Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda Review and GIVEAWAY!

Secret Daughter is a wonderful book about motherhood. It was the kind of book that I had a hard time putting down, and that had me thinking not only about the injustices of the world, but also the relationships between mother and daughter.

Secret Daughter is the tale of two mothers and one daughter. In a small rural village in India in 1984, Kavita bears her second child. Her first daughter was taken away and killed by her husband. Not wanting the same fate for her second daughter, Kavita journeys to Bombay with her sister to an orphanage. She journeys right after giving birth! I was in pain just reading this section. At the orphanage, Kavita gives up her young daughter to hopefully a better life, but can’t stop thinking about her.

Somer is a doctor that is enjoying life with a fulfilling career and a wonderful husband, Krishnan. Only one more thing would make life complete, a baby. Unfortunately Somer suffers multiple miscarriages and it is determined that she is going through a very early menopause. Distraught that she can’t have a baby, she eventually warms to an idea of getting a baby from an orphanage in her husband’s hometown of Bombay.

Somer and Krishnan travel to Bombay and adopt Kavita’s daughter Usha and mistakenly believe her name to be Asha. They travel back to California and lovingly raise her. Meanwhile in India Kavita has a third child, a much celebrated boy. Kavita, her husband, and young son move to Bombay to look for a better life than they believe they can live in their village. The stories of these two families are entwined, especially after Asha returns to India as a young college student to work at a newspaper and get to know her father Krishnan’s family. Through her journey, Asha learns what it really means to be a family, and the sacrifices that a mother has to make.

I loved Secret Daughter. It was the kind of book that really got me thinking and talking about world topics, in this case how baby girls are undervalued in some countries. Undervalued to the point of selective sex abortions and infanticide. These topics seem almost incomprehensible to me living in the United States. I think my husband may have gotten tired of me talking about it while I read this book!

It was not only weighty topics that drew me to this novel; I really enjoyed the growth of the characters and the exploration of motherhood. Somer and Kavita are very different types of mothers, but yet each in their own way was instrumental to the woman that Asha would become. Asha didn’t appreciate Somer as a mother until she grew older and reached a better understanding of the sacrifices that a mother makes in raising her child. I loved this journey and understood it both as a daughter and a mother.

As a mother Somer faces many challenges. She was a top notch doctor with a lot of ambition before she adopted Asha, but afterwards she changed her career paths and goals in order to have more time with her daughter. This led to one of my favorite quotes in the novel:

“Somer has no time for the PTA and bake sales. She has no time for herself. Her profession no longer defines her, but neither does being a mother. Both are pieces of her, and yet they don’t seem to add up to a whole. Somer didn’t know that having it all, as she always believed she would, would mean that she’s falling short everywhere. She tries to reassure herself that life is about trade-offs and she should make her peace with this one, though more often than not, it is an uneasy peace.”

This quote really resonated with me and is something that I often feel myself. Trying to work part-time as an engineer as well as part-time stay at home with my kids is hard work. I often feel like I can’t keep up on either side and get everything done to the best of my abilities.

Overall, Secret Daughter is a beautifully written novel that explores the relationships between mothers and daughters as well as the importantance of women in our society. I highly recommend it.

Book Source: Morrow Paperbacks, HarperCollins Publishers. Thank-you!

Giveaway Details

Megan from HarperCollins has been kind enough to offer one copy of Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for a giveaway.

If you would like to win a copy of Secret Daughter please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) 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 June 10th.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by James B. Stewart

“Oh! What a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!” - Sir Walter Scott, “Marmion” (1808)

It has been in the news repeatedly for the last decade, famous or in some cases, infamous members of our society lying under oath to protect themselves. Perjury has become an epidemic in this country and James B. Stewart writes about four case studies of this phenomenon in his powerful new book, Tangled Webs. These case studies include Martha Stewart, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. All of these cases shaped us as a nation over the past decade.

