Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January Summary of I Love Library Books Reading Challenge

Books Checked out and Read:
  • Real by Katy Evans
  • Francis: A New World Pope by Michel Cool
  • Mine by Katy Evans
  • Remy by Katy Evans
  • Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal (Aduiobook)
Books Checked Out and Currently Reading
  • Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Books Checked Out and Not Read - Yet
  • Boy21 by Matthew Quick
  • Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
  • I Love Coffee! by Susan Zimmer

Books Checked Out and Might Not Read
  • Yoga XXL by Ingrid Kollak

Books Checked Out for School Assignments
  • Cane by Jean Toomer
  • Once Upon a Time by John Barth
  • House Calls with William Carlos Williams by Robert Coles
  • Made in America by Lisa Malin Steinman
  • Something Urgent I Have to Say to You by Herbert A. Leibowitz
  • The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford by Wendell Berry
  • William Carlos Williams, Poet from Jersey by Reed Whittemore
  • William Carlos Williams' Paterson by Joel Conarroe
  • The End of the Road by John Barth

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tea & a Book: The Magic of Provance

The Magic of Provence: Pleasures of Southern FranceThe Magic of Provence: Pleasures of Southern France by Yvone Lenard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yvone Lenard tells stories about her journey of finding herself owning a second home in Southern France and the interesting cast of people who occupy the village and surround areas.  Yvone and her husband Wayne were not looking to buy a second home, especially not in France, but at the end of an assignment in the country they quickly found themselves searching for the perfect place.  Not finding what they were looking for they had an old house rebuilt and renovated into their dream vacation home.

I found the stories charming, but struggled with the vagueness of her writing. It bothered me that I didn't know what decade these stories took place in or even really a solid timeline of events. There was also a vagueness in the relationships she writes about, between her and her husband and her and others.  I also felt the stories were just a bit too idyllic, even if her story was about something going wrong it always works out in the end.

The book discussion kind of followed my own views on the book, it was too vague and too idyllic.  That being said it was brought up that it was refreshing to read a story about people who did something crazy like buy a house in France and not have the majority of the stories be about the guilt they felt. Guilt they felt about leaving and guilt pushed onto them by those left behind.  They liked that sections weren't taken up with explanations and instead focused on what they were doing while in Provence.

Yvone has written other books but we weren't sure if we'd be reading more of her works.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Books to Read During Your 20s

I was on Pinterest last night and saw a pin that linked to an article on Buzzfeed about the 65 books you should read in your 20s.  I thought I would see how many books on the list I've read since my 20s will be over in less than 100 days.

I want to say sadly, but I don't know if that's accurate, but I'e only read four of the books on the list:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

I can also say that I've read parts of two more but have never read the full novels:

  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I can't say that I feel my 20s were lessened by not having read all the books on the list, normally I don't take lists like this into account.  I number of the books are on my To Be Read list I just haven't gotten around to reading them with all the other books I've read during my 20s!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Writing Exercise #5

When we got this prompt I had thought it would play in nicely for me to pick back up writing my novel, but I just couldn't get myself to write anything.  So then I thought I tried writing something, anything really and was still drawing a blank.  Then the morning of our writers' group, I saw an email that lamented the end of 2013 and the 200th celebration of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and I just knew what I was going to write.

I knew he was being patronizing but I was still glad that he showed up

Dearest Jane,

I must tell you about an encounter I had with Mr. Darcy yesterday. I will relate to you as best as I can what transpired. I was writing some letters when the door bell sounded. I will admit, only to you dear sister, that I had hoped it would have been Colonel Fitzwilliam. Well, imagine my surprise when instead of the Colonel it was Mr. Darcy, to see me. He was polite and asked after my health but I could tell something was bothering him. He paced a bit and then seemed to stop to gather his thoughts before turning to me and blurting out that he admires and loves me and he’s been struggling for quite a while with these facts. LOVES ME? Well imagine my shock. It’s not as if the man acts like he admires anyone but himself. I believe I recovered quite well and told him that I’m sorry but it was never my intention of making him fall in love with me since I don’t want or need his admiration.

