Archive for January, 2008

The Harlequin by Laurell K Hamilton

Posted in Fiction, Gina with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2008 by Gina

The Harlequin is Book 15 in the Anita Blake series.  It reads pretty similar to the last several installments of the series.  So, don’t expect the Anita of Guilty Pleasures or Burnt Offerings.   I don’t mind the sexually intense writing.  I just miss the plots of the earlier books.  I miss the mystery and crime solving.  I am not one to jump ship though.  I tend to stay true to my favorite characters and I do so love Anita and Jean Claude.  So, I will keep reading the series until Ms. Hamilton decides to not write any more.  However, I will hope with each one that she goes back to the butt-kicking, crime-solving Anita of the first handful of books.  With all that being said, I love Jean-Claude and want more of him that we have gotten in these last couple books.  I truly miss the intimate relational moments that he and Anita had in the beginning of their love affair.  I think that Jean Claude gets pushed aside too much during the fury of Anita’s many lovers.   I absolutely love Edward and am glad to see him back in the fray.  I was terribly disappointed in the direction Ms. Hamilton took Raphael, the RatKing.  I was impressed with the scenes at the end in Malcolm’s church.  I thought the part with Richard says it all and I am glad that it happened that way. (Don’t want to spoil the book for all those who haven’t read it yet.)   I thought there was a major plot point that was left hanging in regards to Mommie Dearest and the fourth mark.  All in all I would say it is pretty much the same as the last three or four books.  

The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult

Posted in Fiction, Gina with tags , , , on January 29, 2008 by Gina

I have had this book on my for quite awhile.  I had previously read My Sister’s Keeper by Picoult and loved it.  So, why did it sit on my shelf?  The answer is simple; fear of the emotional nature of the subject matter.  The Pact: A Love Story follows two families who are neighbors and best friends. They have to deal with a suicide pact gone wrong.  This story follows each of the characters as they deal with the impact of this loss.  The teenagers’, Chris and Emily, and their parents’ lives are forever changed.  I was fearful that the story might be too much for me.  It was not and I enjoyed the book.  One thing that surprised me, was the writing made me forget it was fiction.  I enjoy reading true crime and the feel of this book reminded me of that genre of book.  I found myself fretting over Chris’s situation and Emily’s state of mind just as I do when reading non-fiction.  The way that the book is set up you slowly learn how the families are connected.  You get a chapter on what is currently happening in their lives and then you get a chapter that delves into their pasts.  I love that you get to see many different points of view.  I love that you see Katie’s jealousy.  I found that I was disappointed that Melanie and Chris don’t find out everything that led to Emily’s state of mind and the suicide.  But upon retrospection, this is what happens when a loved one is lost to suicide.  You don’t always get the closure and answers you deserve or want.  I think that you could still enjoy the book even if you don’t enjoy true crime.  It is just how I reacted to the writing.   I absolutely enjoyed reading this Picoult book and plan to read more from her in the future. 

43 Year Old Intro to Literature Virgin

Posted in General, Literature on January 27, 2008 by muerta

And so it has happened. I am now enrolled in an Introduction to Literature course which meets online. As a college graduate and avid reader, there is humor in the fact that I need to complete this course in order to obtain a license to continue practicing in my chosen profession. This way, while providing therapy, I guess I can talk about an author or three along the way.

This week, our assignments were basic and straightforward- answer a few questions and post about ourselves, who is our favorite author, what is our favorite book, etc. This is what I wrote:

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Christine Gilbert, wife to Jean-Luc Heusdain, companion to a shy but adorable overweight cat named Filou and frequently guarded by a Shiba Inu named Cortez. I am fascinated by trivial facts of being and small events that make life worth living. Sadly, I must confess that I love pop music (and frequently torture the household by playing songs from the ‘80’s). I am tormented by a love of good food, a desire to be slimmer, and an extreme distaste of the words “diet and exercise.” I am always looking for ways to convince myself that what I am doing is not really exercising, but rather gardening, housework, taking Cortez for an afternoon constitutional or just simply taking the children that I work with for a walk in the fresh air. Currently, I am trying to convince my husband that we need to go see The Cure at Radio City Music Hall in May.

