not only with this disability, but also with the knowledge that her mother is a paranoid schizophrenic.  The book alternates between her adult life and the impact of prosopagnosia and her experiences growing up in a severely disfunctional family.

Writing Review:
No complaints here!  I liked the writing and found her descriptive writing to be especially touching in several passages.  It's one of the few ARCs I've received that I would have no problem reading as a finished copy.  Of course as an ARC there were a few formatting errors, but there was no sign of a lot of the writing issues that some ARCs contain - this one had no inconsistencies or grammatical errors.  I was impressed and would have no problems with it as a final copy.  It's a memoir, and it's written like a memoir, so to me it's something of a genre piece - there isn't in-depth analysis or reporting as in other non-fiction, but I am happy with the quality of the writing.

MST3K Review:
Loved it!  Prosopagnosia is actually something I studied in college and found fascinating.  I've always been interested in psychology and actually majored in psychology for a while, although I ended up making it into a minor and going for English instead.  So both aspects of the story (the mental illness of her parents and the prosopagnosia) were very interesting to me.  If you aren't into memoirs, especially those of the screwed up family variety, this one probably isn't for you.  I would say that the focus is more on the family than the prosopagnosia, although it is tied together well at the end.  It's not heavy on scientific detail, which was somewhat of a drawback for me because I like to read the details.  However, the author does include the names of many prominent researchers, so it is not difficult to find their research if you're looking for a technical description. 

I recommend it for anyone who enjoys memoir as a genre or for those interested in mental illness or perception disabilities.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book Review: Saving Max

Saving Max, by Antoinette van Heugten is the story of a single mother of an autistic teen.  Max has grown increasingly violent as he enters his teen years and is eventually referred to a prominent psychiatric hospital for evaluation.  While he is there, another teenage patient is murdered and Max is found with the murder weapon.  His mother is convinced of his innocence and does everything she can to find out who the real murderer is.

I'm going to go ahead and combine my writing and entertainment values for this book because both are basically non-existent.  I read this while I was home sick from work last week and the best thing I can say about it is that it's a quick read.  First of all, the writing was really really bad.  I marked several passages where I actually had to put the book down and laugh or call Luke in to read a particularly awful sentence outloud.  Because the copy I read was an ARC, I'm not going to quote those lines here, and just hope they were removed from the final copy.  In general, these passages were of the throbbing member/heaving bosom variety. 

When I started the book, I wasn't aware that MIRA is a Harlequin imprint, so it's possible that I had unreasonable expectations for the book.  It's certainly not that I have any complaints about Harlequin as a publisher, but I think I would have expected more of the romance angle had I known.  I didn't go into the book expecting any romance, much less for the devoted mother to meet a random man in a hotel bar and have a one night stand that ends in true love.  Ah sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!  The key to true romance is a drunken middle aged tryst with a man you meet at a hotel bar.  At least now I have something to look forward to as I get older. 

So basically, not only was the writing awful, the entire plot was completely unbelievable.  Woman meets man in hotel bar.  Woman sleeps with man.  Woman's son accused of murder.  Woman accused of being an accomplice.  Woman hires an attorney who is (SHOCK!!) the one night stand!  Woman and man fall instantly in love.  They investigae.  Guess what happens next?  You probably won't be able to because it's really weird.  And disturbing.  Think child torture/fetuses in a jar type disturbing.  All in the last fifty pages. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I was reading something completely different than I had started. 

In sum, the writing was bad.  The plot was worse.  Do not recommend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

October Wrap Up

I'm finally getting around to publishing this, several days late.  I've also gotten pretty far behind in my reviews, so expect several of those this coming week.  I'll probably even post a little reviewlet later tonight, although I don't typically post twice in a day.  So here are my stats for the month of October:

In the month of October I only read six books.  So sad.  I'm just a month away from finishing grad school, so hopefully that will mean more reading time!  I read:

Girl, Stolen
The Word Made Flesh
Everything Is Going To Be Great
The Miracle of Mercy Land

For October that means a paltry 1649 pages.  Yuck.

This year I've read 108 books and 33,439 pages.  So far I've saved $1127.12 by using the library, reading books I own, and reviewing for publishers and authors.

If I want to reach my goal of 150, I've got two months to read 42 books...I'm not sure I'm going to make it guys.  I'm almost positive I won't make my goal of 50,000 pages either.  But since I will be graduating with my master's degree I'll forgive myself this year!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blog Hop!

