Sunday, January 31, 2010

Group Picture--In the Woods

We had very different opinions on this book...some loved it, some hated it! That always makes for better discussion, though!

We missed Mary & Susan!

no. 5 of 52

In the Woods by Tana French

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox--his partner and closest friend--find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

To sum it up: odd, slow, too descriptive, bad ending. I wanted to love this book. After reading the synopsis, I thought I would, was difficult to get into and seemed slow and repetitive much of the time. I just wanted to find out what happened! It was a page-turner at times, but I think I just wanted to hurry up and finish it...and then...the terrible ending! I guess some people wouldn't agree did win the Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author.

I decided to give it 2 hearts (instead of 1) for "just okay" since I did like some of the character development and at times, I was anxious to see what happened next. Not a great one for me, though.

We'll see what the club thinks later today!

Are you keeping up with the 52 challenge?

Meeting Today & Member Profile-Veronica

We're meeting today @ Veronica's house @ 1pm to discuss In the Woods! She's having soup & sandwiches...See you there!

About our host this month...

What is your favorite book? Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Who is your favorite author? Barbara Kingsolver

What is your favorite type of book to read? Historical Fiction

Who is your most loved fictional character? Charlotte from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Wicked by Gregory Maguire

What's the last book you read? After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates

How many books do you own? I probably have at least 75. I'm trying to give them away as I read them.

Paperbacks or hardbacks? Both

Some non-book related info...Although she has 2 dogs and 3 guinea pigs, she would also really like to have a couple pygmy goats!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Spotlight

Today's author is Julia Alvarez.

1. She was born March 27, 1950 in New York.
2. Her parents are native Dominicans and she spent the first ten years of her childhood in the Dominican Republic.
3. Her father's involvement in a political rebellion to overthrow the dictator forced her family to flee the country and they ended up back in New York; her book How the García Girls Lost Their Accents is based on this incident.

4. At the age of 13 she was sent to boarding school because her New York neighborhood was viewed as unsafe by her parents.
5. She attended Connecticut College, Middlebury College and Syracuse.
6. She was once a writer-in-residence for the Kentucky Arts Commission and now holds the position of writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.
7. She has written 5 novels, a book of essays, 4 poetry collections, 4 children's books, and 2 works of adolescent fiction.
8. Her second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, is based on the deaths of the Mirabal sisters and was made into a movie featuring Salma Hayek.

9. Her third novel, ¡Yo!, is a sequel to How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.

10. Her latest novel, Return to Sender, was the winner of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré Author Award for 2010.

Have you read anything by Julia Alvarez?

I haven't yet, but I like books about the immigrant experience. I've got to read one of hers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Feature Fridays

Today's classic is The Portrait of a Lady (1880) by Henry James.

Widely regarded as Henry James’s greatest masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady features one of the author’s most magnificent heroines: Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American who becomes a victim of her provincialism during her travels in Europe.

As the story begins, Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, has turned down two eligible suitors. Her cousin, who is dying of tuberculosis, secretly gives her an inheritance so that she can remain independent and fulfill a grand destiny, but the fortune only leads her to make a tragic choice and marry Gilbert Osmond, an American expatriate who lives in Florence. Outwardly charming and cultivated, but fundamentally cold and cruel, Osmond only brings heartbreak and ruin to Isabel’s life. Yet she survives as she begins to realize that true freedom means living with her choices and their consequences.

Richly complex and nearly aesthetically perfect, The Portrait of a Lady brilliantly portrays the clash between the innocence and exuberance of the New World and the corruption and wisdom of the Old.

You can read it online for free at Read Print.

If you've already read it, take a quiz to test your memory.

Have you read it? Did you see the 1996 movie featuring Nicole Kidman?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts for Thursday

Do you like reading Shakespeare? Which plays have you read? Did you read them by choice or for school/work? Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?

My favorite Shakespeare play would probably be Macbeth.

One of the great Shakespearean tragedies, Macbeth is a dark and bloody drama of ambition, murder, guilt and revenge. Prompted by the prophecies of three mysterious witches and goaded by his ambitious wife, the Scottish thane Macbeth murders Duncan, King of Scotland, in order to succeed him on the throne. This foul deed soon entangles the conscience-stricken nobleman in a web of treachery, deceit and more murders that ultimately spells his doom.

