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Book Haven

"Words are the voice of the heart." - Confucius. This place is for me, and you, to revel in the art of the written word. So pull up that hot pot of tea, coffee, or mulled cider, a comfy chair, a good book, and maybe

Updated: 2018-03-05T02:12:32.377-05:00


Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen


Title: Pride and Prejudice 
Author: Jane Austen
Country: UK
Year: 1813
Pages: 332 pgs.
Rating: 5 out of 5

First sentence: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Amazingly, Pride and Prejudice is one of the remaining Austen novels I have not read (Northanger Abbey is the other one). Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion...loved them all. So I figured it was about time I pick this one up off my shelf.

Boy, I was not disappointed! It almost felt like coming back to an old friend, even though I have never read P&P before. But I know the story very well, having fallen in love with the BBC series. And I loved it. I loved it so much that I don't know what to say. It is that good. And it is jumping right up to the top of my all-time favorite lists.

It's witty - I love the early banter between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth when Jane is recovering from an illness at Mr Bingley's home. It's funny - Mr Collins just cracks me up, and you just have to laugh at Mrs Bennett's scheming. Almost 200 years later, it is still a page turner. And as much as I love reading classics, I would not describe most of them as a page turner!

It is also a comfort book. I can't help but love almost all of the characters, despite their flaws. Immersing yourself in the novel is like having a cup of tea with an old friend. It's a joy to read, and I am positive that over the years I will be reading it again...and again...and again.

In a conversation with Lady Catherine:
"I am not in the habit of being disappointed!"
"That will make your ladyship's position more pitiable; but it will have no effect upon me." (p.303)

Sunday Salon - October 5


Later today we will be going apple picking with a group of our friends, one of my favorite autumn activities! However, reading is high on my mind today, since I decided to take the leap and tackle The Cairo Trilogy...all 3 books. They have been staring at me for two years, and I figure it is about time that I took the plunge. 

I'm hoping to do a little blog hopping during Maya's afternoon nap. And stay tuned for an onslaught of picture books reviews, I'm hoping to post my thoughts on many of the books we checked out from the library that have a fall theme. I'm still catching up on my own reviews, too...I hope to have my thoughts up soon on Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner, Remember Me and Shopahoilc and Baby by Sophie Kinsella, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Dappled Apples - Jan Carr


Title: Dappled Apples
Author: Jan Carr
Illustrator: Dorothy Donohue
Year: 2007
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dappled Apples is a whimsical romp through an apple orchard and pumpkin patch. I checked this book out of the library before we went apple picking, and it fit that context beautifully. It has simple, rhyming text, and the illustrations are vibrant and really stand out.

I can't say it's one of my favorite picture books, but I will probably keep it on my list of books to get from the library each autumn.

House of Leaves - Mark Danielewski


Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Danielewski
Country: USA
Year: 2000
Pages: 709 pgs.
Rating: 4 out of 5

First sentence: This book is not for you.

I first saw this novel years ago, and it caught my interest, but I never got around to reading it. Finally, about two months ago, I saw it on my brother-in-law's bookshelf, and borrowed it. I was in for quite a ride.

There is both a lot going on in the plot, and a lot of very little. The main plot, if there is such a think, is the story of a photojournalist and his family who move into a house that turns out to be a wee bit bigger on the inside than the out
side. The analysis of The Navidson Record, a documentary made by the photojournalist as his family adjusted to their new home and discovered it wasn't quite normal, is written by an old guy named Zampano, who died in his apartment. His book was discovered by Johnny Truant, a self admitted liar and druggie whose life slowly begins to spin out of control in the footnotes of the book. Rounding out the narrators is "the editors" who occasionally throw in their own two cents. It's a dizzying, fascinating book. 

You can't review House of Leaves without mentioning it's unusual styling, a postmodern piece of art. Each narrator has their own font, which really helps the reader follow what's going on and from whose perspective. As the family - and outsiders who become involved in the exploration-delve into the mysteries of the house, they are begin to expose themselves to a dark exploration of their psyche and interpersonal relationships. The text mimics both the action, and the emotional state of mind each person is in. It turns, twists, reduces to only a few words per is a dizzying effect, but relatively easy to follow.

