Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What I Read In May - plus pictures and a video!

Lamper's Meadow **
The Internet Is A Playground **
Where She Went ***
A Game of Thrones ****
The Enough Moment ***
Great Love Poems ***
Ten Beach Road ***
A Clash of Kings ****
Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy *****
A Canticle for Leibowitz ****

Embarassingly enough, I am so far behind in my reviews, that I haven't reviewed any of the books I read this month!  I know, it's so shameful.  I'll be getting caught up soon I promise.  This brings me to 41 books so far this year and 13,856 pages.  I've spent $39.71 on the books I've read this year and saved $346.88 by reading books from the library, books I already own, and books I was given.  I've posted pictures of the fence we put up this month and here are some pictures of the other things I've been busy with in May:

I saw a blog post where Fussy Monkey Business used sheets to make this Pottery Barn Knock Off duvet cover and decided I could make one too.  First step in finally decorating our guest room has been taken!

It took hours and hours, but I finally finished the duvet cover.  As opposed to the $150 or so it costs from Pottery Barn, I made mine for $45.  Next project: pillows for the bed.

The little boys keep getting bigger and bigger.


Chief is about to start the final phases of his therapy dog training and will hopefully be doing some work with our efforts to help Ringgold Middle School and Ringgold High School back on their feet by visiting classrooms or listening to book clubs read.





And I saved the cutest for last.  Look how smart George is!  7 months old and he's already a speed reader!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blog Hopping!

I haven't blog hopped in quite a while, but I love this week's question and I've got time to check out some new blogs now, so I'm joining in!  If you want to play along, head over to Crazy for Books for the rules! 

This week's question is:
"What book-to-movie adaption have you most liked? Which have you disliked?"


I'm not usually a fan of book to movie adaptations, but there are exceptions to every rule.  I am a HUGE fan of the book and the movie Big Fish.  The book (by Daniel Wallace) is excellent and I was thrilled to get to meet Daniel Wallace and get two signed copies of the book - one for me and one for my dad.  As much as I love the book, this is one case where I actually liked the movie more.  The movie completely captured the magic of the book and the father's story.  Plus, the casting was absolutely perfect.  And it definitely didn't hurt to have Ewan McGregor in a starring role. 

There are a TON of adaptations I've hated, but the one I dislike the most is the BBC version of Othello starring Anthony Hopkins.  First of all, having a white actor play the character of Othello really annoyed me, especially since I thought the makeup crew did a terrible job of darkening Hopkins' skin.  I also think Hopkins is hit or miss as an actor, and he wasn't able to do justice to the character.  It also didn't help that I can't picture him as anyone other than Hannibal Lechter (another exception to the bad movie adaptation rule - I love Silence of the Lambs as a movie). 

What about you?  Which adaptations have you enjoyed, Reader Friends, and which let you down?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy

I'm kind of on a Southern humor kick right now, can you tell?  When I saw that a tour was available through LitFuse, I jumped at the chance.  I am a HUGE fan of this author.  Before I tell you about the book I have to tell you my story about this author. 

Two years ago I had major surgery and was in bed for three weeks.  I took my pain medication as directed, no overdosing, but I did not understand the need to taper off.  So, I wound up having a terrible withdrawal.  I spent several days doing nothing but crying.  I couldn't stop.  Luke and my parents were so worried and we ended up decided that I'd go with my parents to visit my grandparents for a few days because Luke was afraid to leave me alone while he went to work. 

While we were there, I read the author's first book (Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On) and loved it.  A few weeks later my grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the next time I went to visit he was very sick.  Sitting with him on the couch and reading Suck Your Stomach In while he watched the gospel music network was the last quality time I got to spend with him while he was able to remember me. 

My mom also read it while we were there and we had some wonderful talks about the book with my grandmother and heard some hilarious stories about our own Southern family members.  All of that to say, it became kind of a special book to me - one that I can't look at without remembering that trip and how it helped me get past my awful withdrawal and how I had such a good time with my grandparents.

