Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wanderlust Winner!

Congrats are in order for the Wanderlust giveaway courtesy of author Elisabeth Eaves! The winner via is Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog!

Thanks to everyone who entered and don't forget to check out my other giveaways linked in the right hand corner.

In Case You Missed It: June 2011

We are officially into summer now and I am loving it! Fourth of July weekend is looming for those of us here in the US which is a great bbq'ing and fireworks weekend. We are getting out of town since it's our anniversary and heading up into wine country. It's always warmer up there so we are going to enjoy some extra sunshine for the long weekend and I can't wait!

June was a really busy month here at Amused By Books! I posted a ton and it was fun. Apparently I had a lot more to say than normal.

My nine books a month reading streak was broken though (it must be all that sunshine!). I only read eight books this month, which honestly is still great for me. That brings my total for the year to 51. Does this mean I might read 100 books instead of 80 this year? If so that kind of freaks me out because that is WAY more than normal! It must be the bad influence of this blog ;)

Now for the official monthly wrap-up. Here's what Amused By Books has been up to in June:
Also if you haven't yet, it's your last day to enter my June Review Book Giveaway for a chance to win one of two fab books!

Happy July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: The Winter Ghosts

'The Winter Ghosts'
Author: Kate Mosse

Format: ARC
Published: Putnam Adult; Feb. 2011
Pages: 288
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade: D
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: In Mosse's wisp of a new novel (after Sepulchre), Freddie Watson is a stilted young man who has not gotten over older brother George's disappearance on the Western Front during WWI. It is now 10 years since the Armistice, and Freddie, after a stay in a mental institution, has come to the French Pyrenees to find peace. While motoring through a snowstorm, he crashes his car and ends up in the small village of Nulle, where he meets a beautiful young woman named Fabrissa. In the course of an evening, Fabrissa tells Freddie a story of persecution, resistance, and death, hinting at a long-buried secret. By the next morning, she is gone, leaving Freddie alone to unlock a ghostly mystery hidden for 600 years. 

My Take: I know when you look at that title and cover you'll say to yourself, well what the heck is she doing reading a book like that in the middle of the summer? Well sometimes I just grab! I wanted a book that was slim. This one has been sitting in my review pile for awhile and it is, well, tantalizingly small. Most of the books I read are 300+ pages and sometimes I just want to be able to zip through a book! Plus, I love historical fiction so the setting seemed great, regardless of the season. In action though, it didn't work for me.

Kate Mosse, while a new to me author, is a popular one. I feel I may be selling her short by having this be the only book of hers I've read. The narrative centers around Freddie who in the 1920s, cannot move on from the loss of his brother George who died fighting in WWI. His brother was the star of his little family. His parents idolized him and Freddie loved him; without George, Freddie is lost. Years later, he has had breakdowns, institutionalization, more familial deaths and is trying to move on. Bottom line, Freddie is your regular anti-hero. However, he never really does anything to make you want to root for him in the end.

He winds up in a small French town in the middle of a snow storm when they are having an annual festival and gets caught up in the action. He winds up meeting a girl and he thinks she might be the one but all might not be as it seems. The story is incredibly slow and you aren't really sure why it is so slow. The book is short, you would expect it to be action packed, for every word to count. Instead, I found myself falling asleep. I knew the twist halfway in, and then you don't really want to keep reading after that.

So my question to you is, if I was to give Mosse another try, which book is a must?

As always there are other opinions out there, so don't take my word for gospel! Here some other people who enjoyed this one much more:
Just Book Reading
Knitting and Sundries
Jenns Bookshelves

Cover Lust: I love this cover! It does set the scene perfectly for one dark and stormy night!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guest Post: Emily Sue Harvey

I am pleased to welcome Emily Sue Harvey here today to talk about her writing process.  Her new book Homefires is out now! So without further ado:

The question most frequently asked of me is “how do you dream up those stories?” Most of the time, I reply “from life.” But that answer is too simple and may be considered glib so I go a step further and clarify. I begin with a premise, like in Song of Renewal, where a family is tossed into peril when, after the father has forbidden sixteen-year-old Angel Wakefield to go to a concert with her first boyfriend, because a terrible storm could make the venture dangerous, the mother relents and allows Angel to go. Later, when the teen is in a horrific auto accident that kills Troy and leaves her comatose and paralyzed, the results are devastating.