Each of these famous people could have taken Mark Twain’s advice, “If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.” By not telling the truth, they basically made things worse for themselves and badly affected a number of people. As Stewart states in the introduction, “This surge of perjury cases at the highest level of business, politics, media, and culture poses some fundamental questions: Why would people with so much to lose put so much at risk by lying under oath? Whatever they may have done, why would they compound their problems by committing an independent felony, punishable by prison? What were the consequences? And what price are all of us paying for their behavior?”

I enjoyed how Tangled Webs gave me a much better understanding of major events that have been in the news and what affects perjury has on our legal system. I’m going to break my discussion of the book down by each section of the book.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is definitely not shown in a positive light in Tangled Webs. She is a powerful business woman who made matters much worse for herself through perjury when asked about sales of some of her stock. I’m glad that she was prosecuted for lying under oath, but I was also disturbed that the “little people” that were part of the case were hurt much more than her.

Scooter Libby
After reading this section, I actually felt kind of sorry for Scooter Libby. Libby had a lot of stuff going on and it would be hard to remember. Overall though it seemed like he decided on a story and stuck with it even when it was proved wrong. I just wanted to reach through the pages of the book, grab him and yell – “just tell the truth!” As Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald stated at the trial, “Having a bad memory is not a crime. . . Something important needed to be investigated: Whether the laws protecting covert agents and classified agents have been broken. And to do that on behalf of the citizens, the FBI and the grand jury needed the truth . . . The defendant obstructed that search for the truth.”

I thought this quote was great also: “Perhaps the greatest irony is that Libby leaked Plame’s identity and mounted a sophisticated campaign to refute what he believed were falsehoods leveled by Joseph Wilson. Libby insisted that all he and the vice president ever wanted was to get the truth out. And then he himself lied, repeatedly and under oath.”

I also loved this: “Still in the end Bush spared Libby a prison sentence, just as he failed to take any action against Rove or Armitage. The message seemed inescapable that in the Bush White house, loyalty trumped truth.” (Rove and Armitage were the actual leaks.)

“The bar for service at the highest levels of government should not be so low that it excludes only those who commit crimes that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Bush should have fired Rove as soon as his role in the leaks became clear . . . Bush’s failure to do so after saying he’d fire anyone involved in the leak exposed rank hypocrisy to the highest level. . . In light of this story spectacle, could anyone be blamed for being cynical about the integrity of government officials?”

While I read this section, I was disturbed at how much time government officials are obsessed with the news and what is being said about them.

This section of the book was very long, and complicated. It had a great wrap-up section, and I enjoyed learning the details of the case, but I thought overall it dragged a bit.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is not a very nice guy. He was a good baseball player, but he wanted to be the best and so he took drugs in order to get to that level . . . and then lied about it. I was disturbed about the prevalence of drugging in sports and how doctors/scientists work to thwart drug tests. I had no idea it was so widespread.
I don’t know why, but I thought this quote was funny from this section, “Despite being an illegal drug dealer and an illegal immigrant, Heredia was a godsend to the government.”

Bernie Madoff
In the entire Bernie Madoff section I was repeatedly amazed by the incompetence of the SEC. It definitely did not give me much confidence in that agency or the financial markets as a whole. I also was angry by the end of the section that after all of Madoff’s lies, his wife was able to get a bargain for 2.5 million from the government while so many investors were left with nothing. I’m usually not a cruel person, but I wanted all of her money taken away. It was all ill gotten gains.

Stewart’s conclusions at the end of Tangled Webs were excellent. “False statements have a direct, immediate, and often devastating impact, not only on those who make them but on those closest to them, their friends and families; on their colleagues, allies and supporters; on all who rely on their word; on the ideals of fair play, integrity, and trust to which the people of goodwill everywhere aspire; and ultimately to the very moral fabric of the society in which we live.”

“Ultimately, the reason why people at the pinnacle of their careers – respected, acclaimed role models like Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernard Madoff – committed the crimes of perjury and false statements seems only too obvious: they thought they could get away with it.”

