Monday, February 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Feb. 21st - 26th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and February is being hosted by Library of Clean Reads! 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 and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

I was pretty productive this weekend! I got a much needed haircut, went out to dinner with some girlfriends, and got to go to the ballet with another girlfriend. I never go to the ballet so this was a special treat and we really enjoyed it.

I've been saying for awhile now that I've been receiving way too many books lately and my shelves are getting out of control! Well, lo and behold, this week things finally calmed down around here. I only received one book, and it's one I've been wanting to read for awhile too!

From PBS:
1. The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

Have you read this one? What did you get this week?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sentence Structure

'How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One'
Author: Stanley Fish

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; Jan. 2011
Pages: 176
Genre: Non-fiction; Reference; Writing
Rating: C
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: A whole book on the lowly sentence? Stanley Fish, America's English Professor, confides that he belongs "to the tribe of sentence watchers," and shares his passion and learning through an array of examples from sentence-making masters, among them Milton, James, Dr. King, Sterne, Swift, Salinger, Elmore Leonard, Conrad, and Gertrude Stein. For Fish, language is logic. He stresses how the sentence, regardless of length-whether declarative or embroidered with qualifiers-is a structure of logical relationships. He discusses the all-important opening sentence and closing sentence, especially as the latter can be isolated from its dramatic context to convey full rhetorical effect. The reader is advised to begin with form; with practice, writers can develop three basics of style (subordinating, additive, satiric) that will allow them to make an emotional impact with their words. In the end, the craft of sentence writing is elevated to the very center of our inner lives. Fish plays the opinion card well, though a piling on of example after example, particularly of long sentences drawn from literature or theology, might leave more experienced sentence-makers to cry, "Enough already!" 

My Take: I am taking an editing class for work so when I saw this book I thought: Perfect! I should read this! It will add to my abilities! Eh. It made me a little bored. Maybe my feelings are colored by the fact that I am already reading 5 other editing books for my homework each week when I am doing my assignments that to add another one into the mix is just too much already. Or maybe it's the fact that, taken out of the classroom, the over analysis of the sentence is too specific of a subject to really hold my interest, even fora short book.

However, this book is not without it's merit. I enjoyed many aspects of this book. If I was to read it over again, I'd read a chapter here and there, pouring over the sentences Fish loves with him, because yes this man loves sentences! And yes I agree with him, sentences are worthy of love. In college I was always taught when you started a story, a presentation, anything really, you needed to have a hook! That's the lure of the first sentence. So Stanley's chapter on analysing first sentences I really appreciated. I know many book bloggers even put the first sentence of a book in their reviews. I thought about doing that too. It's sad how many books actually don't have first sentences that grab you right away, even books that end up being great. Fish found some great first sentences.

I also loved his chapter on the closing sentence, because yes, when you finish a powerful novel, speech, etc., that closing sentence can convey so much. I also appreciated his analysis of the famed Strunk and White handbook. He was correct in noting that if you don't know the basics of grammar, this short tome isn't going to make any sense, so average student of grammar needs to have some knowledge first. That's where Fish's book begins and that's where Fish's book made my mind wander a little. I appreciated another angle from which to study grammar. A new trick, or suggestion, is always appreciated, but something about this title didn't make me think we would go into the basics of writing a sentence first. Oh well, silly me! However, if that is what you are looking for, Fish's writing style is easy to read and certainly better than a textbook so it might be just what you need.

Cover Lust: I love this cover. It's simple and puts the emphasis exactly on what they are trying to convey!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Do You Do ... With Your Books?

My current (and always growing!) giveaway pile!
Last week I stood up and admitted that I have a problem: even though I have more than enough books to keep me reading for a couple of years, I can't stop buying them! I used to have more self-control but lately, and I think it's all the book love I read about on blogs all the time, I can't stop!

So now, I want to know: After you've read a book, what do you do with it? I think most people fall into two camps:
  1. They save each and every book they've ever read, creating their own personal library. 
  2. They love 'em and leave 'em. After reading books, they pass them on.
So which are you? Shall I tell you which am I? I used to be a number 1, saving every book I read (unless it was el sucko) and immediately putting it back into my bookcase. Maybe once or twice a year I would notice that I no longer had room on my bookshelf so I'd do a clear out and take them to a used book store and swap for more books but for the most part I saved books I loved for years, whether they were 'classics' or not.

