Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Case You Missed It: November 2011

I spent my Thanksgiving in Phoenix. I met these two nice,
quiet gentleman!
I can not believe that December is tomorrow! How the heck did that happen? Another year has practically flown by. December is always one of the busiest times of years and this year is shaping up to be no exception. With Christmas shopping, holiday parties, friends birthday's, and holiday travel, not to mention work and wedding planning, we will be having a go go go month. However, it's always a fun time of year as well and Christmas is a holiday I look forward to every year.

Around the blog, I managed to read quite a few books in November, with a grand total of eight this month! Bringing my yearly total 89. Dare I say I might read 100 books this year?! I don't want to jinx it since December is so busy but there is obviously a chance here so I'll keep you updated on my progress because if I do that would be a banner year for sure!

We only have one more month to finish my challenges that I have signed up for. Some I have already completed, some I am almost finished, and some I am laughably far behind! You can check in on my full progress on my challenges tab here. I do love a reading challenge and I am look forward to signing up for some more next year already!

All in all, the books that I read in November were pretty good! Here's the complete breakdown:

It's hard to pick a favorite read for the month since I had three stellar reads this time, but if I had to choose, What Alice Forgot is the book I am still thinking about today so that is the one that I am picking as my read of the month! What was your favorite November read? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: Leaving Parma

'Leaving Parma'
Author: Angie Sarich

Format: Paperback
Published: Colonus House Publishing; 2010
Pages: 265
Genre: Memoir
Grade: C
Source: Author

Synopsis: A Memoir. "Taking the combat death of her uncle as the beginning point, Angie investigates in her memoir the nature of loss and its effect on the human spirit by exploring the stories of three generations of her family and of the people of Parma." Set in Parma, Idaho, USA.

My Take: You may not know this about me, but I was born in Idaho. I don't meet many people these day who are from Idaho, even though I still live on the West Coast, so I enjoyed getting to read a book set in Idaho. It was like taking a little vacation back to Idaho. I spent most of my childhood summers in Idaho's panhandle.

Sarich's memoir, set in Parma, Idaho, near Boise in the south of Idaho. A small town, it is where she grew up and where much of her family did as well. Leaving Parma is a look back on those who have come before and the effects of one man's death on all of her family members: her uncle Craig, who died in the Vietnam war. 

I love memoirs and I appreciate any look on family and struggles with loss and life but I felt that Sarich's premise was almost a reason to write a book, rather than a natural memoir. Sarich's uncle passed before she was ever born, so while there were memories of him being talked about when she was alive, his life and loss where not something that directly affected her. I felt that she needed some sadness of her own to talk about or else it was too much of a story to draw out. 

Regardless, if you enjoy memoirs set in small towns, or perhaps have lost family members in the Vietnam War then this memoir might be one you could relate to even more.

Cover Lust: I thought this was the perfect cover! Sarich mentioned throughout this book that this was the house that many of the main characters grew up in.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday: November 28, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and November is being hosted back at the original Mailbox Monday blog! 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!

Well I sure enjoyed a nice five-day weekend! It's not very often I get to say that! We went down to Phoenix for the Thanksgiving holiday to spend the time with family and enjoyed the weather and the company. Arriving home yesterday, we've been busy getting life back to normal for the work week ahead. 

Only a couple of books arrived this week to allow me to catch up in my reading again!
From PBS:
1. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

2. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

What did you get?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone who celebrates it, enjoys a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday with their family and friends! Everyone else, have fun as well of course! We are off to spend it with my mother and grandmother in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. See you all back here on Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: What Alice Forgot

'What Alice Forgot'
Author: Liane Moriarty

Format: ARC
Published: Amy Einhorn Books; June 2011
Pages: 432
Genre: Women's fiction
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and discovers that she's actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. 

A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes who she's become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.

My Take: This was one of those books that had been getting a lot of buzz this summer so I was certainly excited to read it. It had all of the facets of a book that I normally like to read, a women struggling with her relationship and family but it had a twist. She can't remember any of these people!

Our title character, Alice, starts the book quite dramatically. She is working out at the gym and falls and bumps her head severely. The ensuing concussion causes her to lose her memory from the last ten years of her life. In reality it is 2008 and she is 39 with three kids and is getting a divorce. In her confused memory, she is 29 and pregnant with her first child with the love of her life, her husband Nick. Can you even imagine losing your memory from the last ten last ten years of your life and getting to glimpse everything that has happened to you at a rapid pace? You can imagine that it would be both fascinating and heart-wrenching at the same time and that is exactly the experiences that Moriarty has captured for the reader.