So like I said, when I had the opportunity to review the book, I jumped on it.  And I have to say that it is just as great as the first one.  I've been reading several heavy books lately (reviews to come) and this was my "break" book when I was on mental overload.  Tomlinson never fails to make me laugh.  The book consists of humorous essays on Southern life (especially things that are "taaaacky", like sheer bodiced wedding dresses) as well as amazing recipes for delicious Southern foods. 

I highly recommend the book, and I also recommend that you check out the Facebook party that the author is throwing on June 2nd. 

Apparently she will be giving away copies of the book and gift certificates - I hope to see you there!

A major thank you to Amy at LitFuse for letting me be a part of the tour.  I received a copy of the book in exchange for my review. 

Another major thank you to the author for making my life happier during a sad time!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For My Library: CueCat Barcode Scanner

Ok now, before I tell you what this really is, I will forgive you all for thinking something dirty.  But seriously, this is a book blog, so minds out of the gutter please.  This is a USB Barcode Scanner which also happens to be shaped like a cat. 

Why do I need a barcode scanner you might ask?



Remember these?  And this is just the tip of the iceberg, Reader Friends.  What you can't see is the OTHER bookcase in this room that is packed full, the two piles of books that are now shoulder high next to the other bookcase, the three bookcases in the office, the piles of books on the bedroom floor, and the third of my closet that has become my overflow for books. 

Over the past three years I've started the task of making a complete catalog of all of my books several times.  The problem is that I want it done right - I want a full catalog entry for each book: page numbers, physical description, publishing info, in addition to title and author name.  With over 1000 books, this takes a really long time.  So I've never really gotten past the first few books. 

Which brings me to the CueCat.  CueCat actually works in conjunction with LibraryThing to catalog your books.  You can just scan the barcode of each book and CueCat puts it into catalog form on LibraryThing.  Here's LibraryThing's basic guide if you're interested in how it works.  I use Goodreads for my reviews, but I'm going to be using LibraryThing to catalog my books now.  And the best thing?  I paid $13 and some change for the CueCat - including shipping!  It's completely affordable.  You can buy it through LibraryThing, but I bought mine (the modified version) for a few dollars less on Ebay.  I'm expecting it by the end of the week and I can't WAIT to get started on my catalog!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Don't Sleep With A Bubba Unless Your Eggs Are In Wheelchairs by Susan Reinhardt

Don't Sleep With A Bubba is a collection of essays by newspaper columnist Susan Reinhardt about various topics, mostly related to love, marriage, and being a Southern woman (the development of the dreaded front-fanny!).  I love any and all Southern humor, so this one was enjoyable but not what I expected.

Writing
I'm not really sure how best to critique the writing of a humor book.  It's written in the same style as a newspaper column and they are all opinion kind of pieces. Writing is standard humor fare - funny essays, short and sweet.

MST3K
I've been saving this one for a while because I read and loved the author's Not Tonight Honey.  It's been a while, but I remember that one made me laugh so hard and had me dying to read more by the author.  This one didn't live up to what I remembered of Not Tonight Honey.  It was funny and there were some hilarious essays, but most of it just wasn't that funny to me.  It was still a good read and a great pool/beach book, but not as funny as I had hoped.  I was also thrown off by the inclusion of some very serious essays dealing with the author's depression.  Those essays were wonderful as well, but they seemed to be just randomly tossed in the middle of the book with no introduction or conclusion.  Since they didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the book at all, it was odd to have them right in the middle.  It felt like I was reading two different books.

So the final review: I say if you are a fan of Southern human (oh dear, this should say Southern HUMOR), you need to read Susan Reinhardt.  But start with Not Tonight Honey and see how you like her before you try this one.  She has a third book called Dishing With the Kitchen Virgin that I plan to check out as soon as I can find a copy.  If you are just wanting humor in general, check out Laurie Notaro or Jen Lancaster.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax

In Ten Beach road we are introduced to a group of three very different women who have one thing in common - they have all lost all their money in a Ponzi scheme.  The money is gone, but a few of the man's assests have been distribued among the victims.  These women have each been awarded a share in a run-down beach mansion that they must restore and sell over the course of a summer to get back on their feet financially.  Madeline is an empty-nester whose husband has lost his job and whose daughter has just moved back home, pregnant with a movie star's child.  Avery is an architect who lost her job as an HGTV star when she divorced her co-star husband.  Nikki has been a matchmaker to the stars, but lost it all when the person closest to her betrayed her.  Now the women must work together to overcome their personal challenges and restore the mansion at Ten Beach House to save their livelihoods and families.

