The Amy Einhorn (Perpetual) Challenge

I’m in!

Check out what Candace has to say about the perpetual challenge that she is hosting reading through the Amy Einhorn Imprint!

The Amy Einhorn Books challenge was born on Twitter (where all evil occurs) and was inspired by (in no particular order) Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books, Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?, Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves, Jen from Devourer of Books, Amy from My Friend Amy, Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books, Nicole from Linus’s Blanket, and several other enthusiastic bloggers.

Currently, there are fifteen Amy Einhorn titles (covers shown in the fabulous button made by Jenn):

Published in 2009

  • Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog by Diana Joseph
  • The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
  • Life’s That Way: A Memoir by Jim Beaver
  • The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
  • Remedies by Kate Ledger
  • Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family’s Love and the Will to Survive by Hester Rumberg

Published in 2010

  • The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha
  • The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
  • The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees
  • My Wife’s Affair by Nancy Woodruff
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson
  • Where’s My Wand?: One Boy’s Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric Poole

The Challenge

  • Sign up via Mr. Linky here. You do not need to have a blog to join. If you don’t have a blog, use the URL to this post in the URL box.
  • Read through the Amy Einhorn Books imprint in any order you’d like.
  • Read the books in any medium (print, eBook, audio).
  • Pages for linking your reviews will be found via the AE Challenge tab under my banner photo. There are two pages, one for 2009 books and one for 2010 books. Be sure to link up your reviews of the books you’ve already read.
  • The Twitter hashtag is #amyeinhorn.
  • There are no time limits.
  • EDIT: There is no need to publish a sign-up post, but I hope you mention the challenge when you read an AE book or perhaps in a Sunday Salon post.

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I have read The Help and The Postmistress and both have been fabulous!

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Wishlist: Book Dreams for March 2010

The other day on That’s How I Blog! I was chatting about how I don’t usually have much idea about what’s coming up next in terms of books because even though I usually ask that question, I never do much research into it myself.   Living over a bookstore and having grown up taking weekend trips to the bookstore, specifically to browse, might have something to do with that.  It never occurs to me to look online when I can just go touch, and feel, and flip through pages!  I decided it might be a fun to change things up and do things a little differently see what I could dig up for the upcoming month that I would love to read. I didn’t do too badly for my first time out!

Cover Image - The Heights, by Peter HedgesThe Heights, by Peter Hedges /March 4, Dutton

I am pretty much a sucker for stories about school and stories about New York City, so this one called out to me right away.

Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights. As he says, “I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I’m now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver.” Now, Kate is not inherently ordinary. But she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment trying desperately to become the parent she never had. They are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, whose world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn, sending the local society into a tailspin.

Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she’s also mysterious. And for reasons Kate doesn’t quite understand, even as all the Range Rover-driving moms jockey for invitations into Anna’s circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world.

Cover Image - Lost, by Alice LichtensteinLost, by Alice Lichtenstein/March 9, Scribner

When I was reading this blurb I was immediately in the story and wanting to know what would happen next.  Hopefully it is as intriguing as it sounds and as the cover suggests.

On a cold January morning, Susan, a professor of biology, leaves her husband alone for a few minutes and returns to find him gone. Suffering from dementia, no longer able to dress or feed or wash himself without help, Christopher has wandered alone into a frigid landscape with no sense of home or direction. Lost.

Over the course of one weekend, as a massive search for Christopher takes place, Susan’s life intersects with those of two strangers: Jeff, her liaison with the police, a social worker and search-and-rescue expert shaken by his young wife’s betrayal, and Corey, a twelve-year-old boy, rendered mute by a family tragedy, who has become one of Jeff’s cases. While the temperature drops and teams scour the countryside with greater and greater urgency, Susan and Jeff venture into the fraught territory of their pasts — to impulsive choices and events that may have led to their present circumstances and to the painful question of whether they are to blame for their spouses’ actions. Corey, too, is troubled by memories, and a secret that could affect them all. When the desperate search concludes, what it uncovers will transform Susan, Jeff,and Corey and irrevocably bind them together.

