Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Classics Challenge Wrap-up

I sadly did not discover The Classics Challenge until August. I chose to read a “Classics Snack” of four books as I joined the challenge so late.

The books I chose were:

1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

I finished these books (I just finished The Bridge of San Luis Rey yesterday!) and also read two other classics.

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.H. Milne
2. Lady Susan by Jane Austen

I also read a couple of classics during the time period of this challenge, but before I joined:

1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
2. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
3. Emma by Jane Austen

I finished two books ahead of my goal of four books, and managed to read the books I set out to read (sometimes I have a hard time sticking to lists!). I sadly did not get a chance to read my bonus book.

I loved this challenge. Thank-you to Trish for hosting this fantastic challenge! I loved reading what other classics people were reading. I also loved that this challenge allowed books that were read in other challenges as well as audiobooks. I am looking forward to The Classics Challenge 2010!

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is an excellent novel that won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize, was listed as one of the top 100 books of the 20th century by the American Modern Library in 1998, and was included by Time Magazine in the “Time 100 Best English language novels from 1923 to 2005”.

This book is not just a stuffy old book, but a part of our modern culture. It was referenced by Tony Blair in a memorial service for the victims of September 11th and was also referenced by both Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson in 2007 after the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse (according to my friends at Wikipedia).

My Engineering Review:
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is the story how improper bridge maintenance led to structural failure of a bridge in eighteenth century Peru, killing five people in the process.

Plot Summary:
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a wonderful novel that is set up very uniquely. It starts with the fall of the Bridge of San Luis Rey, an accident that kills five people. A monk, Brother Juniper, decides to research these five people to determine why this tragic accident happened to these five particular people. The book then breaks into three sections that detail the lives of three of the victims.

The Marquesa de Montemayor is a tragic, unstable woman. She is estranged from her daughter, Dona Clara, who lives in Spain. She writes beautiful letters to her daughter that become literary masterpieces as they pass through the ages. Estaban is a twin, who has experienced tragedy and decides to a life at sea. Uncle Pio is a man of all trades who trained a young girl, Camilla, to become a great actress. These people all lived fascinating, quite different lives, but they were all struck down by the tragic accident.

The last section of the novel is a wrap-up of the characters that these people loved and of Brother Juniper’s research.

My thoughts:
I loved this novel. It was very beautifully written. It searched for the meaning of “acts of God.” Does God strike down some people because they deserved it, or is it all random? We hear about accidents all of the time. This put a face to five people who would have been nameless statistics in a tragic accident. Although fictional, it made me think about other people that are just blips in the news in accidents.

I also loved Camilla, the beautiful actress that was also the mistress of the Viceroy. She was not one of the victims, but she was in some way connected to each victim. Overall through the novel, it painted a very interesting picture of this woman.

My favorite quotes:
1. “Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.” Brother Jupiter’s main thesis that he tries to prove by researching the accident victims.

2. “Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do no lose a feather that has not been brushed by the finger of God.

3. “ . . .another was the scientist Azuarius whose treatise on the laws of hydraulics was suppressed by the Inquisition as being too exciting.”

Too exciting? Hydraulics? Wow – hydraulics is my main passion as an engineer, I have never read anything in a novel relating to this before!

4. “She saw that the people of this world moved with about in an armour of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires.”

Wow – when was this book published, 1927? This could describe our society today!

5. “The discrepancy between faith and facts is greater than generally assumed.”

In other words, don’t try to proof faith with facts . . . you are missing the point of faith!

6. “But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is the sixth and final novel in my reading for The Classics Challenge. I loved it and highly recommend it to any lovers of literature. The author, Thornton Wilder, is best known for his play, Our Town, and for winning three Pulitzer prizes, including one for this book. Thornton Wilder was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the capital of my fair state. Therefore, I am counting him as a Literary Local.

Book Source: I bought this book at a used book sale or Antique store as some point in the distant past. I am glad the Classics Challenge came along and finally convinced me to take it off the dusty shelf and read it. I was not disappointed. My edition is a beautiful old edition from 1928. I love old books!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

I stayed up too late on Sunday night to finish An Echo in the Bone. After taking my time to read it and savor it, the last hundred pages or so were too intriguing to stop reading. As it took me a long time to read and think about this novel, I have a very long and detailed review to go with it!

Overall I thought An Echo in the Bone was another superb novel from my one of my all-time favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. For those of you not in the know, An Echo in the Bone is the seventh novel in the Outlander series of books that follows the life of Claire Beauchamp, a British WWII nurse that traveled back through time to 1740’s Scotland and met and married her soul mate, a Scottish clansman named Jamie Fraser. The series of books follows the tumultuously lives of our two (at times) star-crossed lovers, their friends, and family.

Gabaldon writes with wonderful detail. It is hard to classify these novels as they are historical fiction, science fiction (with the time travel element), romance, etc. They are many things, but they are also one thing – excellent.