After setting the initial conflict, I begin to ask myself “what if?” What if…Garrison cannot forgive Liza for going against his judgment that fateful night? Imagine his anguish. What if…Liza’s guilt is so great that she cannot forgive herself? Imagine her remorse. What if…despite the fact that Garrison still loves Liza, he cannot bring himself to provide that succor she so desperately needs as their child lies at death’s door? How utterly alone and betrayed she must feel. Then, what if Liza eventually becomes so emotionally spent that she is forced to numb out her feelings for Garrison? What far-reaching effects will this have on their lives? On their marriage? But what if their love for their daughter is the one bond that keeps them tethered together? The what ifs are infinite and crucial in creating a story.

In Flavors, I asked “what if” Sadie Ann’s experiences—both good and bad– at the Melton farm grow too complex for her sensitive adolescent mind to process and remain well-tuned? The result was that Sadie Ann began to define the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes bizarre happenings in terms of flavors. Childhood was lemony while teen life was strawberry flavored. Adulthood ranged from Strawberry to Vanilla-y- to Cinnamon Spicy, depending upon the situation and nuances. Violence had a vile smell, the flavor of road-kill. Her stoical, sometimes apathetic grandmother was described as “sage-y.” This process of categorizing each reaction neatly, in a civilized way, helped the sensitive twelve-year-old deal with and file away each epiphany of her summer’s journey.

The choice of flavors is concise in rounding out Sadie Ann’s odyssey from childhood to adulthood in that life-altering summer. The girl’s inner child harmonizes with those inside all of us. We may disparage them during those awkward days now called tween years. We may scream and vilify her/him when they pop up at inopportune times and embarrass the bejeezus out of us.

I describe my own inner child as a sometimes grotesque Betty Boop with smeared lipstick and clumped, spidery mascara, who regularly made me look and act like an utter fool between the ages of eleven and fifteen. Actually, even further into my teens. Not as often but she was still on “go” and would spring into being at the least provocation. But at other times she was the sweetest, most giving of beings, loving the unlovable and forgiving the grossest of betrayals.

And like the older, melancholy Sadie Ann, I kept pushing that inner child away until she appeared less and less. Today she is nearly non-existent. And strangely, that doesn’t please me like I thought it would. In fact, get these—I find myself missing her. Yeh. Especially her spontaneity. All this melancholy junk spawned by aging gets too, too heavy. And I miss her ability to see past others’ flaws and just—love’em, Y’know? Oh, and I miss her childlike abandonment to joy. And her lemon-zesty celebration of life itself.
I wonder—would she come back? At least when I need her? In recent days, I’ve beckoned to her, more and more. Talking and reminiscing. Stuff like that. Because I know that, like me, she’s a sentimental soul. And I know that, even though I put her down so brutally in younger days, she won’t turn me away.
More than anything, you see, she loves to make people happy.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today Emily!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday: June 27th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and June is being hosted by Bluestocking's Thoughts on Books! 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!

It was another weekend full of sunshine here in San Francisco. I could really get used to this! I was able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and all of the fun summer activities that the city puts on this time of year. Hope you all are enjoying your summer too!

Here's what came into my mailbox this week:
From Gotham Books for a TLC Book Tour:
1. Just My Type by Simon Garfield

From Gotham Books:
2. Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson

From PBS:
3. A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson

4. Bellfield Hall: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Anna Dean

What did you get?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Audio Book Review: Knit Two

'Knit Two'
Author: Kate Jacobs

Format: Audio Book
Published: Penguin Audio; Nov. 2008
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffi
Genre: Chick-lit
Grade: C
Source: Library

Synopsis: Continuing the warm-and-fuzzy saga begun in her popular The Friday Night Knitting Club, Jacobs stitches together another winning tale of the New York City knitting circle, more a sisterhood than a hobby group (the irascible Darwin Chiu can't even really knit). In this installment-and it does feel like an installment-readers catch up five years after the unexpected, book-capping death of club leader (and knitting shop owner Georgia Walker. Georgia's 18-year-old Dakota is at NYU, discovering her first love, while her father James and Georgia's best friend Catherine are still coming to terms. The rest of the cast runs a wide gamut of ages and experience, but is easier to follow this time around, as Jacobs is more comfortable giving them more space and backstory. Pregnant, whip-smart professor Darwin and her husband, Dan, are welcoming twins; video director and single mom Lucie is coping with a hyperactive 5-year-old and a failing parent; Georgia's old mentor, the wise Anita, begins questioning her own motives; and everyone's stories cross paths in satisfying, organic ways. A trip to Italy provides some forward motion, and pays off in a charming denouement that nevertheless pushes a familiar it's-the-journey-not-the-destination message; still, this sequel is as comforting, enveloping and warm as a well-crafted afghan. 