Cover Image - Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya GowdaSecret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda/ March 9, William Morrow

Multi-cultural adoption drama.  Enough said.

In a tiny hut in rural India, Kavita gives birth to Asha. Unable to afford the ‘luxury’ of raising a daughter, her husband forces Kavita to give the baby up – a decision that will haunt them both for the rest of their lives.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When her husband Krishnan shows her a photo of baby Asha sent to him from a Mumbai orphanage, she falls instantly in love. As she waited for adoption to be finalized, she knew her life would change. But she was convinced that the love she already felt would overcome all obstacles.

Cover Image - The Storm, by Magriet De MoorThe Storm: A Novel, by Magriet De Moor /March 9, Knopf

Another one of those books when I already want to know what happens when the sisters switch places.

On the night of January 31 1953, a mountain of water, literally piled up out of the sea by a freak winter hurricane, swept down onto the Netherlands, demolishing the dikes protecting the country and wiping a quarter of its landmass from the map. It was the worst natural disaster to strike the Netherlands in three hundred years.

The morning of the storm, Armanda asks her sister, Lidy, to take her place on a visit to her godchild in the town of Zierikzee. In turn, Armanda will care for Lidy’s two-year-old daughter and accompany Lidy’s husband to a party. The sisters, both of them young and beautiful, look so alike that no one may even notice. But what Armanda can’t know is that her little comedy is a provocation to fate: Lidy is headed for the center of the deadly storm.

Cover Image - The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, by David GrannThe Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness & Obsession by David Grann/March 9, Doubleday

These stories sound fascinating and like the perfect intro to a variety of subjects.

Whether he’s reporting on the infiltration of the murderous Aryan Brotherhood into the U.S. prison system, tracking down a chameleon con artist in Europe, or riding in a cyclone- tossed skiff with a scientist hunting the elusive giant squid, David Grann revels in telling stories that explore the nature of obsession and that piece together true and unforgettable mysteries.

Cover Image - A Thousand Cuts, by Simon LelicA Thousand Cuts, by Simon Lelic/March 4, Viking

I haven’t bought many mysteries lately, but this one sounds too good to pass up.

It should be an open-and-shut case. Samuel Szajkowski, a recently hired history teacher, walked into a school assembly with a gun and murdered three students and a colleague before turning the weapon on himself. It was a tragedy that could not have been predicted. Szajkowski, it seems clear, was a psychopath beyond help. Yet as Detective Inspector Lucia May – the only woman in her high-testosterone office in the Criminal Investigations Department – begins to piece together the testimonies of the various witnesses, an uglier and more complex picture emerges, calling into question the innocence of others. But no one, including Lucia’s boss, is interested.

As the pressure to close the case builds and her colleagues’ sexism takes a sinister turn, Lucia begins to realize that she has more in common with the killer than she could have imagined, and she becomes determined to expose the truth. Brilliantly interweaving the witnesses’ accounts with Lucia’s own perspective, A Thousand Cuts is a narrative tour de force from a formidable new voice in fiction.

Cover Image - Dirty Little Secrets, by C. J. OmololuDirty Little Secrets, by C. J. Omololu/February 2, Walker & Company

I haven’t run across a treatment of hoarding before in a book, but I am definitely curious to see how it will be handled.

Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.

Cover Image - Before I Fall, by Lauren OliverBefore I Fall, by Lauren Oliver/ March 1, Harper Collins

Groundhog day! I want to see what she learns.

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?  Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.  Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Cover Image - Life In Year One, by Scott KorbLife in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine, by Scott Korb/March 18, Riverhead Books

I actually have a book like this I think, but it’s divided really strangely so I haven’t read it yet.

