Friday, February 26, 2010

Jacob Have I Loved - Katherine Paterson

Jacob Have I Loved
By Katherine Paterson

This book has broken my heart and then put the pieces back together so gently I didn’t even realize it was mended.

It was difficult for me to get into the beginning of Jacob Have I Loved. I thought I had read it before but it turned out to be a different book than I thought so I didn’t know what to expect. Then, I kept waiting for Jacob to appear. Who was he? What was his story?

Finally, about 50 pages in, I let go of waiting for Jacob and just fell into the story. I couldn’t put it down after that. The story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Then, it began shaving off pieces of my heart until it finally shattered what was left with one quick moment.

I knew it was coming. I could feel it about to happen. Well, I could feel the build-up that something was going down but at first I didn’t know if it was going to be good or bad. I just knew it was big. Then, I knew it was bad. I could see what was going to happen but she didn’t know yet. I wanted to shake her “don’t you know what is going to come next?” Then, she knew, and I was heartbroken. I didn’t know if we would ever recover but by the end of the book I was yelling “don’t forget the first one.” And after all that I closed the book with a smile on my face.

I love Louise and though she lived a very different life from me, so much of her felt familiar. Oh Jacob Have I Loved, how I have loved you.

*I read this book as part of the Shelf Discovery Challenge.

**Source: I bought this book with my own sweet loot.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heresy - S.J. Parris

by S.J. Parris

Set in 1583, Heresy takes us to the University of Oxford during a very dramatic time. Giordano Bruno is an excommunicated monk, turned spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's Principal Secretary of State. He goes to Oxford to look for a lost book for himself, while also keeping his eye out for practicing Catholics for Walsingham. Once at Oxford, Bruno is quickly pulled into solving a mysterious death that many don't want to admit is a possible murder.

Parris takes a real person and creates a very realistic mystery that is both captivating and enlightening. I have read so much about this time period but nothing gave me the same understanding for what it must have been like for people with the different religious beliefs. I was constantly second-guessing possible killers and motives while Parris portrayed events that very possibly could have happened.

Although Bruno went to Oxford in search of a lost book, the story focused more on the mysterious murders. The book that Bruno was searching for became a side note that came up sporadically throughout the story. I do wish that more focus was put on the missing book, but the murders intrigued me so much that I didn't find myself wondering about it until Bruno randomly brought it up again.

This is definitely an interesting read for anyone curious about the battle of religions during Queen Elizabeth's reign. I enjoyed getting a look into a different part of Queen Elizabeth's England.

**Source: ARC for review from publisher, thanks Doubleday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Thank you to Marcia at The Printed Page for putting on the weekly Mailbox Monday, a place where I discover so many wonderful new books.

Check out her blog and post all the new books you acquired last week.

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson (ARC from Putnam Books via Shelf Awareness)

From the Publisher's Website:

When Laura Munson's essay was published, The New York Times was so flooded with responses that they had to close down the comment feature. Readers wrote in saying that they had sent the column to all of their friends. Therapists wrote Munson to tell her that they were passing it out to their clients.

What did Munson write that caused such a fervor?

Laura detailed what happened when her husband of more than twenty years told her he wasn't sure he loved her anymore and wanted to move out. And while you might think you know where this story is going, this isn't the story you think it is. Laura's response to her husband: I don't buy it.

In this poignant, wise, and often funny memoir, Munson recounts a period of months in which her faith in herself-and her marriage-was put to the test. Shaken to the core after the death of her beloved father, not finding the professional success that she had hoped for, and after countless hours of therapy, Laura finally, at age forty, realized she had to stop basing her happiness on things outside her control and commit herself to an "End of Suffering." This Is Not The Story You Think It Is... chronicles a woman coming to terms with the myths we tell ourselves-and others-about our life and realizing that ultimately happiness is completely within our control.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LOTR Readalong - The Fellowship of the Ring: Middle

Mid-month is here (and passing me by), which means that it is time for a check in with The Fellowship of the Ring. Clare at The Literary Omnivore has posted a few discussion questions and a Mister Linky to post your progress.

I have to admit I am excited to be moving onto the second part of the book. I enjoyed the first part of the book except for Tom Bombadil. My God I just wanted to leave him and his house and the forest behind. I had this feeling the whole time the hobbits were with him that something awful was going to happen but then I realized that Tom was the something awful, you just can't get rid of him. Go away Tom, let us move on already! I almost didn't make it through that part of the book. I think Jenny at Jenny's Books is correct in calling him Tom Horrible Bombadil.

