Mar 31, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

It's 1962 and Skeeter Phelan has returned to Longleaf, her family's cotton farm in Jackson, Mississippi after graduating college from Ole Miss. Her mother still insists on calling it a plantation, a term Skeeter would rather forget. According to her mother, coming home from college with a degree wasn't enough. She is reminded almost daily that most girls come home with fiance's, but not Skeeter. Getting married is not on the top of her list. She has a dream of becoming a journalist.

Her two best friends, Hilly and Elizabeth are both married with young children and are very involved in the community. Like Skeeter's family they have black maids who cook, clean and take care of the children, who they become very close to. Skeeter was raised by a black woman who worked for her family for 29 years. But when she came home from college she learned that she was gone and no one would tell her why. Constantine was like a mother to Skeeter and she felt ashamed that she didn't show enough appreciation to the woman who dedicated much of her life to raising her.

As she spends more time with her friends, Skeeter notices things that she wouldn't have given a second thought to before. Maybe it's because of Constantine's mysterious absence or could it be she's seeing her friends through different eyes.

When Hilly makes a big deal about Elizabeth's maid, Aiblileen, using the same bathroom the family uses, she convinces Elizabeth to talk her husband into building one in the garage for the help. Skeeter can see the humiliation on Aiblileen's face while the two white women talk openly in front of her about their fear of catching diseases from blacks. She begins to realize how degrading this is for Aibileen and she doesn't like it.

Skeeter gets hired on at the local newspaper to do a weekly column on housecleaning, but since she's never actually done any, she gets permission from Elizabeth to ask Aibilieen for help. In writing these articles, Skeeter and Aibileen get more acquainted and eventually Skeeter confides to her that she wants to write about important things - not household cleaning tips. She wants to write a book from black women's perspectives on what it's really like to work for a white woman in Jackson. An honest, truthful account. But Skeeter can't do this alone. She'll need Aibileen's help to convince other maids to come forward, because no black woman is going to talk to a white woman about that. Not without someone they know and trust being there. If word got out they could lose their jobs or worse. Both women understand that this could be a very dangerous thing. It is, after all, the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the year Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own front yard by the KKK right there in Jackson. Skeeter's decision to write this book will have a profound effect on her life. Lines will be drawn and choices will be made that cannot be undone.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett is without a doubt on my list of Best Books of 2009. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. Kathryn Stockett speaks the language of the south seamlessly with her truly unique and believable characters. The voices of the three women who tell this incedible story are genuine and at times raw with emotion. Her skilled storytelling has a mix of drama, humor and a true sadness at the reality of what life was like in the south before the Civil Rights Movement.

Living in the south myself, and as a child having been cared for by a black maid when my family lived in New Orleans, at times while reading, I felt shame for how these women were treated by their white employers. They went to work everyday leaving their pride at home while they were made to feel less than, while raising and loving their white babies with little or no gratitude at all. That was very evident with the character of Aibileen, which was my favorite character. Aibileen tells much of the story and her voice painfully portrays the hurt and struggles of her life.

Aibileen's best friend Minny is quite a character who I adored. I loved her sense of humor and even her defiant nature, especially when trying not to show affection for people she didn't want to like. I laughed the most when Minny was talking. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny each have their own reasons for getting involved in such a project. Many people they know will likely never understand why they would put themselves in so much danger.

As it states in the back of the book and on her website, Kathryn Stockett tells this story with experience, being raised by a black maid herself in Jackson, Mississippi. It's obvious this is a subject near to her heart. You can feel it in her writing. I can't say enough about this wonderful book and would recommend it highly to anyone looking for a deep, satisfying story of a painful time in our nation's history.


Author: Kathyrn Stockett

Publisher: Putnam

Published: February 2009

Pages: 444

Rating: 5 out of 5 (Amazing!/Wonderful!/Highly Recommended!)

Teaser Tuesday: The Heretic's Daughter

Each week, TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • Include the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

    Please avoid spoilers!

I'm taking my teasers from THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent:

I started to shake my head no, but a terrible idea was forming in the back of my mind and my eyes must have widened, so that Mother nodded her head grimly and said, "When they cannot make me confess they will come to my family and it will not matter that you are a child. There are children in Salem Town jail even now." ~ page 177

For more enticing teasers visit Should Be Reading.