Writing:
Typically chick lit/beach read.  Nothing amazing, but good for what it is.  It's a perfect summer at the beach book.  Doesn't require much thought, but no gaping plot holes or obnoxious typos/grammar mistakes/stiff dialogue/etc.  An easy, light read.

MST3K
Again, typical women's fiction.  It's about feelings and learning and self-discovery and romance.  It's not an engrossing can't-put-it-down read, but it's also a great beach book.  It holds your attention well enough and is easy to enjoy but also easy to put down.  My only complaint is that it is just like a million other chick lit/women's lit books out there about the same thing.  It's pretty interchangable with any other beach reads, but it's good for what it is. 

I recommend that you pick up a copy and take it on vacation, read it on an airplane, by the pool, etc.  It's an easy read and you don't have to be fully committed to every sentence in order to get it.  It's the sitcom of books - good for a diversion but doesn't require much of an investment on the part of the reader.

I am grateful to TLC Books for the opportunity to review this one. 
The links:
For more information on the author, Wendy Wax, check out her website
You can also find her on Facebook
You can see the full list of other reviews for Ten Beach Road here
I personally recommend that you check out the reviews by BookNAround, Life In Review, and Book Club Classics.

Monday, May 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (16)

Welcome to In My Mailbox, hosted by the Story Siren.  This week I've got a bunch of books to share, some bought from McKays and the library sale, some for review, and one that I won.  Sorry for the poor picture quality - I had to use my phone this time.

These are all from the library sale:
House of Meetings by Martin Amis
At Home by Bill Bryson
Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs
The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

More from the library sale:
The Soloist by Mark Salzman
Lancelot by Walker Percy
Hunger by Knut Hamson
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Three from the library sale:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Stout
Certain Women by Madeleine D'Engle

One for review:

More from the library sale:
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Object Lessons by Anna Quindlen
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

For review:
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma - sent from Simon & Schuster along with a copy of The Time Machine by HG Wells with a matching cover!  Love it!

Won:
And finally, I won this signed copy of Enclave by Ann Aguirre from Karen at For What It's Worth.  Thank you Karen and Ann!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The "Official" Announcement

Ok, well I was wanting to wait until some more details were in place to talk on here about what our specific plans are for a recovery project in Ringgold, and it looks like now is a good time to announce.  I mentioned in my earlier posts that our town was torn apart by the tornadoes.  Both our middle and high schools will have to be rebuilt.  Luke and I drove by this weekend and took a few pictures:








As you can see, both schools have had serious damage.  Crystal and I had discussed having an online auction to benefit our cities, which led to Crystal's project All 4 Alabama, and I emailed Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of Looking For Salvation At The Dairy Queen, which is set in Ringgold, to ask for a signed book.  She and I met for lunch, and decided we'd focus on a more long-term goal: rebuilding the libraries for Ringgold Middle School and High School.  Since our lunch, the project has blossomed into something amazing.  We have some amazing authors who are partnering with us (Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott) and the support of Crown Books (a division of Random House). 

After this tragedy, Ringgold has seen amazing and instant support from so many places.  Immediate needs are being taken care of.  But we want to make sure Ringgold knows that we care about the long-term as well, which is why we've chosen to do a project that won't be as immediate, but will be something that we work on until the schools are rebuilt.  We will be holding fundraisers, seeking donations from individuals and publishers, and locating resources for the school libraries until the schools are rebuilt and restocked.  So now is the time to start setting aside books.  What I'm asking from my readers is that you guys think of the long-term as well.  When you go to book sales, buy online, and clear your shelves, think of Ringgold.  If you are an author, publisher, or publicist, when you are distributing copies of your books, think of Ringgold.  This is a project that can not only restore what has been lost in the tornadoes, but also to promote teen literacy. 