One of my favorite parts, which seems to get overlooked in reviews, is quite simple. Zampano is a blind man, and his book is reviewing a movie. What the?

Another highlight is the letters between Johnny and his mother while she was at the Whalestoe psychiatric institute. The letters are in the appendix, but they bring subtle clues to much of Johnny's narration.

Happy Rosh Hashanah and Eid!


This year, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, will be celebrated at the same time as Eid-ul-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan. Both are joyful festivals and feasts of celebration. Our family is taking advantage of this nearness to host an interfaith dinner with friends and family to celebrate both.




Friday Fill-In - September 26



1. Hot apple cider, butternut squash soup, pumpkin curry, more apple picking, taking walks with Maya and watching the leaves change, and picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch are some of the things I'm most looking forward to in October.

2. Sometimes I just want time to myself.

3. John McCain actually did a decent job at the presidential debate tonight, and that's why there is a saying, "never say never"! His policies, however, are still crappy.

4. When I'm down, I pick up a good book.

5. Chasing after Maya is where you'll find me most often.

6. A rainy day is good for reading.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching the debate, tomorrow my plans include reading Pride and Predjudice and Sunday, I want to spend time with my family that are coming to visit!

Sing Through the Day


Title: Sing Through the Day: Eighty Songs for ChildrenCompiled by Marlys SwingerCountry: VariousPages: 112 pgs.Rating: 5 out of 5I first came across Sing Through the Day when I was compiling a list of books related to the Waldorf method of learning. This book of songs comes up on many lists, and I was intrigued. Maya loves music; the songs I have sang to her from birth almost always soothe her when she is upset or having a hard time falling asleep. And I desperately needed to add to my repertoire, I was quickly growing tired of the few songs I knew by heart. The songs in the book (with accompanying scores), are categorized mainly by time of day, morning, playtime, nighttime...with other categories such as weather, birthdays, and games, also included. The book includes a CD of many of the songs. While the quality of the CD is not the best, it does help this musically challenged mama learn the tunes. My years of playing the flute mean that I can read music, but I have a terrible time carrying a tune with my voice, and in that way the CD really helped out. The songs are from all over the world, and many include tips on how to incorporate musical instruments, creative play, and fingerplays with the music.We are having a lot of the fun learning the songs. Proud Missus Sheep is a wonderful alternative to the standard Old MacDonald Had a Farm (a song I was quickly growing tired of) and is easy to learn:"Proud Missus Sheep, she has a little lamb now, down on Cherry Tree Farm. Hear them together, in any sort of weather, Baaa...Baa...Baaa." (and so on for whatever animals you want to sing about).Squirrel Nutkin, a Spanish folk tune, is a great accompaniment to reading Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin. The Japanese Rain Song is also a huge hit in our home. The other day we got stuck out in a thunderstorm. Maya was tired and grumpy, and as we hovered under our umbrella she was quickly getting fussier. I started singing the song, and she immediately calmed down and started smiling:Underneath my big umbrella, I can hear the rain, underneath my roof of yellow singing down the lane.Pichi, pichi, chapu, chapu,Rain, rain, rain.Underneath my big umbrella I can see the sun;down I bring my roof of yellow for the rain is done.Pichi pichi, chapu chapu,Rain, rain, rain.Some of our other favorites are the Swiss Alpine Song, the Thuringian folk tune The Rooster's Our Watchman, and the Finnish tune Sleep, My Duckling.I have probably said this here before, but I am a firm believer in the power of music, and horrible singing voice aside, we spend a lot of our day singing and making music. Maya has learned how to bang rhythm sticks together, and loves eggs shakers and maracas. We recently started Music Together classes, so there is no longer any shortage of new music to sing, clap, and dance along to![...]

The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart


(image) Title: The Crystal Cave
Author: Mary Stewart
Country: UK
Year: 1970
Pages: 512 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

First sentence: The day my Uncle Camlach came home, I was just six years old.

The Crystal Cave is the first book in Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy. It is a series I have been meaning to read for a long time, and when I saw it on the library bookshelves, I snatched it up immediately. 