Then I grew up and moved state and no longer received familial help with my boxes. When you load everything your life contains in one Mazda, you weed through your books. When you live in a tiny room to save money, you weed through your books. Then I started to make money again and my habit escalated to undue proportions and I discovered and, well, the rest is history! I read a book and swap it ... for another book! Unless it's a 'classic', I don't keep it. I don't have the space. I have space only for books that I am going to read next because guess what? Unless it's a classic (and yes, Bridget Jones's Diary falls into this category) I have never, ever re-read a book. I give my books to friends if they want to borrow them after I've read them with the expectation that I won't get them back. Why? Because 9 times out of 10 I don't get it back. I used to be so upset but hey, if I've read it and I'm never going to read it again, if you love it let it go! And of course this all works out for you, as I offer books I read up for giveaway too. It's for the best really.

Yes my dream, someday, would be to have a large personal library that is it's own individual room with a plush velvet couch where I can lay all day but right now, that is not my life! So this is where I am at. Lugging around the 75+ books I read a year for the someday, isn't a way forward for me. I prefer the possibilities of the new, the unopened, because there is always the lure of that next great classic in there.

So yes, the question remains, what do you do with your books once you've read them?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recipe Time: Berry Strata

It's been awhile since I've shared a recipe with you all and I recently discovered a quick and easy breakfast recipe that I knew I wanted to share. What's great about this recipe is you prepare it the night before so then all you have to do is throw it in the oven in the morning and then presto, 45 minutes later you have a delicious, healthy breakfast. The other thing that's great about it is that it uses frozen fruit so you can have a hearty, fruit filled breakfast in the winter. My boyfriend and I both love this dish and I've made it a few times now so I figured it had passed the test and was worthy of sharing.

My homemade Berry Strata fresh from the oven!

Berry Strata


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 slices of bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained


Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off the heat, add the honey, and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and sugar. Using a fork, mix to combine and beat the eggs. Add the milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and bread. Stir to combine. Gently fold in the berries.
Place the ingredients in a 10-inch round (2-quart) baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata until golden on top and baked through, about 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into dishes and serve.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Young Love

'Save As Draft'
Author: Cavanaugh Lee

Format: ARC
Published: Simon and Schuster; Feb. 2011
Pages: 336
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: B
Source: Author

Synopsis: An epistolary novel told entirely in emails, Blackberry tests and messages, Facebook and profiles, Save as Draft follows the quirky Izabell Chin, a wannabe-actress-turned-lawyer, and the two men who love her. There's Peter, the preppy, reserved co-worker and loyal friend, and Marty, a guy who arrives via an alluring eHarmony profile profile. A love triangle evolves over the course of several emails and texts as these characters struggle to say what they mean and mean what they say in am era that leaves them wondering if things left unsaid - or rather unsent - could have changed the course of their lives forever.

My Take: I know I've been reading a lot of chick-lit this month but hey, it's February, the month of love and that was one of my goals for February! Also, it's been a strenuous month personally and when the going gets tough for me, I turn to easy reading. And for me, easy reading means chick-lit. I love it and it loves me. We get along! I love the authors I know and trust but I also love to spread my wings and try something new. So when I was approached by this new author I gladly jumped on board as it sounded like a fun read and I am glad I did.

Yes, the format reminded me of Holly's Inbox, being that it was written entirely in emails, texts, tweets, etc but it was different too. Where Holly's Inbox was a lot about work, this was about romance and only romance. Izabell, our heroine, wants to find love. She has recently moved to Atlanta, GA and become a lawyer and decided that now is her time so she signs up for eHarmony. Personally, I tried the online dating thing but never tried eHarmony so I can't say if this was true to fact but it was fascinating to read how Izabell and Marty began their communication. I felt like a total voyeur and, well, I loved it!

Marty and Izabell hit it off but life is never that easy is it? Nope! Izabell has a best guy friend that things have never gone anywhere romantically before with: Peter. Well one night, one thing leads to another and, bam! a love triangle is born. Now, what is Izabell to do? Who will she choose? We can read all about it via email, Facebook updates, twitter posts, etc. which is actually kind of like how you would be told about it in real life if something like this was happening to a friend. Because sure you would meet them for a drink or for dinner and get the full scoop, but first, first!, they would tell you all about it via these platforms.

That is why this book is so easy to read. This is how we communicate now. This is real life. Whether you think this is a good or bad thing is up to you but, well I found it a fun and easy read. It would be fun read to pick up for an evening.