For anyone who’s ever pondered what everyday life was like during the time of Jesus comes a lively and illuminating portrait of the nearly unknown world of daily life in first-century Palestine.  What was it like to live during the time of Jesus?  Where did people live?  Who did they marry?  And what was family life like?  How did people survive?  These are just some of the questions that Scott Korb answers in this engaging new book, which explores what everyday life entailed two thousand years ago in first-century Palestine, that tumultuous era when the Roman Empire was at its zenith and a new religion-Christianity-was born.

Culling information from primary sources, scholarly research, and his own travels and observations, Korb explores the nitty-gritty of real life back then – from how people fed, housed, and groomed themselves to how they kept themselves healthy. He guides the contemporary reader through the maze of customs and traditions that dictated life under the numerous groups, tribes, and peoples in the eastern Mediterranean that Rome governed two thousand years ago, and he illuminates the intriguing details of marriage, family life, health, and a host of other aspects of first-century life. The result is a book for everyone, from the armchair traveler to the amateur historian. With surprising revelations about politics and medicine, crime and personal hygiene, this book is smart and accessible popular history at its very best.

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This was fun!

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Zora Neale Hurston: Stories – Book Review & Classics Circuit Tour

Cover Image - Stories, by Zora Neale Hurston

The Classics Circuit GraphicI was at the grocery store the other day and  as I was wandering up and down the aisles I started thinking about short stories and how much I used to like them when I was younger and why I have less patience for them now.  I think part of the reason is that I truly didn’t appreciate them as their own art form, and from my young perspective only thought of them as mini-books and stories.  I also think that I required less explanations at the time that I enjoyed them so much.

With novels you really get to revel in the character and what shaped their experiences; too often I find that short stories scratch the surface and leave me wanting to know more or they fail to give me enough to even understand what the point is in the first place.  And, I’m really saying all this to say that Zora Neale Hurston didn’t leave me feeling that way, and that she is a masterful short story-teller. The reason I was even able to piece together my thoughts about short stories in the grocery store was because after reading her stories I was able to pinpoint what I’m usually missing when I read shorts.

My first introduction to reading Hurston was Their Eyes Were Watching God.  My mom had it on her bookshelf when I was Cover Image - Stories, by Zora Neale Hurstongrowing up and being a voracious reader there was very little that escaped my attention.  Once I was able to immerse myself enough in the thick dialect to understand the characters, I was taken by her writing and how she was able to weave such complex and exciting characters who were trying to make the best lives for themselves in less than ideal circumstances.  Hurston’s mastery of language puts you in every scene that she writes, and this author is gifted enough to transfer the depths of their experience to her short stories which are brimming with vibrant characters whose situations will make you laugh, cry, and feel the pull of the tug at your heart-strings.

I really don’t have that much to say about this collection other than get it and read it, or even listen to it.  I listened to the collection on audio and I was enthralled from the minute I pressed play.  Renee Joshua-Porter does an excellent job bringing the rich southern dialects, Black English and the vibrancy of these characters to life.  A couple of stories that especially got me were Drenched in Light, where a grandmother tries to deal with her youthful granddaughter who has an exuberant spirit and zest for life;  The Conscience of the Court where a woman knows that she won’t get a fair shake from the court for the assault that she committed, but proceeds to bravely tell her story anyway; and The Six Gilded Bits, which tells the story of a much in love married couple who must find a way to continue loving each other in the aftermath of a break-in.  Trust me!  You really want  to read these stories.

Highly Recommended.

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I think that WordPress should e-mail you when it doesn’t publish your scheduled post.  Since this post is showing up a day late, you can also visit Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot for a fabulous post about another Hurston work, Of Mules and Men.

Be sure to visit the Classics Circuits for more information on participation and blog tours for classic authors.

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Ask Linus: Examining the Search Terms of Linus’s Blanket (2) – Shutter Island

I often get lots of funny phrases and questions in my search terms and I’ve always said that one day I will do a post on them.  Something one prompted me to seize the day, and so I have started a column of sorts for my my colorful and interesting search terms and questions.  When you come to Linus with questions, you get answers!