Overall, I really enjoyed Tangled Webs. It was a good, meaty book that really got me thinking about current events and perjury in general. I came away from the book feeling like I had learned a great deal. It had excellent writing. I only got a little dragged down in the Libby section, but I also thought it was the most interesting section so it is a give and take.

This review is part of the TLC book tours. For a listing of all of the other tour stops for this book, please check out this link.

Book Source: The Penguin Group. Thank-you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken Nugget Buyer & Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be By Amy Wilson

I think When Did I Get Like This? was written for me. As a mother of three children ages five and under, it more than warms my heart to read this book in which Amy Wilson really understands the struggles of everyday life as a mother. There are so many moments as a mother that I feel that I’m alone, but this book let me know that there is someone else out there who is going through some of the same things. As the blurb on the back of the book states, “Over the last seven years of long days with little children, I have had many moments of joy, calm, and peaceful reverie." This book is about the other moments.”

When Did I get Like This? is a memoir written by Amy Wilson made up of vignettes about her life as a mother. Amy had problems getting pregnant and was overjoyed to discover she was finally going to be a mother. Unprepared for motherhood, she struggled with breastfeeding and keeping it all together. She had two more children and her adventures continued.

I really enjoyed how Amy was able to talk frankly about her struggles to keep it all together. She was an actress before she had children and a perfectionist. She had a perfect picture of what raising children would be like and soon discovered it is nothing like you think it would be. I really identified with Amy. I’m also a perfectionist and daydreamed when I was pregnant about staying home with my son and everything I would get accomplished. I quickly discovered that plans and children do not go together.

I also enjoyed that Amy has two sons and one daughter, which mirrors my own family. I felt this book perfectly captured what it is like to raise a family in this day and age. I had many laugh out loud moments as I read the book and also sympathetic nods (to myself). I even read some parts to my husband who was also amused.
I bookmarked MANY quotes that I loved and I think they do a brilliant job of illustrating Amy Wilson’s great wit and writing style.

“Breastfeeding isn’t really successful unless we do it exclusively and for a full year. (Not for one day more than a year, though; then you’re a hippie freak.”

As a current breastfeeding mother, I thought this quote was hilarious. The pressure is on these days to breastfeed for a year and you are considered odd if you go more than a year. What I also think is great is that although you are supposed to breastfeed for a year, you are not supposed to do it where anyone can possibly see you as that is weird. There are also not too many places out and about where you can breastfeed privately or pump breastmilk when you are out without your baby. People overall have very strange views on breastfeeding.

“Because when you are pregnant, everyone feels at liberty to tell you how huge you’re getting, like it’s something you want to hear.”

Luckily I didn’t suffer from this problem when I was pregnant (although I did have my share of belly rubbers, but that is a different story), but my Dad always likes to say about pregnant ladies “she’s huge!” That is how 9-month pregnant ladies look
and people don’t really need go gossip about them.

“This question was rhetorical, of course. I was not sure what exactly ‘nipple confusion’ might be, but I thanked my lucky stars I had attended this support group before I crippled my innocent son with a lifetime of it.”

I laughed out loud at this quote. Once again, if you have been a breastfeeding mother, you will understand the irony of this quote!

“Now, when someone asks me, ‘What do you do?’ . . . . I go with the job that has kept me most consistently busy for the last seven years. ‘I’m a mom,’ I say, and then I see the switch go off behind their eyes: Oh. Uninteresting, not smart, and now that I look at her, I guess she is kind of frumpy.”

This is one of my major annoyances. I’ve noticed a vast difference in how people treat me whether I tell them I’m a part-time stay at home Mom or if I tell them I’m a part-time engineer. You say “engineer” and you get instant respect, you say “Mom” and you do get a frumpy degrading look. Being a Mom is an important job, and one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had!

“The entire topic of motherhood is considered not worth one’s time unless one is a mother, and maybe not even then. Motherhood is still seen as a waste of a smart woman’s mind, as if motherhood were beneath her talents, rather than the job that most requires every ounce of strength and ingenuity that she possesses.”