Cover Lust: It totally fits the story line but, honestly, I find it a little lackluster.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Feb. 14th - 19th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and February is being hosted by Library of Clean Reads! 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 and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

I'm currently in the midst of enjoying a nice, relaxing, three-day weekend! Here in the US it's President's Day Weekend. We didn't go anywhere this time and it's been incredibly rainy this weekend so what did I do a lot of the time? Read! It's been pretty good for the old TBR pile!

Here's what came in the mailbox this week:

From Philomel Books:
1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

From Crown Publishers:
2. Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, The Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli

From Doubleday:
3. The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

From Pamela Dorman Books:
4. The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice

From LibraryThing EarlyReviewers:
5. Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald
So have you heard of any of these? Which do you think I need to read first? What did you get?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Like Chatting With An Old Friend!

Take a Chance on Me
Author: Jill Mansell

Format: ARC
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark; Oct. 2010
Pages: 432
Genre: Chick-lit; Brit chick-lit
Rating: A
Source: Personal Copy

Synopsis: Cleo Quinn doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to men, but now Will's come along. Handsome and attentive, he could be her Mr Right. Things are definitely looking up for Cleo... apart from one small problem with a rather large ego. Johnny LaVenture, sculptor extraordinaire and her personal childhood nemesis, is back in Channing's Hill and tormenting her as if he'd never been away.
Meanwhile Cleo's sister Abbie has a problem of her own-husband Tom has become distant and withdrawn, and she's determined to find out why. But will the shocking truth mean the end of their idyllically happy marriage?
The sisters are about to discover that the past can come back to haunt you, and that love can flourish in the unlikeliest of places...

My Take: I love Jill Mansell! Have I told you that lately? I know, it's been about six months since I've read one of her books. Why has it been so long? I don't know, we didn't have a fight or anything! I just moved onto other books and there she sat on my shelves and then, bam, I picked her up again and discovered I loved her just as much, if not more, than I ever did! Her books are like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winters day or chatting with that good friend that always understands you. They are just too fun! You know how they are going to go, they are each slightly different, all of the characters are lovable and you always want to live in the charming little British towns they are set in!

Here we have adorable little Channings Hill which is near Bristol in England. Cleo is the star of this novel and she is adorable and totally lovable, yet her love life is a mess. Although when the book starts you actually think she has got it together because she says she has found the love of her life, Will. And Will does seem to be pretty charming but alas, not all is as it seems and it all falls apart pretty quickly.

There are other problems afoot in the sweet village too. There is Johnny LaVenture, the rogue millionaire artist who ruined Cleo's childhood who is now back in town. Can we take a moment to discuss the name Johnny LaVenture? Why hasn't a movie star stolen that name yet? Seriously! This guy sounds hot but what he did to Cleo scarred her for life so he is trouble with a capital T!

Oh and poor Abbie, Cleo's sister. She is supposed to have her life together, being the older sister and all with her lovely husband Tom, but things have kind of started to fall apart for her too. This was actually the most heart breaking and true to real-life part of the story so I don't want to say to much about it. I think a lot of people will actually find Abbie's story pretty touching so really worth reading.

When you add all of these parts up though, what you have is a fabulous, fun and charming read that you can blast through or savor depending on your mood! Whether she is a favorite chick-lit author or one you've been meaning to try, be sure to give this book a read!

Cover Lust: I seriously love these designs! I know they are girly but they make me smile!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Do You Stop?

I have a problem. For the past couple of years, outside of swapping books on PBS, I've been very good at not buying books unless I absolutely had to and then 2011 hit and all hell broke loose. I don't know what happened. It's not like I suddenly have room on my shelves because I have way less than I ever had since I started blogging (there are piles of books throughout our house). It's not as if I don't have enough books to read, I probably have over 200 books in my to be read pile. So what is causing my breakdown with the turn of the year?

The only thing I can chalk it up to is the lure of the sale! Between Groupon's, Border's clearance sales, Amazon gift cards and BookPerk, I can't catch a break around here. I just keep shopping! It needs to stop though. I've got the bug. I go into a store and I want more. I used to be so good with books, knowing that I had so many I didn't need more, that it would take me way to long to get to them. But now? I can't pass up a deal. I have no resolve.