My Take: Last year I listened to The Friday Night Knitting Club (click for my review) and enjoyed it. It was sweet and easy to listen to. When I saw that my library had the sequel I thought, sure, why not? 

All of the women from the Knitting Club are back sans Georgia. We catch up with them five years later. Many things have changed and many things have not. I think, although I'm not really sure why you would, that you could easily read this book without reading the first book because the first few chapters are devoted to telling you about each of the women, what they've been up to, and what they've become in the last few years. Everyone has grown up and moved on. They are all still sad and affected by Georgia's death but life is also very busy and demanding and sometimes they forget to make the time for each other that Georgia always made sure they did.

I'm not really sure what to say about this audio book. It was cute, it was nice, but not a whole heck of a lot happened. For me it was a little superfluous and overly lengthy. In the middle a large group of the women decide to go to Italy, kind of like how in the first book some of them go to Scotland. It was nice, the trip to Italy. I wish I could go to Italy for the entire Summer too, but alas my job doesn't let me. I think if you read the first book, you'd want to read this to see what happens but I am not sure I'll be continuing with the series. 

Have you continued with the series, and if so, is it worth it?

Cover Lust: I do think this cover is absolutely beautiful!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Downton Abbey

Studio: Masterpiece Classic
Originally Released: Jan. 2011

 Synopsis: The Downton Abbey estate stands a splendid example of confidence and mettle, its family enduring for generations and its staff a well-oiled machine of propriety. But change is afoot at Downton — change far surpassing the new electric lights and telephone. A crisis of inheritance threatens to displace the resident Crawley family, in spite of the best efforts of the noble and compassionate Earl, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville); his American heiress wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern); his comically implacable, opinionated mother, Violet (Maggie Smith); and his beautiful, eldest daughter, Mary, intent on charting her own course. Reluctantly, the family is forced to welcome its heir apparent, the self-made and proudly modern Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), himself none too happy about the new arrangements. As Matthew's bristly relationship with Mary begins to crackle with electricity, hope for the future of Downton's dynasty takes shape. But when petty jealousies and ambitions grow among the family and the staff, scheming and secrets — both delicious and dangerous — threaten to derail the scramble to preserve Downton Abbey. Created and written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), Downton Abbey offers a spot-on portrait of a vanishing way of life.

My Take: Ok, I know, I know, this has nothing to do with books but I don't care. I also think I am a little late to the Downton Abbey party so to speak but I've joined the bandwagon know and I want to make sure you all do too! Have you all been watching this series? It is freaking awesome! I had to talk about it with someone. Originally airing in the UK and then on PBS here, I had been reading about it everywhere so I had to see what the fuss was all about. I love a historical fiction/drama so this seemed like something I would enjoy. Lo and behold it was streaming on my Netflix so I could watch it whenever I wanted and the series was genius!

In easily manageable one-hour episodes, we meet both the Crawley's who own a huge estate in England, the aforementioned Downton Abbey, as well as their myriad of staff, or the downstairs crew in Edwardian England. It is fascinating and surprisingly humorous. It starts with the sinking of the Titanic and its effects on everyone through what might happen if Robert Crawley, the current heir, can't find a suitable heir for their estate since he has only had daughters. 

My favorite character in all of this is the eldest Crawley, Violet, played by Maggie Smith. She is hysterical! The costumes are beautiful, the estate is beautiful and it takes you back to a time when, well I don't necessarily wish I could live back then but I do wish I could at least play dress up for awhile. Its all so lush and fabulous.

So I have to know, have you been watching? There are only eight episodes out now but they will be returning for a second season in winter of 2012. Thank goodness!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Books Made Into Plays: Tales of the City

Tales of the City
World Premiere: American Conservatory Theater
Running Time: 2 hr. and 50 min.

Last month my bookclub read the San Francisco classic Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (click title for my review). We picked it and then literally, two weeks later, the city started promoting the world premiere of the broadway show made out of the first two books in the series (of which there are eight books in total) so can you say bookclub field trip!