I started reading back the Outlander series in 1994 or so. I was sorting books at the library for a used book sale with my best friend Jenn and came across Outlander. It looked interesting so I purchased it. I couldn't put it down when I read it and my passion for Outlander started at that moment. It has been brutal waiting for years to find out what will happen next!

My “brief” summary of the novel (includes plot elements)

An Echo in the Bone finds the Frasers in America at Fraser’s Ridge at the start of the Revolutionary War. The book follows quite a few storylines and view points this time, instead of sticking mostly with Claire. The main thread is Claire and Jamie. Jamie decides that in order to avoid meeting his illegitimate son William over the barrel of a gun in the war (Jamie is on the American side, William the British), he will avoid the war by returning to Scotland to retrieve his printing press. He would rather fight with words than with violence. As always, Claire and Jamie’s voyage does not go as planned and much adventure ensures.

Another thread follows Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna, her husband Roger, and their two children in Scotland in 1980. They have settled at Lallybroch (Jamie’s ancestral farm). I loved that they were back at Lallybroch. Roger struggles to find a place in the modern world, while Brianna takes a job as an inspector of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board. A mysterious visitor from the past causes a crisis in the family.

Yet another thread follows Lord John Grey, Jamie’s good friend. Lord John is bisexual and has a long standing infatuation for Jamie. Truthfully I am not a Lord John fan. I haven’t read any of the spin-off novels, but after being slightly confused on his sections in this book, I think I’m going to have to finally read them. Lord John is an okay character, just not one of my favorite characters. In this novel, he is trying to track down different spies, while keeping tabs on his step-son William (Jamie’s natural son) and other family members. As I read the novel, Lord John grew on me. I wasn’t too keen on his trying to figure out about spies’ chapters, but I did love the chapters about him and his family. He has a great love for his family and is an honorable man.

William in the fourth main character thread in this novel. He is an Earl, but also a lieutenant in his majesty’s army. He develops in the novel from a young inexperienced officer, to a man. I enjoyed reading about him. He runs into various characters from the other threads and also has some spying adventures throughout the novel where he runs into historical characters. I especially loved when he met Nathan Hale. It was also interesting to read about the Revolutionary War from the prospective of a British and not American officer.

A fifth thread in the book was about Jamie’s nephew Ian. Ian spent much of his time with Claire and Jamie, but he also had a lot going on by himself. After a terrible tragedy, a fellow highlander declares a vengeance on young Ian and those he loves the most. Ian’s back story with his life with the Indians is detailed and he falls in love with a young Quaker woman, Rachel Hunter. Truthfully it seemed to me like a great love triangle with Rachel, William, and Ian. I really enjoyed their portion of the novel and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Wow, there is a lot going on in this novel and a lot of characters you may be saying at this point. Actually I have only touched the tip of the iceberg . . . there are other characters such as Fergus, Marsali, Laoghaire, Jenny, Ian, etc. that have major plot points. There are pirates, revolutionary war battles, murder, adventure, etc. It is a must read!

SPOILER ALERT (If you haven’t read the novel, I wouldn’t read any further as I am going to discuss plot points in detail)

I am very pleased at Brianna’s being a woman engineer in 1980 and earlier. It is hard to find any mention of engineers in any sort of novel, let alone a woman engineer. As a woman engineer myself, I loved reading about her trials at work. I love Diana’s detail of science in the 18th century as well. I always love reading what experiments Claire is up too.

My favorite part of the novel was the love triangle as discussed above. I was frankly kind of surprised by the love between Rachel and Ian as I thought Rachel and William were going to become an item. William was still protecting her to the end and I have to wonder if this won’t develop into something more or if Rachel and Ian will indeed be together in the next novel. Did anyone else enjoy this love story as much as I did?

I enjoyed the entire novel, but what I liked least was the end. Ahhh!!! So many cliffhangers and we will have to wait years to find out what happens. I am most concerned about young Jem. He is in that dark tunnel heading down the tracks to the place that caused Brianna to pass out. What will happen? Will Roger and “Uncle Buck” discover Rob’s trick and make it back to the future? Will Brianna be able to stop Rob?

And of course there is the entire marriage between Claire and Lord John. Truthfully, the last section seemed to me like Claire was in a haze. She didn’t believe Jamie had died and seemed to be just going through the motions and not all there. They married to protect her and her family (Fergus etc.). I certainly wasn’t expecting them to have a night of passion, but it made sense to me. Both of these individuals loved Jamie so much, they would have to have something in common. And strangely they both seemed to be making love to Jamie while they made love. I’m not sure what is going to happen now that Jamie is back. It seemed like he was understanding of the situation in the end, but it will be strange!! It all happened so fast.

I was also concerned about the relationship between Jenny and Claire. I don’t like that they are enemies now. They were such friends in the past, and it really seems like Jenny has been treating Claire rather badly since she came back to find Jamie. I hope that now that she is in America, she and Claire will reconcile.

There were so many other mysteries besides the main cliffhangers. What happened to Roger’s father? When will Fergus learn his true identity and what will he do with it? Who was “the nameless girl” that Jamie thought about?

