Monday, May 31, 2010

Guest Book Review -- Percy Jackson and the Olypmpians: The Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Book 2 – The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

3 out of 5 stars

Guest Post by Daisy Dad

I can’t help it. No matter how much I want to like the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, I am continually nagged by the thought that this is a not so clever, fairly blatant rip off of Harry Potter – but I know it is not. Was Harry Potter a not-so-clever, blatant-rip-off of something that preceded it? C. S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Chronicles? J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Maybe a series that I am not as familiar with? Unfortunately, after the second book, The Sea of Monsters, the parallels are unmistakable:

Percy Jackson = Harry Potter
Annabeth = Hermione
Grover = Ron Weasley (maybe a stretch)
Chiron = Dumbledore
Kronos = Lord Voldemort
Luke = Draco Malfoy
Half-Blood Hill = Hogwarts

I could go on…

But on its own merits, I still found The Sea of Monsters very entertaining. A fast paced voyage novel well suited for any young reader with adventure in their hearts. Updating the story of Jason and the Argonauts and the quest for the Golden Fleece, Rick Riordan again makes the world of the gods seem commonplace in the real world of today. Though the beginning of this book is maybe too similar to the way The Lightning Thief began, the introduction of a new character – Tyson – the half brother of Percy who is also a Cyclops – is a tender example of how cruel our world can be to those who are different – and how important it is to rise above first impressions and find the goodness in everyone. It may just surprise you!

Other than my HP comparison issues, the only other criticism I have, and it is really more a hope that the upcoming books don’t fall deeper into this trap, is that the writing verges on the cinematic – as if Mr. Riordan is writing with a screenplay and Hollywood in mind rather than writing a great story, with the depth and care it takes to rise above the lure of the quick and easy success a film franchise can bring. (Tsk, Tsk, Dan Brown and The Lost Symbol!) I guess that will be his “Golden Fleece,” the lure of “Circe”, or the hard to ignore “Siren” song. May Mr. Riordan avoid these human frailties and find his true, original voice in The Titan’s Curse.

Book source:  private purchase

Saturday, May 29, 2010

CBC10 Day 2

I’m exhausted. Who knew blogging could break you down and have you begging for your bed at 8pm?

We had 4 breakout sessions -- my classes were: The Art of Story Telling, Niche Blogging, From Blogging to Writing: Is there really a difference, and How to Interact with Online Communities to Grow Your Readership.

One thing I must say – just because you are a popular blogger (although, I hadn’t heard of ANY of these bloggers, but I don’t live in Utah and I only focus on book bloggers, so that’s no big surprise) doesn’t make you a public speaker. One of the panels totally crashed and burned because of that. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It made me wish I had stuck with my original class choice. Oh well – I guess they don’t have to worry about what I think since they have HUGE followings!

The two writing sessions were the best. They both talked about finding your “voice” – and for the most part I think they were talking about bloggers who write personal narratives, unlike what I do the majority of the time, which is read and report. But even I struggle with how I want the tone or inflection of my reviews to read – do I want to be funny or serious, or how bad do I actually trash this book? Or, even a bigger problem is my lip-sync syndrome: “Oh, I really wish I sounded more like so-and-so,” and then try to fake my way through a review hoping I mimic someone. A recommendation from one of the speakers was to go back and reread a particularly popular review, or one that you felt really good about and try to figure out what made that work. The problem with reviews, though, is it the review that was popular or was it the book? But something I’m going to work on going forward.

Finally, the closing speaker was CJane. Of course EVERYONE is a follower of CJane, right? Everyone except me! I’m not too trendy when it comes to blogs – no Dooce, no Pioneer Woman, no CJane or Nie Nie . I figure, they have enough followers, why on earth do they need me too? (I’m not linking them either!)

So, my 1st CBC conference is done. Not sure I would do it again. I think next year, I’m saving my $$ for BEA!

Friday, May 28, 2010

CBC10 Day 1

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the blogging world, you attend an event like this and you realize you know absolutely nothing at all!

My head is spinning: Technical features, Twitter, Kirtsy, Whrrl, tags, pivots, SEOs, key words, media kits, FTC regs, giveaway no-no’s, -- good gosh how am I supposed to learn all this stuff? Can’t I just write book reviews and hope someone reads them?

The intimidating and embarrassing thing is – everyone there seemed to be on curve or ahead of the curve, except me. Do I Tweet? No. Do I Whrrl? No. Do I have key words in my blog title that makes me Google friendly? No. I’m I operating illegal giveaways on my blog? Possibly!

It was a full day of very informative, entertaining, and prepared speakers.