Book One takes place when Merlin is just a young lad, the illegitimate son of the daughter of a local king. During his childhood, Britain is divided into tiny kingdoms after the departure of the Romans. The Saxons are a constant threat (as they will be for quite some time), but the land is also divided by internal feuding that takes place before the return of Uther and Ambrosius. We follow Merlin through many of his well known acts: his prophecy of Ambrosius' victory, transporting and building the Giant's Dance (Stonehenge), and the encounter between Uther and Ygraine that led to the birth of Arthur.

Most of the Arthurian books I have read are about the women, Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie come to mind. It's a nice change to read a book about one of Arthurian legends most mysterious characters, Merlin. The Crystal Cave certainly lives up to the hype, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the trilogy.

Independent People - Halldor Laxness


Title: Independent People
Author: Halldor Laxness
Country: Iceland
Year: 1946
Pages: 512 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Independent People is the story of Bjartur of Summerhouses, an Icelandic crofter who has bought his own croft after 18 years of servitude to the Bailiff of Myri. Bjartur is conservative, stubborn, and fearful of progress. He is not especially likeable, but you can't help being drawn into his plight. Bjartur prides himself on being an independent man, defining independence as freedom from servitude. However, freedom and independence from starvation, sickness, and extreme poverty are issues he confronts on a daily basis.

Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize in 1955, and many view Independent People as the crown of his achievements. Despite this, it remains an obscure novel--it took months to obtain a copy through the interlibrary loan system--from a small country most Americans know little about. For me, that is part of its charm.

The book is hard describe. It is about many things: Icelandic sheep farmers in the early 20th century, self-sufficiency and independence, a satirical look at Bjartur's limitations, the impact of war, and the juxtaposition of economics and politics (particularly socialism vs capitalism), all play out through the course of this epic novel. There are long discussions of ancient Icelandic poetry, for Bjartur is a poet, which really gives the story a timeless quality. Framing these themes is the relationship between Bjartur and his only daughter Asta Sollija.

Independent People certainly hold its own in comparison to other works of the time by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Pearl S. Buck. It is a book to read when you have the time to sit down and browse slowly.

Sunday Salon - September 21


Wow, it has been 1 1/2 months since my last Sunday Salon post! I love blogging, and reading what my blogging friends are up to, but I found I just needed a break for a while. In retrospect, I think it was the craziness of the last few months finally getting to me: moving, unpacking, adjusting to hubby's new schedule (and the fact that most days he leaves for work before Maya gets up, and returns after she goes to bed), and beginning to chase after my little bub who started crawling, and is now close to walking. We have also been plagued by Maya's unwillingness to eat solids, and her slow weight gain and drop from her growth pattern (already on the small side, in the 3rd-5th percentiles), which has spurred visits to a gastroenterologist, and a host of blood work and other tests. Her pediatrician diagnosed her as failure to thrive, "not because I believe she is, but I need a diagnosis number for insurance purposes". In all other ways she is thriving, but seeing FTT on paper just makes me feel ill. So far, all of the test results have come back fine, and my gut feeling is that nothing is wrong medically, especially since she meets all the milestones far in advance. She just isn't all that interested in food. We will be going to a speech pathologist that does feeding therapy, I'm really hoping that helps more than our meeting with a nutritionist, who failed to tell me anything I didn't already know.In all other ways, Maya is a happy, healthy 9-month old baby. She has been crawling since June, and currently her favorite activity is cruising around with her Brio walker wagon. In the last few days, she has been briefly standing on her own, so it looks like walking is in our near future! She says a few words now..."ma ma", "da da", and "ne ne" when she wants to nurse. She has also learned the "milk" sign I use to ask her if she wants to nurse. And she has finally learned how to go both up and down a step, so I don't have to worry as much about the step between our living and dining room. And, her toothless grin is almost gone! She has two budding lower teeth, with one ready to erupt any day.With all of that going on (how I digress from books!), I haven't had as much time to read as I usually do. I have finished a few books in the last two months: Independent People by Haldor Laxness, Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella, The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, You are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin, Sing Through the Day, compiled by Marlys Singer, and House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. All of those reviews will be forthcoming throughout the next week or two.And now, having finished House of Leaves yesterday, I am having a hard time deciding what to pick up next. I could read Remember Me, by Sophie Kinsella, my mom's book group pick for this month. Although I like Sophie Kinsella, I'm not expecting the book to generate much discussion, and having just read one of the Shopaholic books, I'm not as inclined to pick this one up. I also have The Blue Jay's Dance by Louise Erdrich on my TBR pile, but I don't know if I'm in the right mood for non-fiction. What I really want to read next is the second book in Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy...but my hold isn't available at the library yet. More than likely I will be picking up something small and quick, an Agatha Christie or Barbara Pym book, to tide me over until The Hollow Hills is available at the library.Happy Sunday, fellow Saloners![...]