Mar 30, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

J. Kaye asks us every Monday - What Are You Reading This Week? I really like this new feature she started because not only do we talk about what we're reading currently, we also discuss what we've finished and what's ahead. So, here we go . . .

Since I've reverted back to my previous reading habit of reading one book at a time, mine is a short answer. This week I'm reading Kathleen Kent's THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. It's kind of a daunting story of young Sarah Carrier's Puritan family living in Massachusetts in the late 1600's. The Carrier family has close connections to the Salem Witch Trials, but since I've just started the book, I haven't got to that point yet, but the lead up to it is fascinating. Right now, it's 1690 and small pox is killing hundreds of settlers and no one is above suspicion of bringing the virus to their villages.

I finished THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett last week and loved it! I'll have my review soon. I'm not sure what I'll read next, because I'm waiting on a few books to become available at the library, but until then, I may read THE YEAR OF FOG by Michelle Richmond that I picked up Saturday at a used book store.

So that's my plan for the week. What book do you have in your hands this week?

Mar 29, 2009

The Sunday Salon: A Good Reading Day

It's a windy, rainy day here in central Florida, a perfect day to stay inside with a good book and that's what I've been doing. We had a terrible storm in the early morning hours which woke me, so I got up, made a pot of coffee and grabbed my book.

I'm reading THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent this week. I started it last night so I'm only about 66 pages in. I've read some really great reviews and I've never read about the Salem witches before. I've been quickly drawn into the story and I'm planning to spend much of my day reading more.

Yesterday I went to a new-ish bookstore, A Novel Idea, that opened up a few months ago. I had heard they sold new and used books, but as it turns out they only sell used books. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with that, but it would really be nice to have an independent bookstore that sold new books in my town. If you want new books you have to go to the big chain stores. That said, I was able to leave with a couple of good finds. One is THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver. The other one I picked up is Michelle Richmond's THE YEAR OF FOG. Overall, I was happy with this new store. It's very cozy with a few places to sit and the owners two kitties were lounging and playing around and that gave it a homey feel.

I finished reading THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett last week and will post my review in a few days if I can tear myself away from reading! I'm falling a bit behind in my reviews but I'm planning to get caught up this week.

As for the rest of today, I'm going back to Massachusetts in the year 1690 where its bitterly cold and the threat of small pox is running rampant forcing young Sarah Carrier's family to be split up in fear that the sickness will kill them all if they don't.

Where are you this Sunday?

Mar 27, 2009

Friday Finds: My First!

This is my first time participating in Friday Finds, even though I peruse the posts every week to see what's catching the eyes of other readers. My ever-growing TBR pile will surely topple over if I keep adding books I've found!

So here are a couple of books that I discovered this week while reading the blogs. If you've read either of them, please tell me what you thought of it.

  • ETTA by Gerald Kolpan - This is the fictionalized story of Etta Place, the girlfriend of Harry Longbaugh a.k.a. the Sundance Kid. I read about this book several months ago, then forgot all about it until I visited Fyrefly's Book Blog and read her review. I grew up on a farm with horses and livestock in the late 60's early 70's, watching westerns and I've always enjoyed western-themed books, so I think this is a perfect read for me! My local library has it on order and I'm the first one signed up to read it.

Another book that grabbed my attention is:

  • SUMMER BY THE SEA by Susan Wiggs - I came across this book while reading Margot's Teaser Tuesday post on her blog, Joyfully Retired. I haven't read any of this author's books, but this one sounds right for me. I love to cook and the protagonist in this story has her own award-winning Italian restaurant. On the coast. I'm there! Sounds to me like a perfect summer beach read.

What books did you discover this week? Friday Finds is hosted weekly by MizB at Should Be Reading. Stop by to check out finds from other bloggers!

Mar 26, 2009

BTT: Best 'Worst' Book

“What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

I really struggled with this one. Since I typically don't read books that get really bad reviews, I had to think hard. Rather than not come up with an answer at all, here's my response, as shocking as it may be:

I'm going out on a limb here, but there is a book I read that got a lot of attention, and not necessarily of the good variety. It's a memoir and yes, I really did read this book! From time to time I read sports literature and being a sports fan, I enjoy those books. With that being said, back in 1997 at the height of the Chicago Bulls championship domination I picked up Dennis Rodman's BAD AS I WANNA BE. I thought This guy can't be all bad, can he? I mean, there had to be more to him than all the trash talk, right?