My favorite quotes:

Claire to Jamie (page 123):

“I took his face between my hands, and wished so much that I had his own gift, the ability to say what lay in my heart, in such a way that he would know. But I hadn’t.

‘Jamie,’ I said at last. ‘Oh, Jamie. You’re . . . everything. Always.’”

Don’t we all have problems expressing our feelings at times? I think Claire did a great job!

Fergus to Jamie (page 182):

“’Then I grew older still, and discovered that, after all, it was true. I am the son of a great man.’

The hook touched Jamie’s hand, hard and capable.

‘I wish for nothing more.’”

Jamie sure does inspire love in people. I love how Fergus tells him how much he means to him as a father figure.

Jamie thinking about the Revolutionary war (page 529):

“A man’s life had to have more purpose than only to feed himself each day. And this was a grand purpose – grander, maybe, than anyone else fighting for it knew. And if it took his own life in the doing . . . he wouldn’t enjoy it, but he’d be comforted in the dying, knowing he’d helped. “

Claire at General Simon Fraser’s Funeral (page 657):

“I wondered what sort of man – or woman, perhaps? – had lain here, leaving no more than an echo of their bones, so much more fragile than the enduring rocks that sheltered them.”

Overall, this was an excellent novel and has left me wanting to read the next one RIGHT NOW. This is not a book to rush through, but one to savor and really enjoy. If you have not yet read the Outlander series, I highly recommend that you do!

Book Source: Personal Copy Pre-ordered from

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Winner of the A Change In Altitude Giveaway!

Congrats to Laura of A Library of Clean Reads! She won a copy of A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve courtesy of Miriam of Hachette Book Group. Using, Laura won with the lucky number thirteen! I have emailed Laura and as soon as I hear back from her, I will send her information to Hachette Book Group.

Didn't win this giveaway? I still have a giveaway going until November 6th for The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve Giveaway Ends Tonight!!

Just a friendly reminder that my giveaway for one copy of A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve ends tonight at midnight. If you haven't had a chance yet, click here to enter the giveaway. Shreve is one of my favorite authors and this book is a riveting tale of a marriage in crisis set in 1970's Kenya.

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (audio)

At my last book club meeting, everyone was discussing The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. They had all read it separately and loved it. I felt very left out so I snapped up the audiobook at the library last week.

Nicholas Sparks writes wonderful novels that really speak to the great love of ordinary people. I enjoyed The Notebook, but I believe that you can really tell that it was his first novel. Every novel I’ve read since then has shown his growth as a writer and it is great to experience that as a reader.

The Choice is the story of two neighbors, Travis and Gabby. They are both animal lovers, but complete opposites in personality. They meet when Gabby tells Travis off for his dog presumably getting her dog pregnant. Sparks fly and the two soon fall in love. Unfortunately, Gabby also has a boyfriend of four years named Kevin. She has to make a choice between the two.

The novel changes in the third act and it completely threw me by surprise. I don’t want to spoil the plot here, but Sparks really puts some heart wrenching, real world issues into the story. It really made me think about life and choices we all must face.

The best part of this novel was the characters. I loved the descriptions of Travis’ friends and sister. They sounded like great people I would love to hang out with.

Overall, this was a great book that I really enjoyed. Luckily I had to do a lot of driving for work this week as I couldn’t stop listening to it! I can’t wait to be in the know at our next book club meeting.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fabulous Blog Awards!

Thank-you very much for the wonderful blog awards that I have received in the past month. I am happy that people read and enjoy my blog! I've been working on this post forever so I am glad to finally get it posted!

Who Loves You Baby! Award

Thanks to Velvet of vb32 reads , Michelle of The True Book Addict, and Tif of Tif Talks Books. I would have given you all this award if you hadn't given it to me - I love your blogs!
The Who Loves You Baby! Award is given to those bloggers whom you love and who have awarded you in the past! Pass it on!

I also received the Super Comments Award from Tif of Tif Talks Books.

Thank-you so much! You have super comments on my blog Tif and I want to give this award to you too! I love this award, it is my second time receiving it. I'm glad that you like my comments, I enjoy reading your blog and making comments. I also enjoy the comments you make on my blog! I passed this award on to a couple of my super commenters last month (Suko's Notebook and vb32 reads) , therefore I'll pick a few different commenters this month. My super commenters for this month are:

1. Lula O of Strickly Letters
2. Stacy's Books
3. Chapter Chit Chat
4. Carol's Notebook
5. Gofita's Pages
6. Linda Kage Contemporary Romance Author
7. Mom - Musings
8. Yule Time Readings
9. Fuzzy Cricket
10. The True Book Addict

Thank-you to everyone that comments on my blog. I really enjoy reading through everyone's comments and insights. It makes book blogging worthwhile!

I received the Let's Be Friends award from Susan of Suko's Notebook--thank you so much!

Here's the description of the award:

"Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers."

