Monday, January 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Thank you Rose City Reader for hosting this month's Mailbox Monday blog tour.

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

 An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town by David Farley (from author)

From Amazon:

An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest TownIn December 1983, a priest in the Italian hill town of Calcata shared shocking news with his congregation: The pride of their town, the foreskin of Jesus, had been stolen. Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the priest himself was to blame. Some even pointed their fingers at the Vatican. In 2006, travel writer David Farley moved to Calcata, determined to find the missing foreskin, or at least find out the truth behind its disappearance. Farley recounts how the relic passed from Charlemagne to the papacy to a marauding sixteenth-century German solider before finally ending up in Calcata, where miracles occurred that made the sleepy town a major pilgrimage destination. Over the centuries, as Catholic theology evolved, the relic came to be viewed as something of an embarrassment, culminating in a 1900 Church decree that allowed the parish to display it only on New Year's Day.

An Irreverent Curiosity interweaves this history with the curious landscape of Calcata, a beautiful and untouched medieval village set atop four-hundred-fifty-foot cliffs, which now, due to the inscrutable machinations of Italian bureaucracy, is a veritable counterculture coven. Blending history, travel, and perhaps the oddest story in Christian lore, An Irreverent Curiosity is a weird and wonderful tale of conspiracy and misadventure. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Across the Universe

Across the Universe
Across the Universe
By Beth Revis

Amy is a girl who is frozen, along with her parents and many others, in order to travel to another planet that they will inhabit.  The plan is that they will be frozen for the 300 years it will take them to reach this planet but Amy is unplugged 50 years early and no one knows why or who did it.  Overall, Across the Universe was a book that I enjoyed.  There was just one thing that annoyed me...the Season.

I plowed through the first half of the book because I wanted to know what was going to happen but then I set the book down for a period of time and I had a hard time getting back into the story.  The problem was that I unknowingly set it down at the start of the Season which turned out to be the worst part of the story.  At one point, I actually had to set the book down and check out other reviews online to see if anyone else felt the same way I did because I was so appalled. 

I was so grateful for Google Book Blog Custom Search (which I finally added to my sidebar because I use it all the time) and I just got lucky that the first blog on the list was Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews because she said exactly what I was thinking (Click HERE to read her review). I just felt that the Season was unnecessary, or at least part of it was.  I think Revis could have made her point without going so far over the top.  The story did pick up again after the Season and we were able to get back to everything else. Aside from the Season and the fact that some of the major plot points were fairly obvious early on, the story was intriguing.

Revis really captured how it might feel to be stuck on a ship that is not going to land for a really long time.  To be on a spaceship, unable to see the sun or breathe fresh air or even run outside, is heartbreaking in itself.  Then, to have to experience all of this surrounded by people who don't understand what they are missing because they were raised inside the metal walls and you woke up 50 years early is beyond devastating.  The terror and claustrophobia and sadness are all portrayed perfectly as the mystery behind why Amy woke up early unfolds. 

**Source: ARC from publisher.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giveaway Winner

Waiting for Columbus

Congratulations Anne-Marie T!!! 

You are the winner of 
Waiting for Columbus on audiobook.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with Author Jessie Sholl

Earlier this week I reviewed Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl.  As you can see by my review, I absolutely loved this book so I was extremely excited when Jessie agreed to answer a few of my questions. 

You dedicate the book to your mom and I have read that she was quite supportive of the book but what was her first reaction when she found out you were writing it? Did she need any convincing?

She needed no convincing. The conversation went like this:
Me: Mom, I’m thinking about writing about hoarding. What do you think of that idea?
Helen: I think that’s a wonderful idea.
Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive HoardingMe: To be clear, I’d be writing about you. Since you’re the only hoarder I know.
Helen: I still think it’s a wonderful idea. Writing about it could help other hoarders and their families.

I also showed her parts of the book along the way and told her that if there was anything she particularly objected to, I’d take it out. She didn’t have me take out anything--nor did any of my other family members, which I very much appreciate. I’ve heard many horror stories about family battles post-publication, and I am so happy that I’ve experienced none of that.

When I began nearing the end of the book, I realized that I wanted to know so much more and I knew everything I wanted to know couldn't possibly be covered in the remaining pages. Do you think you will ever give any kind of follow-up in the future?

Hmm… I’m not sure. The events of the book--not to give away the plot too much--just happened to form a pretty self-sustaining dramatic arc and I’m not sure I’ll be in a situation like that again. But maybe. You never know. I guess that’s not much of an answer!

I continuously read that when you began sharing your story with people you were pleasantly surprised by their reactions and the fact that people didn't judge. It is so incredible that everyone was so supportive, did anyone close to you surprise you and say they were actually aware of you mom's hoarding?

Good question! No, no one did. Most of my friends said, “I always knew you and your mother had an unusual relationship, but not the extent of it,” or “I knew that she had some kind of mental illness, but not what,” but no one, other than my husband, knew about the hoarding.

You wrote about finding the Children of Hoarders message boards and give them a huge thanks in your Acknowledgments, how did the Children of Hoarders community react to your writing this book?