Overall our bookclub really enjoyed the book and it's view of 1970s San Francisco and we were looking forward to a large group outing to see the play. Heck, more people wanted to go to the play than came to bookclub! The play had been getting good reviews and come last Friday we were all excited to see it.

We were not disappointed! Having combined both Tales of the City and More Tales of the City, this play was disco-fabulous! The woman who played Mary Ann Singleton (Betsy Wolfe), our favorite naive heroine of the book who comes to the city looking to grow up and become a city gal, could belt out a tune like no other! And Anna Madrigal (Judy Kaye) was amazing as the mother hen of the whole cast. Between scenes the cast would disco or roller skate around the stage making everyone in the audience get into the vibe of the era and the characters were both funny and moving.

I can't say whether, if you hadn't read the books you would still enjoy the play, because I have read the first one, but I would think it would still certainly be entertaining. The venue was sold out and everyone appeared to be enjoying it. Certainly our group of nine was into the play. How wonderful to see a book brought to life in a way other than a movie. It's kind of magical and was a great outing. If the play comes to a city near you, I can highly recommend it!
Disco scenes in action!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Tales of the City

'Tales of the City'
Author: Armistead Maupin

Format: Paperback
Published: Harper Perennial; May 2007
Originally Published: 1976
Pages: 400
Genre: Literary fiction
Grade: B
Source: Personal copy

Synopsis: Since 1976, Maupin's Tales of the City has etched itself upon the hearts and minds of its readers, both straight and gay. From a groundbreaking newspaper serial in the San Francisco Chronicle to a bestselling novel to a critically acclaimed PBS series, Tales (all six of them) contains the universe--if not in a grain of sand, then in one apartment house.

My Take: I'll be honest, I'd never heard of this book, or series, before moving to San Francisco over six years ago. Once hear though, everyone talks about it! This series and the city seemed wrapped up together. It appears as though it is the book that the city feels best represents them, maybe. I say maybe because there are just so many characters it would be hard to capture everything in one series but Maupin certainly tries!

I really related to Mary Ann Singleton, the naive central character of this first novel. She is a 25-year-old single gal who moves to the big city after visiting here once from the Midwest and decides that this feels more like home, not knowing at all what she was getting herself into. I was 23 when I moved here and, I like to think I wasn't quite so naive, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into! San Francisco is way more of a metropolis and has way more different cultures and needs than I ever experienced in Seattle ... and I loved it! Which is why I have stayed. Mary Ann, after some initial bumps, ends up loving it too.

She moves into 28 Barbary Lane in Russian Hill and soon learns that her apartment building can become like a little crazy family. Anna, her landlord, is like a mother, becoming overly involved and all knowing in her life. Her neighbors Mona and Michael become friends, their are bisexual and gay respectively. While that may not turn our heads today, when this was originally published in the 1970s, I can imagine this was pushing the boundaries. Or was it simply telling it in an easy to read and with likable and believable characters, something that was actually happening around you to help people become more accepting of it?

There are a ton of ancillary characters in this book and all of their lives become entangled. Since this was originally written for the local newspaper, the chapters are incredibly short which makes it the perfect book to read on the go. I also was amused that every chapter ended on a cliff-hanger, sort of like the soap operas of the day. I felt like in the background there should have been 'dun dun dun' playing every time I read the closing sentence. 

However, what struck me most was the fact that Maupin captured San Francisco so well. As much as things change, most things stay the same. This book was written 35 years ago and I could recognize the neighborhoods by the descriptions of the people who live there, he didn't even have to name them. The buildings are the same, many hangouts, restaurants and city legends are too. Maybe that's why so many people who think they love San Francisco really end up liking it when they visit, because it does look exactly the same as how they saw it on TV! Maupin, thanks for this great ode to the city!

Cover Lust: Seriously, one of my favorite covers ever!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mailbox Monday: June 20th, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and June is being hosted by Bluestocking's Thoughts on Books! 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!

This weekend I had lots of quality girlfriend time. It's always fun to get to spend time with the girls going to dinner and catching up on life. Love it! I hope you all had wonderful weekends too.

Here's what came into the mailbox this week:

From Free Press:
1. The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen

2. I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by Kellie Groom

3. A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Faith, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres

Cover has not been released yet so imagine something awesome here!