I love Susan's description that she added too . . ."Some of you probably have gotten this award already, maybe even multiple times. Nevertheless, we read the same books. Or plan to. We bump into each other on book blog tours. We join the same challenges. We leave comments on each others' blogs. So let's be friends":

1. vvb32 Reads
2. Trish's Reading Nook
3. Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings
4. Austenprose
5. BlackSheepBooks
6. He Followed Me Home . . . Can I Keep Him?
7. Outlandish Observations
8. Stephanie's Written Word
9. Torch Under the Blanket Reviews
10. Slice of Life

I got this wonderful award from Heather at Gofita's Pages. Thanks so much!

This award is meant to pat on the back the ones paying particular attention to their blog presentation, and god knows some of them looks awesome! Of course none of them are pretty empty shells, so there’s no shame to mention how nice their blogs are!

Here are the rules:

1. Post the award on your blog, with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.

2. Pass the award to 5 other blogs that your particularly like. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

1. Suko's Notebook
2. Tif Talks Books
3. Book Nut
4. Jane Austen Today
5. Peeking Between the Pages
6. The True Book Addict

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (audio)

I am ashamed to admit that although I have read certain Austen novels countless times (such as Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion); I have only read Sense and Sensibility once. I read it in preparation for the release of the movie back in 1995. The movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. Although I know it is bad, I think the movie had replaced the book in my regard. I watched the movie so many times; I figured I didn’t need to read the novel again.

Therefore, it was fantastic to reread (or listen!) to the novel again and see what I’ve been missing by only watching the movie. For those of you who have not seen the excellent movie, recent mini-series on PBS, or read the novel, Sense and Sensibility is the story of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne (a third sister, Margaret is too young to be involved in the general action). Elinor is the elder sister and more reserved in her emotion, while Marianne is outgoing and definitely wears her emotions on her sleeves. The novel is the story of their romances and disappointments.

I felt old listening to this novel as Colonel Brandon is considered “old” by Marianne for being 35. But then again as a potential suitor to Marianne (who is not yet 17) that would be old. Mrs. Dashwood is talked of as being old by Mr. John Dashwood and Fanny although she is not yet 40. I am “not yet” 32 and this left me all feeling quite aged.

I thought it was very interesting that there was no detail on the start of Edward and Elinor’s romance. Like them, it must have been quiet. Like Mr. John Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings, I thought during the novel that Elinor and Colonel Brandon should be a match as they seemed so well suited to one another. I loved the detail on Colonel Brandon’s lost love and Eliza that is lost in the movie. I really want to read Colonel Brandon’s Diary. I hope there is more detail on his romantic past!

I must admit that the most riveting part of the book (and movie) for me is Willoughby. In a poll last month on this blog, I asked readers to identify their favorite Austen bad boy. Mr. John Willoughby won by a landslide with 70%, with Captain Tilney second with 20% and Mr. George Wickham third with 10%. Willoughby is loved even though I think he is the worst cad in Austen novels. What other bad boy fathered a child on another and then abandoned her?

As I listened to this novel, I wondered if he truly loved Marianne or if he only loved her because she was “the one that got away.” I’ve always believed in Willoughby’s passion, probably because of Greg Wise’s wonderful performance, but now I’m not sure. Sound off below in the comments – did Willoughby truly love Marianne, or just because she got away? Would he have seduced her if he could? Would he have become bored with her if he would have married her (as the novel suggests)? I noticed that Colonel Brandon’s key line (that is in the movie) that Willoughby did truly love Marianne is missing from the novel. Willoughby did visit during Marianne’s sickness and profess his true love for Marianne to Elinor. How much do we trust him?

I thought it was very interesting that both Willoughby and Edward disappoint the Dashwood sister by polar opposites. Edward is consistent in his 1st engagement, while Willoughby is inconsistent with his many ladies. Edward is never much of a fan favorite Austen hero. What are your thoughts? Please comment!

In Sense and Sensibility, money is once again a key theme as in all of Austen’s novels. The plight of the Dashwood sisters is mostly caused by the fact that their father’s estate was entailed to their half-brother and they do not have large portions to marry with. This brings about the timeless question of marrying for money versus love (as I discussed in my Mansfield Park review). It is interesting that how families treat one another over money matters is still prevalent in today’s society.

I listened to the audiobook as read by Wanda McCaddon. She did an excellent job. As part of the Everything Austen Challenge, I have listened to Austen novels on audiobook for the first time. I think these novels are excellent to be listened too. Austen has such witty dialogue that is begged to be read aloud as the Austen family must have done while Jane wrote the novels. I highly recommend the audiobook of this novel.

This audiobook version of Sense and Sensibility is the twelve item in my Everything Austen Challenge. I have now completed the Everything Austen X2 Challenge. I have more items on my list so I am going to continue on! I want to watch the Sense and Sensibility movie again after having listened to the novel and have several books on my nightstand. Sense and Sensibility is also the fifth item in my Classic Challenge List.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Monday, October 19, 2009

Giveaway - The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I have two copies to give away of The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it, especially to fans of historical fiction. My Kewaunee Library Book Club read this book last fall and we all enjoyed it.

