Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays (started on Should Be Reading) asks you to:

Grab your current read (or a book on your shelf that you've read or been wanting to read). Let the book fall open to a random page. Share two teaser sentences from that page. Don't forget to share the title and author of the book in case someone is teased into reading. Please avoid spoilers!

I've posted my teaser below. Post yours in the comment section if you'd like to share as well!

Eventually he seemed satisfied that his message of canine subordination had been understood, and he wandered off to the kitchen, leaving the four of us--me, Gracie, and the Piranha Sisters--alone in the room again. I could feel my heart slamming against my ribs; the term shark-infested waters came to mind.

p.55 of Amazing Gracie by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff
How are you doing in the Dog Days of Summer challenge? This is my second book (finished Marley & Me).

Monday, June 29, 2009

52 Stories: a free short story every week

Have you heard of Fifty-Two Stories? Here's what it's all about:
At Harper Perennial...we traffic in stories of all kinds. And we have a special fondness for the short story—self-contained, crystalline, newborn, perfect. This year we're celebrating the thriving art of the story by sharing a new one every week: most of them new, a few of them classics, from authors you know and some you don't, each of them treasurable in its language or wit or human insight. And we'd love to have you join us!
Check it out @ www.fiftytwostories.com! (All of the stories are archived, so even though we're halfway through the year (26th story), you can still read them all.)

I just read this week's story, Broken Star, by Jennifer Haigh. Her latest novel, The Condition, sounds very interesting.


The Condition tells the story of a proper New England family that comes apart one fateful summer. To their dismay, Frank and Paulette McKotch's daughter, Gwen, has been diagnosed with Turner's syndrome—a genetic condition that leaves her trapped forever in the body of a child, and sparks heated dispute between the couple.

Twenty years later, their three children—now grown, and each struggling with secret conditions of their own—are still dealing with the fallout of Frank and Paulette's divorce. Then, suddenly, Gwen falls in love for the first time, and the family's world is again tilted on its axis.

In an era when individual quirks look increasingly like symptoms and every symptom demands to be treated, the McKotches are determined to fix themselves and each other. They are a family for our time.

Movie Mondays

Forrest Gump

Book, 1986 by Winston Groom


Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, hurculean, and surprisingly savy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of Univerity of Alabama's football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon -- as he wonders with cildlike wisdome at the insanity all around him. In between misadentures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell -- and you've got to read it to believe it.

Movie, 1994 directed by Robert Zemeckis

Features: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field

Tagline: The story of a lifetime.

Awards: Nominated for 13 Oscars and won 6--Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks), Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Best Visual Effects (Ken Ralston, et al), Best Film Editing (Arthur Schmidt), Best Picture (Wendy Finerman, et al), Best Screenplay (Eric Roth)

Watch the trailer...

I'm thinking that everyone has seen Forrest Gump. Has anyone read it?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

As if we need something else to read...

If you don't already have enough books to read this summer, here's another suggestion:

Summer World: A Season of Bounty by nature writer Bernd Heinrich

In Summer World: A Season of Bounty, Bernd Heinrich brings us the same bottomless reserve of wonder and reverence for the teeming animal life of backwoods New England that he brought us in Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. Now he is focusing on the animal kingdom in the extremes of the warmer months, with all its feeding, nesting, fighting, and mating.

Whether presenting disquisitions on ant wars, the predatory characteristics of wasps, the mating rituals of woodpeckers, or describing an encounter with a road full of wood frogs, Summer World never stops observing the beautifully complex interactions of animals and plants with nature, giving extraordinary depth to the relationships between habitat and the warming of the earth. How can cicadas survive—and thrive—at temperatures pushing 115°F? Do hummingbirds know what they're up against before they migrate over the Gulf of Mexico? Why do some trees stop growing taller even when three months of warm weather remain? With awe and unmatched expertise, Heinrich explores hundreds of questions like these.

Exquisitely illustrated with dozens of the author's own drawings, Summer World is Bernd Heinrich's most engaging book to date, a fascinating work from one of our very best science writers.

About Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

From flying squirrels to grizzly bears, torpid turtles to insects with antifreeze, the animal kingdom relies on some staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who must alter their environment to accommodate our physical limitations, animals are adaptable to an amazing range of conditions––i.e., radical changes in a creature's physiology take place to match the demands of the environment. Winter provides an especially remarkable situation, because of how drastically it affects the most elemental component of all life: water.