So what's your advice because if anyone out there has the same problem with being tempted by too many books it's other book bloggers and lovers of books! How do you resist buying ridiculous amounts of books? Especially when they are on sale? Any advice to help me get my resolve back up will be greatly appreciated! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Books Made Into Movies: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones

Studio: Paramount
Originally Released: Apr. 2010
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: Director Peter Jackson takes a personal, risky leap in his direction of the film version of Alice Sebold's bestselling novel The Lovely Bones. Yet the leap pays off, in emotional depth and riveting visuals that transport the viewer to other worlds--even ones the viewer may not want to visit. The Lovely Bones is lofted by its star-making performance by the young Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), who plays Susie Salmon, the 14-year-old girl who is murdered early in the film, and who narrates the action from her "in-between place" after dying but before going to heaven. Ronan makes Susie as earthy and awkward as any young teen, yet her presence, and her gorgeous pale eyes, remind viewers that she's otherworldly too. The Lovely Bones takes some big departures from the book, as many critics have pointed out, but it works well on its own merits. The drama involves how (even whether) Susie's family will recover after her ghastly murder, and what happens to her killer and the futile-seeming search for justice and closure. The entire cast is stellar, including Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie's nearly destroyed parents; the composed young New Zealand actress Rose McIver, who plays Susie's younger sister, whom Susie watches grow up to be the young woman that Susie will never get to be; and Susan Sarandon, the boozy, wisecracking grandmother who may or may not be able to help keep the family from splintering into a million pieces. The other true standout is Stanley Tucci, almost unrecognizable as the quiet, creepy neighbor who kills Susie, obsessing over every detail and perhaps having left a whole trail of gruesome murders in his shambling wake. Jackson's deft direction keeps the mourning humans moving along believably, numbly, and gives breathtaking life to the afterlife, in scenes of fantasy and dread that recall his Heavenly Creatures. The film is rated PG-13 but is not recommended for younger teenagers because of its intense subject matter, though handled delicately. 

My Take: Dude, this is not what I expected. Be warned, this may be a polarizing movie review so if you loved this movie you may want to not keep reading. Ok now I will say this: I read this book when it came out and that was my pre-blogging days and it came out in 2002. I know I read it in hardback so I am guessing I read it pretty soon after the release date so let's say I read it 9 years ago. I know my memory would be fuzzy but I also remember really liking it and it staying with me in a way certain books have the power of doing. This one stayed with me because I was surprised it didn't scare the pants off me but it wasn't scary. I remember our narrator, little Susie Salmon, just wanting to help her family find peace and possibly her murderer. 

What I don't remember? You want to know what I don't remember and what was huge in this movie? Oh that would be the trippy, hippy, dippy love fest that was the 'in-between place'. Holy smokes what was Jackson smoking? Look, I know this book was set in the 1970s but come on! The book was not that long and the movie was 2.5 hours. I believe that was because we had to spend a lot of the time letting Susie live out some sort of bizarre acid trip fantasy.

You want to know what I did like? Boozy Susan Sarandon as the grandmother! She was awesome and a much needed comedic relief in what was a very dramatic movie. Also, Stanley Tucci, I love you. You were totally creepy and I hardly recognized you. I wouldn't want to live next door to you if you were my neighbor in this movie so nice work.

I know that my memory of this book is probably fuzzy being that I read it so long ago but I also know that there were things in this movie that I didn't like and that had they been in a book I wouldn't have liked, even in my college days. Not just the trippy bits. The belaboring a point until Marky Mark could figure out who the murderer was. My boyfriend and I were yelling at the TV because they were really going round and round about that one, hitting him over the head.

Ok I think that's enough snark for me. I am probably the last person in the world to have watched this movie so what did you all think of it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Three Little Women

'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough'
Author: Ruth Pennebaker

Format: Paperback
Published: Berkeley Trade; Jan. 2011
Pages: 320
Genre: Literary fiction; Women's fiction; Mother-daughter
Rating: B
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: Joanie Pilcher, nearing 50 and recently divorced, is firmly entrenched in the sandwich generation. Working at a job she hates in an ad agency, she’s doing her best with her moody 15-year-old daughter, Caroline, and her depressed 77-year-old widowed mother, Ivy, who moved in six months earlier after her stock portfolio tanked. When Joanie’s ex calls to tell her that his much-younger live-in girlfriend is pregnant, it seems a final straw. Meanwhile, Caroline suffers typical teenage angst, hating her life, discovering pot, and mooning over handsome Henry in her Spanish class, and Ivy—keenly missing her old home and friends—tries to fill her days with Goggling on the Internet, with a little shoplifting on the side. Pennebaker brings the realism of her young adult novels to this debut adult novel, creating characters—both major and minor—who elicit sympathy and with whom readers can identify. Title and promotional blurbs aside, this is less lighthearted chick lit than a fairly grim look at life, with a welcome upbeat turn at the end. 