In terms of what I do here at GDD, I think the most revelatory came from Ryan Bell, a local Intellectual Property attorney in Utah. He spoke about the “material connection” a blogger and an advertiser or agent. In my case, that would be a publisher or author who may contact me to do a review of their book. Since the beginning of the year, bloggers must put disclaimers on their posts if they indeed have a material connection with the product (book) they are reviewing and the nature of the relationship. Although I’ve had very few contact from either publishers or authors, that is something that has become standard protocol. And it doesn’t have to be “legalese” – he said something simple, but descriptive is sufficient.

However, the most “Ah ha!” moment I had was when he started talking about giveaways. Anyone who book blogs knows that books are given away daily! Some blogs offer significantly more than others. I have only offered 2 giveaways in my blogging tenure, one I supplied myself, the other was provided by the author. Here is the kicker (and I am not an attorney, I’m just doing my best to relay from my notes what this man related to us): Giveaways are essentially lotteries – and if you are in a state that doesn’t have a lottery, you are essentially breaking the law. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but he only had 45 minutes to speak. Additionally, if you are asking people to submit multiple chances to enter a giveaway (1 chance if you Tweet, 1 chance if you Blog, 1 if you stand on your head) you are essentially are creating an “uneven playing field” and that could be against the FTC regs as well. Finally, the rules of the giveaway must be clearly stated, for example: Void where prohibited by law; Full official rules must be listed on the blog, a definite end date and eligibility restrictions should all be linked somewhere.

After hearing all that, I think my giveaway days are over until I hire an attorney!

As with any conference, after sitting in the same strait back chair all day, your brain becomes spongy, your back begins to hurt and your attention span wanes, so I’m sure there are more things I could have benefitted from or learned, but they are lost to some Tweet feed somewhere.

I better check into that when I get home.

I’m curious – how many of you Tweet? And if so, have you noticed an increase in traffic to your site?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Casual Blogger Conference!

While most of the book blogging universe is participating in the BEA (Book Expo America 2010) in New York, I'm headed in the other direction -- Utah -- for the Casual Blogger Conference.

Even though I've been blogging for over a year, I still feel like a ROOKIE, so I hope to immerse myself in all things bloggerific this weekend. If nothing else, it's a weekend away, in a hotel, with a king-size bed -- SWEET!

If you are going too, let me know, maybe we can hook up!

Week 4 -- Wolf Hall Wednesdays

The reading continues. In theory, this should have been our last weekly post, but I'm still about 200 pages from finishing, so I'm sure we will post at least 2 more weeks. Cromwell is such a fascinating figure -- this individual who is respected by all, regardless of whether you are a Katherine-ite or an Anne-ite.

Here is our discussion for this week:

Amused By Books: How's the reading coming? I feel like maybe we are coming into a little more action. Here's some questions for our discussion and feel free to add some more!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: The pace is definitely quickening…I’m up to 340 – still behind, but not too bad.

1. The burning at the stake scene of the 'witch'. Let's discuss!

Amused By Books: It was horrific but I was left wondering what part it played in the story. I am often left wondering this with lots of scenes: why was this added in? I can only assume this was to still show us that Cromwell, while he is rising to power, still has a heart. He was deeply affected by the woman who was burned at the stake, whereas it seemed like a lot of those in the crowd were not. On another note, I think Mantel did a great job evoking the sights and sounds of this scene, which some parts have lacked.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: One of the most effectively graphic scenes I have read in literature. I was left gasping. When the women’s friends and family come to gather her remains, and they wipe a portion on Cromwell’s cheek – I’m not even sure I can explain how I felt: Numb, mortified, sickened – so many emotions by one scene and sentence. I think you have a point – What does this have to do with the big picture? My only explanation: To give a more complete picture of who Thomas Cromwell is and what he has endured; to show how once he becomes the King’s advisor, he isn’t swayed by religious arguments – he is all about legal solutions/negotiations to solve Henry’s marriage problems absent the Pope; also, to show readers the madness that was gripping 16th century England and how that had an effect years later.

2. Cromwell seems to be fully rising to the peak of his power. How is handling it?

ABB: Maybe I am missing some things but to me Cromwell still seems to be a pretty good man at the heart of things. He wants to still do things for his family. When they went on that trip to France he was bringing poor people home to give them a roof over their head. Sometimes I feel like I missing some things because Mantel often insists on referring to multiple men in one scene as just "he" and, well, how the heck am I supposed to keep them all straight, but generally, I do think that Cromwell seems to be balancing his power well with both humor and kindness and that makes him someone worth admiring and there aren't a lot of people in this book who I would say that about.