My original review can be found here (there are some spoilers in the review), but here is my summary.

The novel is a great tale of the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters as well as a great social commentary on the evils of the Salem witch trials. It was a unique perspective seeing it all through the eyes of an accused child. It was very interesting as the characters in the novel are all based on real historical people. The author is a descendant of Martha Carrier.This was a very good historical fiction novel and I highly recommend it.

Book Summary (from the Book Publisher):
Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

About the Author (from the Book Publisher):
Kathleen Kent lives in Dallas with her husband and son. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is her first novel.

Giveaway Details:
Now for the details you are really looking for . . . Valerie at Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer two copies of The Heretic's Daugher as a giveaway. If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment. I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday November 6th. Good luck!

Christmas Reading Challenge

Michelle of the True Book Addict is hosting a Christmas Reading Challenge. I love to read Christmas novels during the season! You can pick 1-3 books to read from November 26th to December 31st.

I love Christmas books, but am pretty booked on books I need to read in the next couple of months. I'm going to aim for two books, and if I read over this, it will be good, and it not, I'm still good!

The two books I have on my night stand that I would love to read are:

1. War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card

2. Silver Bells by Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton, and Judy Duarte

Thank-you for hosting such a great challenge Michelle!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Winner of the Jack the Ripper Giveaway!

Congratulations to Sue of the Michelson Family Blog for winning the Jack the Ripper Giveaway. Sue has been contacted by email and I will send her Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell and The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry when I receive her address. was used to determine the winner of this giveaway.

Didn't win this contest? I still have a giveaway going on for A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve, which ends this Friday, October 23rd at midnight. I will also have a new giveaway up in the next couple of days . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

I read Lady Susan as part of the wonderful Soiree held by Laurel Ann on Austenprose last month. I am a bit late in finally posting my review.

The first and only time I read Lady Susan was as a teenager. It was very nice to read it again. I didn’t remember much of the plot so it was like reading a brand new Jane Austen novel, which is always a good experience!

This is a very early Austen work that is written in epistolary form. Lady Susan Vernon is “the most accomplished coquette in England.” She is a beautiful widow that is able to wrap men around her fingers seemingly at whim. She writes wonderful letters to her brother and sister in law, but we learn what she is truly feeling through her catty letters to her best friend Alicia. After a scandal, Lady Susan visits her in-laws and attempts to seduce her sister-in-law’s brother, Reginald. Although Reginald starts off being against her, Lady Susan soon has him under her spell. Unfortunately her daughter Frederica runs away from her school in London, and it is discovered by Reginald and her in-laws that Lady Susan is trying to force her daughter into marriage with a very dull man that Frederica does not love. Will Frederica be forced into marriage? Will Reginald discover Lady Susan’s true nature? You will have to read the book to discover the answers for yourself.

I enjoyed the novella immensely and my understanding and enjoyment were enhanced by being a part of the Soiree. While not as polished as her later novels, Lady Susan shows Austen’s wit and has many fine quotes. Here are just a few fine examples:

“Where pride and stupidity unite there can be no dissimulation worthy notice.” Reginald De Courcy

“Education will gain a woman some applause, but will not add one lover to her list–grace and manner, after all, are of the greatest importance.” Lady Susan

“I have never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young man’s being in love if he chose.” Lady Susan

I was very excited to win Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway from Laurel Ann at Austenprose. I can’t wait to read more about Lady Susan and Frederica.

Lady Susan is item number 11 in my Everything Austen Challenge list and item number 4 for my Classics Challenge list.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jack the Ripper Giveaway ends Tomorrow (Friday) Night!

Just a reminder that my giveaway for two gently used Jack the Ripper thrillers (Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell and The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry) ends tomorrow night (Friday the 16th) at midnight. If you have not yet entered this giveaway, details can be found here!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

My FLICKS Book and Movie Club had two selections this month; Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie and The Diary by Eileen Goudge. I realized last week that my book club was coming up on me fast (it’s tomorrow!) and that I had to reluctantly put down Echo in the Bone to read The Diary.

The Diary was a nice interlude to my giant Echo in the Bone read. The Diary is the story of two sisters who are sorting through their mother’s belongings. Elizabeth “Bets” Marshall has recently had a stroke and has had to move to assisted living. Her daughters, Emily and Sarah, discover and old diary of Elizabeth’s from the period directly before she married their father. To their surprise, they discover that their boring and conventional mother had loved someone other than their father prior to their marriage. The book flashes back to Elizabeth’s life in the early 1950’s Nebraska through the diary entries and we are able to witness her love triangle.

This was a good love story. I especially liked the angle of the daughters realizing that their mother had a passionate past and was young once too. The only negative was the author’s note. I wish it would have been at the end of the story. It was at the beginning, and after reading it, I guessed the twist that the story had. I wish I wouldn’t have known! If you read this book, I highly recommend that you skip the note until you finish reading the novel.

