Archive for the Gina Category

TBR Challenge: Murder with Reservations by Elaine Viets (2007)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on November 19, 2008 by Gina

Murder with Reservations is the sixth installment in Viet’s Dead End Job mysteries.    Helen Hawthorne is on the run in South Florida.  She must stay under the radar to avoid her former, St. Louis corporate life from coming back to haunt her.  Staying under the radar for Helen means taking a series of dead end jobs.   In this book, we find Helen working as a maid at the Full Moon Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  As always, Helen finds herself involved in the middle of murder and mayhem.  

This series consists of light, easy to read mysteries and this one is no different.  The mystery is interesting and fun.  Helen’s job as a hotel maid lends itself to many funny moments.  Most of the book takes place at the hotel.  The usual cast of supporting characters seems to be under utilized in this book.  Peggy has a superficial role.  Margery was her same old self, but she still seemed to be written without as much depth as usual.   We do get to delve into Helen and Phil’s relationship more deeply than in previous books which was nice.  

All in all, I enjoyed the mystery but felt that the supporting cast should have been showcased more prominently.

TBR Challenge: For A Few Demons More by Kim Harrison (2007)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge, Uncategorized on October 15, 2008 by Gina

This is the fifth book in The Hollows series by Harrison.   This is one of my favorite paranormal series.  I love the cast of characters and how they interact.  Jenks, Ivy, and Rachel make a great team.   I will admit that this is my favorite of all five books.  I have moved The Outlaw Demon Wails (Book 6) to the top of my TBR pile.   While this was my favorite, I would not have chosen the direction of the story Harrison chose.  (That is all I am saying about it.   I will not be held responsible for ruining the book for you.)

Here are five parts that warm my heart and make me love this book so much. 

1)  Kisten and Rachel’s Date on his boat.

2) Glenn’s love of tomatoes.

3) Quen…you gotta love Quen.

4) Jenks and his children…Jariathjackjunisjumoke

5) Rachel’s transportation issues.

When I examine the list, I find that it is the characters that I adore.   I love their interactions and their lives.  The story is a good one, too.   The characters are highlighted and it flows well – except for in one part where it doesn’t, but that is resolved by the end of the book.  

If I rated books, which I don’t, I would give this one a 5/5 or two thumbs up.

TBR Challenge: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on September 17, 2008 by Gina

The Hours has been holding up other books on my bookshelf rather well since 2002 when the movie came to theaters.  I had rushed out to buy a copy because I just had to read it.  I bought it and placed it on the shelf to get lost in the shuffle of books for four years.  I re-found it this month, while looking for another book, and decided that it would really be a good read for this month’s TBR Day. 

In college, I read my first and only Virginia Woolf book, A Room of One’s Own. I loved it.  I thought it was brilliant.  I felt a strong connection down deep inside me.  However, now upon recollection I can only remember my strong feelings of it and not really the reasoning behind those feelings.  Mr. Cunninham’s writing of Virginia has rekindled my excitement for her.  I am excited to reread A Room of One’s Own as well as read her other works including Mrs. Dalloway, which is the book she is working on when this novel is set.     

Now, for Mr. Cunningham’s novel.  As per the back of book,

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women:  Clarissa Vaughn, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950’s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway.  By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.

I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I felt the bouncing back from one woman to another added drama and kept the story moving along.  I loved how Cunningham followed them and used everyday moments to show us the character of these women.  I enjoyed his writing style.  He took his time reveling layer upon layer of these women and the characters that came and went from their lives.

Though the women lived in three different times and were living three vastly different lives, they were similar in the heart of the matter.  They all pretended and played roles for the world and for the people around them.  Laura the role of a dutifully wife and mother.  Clarissa the role of a ‘wife’ and intimate friend.  Virginia, it seemed, had to pretend to be and do most everything in her life. They pretended to be what the world/their loved ones wanted or needed them to be.  They judged themselves unworthdy because they could not attain the perfection they desired.  Perfection seemed to be a disease of them all.   This perfectionism can be seen most clearly in Laura’s cake, Clarissa’s flowers, and Virginia’s interactions with Nelly, the servant.   This perfectionism still effects women today.  Is my house clean enough?  Are my children well behaved enough?  These are just two of the questions women ask themselves each day.  How do I measure up to others?   Why is it we always measure ourselves against the best, most perfect ideal which often times does not exist?  (end tangent)

This book was a great read.  It isn’t an overly difficult or long (226pgs) read.  It was well worth the time it took to read, which is not always the case.