On A Break!


Life is a bit busy and crazy at the moment (but in a good way - don't worry!), so I am taking a month-long break from blogging. I may still post the occasional review during that time, but won't be commenting very much. I plan on returning after our vacation in September. See you then!

Friday Fill-In - August 15


1. The last meal I had at a restaurant was Vietnamese pho.

2. Road rage is something I intensely dislike.

3. The full moon is beautiful to behold.

4. Da 'burgh is one of my favorite local expressions from my college days in Pittsburgh.

5. Sometimes it's best to keep your mouth shut.

6. Once is the best movie I've seen so far this year!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to Shabbat breakfast at dinner (challah French toast with fruit), tomorrow my plans include going to the park if it doesn't rain and Sunday, I want to finish reading Independent People by Haldor Laxness!

Booking Through Thursday - August 14


You, um, may have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now, so that’s the genesis of this week’s question, in two parts:First:Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?And, Second:Do you consider yourself a sports fan?Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.(Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)(For the record, I am not a sports fan at all, but I’ll watch almost any Olympics event, have indeed read books about the Olympics–and strongly recommend The Second Mark, which yes, is about Figure Skating, but was a fantastic story and particularly enthralling in its view into life as an athlete in China, so no sneering at the sport, okay? The book was fascinating. I’ve also read a history of the 1896 Olympics (there’s  also a good mini-series which just came out on DVD).)Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!You'll have to bear with me these days, our internet connection is intermittent, and until it is fixed I have very little time to update my blog!I have never read any books about the Olympics, or specific Olympians. I have never been particularly interested in reading books about sports, either fiction or non-fiction. With the exception of extreme sports, like rock-climbing, diving, abseiling, or climbing Mt. Everest. However, I do like to watch sports. If we lived in a perfect world, with 100-hour days, I would watch more sporting events, like basketball, ice skating, soccer (futbol), and rugby, to name a few. But we don't, and I have other interests--like reading and cooking, and getting outdoors to hike, bike, or swim--that I enjoy more. I do love to watch tennis' Grand Slam tournaments, since I was a tennis player myself. I love watching both the Summer and Winter Olympics and the World Cup. Sometimes I tune into the Commonwealth Games. I never watch football or cricket, and I only enjoy watching a baseball game in person.[...]

Global Babies - Global Fund for Children


Title: Global Babies
Author: Global Fund for Children
Country: Everywhere
Year: 2007
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is a very sweet book that shows pictures of a diverse group of babies from all over the world: Guatemala, Thailand, Greenland, Mali, USA, India, South Africa, Fiji, Peru, Afghanistan, Malawi, Spain, Iraq, Rwanda, and Bhutan. Some of the babies are dressed in bright, colorful traditional dress, others in a simple t-shirt. Some babies are worn by their mothers in a sling or papoose. All our a beautiful illustration of our global illustration. 

The message of the text is simple but poignant: "Wherever they live, wherever they go, whatever they wear, whatever they feel, babies everywhere are beautiful, special, and loved." It was a perfect book to read at the start of the Beijing Olympics, especially for the 6-12 month age range.