I had two favorite quotes in this book. On page 62, “Would she and Bob be like that someday, just another stout, silver-haired couple bragging to people at parties about the accomplishments of their children, more interested in the offerings of the buffet than any delights to be had later in the bedroom?” That’s what you think my dear! It’s funny that the young always assume that older people have no passion left in their life. As you get older and really start listening to people in the older generation you realize there is still love and passion between them (even if one doesn’t really want to think about it!).

My other favorite quote was on the next page, 63. “Never mind that his father was a midlevel engineer and his family lived in a house the size of the servants’ wing at the Olsens.’” I was reminded once again that engineering is not a career to bring me great riches! I was glad an engineer was mentioned in the book, but once again he was a boring type of soul. I am still waiting for an action hero engineer as a main character!

Overall, this novel was a quick, nice romance story.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Luck be with Laura Tonight . . .

My lucky streak seems to continue. I won three books in one week last month, which was very exciting. Thank-you to Laurel Ann from Austenprose for Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway as part off the very fun Soiree with Lady Susan, Mel at He Followed Me Home for The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks, and Lynne at Lynne's Letters for The Help by Kathyrn Stockett. The stars seemed to have wanted me to win The Last Song as I also won it from Sheri at A Novel Menagerie, but asked it to be passed on as I had already won a copy. I am very excited about all of these books and can't wait to read them!

After my week of luck, I also have won a few other books over the past couple of weeks. I won Lucan by futuristic romance author Susan Kearney from Author Kelly Moran's website. Last week I won A Highlander's Temptation by Sue Ellen Welfonder on Sapphire Romance Relm. You know I am always tempted by highlanders . . . if only I could get my husband in a kilt! Yesterday I won a Goulish Giveaway on Suko's Notebook, Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King. I have been meaning to read more Stephen King so I am very excited about this book.

Thank-you everyone for hosting such fantastic giveaways. I enjoy reading about the new books, being a part of the contests, winning some, and receiving them in the mail. My boys and dogs are always excited when a new package arrives! I look forward to reading all of this new stash. Thanks again!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Giveaway and Review: A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed reading all of her books for the past ten years or so after discovering her by reading The Pilot’s Wife. She writes riveting tales about relationships in emotional turmoil. Some of her books are set in modern day, while others are compelling historical fiction. I was very happy to receive a review copy of her latest book, A Change in Altitude from Miriam at Hachette Publishing.

A Change in Altitude ranks as one of my all time favorite Anita Shreve novels. I’ll admit, I didn’t like the last few novels as well as her earlier works, but this novel is a tour de force. Margaret and Patrick are a young married couple that has relocated to Kenya for Patrick’s research and work as a doctor. The two are invited by their landlords (a British couple) to join them and a Dutch couple on a hike of Mount Kenya. The hike does not go as planned with disastrous consequences. Afterwards Margaret struggles to find herself and to try to piece back together her marriage when trust has been lost.

My favorite character in this novel was Kenya itself. Shreve once lived in Africa and used it as a local in her novel The Last Time They Met. Learning about the culture and beauty of the country made this a very compelling read. I also liked the details of the hike itself. I can’t imagine just deciding to climb a mountain without any sort of physical preparation, especially after reading Three Cups of Tea. It was very interesting reading about the physical and emotional aspects of the climb.

I really liked the growth of Margaret throughout the novel. The struggle that she goes through was intriguing. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is a standard Shreve type of ending that has left me pondering.

If you would like to read more Shreve, I highly recommend The Weight of Water and Fortune’s Rocks besides this book. I love all of her novels, but I would pick these as my absolute favorites.

My favorite quote from this novel, "Not for the first time, Margaret reflected that it was impossible to know the truth about the marriage of another couple."

Giveaway Details:

Now for the details you are really looking for . . . Miriam at Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer one copy of A Change in Altitude as a giveaway. If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address in at least one of your comments. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. Leave a separate comment with a link to your post. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you must LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each one or they will not count.I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!). No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday October 23rd. Good luck!

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

My husband, son, and I have been working on reading Winnie-the-Pooh for a few months. Kile is only three, but seemed ready to take the next step into chapter books. Winnie-the-Pooh seemed like a well loved book to start with. I had never read the original classic myself, so it was fun for all of us to read it together.

Winnie-the-Pooh consists of ten chapters or stories of Edward the Bear, better known as Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie-the-Pooh lives in the hundred acre wood and has several friends such as Owl, Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo. Pooh runs into several dilemmas, but is always happy to use his “little brain” to solve the problems together with his friends. The drawings by Ernest H. Shepard are very good.

Overall I thought the stories were cute with some witty humor. I especially loved Pooh’s spelling troubles. Kile liked the stories a lot, but tended to sometimes lose interest if there weren’t enough pictures or they were too wordy. He is excited that we finished the book and is ready to pick up the other volume of Pooh stories at the library tomorrow. He did miss Tigger in this collection of stories, but is excited he is in the next novel.