TBR Challenge: Fledgling by Octavia Butler (2005)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on August 19, 2008 by Gina

This book has been on my TBR for probably the longest of all my books.  My husband heard a NPR review of it sometime in late 2006 and asked me to put it on my TBR list.   Even with a near 2 year wait for this book, I was not disappointed.  The only disappointment I have is that Ms. Butler tragically died in February of 2006 and will not be able to finish the story which she began in Fledgling

Fledgling is not just another vampire tale.  The creativity in which the Ina are introduced is astounding.  The writing beautifully woven to just give the reader enough information to connect to the characters.  Shori is tragic and strong with each stroke of the pen.  

I found Ms. Butler’s story to be one that flowed well.  I was engaged and involved with the lives of Shori and her symbionts.  The first two-thirds of the book had Shori and her symbionts on the run from the murderous racist that annihilated her family.    The last third of the book focused on finding justice.  The final third of the book deals with many societal issues.  Racism.  Crime.  Justice System. 

Overall, Fledgling is a well written, enjoyable book that leaves you wanting more.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Gina’s review)

Posted in Fiction, Gina on July 25, 2008 by Gina

“Nothing good ever happens in the cafeteria.   The cafeteria is a giant sound stage where they film daily segments of Teenage Humiliation Rituals.  And it smells gross.”   Melinda (pg 104)

The first day of high school is difficult under the best of circumstances:  Melinda’s circumstances are far from best.   Her friends aren’t talking to her.   The other kid’s at school are talking about her.  And Melinda…well, she’s just not talking.  

They want me to speak”  -Melinda (pg 113)

This is a well written book about a young girl’s struggle with the truth.   Anderson reveals the story slowly and methodically.  The reader travels the road to enlightenment and truth with Melinda with beautiful phrasing and eloquent writing.   We get to know Melinda through her thoughts.  

“Do they chose to be so dense?  Were they born that way?  I have no friends.  I have nothing.  I say nothing.  I am nothing.  I wonder how long it takes to ride a bus to Arizona.”   – Melinda (pg 116)

You can find my fellow Rather Reader’s reviews here and here (major spoiler in this one).

TBR Challenge: A Long Way Gone:Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2007)

Posted in Gina, Non-Fiction, TBR Challenge on July 16, 2008 by Gina

A Long Way Gone was possibly the hardest book I have ever read — emotionally speaking that is.  I am fearful that I will not convey the beauty and the brutality of this book with this review.  I will try so that Ishmael’s story can reach others- because it is a story in need of hearing.  

From the front/back flap:

This is how wars are fought now:  by children, traumatized, hopped-up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s.  Children have become the soldiers of choice.  In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers.  Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. 

What does war look like through the eyes of a child soldier?  How does one become a killer?  How does one stop?  Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives.  But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah, now twenty-six years old, tells a powerfully gripping story:  At the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence.  By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.  At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and finally, to heal.

This is an extraordinary and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

This book floored me.  I was amazed at this boys story.  By the time I had finished this book, so many different feelings were brought up from within me.  I was horrified what war had done to the country of Sierra Leone.  You expect that war will be atrocious.  You can even allow that one side may be malicious.  However, both sides of this war acted with such inhumanity and brutality that I can barely recognize them as human at all. 

I was shocked at how normal people reacted to the war.  It was horrible what Ishmael and his friends were subjected to by just regular people who were also fleeing the war.  This was probably one of the most saddening aspects of the book.  Normal men were willing to kill children because they feared these boys; this makes me sad and frightened for our world. 

I loved his telling of his first trip to the United States, specifically to New York City.  He describes the New York that he expected,

My conception of New York City came from rap music.  I envisioned it as a place where people shot each other on the street and got away with it; no one walked on the streets, rather people drove in their sports cars looking for nightclubs and for violence.”