Welcome to Book Hooked Blog!  I'm so glad you're hopping by today - please let me know if you stop in because I'd love to check out your blog as well!  This week's question is:

"What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?"

I think it's always a little bit sad to lose a follower.  No one wants people to be bored or disinterested with what they have to say.  At the same time, I don't blog for followers, I blog for fun (and for books!) so losing followers isn't something that I find devastating.  I typically assume that the person doesn't share my taste, which is fine.  I'd rather have fewer followers who read my posts regularly and find new books that they love through my posts than many followers who just skim through every now and then. 

I have stopped following blogs.  I typically go through my blog roll every month or two and delete subscriptions to blogs that haven't been updated in the past few months.  I've also stopped following bloggers whose posts I've found to be offensive over a period of time.  I don't mean just disagreeing with me - and I don't mean just one post.  But if a blogger consistently has a negative attitude, snarks at commenters, or puts down genres I enjoy, I'm typically not going to keep following. 

On a related note, has anyone else had a problem with deleting subscriptions from Google reader?  There's a blog I wish to quit following that continues to reappear in my roll every single time I delete it!  It's like Google Reader won't let me quit reading it.  I've not had that problem with any other blogs, but this one is apparently just super-glued to my feed.  Suggestions?

Thank you all for stopping by and please let me know you were here!  I'd love to have the chance to see your answers and check out your blog!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Review: Falling Home

I meant to post this yesterday, but I ened up staying home sick from work.  I thought it would take me another day or two to finish it, but when I started reading Tuesday night I couldn't put it down.  Literally.  I read the last 200 pages in one sitting.  I'm going to try to be calm and avoid gushing, but I really loved this one.

I was particularly excited to read this novel knowing that it was a re-write of an earlier novel.  The author and I talked about it some in our interview, and she also included a note in the opening pages of the book.  She originally released the book from one point of view, but, when she re-wrote, she included two other characters' voices as well.  And for me, that completely made the book.  I loved hearing not only from Cassie, but also from Harriet and Maddie.  I can't imagine the book any other way.  I also liked how the author talked about cutting out extraneous material.  The book is still fairly long, but there weren't any scenes that I thought were unnecessary.  It's always interesting to read a book and have some knowledge of what the writer was thinking during its creation, and I loved getting to see that through my interview and through her comments in the introduction.

MST3K Review:
Perfect for pure entertainment value.  Yes, I did see the ending coming.  It was predictable.  And I didn't care at all.  It was smart and funny and I loved the characters.  I felt like they were believable and interesting and I loved seeing the changes and growth throughout the book.  I really have no complaints about this one at all.  I would classify it as something between women's lit and chick lit.  It's not chick lit in the vein of Shopaholic (much more serious) but also not women's lit in the vein of Virginia Woolfe.  If you're a huge fan of literary writing only, this may not be for you.  If you love reading a good story with interesting characters and an engrossing plot, you will enjoy it.  It's really rare for me to stay up late reading a book, but I literally couldn't put this one down.  Definitely recommend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Author Interview: Karen White - Falling Home

I was extremely honored to have the opportunity to read Falling Home by Karen White and speak with her about the book and her experiences in writing Southern Fiction.  I am still working on Falling Home (should have a review posted on Thursday) and I'm loving every page of it.  It is the story of Cassie, a woman who left her small Georgia hometown when her sister ran away with her fiance.  Years later, she returns to face the death of a loved one and all of the relationships she left behind.  I love me some family drama and when it takes place in the South, well, what could be better?  Here's my interview with Karen (her replies are bolded to keep from doing that awkward distinction thing):

Welcome to Book Hooked, Karen! I'm so excited to have the opportunity to read your book and interview you. I'm a huge fan of Southern fiction, and Georgia in particular.

Can you tell us about why you chose to write about the South?

I stick with the adage of ‘write what I know’ and I know the south. Although I’ve only lived in the south for less than half of my years, I come from a long line of southerners. My father’s family has lived in the south since before the American Revolution and both of my parents were born and raised in Mississippi—my father on the Gulf coast and my mother in the Delta. I have relatives still living there who most people from other parts of the country would need a translator to understand. But when I hear them speak, I simply feel as if I have found home.

How would you describe Southern fiction to those who aren't familiar with the genre or with the South?

The south is, in many ways, its history and all of my novels touch upon some part of Dixie’s collective past. But writing southern women’s fiction is so much more than history or even the accent. It’s primarily a sense of place, stocked with those inherently wacky yet familiarly beloved southern characters (remember Aunt Pittypat?)—most of whom I’ve met or find myself related to in real life. It’s the heat and the humidity, too, and the strong sense of family and belonging, good homestyle cooking, and warm hospitality.