I can not tell you what is “the most enjoyable” thing that I have ever read because most everything I read is enjoyable on some level. My secret loves of best-selling authors like Patterson, Braun, and Grafton give me the satisfaction of a story told simplistically. I can, however, tell you authors which influenced or changed by life. My first reading of J.R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings made me realize that I dreamt of lands beyond what was physical. Lovecraft taught me fear of reading late at night with only the reading light to illuminate the eyes of the nighttime creatures that lie in wait within the darkness. Philip K. Dick woke my awareness of alternative realities and the reality of their coming into being. And finally, Cesar Milan taught me that I don’t stand a chance against my dog’s determination that he will not come when he is called.

But favorite author? I look forward to reading Sheri S. Tepper’s next novel.

I have what I call a job; my husband calls it pseudo-job because, as he politely puts it, “it’s not a job if you can work in the same clothes that you vacation in.” As a trained Mental Health Clinician, I opted to take a job working as a paraprofessional aide with the Manchester School District so I could have less stress in my life after moving to Connecticut. However, as education becomes more complicated and encumbered with paperwork, I realize that if I am going to be stressed with regulations, I might as well be stressed out while being paid better. Hence, I am returning back to school (eeek!) to seek a license as a registered nurse with the hope of providing family counseling in Hospice. Cortez is already certified as a pet therapist, and it is my hope to get myself re-certified as a therapist so that I can feel comfortable in knowing that he and I are on equal footing when we provide home visits to ailing.

Final facts: I like look for birds when I go for walks, I play online games as time allows, and help Cortez keep his blog updated: http://i-am-shiba.blogspot.com/ . He finds that not having opposable thumbs is incredibly inconvenient.

Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

Posted in Non-Fiction on January 26, 2008 by Shawna

This is the memoir of a woman who grew up in Rhodesia from 1972-1990. During this time there were many political changes and civil unrest. The first interesting thing in the book is “Bobo” (Alexandra) and her family are white and live in predominately black area of Africa. By the age of 5 she could clean and shoot guns and they lived in fear of being killed.

It was interesting to me how unapologetically she wrote about their feelings regarding the Africans.  But then the end of her story she did write “I am forced to acknowledge that almost half my life in Africa was realized in a bubble of Anglocentricity, as if black Africans had no culture worth noting and as if they did not exist except as servants and (more dangerously) as terrorist.”

The author did an excellent job of remembering her past and many conversations in detail.  She was able to accurately describe the harshness of the land, the hunger, the poverty, and the drunkenness. 

The book was sad, (I’m not giving anything away here, if you read book dedications) three of her siblings did not live.  Both of her parents were alcoholics and her mom seemed to have a mental illness. But they were “well bred” from England or Scotland (?) and therefore manners were stressed. They listened to classical music and read Shakespeare at an early age.

Another interesting thing in the book was a conversation between her and her nanny. Bobo was being mean to the nanny and threatened to fire her.  The nanny said: ” When you can reach your hand over your head like this” and she reached a hand up, over the top of her head and covered the opposite ear “then it means that you are grown. Then you can boss other children and fire me.” Well, I had my son try to do that and his hand barley covered his head.  I plan to keep trying this over the years to see how old kids are when they can finally touch thier ear. 

The book was also funny. It was funny because of her skill as an author not because there was anything much funny about her life. Her life was at times very boring, there were no other people around, they were totally isolated, with only their animals and their cook and nanny. Bobo’s description of the fleas made me itch!

Another interesting point, Alexandra ended up marrying a river guide from America. She met him when he was doing rafting tours of the Zambezi river. They now live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  He must have been (be) doing river rafting tours there, which is really close to where I live. 