GDD: One of my favorite scenes so far is Cromwell’s treatment of Henry Percy, once Percy decides to tell the “world” that he indeed was married to Anne Boleyn. It’s something strait out of Goodfellas or The Sopranos – he walks into the bar and basically gives Henry “an offer he can’t refuse.” (OK, that was the Godfather, but you get what I mean). He is this ruthless negotiator, but with a level head. He seems so admired by his peers – on both sides of this Henry/Katherine/Anne issue. I think HE is always Cromwell.

3. Anne Boleyn, in this section of the book, has finally reached her quest and become Queen of England. What do you think of Mantel's version of Anne?

ABB: I don't like Anne. She is not painted as an admirable figure at all. Knowing what we know, that she will be beheaded soon, I often find myself wondering if she really thinks this would all have been worth it. I mean she seems so pinched and angry at pretty much everyone around her - what an awful way to live one’s life. When they travel to France, she has to stay behind because it isn't safe for her to go forward because the rumors about her are so unkind. Her own people don't like her. I don't know, I guess I just often found myself wondering if it was all really worth it to her in the end.

GDD: No! You mean she becomes Queen??!! (tee hee!) I’m not there yet. But, yes, I agree, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Mantel’s Anne. She is the master manipulator. I think a person like her, would never realize how bad things are going to be – and why should she? She’s got Henry, literally, by the balls (sorry, there is no other way to describe it). I’m sure she envisions that she will wield this kind of power of him forever.

A couple of comments/questions:

GDD: I’m surprised how FUNNY some of the dialogue is!! On page 296, Anne is retelling the Old Testament story of Jezebel and her demise (she was thrown out of a window and eaten by wild dogs). Anne says, “if anyone is to be thrown out of a palace window…Thomas, I know who I would like to throw. Except the child Mary, the wild dogs would not find a scrap of flesh to gnaw, and Katherine, she is so fat she would bounce.” I laughed out loud at that comment! Oh -- and I think that may explain the "shrimp" comment -- she may be TINY -- not ugly!

ABB: Totally agree! I think it's kind of unexpected in some ways because the story for most part, to me anyway can seem so dry and factual and then all of a sudden there are these really funny and/or gripping scenes that kind of throw you for a loop!

GDD: Also, what is the significance (if any) of the painting/tapestry/art that Cromwell has hanging in the entry of Austin Friars? I know it was a Wolsey’s and was gifted to Cromwell from the King. Everyone that comes to visit mentions it. Again, it may mean nothing other than the obvious: it is of value and a gift from the King.

ABB: I don't know but I wish I did! Do any of our fair readers know? I wish there was a picture of them in the book so we knew what they were. Maybe this weekend I could try to google them and see if I could uncover something about their significance!

If you haven any comments or thoughts, please share them with us! The reading continues!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review -- A Matter of Class

Library Journal
Her scandalous near elopement with a coachman and his habitually drunken and spendthrift ways have brought Lady Annabelle Ashton and Mr. Reginald Mason to a pretty pass. Their families have had nothing to do with each other for 30 years, ever since the coal merchant Masons moved next door to the Earl of Havercroft's estate. But the highly successful Mr. Mason would like nothing better than to bring his aristocratic neighbor low by rescuing his daughter's reputation along with the earl's suffering finances while teaching his own son how to behave like a gentleman. Marriage between the two seems the only solution. VERDICT Fans of the popular Balogh (Seducing an Angel) are accustomed to her longer, more complex historical romances. Yet this slip of a novel manages to reveal a great deal about its misguided protagonists and how the past catches up with them. The happily-ever-after is never in doubt, but the unexpected denouement will have readers gasping and smiling with delight. A can't-miss choice for romance fans.

This was the biggest waste of time. I was sucked in by the pretty cover and the forlorn looking woman on the front AND that it was a brief 200 pages, perfect for a book "interlude" opposite my Wolf Hall odyssey. I don't read romance fiction often, but I do love a little romantic pas de deux every now and then. This one was pure nonsense. The characters were insipid and cardboard. The dialogue between the two characters (that spans the course of their lifetime) was for much older people, not the child/adolescent/teenagers/yearly young adults they were suppose to be. The author's use of the term ton, meaning society or town, was so overused I wanted to take a sharpie and black it out every time I read it.

This was really, really, bad.

At least I only squandered one afternoon.

After this, I will be glad to welcome back Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Book source: Public library (thank goodness!)