Anyway, much to my then-husbands dismay, I bought the book and I'm telling you, I couldn't put it down. It was so interesting to read about his childhood and all he went through in his youth. I found it to be very well written and I read the whole thing. I thought I'd probably skim the book and read the interesting parts and leave much of it unread, but that didn't happen. I truly did like the book. I did get a lot of flack from my 'peeps' when they'd see it laying on my coffee table, but you know, I just didn't care. People only see him as this freakish character who paints his fingernails and dyes his hair pink, but he had an interesting story to tell and I'm actually still glad I read the book. Lately I've been seeing him on Celebrity Apprentice and I think he seriously needs some help with his alcoholism and his anger management, but I don't hold that against him. Everybody has their demons.

So that's my best 'worst' book. What's yours?

Mar 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Help

Each week, TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • Include the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.
Please avoid spoilers!

Today my teasers are from the debut novel THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.

I am waiting on the twenty-fourth like a court date. I don't know what Mister Johnny's going to do when he finds out I'm working here. ~ page 123
For more teaser fun, visit MizB at Should Be Reading, our host every week!

Mar 23, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

I came across this great weekly event, It's Monday! What Are You Reading This Week? at J. Kaye's Book Blog and thought it'd be fun to play along. Each Monday you can talk about the books you are reading this week, books you're planning on finishing and any reviews you have coming up. Lord knows I don't have as much going on as J. Kaye, but here goes . . .

This week I'll be reading THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. She's a debut author who people have been raving about and since I love southern fiction, I just had to read this book. I'm almost halfway through and I'm loving it.

I'm also thinking of starting THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent. I've picked it up several times to start over the last several months, but ARC's always got in the way. Now that I'm caught up on those, I can read it now.

I have a review I'll be working on this week for River Jordan's new book SAINTS IN LIMBO, that I finished last week. However, I won't be posting the review until the release date of May 19th, per the author's request. This was a very interesting book that has some mystical elements that make this a unique story of faith and the power of one's mind over regret.

Well, that's my agenda for the week! If you'd like to participate, visit J.Kaye's Book Blog for more details!

Musing Monday: Bookstores

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about bookstores…

How many bookstores do you frequent? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and what makes it so?

Living in a small-ish town, my choices of bookstores are limited. Even though the city I live in is growing rapidly, there are very few independent bookstores. There is a Books A Million not too far from my house that I will go to if there's a new book coming out that I just have to have. There's also a new Barnes & Noble, but it's so far on the other side of town that I probably won't go there at all. One of the bookstores I use frequently is Twice Read Tales, a used bookstore. They have an online catalogue, which is wonderful when I'm looking for a particular book. I probably go there the most.

Do you have a favorite bookstore in your town?

Mar 20, 2009

Four Foods on Friday

I found this fun food meme on Beastmomma's site a few weeks ago and since I am a foodie, I thought I'd play along this week. If you'd like to participate, visit Fun Crafts and Recipes.

Here are this week's four questions:

What's your favorite green food? Broccoli

Do you eat anything special on St. Patrick's Day? Yes, birthday cake because that is my birthday!

Do you drink any Irish beverages - tea, coffee, ale, beer etc? I do love Irish coffee and Killian's Red Ale, but I do not like Irish whiskey!

Share a recipe for corned beef: Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

6 to 8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into thick (about 1/2-inch) slices
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 corned beef brisket, about 3 pounds
1 cabbage, about 2 pounds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups water


Lightly butter or spray a 5 to 6-quart crockpot; layer potato slices over bottom of pot with carrots. Place corned beef on vegetables. Slice cabbage into 8 wedges and arrange around meat. Sprinkle with the pepper and add water. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 7 to 8 hours, until meat and vegetables are tender.