Examining everything from food sources in the extremely barren winter landscape to the chemical composition that allows certain creatures to survive, Heinrich's Winter World awakens the largely undiscovered mysteries by which nature sustains herself through the harsh, cruel exigencies of winter.

{Save this one for the colder months! I read this before I started teaching Animal Behavior and I definitely recommend it.}

If you missed the news, our July book is The Middle Place!

Saturday Spotlight

Today's author is Jodi Picoult.

Quick Facts:

1. She was born on May 19, 1966 in Long Island.
2. She studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton.
3. She held many different jobs after her graduation: technical writer, copywriter at an ad agency, editor at a textbook publisher, 8th grade English teacher.
4. She then pursued a Master's of Education degree from Harvard.
5. She wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale, while she was pregnant with her first child.

6. Three of her novels, The Pact, Plain Truth, and The Tenth Circle, have been made into television movies (The Pact is my favorite so far).

7. My Sister’s Keeper premiered on the big screen yesterday, June 26 with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva starring.

Watch the movie trailer here.

8. She is the bestselling author of 15 novels, including her latest, Handle with Care.

9. She and her husband Tim and their three kids live in New Hampshire with "three Springer spaniels, two donkeys, two geese, eight ducks, five chickens, and the occasional Holstein."
10. She is my favorite author!

Are you a Jodi Picoult fan? How many of her books have you read? Which one is your favorite?

I've read 4 of her books. So far, The Pact is my favorite.
If you missed the news, our July book is The Middle Place!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kindle DX

Have you been thinking about buying the Kindle DX? If you think you want to, but can't quite decide, see all the benefits at The Printed Page (Marcia). Find more info, features and details at Amazon.

If you missed the news, our July book is The Middle Place!

Feature Fridays

Today's classic is My Ántonia (1918) by Willa Cather.


Widely recognized as Willa Cather’s greatest novel, My Ántonia is a soulful and rich portrait of a pioneer woman’s simple yet heroic life. The spirited daughter of Bohemian immigrants, Ántonia must adapt to a hard existence on the desolate prairies of the Midwest. Enduring childhood poverty, teenage seduction, and family tragedy, she eventually becomes a wife and mother on a Nebraska farm. A fictional record of how women helped forge the communities that formed a nation, My Ántonia is also a hauntingly eloquent celebration of the strength, courage, and spirit of America’s early pioneers.

Excerpt from beginning of chapter 1...
I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America. I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out to my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska. I travelled in the care of a mountain boy, Jake Marpole, one of the `hands' on my father's old farm under the Blue Ridge, who was now going West to work for my grandfather. Jake's experience of the world was not much wider than mine. He had never been in a railway train until the morning when we set out together to try our fortunes in a new world.
Do you think you remember it well? Take the quiz at SparkNotes.

Read all of My Ántonia online at Classic Reader.

Have you read My Ántonia? Have you read the other 2 books in Willa Cather's prairie trilogy--O Pioneers! & The Song of the Lark?
If you missed the news, our July book is The Middle Place!

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

Michael Jackson: For the Record
by Chris Cadman & Craig Halstead

Michael Jackson first entered a recording studio in November 1967, just three months after his ninth birthday. Two years later he and his older brothers scored their first hit, 'I Want You Back' - and, despite set-backs that would have ended the career of a lesser man, Michael's legion of fans remain as loyal today as they have ever been. This is the story of the man and his music...
Michael Jackson, one of the most widely beloved entertainers and profoundly influential artists of all-time, leaves an indelible imprint on popular music and culture.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's a tie...but we have to pick one!

Everyone has voted on our next book, and it's a tie! I decided that Susan should be the tie breaker since she's the hostess next month. So...we'll be reading The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan in July. It's available in paperback and should be easier, quicker and cheaper for everyone to get!

Win a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain

If you want to win a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain (one of the Dog Days of Summer challenge books), visit Booking Mama (Julie). She's giving a copy of it away. See all the info here.

Thoughts for Thursday

Which book do you wish you could read again for the first time (maybe one that you loved but it had a twist or surprise ending and it wouldn't be as good to re-read)? Or, which book do you wish you would have read before seeing the movie?