Our first major project is to choose a name.  Here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

Reading for Ringgold
Shelter for the Storm
Ringgold Reads
Rebuilding Ringgold's Readers
Be A Neighbor - Give a Book
Tiger Tales...Bringing Books Back to Schools

We're still looking for suggestions to discuss at our next meeting.  If the "winning" suggestion comes from one of my readers, I'm offering a giveaway as a reward.  If your name is chosen, I'll send a handmade book wreath or "vintage" book recovered in a style of your choice.  If you don't need book crafts, I'll let you choose a book from my collection!

To close, I want to post some of the pictures Luke and I took last night as we drove back into Ringgold.  There was an amazing double rainbow right over Ringgold in the most vivid colors I've ever seen.  I'm sentimental, I know, but it just seemed so hopeful. 


Coming off the interstate into Ringgold

Right above the "Welcome to Ringgold" sign - you can see a little bit of the second rainbow in this one


In our neighborhood - the high school is a mile or so behind those houses

Beautiful. 


Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Remember the post where I raved about The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss?  If you didn't like that one, you should stop reading now, because I'm about to rave about the next book in the series, The Wise Man's Fear.  It is still high fantasy and still amazing.  I'm not going to go into much of the plot, you can follow the link to the Goodreads page for more detail, but this is basically the second day of Kvothe's story, which is being narrated to Chronicler.  Oh and of course Bast is there.  I've got a seriously literary crush on Bast.  So here we go:

Writing:
It's still amazing.  After 2 books and almost 2000 pages of writing, I still have nothing to complain about.  Seriously.  I haven't found a flaw, and I'm a very picky reader.  I can find flaws in almost anything, but I have nothing to criticize here.  The characters are well-developed; the plot has no holes, despite being incredibly complex; perfect balance of detail; incredibly smart and witty; etc; etc; etc.  I could continue for pages on this, but I'll go with flawless to keep it short.

Entertainment:
So this is my new favorite series of all time.  I'm glad The Hunger Games is YA, so I can say this is my favorite ADULT series of all time, but if The Hunger Games and The Kingkiller Chronicles had to fight to the death, I'm Team Kvothe all the way (don't tell Suzanne!).  I read both books almost back to back and didn't get tired of the story or lose interest in any of the characters.  And these aren't small books.  Like I mentioned above, we're looking at almost 2000 pages of book between the two.  But I read the two over the course of about two weeks, along with a few other books, and enjoyed every second.  It's a sign of a great writer AND a great story teller when the author can make a book of that size fly by with no reader fatigue.

Of the two books, I still think I prefer The Name of the Wind.  There was a very short section of The Wise Man's Fear where I almost lost interest.  Please do not mistake what I'm saying here.  I refuse to use the word "dragged" because it didn't drag.  It just wasn't AS exciting as the rest of the story.  This is NOT a criticism, it's just a statement of preference. 

Please read this series.  I'm begging you.  Like I've mentioned in a few other reviews, Luke and I usually don't like the same books, but we are both LOVING this series.  Luke is still reading The Wise Man's Fear and we are having so much fun discussing.  I love hearing him laugh out loud from the other room while he reads.  Or yell out "THE CHANDRIAN!!!!!!!"  You've also probably heard me mention my online book friends, the Nesties, on here before and I have to tell you that a bunch of the Nesties have been reading it as well.  I have yet to hear a negative review. 