Mar 19, 2009

BTT: Worst 'Best' Book I've Ever Read

Suggested by Janet:

How about, “What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

My response:

At first, I thought I'd have a hard time answering this question, but unfortunately a book did come to mind and I'm prepared for any rebuttal I may get from other bloggers, but I just didn't get why this book was raved about. The book is OUT STEALING HORSES by Norwegian author Per Petterson. I had this book on my Wish List for over a year and wanted to read it so badly, especially after reading all of the glowing reviews. It was also an award-winning book of 2007. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Frankly, I was bored through most of the book. I thought maybe something was lost in the translation from Norwegian to English, but I honestly think it was the story itself that was lacking. I'm not the type of reader that likes to abandon books, so I crawled my way through it. I thought perhaps if I just kept reading it was bound to get better, but it just didn't happen for me.

Have you read OUT STEALING HORSES? If so, please let me know if you felt the same way. For more Booking Through Thursday comments, click here.

Mar 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Saints In Limbo

Let me start by saying "Happy St. Patrick's Day" to everyone! AND Happy Birthday to me!!!! Yes, today is my birthday! This is a great day to be born on! Do you have your green on?? OK, now let's get to our teaser:

Each week, TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.
    Please avoid spoilers!

This week my teaser is from SAINTS IN LIMBO by River Jordan.

Rudy and Velma sat quietly, circled by stillborn babies and unsung lullabies. It was Velma who finally broke the spell by pushing at the rock in the middle of the table while declaring, "What's done is done." ~page 166

I'm not too far into this book yet, but already I've discovered an intriguing story. To me, it's a cross between christian fiction and Stephen King, if you can imagine that! It has both magic and miracles which make it very unique.

To read more teasers, click here!

Mar 15, 2009

The Sunday Salon - A Southern Sunday

This past week I concentrated more on reading than on blogging. Sometimes, as you know, when you get a few extra minutes a day, its hard to decide - Do I read? Or do I blog? I'm always torn. This week, though, I chose to read. I didn't participate in the weekly memes that I usually enjoy and quite frankly, I missed the interaction with the other bloggers that play along. I did participate in Musing Mondays at Just One More Page with the topic being 'New Authors'. Being a reader who chooses to read a lot of debut novels, I was excited about that post. Personally, I read as many debut authors as I do established, sometimes more.

I finished reading JANE EYRE this week and was sorry when it came to an end. It was my first reading of it and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. You can read my thoughts on the book here.

I posted my review of THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH and was delighted when I received emails from the author, Eva Etzioni-Halevy, expressing her appreciation and joy with my review. I had stated that I had never read biblical fiction before and was nervous about it, but she quickly put me at ease about what I had written. You can read that review here, if you like.

I started two very exciting books this week. The first is a review copy of a book coming out in May in the christian fiction genre called SAINTS IN LIMBO by River Jordan. River is the host of a radio show in Nashville, along with being a motivational speaker. The second book, THE HELP, is by debut author Kathryn Stockett. I absolutely love southern fiction and when I tore open the package, while still standing at the mailbox, and read the first paragraph, I knew I was going to love this book.

So for the rest of my Sunday, I'm planning to return to 1960's Jackson, Mississippi, where there are three very interesting and completely different women who have a great story to tell and who have completely captured my attention. It's early on in the book for me, but its easy to see that Kathryn Stockett knows the ways of southern people and brings perfect voices to her characters. I guess you could say that I'm hooked!

Where are you this Sunday and what book are you hooked on?

Mar 13, 2009

I've Been Wondering About . . .

Reading Journals - Do you keep one?

In this last year or so that I've been blogging about books and reading a lot of blogs, I've read that several of you keep reading journals or book journals. I have never done that but found it very interesting and I'm sure they're probably very helpful in remembering what you've read. Since I'm now reading more books than ever, I thought this would be the perfect time to start one of my own. But I am curious about a few things.

For instance, what is the main purpose of your journal? Is it to keep track of when you get a book, or when you read it? Do you record your thoughts about the book? And also, How often do you write in your journal? Is it a daily thing? Or just random?

These are just a few things I've been thinking about when I consider starting my own reading journal. I know there's no right or wrong way to keep a journal, but I'm just curious to hear about the different types and how they're used. This could be very interesting . . .

So please, leave me a comment telling me why you keep a reading journal or why you don't. And if you do, what kind of information do you include?