Bookfan Mary kindly sent me the following book!
4. Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

From PBS:
5. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

6. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Conner McNees

7. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

What did you get?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: Faith

Author: Jennifer Haigh

Format: ARC
Published: Harper; May 2011
Pages: 336
Genre: Literary fiction
Grade: A
Source: Harper for a TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: Haigh (Mrs. Kimble) explores the intersections of public scandal and personal tragedy in her fourth novel. Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family. Arthur Breen became a priest when such a career path was considered a logical, honorable choice for an intelligent young Catholic man. Sophisticated and worldly in many ways, utterly childlike in others, Arthur is unprepared to cope with secular life when he's accused of abusing a young boy and is subsequently asked to leave his parish. Arthur's younger half-sister, Sheila, in a quasi-omniscient style, narrates the complicated, devastating history that shaped Arthur's life, both personally and spiritually. Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith Arthur's family has—and loses, and in some cases regains—in one another. At its broadest, this is a frank and timely story of familial and institutional heredity; at its most personal, the novel is a devastating portrait of a priest who discovers that he's also a man. 

My Take: Religion is a hot button issue for many people. It is not something I normally talk about here but as my most recent read, Faith, talks about it immensely, and the faith I was raised in specifically, it will be discussed here today. Haigh is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read every single one of her back-catalog books, most recently having read and reviewed The Condition here last year (click title for my review). So to say I was eager to read her newest release is an understatement. However, reading the synopsis I took a big gulp. These are normally the hot button issues I avoid. As I’ve been noticing this year, I am so glad I jumped right in and pushed myself anyway because I loved this book!

Sheila is our narrator and sister of an accused Catholic priest. She assumes you know the story they are talking about and in a sense we do. In the news for the last decade there has been Catholic priest after priest brought forth as a child molester. As someone who knows and loves priests firsthand this is sad and disheartening to watch. It is shameful. You become outraged. Often it is the family of the child we think of first, not that of the priest. Of course the family of the priest is adversely affected too. Sheila takes us through her family’s story when her brother, Father Art Breem, becomes an accused priest in the Boston Archdiocese in the early 2000s.

Father Art loves children and the child who accused him he had a special fondness for. The story didn’t look good. He didn’t really stand a chance. Sheila and her other brother Mike go through their own issues in dealing with the tragedy of the news outbreak, as well as having to deal with the fallout for their mother who is torn apart by the news. Taking aside the obvious heartache and outrage of the family for the young child, this book also takes you through what it is like to imagine what it would mean when something like this happens in your own family, when one of your own supposedly commits an act like this, it would put your life into a tailspin. Would you automatically go to their defense or would you automatically accuse them? It brings all kinds of family dynamics, religion notwithstanding, to the forefront. 

Bottom line, if your bookclub can handle discussions of religion, I cannot think of a better summer bookclub pick!

Cover Lust: I think this cover is perfect for this book. How many families have the wall of photos depicting their lives and shared memories? And this book, as a reflection of a family and the bond, I think this cover makes a great representation as such.

For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Post: Annoyed By Books!

Annoyed By Books in action

Hi dear readers, Amused here. No you didn't read that title wrong! I am thrilled to invite my boyfriend here today, Annoyed By Books, to talk to you all today about how the Kindle has changed his feelings towards books. I wrote a post in January of this year entitled 'Why I'm Glad I bought my boyfriend a Kindle for Christmas, but I still don't want one' and the feeling still holds true in this house. In the comments of that post, many of you asked for him to write about the books he has since read. Well after much cajoling, he has now written up some reviews and other thoughts and if you like, there will be more to come! So without further ado ...

I don't like books. They bother me for a number of reasons. Reading is an activity that ranks either just above, but probably below, cleaning the litter box of a sick cat on my list of things I could do with my free time. Every once in a while I’d pick one up based on a glowing recommendation but even that stopped thanks to Oprah and James Frey.

Growing up, reading was punishment or something I had to do in order to get to what I wanted to do, which was watch TV. My high school even assigned a summer reading list and administered a test on the books at the beginning of each year. Given that I was a lousy reader to begin with, it meant starting each school year with an impossible test asking questions about themes I didn’t pick up on and details I couldn’t remember. By by senior year, I wised up and didn’t bother even cracking The Great Gatsby during the summer break because I knew I would fail the test anyway.

Bad vision certainly doesn’t make reading a relaxing, fun experience. Rather, it’s a frustrating exercise of finding enough light and positioning my head and reading glasses just so, such that I can make out the micro print used by publishers to save a nickel on paper. Also my eyes get tired really fast so by the time I’m positioned, comfortable, and remember where I was in the book last time I looked at it, I need to shut my eyes and let them rest for a while.