He was shocked with the truths of New York City.  It was the first time that he’d seen snow or experienced winter with its extreme cold and shorten daylight hours.  He says upon his arrival,

“I knew the word ‘winter’ from Shakespeare’s texts and I thought I should look up its meaning again…I felt my skin tighten, I couldn’t feel my face, and it seemed my ears had fallen off; my fingers hurt, and my teeth chattered…I had never in my life felt this cold.  How can anyone survive in this country” 

I would recommend everyone read this book simply because everyone should know that atrocities like this happen in our world.  It is this knowledge that can help us prevent them in the future.  

There are those who dispute Beah’s account.  I have no proof either way on the validity of Beah’s account.  I felt that I should inform readers of the controversy surrounding this book.   

 You can see the other TBR Day participants here.




TBR Day: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge, Uncategorized on June 18, 2008 by Gina

I was told I just had to read this series almost a decade ago.  In fact, annually one or two friends would say, “You haven’t read them yet.”  I just never did.  This month I chose to jump into the series head first for the TBR Day Challenge.   I read the first two books in the series, Naked in Death and Glory in Death.

I enjoyed the books and can’t wait to read more.  Roarke is mysterious and exciting.  I love his passion for life and for Eve.  Eve is a great main character.  Strong with just a touch of vunerability.  One of the best aspects is that there are hints of Eve’s past and her situation, but it is not what the book is about.  The main mystery of the book takes center stage and doesn’t get overshadowed by Eve’s past. 

The crime solving mystery is outstanding.  I loved the twists and digging for the truth. It was complex enough that I was able to guess the some of the details but not all of them.   The crimes were interesting and Eve’s passion for the victims made the stories interesting.

My initial hesitation at some of the technology used in their future has been calmed.  While I still don’t think it is all plausible, I don’t get hung up on it anymore.   

Great books.  I am excited that there are plenty for me to read without waiting for the new one to come out. 


Thicket: Alabama Redefined June/July 08 issue

Posted in Gina, Magazine, Non-Fiction, South on June 4, 2008 by Gina

Our household has been getting a free sample subscription of a new Alabama magazine for a few months.   The magazine is called Thicket.   I have enjoyed the two issues that we have gotten.  So much so, I am considering subscribing to it when our household never actually subscribes to ANY magazines.  Sure we get some as gifts.  But we don’t subscribe and haven’t for years.  

The name Thicket is catchy.  It  comes from the Native American origin of Alabama.  al-a-bam-a: from the Choctaw alba (meaning plants) and amo (meaning to cut); to clear the thicket.  It isn’t a huge magazine only about 80 pages.  But it is full of articles about our great state.  I counted nine actual articles.  (Which is far more page per page than the Glamour that the flight attendant passed to me during our flight out of Rhode Island last weekend.) 

There is an excellent article on Patricia Barnes aka Sister Schubert.  If you haven’t had a Sister Schubert roll then you are missing something great. You should go directly to you grocery store to see if they carry them (in the freezer section.)   (I personally like the rolls wrapped around the little sausages best.  Patricia’s favorites are the orange rolls….which I also can attest are awesome.)  In the 1980’s, Patricia had a small side catering business.  She donated eight pans of her rolls to a church fundraiser in 1989.  Two years later, in 1991, the church had preorders for 300 pans.  By 2000, she sold the company, where she and her husband still work, for $40million.  The article was very interesting. I especially enjoyed the part where the mayor of a struggling Luverne, AL wooed her to open her first large bakery in his town.  Also, interesting was the part about how she and her husband have chosen to give back to the world from the wealth they have worked for. 

Thicket also has the staples of these types of magazines.  It has a few book and music recommendations.  It has a calendar of events for the state.  Anyone interested in the 4th Annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival in Foley or The Alabama Blueberry Festival in Brewton or possibly the Hank Williams Festival of Georgiana is more your cup of tea.   The photos in the magazine are beautiful and truly embrace Alabama at its best.

My favorite part of Thicket has to be the human interest mini-articles (some not much more than a paragraph.)  I fell in love with Chris and Gary Wheeler or Locust Fork.  They are a couple who retired from their jobs with the Postal Service and quilt together.  They are pictured with their quilts.  One is hers. One is his.   I love a man who can quilt! 