I wish I would have read Atonement by Ian McEwan before seeing the movie. I rented the movie a few months ago. It was really good and had a very surprise ending. The book is on my 100 books list, so I think I'll wait to read it towards the end of the 5 years (maybe I'll forget the ending by then, but I doubt it).

Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
Find other thoughts at BTT.
Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Borders Bestseller

What's hot now?

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

(Since this is the fifth and final book in the series, I'll feature the first one instead in order to avoid spoilers.)

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment--from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.
Have you read any books in the Jessica Darling series? There are four others.

Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Weekly Word Wednesdays

a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician

Instead of giving snollygosters a key to the city, it might be better to change the locks.

Adopt this word at savethewords.org.
Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Has anyone read...

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger? I've heard it's pretty popular as a book club selection. The movie is coming out later this summer (8.14.09) and I think I'm going to try to read it before then.


A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler's Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays (started on Should Be Reading) asks you to:

Grab your current read (or a book on your shelf that you've read or been wanting to read). Let the book fall open to a random page. Share two teaser sentences from that page. Don't forget to share the title and author of the book in case someone is teased into reading. Please avoid spoilers!

I've posted my teaser below. Post yours in the comment section if you'd like to share as well!

The rejection can be so matter-of-fact, so impersonal, that there's a danger you'll get numbed by it. I still felt the pain, but it had less to do with what these strangers thought of me than what I was perilously close to thinking about myself.

p.75 of Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Movie Mondays

The Constant Gardener

Book, 2000 by John le Carré


Justin Quayle, is an unreflective British diplomat whose job in the British High Commission in Nairobi suggests one of Graham Greene's dispossessed protagonists trying to survive in the sultry corruption of foreign climates. President Arap Moi's Kenya is a country in the grip of AIDS, while political machinations maintain a deadly status quo. When Quayle's wife (who has taken more interest in what is happening around her than her husband) is killed, his investigation of her murder leads him into a murky web of exploitation involving Kenyan greed and a major pharmaceutical company eager to promote its "wonder cure" for tuberculosis. As Quayle looks deeper into the company which his wife had been investigating, all he has carefully built around him begins to crumble. The steady accumulation of tension and rigorous delineation of character is emblematic of le Carré at his finest.

Movie, 2005 directed by Fernando Meirelles

Features: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

Tagline: Love. At any cost.

Awards: Nominated for four Oscars and won one: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel Weisz)

Have you read or seen it? Did you know that the movie was filmed on location in Nairobi, Kenya and the situation there encouraged the cast and crew to set up the Constant Gardener Trust?
Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Survey

How's A Lucky Child going? Only one week left to finish it!

5= I love it.
4= I really like it.
3= I like it.
2= It's just okay.
1= I don't like it.

Want to know more about A Lucky Child? Watch these:

Watch an interview with Judge Buergenthal on Book TV on C-SPAN2. (Each weekend, Book TV features 48 hours of nonfiction books from Saturday 8:00 AM to Monday 8:00 AM ET.)

Read about the July Book Choices here before voting!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

July Book Choices!

Susan is hosting the July meeting on the 26th. Read about her picks below. Vote for the one you think sounds the best (poll is in the right sidebar)!

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Hardcover only)

From the coauthor of The Last Lecture comes a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring true story of eleven girls and the ten women they became.

Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny. Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana. Sheila. Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eight different states, yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child’s illness and the mysterious death of one member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life’s joys and challenges — and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.

The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Photograph by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal columnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship. It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women’s lives – their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters – and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them.

The Girls from Ames is the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert (Hardcover only)

A fascinatiating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting tale of self-discovery from the beloved actress who earned a permanent place in the hearts of millions when she was just a child.

To fans of the hugely successful television series Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert grew up in a fantasy world with a larger-than-life father, friends and family she could count on, and plenty of animals to play with. Children across the country dreamed of the Ingalls' idyllic life -- and so did Melissa.

She was a natural on camera, but behind the scenes, life was more complicated. Adopted as a baby into a legendary show business family, Melissa wrestled with questions about her identity and struggled to maintain an image of perfection her mother created and enforced. Only after years of substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and made-for-television movies did she begin to figure out who she really was.