Very, very positively. The group has been incredibly supportive. I’ve gotten a lot of individual emails too, from children of hoarders, just saying thanks for writing about this and getting the issue of how hoarding affects family members into the spotlight. I truly love getting those emails. They make the hard work of writing the book—and I’m talking about the emotional aspects more than the twelve-hour writing days—completely worth it.

I keep thinking about all the things that could have happened since you finished the book but there is one thing above all others that I have to ask...were the bugs really gone?

Yes! I promise.

Thanks again Jessie!
Don't forget to check out:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday

Jill at Breaking the Spine hosts "Waiting on" Wednesday, a place where we can voice the books we are patiently - okay probably impatiently - waiting to be released.

The Peach Keeper: A Novel
by Sarah Addison Allen
Pub. date: March 22, 2011

From Amazon:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

The Peach Keeper: A NovelIt’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dirty Secret - Jessie Sholl

Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding

Dirty Secret
by Jessie Sholl

What can I say about this book? Let me start with...READ IT! Read it because you are curious or because you can relate to it or because you think you won't relate to it (because you will most likely find a part of it you can relate to). This story has relevance to almost anyone. Jessie Sholl has gotten down and dirty (sorry about the pun) with hoarding and she writes about her experience in the most honest, fascinating, horrifying, hilarious, and heart wrenching way.

Growing-up, Jessie's mom always kept her house in a state of disarray but it wasn't until a specific event that she really became a compulsive hoarder. Jessie shares her experiences, shedding new light on hoarding in an extremely well-researched way.  The book develops around Jessie and here mother, Helen, who I found to be quite adorable at many times in a...whimsical sort of way and all the crazy things she did, strangely, just added to that.  Jessie also incorporates enough of what was going on in her life outside of her mother to really highlight how being the daughter of a compulsive hoarder affects her and the people around her, people like her husband David.  David has to deal with a lot but through it all he is so supportive and understanding that by the end of the book I had a crush on him (shh...don't tell my husband).  

Jessie is easy to relate to and quite hilarious. I just want everyone to read Dirty Secret so I have more people to talk to about it. It's not hard to imagine that I can relate to some of the things she talks about (check out the name of my blog folks) and yes it caused me to go on a major cleaning spree (which my husband loved) but in the end it comes down to family. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you don't want to step foot in their house but they are there and you have to deal with them so you may as well laugh about it.

I feel like I could gush forever about Dirty Secret and I don't actually want to do that for fear of what I call the "Mockingjay Syndrome." I don't want to hype it up to be so good that it can never live up to your expectations. There are no dancing Leprechauns or shiny rainbows at the end of this book. This book will not lead you to a pot of gold....well maybe it will lead Jessie Sholl to a pot of gold...actually it probably won't but it should, she deserves a pot of gold, or at least a rainbow...what was I saying? Gold...rainbows...expectations, right!

So, moral of the story is read this book...and check back this Thursday, January 20 to read my interview with Jessie Sholl. 

**Source: I received this ARC for review from the author to write an honest review. The fact that Jessie Sholl is doing a Q&A has in no way affected my review. I read the book and wrote most of my review before most of the correspondence with Jessie that made me realize how awesome she is. Please believe me when I say I really, truly loved this book as much as I say I do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Radiance - Alyson Noel

By Alyson Noel

This is the first book I have read by Alyson Noel and I think I would have appreciated it more if that hadn't been the case. Although I am curious enough to want to read The Immortals Series (of which this book is a spin-off), it just didn't seem like anything really happened. Riley dies and goes to Here, where she learns a bit about what she is going to do Now. Well, she doesn't so much find out what she is going to do as she wanders aimlessly and confused with no one to help her until, at last, she is given an assignment.

The assignment was interesting but I kept feeling that there could have been more. I think my problem connecting with Riley was that she was written for such a young audience (9-12) but even with that being the case I feel there could have been more going on. Riley kept presuming things about her situation that were completely wrong (for example: the intentions of people around her) and some of this I thought was just too obvious.

The thing that Radiance did well was to build a strong foundation for the next book to stand on (again I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't the first book I read by Noel because I would have had that background connection) and since the ARE included an excerpt from Book 2 I was able to see that it looks like it is going to be a much more exciting story. I think there is a good chance it will make everything Radiance laid out worth the read.

**Source: ARE from publisher

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

She’s So Dead to Us - Kieran Scott

She's So Dead to Us
She’s So Dead to Us
By Kieran Scott

Okay, here is the thing about this book, it is a total teen drama. I know, I know, shocking right?  The title pretty much says it all. So if you like books like that read it. If books like that annoy may actually still want to read it...

Ally is returning to the high school and all her ex-friends she left behind after her dad lost all his money as well as millions that belonged to Ally's friend's parents. As expected, her first day is not something she is looking forward to. This book is like Mean Girls (on a side note...if you haven't ever seen Mean Girls do yourself a favor and watch it, it is hilarious) except that Ally is going from popular to outcast instead of the reverse. Ally does everything she can to work her way back to the top after she finds herself at the bottom looking up...literally. The middle-class houses are actually at the base of the hill where all the rich families live.