Dude! Spoilers Galore for Shutter Island – You’ve Been Warned

With the movie out, Shutter Island is a really popular search term.  I agree that it was a mind-bender, both when I saw the book and read the movie.  Though I have no idea what Scorsese was thinking about when he ordered up the score (I though the music was loud and too overly dramatic – bordering on campy ’50 movie, so not a fan), I felt like the emotions were all there.  I left the theater feeling  like I had been in the head of someone who had issues, and was very sad.  It’s that kind of story.

Explain Shutter Island

Okay, you really have to read the book/see the movie to get he full picture but here is the gist of how it goes down.

U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and his partner, Chuck Aule, show up at Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient named Rachel Salandro who has gone missing from the island’s mental health facility for the criminally insane, Ashcliffe.  They arrive in the pouring rain and at the start of a huge hurricane-like storm.  They start conducting the investigation into Rachel’s disappearance but run into problems with a reluctant staff and the only doctor who might be able to shed a light n the situation is the mysteriously missing- Dr.  Sheehan (whom the head doctor, Dr. Cawley says he allowed to leave on the last ferry out for  his vacation).  They find a note written by missing patient Rachel Salandro asking about a 67th patient, even though there are only 66 patients on the island.  Things get weird.

Teddy keeps having flashback of his dead wife Dolores, from when he served in Germany during World War II, and of  a child who  follows him around asking him why he didn’t save her. He is also having migraines, for which he takes medecine at the insane asylum.  Everything is just crazy and weird stuff happens, and Teddy is seeing things that may or not be there. Teddy starts to think that the institution is running experiments on the inmates. He and Chuck break into the most dangerous ward where Teddy encounters a man with a seriously scarred face called Noyce.  When Teddy asks who did that to his face, he says that Teddy did, and that Teddy is a  rat in a maze and gets Teddy to thinking about who he can trust.  From then on Teddy starts to question his partner Chuck, until Chuck goes missing and Dr. Cawley tells him that he came to the island alone.  Say what?

At some point Teddy had run into a lady in a cave who warns him that he has been drugged if he has taken medicine, smokes cigarettes or had anything to eat or drink- now he will never be able to leave Shutter Island.  She then throws him out of her cave because people will be looking for him and she doesn’t  want them to find her. Teddy thinks that everyone is trying to make him seem crazy and prevent him from leaving the island with what he knows.  Teddy becomes determined to break into a lighthouse that is on the island, a place where bad things happen, because he can’t leave th island without Chuck.  He creates a diversion and blows up Dr. Cawley’s car and then knocks out a guard, but when he gets to the lighthouse Dr. Cawley is the only one there.

Dr. Cawley tells him that he, Teddy,  is the 67th patient, Andrew Laeddis, and that he has been at Ashcliffe for over two years since he killed his wife after she drowned their three kids (she had been suffering from post partum psychosis, she asks Teddy to put her out of her misery- in the movie).  The missing Dr. Sheehan turns up and it’s Chuck Aule, Andrew’s primary psychiatrist, who has been playing the role of Chuck Aule in a last-ditch, all-out role-playing exercise intended to bring Teddy/Andrew back to himself and keep them from having to perform a lobotomy on him.  Apparently Teddy is the smartest and most dangerous patient they have, always escaping and beating people up, like with Noyce’s face.

Why does Chuck say Teddy at the end?