I don’t know how many people has given me sad looks or made comments to me about how I’ve “thrown” my career away by not working full-time and spending time home with my kids instead. While being a mother is hard work, I love getting to spend time with my kids. This is the time I’ll never get back again as I’m sure that it will all go too quickly and they’ll be grown. Everyone has their own decisions to make when it comes to working and staying at home, but I just wish people wouldn’t be so judgmental. It goes the other way too – stay-at-home moms sometimes think it’s horrible that I have someone babysit my kids while I work.

“Then there is the other me, the one who storms into her sons’ room the next morning, saying, ‘How many times do I have to tell you to put your G-D shoes on we are going to MISS THE BUS!” and sees, just a moment, their fear that one of those shoes might be winged at them.”

I’m glad it’s not just me!

“What really chapped my fanny was that David seemed to think . . . that kids aren’t locked out or missing limbs when I get back, he expects a ticker-tape parade’s worth of gratitude. ’Aren’t you even going to thank me for unloading the dishwasher?’ he asked me one night . . . I snapped back, ‘Yes, I am. Thank you. Now, are you going to thank me every single other night, when I unload the dishwasher.”

I have a very helpful husband, but I must admit to being irked when he does expect gratitude for doing chores that I do every day all day long. Sadly I never get gratitude for them!

“Again and again, motherhood will throw things at me things for which I will feel, and may indeed be, completely unprepared. What will decide whether or not I am a good mother is not whether I am ready for such times, but how I move through the door.”

I love that quote!

Overall, if you are a mother or are thinking about becoming a mother, When did I Get Like This? is a must read. It’s a highly enjoyable book about the true trials, tribulations and joys of being a modern mother.

I am the last stop on the TLC Book Tour for When Did I Get Like This?

Book Source: Harper Collins Publishers. Thank-you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with William Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education

I recently read (and loved!) A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. I am very excited that author William Deresiewicz agreed to an interview to answer my questions about this great book and his writing process. Who wouldn't want to learn more about a man who loves Jane Austen?

LAG: My husband loves to talk about how he loves War and Peace and other classic novels, but if I mention Jane Austen or heaven forbid, watch a movie production of one of her novels, he quickly flees to another room. Do you have any man to man advice on why he should give Jane Austen a chance?

WD: Well, I think she can make you happy, because she can teach you things that will help you know yourself and get along better with the people around you. And she will certainly teach you things that will help you understand the women in your life better, which will make everybody happy. But forget about all that take-your-medicine stuff. She's fun! She's funny! She's a great storyteller! Don't judge from the movies: you have to read the books.

LAG: I love how A Jane Austen Education is at once a literary critique of Austen's novels as well as life lessons on what you learned from them personally. How did you come up with this unique format?

WD: The book came out of the moment in a job interview when I was challenged about why Jane Austen was so important to me and I said, "I don't know, sometimes I just feel like everything I know about life I learned by reading Jane Austen." Once I started to write the book, I realized that the only way to talk about what I have learned was to talk about how I had learned it. There's no separating, for me, the lessons she taught me and the particular impact they had on my life. She's a very personal author, which is why people take her so personally.
LAG: How many times have you read Austen's novels? Have you read any of the variations / continuations? Are you a secret Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fan?

WD: I've lost count. At least five times each and many more for Pride and Prejudice. Also I wrote a chapter of my dissertation about her and then a completely separate academic book, so it's not even a matter of reading, at that point. It's more like going over every line with a magnifying glass. But I have to say I haven't looked at any of the fan fiction, and I definitely don't think the zombies thing is for me. But anything that brings people to her books, including the movies, is doing something valuable as far as I'm concerned.

LAG: Is your dissertation a published work? It sounded very interesting.

WD: The dissertation was never published as a whole, but I did publish an academic article based on the Austen chapter (and others from the other chapters). Here's the reference: "Community and Cognition in Pride and Prejudice," ELH 64 (Summer 1997). And as I said, I then wrote an entire book, Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets (Columbia, 2004). It's about how the three novels she wrote from scratch as an adult in her late 30s are different in many important ways from the three she drafted as a young woman in her early 20s, and how the English Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, helped lead her to her deeper understandings of time, memory, loss, and many other things.