View all my reviews >>

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bedtime Stories

I've discovered yet another perfect picture book -- this time, though, I think it was more meaningful for me, than my kids:

School Library Journal
PreS-K—In this reversal of roles in the bedtime routine, a mother tries all the familiar stall tactics when her daughter announces, "Time for bed, Mommy!" She tries everything from a plea for five more minutes to a final drink of water and the door left slightly ajar. The story is told in short sentences that fit neatly into dialogue balloons. The perky watercolor and ink cartoon-style illustrations on white backgrounds speak as clearly as the text. Some pages are wordless and allow readers to tell the story themselves. Little girls in particular will love sharing this bedtime story with their mothers.—Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

How often am I staring mindlessly at the computer screen at 11pm, that I wish I had my sweet daughter to encourage me to go to bed, with a short bedtime store of Anna Karenina?

This was perfect!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Week 3 -- Wolf Hall Wednesdays!

We've now entered week 3 of Wolf Hall Wednesdays. I'm glad to have Leah from Amused by Books back! She's had to endure things I don't even want to imagine over the past two weeks. I think we are both behind in reading -- we expected to be over 300 pages by now -- I'm clocking in around 250 -- Leah is ahead a bit. The book's heft is starting to weigh on me. I still like it, but it's become more of a chore than an indulgence.

Leah came up with questions this week -- here are our thoughts:

1. We've spent a lot of time with Henry VIII now. What do you think of him as a king?

Amused By Books: It's fascinating to me how everyone's world revolves around this one man. I know that our tide shifts a lot when elect a new president but this seems a little ridiculous. His every whim is met without question. I don't necessarily think Henry is portrayed as a bad or selfish person, it just amazes me how someone is given so much power, and yet, will bow to Anne Boleyn. It's all very interesting.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: I have this slovenly, overweight, overindulged, Henry VIII in my brain, when in fact, he doesn’t sound like that at all. I suppose that caricature comes much later in his life, but in my reading, my brain still wants to project that image. I’ve admitted to being a closet anglophile (how many days did I cry when Diana died??!!!), but this royalty thing, even now, is really over the top. That he can summons Cromwell to his bedside in the middle of the night (and he has to travel by BOAT to get there) to discuss a dream is mind boggling. And with regards to Anne Boleyn – it goes back to my “rules” theory – he wants her so bad, because he CAN’T have her. I don’t think it is anything particularly unique to Anne herself, other than the church says he can’t divorce Katherine (who I like more and more, by the way – are there any books on Katherine we can read?!) and Anne won’t give him what he wants, when EVERYONE else does.

OK, can I add a question: Why on earth do they keep referring to Mary as a “shrimp?” Is she THAT ugly???

ABB: I was thinking it was because she was shy? It could be because she's ugly! Yes - we need to research some Katherine books once we are done that we can read because I agree, she is an intriguing figure!

2. How are you keeping all of the characters straight?

ABB: Am I, really? Well the only thing that's helping is the fact that I have a degree in History but this wasn't my favorite time period. I'll tell you what is really helping is the proliferation of novels set in this time period that I've read recently. I don't find myself flipping to that chart at the front of the book. It's too dense of book to waste extra time. I'm just kind of barreling through!

GDD: Um…I’m not. There was a dinner scene I just finished, and when I got to the end, I thought, “who were those people?” The biggest mysteries: Brereton, Cranmer (another Thomas! Ugh!) Wriothesley – I have no idea what roles they play, other than they keep getting mentioned. But I’m doing the same – I can’t take the time to go back to the front as a reference – I just keep turning the pages hoping that it will all make sense in the end. And honestly, I know he plays an important role after Wolsey, but I still can’t figure out Thomas More.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with your question, but I was really disappointed in her treatment of Wolsey’s death. So anticlimactic.

ABB: Totally agree about the death being anti-climactic! They went on and on about how much money it would cost to bring him from wherever he was in hiding and how much Cromwell loved him and then, poof, he was dead. He was this character that was hated by so many, you would think that people would have been cheering in the streets while Cromwell would have been crying over the death of his mentor.

3. Wolf Hall has finally been mentioned. What kind of role do you expect it might play in upcoming events in the book?

ABB: Well if I understand what's happened correctly Wolf Hall is the ancestral home of the Seymour's and if I understand my history correctly, after Anne Boleyn, King Henry will go on to marry Jane Seymour so possibly Cromwell will help with that all at Wolf Hall. I don't know, just throwing out guesses here.

GDD: Totally agree. But so far, Mantel doesn’t portray Jane very well either. Like she is this fly on the wall -- kind of mysterious and unnoticed. I’m only speculating, but is she the one that starts the rumors about Anne and her brother George having a relationship?

Check out Elise's thoughts on our reading as well, here.

If anyone else is reading along -- what are your thoughts?

A Rose by any other name is sometimes not the same

Oh, poor misguided Juliet, she thinks if Romeo had not been a Montague, he would have been the love of her life regardless of his name.