Let’s not forget about the judgement factor. Maybe this is all in my head but reading publicly is not something I like to do. I’ve lived in fashion and trend-conscious/setting neighborhoods of San Francisco and New York for over 8 years now (out of convenience, mostly, but the food’s pretty good, too). Every once in a while I can convince the hipsters that my 90’s clothing is retro and ironic but I know I’m not reading the right books.

Until this year, I was down right aggravated by books. That’s not to say I’ve hated everything I’ve read. And I enjoyed reading things that teach me how things and people work. While Million Little Pieces is the last piece of pure fiction I’ll ever read, I did like Hemmingway and Hubert Selby Jr. a lot. However, with the vision problems, obnoxious literati scensters, generally being a bad reader, the piles of books that belong to an avid reader I must tiptoe around mocked me, books were for keeping my drinks off the furniture and really nothing else.

Thanks to the Kindle, I’m no longer aggravated by books, just annoyed by them.

I’m still a terrible and slow reader, but reading has become less of a chore with a Kindle. The magnetic ink is really easy on the eyes and clear under the bright light I need to read. I couldn’t tell you where the nearest bookstore is and it was less than I year ago that I found out I live 2 blocks from a library. In fact, I remember several years before being buzzed at a party next door and wondering what the heck the big grey building was on which I was leaning. Since I have the 3G Kindle, I can buy books, magazines and newspapers whereever I am. The selection is somewhat limited, especially periodicals, and the prices vary wildly from bargain to are-you-kidding-me? But I have a bad memory. It’s nice to be able to buy a book when I think of it rather than try to remember the title for the next time I get tricked into going to a bookstore or, lord help me, the library.

The Kindle easily allows me to set the font size and even allows switching between portrait and landscape. People often ask why I didn’t get an iPad so let me address that now. I like the iPad a lot. But I wouldn’t use one as a reader because I’m easily distracted. I would way too easy switch from a boring section of a book to playing Angry Birds or watching questionable content on a NSFW website. Also, the screen wears my eyes out really fast and the battery life doesn’t compare with the Kindle’s. As a PDF viewer, it comes up a little short, mostly because it is tough to navigate when zooming in; a drawback to the way Kindle displays images and text.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the Kindle. Besides making buying and reading books painless, you can download some free games, it has a modest web browser and, if you like, allows you to share titles you’ve finished on Facebook and Twitter. It also has a screen reader for blind users but it sounds very robotic.

Now for some reviews!

In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: … And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy  Author: Adam Carolla
Synopsis: In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks is Adam's comedic gospel of modern America. He rips into the absurdity of the culture that demonized the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, turned the nation's bathrooms into a lawless free-for-all of urine and fecal matter, and put its citizens at the mercy of a bunch of minimum wagers with axes to grind. Peppered between complaints Carolla shares candid anecdotes from his day to day life as well as his past—Sunday football at Jimmy Kimmel's house, his attempts to raise his kids in a society that he mostly disagrees with, his big showbiz break, and much, much more. Brilliantly showcasing Adam's spot-on sense of humor, this book cements his status as a cultural commentator/comedian/complainer extraordinaire.

Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Author: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Synopsis: Economics is often regarded as the study of dry, uninteresting financial trends and market developments, but Steven Levitt’s groundbreaking work in the field reveals that the tools of economic research can be put to use in the study of the relationships that underlie the events and problems that we encounter and hear about every day. In Freakonomics, Levitt and his co-author, journalist Stephen Dubner, offer a survey of some of the most interesting research topics Levitt has tackled during his career.

Annoyed's Thoughts: It’s fitting to review these books together since both ask questions about human behavior and offer some tools to navigate life. Carolla uses sharp wit and personal stories while Levitt and Dubner use piles of data. Both are engaging and entertaining as well and made me happy to read again after my four year hiatus.

I have been a huge Carolla fan for many years so I was excited to read his book. I was not disappointed in the least. The book contains many well-crafted rants, many that I’ve heard before, as well as some good tips that are worth incorporating. I’ll admit I had to put it down from time to time because I found myself getting angry at the world in ways that I never imagined. I thought I was a world-class complainer but Carolla’s gift is to point out things that are very annoying that you never knew were annoying. Fortunately, the book is very funny so the bile gets blown off rather quickly and the book finishes warm and fuzzy compared to where it begins. A couple times I did find myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head (though still kind of laughing) but I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes Carolla’s work or found the Man Show to be a light-hearted male oriented comedy and not a misogynistic free-for-all.