LAG: What were the 100 books you had to read for your graduate degree? Having to push your way through them in so short a time, did you enjoy them?

WD: I still have the lists, which I'm going to put at the end of this interview. There was also some secondary material, which is how it added up to (about) 100. I should say that "summer" meant about five months, from the beginning of May to the middle of October, when I actually took the exams. And no, of course there wasn't the kind of time I would have liked to savor the books, though you do learn to absorb things very quickly in graduate school. It gave me an overview, which allowed me to go back and reread the things that had turned out to be the most important to me, like Jane Austen and George Eliot.

LAG: As a literary critic, what do you think about the blogging world? Where can we look for some of your critical takes on literature?

WD: I think literary blogs can be a really good thing, if they're done thoughtfully. It's great that readers can now have public conversations with one another--a terrific thing for book culture. I've written myself more than once against the notion that literary criticism, literary conversation, belongs only to the experts, professors and professional critics. (Here are a couple of those essays: http://www.thenation.com/article/seeing-past-ivy-do-literary-mandarins-put-reading-risk
http://www.slate.com/id/2288626/) As for my own reviews, they appear in The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and other places, but they can all be accessed through my website, http://www.billderesiewicz.com/, as can the essays I write about higher education, technology culture, and other things, as well as All Points, my new weekly blog on cultural issues for the American Scholar.

LAG: How do you write a book with personal stories about your friends, loves, and family in it for the world to see? Are you afraid some of your friends will figure out they are in the book?

WD: It was definitely tough. Believe it or not, I'm kind of a private person, and this kind of confession didn't come easily. Also, I think there was a certain element of denial. You sit alone in a room when you write, and sometimes it's hard to realize that lots of people are going to read it. Now, of course, it's all becoming real. As for my friends, especially the ones I talk about in a negative way, yes, I'm afraid. But then, those people aren't my friends anymore, for the exact reasons I talk about in the book. The others, the ones I say good things about and still love and am friends with, I'm excited for them to see it. In fact, I just got a wonderful note from the friend I describe as having known me better than I knew myself. She told me that the book means a lot to her, and that's really gratifying.

LAG: What are you currently working on? Any new projects in the works? I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more of your work.

WD: Thank you! My next book is pretty different. It's about the problems of elite college education. If the Jane Austen book came out of my experiences in graduate school, this one is coming from what I saw in my 10 years as a professor at Yale. I've already been doing a lot of writing about this--you can see that on the essays page on my website--and getting a lot of really passionate feedback from students and recent graduates. Now I want to put it all together in a book. But even though the subjects and approaches are different, in many ways the two projects share a lot. It was Jane Austen who first began to teach me to question the elite background I grew up in, the assumptions of that world in terms of what it means to be a valuable person. That was the beginning of a journey that I'm still on.

LAG: That sounds like a book I would like to read, especially after reading A Jane Austen Education. Thank-you for this interview!

Major Field: Modern English Fiction
(with major antecedents and continental contemporaries)

Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
Dostoevsky, Fyodor The Brothers Karamazov
Stevenson, Robert Louis Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Zola, Emile L'Assommoir
Driesser, Theodore Sister Carrie

Huysmans, Joris Karl À Rebours
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray

British Modernism to the Close of World War I
Hardy, Thomas Jude the Obscure
James, Henry The Ambassadors
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
Lord Jim
Lawrence, D.H. The Rainbow
Women in Love
Douglas, Norman South Wind
Lewis, Wyndham Tarr
Ford, Ford Maddox The Good Soldier

From War to War
In England
Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse
The Waves
Between the Acts
Forster, E.M. A Passage to India
Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
Waugh, Evelyn Decline and Fall
Black Mischief
A Handful of Dust
The Loved One

In Paris
Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Hemingway, Ernest In Our Time
Stein, Gertude The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Barnes, Djuna Nightwood
Nabokov, Vladimir The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
Miller, Henry Tropic of Capricorn
Beckett, Samuel Watt