Twenty-nine year old Alice was easy going and friendly to everyone. She had a job but also had a lot of friends. Her and her sister Elisabeth were incredibly close and her husband Nick and her were so in love. They had just bought their dream home and were fixing it up. What Alice learns as she has lost her memory is that 39 year old Alice is not as nice. She is 'busy'. She doesn't work but is a homemaker and mother to three. Her children are stressed out from the divorce and there are behavioral issues. Her beloved husband and her clearly have some serious issues with each other, her neighbors that she used to get along with so well shun her, and weirdly her sister who she used to tell everything to doesn't seem to be close to her anymore. 

It's hard to read while Alice figures this all out. It's not a faced paced book as the memories slowly come back to her and the reasons behind her actions become apparent to her. You start to wonder if you yourself would make these same choices and how life does make its twists and turns making it a fascinating book for book clubs I would think.

Also, interspersed between the main novel are journal entries from Alice's sister Elizabeth as she struggles with her infertility and letters from Alice's grandmother to a long lost lover. 

All of this adds up to a book that, while not a fast read, it is certainly one that gets into your subconscious and makes you think of who you are as a person and who you want to become. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I know it is one that will stay with me for quite some time. 

Also, I saw on Liane Moriarty's website that the movie rights to this book have been purchased which I am very excited about because the whole time I was reading this I kept thinking that this would make a great movie.

Cover Lust: Ok, I'm going to get a little harsh here. This cover is ugly is my mind. They could have done so much with it and instead they stuck some clip art in some thought bubbles and called it a day. Not very captivating!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday: November 21, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and November is being hosted back at the original Mailbox Monday blog! 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 really rainy here this weekend, so it definitely feels like winter is coming! How was it where you all are? We still managed to get out there and get a lot done but brrr!

I only received one book in the mail this week and I am thrilled! My bookcases and saying 'yeah' because they are all stuffed to the brim :)

From Simon and Schuster:
1. Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

What did you get?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Dracula in Love

'Dracula in Love'
Author: Karen Essex

Format: Hardback
Published: Anchor; July 2011
Pages: 384
Genre: Paranormal; Historical fiction
Grade: B
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: This variation on Bram Stoker’s Dracula tells the story from Mina Murray Harker’s point of view. As a child, Wilhemina was given to strange dreams and sleepwalking, which so alarmed her parents that at age seven she was sent to a boarding school for young ladies to “learn to control herself and her urges.” And she did become a proper young lady, with a proper fiancĂ©, a young solicitor named Jonathan Harker. But the bewildering dreams continue, and one summer, which she is spending in Yorkshire with her friend Lucy Westerna, she sees a mysterious shipwreck at Whitby. After that the dreams become more like memories, and a presence, which she cannot see, follows her. Essex, who has been praised for her historical novels, has drawn a detailed picture of England at the end of the nineteenth century, including some of the horrendous psychological practices introduced from Germany. Essex’s twist on Stoker’s plot is sufficiently original, and the quality of her writing makes this novel stand out among the vampire offerings. 

My Take: It's not often that I read vampire books. Halloween hit and I felt the need to pick one up. Granted this review is a little after Halloween! You all will have to forgive me but the urge to pick this one up struck me on Halloween and then it took me awhile to actually read it! This is not because I wasn't enjoying it but because now that the time change hit, every time I pick a book up at night I get sleepy because it's so darn dark and cold out! I read about 20 pages before wanting to conk out for the night. Do you guys have that problem? Normally I do most of my reading when I go to bed, getting anywhere from 50-100 pages read in one night. This is really putting a damper on my progress! Anyway enough of that, let's talk about the book.

We have Mina. She is our leading lady and has always had some visions which make her know that she is a little different then everyone else but she has been raised to be a lady in a boarding school so she doesn't talk about it with anyone. Her goal in life now is to get married to a nice young man, hopefully Jonathan Harker, have some babies, and live happily ever after. The problem is all of this sleepwalking and these visions she keeps having. When the story opens it is the 1880s and she can't really figure them out. Suffice it to say they are a little dark and often a lot naughty!

Time marches on and we soon realise that the person visiting Mina is none other than Dracula. The question is, will she choose to go with him or will she choose to continue to live the life she has always been on the path with so far? It has always been her choice. Or so she thought. For so long she believed that she could make her own choices and no one else was under Dracula's influence but soon Mina starts to become more knowledgeable in all that Dracula has been doing. 