This is a book that I liked, it was worth reading.

I, obviously, thought it was “interesting” since I over-used that word.

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Posted in Fiction, Gina with tags , , on January 25, 2008 by Gina

This book is several years old, but I had never heard of it until I saw a commercial for the movie.  The commercial made me want to read the book.   I picked it up at the post office and suddenly it became my first book of the year.  The short synopsis is that Holly and Gerry were in love and making a life together.  Holly loses Gerry to a brain tumor.  She is forced to go on alone.  Holly is aided in this journey by Gerry’s letters left for her.  I enjoyed P.S. I Love You as much as I had hoped that I would.  The characters are introduced as subtly as being hit by a bus.  You just jump right into a very emotional point in their lives.  But throughout the book, each character is revealed and examined in many contexts and layers.  I will admit I cried more during this book than any other book that I have ever read.  I cried every time I picked it up, but thankfully I laughed through my tears during some of it.   It is about love, grief, family, but more than anything else, I think it is a book about moving on with life after loss.  

I would recommend this book.  Just make sure that you have some tissues readily available.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , , on January 21, 2008 by Lisa

I admit it, I’ve become something of a Jane Austen fan in the last year. Along with half the reading world it seems. Books about Austen abound. There are books about her books, books about her, books that retell her books from the standpoint of another character. It started when I signed up for DailyLit and choose Pride and Prejudice (my review here) as my first choice. I’d read P&P before but it was in high school and I didn’t remember it so well. This time around I discovered just how witty and sharp Austen is and immediately requested Sense and Sensibility (my review here). I read that one last fall and made the decision to try and read the remaining novels in 2008.

One of the many books that play off Austen is Austenland by Shannon Hale. Jane Hayes is 32 and single. She’s obsessed with finding her own Darcy and is unable to find the perfect man because of this. Her great aunt dies and leaves her a non-refundable trip to Pembrook Place. Pembrook Place is a resort where guests give up all trappings of modern life and live by the Rules of Austen’s time. It comes complete with costumed actors, clothing, dance lessons, and fake eligible bachelors. Jane (who becomes Miss Erstwhile at Pembrook Place) is to stay for 3 weeks and is determined to get over her Darcy fixation for good.

It was very hard for me to buy into the whole concept of living in that time and pretending to fall in love with the actors. I don’t have a problem with living history (I worked at a museum with costumed actors for years) but the idea that at the end of the 3 weeks she should fall in love with one of the actors was hard for me. Fortunately for me, the idea was often hard for her to fall for as well. Jane alternates between having a blast pretending to live in that time and feeling like a fool for pretending. If it hadn’t been for this awareness on her part, if she’d gone for it full speed, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much. The actors are well done, rarely breaking character and when they did it was subtle. There was one who surprised me at the end- I really truly didn’t see it coming. I felt a bit of the P&P references were a bit heavy handed. Mr. Nobley was clearly Darcy, it couldn’t be more obviously done. Overall it was a good read and I’m a bit tempted to keep it until after I’ve finished up the rest of Austen’s novels but I think I’ll pass it on for now.

There are tons of references to Austen’s books, of course, and it just inspired me to read them even more. I have Emma and Northanger Abbey on my shelves and Persuasion waiting in email. I’m not sure which I’ll tackle next. PBS is showing the movies this winter and while I’d like to see them, I think I’ll wait and only watch the ones I’ve already read.

Review cross posted at Books. Lists. Life.

A Comment on Comments

Posted in General with tags , on January 21, 2008 by Lisa

You may notice some lovely comments on my review of Twilight– as I am not the kind of person who likes to censor things, I am letting these comments, and any others like them, remain on the site so long as they don’t become threatening.  I would never call someone an idiot for their opinion on a book and I wouldn’t remove comments  that don’t agree with my opinion, but I am often shocked that writers of such talent are able to even read the books they so vehemently defend.