In America
Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
West, Nathaniel The Day of the Locust

Continental Modernism
In France
Gide, André Lafcadio's Adventures
Proust, Marcel Remembrance of Things Past
Céline, Louis-Ferdinand Journey to the End of the Night
Malraux, André Man's Fate
Sartre, Jean-Paul Nausea

In Austria and Germany
Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis
The Castle
Mann, Thomas Death in Venice
The Magic Mountain

Ancillary Field I: English Fiction to Modernism
(with emphasis on the comic)

Defoe, Daniel Moll Flanders

Richardson, Samuel Pamela

Fielding, Henry "Shamela"
Joseph Andrews
Tom Jones

Sterne, Lawrence Tristram Shandy
A Sentimental Journey

Goldsmith, Oliver The Vicar of Wakefield

Austen, Jane Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey

Dickens, Charles Oliver Twist
The Old Curiosity Shop
David Copperfield
Bleak House
Hard Times
Great Expectations

Thackeray, William Vanity Fair

Eliot, George Adam Bede
The Mill on the Floss

Ancillary Field II: Narrative in the Renaissance

Short Fiction
Boccaccio, Giovanni The Decameron
Marguerite de Navarre Heptameron
Cervantes, Miguel de Exemplary Stories
Maria de Zayas The Enchantments of Love

[Anon.] Lazarillo de Tormes

Epic and Romance Epic
Ariosto, Ludovico Orlando Furioso
Camoës, Luiz Vaz de The Lusiads
Tasso, Torquato Jerusalem Delivered
Spenser, Edmund The Faerie Queene
Milton, John Paradise Lost
Paradise Regained

Prose Epic
Rabelais, François Gargantua and Pantagruel
Sidney, Sir Philip The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia
Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote

Teresa of Avila The Life of St. Theresa of Avila by Herself
Cellini, Benvenuto Autobiography

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

As an engineering student, I chose to take “literary expressions” as a thematic in my degree and took a variety of literature courses while at Michigan Technological University. It was not a hardship for me as I am a strange person that loves being an engineer, and also harbors secret dreams of becoming an English professor. I was fortunate to take one class called “The British Novel” with a delightful professor, Dr. Barry Pegg. He picked great novels and also had a British accent, which only enhanced the entire experience. It was also the first and only time in my high school, college, or graduate school experience that I was able to read an Austen novel with a class and discuss it. We read Pride and Prejudice. While it was not my first time reading the novel, Dr. Pegg managed to get me to think about the novel in an entirely different way than I had ever thought about it before. I loved the new insights and discussing it with a class.

What does this have to do with A Jane Austen Education? A Jane Austen Education is a superb new book by William Deresiewicz. Deresiewicz was an English Professor at Yale University and I felt that like Dr. Pegg, Deresiewicz was able to give me new insight into all of Austen novels in a delightful and enjoyable way.

A Jane Austen Education is part memoir and part literary criticism of all six of Jane Austen’s novels. Deresiewicz takes us on his journey of discovering Austen, her novels, and the part they played in enhancing his own life.

As a graduate student, Deresiewicz prided himself on his heavy “manly” reading. When he was forced to read an Austen novel (Emma) for one of his courses, he was not enthused. Once he started reading the book, he at first thought his worst fears had been realized. “The story seemed to consist of nothing more than a lot of chitchat among a bunch of commonplace characters in a country village. No grand events, no great issues, and inexplicably for a writer of romance novels, not even any passion.”

As Deresiewicz continued to read Emma, he finally had an epiphany and understood the novel. “Austen, I realized, had not been writing about everyday things because she couldn’t’ think of anything else to talk about. She had been writing about them because she wanted to show how important they really are. . . Austen wasn’t silly and superficial; she was much, much smarter – and much wiser – than I could ever have imagined.”