One last word - I loved this one so much that I actually bought two copies.  I immediately bought a hard copy, then passed it on to Bestie and bought a copy for my Nook.  It was worth buying twice.  And if you have a Nook, I'll loan it to you as long as you promise to read it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Auction Update

Hey Reader Friends, I just wanted to let you know that my book wreath has now been posted for auction at All 4 Alabama.  Remember that all proceeds are going towards disaster relief in a small Alabama town that was recently destroyed by tornadoes.  To sweeten the deal, if you win the auction and tell me that you found it through my blog, twitter, or facebook, I'll throw a little something extra in the box when I mail it.  Go check it out - there are a TON of other amazing items being auctioned off as well: signed books, query reviews for the writers, jewelry, ARCs, and more.  Here's one last picture of the wreath - please stop by the site and help spread the word!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let's Discuss: Book Fears

Do any of you have major book-related fears?  Maybe it's just me, but two of my biggest fears in life are about books.  Not a fear like "oh I might get a paper cut" or "that book might make me cry" but like major, keep me up at night if I let it, honest to God fears.  Here they are:

1)  I will be in an accident or have some major health issue that somehow prevents me from reading.  Sometimes I worry I'll have a stroke and my brain will lose the ability to process reading.  I'll know that I used to be able to read and that I loved it, but I won't be able to understand what I'm reading.  OR, I'll somehow go blind.  In that case I could learn to read Braille and eventually be able to read in that way, but I'd only be able to read books that are published in Braille and it would take me forever.  Reading two or three books a week would be impossible.  OR, I'll be in a car accident or a boating accident or I'll dive into shallow water or something and my injuries will be such that I'm mentally damaged forever.  I won't be a vegetable, but I'll be mentally impaired just enough that I know how I used to be and the books I used to love, but I'm not able to love them anymore.

2)  I will contract some sort of fatal illness and will know that I only have a few months left to live.  Then I will know that I only have x amount of time left to find out the endings to all of the books that I want to read.  Since I have over 2000 on my Goodreads list, this would mean choosing the very few that I really wanted to read.  It would also mean choosing between finding out the endings of every book I want to read and spending limited time with the people I love.  Of course I would choose spending time with the people I love, but then I would KNOW that I would NEVER EVER read those books.  I'm ok with the thought of dying and not being able to read anymore.  I believe I'm going to heaven and that books will be in heaven or stories at least, which is what I love about books.  But I'm afraid of knowing I'm going to die and having to choose what I'd read in my limited time. 

You now have access to the inner workings of my brain.  And two of my major, major fears.  What about you?  Do any of you have major book related fears?  Have you ever thought about these things before or is it just me?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not Book Related: The Little Boys Get A Fence

We've been saving for a while and were finally able to get a fence for the puppies put in the back yard.  We basically cut our back yard in half, so that the half by the creek is open if we want to do picnics, light up the fire pit, or build a small dock on the creek.  The top half is fenced in with gates at the back.  That way we can contain the little boys and (future) children.

They spent the first five minutes or so just blindly tearing around in sheer joy:

Then the wrestling started:

They look really vicious when they wrestle, but they're just big babies


Luke threw some balls for them

And after a whole 15 minutes of playing, they passed out in the grass.


I am so excited that the little boys still have some room to run around and work off their energy that is not inside my house!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fundraising Updates

I'm still spending this month (and all foreseeable months) working on a fundraising project with some amazing authors and publishers on a long-term benefit for the city of Ringgold.  I'm still waiting to post my "official" announcement, but it's going to be a big deal and it's going to be an effort that takes place over a longer period of time.  So, no fear, I'm still pushing ahead with it, and hope to announce some names and solid plans in the very near future. 

If you're looking for something immediate, please check out All4Alabama!  It's an online auction being organized by one of my blogging besties, Crystal.  All proceeds are going to rural Alabama towns that were recently destroyed by the same tornadoes that hit Ringgold.  They have some great items that will go up for auction starting tomorrow.  Several major authors are participating (Lindsey Leavitt, Allie Condie, Bree Despain, Megan McCafferty, and Rick Bragg to name of few) as well as yours truly.  I've donated one of my handmade book wreaths and I'll link again when they're auctioning it.  It's a great cause and an excellent way to give back right now, while rural communities are still in the early stages of recovery.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

If you even pay a little bit of attention to pop culture, you know that HBO recently adapted George R.R. Martin's (refered to hereafter as Gurm, which is Luke's and my pet name for him) Song of Ice and Fire series to an incredibly well-made television show.  So before the show started I started listening to the first book on audio during my drive to and from work.  It is an insanely long book to listen to (over 36 hours) so it's taken me a while, but I finally finished. 