With candor and humor, the cherished actress traces her complicated journey from buck-toothed Laura "Half-pint" Ingalls to Hollywood starlet, wife, and mother. She partied with the Brat Pack, dated heartthrobs like Rob Lowe and bad boys like Billy Idol, and began a self-destructive pattern of addiction and codependence. Left in debt after her first marriage, and struggling to create some sense of stability, she eventually realized that her career on television had earned her popularity, admiration, and love from everyone but herself.

Through hard work, tenacity, sobriety, and the blessings of a solid marriage, Melissa has accepted her many different identities and learned to laugh, cry, and forgive in new ways. Women everywhere may have idolized her charming life on Little House on the Prairie, but Melissa's own unexpectedly honest, imperfect, and down-to-earth story is an inspiration.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan (Paperback available)

For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place--"that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap"--comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents' care. But Kelly is abruptly shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast--and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. When George, too, learns that he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly's turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her--and to show us a woman who finally takes the leap and grows up.

You have one week to vote...see you next Sunday @ Karen's house for our discussion of A Lucky Child!

Saturday Spotlight

Today's author is Michael Crichton.

Quick Facts:

1. He was born on October 23, 1942 in Chicago and died (cancer) at age 66 on November 4, 2008 in Los Angeles.
2. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
3. He taught courses in anthropology at Cambridge University and writing at MIT.
4. Crichton's first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, was published while he was still a medical student.

5. His feature film Westworld was the first to use computer-generated special effects (1973) and his use of computer programs for film production won him a Technical Achievement Academy Award in 1995.

6. As the creator of the television series ER, he won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Writer's Guild of America Award.

7. In 2002, a newly discovered ankylosaur was named for him: Crichtonsaurus bohlini.

8. He wrote 15 novels (including Jurassic Park, Congo and Disclosure), 5 non-fiction books, and 2 screenplays.

9. He was producer, director or writer for 20 movies.
10. Harper Collins will soon publish 2 posthumous novels, one in 2009 and another in 2010.

Have you read any of Michael Crichton's books? Which one is your favorite? Have you seen any of his movies? Were you a fan of ER?

I really liked Disclosure (and the movie with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore). ER was my favorite show. I've seen every single episode. It's so sad he died only months before the last episode aired.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feature Fridays

Today's featured classic is A Room with a View (1908) by E.M. Forster.


Visiting Italy with her prim and proper cousin Charlotte as a chaperone, Lucy Honeychurch meets the unconventional lower-class Mr. Emerson and his son, George. Upon her return to England she becomes engaged to the supercilious Cecil Vyse, but finds herself increasingly torn between the expectations of the world in which she moves and the passionate yearnings of her heart. As Forster writes, "You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you." More than a love story, A Room With a View is a perceptive examination of class structure and a penetrating social comedy.

Here's the beginning:
"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."
You can read the rest of A Room with a View online at The Literature Network.

Was this book required reading for you in high school? If not, have you read it anyway?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update {Dog Days of Summer}

I'm changing one of the 10 books. After reading another synopsis and a few reviews, I realized that Secrets to Happiness isn't really about a dog or dogs. Since this book doesn't fit with the challenge theme, I'm picking a new one to replace it (I'm sure it's a good book; it just doesn't fit in for this challenge). The new book is:

Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays by Peg Kehret

From award-wining author Peg Kehret comes a collection of true stories about the amazing lives of eight shelter dogs. Many of these dogs were unwanted because of their size, behavior, or medical condition. All of the dogs found owners who loved and cared for them and ultimately helped change their lives in tremendous ways, as the dogs have changed the lives of their new owners.

Thoughts for Thursday

Which author, either deceased or no longer writing, do you wish could/would publish just one more book?

I guess I would say Harper Lee. Her one and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was a huge bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and was voted the Best Novel of the Century in 1999 by the Library Journal. She has been quoted as saying...
I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.
I wonder if a second novel by her would be as great and famous? She started to write a second novel (The Long Goodbye) but left it unfinished. She also attempted to write a non-fiction book about a serial killer, but left it unfinished as well. She's now 83, but I guess there's still time.

Find other thoughts at BTT.

Scroll down for Water for Elephants news!
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