Mar 12, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Well, I finally did it! I finally read the book that everyone raves about and is a favorite to so many! I can honestly say now that I am one of those people. My only disappointment is with myself that I waited so long to read it.

Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE is such a wonderfully told gothic romance. Her writing is just amazing. I love that it's not your typical love story with a beautiful maiden and handsome young man - its a story of a plain-looking orphan and her not-so-handsome master, but their love is beautiful. I instantly adored Jane and dispised her aunt and cousins, who treated her so horribly as a child. Then after being sent off to that wretched school, her closest friend, Helen Burns dies. and then a few years later her dear friend and teacher, Ms. Temple leaves the school to be married. Is she not to ever have someone love her who will not be taken from her? Then there's Mr. Rochester - who I found odd, in a likeable sort of way. The chemistry between them was apparent from the start and I loved reading the banter between them. When the truth of Mr. Rochester's wife was revealed and Jane ran away, I thought surely he would go looking for her and find her. Though he did search, she was well hidden with people who, surprisingly turned out to be her family, something Jane had always longed for.

The character I was most surprised by was St. John Rivers, even though he did save her life and opened his home to her, I felt the way he treated Jane when she refused to marry him and be his missionary wife in India, was indignant, even though I realize he though he was doing what God expected of him. He was very selfish and it was easy to see he had his own motives from the start.

I really loved this story. I read this book at the same time I was reading other books, but chose this as my bedtime reading. It was a great way to end each day. I will say that I kept a dictionary close at hand and used it frequently to look up some of those words! Whew! I've heard from so many fellow bloggers that they, like me, hadn't read JANE EYRE. To those, I can only hope to encourage to not put it off any longer. This is a beloved classic piece of literature that should be read again and again.

Author: Charlotte Bronte
Publisher: Courage Classics (Hardcover)
Published: 1991
Pages: 358
Raing: 5 out of 5 stars (It was amazing!)

Mar 9, 2009

The Triumph of Deborah - Eva Etzioni-Halevy (Paperback)

I've never read biblical fiction before reading this book. In fact, I used to find the term a bit confusing and honestly, didn't know how to feel about it. I always felt like 'you don't mess with the Bible', ya know? I never thought this genre was for me because of that reason. But I began this book with an open and curious mind and was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Here's a bit about the book from Eva Etzioni-Halevy's website:

The richly imagined saga of Deborah, the courageous biblical warrior, prophetess and leader who saved her people from certain destruction.

In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah has coerced warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites, who threaten their people with destruction. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with two daughters of the Canaanite King as his captives. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life: the attainment of peace. Based on the book of Judges , and filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, the novel shows that in her own life Deborah was very much a woman, and that her femininity did not detract from her stature as national leader. Thereby it pays tribute to Deborah's feminine strength and independence from which present day women, seeking to build lives of their own and assert themselves in whatever way they choose to do so, may derive inspiration.

I'll come right out and say it - I originally thought I would have a difficult time getting into this book, but once I started reading about Deborah from the Old Testament, I quickly changed my thinking. I'm not real familiar with all of the stories from the Bible so this was a learning experience for me. Keeping in mind that this is a fictional story woven into biblical facts made for an interesting read.

The three women in this story, Deborah, the adored Prophetess; Asherah, the daughter of Jabin, the Canaanite King; and Nogah, the illegitimate daughter of King Jabin and a female Isrealite slave, are each very different women. In telling the story, the author manages to show the strengths of each of them and the important roles they played while staying true to relations between men and women in those times.

Deborah was a fascinating woman who had earned so much respect and love from the Israelite people. It was rare in those days for a woman to hold so much power and to be perceived almost as royalty. She sacrificed so much, personally, for her people but she never wavered from what she felt she must do.

My favorite character in the story though, is Nogah. As a child born into slavery, her life with her mother was very difficult in her early years. At fifteen when she discovered that the king who had enslaved her mother was, in fact her father, her life became much different. He acknowledge her and grew to love her very much. So when the war between the Canaanites and Isrealites came, she was torn between the two tribes. Throughout the story, Nogah faces such hard times yet she never sacrificed her beliefs and always acted with honor.