The book isn't scary and I scare easily, but Dracula's effect is far reaching and it's not all as black and white as Mina may have originally have thought. One thing that surprised me was, well, how saucy this book was. I don't tend to read books with a lot of explicit sex scenes in them and this one had quite a few and they were often kinda dirty so if you blush easy be forewarned!

Overall though I liked that this book was a break from what I normally read and it fit with the season and it was a great Halloween read. Personally I felt that the first half of the book was more interesting than the second half but that was probably because once Dracula finally showed up I could kinda see what was happening. However, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment. This book is out now in paperback so be sure to check it out!

Cover Lust: I think this cover is perfect for the book! The woman, I'm assuming Mina, fits the time period and the setting is dark and cold looking. Love it!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Challenge Fail - 2011 YA Reading Challenge

When 2011 started and I was all fresh faced and dewey eyed, I signed up for a lot of challenges (just like I did the year before!) and one of those was the 2011 YA Reading Challenge hosted by For the Love of YA. In 2010 I dipped my toes in the YA genre and thought that I might like to try some more of it. I realize that this is probably one of the most popular genres out there today and everyone loves it but I also realized that, for the most part, I just can't relate to it and I wasn't picking it up this year. I would always reach for something else instead. Everyone's blog needs to focus on something and this is a genre I guess I am just not going to read! I will leave to all of the rest of you who do so well with it! 

Challenge, fail! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Owl Themed Baby Shower

I recently threw my first baby shower for a very dear friend of mine and wanted to share some of the ideas I came up with in case you all ever throw a baby shower too! I think it tuned out really cute and everyone had a great time. The theme was baby owls and they were all in bright colors so when you don't know the sex of the baby this works really well.

Owl cookies (where to purchase) were a big hit as a gift to take home  and fit the theme perfectly in bright colors!
A friend made the cake and I purchased this cake topper which brought the whole look together!

I bought onsies and strung them around my house with owl fabric cut outs on them. This worked great because the mother to be could take the onsies home and it was a perfect decoration!

Don't forget to check out all of the fun Wordless Wednesday entries!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: The CHICK-tionary

'The CHICK-tionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know'
Author: Anna Lefler (and blog!)

Format: Paperback
Published: Adams Media; Nov. 2011
Pages: 240
Genre: Humor
Grade: A
Source: TLC Book Tours

Synopsis: You're all over the definitions of "low lights," "ruching," and a "tankini." But can you spot a "Mrs. Potato Head" when you see one?
That's where this book comes in. With the help of Anna Lefler and her collection of 450+ must-know words and phrases, you'll be in the know when faced with terms like:
Aberzombie: Derived from the name of the popular clothing stores, Aberzombie refers to any of the nation of plaid shirt-and-tank-top-wearing undead that can be seen staggering through the food courts of malls across America.
Bandeau: From the French word meaning "there's no way that's staying up," this is a type of woman's top that consists of a strip of fabric encircling the chest at breast level and remaining aloft through snugness and prayers.
George Glass: Originally invented by Jan on The Brady Bunch after "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" won yet another boy's heart, "George Glass" is now the generic term for an imaginary boyfriend. It is most often invoked in an effort to hide the fact that you are single or currently sleeping with someone else's husband.

My Take: When this book was offered to me it just sounded funny! Normally I don't read books like this. I like novels or books with a little more meat on them but every once in a while I need a book that is just there to make me laugh and well, this book sure achieved that! 

Lefler's dictionary for the modern woman, The CHICK-tionary, literally has every word I could think of and more defined within this little tome and it really is set out like a dictionary. And what's more, every definition that Lefler uses is laugh out loud funny too. Her wit is great! To think that there were words out there like basset knees (baggy, wrinkly knees) and moobs (man boobs) that I wasn't using in my every day lexicon until now kinda makes me sad! I like to make people chuckle and to lighten the mood and this handy little book can now help me do just that! 

I brought it to work and we spent a fun lunch laughing over the terms and quizzing each other over what we did and didn't know. It surprised me who knew what and who didn't. Honestly, with the holidays coming up, I can't think of a better stocking stuffer or gift to get that friend in your life that has everything because I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't smile (or smize: that's smiling with their eyes!) when they read this book!

Cover Lust: Surprisingly refined for what you will find inside!

Giveaway Details
The author has kindly offered up one new copy to a lucky winner! The deadline for this giveaway is Nov. 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)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST Nov. 29th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday: November 14, 2011

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and November is being hosted back at the original Mailbox Monday blog! 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!