Things got very heated after that, and we both let it all hand out. He doesn’t think very highly of our family, but according to him I should feel grateful that he would even consider me suitable for a spouse. I won’t get into all the details here, but rest assured I let him know exactly what I thought of him and his treatment of others. He left wishing me all the best for my health and happiness. I knew he was being patronizing but I was still glad that he showed up, and we had out this whole nasty business. I spent the rest of the day at an utter loss, and will admit that this morning I’m still very confused. How can I dislike the man so much, but still have been momentarily excited that he would want me for his wife? I had to really think this out so I went for a walk. I specifically tried to avoid paths I knew he favored but he still found me. He asked me to read a letter and then quickly turned to leave.

My dear Jane, I opened and read the letter and I fear I have made the biggest mistake. I have made judgments on only partial information and I fear that the damage will not be reversible.

Whatever shall I do?


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Book Club: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had been on my TBR List for awhile now.  I wasn't too sure about it, but a number of patron who I share similar reading tastes had really liked it, so I kept it on my list.  I'm always happy when a book club picks a book I've been meaning to read, I feel slightly accomplished in being able to cross a book off my ever growing list.

I really enjoyed this book, Enzo was a great narrator and told the story as best he could from a dog's point of view.  I think presenting this book from his point of view gave the reader a perspective other than their own to judge the actions of the characters.  Enzo, being a dog and innately loyal, would view his master as a hero and see very little fault in his character.  As a reader, we see Denny as a flawed and at times very selfish (or at least the members of the book discussion did).

During our discussions we talked about decisions Denny made throughout the novel and how the story would have been different if he had made different choices.  There is a key decision in the story which leads to a humorous scene in which Enzo, not agreeing with what he master is choosing to do, grabs a paper off the table and runs around with it, before escaping outside.  I felt that if Enzo had not interfered, there still could have been a story, but it would have been very different.

This story had me thinking a lot about my dogs.  For the most part we leave the television on for them when we leave the house, I wonder if they are soaking up the information just like Enzo.  How much do our pets understand about the world around them?  Enzo, understands quite a bit and has taken hold of the idea that in his next life he will be human.  He laments on how his life as a dog would be different if he had thumbs and could talk and knows that since he is already so close how could he NOT come back as a human.  While Enzo had a firm grasp on a good portion of the human world, there are still things that are beyond his comprehension, these things added enjoyable moments to the story doing some of the hardest emotional parts.

I highly suggest reading this book!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Exercise #4

I didn't follow this prompt perfectly, but I really like what I wrote. I'm playing with the idea of filling it out more to make a nice length short story.

Prompt - You wake up in heaven but know that you don't belong.

            Micah opened his eyes and knew that something was wrong. He was lying in his childhood bedroom, a room he hadn’t seen in more than ten years.  He glanced around and noticed that everything was how he always remembered that room looking, a mess of sports equipment and school books.  He could hear the sounds from the rest of the house.  It must be a Saturday; the sounds of his brothers watching television were the first to reach him, followed by the sounds of his mother in the kitchen.  The only sounds missing were those of his father. Micha laughed, he had woken up in that weekend, the only weekend of his life when he could remember being truly happy.
“Micah are you ever going to wake up?”  His mother knocked on the door before pushing it open enough to pop her head inside. “Breakfast is almost ready, get out of bed sleepy head.”
Micah was scared to even try to get out of bed; what if it was all a dream and his standing up would end it all. He’d wake up in some hospital room with machines all around him.  He could remember being shot, the feel of the bullet tearing into his skin as it pieced his heart.  He knew he should be dead.“If I died, is this heaven?” Micah whispered to himself.  Why shouldn’t heaven been his happiest memory, it made sense.  “This isn’t right.” Micah stood up and started to pace the room. “Why am I in heaven?”
“Micah! Breakfast!” His mother called out from the other room.
Micah stopped his pacing and looked towards the door. Some one obviously made a mistake, Micah knew his Catechism and he would never have passed into Heaven unless someone had screwed up processing his soul.  Micah hadn’t lived a good life, things had never been good growing up and it all just got worse the older he got.  The day he died he was being chased by the police for robbing a store, he hadn’t needed the money, and it really was just something stupid to do because he was bored.  Well if someone had screwed up this time, Micah was going to capitalize on it, he was going to enjoy every moment he had here inside his favorite memory.
Micah could live in this day forever; he could direct the actions as if he was a famed director.  During his few prison stints, he had spent hours remembering and reliving this day, but never like this, never as if he was living it again.  He couldn’t remember why, but is father was gone for the weekend and with him the dread left the house.  His mother would be smiling as she served her sons their breakfast. There was no ridged schedule to follow of chores and lessons, she let them be boys.  Micah had swallowed his teenage adhesion to playing with his little brothers and spent the late morning romping with them in the backyard.  It had felt wonderful to be a kid again.  Later in the afternoon his mother gave them what little money she had left after the shopping and the boys were able to buy ice cream from the truck when it made its appearance on their street.  They ate dinner in front of the television, something his father would never allow.  Another rule broken on this special day, the boys were allowed to stay awake as long as they liked with the promise that when their father got home there would be issue of bed times.