I even grew to like the character of Barak, the warrior who Deborah convinced to lead the Israelites in the war. Being a 'modern woman' it was difficult at first to remember that in ancient times, men were not faithful to one woman and it was normal for a man to have more than one wife. In the end, he was an honorable man, even though at times, stubborn, he was able to see that he may have to humble himself for the good of all the people, including his enemy.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy, an Israeli socialogist, does a wonderful job of portraying these characters and showing that women played an importance role in our history, even as far back as in the days of The Old Testament.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and I can say now that biblical fiction is a genre I like and will definitely read again. Eva Etzioni-Halevy has written many other books including THE GARDEN OF RUTH and THE SONG OF HANNAH to name a few. If you haven't ventured into this genre, I encourage you to try it with an open mind. You may just like it! Here are a few other reviews for this book:


Author: Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Genre: Historica/Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Plume
Pages: 368
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5 (I really liked it!)

Musing Mondays: New Authors

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about new authors…

What is your policy when it comes to new authors? Do you feel comfortable purchasing a book or do you prefer to borrow new authors from the library? How often do you 'try out' a new author?
Many of the books I read are from debut authors. I enjoy getting to know them through their books. I'm more likely to buy a book from a new author than from a NYT Bestselling author who is already established. I always like to look out for the new guy. I've had great experience in the ones I've been reading. A few perfect examples are Jayne Pupek, who wrote TOMATO GIRL and Hillary Jordan, the author of MUDBOUND. And let's not forget Karen Harrington, JANEOLOGY and Jess Riley, DRIVING SIDEWAYS. Those are all fantastic books by new authors. When I'm looking to buy a book, its more about 'Does the story interest me?' than 'Oh, this is a new author, should I buy this book?'. Actually, I give that little thought. However, if I do read a book from a new author and I don't like it, I'm less likely to buy one of their books in the future.

I would agree that the library is a perfect way to 'try out' a new author if you're unsure. But I do that with established authors too. Libraries are great!

What are our feelings about debut authors? Are you apprehensive about buying their books?

Mar 8, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Springing Ahead

Hello fellow Saloners! I'm getting a bit of a late start with my post today, but it seems to be the pattern of this past week. Simply put, there's just not enough time in a day to do all the things I need to do. It's very easy to get overwhelmed, but I won't go into all of that! I'll spare you, so just be thankful! I think now with the time change, it'll work in my favor. I'm more active when its light outside. When it's dark, my body thinks it's time for sleep!

I did manage to accomplish a few things this week. I posted my thoughts on Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD, the book that really got under my skin. It is an amazing book and if you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so. You can read my thoughts here.

I also finished reading THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH and will post that review in a day or so. Like I mentioned earlier, time just wasn't on my side this week and even though I did manage to finish writing my review for this book, I don't want to rush into posting it. So, sorry for the delay. I know many of you commented to me that you're looking forward to the review, but I want to make sure I do it justice. I hoping this week will allow me more uninterrupted time to complete what I feel will be a good review.

I participated in Musing Mondays, hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page and her musing was about reading habits. More specifically, skimming or skipping whole chapters. It sparked a lot of conversation and interesting comments.

MizB asked 'What's the best book you've never read?' on Booking Through Thursday. Wow, just when I thought I'd make a dent in my TBR pile, this comes along and I'm reminded of so many great books out there that I need to read! I really enojoyed reading every one's answers and remembering books that I had almost forgotten about. A few that I kept seeing mentioned were THE BOOK THIEF and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE and of course, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which was on my list as well. Now I need to re-examine the order of my TBR pile.

I only received one new book this week to review. It's in the Christian Fiction genre and it's called SAINTS IN LIMBO, which I think is a great title. It's set to be released in May. I'd like to thank the author, River Jordan for sending me this advanced copy. You can read a bit about the book here.

That's about it for last week. As for the rest of today, I'm planning on relaxing and curling up with JANE EYRE. The trouble I have with reading two (or more) books at a time is that it bothers me when one gets ignored for a day or two. I've been reading this book for THREE WEEKS!! That's crazy!! However, I have read several other books at the same time, but I'm realizing I don't like doing that. I like focusing on one book at a time. I feel like I'm neglecting Jane, so today, I'm all hers!!

What are you reding today? Are you cheating on one book in order to read another?