Did you all have a good weekend? We officially began wedding planning this weekend by checking out some wedding venues. We went to three. We have five more to check out but the three we went to all gave us a lot of great things to consider!

Back to books! Here's what came in the mail this week:

From the author:
1. Single in the City by Michele Gorman

From Harper Perennial for a TLC Book Tour:
2. The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

From PBS:
3. Taking the Lead by Sarah Monk

4. Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

What did you get?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Winner of Her Sister's Shadow!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the giveaway for Her Sister's Shadow by Katherine Britton! Using the winner of this giveaway is: Nancye! Congratulations and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Audio Book Review: The Weird Sisters

'The Weird Sisters'
Author: Eleanor Brown

Format: Audio CD
Published: Penguin Audio; Jan. 2011
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Genre: Literary fiction
Rating: A
Source: Personal copy

Synopsis: You don't have to have a sister or be a fan of the Bard to love Brown's bright, literate debut, but it wouldn't hurt. Sisters Rose (Rosalind; As You Like It), Bean (Bianca; The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia; King Lear)--the book-loving, Shakespeare-quoting, and wonderfully screwed-up spawn of Bard scholar Dr. James Andreas--end up under one roof again in Barnwell, Ohio, the college town where they were raised, to help their breast cancer–stricken mom. The real reasons they've trudged home, however, are far less straightforward: vagabond and youngest sib Cordy is pregnant with nowhere to go; man-eater Bean ran into big trouble in New York for embezzlement, and eldest sister Rose can't venture beyond the "mental circle with Barnwell at the center of it." For these pains-in-the-soul, the sisters have to learn to trust love--of themselves, of each other--to find their way home again. The supporting cast--removed, erudite dad; ailing mom; a crew of locals; Rose's long-suffering fiancĂ©--is a punchy delight, but the stage clearly belongs to the sisters; Macbeth's witches would be proud of the toil and trouble they stir up. 

My Take: This is one of those books that I had been seeing a lot of buzz about around the blogosphere and my interest was certainly intrigued. It sounded like a book unlike anything I had ever read before. I was happy to discover that it was unlike anything I had ever read before in a delightful way. 

I realize not everyone wants their books sprinkled with Shakespeare quotes, that it might come off as, say pretentious, but I found it to be a fun remarkably different kind of read. The family this book centered on was so eccentric and to imagine having your life circle around Shakespeare like theirs does seems amazing but alas, I am getting ahead of myself.

We have a small town, Barnwell, OH, and a father (the key Shakespeare scholar) and a mother (recently diagnosed with breast cancer) who have raised three daughters. These three daughters were all named after Shakespeare heroines and they have all left the nest in wildly different ways but are slowly making their way back 'to help their mother'. I put that in quotes because they all have other reasons to come back as well. All of these family members walk around spouting off Shakespeare quotes as if it is second nature. Maybe this would be harder to understand if it you reading it (I am having flashbacks to high school English!) but when it was being read to me under the fabulous voice talents of Kirsten Potter it sounded natural, as if, yes why doesn't everyone spout off Shakespeare because that totally fits the situation. He really does have a quote for everything!

Ok so the three sisters. We have the oldest: Rosalind who goes by Rose. I can honestly say that of the three I disliked her the most. She had this superiority complex that the whole family needed her and would fall apart without her so she couldn't follow her own dreams. Get over yourself! Then there was the middle daughter Bianca, who goes by Bean, who stole a bunch of money so she runs home to overcome that issue. Finally we have the youngest, Cordelia, or Cordy, who is inflicted with wanderlust but suddenly finds herself pregnant so needs a steady home. So, yes, under the guise of helping their mom, they are all back home figuring out their problems and entertaining me thoroughly in the process.

If you are looking for a break from your average fiction, then you need look no further as you will most certainly find it in The Weird Sisters!

Cover Lust: It's simple and artistic. I like it. It doesn't reveal anything really about what is about to happen inside!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Review Book Giveaway!

It's been a couple of months since I've had a review book giveaway but it's back and I hope you all are happy about it! I am happy to bring two more great books to offer on giveaway. As before, the titles link to my reviews.

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, The Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

All titles are ARCs, have been read once by me, and are in very good condition.

Giveaway Details!

The deadline for this giveaway is November 30th; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below, indicating which book(s) interest you and a way for me to contact you. You can enter for both but you will only win one.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate in the comments below that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST November 30th. I will draw the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!
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