The Planets - Dava Sobel


Title: The PlanetsAuthor: Dava SobelYear: 2005Country: USAPages: 276Rating: 4 out of 5First sentence: My planet fetish began, as best I can recall, in third grade, at age eight--right around the time I learned that Earth had siblings in space, just as I had older brothers in high school and college.I am a humanities person through and through. The only aspect of science that has ever held me interest is psychology, and astronomy usually causes my eyes to glaze over. However, when I saw raidergirl's recent review of The Planets, by Dava Sobel, and the book appeared in my library's bookmobile a week later, I knew I had to check it out.And I am so glad I did. Dava writes in a style vastly different from most science books, turning a book about our solar system into a captivating story. She draws on astronomy's shared ancestry with astrology, geology and mathematics; each planet, along with the sun and moon, get their own chapter. Her approach is quite unique. For example, the chapter about Mars is written from the perspective of a Martian meteorite that was found in Antarctica. Some of the interesting tidbits I learned include:Mercury experiences no real seasons, since it stands erect rather than leaning on a tilted axis;Venus' dusk to dawn is the equivalent of two Earth months. Because of its rotation, the sun rises in the West and sets in the East;Mars has the highest mountains in the solar system;Jupiter is double the mass of all other planets combined, and is 300 times larger than Earth;The Saturnian ring system spans a disc of 180,000 miles wide from one ring tip to the other. Yet the depth barely exceeds a 32-story building;Uranus was discovered in 1781 by a novice astronomer with a homemade telescope in his garden. Two of the moons are named Oberon and Titania--the King and Queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream;Neptune was discovered by mathematicians, not astronomers, as a way to explain Uranus' irregular orbit;Pluto (no longer classified as a planet) is smaller than the moon.The Planets was published before Pluto was demoted as a planet, but Dava explains the controversy surrounding its planet status, and how its demotion can actually be viewed as a sign of scientific progress in understanding our Solar System. Her book is a great introduction into our amazing and fascinating solar system.Tucked into the Notes section at the back of the book, was a comment I found absolutely hilarious in regards to Venus:"Former President Jimmy Carter, while serving as governor of Georgia, reported Venus to the state police. During World War II, a squadron of B-29 pilots mistook the planet for a Japanese plane and tried to shoot it from the sky."And some more quotes:The Chaldeans called the planet Ishtar, the love goddess ascending the heavens, and to the Semitic Sumerians she was Nin-si-anna, "the Lady of the Defenses of Heaven." Her Persian name, Anahita, associated her with fruitfulness. The dual (dawn and dusk) nature of Venus cast her by turns as virgin or vamp to her worshipers. (p.55)Venus, the wayward sister, preaches an important cautionary tale to careless humans, for her hostile environment proves how even small atmospheric effects can conspire over time to convert an earthly paradise into a hell-fire cauldron. Indeed, much current study of Venus aims to save humanity from itself by verifying, for example, the destruction that chlorine compounds wreak in high-altitude clouds. (p.59)Also reviewed by:An Adventure in ReadingIf you have read this book and would like your review mentioned here, just leave me a link in the comment section![...]

Sunday Salon - August 10


It is a mild and refreshing Sunday here in this Saloner's corner of the world. For August, we are having surprisingly low-humidity, moderately warm days. It's wonderful!I considered joining the Olympic Reading Challenge, hosted by Annie, a while back. Ultimately, however, I decided to take a completely different approach to my reading during the Beijing Olympics. Rather than reading American authors, I am reading books by authors in other countries. Yesterday, I started with Independent People by Icelandic author Haldor Laxness, and so far it is turning out to be a wonderful read. Haldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize in 1955, but his books were largely out of print for English readers until Independent People was republished in English in 1997.It is a delight, and a challenge, to read a book that takes place in a country I know very little about. For books first published in languages such as Spanish, French, Arabic, German, Italian, Chinese, or Japanese, I at least recognize some of the places mentioned and usually know how to pronounce the names of the characters. The only thing I know about Iceland is that beautiful fjords follow the coast, the capital is Reykjavik, and fishing is the source of much of its exports. Since Independent People is not set in the capital, or in a fishing village, but in the valleys where sheep farmers reside, everything I read about is a new experience. It is armchair traveling at its best!In the Introduction, Brad Leithauser describes the novel as the book of his life. He describes it as a "book of genius that, even in a long bookworm's life, one might never have stumbled upon." Books that are not on the well-trodded path, "in which the flaws of a book are as endearing--as treasurable--as the flaws in the face of one's sole beloved."Do you have a book of your life? A book that most people would look at you and go, 'huh'? For me, that book would probably be The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Although well-known, it certainly doesn't do the round in the way that Pride and Prejudice, Grapes of Wrath, or the Bible can. Yet when I first read The Handmaid's Tale in a Women's Lit class, it's impact was profound. An idealistic college student, the novel (combined with a few other factors, such as the Cultural Anthropology course I also took that semester) started me on a path that eventually led towards my study abroad experience on Semester at Sea, a Master's in International Relations, and my work with refugees and asylum seekers. How did one little book do so much? Well, that's a story for another time.On an end note, as much as I love watching the Olympics, this year is more important to me than ever. One of my former clients, Abebe Fekadu, will be competing at the Beijing Paralympics in September!!! This amazing man, who has overcome so much, is an inspiration to so many. He is a kind, gentle, and humble soul, and I am honored to know him. Originally from Ethiopia, he will be representing Australia in powerlifting. Although the Paralympics don't begin until September, I am already sending "Go Abebe!" vibes towards Beijing. :) I haven't seen Abebe since my wedding in October 2006, right before we moved back from Australia to the United States, but his journey and success are still close to my heart.[...]