Andrew Laeddis seems to have reverted back into his head where he thinks that he is U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels, and  Dr. Sheehan is his partner Chuck Aule.  Dr. Sheehan is really disturbed to hear this because it means that the treatment has not taken and Andrew/Teddy has gone back to his delusions and to potentially being a danger to the rest of the inmates and staff of the facility.  Dr. Sheehan/Chuck is sad that he is delusional again because that means they have to give Andrew/Teddy a lobotomy, and he gives the signal to the approaching doctors that the treatment has failed and they must perform surgery.  But then as Andrew/Teddy is readying himself to go with the doctors, he turns to Dr. Sheehan/Chuck and asks him if he would rather live a monster or die a good man.  Andrew/Teddy gets up and walks to meet the doctors, and Dr. Sheehan/Chuck calls out “Teddy”, but Andrew doesn’t answer. He just keeps walking. (I took that to mean that Andrew knows who he is (not Teddy), and that he would rather die as Teddy than to live as Andrew Laeddis, knowing what has happened to his family and what he did.)

Shutter Island Book Review

Right here: My review of the novel, Shutter Island. I also found an interesting article comparing the psychology in Shutter Island to real psychology.  The author mentioned that some of the ideas and techniques were dated, but I wonder if he forgot for a minute that the book/movie would have had to have been based on the theories and information available in the ’50’s.  After reading Paula Butturini’s memoir, Keeping The Feast, I was surprised to hear that drug resistant depression was so prevalent and that people were still undergoing electroconvulsive therapies.

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Keeping the Feast: by Paula Butturini – Book Review

Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula Butturini

Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula ButturiniPaula Butturini and her husband John Tagliabue grew up in a rich Italian tradition that both celebrates and takes equal comfort in the preparation and sharing of meals with family members and friends.  When they met, they seemed like a natural match for one another, and spent four happy years as a couple, holding down various positions overseas as journalists.

It’s when they marry that the troubles begin.  Butturini is first viciously beaten during a riot just as communism is falling in Eastern Europe and only a few months later John is grievously injured when shot when on assignment- later contracting Hepatitis B and spiraling downward into a depression that threatens not only his sanity but his marriage.  Through it all Butturini clings to her family culinary traditions to ground their fragile family and provide them all with sense of comfort as the gradual healing process begins to take place.

Lisa from Books on the Brain hosted a chat with Keeping the Feast author Paula Butturini where I said,  “I really enjoyed the food and how you framed each of your chapters with food and the experiences that both your family and John’s had with it. How early in the process did you decide to structure the book the way that you did?”   Butturini responded:

Nicole, I knew from the very first days of trying to write this book that I had to tell our story not only from the negative — because I couldn’t have written it and NOBODY could have read it — but from the positive too, and the food angle just seemed perfectly natural to me.

Butturini’s conscious decision to frame this book in the positive did much toward making what could have been unbearable circumstances to contemplate, into a story that was fascinating,  heartwarming and inspiring.  I loved getting to know the intricacies of their family lives with all the travel, work responsibilities and the juggling of children (John had two children, Peter and Anna, from a previous marriage) and their childhood experiences where wonderful meals were used to celebrate holidays, attaining personal goals, as rewards for difficult or disappointing days, and just as an everyday celebration and affirmation of life.

It was refreshing to read about families that had healthy appetites and appreciation of food, and ones who have used such a simple pleasure to bond with family and friends.  Butturini is frank and unflinching in her portrayal of John’s surgeries and the unrelenting brutality of the depression suffered by both her mother and her husband.  I think she offers a true portrait of just how debilitating depression can be.  It’s a term that has been watered down through our casual use of it to describe everyday moods where we may not be as happy as we would like, but the reality of it is that is is a serious illness, nowhere near as simple or as fleeting as a day or two of the feeling blue.

Just as food and meal preparation were able to get her through the lowest parts in her marriage they were also able to do the same for the readers.  The heading for each chapter was food themed and offered a glimpse of different purposes they served in the past and in her life with John.  The descriptions of food and the places that her family travled while recuperating in Europe was superb.  Butturini has a straightforward and easy style of writing that draws you into the story and gives such a clear picture of her colorful family, and though she is sharing what is the toughest time in her life, you still feel supported and able to examine those times with her.

Highly Recommended.