Giving you guys an overview of the book is almost impossible.  It's an incredibly complex plot, with about a million characters.  It's set in the fantasy world of Westyros, a medieval-esque society, and is about basically the intrigues, scandals, and backstabbing that make up the titular "game of thrones".  The book is classified as fantasy, but has very few fantastical elements.  This is a world where magic has disappeared, and though there are old wives tales about dragons and white walkers and the Children of the Forest, no one believes them anymore.  At least in the first book, our main focus is courtly intrigue.  For a more detailed book description, see the Goodreads page. 

I always try to give spoiler-free reviews, but I have so much to say about this one that there may be minor spoilers.  I will try to leave out anything major, but beware that the length and depth of this book make it impossible to review appropriately without discussing some minor spoilers.

Writing
The main draw of the book for me was that Luke has also read it and is now reading the second book in the series.  We generally have completely opposing taste in books, so it's been really fun to read a book that we both like and be able to discuss it.  My absolute favorite is that this one has had me and Luke discussing not only story but writing and what it means to write well.  I'll just do a bullet point-style summary of my thoughts on various aspects of the writing that we've discussed.

Characterization: Because we're both also reading The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (two series that we both like - be on the lookout for flying pigs and cold days in July) it's been impossible not to compare the two series.  Both have incredibly complex plots and a host of characters.  Gurm, however, is not as successful in Rothfuss at giving depth to these characters and plot aspects.  One of my major problems in Game of Thrones is that the characters are flat and static.  Edard Stark, our hero, will always do the honorable thing.  Cirsei Lanister, a villain, is the typical evil queen/wicked stepmother character.  We also have Sansa, the girly girl who wants to marry a prince; Arya, the strong-willed tomboy; Robert Barathian, the drunken king; Joffrey, the spoiled and selfish prince; Kahl Drogo, the fierce and proud leader of the tribal "savages";etc, etc, etc.   I could go on ad nauseum with the descriptions of stock characters.  Given any situation you know what each character will most likely do because they are such stereotypes.

Predictability: This was my number 2 issue with the book - Gurm goes so far out of his way to do the thing you'd least expect that you start to expect that thing to happen.  Kind of like a Jodi Picoult book - you know it will have a twist and to figure it out all you have to do is thing of what the most shocking outcome could be.  Then it happens.  At first, this was awesome.  I had several jaw-dropped, I can't believe that just happened moments.  But by the end, I had realized that the author is going for shock value and I saw a lot of the "twists" coming.  Not all of them however.  There were still moments throughout the entire book where Gurm really and truly shocked me.  None of these moments had anything to do with a character acting outside of a stereotype, unfortunately.

Plot complexity: While the entire book is written in third person, each chapter focuses on alternating characters who are spread out across the entirety of their world.  Because of this, there are multiple plot points and opposing points of view from various characters.  The book actually moves at a fairly slow pace because there are so many plot points.  Rothfuss does this so well in the Kingkiller Chronicles, but I feel like in A Game of Thrones, the complexity of plot substituted for any depth of character.  It feels like a very complex story, and you pretty much need a map and a geneological reference to keep track of where you're at and who you're with, but it seemed to me that this really took the place of character development.  Instead of allowing characters to grow and change, we are just constantly introduced to new characters, all of whom are plotting and sabatoging and switching sides.  It keeps things interesting, but really seems to substitute complexity for depth. 

MST3K
Although I had some critical things to say about Gurm's writing, I have very few complaints on the entertainment quality of the book.  I felt like there were times when the description went a little bit long.  The author describes what each person is wearing in painstaking details, especially the armour.  There are huge passages describing battle scenes and what each person is wearing and what weaponry they have and what they look like.  We also hear a lot of descriptions of what people are eating and how it tastes.  So I had moments where I started to get bored - but every time I'd start to think I was bored, Gurm would throw something in that was either unexpected or shocking or that completely changed the direction of the story, and I'd be hooked again.  I was definitely drawn in from the beginning and my attention was held through almost all of the 36 hours - which is a long time for an author to hold your attention.  From an entertainment point of view, I definitely recommend the book, especially if you love historical fiction/court intrigue.