I think I can sum up my basic feelings about the first half of the book like this:

The Shire: fun.
Bree: mysterious and fun.
Aragorn: hot, mysterious and fun.

Dark Riders: Run.
Tom Bombadil: Eat, then run.

Is there really anything else that needs to be said?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Thank you to Marcia at The Printed Page for putting on the weekly Mailbox Monday, a place where I discover so many wonderful new books.

Check out her blog and post all the new books you acquired last week.

Heresy by S. J. Parris (thanks to Doubleday for sending me this ARC)

From the publisher's website:
Giordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

In S. J. Parris's gripping novel, Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.

His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See (contest win from Nat at Book, Line, and Sinker)

From Amazon:
May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.

But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)--where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months--they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.

A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See.

Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin (contest win from Amy at Passages to the Past)

From Amazon:
Benjamin draws on one of the most enduring relationships in children's literature in her excellent debut, spinning out the heartbreaking story of Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her research into the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the family of Alice Liddell is apparent as she takes circumstances shrouded in mystery and colors in the spaces to reveal a vibrant and passionate Alice. Born into a Victorian family of privilege, free-spirited Alice catches the attention of family friend Dodgson and serves as the muse for both his photography and writing. Their bond, however, is misunderstood by Alice's family, and though she is forced to sever their friendship, she is forever haunted by their connection as her life becomes something of a chain of heartbreaks. As an adult, Alice tries to escape her past, but it is only when she finally embraces it that she truly finds the happiness that eluded her. Focusing on three eras in Alice's life, Benjamin offers a finely wrought portrait of Alice that seamlessly blends fact with fiction.

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam (purchased for Women Unbound Challenge)

From Amazon:
A riveting and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope–by a woman named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. She suffered unspeakable acts of brutality and witnessed horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life–until, in her early twenties, she managed to escape. Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Mam became a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking, rescuing sex workers–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.

Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence is a memoir that will leave you awestruck by the courage and strength of this extraordinary woman and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.

The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris by Mark Kurlansky (thanks to Riverhead Books for sending me this ARC)

From the publisher's website:
In the town of San Pedro in the Dominican Republic, baseball is not just a way of life. It's the way of life. By the year 2008, seventy-nine boys and men from San Pedro have gone on to play in the Major Leagues-that means one in six Dominican Republicans who have played in the Majors have come from one tiny, impoverished region. Manny Alexander, Sammy Sosa, Tony Fernandez, and legions of other San Pedro players who came up in the sugar mill teams flocked to the United States, looking for opportunity, wealth, and a better life.

Because of the sugar industry, and the influxes of migrant workers from across the Caribbean to work in the cane fields and factories, San Pedro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the Dominican Republic. A multitude of languages are spoken there, and a variety of s
kin colors populate the community; but the one constant is sugar and baseball. The history of players from San Pedro is also a chronicle of racism in baseball, changing social mores in sports and in the Dominican Republic, and the personal stories of the many men who sought freedom from poverty through playing ball. The story of baseball in San Pedro is also that of the Caribbean in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and on a broader level opens a window into our country's history.

As with Kurlansky's Cod and Salt, this small story, rich with anecdote and detail, becomes much larger than ever imagined. Kurlansky reveals two countries' love affair with a sport and the remarkable journey of San Pedro and its baseball players. In his distinctive style, he follows common threads and discovers wider meanings about place, identity, and, above all, baseball.

Friday, February 12, 2010

LOTR Readalong - The Fellowship of the Ring: Beginning

I know, I know I am officially slacking on this post. It is now almost the middle of the month and time for the second post but here it is. Clare at The Literary Omnivore is hosting the readalong for this month and she has started it with a few questions:

  1. When did you first hear of The Lord of the Rings?
  2. Have you read The Fellowship of the Ring before?
  3. What’s your plan of attack, now that we’re dealing with more “mature” literature?
  4. Have you ever seen the movies? If so, do you think they’ll influence your reading? If not, well, why haven’t you seen them?

I don't remember when I first heard about LOTR but I know that I read The Hobbit in high school and that is my first memory of them. I tried to move on to The Fellowship of the Ring after that but I eventually became distracted and set it down....for 10 years. I have wanted to actually make it through the series for a while so I am so excited that I am finally going to do it.