I’m including this in my Classics Challenge count as it is a classic I had never read before and enjoyed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (audio)

My Kewaunee Library Book Club left our meeting last month in a fever to read The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. The library had one copy of the book and one audio copy. As I am the only one who listens to audiobooks, I was allotted the audio book. As I was 150th in the hold list at the library for the actual book, I figured it was a good deal.

The Lost Symbol is the third adventure story staring the erstwhile Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon. Langdon has been flown to Washington, D.C. for a last minute speech at the U.S. Capitol as a favor to his old friend, Peter Solomon. When he reaches the capitol, he discovers he has been brought to the capital under false pretences. He then quickly stumbles upon a horrific scene, and the hunt is on to discover a secret that the Masons have been keeping since the start of our nation.

SPOILER ALERT (for the rest of the review)
I thought the start of the novel was really slow. Four (out of fourteen) CDs into the book Robert Langdon was still walking around talking to the CIA director without any real action. Once the action started though, it was non-stop and it was hard to stop listening to the book as I really wanted to find out what happened. I thought the ending of the book was rather slow too after the climax.

I did like the nerdy details though in the slow start-up in the novel. I found the information to be intriguing. I thought the villain was rather cardboard one-dimensional. I had his secret figured out early on and I still do not really understand that character. It should be interesting to discuss at book club next week.

I thought the mystery itself was rather anti-climatic. It almost seemed like an appeasement for all of those who were shocked by The Da Vinci Code. What did others that read this book think?

I really liked Brown’s interesting take on how different religious practices can be misinterpreted by different people. It would be strange to walk into a Catholic church and see people drinking blood and the giant cross with a man being crucified on it if you had no clue about Christianity or Catholicism. That is why we should really learn about cultures and religions before making judgment.

My favorite quote: “Wow,” the homeless man thought, “She must really need a book” after seeing Katherine Solomon hitting the door of the Library of Congress trying to break her way in. I laughed out loud at this.

Overall it was an interesting and exciting book, but not as good as The Da Vinci Code.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Disney Classic Short Films: Three Little Pigs

My 3-year old son loves story time at our local library each Friday. After story time, we pick out new books to read for the week and he also likes to pick out a movie to watch. This week he picked out a new addition to the library, Disney Classic Short Films: Three Little Pigs.

My husband and I had fond memories of The Three Little Pigs, and we all looked forward to watching it during family movie night this past weekend. This DVD included the following classic Disney Short Films: Three Little Pigs, The Big Bad Wolf, Three Little Wolves, Lambert the Sheepish Lion, Chicken Little, Three Blind Mouseketeers, and Elmer Elephant.

It is fun watching old movies remembered fondly from childhood as an adult. I had not remembered just how scary these movies are. Kile had to sit on our laps or hide during several moments. He was sure the big bad wolf was going to get the three little pigs or red riding hood. He really enjoyed the songs “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” and “Lambert the Sheepish Lion.” His 17-month old brother Danny enjoyed them too and had fun dancing to them whenever they played on the TV. I think the music was the best part overall for the boys. Overall we enjoyed all of the movies, but I think Lambert the Sheepish Lion and Elmer Elephant were our favorites.

Side note – I certainly did not remember how Chicken Little ended. Luckily I don’t think Kile understood what was going on, but I was horrified. My husband thought it was really funny. Has anyone else seen this old Chicken Little movie? I’d like to discuss!

A Treasury of Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey

My sister Katie gave this great book to my son Kile on his first birthday. Since then we have read and reread all of the stories in this book to Kile. He has a great love for all things Curious George. We put the book away for awhile, and then pull it out again a few months later to read and enjoy again.

This treasury contains many great tales including: Curious George Takes a Train, Curious George Visits a Toy Store, Curious George and the Dump Truck, Curious George and the Birthday Party, Curious George Goes Camping, Curious George and the Costume Party, Curious George Visits the Library, and Curious George in the Big City. The table of contents has a picture next to each title, which allows my son to identify and to easily point out the story that he would like to read.

Each adventure is beautifully illustrated. Curious George always starts off visiting somewhere with his friend, the man with the yellow hat. There is some mishap, but Curious George always manages to save the day. His mishaps are very funny to my 3-year old son. His favorite lately has been Curious George Goes Camping. He likes how George stinks after being sprayed by a skunk.

Kile also likes to “read” this book by himself and look at the pictures. He likes picking out different stories to listen to during nap time. He also likes rediscovering it again after I’ve put it up for a few months. Curious George and his adventures are timeless, and this is a great collection of his adventures.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Giveaway - Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell and The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry

In order to celebrate Halloween, I will be giving away two gently used mass-market paper back copies of Jack the Ripper thrillers. These Jack the Ripper thrillers are Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell and The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry. In a matter of full disclosure, I used white-out to clear my name off of Portrait of a Killer on the first page. One winner will win both books. More about the novels:

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell (description from front page summary in book): Between August and November 1888, at least six women were murdered in London's Whitechapel area. The gruesome nature of their deaths caused panic and fear in the East End for months, and gave rise to the sobriquet that was to become shorthand for a serial killer - Jack the Ripper.