Mar 7, 2009

Gettin' Toasted: Raspberry Clafouti

Spring is just around the corner, and a delicious variety of berries are already available at the produce markets. So for this week's toaster oven dish, I'm preparing a dessert called a clafouti (kla-foo-TEE). Clafouti is a French puffy, cakey, pudding-like dessert traditionally made with cherries but is also very good with peaches, strawberries, or any fruit you like. Chef Eric Ripert features his version made with raspberries on his website, Aveceric. Watch this video to see how simple this yummy dish is to make.

Raspberry Clafouti
Serves 2

1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup sugar + more for ramekin
1 large egg
6 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup fresh raspberries
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Heat toaster oven to 400°F. Butter two 3 ½ - inch ramekins and dust with sugar. Whisk egg until frothy and add sugar, half and half and vanilla extract; mix to combine. Add the all purpose flour and whisk very well. Divide the raspberries into the ramekins and pour the batter over the raspberries. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until golden brown and the middle is set.
Serve with a scoop of ice cream. (optional) I really liked this dessert. However, because my ramekins are not the size specified in the recipe, I will have to modify it the next time to make it perfect. Be sure the clafouti is baked until it is lightly browned and a knife comes out clean from the center. I think the next time I will pour a small amount of batter into the bottom and bake it for a few minutes before adding the berries amd the remainder of the batter. I love the faint taste of the sugar that the ramekins are dusted with. Another idea is to sprinkle with powdered sugar after removing it from the oven. There are so many ways to make clafouti to suit anyones taste. You can also find recipes for 6-8 servings for larger groups. This would be a perfect dish to serve for a brunch.

I hope that if you decide to try this recipe, you'll come back and let me know what you thought. This is a dish that I will experiment with in many different ways and is another great example of how to get the most out of your toaster oven. Do you have a favorite dish that you make in your toaster oven?

Mar 5, 2009

BTT: Best Books I've Never Read

We’ve all seen the lists, we’ve all thought, “I should really read that someday,” but for all of us, there are still books on “The List” that we haven’t actually gotten around to reading. Even though we know they’re fabulous. Even though we know that we’ll like them. Or that we’ll learn from them. Or just that they’re supposed to be worthy. We just … haven’t gotten around to them yet.

What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?

Well first of all, those kinds of lists always irritate me. Reason being that most of the time, I've never read any of the books on the list! Does that mean I'm reading the 'wrong' books? I don't think there are any 'wrong' books to read. OK, I'm done with that - now I'll move on to the ones I haven't read. The first one that came to mind was JANE EYRE, but I'm reading that now, so that doesn't count. Here are a few others that come to mind:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I plan to read it this year, I swear!
  • The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood - I've heard so much about this book
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - I started this and only got a third of the way through and never got back to it!
I'm sure there are many others, but these are the ones that I thought of first. What 'best' book haven't you read?

Mar 3, 2009

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Vintage Paperback)

I'll start off by saying that I didn't intend to read this book. Of course, I'd heard about it and knew of Truman Capote, but hadn't read any of his work. Then one day this past January, I watched the movie Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was entranced by his performance. He was utterly amazing as Truman Capote.

After I watched the movie, I couldn't get the story of the Clutter family murders out of my head. The sheer senselessness and brutality of it haunted me. I made a mental note that I would definitely read the book 'one day'.

A few weeks later I made a trip to my public library and before I knew it, was staring at all of the different editions of this classic history-making true crime novel. I ended up taking one home. I started reading immediately and put all other books I was reading off to the side.

The book is written in parts. The first detailing the last day the Clutter family was alive. It chronicles alternately between the family and the two men who were then making their way to Holcomb for a 'score'. Part two of the book is the aftermath of the murders and how the community dealt with it. There were few leads and no one could even imagine who could've done such a terrible thing to a family that everyone loved and respected. Part three describes how the authorities learned the identities of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, retracing the killers' movements after they fled. Part four involves their incarceration and ultimate sentencing to Death Row to await their fate.