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Progress: Notes From A Reading Life – February 24, 2010

Progress: Notes From A Reading Life Button

Progress: Notes From A Reading Life ButtonI have been in a bit of a reading slump this past month.  Partially because I have been playing catch up on various projects, just haven’t been feeling like reading, and have been focusing a lot of energy weeding through my  book collection.  In that way, I have been doing some reading as I read first pages and chapters in determining what I want to keep and what I can send on to another good home. My last progress notes were on January 11, 2010.  I ended reading quite a few books in January, and for the first week in February I was doing okay as well, and then nothing until…

Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula ButturiniI started reading Keeping the Feast.   It’s a novel about using food to get through the hard times in life.  I read it as a part of the Winter Reading Series that Lisa from Books on The Brain hosted with Mari from Bookworm With A View. It also inspired me to put up a quick Literary Feasts post about the food in the book, which makes it appearance on the very first pages.  On Monday, I took part, or at least tried to take part in a chat with the author, Paula Butturini.  I did manage to ask one question and the chat was a lot of fun, but I mostly ended up reading along because the chat was moving way too fast for me.  Here’s where you can check out what Paula Butturini had to say in response to questions on her book.

Cover Image - Black Hills, by Dan SimmonsOnce Keeping the Feast got me back into the reading swing of things, I went on to start Black Hills for the That’s How I Blog! show with  Amanda, from Life and Times of A “New” New Yorker, who announced that she won’t be that for much longer since she is going to be moving soon.  We’ll all have to stay tuned to see what the new name will be for her blog.  We both only got between 100 and 150 pages into Black Hills, but we had Jen from Devourer of Books to guide us through and Heather from Age 30+…A Lifetime in Books to help us out, and we plan on scheduling a skype call in the next couple of weeks to discuss thoughts on the rest of the book.

The fact that only one of us had managed to finish the book did nothing to slow down the conversation, and we still managed to chat for about 40 minutes on Custer the horny ghost, how the main character was representative of the land, and whether Mount Rushmore really existed and what an insult it must have been to Native Americans.  Simmons is excellent at getting you right into whatever world he is writing about, but if you aren’t ready to work for it, you will sink before you get into the story.  I am looking forward to finishing up because it’s so interesting to learn about the lives of the Sioux and the Lakota Indians and all the changes taking place at that time on the American Frontier.  It’s a period of history that I rarely read much about.

Cover Image - Abraham Lincoln Vampire HunterLast night before going to bed I picked up the soon to be released Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  I really had no idea of what to expect with this one.  I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice way to much to anywhere near Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As wrong as it may be, Abraham Lincoln was far less sacred to me so he if free to kill as many vampires as he wants.  I was surprised to see how easily I got into the story and I turned quite a few pages before I had to make myself go to bed, and remind myself that I had other things I needed to be reading.  Still, I even read a few more pages before I got out of the bed and started my day this morning.

I think what I like about it is that it’s not a mash-up, but is its own story.  The introduction is quite cleverly set-up and the rest of the book reads like a historical acount of Lincoln’s life which draws from Lincoln’s diary entries, speeches and other accounts and source materials.  I knew just the basics about Lincoln, but in a fun way (with Lincoln as vampire hunter) this book references a lot about his upbringing, the type of work he did, his warm relationship with his step mother and siblings and the cold one that he had with his dad.  I’ve read about 130 pages so far and I am hoping that the rest of the book proves to be just as entertaining.

Books read in the last week:

ZERO- but I should at least finish one of the above by Sunday. Hopefully all of them.  We’ll see.

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Book Club Pick: Little Bee, Chris Cleave

Cover - Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

Cover - Little Bee, by Chris CleaveI have wanted to read this book since it first came out a year ago.  Of course, there are about a thousand books a year that I can place in the exact same category.  That is where book club comes in.  I am going to be  discussing this one with my Skype Book Club in March.  This book made the year end lists of several of my favorite bloggers in 2009.

