Monday, May 31, 2010

Mailbox Monday - May 24 - 29, 2010

It's Mailbox Monday time! Hosted by Marcia over at the Printed Page, Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

First of all, happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope those of you who get the day off are enjoying it thoroughly like I am :)

I got some great books this week.

From the 24 Hour Read a Thon I got this great prize:
1. 'Daughters of Fortune' by Tara Hyland




















From PBS I got:
2. 'Mixed Doubles' by Jill Mansell




















3. 'The Way Things Look to Me' by Roopa Farooki




















4. 'A Gift from Brittany' by Marjorie Price




















What did you get?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Twitter-Pated!


After much hemming and hahing I finally listened to everyone telling me that Twitter was a great place to be to both help promote my blog and also just as another social outlet. I thought well I already devote a lot of time to my blog, which is wonderful and I want that to be my focus, but then I also thought, I also need to keep with the times, and stay hip :)

So I bit the bullet. I am so excited to follow all of you on twitter and I hope you all will follow me too! Looking forward to finding my way throughout the twitter-sphere!

Follow me here @amusedbybooks

Friday, May 28, 2010

Armchair BEA: Writing Book Reviews That Reflect YOU!


In this crazy book blogging world that I've happily become a part of there are many ways to get out there and meet authors and other book bloggers. The biggest annual event is Book Expo America. The problem for me is it is in New York mid-week and I just couldn't afford the cash or the time off work. So there was this fabulous group of book bloggers with similar issues who designed a similar program for those of us to 'participate' from home called Armchair BEA. Awesome! This way all of us can contribute useful ideas in whatever way we can that help teach each other just like as if we were there, only we get to do it from the comfort of our home.

I thought I would discuss the art/science/whatever of writing book reviews that reflect YOU, because let's face it, ultimately your book blog is a reflection of you. It is great if you get a huge following and no, you are not there to slam the author, but the only way that people will respond to what you are writing is if you are writing something that is a part of you. People always respond to honesty.

Everyone has their method but if you don't or are working on developing one then maybe I can offer some tips and tricks to help get the creative juices flowing to help you find your voice. The best way to do that is to find the core of the book you just read that resonated with you. This works whether you liked the story of hated it or thought it was just meh. What is it you really want to say about the story to others so when they pick that book up they go, "Oh yeah, blogger so and so said this book was____". Hone that message!

I like to start my reviews with a story, sometimes it's why I picked the book up, or what the book meant to me while I was reading it. This helps shape a review for me. It's a method. Other people talk about characters they could see this playing in a movie. Some people cut straight to the chase and just go into the review. Bottom line, fine what works for you. People will get used to your style and know what to look for when they see your reviews.

Also, know that a review of a book you don't like is just as important, if not more important, than a book you love. I think that a lot of people are afraid to write reviews of books they didn't like. You don't have to make it into a character study of why the author was the worst ever. As long as your reasoning is thought out as to why the story just didn't work for you, then you are giving your readership a basis for trusting you. Otherwise if you are constantly recommending them crap books they may stop trusting you!

Now what works for you? Happy reviewing!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bedside

This week's Booking Through Thursday asks:


What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

Well isn't this meme getting personal?! Well I have a ridiculous amount of books and magazines on my bedside table. Let's just say it's overflowing! I am making my way through 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel. When that gets too deep I switch over to 'The Sonnet Lover' by Carol Goodman. After I finish 'Wolf Hall' I plan on jumping right in to some really fun chick lit to give my brain a rest! I've got two books on my night stand by Harriet Evans: 'A Hopeless Romantic' and 'The Love of Her Life'. I think these will definitely give my brain the rest it needs after I am done with 'Wolf Hall'!

Now onto the magazines. Does anyone else have a magazine subscription addiction like I do? I love to read them while I am watching tv. I keep them all by my bedside and then pull them out one by one. I subscribe to Self, Real Simple, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, Lucky, In Style, and I think that's all of them! If I forgot one of my beloved magazines I'm sorry!