My Take: I love novels about women. Women and relationships. Mother - daughter relationships in particular. Being a daughter they are easy for me to relate to and so it's something that I like to read about, simple as that. Being a week in which I was incredibly tired, this was a great book to turn to. Not because it was necessarily a simple subject matter but because it was comforting in that I new the general path it would take and I liked that. It was something I could, well relate too.

The novel centers around Joanie, a 50 year old who should have her life all together and figured out, but as we all know things don't always happen the way we've planned. Newly divorced, her life has been turned on its axis. It's not that her husband has left her for someone younger, he just wasn't in love with her anymore (but now of course he has moved on and it is, inevitably, with someone much younger!).

Joanie and her ex-husband have a teenage daughter, Caroline. As all good, teenage females are, she is angsty and having a hard time finding her way in the world now that her parents are newly divorced. I felt for Caroline. She doesn't have a lot of friends and has a difficult time communicating with others, often tripping up in situations that are new and unusual. Who can't relate to that? Don't get me wrong, she brings a lot of craziness onto herself, but what teenager doesn't.

Finally we have Ivy, the grandmother/mother of these two women. She is in her 80s and has had to move in with Joanie after having lost all of her retirement money in the recent economic crisis. Ivy is frustrated with her new situation and is taking it out on Joanie. Often difficult to read, their relationship is very real and any adult female could probably relate to this and roll their eyes at these two women's constant bickering. You know where they are both coming from, but it doesn't make it easier.

For me, I only had one fault and it was a grinding one. While I loved the three central characters, Joanie's ex-husband's new fiancee played a role in how they all got along. Don't get me wrong, she had her flaws but when she got pregnant, Joanie kept referring to how a 30 year old woman was too young to have a baby and wouldn't know what she was doing. As someone who is (cough) almost 30 I took offense to that. If you aren't supposed to have a baby when you are nearing 30, when are you old enough to have a baby? When you are too old to even reproduce? I can understand that Joanie resented this woman but she had her 15 year old daughter, you do the math. She is 50 and was clearly the same age when she was pregnant. Why so many comments about her being too young? It got under my skin.

However, it was a minor part of the story and should not prevent anyone from reading it who enjoys this genre.

Take a look at this great book trailer to give you even more of an idea of how good it is!:

Cover Lust: I love the bold colors and think it's really cute! You know birds are hot, hot, hot right now in the design industry :)

For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC tour schedule:

Monday, January 17th: Debbie’s Book Bag
Tuesday, January 18th: Proud Book Nerd
Thursday, January 20th: Love to Read for Fun
Monday, January 24th: Hospitable Pursuits
Tuesday, January 25th: Scraps of Life
Wednesday, January 26th: Reviews from the Heart
Thursday, January 27th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Friday, January 28th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, January 31st: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Tuesday, February 1st: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, February 2nd: BookNAround
Friday, February 4th: Life in the Thumb
Monday, February 7th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Tuesday, February 8th: The Book Chick
Thursday, February 10th: Romance Books Forum
Monday, February 14th: Bookworm’s Dinner
Tuesday, February 15th: Amused By Books
Wednesday, February 16th: Clever Girl Goes Blog

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Feb. 7th - 12th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and February is being hosted by Library of Clean Reads! 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 and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

How was everyone's weekend? We had another nice, sunny weekend (sorry, ya'll!). It was also my boyfriend's birthday so we celebrated that yesterday. I made him a nice dinner. Since it's so close to Valentine's day we can never get a reservation anywhere! And speaking of Valentine's Day -- Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you have a fabulous one, whatever you do!

I have a confession to make. I went to Borders to by said boyfriend a birthday present and they were having a huge clearance sale so most of this mailbox is made up of finds from there. Here on out, so help me God, I will STOP BUYING BOOKS! Ok, I got that off my chest. Here's what came into the house this week:

From the author:
1. The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

2. From St. Martin's Griffin:
The Raven's Bride by Lenore Hart

Items I bought at Borders:
3. Paula Deen a Memoir: It Ain't All About the Cookin' by Paula Deen (an audiobook)

4. Happens Every Day: An All Too True Story by Isabel Gillies (audiobook)

5. How I Learned to Cook: and Other Writings on Complex Mother-Daughter Relationships Edited by Margo Perin

6. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

7. The Perfect Happiness by Santa Montefiore

Which do you recommend I read first? What did you get this week?
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