It wasn’t long after this special day that things started to really get bad. It was only a few weeks later that Micah had gotten arrested for the first time. Micah took a deep breath and opened the door. He stepped through but instead of the hallway of his childhood house he was standing in the middle of a cold white room.  Shit, Micah thought, they figured it out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review: A Movement of Crowns

The Movement of Crowns (Movement of Crowns #1)The Movement of Crowns by Nadine C. Keels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Constance is the princess of Diachona and the only child of the King and Queen.  She has great aspirations in being her father's heir and showing those who doubt a woman could rule that they are wrong.  She has her father's support and is willing to put in the hard work to prove she has what it takes.  By her side is her childhood friend and romantic interest Commander Alexander the leader of the her father's army.

Just as Constance is coming into her role as heir, a neighboring empire starts to threaten the people of Diachona.  When an allied country is hit by hard times the King's focus is torn and Constance sees the right time to step up to secure her position on the Council. Constance was allowed to travel as a young woman and this helps her with knowledge that could prevent the kingdom from going to war.

I enjoyed this novella. I think Nadine did a great job in creating the world of her series. You can tell she really put thought into creating Diachona and it's people. I just wish it would have been novel length so there could have been a bit more development of the story and the characters.  I liked how the religious aspects weren't too overpowering and played in nicely with the story.

I received an eBook copy from the author for my honest review.  I don't know if I would have purchased this book on my own otherwise, but I'm happy Nadine got in touch with me to review her book.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Writing Exercise #3

I have not been keeping up with the writing exercises for my writers' group. I also haven't been going to the meetings.  Two of the old prompts inspired me to write a short's a glimpse of what I'm working on!

Prompt: -The asteroid was hurtling straight for...

The asteroid was hurtling straight for Captain Mar’s ship and all he could think about was if he had turned the coffee pot off in his cabin. Damnit he just couldn’t remember, not that it mattered. The ship’s engines were not responding and they were on a deadly collision course with the asteroid. If they couldn’t get the engines restored they had little chance of survival. Every second that passed their chance of survival if they got the engines working decreased. Mar was doing everything in his power to guide his crew to survival, but there wasn’t much more he could do besides shouting orders. His mind kept wandering to his errant coffee pot.

Prompt: - The garden was overgrown.

Mar came awake and had a startled moment before he realized that he must have dozed off sitting out in his garden. Taking a deep breath, he repositioned himself in the chair and looked up into the night sky. It was a beautiful sight; he missed it up there and couldn’t wait for his next assignment. While he waited he had plenty of time to put his garden back to rights. It had been horribly overgrown when he returned home a few weeks ago. He had made arrangements for its care but those he left in charge had completely neglected their job. It had been heartbreaking when he walked into his backyard for the first time upon his return and saw how it looked. He had spent two years serving aboard a research ship in space and all he had looked forward too was to be back in his garden. He’d be spending a lot of time in his garden now, just not the kind of time he had envisioned. Instead of relaxing and enjoying all his hard work, Mar is left to put more hard work into the repair of his home.