I realize that most of this post is my critiques of the book, but I feel like I have to say that I sincerely enjoyed all of it, even the parts that I felt were not well-written or were in poor taste.  Luke and I have had some great conversations regarding morality in the book.  We've discussed character motivations, and have agreed that so many of the characters, even the "good" characters that we are rooting for, aren't necessarily "good" people.  So many characters are motivated by greed, pride, and self-interest.  What that says about the difference between good and bad in the book has been really fascinating to discuss.  We're typically drawn to characters who are good and honest and pure, but in this book, that's turned on its head in some cases.  We've also been able to discuss a lot of literary themes that we haven't had in common before, such as what makes a book well-written and what makes it entertaining and what is more important. 

I can't really say whether or not I'd continue with the series if Luke weren't continuing.  I might be bored of all the descriptions and annoyed by the writing and give up, or I might be so drawn in to the story and what will happen next that I keep reading.  But, Luke is continuing, and I've so enjoyed our conversations that I am continuing too.  We'll see what happens next and if any of the writing changes when I eventually finish the next book.  It's over 40 hours on audio, so we'll see how long it takes me...

Three things to note before you read:
There are some things that people may find offensive in this book.  There's a decent amount of sex and some it is weird sex: we've got incest (with more than one set of siblings), prostitution, orgies, rapes, and a young teenage girl being sold to a man as a wife (which = sex scenes starring a 14 year old).  So know that there is sex and much of it is, in my opinion, graphic (and weird in a distasteful way)

Also, I've heard others criticize the books for being sexist, racist, and basically un-PC.  This did not bother me in the least.  We're looking at a pre-industrial society.  The book is intended to mirror our Middle Ages, where, unfortunately women were not treated as equals.  This does not mean there are no strong female characters in the book.  Daenerys in particular is one of my favorites and becomes a fierce leader.  She's one of the few characters I saw change and grow in the book.  Also, I'm not concerned about my fictional worlds being PC according to modern reality.  It's fiction, set in another time, place, and society.  But for those of you who are concerned, this is a criticism I've heard from several places.

Finally, the book is violent and sometimes gory.  We've got battle scenes, torture scenes, murder scenes, infanticide scenes, etc.  You name it, it's in here.  People are killed in all sorts of imaginative and vividly described ways, so if violence turns you off, this isn't for you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

April Summary

Here's a quick summary of what I read in April and how I'm doing on my priorities list:

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
John Adams by David McCullough
What Good Is God by Phillip Yancey
Don't Sleep With A Bubba Unless Your Eggs Are In A Wheelchair by Susan Reinhardt
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Night Road by Kristin Hannah

This brings my total up to 31 books for the year; 10,013 pages read for the year; and $295.30 I've saved by reading books from the library, books I already own, or books I was sent for review.

I need to get back on track with several of my priorities: God, my health, and hobbies.  On the God front I need to spend less time sleeping and more time with God in the mornings.  I also need to keep working on finding a church.  My health, again, less sleeping in the mornings and more walking.  I've let myself get out of the habit of walking, which is sad for me and for Chief.  And I've been doing good with my reading and book blogging, but terrible with my crafting and home blogging.

I have been successful in keeping my house clean.  I got a new vacuum cleaner this weekend and I'm looking forward to putting it to good use.  Ok, maybe not looking forward, but it will be nice to have a working vacuum.  The areas that I have already cleaned are staying clean.  Dishes are being doing immediately, things are staying tidy, and I've almost conquered the laundry.  The guest room, Luke's office, and the basement still need work, but we're getting there.