In general, I like his tragedies more than his comedies or histories. In addition to Macbeth, I have read Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Ceasar and Midsummer Night's Dream. All tragedies except the last one! I took a class in high school called "Shakespeare", so most of them were required reading (but I did enjoy reading his plays).

Here's a well-known part of Macbeth...

First Witch. Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

All. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

All. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch. Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

All. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch. Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

You can read the whole play online at Open Source Shakespeare.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Wish List

sTORI telling by Tori Spelling

She was television's most famous virgin -- and, as Aaron Spelling's daughter, arguably its most famous case of nepotism. Portraying Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210, Tori Spelling became one of the most recognizable young actresses of her generation, with a not-so-private personal life every bit as fascinating as her character's exploits. Yet years later the name Tori Spelling too often closed -- and sometimes slammed -- the same doors it had opened.

sTORI telling is Tori's chance to finally tell her side of the tabloid-worthy life she's led, and she talks about it all: her decadent childhood birthday parties, her nose job, her fairy-tale wedding to the wrong man, her so-called feud with her mother. Tori has already revealed her flair for brilliant, self-effacing satire on her VH1 show So NoTORIous and Oxygen's Tori & Dean: Inn Love, but her memoir goes deeper, into the real life behind the rumors: her complicated relationship with her parents; her struggles as an actress after 90210; her accident-prone love life; and, ultimately, her quest to define herself on her own terms.

From her over-the-top first wedding to finding new love to her much-publicized -- and misunderstood -- "disinheritance," sTORI telling is a juicy, eye-opening, enthralling look at what it really means to be Tori Spelling.

I really enjoyed reading about Melissa Gilbert's life growing up as a child/teen star...I hope I'll like this memoir as much as Prairie Tale. If I love it, I might also try Mommywood.

Tori Spelling might have grown up with everything a girl could wish for, but these days she's just another suburban working mom...whose toddler regularly recognizes her in the pages of Us Weekly. Welcome to Mommywood, where the stars are two feet tall and your neighbors know who you are before you move in.

Like most parents, Tori wants her children to have the one thing she didn't have as a kid -- a normal family. On their hit Oxygen reality show, Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood, the starlet and her husband Dean McDermott regularly wrestle dirty diapers, host the neighborhood block party, and tackle temper tantrums on the red carpet. But when the cameras aren't rolling, Tori's still having awkward run-ins with a former 90210 costar at a laser tag birthday party, scooping rogue poo out of the kiddie pool on a resort vacation, and racing to win back her pre-baby body before the media starts calling her fat. For all her suburban fantasies, Tori Spelling is no June Cleaver.

With the same down-to-earth wit that made her entertaining memoir sTORI telling a #1 New York Times bestseller, Tori tells the hilarious and humbling stories of life as a mom in the limelight. From learning to be the kind of parent her own mother never was to revealing what it's like to raise a family while everyone is watching, Mommywood is an irresistible snapshot of celebrity parenthood that you won't get from the paparazzi.

Has anyone read her memoirs?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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 (or a few) 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!

She received me very kindly; and, though I was a poor clergyman's daughter, a governess, and a schoolmistress, she welcomed me with unaffected pleasure to her home; and--what surprised me rather-- took some pains to make my visit agreeable. I could see, it is true, that she expected me to be greatly struck with the magnificence that surrounded her; and, I confess, I was rather annoyed at her evident efforts to reassure me, and prevent me from being overwhelmed by so much grandeur--too much awed at the idea of encountering her husband and mother-in-law, or too much ashamed of my own humble appearance.

from Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

I'm reading it in free email installments from Daily Lit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Mondays

The Human Stain

Book, 2000 by Philip Roth

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.

This book is one of the Zuckerman novels as it includes Roth's best known character, Nathan Zuckerman. Eight other novels feature this character.

He won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year for The Human Stain.

Movie, 2003 directed by Robert Benton

Features: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise

Tagline: How far would you go to escape the past?

Awards: American Film Institute Award for (one of ten) Best Movies of 2003; it got mixed reviews from critics, many saying that Kidman and Hopkins were wrong for their roles.

Have you read (or seen) The Human Stain or any of Roth's other numerous books?