I'm trying my hand at a Science Fiction type story here.  I'm playing with timeline and reality.  This story still needs a lot of cleaning up, but it did confuse the other readers so that part of my plan worked!

Friday, January 10, 2014

55 Flash Fiction Friday - Reference Question

This meme is hosted by Mr. Knowitall.

My desk.
We have a patron who comes into the library nearly everyday.  He loves to watch Jeopardy and when he discovered the Clue of the Day in the NYTimes he was thrilled.  He believes that he tricks his wife that he knows the answer to Final Jeopardy or what every clue it happens to be in that day's broadcast. 

Reference Question
“Good morning ladies.”
Nearly every day he comes to the reference desk, a folded section of The New York Times in his hand.
“I think it’s …” he’ll share his answer. More often than not he’s not even close.
I take the paper and start my research to answer the Jeopardy Clue of the Day. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Series Review: At Somerton series by Leila Rasheed

Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, #1)Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested to review Diamonds and Deceit not fully realizing that it was the sequel to this novel.  I don't know how I missed this book when it came out earlier this year, but I'm happy that it came to my attention.  I waited patently while I wound my way down the holds list on the book and then promptly read both books as quickly as I could manage around work and other social obligations.

Lela Rasheed, tells a wonderful story about the lives of the Averley family and those closely associated with them.  There was drama galore and while a lot of it was over the top, I think it just added the my enjoyment. The main story lines revolve around Rose Cliffe, a maid at the Averley's home, Somerton, and the oldest Averley daughter Ada. There is also a cast of characters who do not fade into the background and only add to the over-the-top-ness of the novel.

I recently reviewed a novel that I compared to a soap opera, and this novel is even more soap opera-ish than the last one.  At every turn there is scandal, secrets, and sneaking around. Ada's father faced scandal in India and has to return home to England.  He comes home to Somerton with a fiance and her family.  To say the two families do not merge together nicely is an understatement.  Ada is in love with a young man with whom her family would disapprove of and is faced with a marriage proposal that would make her greatly unhappy but would save her family.  Rose is elevated to a role within the household staff she is not prepared for in regards to job requirements and the petty nature of the other staff members.

I finished this novel and quickly jumped to the next novel in the series.

The following review contains spoilers of Book #1.

Diamonds and Deceit (At Somerton, #2)Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ebook ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

I will admit that I read this book in one sitting.  I didn't stay up to read the book, but I was awake so I read the book all night. The soap-opera drama continued into this book with Ada and Rose discovering love and life as sisters. True to it's title this book is filled with deceit. It seems everyone is hiding something from someone else and nothing goes according to plan.

Ada's engaged to Lord Fintan (not the marriage proposal from the first book) but she is still in love with Ravi.  Lord Fintan, has a secret and it involves Ada's step-sister Charlotte. Charlotte's two brothers are both involved in relationships that were kept secret; one brother is gay and the other involved in an interracial relationship.  Ada is struggling to find herself, she can't muster the same enthusiasm that Charlotte has for the season, but she doesn't want to disappoint her father.  Ada wants to go to school, she would love to learn as much as she can about everything and Lord Fintan seems to be not only the answer to the family's monetary issues but also Ada's way towards an education.  This all doesn't even scratch the surface of everything going on with these characters.

Rose is also not finding joy in her first season.  Everything is so different and the staff of the house clearly treats her different; as if they were offended by her presence.  While still trying to find the balance between her old life and her new one, Rose meets Alexander, a young man with wealth, title and a dark reputation.  I really enjoyed Rose's story, especially her interactions with Alexander. In picturing a man for Rose, I don't think I would have picked someone with Alexander's background, but when we get a deeper look at the character, he's the perfect person in society to accept someone with Rose's background.  I really believe he's the one person that understands her more than anyone else in the novel.

I suggest both of these books if you are interested in the television show Downton Abbey.

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