As Deresiewicz learned while reading Emma, “To pay attention to ‘minute particulars’ is to notice your life as it passes, before it passes.” I loved this sentence. It is so true and such a lovely sentence in itself.

I loved the way this book was written. The entire tone of the book, the breaking down of Austen’s novels in a fun way that was at one with the author’s life and understanding of Austen, was very interesting and a good read. I also loved how Deresiewicz would go through the plot of the novel and his initial reactions, and then his deeper thought process. While it was a great book to think further about Austen’s novels, it was not a dry read.

Although this book does not seem like a page turner, I admit that I had a hard time putting it down and looked forward to every opportunity to return to reading it. Deresiewicz did a great job of writing about himself, I enjoyed and commiserated with his graduate school experiences and the hard time he had finding true love. I also enjoyed reading about his snobbishness in realizing there is a world outside of New York City. It gave me a few good chuckles trying to imagine his friend’s reactions to a place like rural Kewaunee, Wisconsin.

I must also say that this book had the perfect ending. I won’t give it away, but it gave me a happy laugh at the very end when I closed the book. I love having a reading experience like that!

Overall, if you are a lover of Jane Austen and her novels, or if you are someone that wonders what the fuss is about Jane Austen, I highly recommend this book. You will not be disappointed. Now I need to somehow take what I learned from this book and convince my husband to give Jane Austen a chance!

I reviewed this book as part of the TLC Book Tours. For more reviews of this novel, please check out other stops on the tour at this link.

Book Source: Review Copy from Penguin Books. Thank-you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson

Over the past two years, I listened to all of Jane Austen’s novels on audiobook and vastly enjoyed them. I discovered that Austen’s books were meant to be listened to aloud, as Austen must have once read them aloud to her family. While I’ll still always enjoy reading them in their original print editions, I also want to explore more audio editions and enjoy listening to them as well. As readers of this blog know, I really can’t get enough of Austen in any type of media.

As part of Austenprose’s Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge, I decided to listen to a different audiobook version of Sense and Sensibility than the one I listened to two years ago. I chose the Naxos Audiobook version as read by Juliet Stevenson. I listened to Persuasion as read by Juliet Stevenson last fall and enjoyed it greatly.

Juliet Stevenson played Mrs. Elton in the 1996 Emma movie starting Gwyneth Paltrow. I enjoyed listening to this novel read with her great British accent, but more importantly she is able to give a unique voice to all of the characters and bring them to life. It was a pleasure to listen to this novel once again.

This audiobook version is an unabridged edition with eleven CDs for approximately 12 hours and 43 minutes worth of playing time. It was very soothing to me when I listened to it three weeks ago while driving to and from Milwaukee during a nasty sleet storm. It’s also a nice book to listen to when the kids are around as I know that it will contain no “naughty bits.”

For more of my review of Sense and Sensibility in general, please see my 2009 review of the Sense and Sensibility audiobook as read by Wanda McCaddon.

Sense and Sensibility is my second item for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge and my fifth item for the 2011 Audiobook Challenge.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Winners of the Georgette Heyer Royal Giveaway!

Sourcebooks graciously allowed me to give away two Georgette Heyer novels to two lucky winners in celebration of the Royal Wedding. The two novels are unknown Heyer titles so the lucky winners will be surprised when they open up their mailbox!

The two lucky winners chosen by random.org are Suko of Suko's Notebook and Tina. The winners have been notified by email and have one week to send me their mailing addresses. If I don't receive their addresses within that time frame, I will select new winners.

Thank-you to Sourcebooks for letting me hold this fantastic giveaway! I can't help but wonder

what Georgette Heyer titles our two winners will receive. I hope they enjoy them.

Thank-you to all who entered this great giveaway and left great comments about the royal wedding and Georgette Heyer. I enjoyed watching the wedding myself (what a beautiful gown!) and I love reading Georgette Heyer novels!

I'm taking a small break from giveaways, but will be back with a new one in two weeks (unless anything else pops up before then!). Stayed tuned this week for reviews of a couple of great books I've recently read as well as an intriguing author interview. Until then, have a great weekend!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Something Blue by Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed was the story of Rachel and how she fell in love with her best friend Darcy’s fiancé, Dex (see my review here). Something Blue is the follow-up novel with Darcy’s side of the story.