I am all about not giving away too much on the jacket of a book, so I was amused to start my usual quick skim with hands half covering my eyes when I started reading this:

WE DON’T WANT TO TELL YOU TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BOOK.

It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.  Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:  It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.  The story starts there, but the book doesn’t.  And it’s what happens afterward that is most important.  Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.

Dot over at Scribbles had this to say about Little Bee, called The Other Hand in the UK and maybe other places  I don’t know about:

There are so many harrowing scenes in this book and on more than one occasion I was reading with tears streaming down my cheeks. But there is so much wit and humour too, it really does carry the story and gives a profound sense of hope.

Gavin at Page247 had some reservations but was apparently able to overcome them:

My one concern was the idea of a white male journalist giving voice to the two female characters, a young Nigerian girl and a white British magazine editor.  Cleave was brave to take this on and did a superb job.  I loved Little Bee, her strength, her heart and her intelligence.

Jackie at Farm Lane Books also reviewed this under the title, The Other Hand, and had really, really high praise:

It has been a long time since a book has moved me to tears, and even longer since one this length (375 pages) has been compelling enough to read in a single sitting, forcing me to stay up late into the night to finish it.

This book is one long emotional roller coaster. The horrific lows enhanced in intensity by the touching, laugh out loud highs.

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I’m looking forward to reading and discussing this one.

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This Just In! Willow by Julia Hoban

Cover Image - Willow, by Julia Hoban

Cover Image - Willow, by Julia HobanI have just passed the midpoint of the Blob Game (Biggest Loser of Books) with Natasha, Amy, Dawn, Candace and Jen.  Up until yesterday I was the uncontested lead, having culled 161 book that I have listed on our BLOB Spreadsheet.  I have some more to add, but since they are not on the sheet, Jen, from Devourer of Books, is now officially in the lead.

I also hadn’t been buying or requesting any books from publicists, and have, shamefully, been ignoring my e-mail.  The other day I broke down and went through my e-mail and found an offer of a review copy for the book Willow, by Julia Hoban.  The publicist for the book kindly (I think she might be the devil in disguise sen by my BLOB cohorts) enclosed the below description of the book, which I was unable to resist.

Trapped in a life she never expected, Willow Randall desperately wishes things would return to the way they were – but they can’t. One night, Willow’s parents drank too much and asked her to drive them home, but they never made it – Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed. Now tormented by guilt, she goes through the motions just trying to cope. Willow numbs her new, grim reality by secretly cutting herself – the only way she thinks she can gain control amidst dysfunction and chaos. Extremely unique, smart, and thoughtful, Willow not only faces the daunting task of refiguring her life without the people who mattered most, but falls in love with the first person to know everything about her. WILLOW is a testament to the need  for human connection and the power of love to heal. It’s about the love of books, the love of family, and a special love that develops between two teenagers that allows our heroine to start her journey toward healing.

Fellow Blobber Candace, oh-so-helpfully, chimed in that it was the most amazing thing she has ever read and one of her best books of 2009.  Though I am pretty sure she has an ulterior motive, check out what she had to say about Willow in her review from September 2009:

Willow is not a depressing book. It’s a startlingly realistic look at what can happen when we feel separated from our own world. It’s about connections and trust. Hoban does not pretend to offer magic solutions; instead, she gives us much to think about and discuss.

Willow is a must-read novel. I am not surprised that it was nominated by the American Library Association for Best Book for Young Adults.

See if I listen to anything she has to say again.  I only get in trouble, and now I’m apparently on a downward spiral and have entered a couple of giveaway contests as well.

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Needless to say I am very excited to have this in my hot little hands and I can’t wait to read it.  Shame on you Candace for enabling my addiction.  I’ll get you.

To check out our updates and progress on BLOB, visit our website – B.L.O.B. – Biggest Loser of Books.