I am keeping this on my nightstand and, like The Hobbit, it is the book that I read right before I shut my eyes. I think that is the only way I can control how much I read and draw it out for the month (ok, so I started it late and took it out of the bedroom for a few days but the plan is to put it back in there and stay on track for the rest of the month).

Back in my first year of college I watched the movie with some friends. Well, I started to watch the movie, it ended up being just something that was on in the background. Then I received The Two Towers as a gift and eventually The Return of the King came into my possession. The strange thing is that since I hadn't really seen the first movie or read the books I didn't want to watch them because I wouldn't know what was going on so I don't even know if those 2 DVDs have been opened.

I eventually watched most of the second and third movies when they were on one weekend and I was just having a lazy day. In between getting dressed and doing random things around the house I managed to watch understand most of the story and fall in love. I knew I would have to read the books before I went back and officially started watching the movies again so here I am. When the readalong is over I am buying The Fellowship of the Ring on blu-ray and watching them from start to finish. And I won't feel like a poser since I will finally have read, and I'm sure loved, the books.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Thank you MizB for hosting Teaser Tuesday.

-Grab your current read
-Open to a random page
-Share 2 teaser sentences from that page
-Make sure you don't include any spoilers

Check out Should Be Reading to read more Teaser Tuesdays.

'Because I'm getting married soon, and I would like some advice.'
'You're too old to be getting married,' Mai observed, kindly.

-page 29
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Invisible Children - A Cause and a Bag

Back in 2006 I came across a video for Invisible Children. It was moving and heartbreaking and I have been paying attention ever since. The video was a trailer for Invisible Children: Rough Cut, check it out:

Invisible Children has set out to raise awareness as well as make a difference in the lives of people living in northern Uganda. One of the ways they do that is with MEND.
From the MEND website:

"MEND is designed to seam a personal connection between products and their makers, while repairing the lives of women in distressed regions of the world.

This is not charity. MEND is a sophisticated, competitive, and internationally inspired brand catering to style and function. A subdivision of Invisible Children, MEND is constructed with the belief that what’s on the outside and what’s on the inside should both matter equally. ™

Our handbags are story-driven. Each piece carries the name of the seamstress who made it. Each individual name unlocks online profiles of each seamstress employed in our program. Through video bios and photos she will share how she is “on the MEND” because of a simple purchase."

MEND Explanation Video from MEND on Vimeo.

I was lucky enough to receive one of these beautiful bags from my husband for my birthday. As stated on the website, each bag is labeled with the name of the person who made it and from the website you can watch a video about that person. My bag was made by Aber Rose:

MEND: Aber Rose from MEND on Vimeo.

I am in love with my bag and they are a great cause to be aware of.
For more information on Invisible Children and ways you can get involved you can check out the Invisible Children website.

For a general look at who they are and what they do check out the video below.

**I did not receive any kind of compensation for this post. I came across the site on my own and decided to share it because I believe in what they are doing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Titan’s Curse - Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3)
By Rick Riordan

Ok, so this is the third book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series and I am finally getting into the flow of the writing. The things that annoyed me in the first two books don’t have as much of an impact.

Percy still annoys me. He irritates me when he sees something and thinks it can’t be real.

“He unleashed his spikes, dozens of them at once, into the woods where the arrow had come from, but just as fast, silvery arrows shot back in reply. It almost looked like the arrows had intercepted the thorns in midair and sliced them in two, but my eyes must’ve been playing tricks on me. No one, not even Apollo’s kids at camp, could shoot with that much accuracy.”

I mean seriously dude, your dad is a Greek God and you still doubt that something is possible! I have some to accept that I will never love Percy, but Annabeth and Grover (his main sidekicks) are growing on me. Also, just as in book 2, Riordan has created some really entertaining secondary characters so I can almost forgive him for Percy. I have some to appreciate him for who he is.

It’s like Will & Grace, you don’t watch the show because you love Will and Grace! Heck no, they are practically boring. You watch it because Karen and Jack are two of the funniest people in the world of television. It doesn’t matter that the show is called Will & Grace, just like it doesn’t matter that it is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. He is just the glue that holds the story together. You read it for the other characters, the secondary ones who carry the story and make it entertaining. Because although you may not care what happens to Percy, you really want to know how it ends and what the crazy Greek Gods will do next.

Review of Book 1: The Lightening Thief
Review of Book 2: The Sea of Monsters

**Source: this book was bought with my own sweet loot.