Our little family update of the month:  A week from today we hope to have our fence complete and we can't wait to let the little boys have some room to run.  Chief and Dexter finished their big boy manners class and have both done well with their training.  We're still working on holding commands for longer periods of time.  Next month Chief will start his Canine Good Citizen class, where he will also get his therapy dog certification and Dexter will start his Agility classes. 

Chief got to stay on my parents' porch while we were stranded there after the bad weather.  Bless his little heart, he didn't understand why he was left outside when we were all inside.  But it was only one night and he survived being a porch doggy just fine.  His behavior was much better this time than the last time he visited and it helped that Dexter was at a kennel instead of on the porch with him.

Both puppies have developed some strange fears.  Chief is terrified of children.  He has shown no signs of aggression, but when he is approached by children, he tries to hide behind me or cowers with his tail between his legs.  He's also afraid of small dogs. 

Dexter has been greatly distressed by the arrival of the new vacuum cleaner.  Even if it isn't turned on, he refuses to leave his crate if the vacuum cleaner is in the room.  If he can see the vaccum cleaner, he cowers in the corner of his crate, tacks his tail between his legs, and cries.  It gets even worse if one of us touches the vacuum cleaner - he goes into a complete panic - barking and jumping.  We're trying to desensitize him to it, but no luck so far.  We've even tried putting his favorite treats on the vacuum cleaner while it's turned off to coax him into approaching it, but no luck so far.

I know the puppies are probably not that interesting to anyone but me, but I figure I only let myself post about them once a month or so, so I might as well get it out of my system!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review: Nowhere Near Normal by Traci Foust

When I saw this one on Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab last month I knew I'd have to read it.  It's a memoir written by a woman who grew up with severe OCD.  I was particularly interested in the religious facets of her OCD because I had some similar obsessions as a child.  For example, if I knew someone was travelling and I thought of that person, I had to stop and pray for them for a sufficient amount of time in order to keep them from dying.  If I didn't pray, and they died in a travel accident, I knew it would be my fault.  Weird and irrational, but that's what I thought.  The author has some similar obsessions, but to a much greater extent.  In fact, her OCD is so uncontrollable that her family sends her to live in the family-owned nursing home for a period of time.  The main focus of the book is on Faust's childhood, although we also get to see her grow up, mature, and learn to live with a devastating mental illness.

Writing
I enjoyed the writing at the beginning of the book, but it got old quickly.  It was very stream of consciousness with long run on sentences.  It worked great when describing her childhood, but after a few hundred pages I was getting tired of it.  I also felt like it was more suited to writing about childhood than it was to adulthood, which takes up a third or so of the book.  I also felt like the book never reached a satisfying conclusion.  When I read the last page, I wondered where the rest of the book was.  The author's story seems to just stop in the middle. 

MST3K
Definitely a good read.  I was sucked in, I cared about the author, I cared about her family, I have no complaints other than that I didn't feel like the ending was right.  It just seemed like there should be more to the story - although it may just be that the author hasn't lived the ending yet, since this is a memoir.  I definitely connected with the author, and I found her stories interesting, though sad. 

I recommend to people who are interested in childhood mental illness or who have a special interest in memoir.  It's not the best mental illness memoir I've read, but it's not the worst either.

Thank you Simon and Schuster for making this available through Galley Grab!

More to come tomorrow (I hope) on the Ringgold fundraiser - I'm still working on finalizing details.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Zombie Awareness Month

Ok, I have Zombie Awareness Month news.  Due to the recent tragedy in my town and across the South, I'm going to postpone ZAM for one month.  I'll still be posting all of my author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, and zombie-related fun, but I'm going to do so a month later than I had planned.  Here's the latest news:

One of my internet besties, Crystal, and I have teamed up to do a major fundraiser for the Southern cities devastated by last week's tornadoes.  Look for more information in the coming days, but we are planning on auctioning off some amazing items with 100% of the proceeds going to disaster relief areas in our precious home states.  Because I want to donate as much time as I can to this project, I'm pushing back Zombie Awareness Month to June.  So keep watching for updates on our project, and get ready to bid on some excellent books and bookish things!