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Sunday Salon – Back From The Reading Dumps – February 21, 2010

Cover - The Lotus EatersI’m reading again!

February has been decidedly slower than January has been for reading.  I don’t know what happened.  Maybe it was too much too soon, but by February 13th I had finished my 23rd book, and then I just stopped.  I haven’t finished a book since then.  I have been reading The Lotus Eaters which is a fabulous story about a female photographer who during the Vietnam War is trying to break into the male dominated industry of war photography, and navigate the feelings that she has for two men she becomes involved with while there. Tatjana Soli is a talented writer, and I am right there feeling all of the emotions of Helen as she tries to overcome her fear to learn as much as she can about her job and prove herself.  The descriptions of the environment are astounding and, wow, are photographers dedicated.I read these descriptions and want to go running the other way but they brazenly walk toward the chaos of war.

As good as this book is, I haven’t touched it since last Sunday.  I had planned on finishing it and at least a couple of other books this past week, but it just didn’t happen  I can’t say that I have been totally slumped though.  I have been going through my massive book collection and culling books to give away.  So far I have 200 books (sob) that are going to new homes by the end of this month.  Some I have set aside for the library and others are going to be divided among interested friends and family members. Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula Butturini

Yesterday I started reading Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food and Healing in Italy.  I am loving this book. Paula Butturini has a wonderfully captivating writing style and I am incredibly involved as she explains the importance of food in her family and how she and her family have used it to get through difficult times in their lives. I had to put up a quick post about the food in this book yesterday, and I think I will have to do another Literary Feasts post on this books where I try to pick out my three favorite food passages. I have to think about that though, because there are just so many good ones that I might not be able to narrow it down.

In other news, Meg (Write Meg) and I talked Shakespeare, Jay-Z, cheating and friendship in our second installment of Two Girls Read Shakespeare, and That’s How I Blog! has gotten too big for Linus’s Blanket.  I had to move all the related posts over to its own blog.  To keep up to date with what is going on with the show make sure to pop over there and subscribe to That’s How I Blog! I’m in the process of adding the information for my former guests of the show, but all relevant news for upcoming guests and reminders will appear there.  I’m also going to be trying to track all the projects of THIB! guests there as well.  Slowly, of course, but I will get there.

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Right now I plan on doing some blog visiting and maybe a little reading before I head out to play bocce.  What are you up to this Sunday?  Whatever it is, I hope you have a good one. 🙂

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Literary Feasts: Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini

Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula Butturini

Cover Image - Keeping The Feast, by Paula ButturiniItaly will always be a special place here at Linus’s Blanket because that is pretty much where it got its birth as a book blog.  Before that it was an all-purpose/keep up with friends type venture.  I started posting reviews of books that I was reading as I was vacationing in Italy and I never looked back.  Close to two years later here we are.

It is no secret, and in fact I try to talk about it as much as possible, that I am a big lover of all things food and eating, so I was really excited to READ  a book (Keeping the Feast, by Paula Butturini) heavily featuring ITALY and heavily featured FOOD.  All of the capitalized items are really GOOD things!  This book, so far has not disappointed me and has probably managed to pull me put of my reading slump as nothing else could.

Keeping the Feast, is the story of how Paula Butturini sustained her family in hard times through  food and love, and how her family was able to heal using simple rituals celebrating those things.

Food was present immediately in this memoir. Bam, right on the second page.

I woke up early, dressed, walked out the door and over to the Campo.  I would buy a shiny, plump purple-black eggplant.  Or a handful of slender green beans, so fresh and young  you could eat them raw.  I bought three golden pears, or a heavy bunch of fat green grapes.  I bought a few slices of Milanese Salami, a bit of veal.  I bought a thin slab of creamy gorgonzola, to spread on crusty, still warm bread.

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Okay, just popping in to share that really quickly.  I have to get back to my book!

If you enjoyed this post wander over to the Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.  There you’ll find a yummy collection of food related posts.  I love it!

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