What about you, what do you have on your bedside table? I am pretty good with keeping all of the rest of my books in my one bookcase assigned to me in the living room!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wolf Hall Wednesdays: Pages 300-400


We've made it through to another week! Is anyone out there feeling inspired to pick up this book because of the read along with Melissa of Gerbera Daisy Diaries and I?! Elise is on vacation this week so here's our thoughts for this week!

Amused By Books: How's the reading coming? I feel like maybe we are coming into a little more action. Here's some questions for our discussion and feel free to add some more!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: The pace is definitely quickening…I’m up to 340 – still behind, but not too bad.

1. The burning at the stake scene of the 'witch'. Let's discuss!

Amused By Books: It was horrific but I was left wondering what part it played in the story. I am often left wondering this with lots of scenes: why was this added in? I can only assume this was to still show us that Cromwell, while he is rising to power, still has a heart. He was deeply affected by the woman who was burned at the stake, whereas it seemed like a lot of those in the crowd were not. On another note, I think Mantel did a great job evoking the sights and sounds of this scene, which some parts have lacked.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries: One of the most effectively graphic scenes I have read in literature. I was left gasping. When the women’s friends and family come to gather her remains, and they wipe a portion on Cromwell’s cheek – I’m not even sure I can explain how I felt: Numb, mortified, sickened – so many emotions by one scene and sentence. I think you have a point – What does this have to do with the big picture? My only explanation: To give a more complete picture of who Thomas Cromwell is and what he has endured; to show how once he becomes the King’s advisor, he isn’t swayed by religious arguments – he is all about legal solutions/negotiations to solve Henry’s marriage problems absent the Pope; also, to show readers the madness that was gripping 16th century England and how that had an effect years later.

2. Cromwell seems to be fully rising to the peak of his power. How is handling it?

ABB: Maybe I am missing some things but to me Cromwell still seems to be a pretty good man at the heart of things. He wants to still do things for his family. When they went on that trip to France he was bringing poor people home to give them a roof over their head. Sometimes I feel like I missing some things because Mantel often insists on referring to multiple men in one scene as just "he" and, well, how the heck am I supposed to keep them all straight, but generally, I do think that Cromwell seems to be balancing his power well with both humor and kindness and that makes him someone worth admiring and there aren't a lot of people in this book who I would say that about.

GDD: One of my favorite scenes so far is Cromwell’s treatment of Henry Percy, once Percy decides to tell the “world” that he indeed was married to Anne Boleyn. It’s something strait out of Goodfellas or The Sopranos – he walks into the bar and basically gives Henry “an offer he can’t refuse.” (OK, that was the Godfather, but you get what I mean). He is this ruthless negotiator, but with a level head. He seems so admired by his peers – on both sides of this Henry/Katherine/Anne issue. I think HE is always Cromwell.

3. Anne Boleyn, in this section of the book, has finally reached her quest and become Queen of England. What do you think of Mantel's version of Anne?

ABB: I don't like Anne. She is not painted as an admirable figure at all. Knowing what we know, that she will be beheaded soon, I often find myself wondering if she really thinks this would all have been worth it. I mean she seems so pinched and angry at pretty much everyone around her - what an awful way to live one’s life. When they travel to France, she has to stay behind because it isn't safe for her to go forward because the rumors about her are so unkind. Her own people don't like her. I don't know, I guess I just often found myself wondering if it was all really worth it to her in the end.

GDD: No! You mean she becomes Queen??!! (tee hee!) I’m not there yet. But, yes, I agree, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about Mantel’s Anne. She is the master manipulator. I think a person like her, would never realize how bad things are going to be – and why should she? She’s got Henry, literally, by the balls (sorry, there is no other way to describe it). I’m sure she envisions that she will wield this kind of power of him forever.