Freakonomics on the other hand is a book that everyone should read. I realize that this book has been read by many people already so I’ll keep it short. Levitt and Dubner do a fantastic job using data to answer some strange questions, all studying how people get (or try to get) what they want. The book is somewhat disjointed but asserts up front that there is no unifying theme. For someone with my attention span, this is perfect. I found the chapters about the propagation of children's names and why drug dealers live with their moms to be the most interesting. This book was somewhat controversial because Levitt and Dubner make a compelling case that the legalization of abortion led to a drop in crime in the 90’s.

The narratives get a little formulaic after a while. That is the author's pose a question, suggest a possible solution based on common wisdom, then examine data and analysis that disproves that common wisdom. I do think this is a very interesting book to read because the authors successfully get you asking questions. You certainly don’t have to be a number crunching geek to enjoy this book. Levitt did the data analysis and provides simple but convincing arguments that make you see things a little differently.

Thank you so much for writing this guest post Annoyed By Books and if you all enjoyed it to, I can probably cajole him to come back for more!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Wanderlust!

'Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents'
Author: Elisabeth Eaves

Format: Paperback
Published: Seal Press; May 2011
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-fiction; Memoir; Travel
Grade: B
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: Spanning 15 years of travel, beginning when she is a sophomore in college, Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures. Young and independent, she crisscrosses five continents and chases the exotic, both in culture and in romance. In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, she loses herself—literally—to an Australian tour guide; in Cairo, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart, only to discover the beginning of a pattern that will characterize her life over the long-term: while long-distance relationships work well for her, traditional relationships do not.

My Take: When it's June and pouring down rain outside and you are stuck in your cubicle can you torture yourself anymore than reading a book about a women who defied all convention to travel around the world until she was in her mid-thirties? Sure she misses out on many of life's other major milestones in so doing but it sounds like a pretty tempting proposition when every day in your life is suffering from sameness. But then the sun comes out and it's summer time and life is pretty good and you get to the end of the book and you realize everyone has their own individual problem's so you know, stop making comparisons like this!

But as usual, we've gotten ahead of ourselves. Wanderlust is a memoir about Elizabeth Eaves' inability to settle down. As soon as she got that first taste of travel in her young life she knew she would never be the same and it set her on a trajectory to make her life a certain way. In college she studies abroad multiple times, after college she got a job working abroad and when that didn't work out she kept saving up until she had enough money to continue to go abroad, further and farther afield. While many people might go abroad a few times in their lifetime because of the expense, Eaves spent much of her twenties and thirties abroad. The countries she visits are both modern and third world and this dichotomy and how she deals with what she comes up against is fascinating to read.

In each country though she often meets a new man and when she moves home she meets a new man. Relationships are difficult even for the best of us and after awhile on this journey with Eaves you begin to wonder if she is not just traveling but running away from something deeper or is afraid of making deeper connections with people at home at what that might mean. 

I enjoyed going on this journey with Eaves and loved it at the beginning when I could really relate to it. Her college years and studying abroad were fun and when she was working abroad, which is something I've always wanted to do I found it very inspiring. Other parts though I found almost sad because it did feel like constant running away from something and I was unsure if we were every going to get any admission to that.

Cover Lust: I do love this cover! It makes me feel like I am on a warm, tropical island.

Giveaway Details!
The author has kindly offered up one new copy to a lucky winner! The deadline for this giveaway is June 29th; entries open to those in the US and Canada.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
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3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST June 29th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

For other opinions about this book, here's the full TLC Tour Schedule:

Monday, June 13th:  English Major’s Junk Food
Tuesday, June 14th:  Confessions of a Book Addict
Wednesday, June 15th:  Amused by Books
Monday, June 20th:  Melody & Words
Wednesday, June 22nd:  Books Distilled
Thursday, June 23rd:  Life in Review
Monday, June 27th:  Nomad Reader
Wednesday, June 29th:  Regular Rumination
Thursday, June 30th:  Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
Tuesday, July 5th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, July 7th:  The Girl from the Ghetto
Tuesday, July 12th:  Books Are My Boyfriends
Thursday, July 14th:  Joyfully Retired
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