I beg to differ. Romeo Montague is a much different person than say, Romeo Jones. Granted, she was trying to reconcile the fact that if he had been a Jones, their love life would have been a much easier, but really, wasn’t he more attractive because he was a Montague? Because you and I both know that when she was practicing her signature, Juliet Montague, was much sexier than Juliet Jones.

Same with Jane Austen: Would Elizabeth Bennett or Mr. Darcy been as engaging had they been called Valerie or Mr. Dalrymple? Hardly! Elizabeth Bennett would never have settled for a Mr. Dalrymple – because he sounds like the local dairy farmer, not the landed gentry with Pemberley Estate in his back pocket.

Authors single handily set the tone and success of their books by the naming of their characters. I would liken it to naming your children.

I think authors also follow trends (some successful and some not) when naming their characters. Shelah Minor, writer/blogger at Shelah Books It made this recent comment, “First of all, a plea: If you are an LDS (Latter-day Saint, aka Mormon) author and have a book in the works, do not name one of your characters Tristan. In 2009, ‘Tristan’ must have held the same power over LDS authors that ‘Jennifer’ did in 1978 for pregnant mothers across America.”

I can’t think of a book off hand that I’ve read that I instinctively thought, “That character’s name stinks.” Or, “That name SO doesn’t go with that character – or I would have called him/her something totally different.” But with the recent release of Brady Udall’s book, The Lonely Polygamist, I must say, I’m stunned by the main character’s name.

The Lonely Polygamist is the IT book of the summer – with reviews in The New York Times Book Review and Entertainment Weekly. As a Mormon, I’m always intrigued by members or former members works, either fiction or non-fiction (most recently, Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance). And any book with POLYGAMIST in the title is a must read for me.

When I was reading both reviews I did a double take when the main character – husband with 4 wives and 28 children – was mentioned. His name is none other than: Golden Richards. Now to nearly everyone reading his book, that probably means nothing, other than, “Hmmm…I wonder where the author came up with Golden?” But for me, I immediately, thought – “Isn’t Golden Richards the former wide receiver from the Dallas Cowboys?” Seriously people! I am a football geek – and I can tell you that not only did Golden Richards play wide receiver for the Cowboys in the ‘70s but he played football for my Dad at Brigham Young University. And for what it’s worth, Golden had a brother named Sterling (guess his parents had a thing for precious metals).

I haven’t read The Lonely Polygamist yet, but when I do, I’m going to have the image of Golden Richards the football player in my head, and not the Golden Richards, polygamist that my imagination would create. I would also add, that the author could have used names like Jack Pierson or Thomas Larson or even Tristan Clark, equally admirable names, with Utahish flare, without any football attachment.

I wonder – is Brady Udall a closet football/Cowboys fan that he is paying homage to this long lost professional football player?

And something tells me, if Juliet had met a guy named Golden, things might have turned out much differently.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review -- The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My journey thru juvenile fiction continues (while trying to tackle the mammoth Wolf Hall) with The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

A delightful tale reminiscent of the 1st Homer’s Odyssey, Homer Figg leaves home in search of his brother who has been illegally sworn in as a member of the Union army by a nasty Uncle Squint. He doesn’t encounter Sirens or a Cyclops, but does come across a conductor, slave catchers, Quakers, a traveling medicine show, and the legendary Union commander, Col. Chamberlain.

Homer is desperate to find his brother in the vast Union army. To keep his journey alive, he weaves imaginative tales and passes them along as truths to whomever will listen and ulitmately, helps him along his way. He eventually finds Harold at the battle of Gettysburg where they both witness the most horrific battle known to America.

Homer’s wit and determination are endearing. And the cast of characters that surrounds him are equally entertaining. For those emerging readers who aren’t familiar with Civil War history, this is also a good book for a fictional account of the Battle of Gettysburg. The author does a tremendous job describing the battle from an eyewitness point of view without overwhelming the reader with a more mature, description of the devestation.

A whimsical book, with equally whimsical characters that can be enjoyed by youth and adults alike.

Book source: public library

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2nd Wednesday -- Wolf Hall Wednesday Read Along

Welcome to the second weekly discussion post as we continue grinding our way through Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I'm slightly behind schedule reading -- I planned on having 200 pages read by today, but I'm about 20 pages short. Not too bad in the scheme of things. I am still really liking this book -- Ms. Mantel has taken an often told historical period and made it modern and engaging.

Before we get started, my partner, Leah of Amused by Books, was dealt a terrible tragedy with the unexpected death of her father last weekend. She is taking either a temporary or permanent hiatus from our read along, for obvious reasons. She needs to care for her self and her family. I wish her love, comfort and peace of mind during this heartbreaking loss.