SPOILER ALERT (for those who haven’t read Something Borrowed)

Something Blue starts shortly before Something Borrowed has ended. Although Darcy is pregnant with another man’s child, she is more than a little bit angry to find out that Dex is with Rachel after their break-up. The novel tells the story from Darcy’s point of view of her friendship with Rachel, relationship with Dex, and her attraction to Marcus.

Darcy is selfish and self-absorbed, but she doesn’t really seem to realize this or how it affects her relationships. After her obsession with Rachel and Dex affects her relationship with Marcus, she flees to London to visit her friend Ethan. There Ethan is able to finally able to break through to Darcy and to get her to think about life in broader terms than just herself.


Giffin did a superb job of telling the story through Darcy’s self-centered voice. This is also the one flaw of the novel; Darcy is not as likeable a heroine as Rachel. Darcy is really not overall a bad person, she does genuinely think that she is a good friend to Rachel and really cares for her. But she is so self-obsessed that it’s hard to bear her at times. That being said, I still enjoyed the book and liked that Darcy was able to redeem herself. It was nice for Darcy to have a chance to become more than a one-dimensional “mean girl” and to grow into a nicely rounded character.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and read it quickly. I thought it was a great companion book to Something Borrowed, but I don’t know if it would be a good book on its own if you hadn’t read the first book.

Is anyone going to see Something Borrowed? I’m going with my FLICKS Book and Movie club probably sometime at the beginning of June – I’m excited!

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Monday, May 2, 2011

How can you read so much?

I am often asked the question, “How can you read so much?” or “How do you have so much time read?” I often puzzle wondering, how can I not read so much?

I admit there are times when I read more than usual. This year I’m reading a lot as I nurse my newborn daughter, but won’t have quite as much time to read when I’m done with nursing. When I lived in Milwaukee, I took the “Freeway Flyer” bus to work and had a solid 45-minutes to read twice a day on my way and from work. It was so much better than fighting traffic.

I think overall though is that there is always time for me to read because I make it that way. I have read before I go to bed every night since I was about eight years old. When other people watch TV to relax, I pop open a book and read. When the kids want to watch “Bob the Builder,” I sit with them, but am reading my book instead. When I have to sit in a waiting room for any reason, I always have a book with me to read. When I’m in my car for a trip alone (which only seems to happen for work related reason these days), I listen to an audiobook. When the kids are with me, we listen to kid audiobooks. When I’m doing the dishes I listen to an audiobook. Wherever I go, I have a book with me. Even if it is for a minute, I’ll open it up and read it.

I’m good at being able to open a book and only read a bit and put it down. My husband is not, once he starts reading, he can’t stop. This is a problem. I do sometimes run into this at night when I’m really into a book and spend half the night reading it instead of sleeping.

I think I also must be a fast reader compared to most. I have no basis for this besides great reading comprehension test scores in my youth and the fact that I seem to be able to read a lot of books throughout a year. I have noticed other readers/bloggers online that put me to shame though on how many books they are able to read!

Are you ever asked the question “how can you read so many books?” What is your answer?

Winner of What Would Mr. Darcy Do?

The lucky winner of What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds is Margaret. Congrats to Margaret!! Margaret was chosen using random.org and has been notified via email. She has until this upcoming Friday to send me her mailing address. If I don't hear from her by that time, I will draw a new winner.

Thank-you to Abigail Reynolds for writing another great novel, and for the great author interview about this novel. Thank-you to Beth from Sourcebooks for allowing me to host this great giveaway. And thank-you to all who entered the giveaway and left great comments.

There is still an ongoing giveaway for two unknown Georgette Heyer titles as seen on my right sidebar. If you love Jane Austen and are looking for something new, Georgette Heyer is a great new author to try. This giveaway will end this upcoming Friday, May 6th.