Who are some Southern authors you particularly enjoy or who have inspired your own writing?

Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Kathryn Stockett and a list so long it would never fit here!

You've lived in such a wide variety of places, not just within the country, but across the world. Do you have a favorite travel destination?

London and Italy. I lived in London for 7 years so every time I visit it's a lot like revisiting an old friend. My family and I traveled there this summer and it was great because we didn't need a tour guide and I didn't even need to look at a Tube map! I've never lived in Italy, but have visited often. The food alone would get me returning again and again, but there's the countryside, the lovely language, the architecture, and the history that grab me each time and make me want to start planning my next trip as soon as I get home.

Part of Falling Home deals with a character who struggles with her plans to sell the family home to developers and the efforts of preservationists to save the home. Is this something you see happening in many small towns across the South?

Unfortunately, yes. As a card-carrying member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (as well as the Georgia Trust), I get all the news about the bulldozing of our small towns, or their abandonment because of the big box malls and theaters. We're homogenizing America and I don't think it's a good thing to drive through Burlington, Vermont and then Monroe, Georgia and not be able to tell the difference!

This book has been revised since its first publication. To what extent did you make revisions and was it hard to make those changes?
I've been DYING to make those changes and republish the book since the moment it went out of print (within a month of its original publication). Readers loved the story and the characters and I didn't change any of that. I tightened one of the storylines and cleaned up the writing, then added two more points of view (originally it only had one) to add more depth to the story.

What are some aspects of this book that you would consider uniquely Southern?

All of it! :-) It's the whole sense of place, and belonging, that permeates this book. I'm not saying that hometowns are a uniquely southern thing, but their "take" on it is certainly unique!

How much is your writing influenced by your real life and relationships?

A lot of it, especially the voices of the southern women. As a child, I'd sit and listen to my grandmother, mother, and four aunts sitting around the kitchen table in my grandmother's Indianola, Mississippi home and it's those voices, soft yet thick as the Delta mud, that I hear when I create my strong southern heroines.

You'll also see two recurring themes in my books: a search for home and family, and rebuilding. All of my books have some historic structure as a main character.

Look for my review Thursday with the reasons I think this makes for wonderful Southern Fiction!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: Wildthorn

Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland, tells the story of Louisa Cosgrove - an unconventional woman of the Victorian era who is sent to a lunatic asylum in an act of treachery.  Louisa is smart and fascinated by science and longs to be a doctor.  She rejects the mores of her time and social peers and chooses to study rather than become a lady.  However, this is all changed when her father dies and she is sent to Wildthorn Hall.  Her insistance that she is sane and has been sent against her will are seen as further symptoms of insanity.  The main story focuses on her time in Wildthorn, but the story is interspersed with flashbacks to her childhood and how she came to be at Wildthorn.

Writing Review:
The writing was good.  I really don't have much to say about it - I don't think it's going to become a modern classic but I also had no problems with it.  Nothing jumped out as anachronistic or inconsistent, which are usually the two big issues for me in historical fiction.  Nothing to complain about in this one as far as the writing is concerned.  I suppose you might say it was a little heavy on the feminism, but I like my feminism to be heavy, so I enjoyed it.  At the same time, nothing really jumped out as remarkable.

MST3K Review:
Loved it!  I was completely immersed in the story from the first page.  The story fascinated me and I loved the Louisa's character.  She is strong and not afraid to challenge the ideas and standards of her culture.  I thought the story was great and has really made me even more interested in the issues of women's medical treatment during that period (which was also a plot element in another recent read - Dracula in Love). 

A few reviews I read took issue with Louisa being a lesbian.  Several people took issue with the fact that Louisa likes math and science and voices a desire to be a man.  They said that this stereotypes lesbians and shows that they are necessarily masculine. I didn't see this in the book at all.  Louisa does express a desire to be a man, but it is because of the limits placed on women at that time period. All in all, I didn't see that Louisa was an unbelievable or stereotypical character.  I thought all of her actions suited her character and her history. 

I definitely recommend you try this one out if you like historical fiction.  Also, don't judge the book by the description or the cover - I didn't find either to be a very accurate representation of the book.  It's definitely not what I would consider a romance and certainly not a bodice ripper.  The main focus is on Louisa and her development as a character, not on her sexuality or her romantic relationships.