One of our read alongees, Elise of Once, Oh Marvelous Once, is going to share some of her thoughts about the book in light of Leah's absence.

To this point, what or who do you find the most intriguing:

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: This story is not new – it’s the subject of many historical fiction novels, it’s been made into a major motion picture – but overall, I’m surprised at how fresh Mantel’s writing makes this feel. This conflict with Henry/Katherine/Anne/Wolsey/Norfolk/Suffolk – could be any modern day powerplay. Cromwell could just as easily be a Hollywood agent as he tries to get his “client” the King, what he wants. It just shows that human nature is really timeless. People having been trying to “have their cake and eat it too” for millennia. Also, Cromwell is fascinating. He survives (or it seems he will – I haven’t gotten to that point) his association with Wolsey to become an advisor to the King. Washington lobbyists could be so lucky!

Elise: I don't know this story hugely well, I have a friend who is Henry VIII mad and want to call her and find out the specifics because I am so confused!! I'm also confused by popular culture and history and really struggling to take this as a story in itself, and not a strict true historical account. I keep thinking back to The Other Boleyn Girl (of which I have only seen the film, not read the book) which is apparently quite fictional, and am completely confused now!! However I am really interested in the character of Rafe, a young man taken in by Thomas Cromwell. He seems like a smart kid and I feel that he is important to the story. Not sure where it's going with him or if I'm right though!!

So far, Anne is still on the periphery, but do you have any thoughts or feelings about her:

GDD: Years ago, there was a book written (in the States anyway) called “The Rules.” In its essence it was written as a template to find the man of your dreams by doing, or not doing, certain things. Every time Anne is referenced or introduced in dialogue I immediately think, “She was the FIRST Rules woman!” She used every womanly sexual instinct (good and bad) to get what she wanted. Not sure Henry was the man of her dreams after all, since she lost her head over him. But it worked for awhile. Also, and this is a segue, but, Henry and Anne remind me of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, two people who couldn’t live with or without each other for very long.

Elise: Well I know that she is going to end up headless at the end of this story! I feel that she is a bit of a femme fatale, that she will do anything to get her way. Mary (her sister) has identified her virtue of 'perseverance' and I think it is historically clear that this is true. Anne is like that girl at school that you never speak to, but know about. She is always around and always the centre of gossip but not someone that you would ever have the courage to speak to or even want to speak to. She is also currently too much on the periphery for me to feel any emotional connection or empathy towards her.

What, if any, are your thoughts on the religious conflict:

GDD: Not being Catholic, I’m at a disadvantage of not knowing doctrine or cannon law to understand the intricacies of what happened, but as a spiritual/religious person, I’m gobsmacked that this was so ruthless, political and so NOT spiritual. Now, I’m not totally naïve to know that the Papacy was not the most honorable institution at this time and prone to corruption, but the wheeling and dealing that took place to get this done, initially, is against all that I believe.

Elise: This isn't something that has really affected me so far. Is that a terribly naive and ignorant thing to say about this book? Probably! I understand that during this time period, Henry's desire for a marriage annulment or divorce resulted in the creation of the Church of England as a separate entity and resulted in Henry VIII's excommunication by the Pope. It is so ruthless and cunning that I find it difficult to associate this with any form of fact. At the moment for me, it is great as part of a fictional plot, but I think once I've finished and reflect I will be able to appreciate the impact of it all.

Thank you Elise for sharing your thoughts.

If anyone is reading along with us and would like to ask/offer discussion issues, feel free!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review -- One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not since the March sisters have I enjoyed a set of siblings as much as I did Delphine, Vonetta and Fern in Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer.

Delphine is in charge of caring for her younger siblings as they travel across the country to visit their mother, Cecile, who abandoned them when Fern (the youngest) was an infant. Dreaming that their trip to California will be full of movie stars and trips to Disneyland, the girls are rudely awakened when their mother wants nothing to do with them and turns them loose to fend for themselves. Instead of a magical reunion, the sisters spend their days at the Black Panther summer camp where they are “taught” and fed for 4 weeks. When their Mother and two Black Panther militants are arrested, the girls truly learn about their mother and why she left so many years ago.

This was an absolutely delightful book. The dynamics between the sisters and the “rolls” they play were entertaining and complicated: Delphine – mother hen and mature beyond her 11 years, yearns for friends and childhood experiences; Vonetta is the attention seeker and the attentions he seeks often brings discord; and “Little Girl” Fern who can’t go anywhere without her Miss Patty Cake doll (who is a character in and of itself) but wants to be grown up too. Not having sisters myself, I’m unsure how sisters interact, but Ms. Williams-Garcia convinced me that all sisters are equally amusing, complex, argumentative and joyful as these three.