Baby Born - Anastasia Suen


(image) Title: Baby Born
Author: Anastasia Suen
Illustrator: Chih-Wei Chang
Year: 1998
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Since Maya is a November baby, this is a great board book for our family. The story follows a baby that is born in the winter through the first year of her life. Baby's growth is connected to the world around her:

"Baby turns
and lifts her head
so do seedlings
in their bed"
"Baby takes a step
and then
like the snow
falls down again"

Each page features babies of varying ethnicities. It's a cute book, with nice illustrations. There is one glaring inconsistency, however. The book starts with Baby born in the winter. Yet, at the end, when she turns 1, it is spring or summer. It could be a challenge to see at what age Maya notices this difference!

Friday Fill-In - August 8


1. You know you're old when when you have to get up 3 times a night to go to the bathroom. Either that or you're pregnaant.

2. My heart is divided between reading What is the What by Dave Eggers and Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy.

3. A pot of tea is what I need RIGHT NOW!

4. I have felt the crisp pages of a new book, I have known the depths of the basement that hides the older, funky novels.

5. Gah, won't these people learn how to drive?

6. Eat a pie as soon as you can!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to Shabbat dinner, tomorrow my plans include a day trip to NYC and Sunday, I want to have a couple hours to myself!

Booking Through Thursday - August 7


Are there any particular worlds in books where you'd like to live?
I think it would be a lot of fun to live in the alternate England of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. I would love to be a literary detective, and have that kind of interaction with my favorite books!

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?
I would most certainly not want to live in the Republic of Gilead, the world Margaret Atwood created in The Handmaid's Tale. Gilead is a totalitarian state that has replaced the USA, and Offred is a handmaid who has the 'privilege' of sleeping with other women's husband's in an attempt to bear them children. A handmaid is treated as a slave, and if they do not become pregnant, are sent to a concentration camp.

What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?(This came to me when reviewing a Jonathan Carroll book - I'm not sure I'd like to live in the world of his books).
I would love for Isabel Allende to write my life. I love her writing style, and it would be nice to see my life touched by a spot of magical realism.

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Oh no! Not my opinion!