For more than a hundred years the murders have remained among the world's greatest unsolved crimes, and a wealth of theories have been posited which have pointed the finger at royalty, a barber, a doctor, a woman, and an artist. Using her formidable range of forensic and technicall skills, bestselling author Patricia Cornwell has applied the rigorous discipline of twenty-first-century police investigation to the extant material, and here presents the hard evidence that the perpetrator was . . . The answer lies within.

The Whitechapel Conspiracy by Anne Perry (from the back of the book): In 1892, the grisly murders of Whitechapel prostitutes by a killer dubbed Jack the Ripper remain a terrifying enigma. And in a packed Old Bailey courtroom, Superintendent Thomass Pitt's testimony cuases distinguised soldier John Adinett to be sentenced to be hang for the inexplicable murder of a friend. Instead of being praised for his key testimony, Pitt is removed from his station command and transferred to Whitechapel, one of East End's most dangerous slums. There he most work undercover investigating alleged anarchist plots. Among his few allies are his clever wife, Charlotte, and intrepid Grace, the maid who can travel unmarked in Whitechapel. But none of them anticipate the horrors to be revealed. . .

Giveaway Details:

There is one gently used mass market paperback copy of each book , for a total of two books for one winner. If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address in at least one of your comments. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. Leave a separate comment with a link to your post. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you must LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each one or they will not count.I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday October 16th. Good luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (audio)

I finished this audiobook just in time, the morning I received An Echo in the Bone. I was very glad to receive An Echo in the Bone as the ending of A Breath of Snow and Ashes left me wanting more. Four years after I first read A Breath of Snow and Ashes while suffering from extremely bad morning sickness with my first son, I will finally get to read the continuation of the story. Can you tell I’m excited?

A Breath of Snow and Ashes is a riveting read. While The Fiery Cross was a slower book that dwelled on the wonderful details of life in the eighteenth century, A Breath of Snow and Ashes gets back into the action. Kidnapping and daring rescues are included for several key plot points. There is also more on the mysterious Jacobite golden treasure and Claire discovers another traveler from the future. The action continues right up to the end of the novel!

I love the description in Gabaldon’s novels. One of my favorite things is her detailed descriptions of the scientific experiments of Claire and Brianna to create things that we take for granted. I’m an engineer and I love the scientific detail! I love how Gabaldon’s background is in science. I have also always been a fan of novels of pioneer life, and I enjoy the story of how Jamie, Claire and the other inhabitants of Fraser’s Ridge carve their lives out of the wilderness.

I once again listened to the abridged version of the novel read by Geraldine James. She did a fantastic job and the music was very good. I am glad I listened to the abridged version as I only finished the book up right before I received my copy of An Echo in the Bone. As I have stated on previous reviews, the abridged versions in no way compare to the actual full length novels and leave out many important details. They are a good refresher for those who have read and loved the novels. I need to listen to the full length audiobooks one of these days as well as actually reread all of the novels.

SPOILER ALERT. My favorite scene of this book is when Jamie rescued Claire from Hodgepile’s gang. I loved the entire scene from the drumming in the woods to the vengeance that Jamie takes on the men. From the description, you could see a highland army of men mysteriously in the woods wrecking havoc on the kidnappers. It was frightening, and riveting.

Smash! Crash! Written by Jon Scieszka Illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon

My 3-year son recently discovered Smash! Crash! at the library and loves every book of the Trucktown series that we can find. Smash! Crash! is the story of two friends, Jack Truck and Dump Truck Dan as they smash and crash their way through town and are pursued by a mysterious entity.

My son enjoys the smashing and crashing, but also enjoys identifying the trucks and their friends. He also loves the lesson that you may be scared of something, but if you face it, it could end up being a positive thing.

The only negative with this book is a technical negative. My husband and I are engineers and it bothers us that Cement Truck Melvin appears to mix sand and water to come up with cement. In reality he should be mixing cement, sand, and water to produce concrete. It just seems that you should be technically accurate, even in children’s books!

I love that the author started this series to get boys interested in reading. I know this is a problem, but luckily my 3-year old son is as addicted to books as his parents. Hopefully we can get my 1-year old as addicted!

My son just wants to find a Trucktown book that Pumper Pat and Hook and Ladder Lucy in it. Has anyone else found such a book?

Sheep Blast Off! Written By Nancy Shaw and Illustrated by Margot Apple

We found Sheep Blast Off! at the library and my son loves it. It tells the simple story of an alien vessel that lands on earth and a group of sheep that inadvertently take off in the ship and have a space adventure. The wording is very simplicistic, but the pictures tell a thousand words. My 3-year old son likes filling in the story by telling me what is going on with each page. If your child loves anything to do with rocket ships as mine does, they’ll be sure to enjoy this book!