A couple of comments/questions:

GDD: I’m surprised how FUNNY some of the dialogue is!! On page 296, Anne is retelling the Old Testament story of Jezebel and her demise (she was thrown out of a window and eaten by wild dogs). Anne says, “if anyone is to be thrown out of a palace window…Thomas, I know who I would like to throw. Except the child Mary, the wild dogs would not find a scrap of flesh to gnaw, and Katherine, she is so fat she would bounce.” I laughed out loud at that comment!

ABB: Totally agree! I think it's kind of unexpected in some ways because the story for most part, to me anyway can seem so dry and factual and then all of a sudden there are these really funny and/or gripping scenes that kind of throw you for a loop!

GDD: Also, what is the significance (if any) of the painting/tapestry/art that Cromwell has hanging in the entry of Austin Friars? I know it was a Wolsey’s and was gifted to Cromwell from the King. Everyone that comes to visit mentions it. Again, it may mean nothing other than the obvious: it is of value and a gift from the King.

ABB: I don't know but I wish I did! Do any of our fair readers know? I wish there was a picture of them in the book so we knew what they were. Maybe this weekend I could try to google them and see if I could uncover something about their significance!

See you all next week, where we almost reach the end!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Angry Ladies

'The Help'
By Kathryn Stockett

Format: Hardback
Published: Amy Einhorn Books; 2009
Pages: 464

Synopsis: Set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams.

My Take: I was given this book for Christmas by mom and was thrilled! I had seen it on a ton of blogs and almost everyone had loved it. It was set in the South and dealt with female relationships so I was pretty sure I would like it too. Yet, it just sat on my shelf. I think because I knew so many people had read and liked it, it didn't have the discovery of the unknown out there on it. Then my worlds collided this past month: my mom was coming up over Memorial Day weekend and said she'd like to borrow it, so I figured I'd better read it first and my book club (of which I rarely go) picked it as their book club pick and I thought, perfect now I will be given a time line so, here we go.

'The Help' was a wonderful debut novel. There was a large cast of characters within this book and they are all fully developed. I whizzed through this large book in record time because the story drew me in. Some stories I've read lately have failed to have a real plot that turned on anything and it doesn't really lend towards a page turner, but not this one! Skeeter, a white woman who grew up on a cotton plantation who loved her black maid and comes home from college only to discover her momma got rid of her and is disgusted by some of the things her friends say and do to their maids is an aspiring writer. When she goes to apply for a job in New York they tell her to write something first. So she gets an idea to write about the maids she knows and the stories they have to tell about working for white women and their families. I wanted to know, would they be able to get enough maids to tell the story, would they get the story published in time, would they be found out if it was published, and what would happen to the maids if they were found out. It was a great page turner for me!

I also loved the stories of all of the different women and the friendships within the book. The black community was very tightly knit, having to band together due to their adversity. The white community seemed to be torn apart by one woman and her anger and hatred. It was an interesting juxtaposition. My favorite minor character in the book was probably Celia. She was considered white trash but I felt so bad for her throughout the whole book and I just wanted her to get it together! Overall though all the characters served a purpose and I found that they really added something to the story.

I do think this was a great book club pick as well because it's so multi faceted and talks about something in history that really did occur. I find that those usually work the best because you can do one of those 'what would you have done' discussions.

One question for everyone who has read this book though, what the heck does that cover have to do with anything? I mean, it's pretty and all but I never once read a reference to birds in the book!

(I received this book as a gift)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mailbox Monday - May 17 - 21, 2010

It's Mailbox Monday time! Hosted by Marcia over at the Printed Page, Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

This week I got lots of books!

From Constance Reader I got:
1. 'The Very Thought of You' by Rosie Alison (thanks!)


















From my dear friend Angie:
2. 'Take a Chance on Me' by Jill Mansell




















From PBS I got:
3. 'Yes, My Darling Daughter' by Margaret Leroy
















4. 'Almost Home' by Pam Jenoff



















5. 'The Physick Book of Deliverance Dance' by Katherine Howe



















From LibraryThing Early Reviewers I got:
6. 'Were You Raised by Wolves?: and Seven Other Crucial Questions to Ask the One You Just Might Marry' by Toben Hein








What did you get?
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