I love this magazine.  I am an Alabamian.  This magazine just puts the greatness that is Alabama in the forefront of people’s minds. 



TBR Challenge: The Non-Runner’s Marathon Guide For Women by Dawn Dais

Posted in Gina, Non-Fiction, TBR Challenge on May 21, 2008 by Gina

With a subtitle of “Get Off Your Butt And On With Your Training,” how can you not love this book.

 Almost four years ago, after developing gestational diabetes,  a doctor told me that I needed to do something drastic to keep from developing diabetes when I am older.   She suggested training to do marathons which is what she had done.  I was stunned at the thought of it.  My husband supported me as I tried to make changes to our lifestyle.  We began eating healthier and exercising regularly.   I walked –occasionally jogged a bit– but never really trained for a marathon.  It was always in the back of my mind.  Almost a year ago, I found the book and put it on my wish list over at PBS.  Just as soon as it arrived, I cracked it open and continued my journey. 

This book is hilarious.  If you want to run (or walk) a marathon (or half-marathon), this book is for you.  If a marathon is not on your to do list, I would recommend it to you anyway.  Dawn Dais is straight forward and full of fun notions about running.  Her journal entries are “roll on the floor” funny at times.  She is straight forward with the readers on the negative aspects of running and marathon training.   She lays out the important details for those who are following the training schedule.  What type of clothes should you wear?  What are the essentials?  What is GU? (I didn’t know either, don’t worry she explains it all.) 

I am wrapping up my third week of training.  It is exhilarating and empowering.  I find great delight in choosing which half marathon I am going to finish.  It is between Chattanooga in November and South Carolina in December.  This book is a winner all the way.




TBR Challenge: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (2003)

Posted in Christian, Gina, Non-Fiction, Religious, TBR Challenge with tags , on April 15, 2008 by Gina

Blue like Jazz was a breath of fresh air for me. It has been the best book of the year. Probably one of the best ever. Miller takes Christian spirituality and puts it in a different perspective than mainstream Christianity. He breaks the mold. He takes on the Christian right and introduces us to the Christian left. I am not one to quote huge sections of books; however, the author’s note is worth a large chunk of text. So here it goes.

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.

I hope this is true for my life that I can show someone–anyone– that I love God and that it affects my being and my life. Anyway, back to the review. Awhile back, I was sent a link to a review of this book. It was a good review. It made me want to read it. However, I keep coming back to the problem that the review was wrong. The review was based on the fact that the reviewer didn’t consider Miller Christian. This is untrue. Miller is a different type of Christian–but he is one just the same. It is bothersome to me that the reviewer could be so close-minded. Although, it is more bothersome to me that many Christians would agree with her. You see Miller is politically liberal. He lived with dope smoking hippies in the woods. He cusses openly. He is a sinner and not perfect. Many in Christian society find this to be unacceptable. They believe that Christians must act a certain way, behave in a particular manner, and only show the positive sides of their lives to the world. This is the way they choose to set themselves apart in order to bring others to Christ’s love. This is not Miller’s way nor is it mine. I will state it right here for all to see in the great chasm of the internet. I am not perfect. I sin. I have problems. I don’t always do what I believe is right thing. On occasion, I don’t even try. I am human. But. I also love Jesus Christ. I believe in Him. I trust the movements of my spirit and my heart. I trust the answered prayers so prevalent in my life. I love Jesus and not in that bumper sticker way. Miller has challenged me to go even deeper with this love that I have for Jesus.

I wanted to briefly include parts of a favorite passage of mine. This passage follows a time when Miller and a few fellow believers set up a confessional booth at Reed College’s Ren Fayre festival in Portland. They were confessing the sins of Christians against the world to the students.

I felt very strongly that Jesus was relevant in this place. I felt very strongly that if He was not relevant here then He was not relevant anywhere. I felt very connected to God because I had confessed so much to so many people…I had been forgiven by the people I had wronged with my indifference and judgmentalism…I was out of the closet now. A Christian. So many years before I had made amends to God, but now I had made amends to the world. I was somebody who was willing to share my faith.

If you are a Christian, then you should read this book.
If you are a non-Christian, then you should read this book.
If you can read, then you should read this book.

It is funny. It is refreshing. It is honest.