I saw the movie but honestly don't really remember it that well. The book is on my 100 books list of Prize Winners. Everyman (PEN/Faulkner Award 2007) was the 1st book I read for the 100 books challenge (3 hearts). American Pastoral (Pulitzer Prize 1998) and Sabbath's Theater (National Book Award for fiction 1995) are also on my list but I haven't gotten to them yet. Four books by Philip Roth on my list--he has won a lot of prizes!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

no. 4 of 52

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Talyor

Dr. Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain. Through the eyes of a curious scientist, she watched her mind deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of the brain, her respect for the cells in her body, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered. In My Stroke of Insight, she shares her recommendations for recovery and the insight she gained into the unique functions of the two halves of her brain. When she lost the skills of her left brain, her consciousness shifted away from normal reality where she felt "at one with the universe." Taylor helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel and how we react to life's circumstances.

To sum it up: informative, fascinating, repetitive. I liked the beginning chapters of the book where she described (simply) the workings of the brain. I really enjoyed the part about the actual occurrence of the stroke and her descriptions of what she went through immediately following it. Then it kind of went downhill for me because I think I expected something different from the book. I assumed it would be more like a memoir, but it actually read like a self-help book.

Listen to her speak:

Sunday Survey

Only one week left to finish In the Woods! We're discussing it @ Veronica's house next Sunday!

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Spotlight

Today's author is T.C. Boyle.

1. He was born December 2, 1948 in Peekskill, New York.
2. He changed his middle name to Coraghessan when he was 17.
3. He earned a BA in English and history from the State University of New York at Potsdam, his MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and his Ph.D. in 19th-century British literature from the University of Iowa.
4. He was a 9th grade English teacher.
5. In 1988 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
6. He has received numerous awards: the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Malamud Prize, the PEN/West Literary Prize, the Commonwealth Gold Medal for Literature, the National Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Prose Excellence, six O Henry Awards for short fiction, and many appearances in the Best American Short Story awards.
7. His novels and stories often explore the Baby Boom generation.
8. His first novel was entitled Water Music.

9. His latest novel is called The Women.

10. His latest short story collection is entitled Wild Child & Other Stories.

What have you read by T.C. Boyle?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Feature Fridays

Today's classic is The Invisible Man (1897) by H.G. Wells.

A gripping and entertaining tale of terror and suspense as well as a potent Faustian allegory of hubris and science run amok, The Invisible Man endures as one of the signature stories in the literature of science fiction. A brilliant scientist uncovers the secret to invisibility, but his grandiose dreams and the power he unleashes cause him to spiral into intrigue, madness, and murder. The inspiration for countless imitations and film adaptations, The Invisible Man is as remarkable and relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago.

If you haven't read it, you can do so online at Read Print.

Here's the beginning:
The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coach and Horses, more dead than alive as it seemed, and flung his portmanteau down. "A fire," he cried, "in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!" He stamped and shook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs. Hall into her guest parlor to strike his bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a ready acquiescence to terms and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters in the inn.
Are you tempted to read it? If not, you can just read the summary.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thoughts for Thursday

What was your favorite book you read in 2009?

I'm having a tough time narrowing it down to just 1, so I'll list my top 3. Two of my top 3 are book club books, our first and last of 2009...Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Still Alice by Lisa Genova. The 3rd is a short story collection that I've mentioned many times before, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. Each book is so different...I couldn't pick one over the other for my favorite!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Wish List

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

In Ferris's remarkable second novel, a life of privilege comes to ruin as a result of a strange and mysterious illness. Attorney Tim Farnsworth thought he had recovered from a disorder that compels him to walk to the point of exhaustion. But now his walking disease has returned and shows no sign of going into remission. His wife, Jane, supportive beyond measure, does everything she can to keep Tim safe during his walks, including making routine midnight trips to pick him up. As the disorder takes increasing control over their lives, however, the sacrifices they make for each other drive them further apart. Ferris manages to inject a bizarre whimsy into a devastatingly sad story, with each of Tim's outings revealing a new aspect of his marriage. The novel's circular aspects, with would-be happy endings spiraling back into chaos and then descending further, integrate Ferris's themes of family, sickness, and the uncertain division between body and mind into a vastly satisfying and original book.

His first book, Then We Came to the End, was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the PEN/Hemingway Award.

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