Last week's absence was unplanned, but I seem to be getting back into the swing of things again. I find that I go through moods where my books (and life!) consume me much more than blogging. I take that as a healthy sign. :) Of course, there's nothing like another attack aimed at book bloggers to get me back to the keyboard!Lissa Warren, from The Huffington Post, seems to be jumping on the band wagon in criticizing bloggers for...blogging. In her post, Will Blogs Save Books, she makes the claim that blog reviewers are writing about the wrong thing, focusing instead on self-indulgent drivel:Well, I think book reviews on blogs -- particularly those of the Blogspot variety -- tend to be self-indulgent. Book reviewing bloggers need to move away fromopinion in favor of judgment. How does the book compare to -- and fit in with -- the author's previous work? What's the book's place in the genre? The canon? Does the writer succeed in doing what he or she set out to do -- meaning, is it the book they meant it to be? Whether it's the book the blogger wanted it to be is of much less importance to me, frankly.Her complaint is exactly what she rails against...her opinion. And opinion is main reason I read blogs. I want to know what other people think about a book. I like to discuss the novel I just read with others, I find the personal interaction stimulating. In my opinion, I am glad that many bloggers generally stay away from some of the above topics. If I want to know how a book fits in with its genre or canon, I'll go to a book or magazine of literary analysis and criticism. But that's not what I'm looking for here. One thing her article did was cause me to really think about why I blog. In case you are wondering, this is what I came up with:1. It's a hobby that I really enjoy.2. I find it adds another level to my reading, and I now tend to retain more from the books I read.3. I love reading the opinions of other bloggers who have read the same books.4. I love discovering new books through other bloggers reviews and discussions.5. I find the book blog community contains a wonderful group of very interesting, intelligent, kind people! It's great to be a small cog in this little world.I do not blog because I want to be a professional book reviewer. I do not want to upstage newspaper book reviewers.There are quite a few other wonderful comments out there in reaction to this article. Check out book-a-rama, caribousmom, minds alive on the shelves for further discussion.I have also been tagged by seachanges for the six quirky things about me meme.The rules are: Link to the person who tagged meMention the rulesTell six quirky but unspectacular details about myselfTag six other bloggers by linking to themGo to each person's blog and let them know they are taggedSome of my quirks are:1. I am very particular about how I drink my tea. Some I drink with milk and sugar (ceylon, chai). others with honey (lemon tea, chamomile), and still others with no additions (most herbal teas, green tea, and white tea). With the exception of black teas, almost all my tea is loose leaf.2. I almost always only read one book at a time.3. I have a weakness for gossip blogs like pink is the new blog which completely contradicts my personality.4. I spend most mornings going on mini-hikes or bike rides with my daughter.5. I rarely watch tv, sticking mainly to an occasional The Daily Show and Lost. The rare times I turn on the tv randomly, I have a strange addiction to Law & Order and CSI (the Las Vegas version only).6. One of my favorite hobbies[...]

What's In A Name Challenge Wrap-Up


Challenge Blog: What's in a Name?Books Read:1. Book with a color in its title:- The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison (finished 12 February 2008)2. A Book with an animal in its title:- Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith (finished 17 June 2008)3. Book with a character's first name in its title:- Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan (finished 28 January 2008)4. Book with a place in its title:- The News from Paraguay - Lily Tuck (finished 5 August 2008)5. Book with a weather event in the title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See - (finished 27 April 2008)6. Book with a plant in its title:- The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich (finished 8 April 2008)Favorite: It would be a toss-up between The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and  Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith.Least Favorite: Definitely The News from Paraguay. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.New-to-me authors: Lily Tuck, Lisa See, and Louise Erdrich were all new to me.[...]

The News from Paraguay - Lily Tuck


Author: Lily Tuck
Year: 2004
Pages: 248
Rating: 2 out of 5

First sentence: For him it began with a feather. 

The News From Paraguay chronicles the relationship between Francisco Solano, the future President and dictator from Paraguay, and the Irish courtesan Ella Lynch, who follows Francisco back to Paraguay, bearing and raising his children. The story is set amidst a backdrop of war and violence as Francisco, as President, declares war on virtually all the countries surrounding Paraguay.

There is not much to like about this book other than the first sentence. The story is disjointed, and jumps from character to character, never fully explaining anyone or anything. As historical fiction, it never gave me the feeling that the author really understood the time period and country she was talking about; the exploration into Paraguay's War of the Triple Alliance and its relationship with other South American countries, England, and the United States was superficial at best. Most of the scenes were almost immediately forgettable. I am amazed it won an award.

If you have read this book and would like your review listed here, just leave a comment with the link to your review!