With their Mother’s self imposed absence, the girls must create a community with the teachers and other children at summer camp. They experience firsthand the racial tension and conflict of 60s. They are truly cared for by this “village” of people while on their 4 week vacation. Finally, with their “dream vacation” about to end, the girls and their Mother begin to learn and understand more fully what it’s like to be mother and daughters.

One Crazy Summer will light up your heart and make you want to squeeze your kids just that much tighter.

Book source: Public library

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy!

I was off this weekend to spend Mother's Day with my Mom, and see my oldest niece graduate from college -- and when I got home, I was thrilled to find this:

Thanks to my lovely friends at Reading for Sanity for bestowing such a floral appropriate award!

There were some very small rules* for passing along this award...but I'm going to stick with one, because she is sunshine!

Tracy M at Dandelion Mama

*I hope you will forgive me for ignoring the rules on these awards. Awards don't mean anything if you have to fill a quota when you give them out to someone. 12 people were required for this award. I like to read blogs but I don't read them THAT much and I would have had to surf the net pulling blogs I'd never heard of or read to fill those kind of numbers.

Enjoy Tracy's blog -- she is uber-Mama!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Perfect for Mother's Day -- 2011

OK, you can't purchase this book for Mother's Day, but keep it in mind for next year. My dear friend and fellow Mormon Mommy Wars writer, Tracy M, is featured in this soon to be published anthology. Tracy is a phenomenal writer. Truly inspired. I'm sure the other essays are equally outstanding, but I'd buy it for Tracy's alone.

Maybe if I butter her up enough, she will send me a copy!

Dance with Them: 30 Stumbling Mothers Share Glimpses of Grace

Edited by Kathryn Lynard Soper

Segullah Books, 2010; 230 pages

Jacket liner-notes:
When it comes to mothering school-age children—biological kids, step kids, or even the kids next door, with or without a partnering spouse—one of the biggest challenges is maintaining connection and balance during nearly constant flux. Each day we negotiate matters of independence, control, tolerance, closeness, expectations, safety, trust, acceptance, boundaries, conflict, and, perhaps most of all, the difficult reality that both mothers and children must learn through experience. Our mothering relationships are like intricate dances through time and space, forming patterns as unique as our individual children. And just as we’re getting our footing, the rhythm is sure to shift.

Enjoyable as a sequel to The Mother in Me as well as a stand-alone volume, this anthology of personal essays and poetry begins on the first notes of middle childhood and concludes with the finale of high school graduation. Its pages explore a wide variety of turning points that come in the outward motion of family life and the inward dynamics of personal growth. To be sure, the dance of motherhood is often more of a stumble. But with candor, insight, and the bittersweet inspiration Segullah writers are known for, these thirty contributing authors convincingly show that even the clumsiest of dancers have moments of grace.

For a review of this book and to read an excerpt of Tracy's essay, please read one here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In The Mail

I know there is a weekly meme called "Mailbox Monday" -- but I very rarely get books in the mail, let alone on Monday (hint, hint publishers!), so when I do, I have to post them when I get 'em!

Today I received: Review
Kathleen Alcalá's first novel, Spirits of the Ordinary, opens in 1870s Mexico where Zacarias Caraval abandons his family and the religion of his fathers--Judaism--to search for gold in the desert. His wife, Estela, responds by declaring herself independent and taking a lover--an action frowned upon in the small village of Saltillo. Zacarias's wanderings take him into the mountains of Northern Mexico and to the cliff dwellings of Casas Grandes, where he witnesses a massacre--an event that will have a profound affect on him and will eventually send him back to the faith he has abandoned. Spirits of the Ordinary is the first book of a projected trilogy and judging by the quality of Ms. Alcalá's work so far, the next two volumes will be eagerly awaited.

I won this from a book giveaway on Color Online, a blog whose focus is "on women writers of color." I have been trying to beef up the diversity of authors that I read...this book will help me in that endeavor.

And from author Jennifer Ross:

From Booklist
Ansley thought her fiancé, Parish, loved her unconditionally until he dumps her. In order to escape the subsequent gossip and pity, she heads to New York City to visit her maternal grandmother, Vivian, whom she has never met. While Vivian is delighted to have the chance to reconnect with her family, she currently has problems of her own: her recently deceased husband’s creative tax shelters have brought down the wrath of the IRS, specifically agent 1432. As a way of coping, Ansley begins baking cupcakes, and as she mixes up batches of home-baked goodness, she realizes she may have stumbled on the answer to her and her grandmother’s problems. Striking the perfect balance between tart wit and sweet romance, Ross spoons up a thoughtful blend of chick lit and women’s fiction, complete with a tempting assortment of cupcake recipes, the icing on this irresistible culinary literary creation.