This book was a total guilty pleasure. I enjoyed it for the hilarious truth it brought to the situations...especially the side comments made by the students on the outside looking in (each month that passes begins with a page of random babbling gossip that had me cracking up). I was reading it thinking "I'm too old for this, too mature, right? But I...can't...stop...reading." It was too fun. I wanted to go back to that high school and slap a few of the people, laugh at a few more, and then join in with the rest...I'm so ashamed. It is enjoyable as a book that you don't take too seriously because it makes fun of all the right people (again I'm going to refer you to Mean Girls).

My biggest issue with the book was the amount of swearing. It is listed as 12 & up and I know the majority of the audience is older (like me) and I know kids in high school swear but I felt the amount of it and the way it was dropped in was overkill. I have the mouth of a sailor (especially when I play Mario's a good thing I don't have kids yet) but even I was taken aback. I would be cautious about who I would give/recommend this book to, or at least read it first and decide for yourself.

**Source: ARC for review from publisher

Friday, January 7, 2011

Giveaway - Waiting for Columbus - Audiobook

Waiting for ColumbusAs you may remember, I moved from NC to CA over the summer (if you don't remember you can read about it HERE) so I spent a LOT of time carefully planning my roadtrip audiobooks for my long drive.  I think I planned too well because I started with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and they were so amazing I was ruined for the rest of the trip.  Finishing the trip off with Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk was just a bad idea.  The actual story of Waiting for Columbus wasn't bad by any means I just had trouble really getting into it after the intensity of the previous audiobooks. It was also a bad idea to listen to an audiobook 4 days into a roadtrip that was completely burning me out.  I should have stuck with music.

Since I firmly believe this is an audiobook that should be listened to and loved, I am passing it on to someone who hopefully won't make the same mistakes I did.  Check out the details below for a chance to win my gently used copy of Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk on 8 CDs.

Giveaway details:

You can have up to 3 entries:

* 1 entry just by leaving me a comment on this post with your email address.
* 1 additional entry if you subscribe to my rss feed or follow me via blogger (new or current subscribers).
* 1 final entry for blogging about this giveaway (in your sidebar is okay).

Open to entries from US and Canada only.

The deadline to enter is January 25th.

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Red Hook Road - Ayelet Waldman

Red Hook Road: A Novel
Red Hook Road
By Ayelet Waldman

From the first page of this book all the way through the last chapter, I knew how I was planning on starting this review:

"If I had to summarize this book in one word it would be 'lovely.'"

However, upon reading the "coda" and closing the book, the only thing I had left was a sigh. I could not have guessed how much I truly connected with this story. The writing is, throughout the entire book, lovely. The story is heartbreaking over and over but most of it isn't heartbreaking in a huge event way, it is more like it slowly chips away at your heart throughout the story and yet at the end you are miraculously still left feeling whole.

The book begins with a massive tragedy that leaves two families trying to rebuild and repeatedly fighting the connections they have to each other. The most divine moments come when Waldman details activities they take part in. Building a sailboat and playing music can be described so simply but they come to life in a way that makes them relatable in so many ways.

I wanted to step into the little Maine town and become a part of the story even with all the tragedy they experienced. The characters were so real. I felt their pain and sadness so fully that the bittersweetness of the end was even sweeter. Truly an incredible book.

**Source: ARC for review from publisher

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time!

I just realized that I read only 55 books in 2010.  Although that is depressing considering I was aiming for 100+ that is not the scary realization I just had.  If I read the same number of book this year (I am hoping to actually improve but for arguments sake lets stick with 55) I still won't be able to get through all the books that are sitting on my five...count them FIVE TBR shelves!!  Add to that the fact that my TBR shelves contain Anna Karenina, Under the Dome and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which are all quite plump AND I plan on rereading Harry Potter again this year...I'm screwed...

What is a girl to do?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year (plus one day...)

I can’t believe 2010 is over and the challenges I signed up for are so lacking. Not only did I read less books than I wanted to but I also completely lost focus on the books I needed to WIN those challenges. Moral of the story: I’m a big challenge loser. The good news is that I have learned a very important lesson…my eyes are bigger than my stomach. It’s amazing how that is true of both food and books. My resolution for 2011:

Be more realistic!

I got ahead of myself because I saw all these awesome challenges I wanted to be part of and my thought process when something like this: “Wow look at that awesome challenge, I’m going to sign-up for it right now, and I know that I am going to love it so I may as well sign-up for the highest tier (biggest number of books).” Well that was dumb but at least I know what I did wrong. 

There were 2 challenges that I knew I wanted to sign-up for but then I finally said screw that!  At this point I know I'm just going to stress over it, which is insanely stupid since they are supposed to be FUN.  So, as of right now, I am heading into the year challenge free and my plan is to really focus on reading what I want, in a timely fashion and getting my reviews up, also in a timely fashion. 

Resolution #1: Be more realistic.
Resolution #2: Focus!
And finally, read lots...have fun...tra la la la...