Midwives - Chris Bohjalian


Title: MidwivesAuthor: Chris BohjalianYear: 1997Country: USAPages: 372Rating: 3 out of 5First sentence: Throughout the long summer before my mother's trial began, and then during those crisp days in the fall when her life was paraded publicly before the county--her character lynched, her wisdom impugned--I overheard much more than my parents realized, and I understood more than they would have liked.Midwives is the story of a homebirth gone terribly wrong. Midwife Sibyl Danforth does everything she can to save the life of one of her mothers during labor. When the mother passes away, she performs an emergency c-section to save the baby's life. When her actions are questioned, she faces the hostility of those who oppose homebirth, especially physicians and the state attorney's office. When I started reading Midwives, I was worried the subject matter would hit a bit too close to home. When I was pregnant, we seriously considered homebirth, however our apartment's small bathtub and thin walls did not promise a comfortable experience. Instead, I opted for the care of the Special Beginnings birth center midwives. By the time my labor rolled around, I completely trusted all four midwives. Which is why, 23 hours into my 24 hours of non-medicated labor (and 4+ hours of pushing!), when my midwife told me he (and yes, a midwife can be a he) thought I should transfer to the hospital for an emergency c-section, I didn't hesitate. He was confirming what my instinct was telling me--if not the fetalscope--that something was wrong. Maya came out 45 minutes later, with a shorter umbilical cord that was wrapped around her neck. She had also turned into the posterior position, which explained the almost two hours of almost unbearable back labor I had been dealing with.If we would have been unable to go to a hospital, would Maya have eventually been in distress because of the umbilical cord? What about me? Thankfully, we'll never know. But with her birth still fresh in my mind, it was emotionally difficult to read the beginning of this book.Other than that, it's a fairly enjoyable read. Right away, I could tell the author had read Ina May Gaskin, a well-known midwife, and her book Spiritual Midwifery is mentioned in the acknowledgments. I didn't particularly like the story written from the perspective of the midwife's daughter, and some of the character development fell flat. The style of writing - and topic choice - reminds me a lot of Jodi Picoult. Overall I enjoyed the story, but I'm not extremely motivated to pick up another one of his books.Also reviewed by:SMS Book ReviewsDog Ear DiaryChoosing Joy[...]

Founding Mothers - Cokie Roberts


Author: Cokie Roberts
Year: 2004
Country: USA
Pages: 348 pgs.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

First sentence: When you hear of a family with two brothers who fought heroically in the Revolutionary War, served their state in high office, and emerged as key figures in the new American nation, don't you immediately think, "They must have had a remarkable mother"?

I remember very little about my schooling on the Revolutionary War, other than an awarness that my old history books were filled with dates of battles, and the heroics of soldiers, and not much else. Therefore, when I first picked up this book, I met quite a few people I should have heard of...but didn't.

I never knew that one of the most influential writers of the Revolutionary area was a woman, Mery Otis Warren. That a British writer and feminist--Catherine McCauley played a large part in influencing the minds of the American federalists. That a woman was the money (and a good part of the intellect) behind Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin--Eliza Lucas Pinckney. There are many more stories in Founding Mothers of women who helped to shape the newly created American nation.

You can tell that Roberts was meticulous in her research into the women who provided a vast amount of courage, patriotism, and dedication to a fledgling nation that afforded them hardly any rights. It is also very obvious that this is a book that she truly enjoyed writing, the author's passion for the topic shines through. One of the only downsides is that the reader is often bounced from topic to topic, which, for someone without a solid knowledge about the Revolutionary Era, can become a bit confusing. Especially when so many people shared similar names!

If you have reviewed this book and would like your review listed here, let me know!

Sunday Salon - July 27


My mind is a bit scattered this morning, and Maya is clamoring for my attention, so this will be a bit brief...and erratic. :)

I am still reading (but almost done!) Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, about the mothers and wives of America's Founding Fathers. Many of the locations talked about are near my current home, a place that I lived in the past, or somewhere I have gone on vacation: Philadelphia, Baltimore, York, Princeton, Charleston, New York, etc. In addition to the places I have already visited, I have now added quite a few more to my list.

I can't be the only one that does this! Do you ever read a book, bookmarking things are places to visit on a vacation? Since I'm not a huge war-buff, my interest mainly lies in learning more about the people behind the Declaration of Independence, rather than battles fought. Often, I'll read a book and end up with a desire to travel there: Paris, Turkey, Egypt, Prince Edward Island, list is endless.

For those who might be wondering, some of the Revolutionary-related places I have gone are:
  • Morven House, Princeton - Home of Richard Stockton (signer of the Declaration of Independence) and Annis Boudinot Stockton, poet.
  • Valley Forge, outside Philadelphia, PA
  • Monticello - Thomas Jefferson's home, Virginia
  • Montpelier - James Madison's home, Virginia
  • Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Gates House, York, PA (General Gates lived here when the Continental Congress was evacuated to York during the war)
And those I would like to visit include:
  • Monmouth Battlefield State Park
  • Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, South Carolina
  • Mount Vernon, Virginia
  • Liberty Hall, New Jersey
Happy Reading!