Doesn't this sound delightful? Once I'm done with Cromwell, Wolsey and Henry VIII, I think I will devour Cupcakes as the perfect literary dessert!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Welcome to Wolf Hall Wednesdays Read Along!

Today is the inaugural post of my my series -- Wolf Hall Wednesdays -- with Leah at Amused by Books, as we navigate, discuss and encourage each other through our reading of the Man Booker Prize Award winning novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

This is a month long goal to read all 560 pages by May 31st. Each Wednesday, we will report back to each other and those who want to participate (remember it is a read along!). It's not too late to join us! I'm already behind schedule, but life can't stop entirely for Wolf Hall. Nonetheless, we have begun our reading -- and so far, LOVE the book in spite of its heft. Here are our first thoughts on the book:

1. What do you think of Mantel's writing style?

Amused By Books - Honestly, I was surprised that she jumped right in without really setting up the story. Yes, there was the whole part before the book began where she outlined chapter by chapter with each character that was in it like it was some sort of play but I am not going to spend my time flipping back and forth to that like it's some sort of reference book. I've got better things to do with my time -like read! I do appreciate the genealogy and some set up like that but I also want some of the scene to be set in a historical fiction. It does appear to jump around from chapter to chapter. I'm finding it a bit confusing.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries:

My 1st thought when I cracked the cover: when an author devotes 4 pages to names/characters and who they are before the book even starts, it doesn't bode well for this reader. That being said, I'm surprised how I'm FOLLOWING it! I actually like her writing style. I was expecting old fashioned, Shakespearean-like prose, for some reason, so the fact that she's writing with modern language is a huge plus. You are farther along than I am, so it could get more confusing the deeper you get into the book. Ugh.

2. What do you think of the historical setting?

ABB - I've read a lot of books recently set during Henry VIII's reign and so I am somewhat familiar with this time frame and I am glad of that. I don't think I would know what was going on if I hadn't read some of these recently, or at least it might take me a lot longer to figure it out. Barring that though, I like that Mantel doesn't have her characters talk with too much affectation so that they are pretty easy to understand and it doesn't always feel like it's set so long ago.

It goes without saying that one of the reasons this book intrigued me so WAS the historical setting! I LOVE this time period. Not that I’ve taken tons of classes or spent time reading books on Tudor England, but I am a closet anglophile, so this is great. And, I echo the above, I was expecting a much more difficult time trying to “read” this – but she isn’t using any antiquated English for her characters. Thank goodness!

3. Are there any stand out characters for you at this early stage?

I like Cardinal Wolsey - he seems to be a trouble maker. I am not saying I like him morally - just that he seems to be stirring up trouble.

So far the only two major characters that I’ve had to get a grasp on are Cromwell and Wolsey. If there is any truth to her historical fiction, I had no idea Cromwell left home at 14-15 yrs old and that his father was such a brute. I love Cromwell’s relationship with his wife, Liz. And the dynamic between Wolsey and Cromwell is so intriguing! I can’t wait to see what happens, because honestly (historically), I don’t remember!

This is a huge, dense, book – but if I can stay on track with my reading – I think I can accomplish this! Don’t give up on me Leah!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review -- The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toads, beetles, bats…

Gotta love a kid who learns to swear from Shakespeare.

But Holling Hoodhood (blame his ever insensitive parents for that name) learns that and so much more at Camillo Junior High School on Long Island, New York.

Holling is the kind of kid who isn’t quite cool enough to keep the bullies away, but well rounded enough to accept his 7th grade teacher's recommendation that they study Shakespeare together, agrees to be Ariel in The Tempest and saves his sister from getting hit by a bus, although, I’m sure he thought twice about it. He is a kid who loves the Yankees, but when snubbed by Mickey Mantle because his was wearing yellow tights, his friends come to his rescue and reject the baseball superstar. Young love in Jr High isn’t easy either – when an interest develops between Holling and Meryl Lee (the daughter of Mr. Hoodhood’s chief business competition in town) things become complicated when their parents profession nearly dooms them, in true Romeo & Juliet style. And then there is Mrs. Baker – the teacher who coaches, edifies, trains, tutors, and inspires Holling to search for the man he will become.

There isn’t much more than I can say but, I LOVED THIS BOOK!! Every word, every scene, every conflict, every emotion. Every step Holling takes to look beyond himself and the world around him -- to his friends, to his sister, to school work, to the Vietnam conflict – was a delight to read. It was witty, thoughtful, poignant, and nostalgic.

If there is such a thing as a 7th grade Renaissance Man, Holling Hoodhood has it nailed.

Book source: Library copy

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