As it turns out, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the shocking murders that took place on that moonlit November night in Holcomb, Kansas. To say that I enjoyed this book sounds disturbing, so I will just say that I appreciated Capote's writing and the details of the case. It must've been a mentally exhausting book to write and having seen the movie, Capote, I know that it was very difficult for him as he spent so much time with Perry Smith in order to get the information needed for the book. Capote, in fact, befriended him and at times, misled his intentions to gain his trust, so I don't have much sympathy for what Capote went through in order to write his book. I know I keep referring to the movie, but it explains much of what happened. I know from the movie Capote felt tortured about his less than honest actions regarding his so-called friendship with Perry. In fact, in the front of the book he wrote (and never finished) Answered Prayers, after In Cold Blood, he wrote a message that said: "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones." I find that extremely poignant.

This is a book that even though is written about a horrible crime, I'm glad I read it. Here's a clip I found of Truman Capote taling about writing the book:

And here is a clip from the movie Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman:

I definitely want to read some of his fiction books, for example The Grass Harp, which I'm told is beautifully written. Or Breakfast At Tiffany's. Have you read any of Truman Capote's books? If so, please leave a comment and tell me how you liked it.

Author: Truman Capote
Publisher: Vintage (paperback)
Published: 1994 (First Edition published 1965)
Pages: 368

Teaser Tuesdays: The Triumph of Deborah

Each week TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • Share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.
Please avoid spoilers!
My teasers today are from THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH by Eva Etzioni-Harevy.

The day that preceded Barak's attack had been a tiring one for Deborah, with numerous complaints shrilly voicing their claims. She had succeeded in appeasing them all, and they had left in contentment. ~ page 109

This is the first Biblical Fiction book I've read and I have to say I'm happily surprised at how much I'm enjoying it. I doubt this will be my last venture into this genre.

For more teasers, click here.

Mar 2, 2009

Musing Mondays: Reading Habits

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about boys and reading…

When reading do you read every word? Do you ever skip chapters or skim over parts? (question courtesy of Wendy)

This is an easy one for me! I am definitely not a skimmer. And I NEVER skip whole chapters! The only time I may skim through a paragraph or two is if the book I'm reading is quickly losing my interest and I'm looking for something to grasp. Fortunately, that doesn't happen often. I like to read every word that is written to make sure I'm getting what the author is trying to tell me. I'm not a super-fast reader either. I wouldn't say I'm slow, but I certainly want to appreciate the book I'm reading. Especially if I've been asked to review said book - I want to give it the attention it deserves.

I hope I'm not getting off-topic here, but I'm always amazed at how some readers zip through a book in a day. How do they do that? Would I want to do that? Are they skimming? I bow down to those readers! Me? I read for enjoyment and I don't enjoy speed-reading - it gives me a headache! I like to savor my books. Like many other bloggers, I work forty hours a week, which really cuts into my reading time on weekdays. Therefore, I usually only read three to four books a month and I feel pretty good about that number. But who knows, maybe I am a slow reader.

What are your reading habits? Are you a skimmer?

Mar 1, 2009

The Sunday Salon: A Recap and an Award!

With the weather turning a bit cooler today and rain in the air, it's going to be a perfect day to stay inside with a book. That's what I intend to do. I've been reading JANE EYRE along with a friend from work and I'm enjoying getting to know Mr. Rochester and Jane herself. This is my first reading of this book, although I have seen a film version. However, there is no substitue for reading Ms. Bronte's words. Since I am reading two books at once, I keep JANE EYRE on my nightstand for bedtime reading. I enjoy ending my day with this wonderful book.

The other book I'm reading this week is THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH by Eva Etzioni-Halevy. The book was released this week, and I've read several positve reviews already. I only started reading it yesterday, but I was quickly drawn into the story and its characters. This surprised me as I've never read Biblical Fiction before.

Last week was a very productive book week for me. At the beginning of the week, I finished reading IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote. I'll have my thoughts on that book this week. I posted a review of MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH by Nancy Martin on Friday. You can read that review here. I also participated in some weekly events:

New books I received this week were:

One of the most exciting things that happened was I was honored with an award from Kaye at Pudgy Penguin Perusals!
This award is given to either newbie blogs or blogs that are new to you. I'm so glad Kaye found my blog and I found hers! Thank you so much Kaye! Now I get to pass this award on to 5 other bloggers who are new to me. And they are:

If any of these blogs are new to you, please take the time to go visit them. Congratulations Girls!
Well, that's it for me! Now I'm off to go read my book for a bit then catch up on my blog reading. I hope you are enjoying your Sunday!