Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagan — 288 pgs

Book CoverEven from his humble beginnings in an English farmhouse, Maf is a very special dog. Able to cogitate for hours on the strange proclivities of the humans surrounding him, Maf becomes the companion of one of the most famous women in all of history while still a puppy. When the mother of young ingénue Natalie Wood buys a group of dogs to give away to her favorites, she invites Frank Sinatra to pick a dog for the up and coming film actress, Marilyn Monroe. He, of course, can’t resist the little dog with the heart of gold, and as soon as Marilyn receives him, she christens him Mafia Honey, or Maf for short. As Marilyn glides through her glamorous life, Maf begins to see the fragile and scared woman behind the facade, and as he converses with all the other animals around him, an unflinching picture of the famous personalities that surround him begins to emerge. Rich in philosophical and moral discourse, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog is a surprisingly rich and nuanced peek into the lives of some of the most public faces of the 50’s and 60’s. As Maf shares his deepest and most personal reflections on them, the never before seen world around these once bright and burning stars is expertly revealed.

I have to say this book was hit and miss for me. While I do think the storyline was unique and the perspective original, sometimes the execution left me a little cold. I think the main problem was that there was a lot of name dropping, and while that normally doesn’t bother me, the names being dropped were stars, philosophers and artists whom I knew very little about. This isn’t really a criticism, because I think readers who are more familiar with the personalities of this time would really enjoy the book, and I’m sure readers who are more at home in the world of philosophy would find it entertaining as well. As it was, the book went a little over my head, though there were some really wonderful and astute aspects about this particular story.

First off, the book being written from Maf’s perspective was a very clever device. He was able to see and hear everything and make his own very intelligent appraisals about it all without the those around him (other than the animals) hearing him. This gave the story an almost confidential and secretive feel, because the opinions of Maf were never motivating factors of the book. He was able to see and detect things that eluded his human counterparts, and he was quickly able to assess a situation and draw some very penetrating conclusions that remained locked between the reader and himself. He was sometimes fond of pontificating and had little time for those who were menacing to his owner, particularly Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was not graciously served in this book. He was, in effect, a bully and a ball-buster who used his star power and angry charisma to insert himself into politics and also a spoiled man whom no one thought to check or correct. Maf saw him as insensitive and brutish, an ego-driven and spoiled man with dark forces ready to do his bidding.

Maf’s reflections on Marilyn were also very telling. she was portrayed as very witty and charming but overly naïve when it came to the people around her. The best way I can describe her character was lost and easily swayed. Her drive to be taken seriously and to appear glamorous and high functioning was, in effect, one of her most fatal flaws. Maf doesn’t go into detail about her frightening spiral into the world of drugs or her stints on the casting couch, and surprisingly, the book ends before her untimely and tragic death. From the vantage point we have, Marilyn is reflected with love and is truly endowed with the gravity she deserves.

Another pertinent point is Maf’s observations of the animal world. He speaks at length about his own interpretations on the anthropomorphism animals and of the philosophers that have espoused the same sentiments. A lot of these explanations were interesting to read but went somewhat over my head, though they were grounded in fact. The amalgamation of all of these elements were sometimes portentous and at other times candidly funny, but I had trouble with the immense weight of the implications made by the narrative.

Though this book didn’t entirely work for me in all the areas it explored, I still think it was a very revealing read, and in most ways successful. I think readers of a certain generation would get a lot from this story, and even I had no trouble falling in love with little Maf. I appreciated the creativity and candor of this book immensely, and feel that although it tried to accomplish a lot within a relatively small space, it was clearly a book that made me think differently, not only about the animal world, but about some of the foremost legends in cinema history. A challenging and reflective read.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett — 496 pgs

Book CoverIsabel and Jane are sisters of very different types. Beautiful Jane is indolent, idle and flirtatious, and holds her widowed father, an esteemed silk merchant, in the palm of her hand. Isabel is serious, independent and hardworking, always at odds with her father and hopeful of the future to come. But when her father loses standing in the eyes of the local guild, he decides to marry off both girls to prosperous families in order to raise public opinion of himself and his business. This means that Jane will wed a man who doesn’t love her and who is reproachful of everything she does, while Isabel will marry into the house of Claver, a virtuous and noble family of silk workers. Though neither of the girls love their husbands, Isabel begins to feel a sort of affection toward the young man she marries and is devastated when he’s killed while defending the city from an attack to overthrow King Edward. When Isabel decides to apprentice herself to her mother-in-law for ten years to avoid the scandal her husband left behind and Jane annuls her marriage to become the mistress of the King, the sisters are set apart. But as Isabel works away her ten years, she falls in love with a mysterious and unavailable man and must be satisfied with the random trysts that he and she agree to. When she discovers that her lover is actually the Duke of Gloucester, brother of the king and possible usurper of the throne, the danger she uncovers is almost too much for her to handle. Are the rumors of her beloved Richard really true? This tale of the War of the Roses as seen through the traitorous eyes of Richard, Duke of Gloucester and his humble and naive lover is full to the brim with cunning, treachery, and a very unlikely romance between a virtuous woman and a man who remains one of the most notorious characters in all of history.

When I discovered this book would be our book club choice for the month of February, I was rather excited because not only am I an avid lover of historical fiction, but I knew I would soon be touring another book by Vanora Bennett, called The Queen’s Lover, and I thought this would be an excellent way for me to get a sample of what was to come. It wasn’t until about a third of the way through that I realized the book’s topic was the War of the Roses, and when I discovered that I would soon be neck deep in this particular story again, I was rather pleased because, though there are many books out there on this subject, I always relish the opportunity to see the story portrayed from another viewpoint.

I have to say this book and I didn’t get off to a great start together. I’m not sure if was because the first sections were mostly about scene setting and character introduction, but for the first hundred pages or so, I found myself getting easily distracted and almost bored. For some reason, the characters lacked the piquancy that I relish in most of the historical fiction I read, and I found that both girls, especially Isabel, were just too bland for me to get invested in. I also had a problem with the descriptions of the silk work. Often, I find that fiction which delves deeply into some kind of craft is wonderful in a way I can’t describe, because it elucidates and also captures my interest in its minute details. This was not the case here, because although I felt that Bennett really knew her stuff in regards to silk work, she was unable to translate the excitement and flavor of the craft to her readers. I have to admit that I glossed over a lot of these sections because they just didn’t interest me. I was beginning to think this book would be a total loss, until I got to the second section and things began to pick up dramatically.

Due to the activism of the local community of silk workers, the widowed Isabel and others like her have a degree of independence and autonomy that is almost unheard of during this point in history. It’s mentioned several times in the text that women like Isabel’s mother-in-law petitioned and argued for the rights of these women to run their own businesses and to be free from the impingement of men that may have held them back. In essence, this is the reason Isabel was able to make a name and a fortune for herself through her silk work, and the reason that her petition to the king for the silk workers to begin making their own exotic silks was granted. The secret operation of building up this business had to be kept very quiet in order for the foreign contingent of importers in England not to be angered. As Isabel begins her secret work, she once again finds herself at odds due to her very loose relationship with a man she presumes to be a soldier, but who is a very different animal altogether.

The relationship between Isabel and the man she knows as Dickon is one that’s inflamed by passion and separated by formalities. Dickon is Isabel’s reason for hope and her lover for a very long period of time. When she discovers his true identity and hears the rumors associated with him, her life shatters into shards of self deception and mistrust. Her relationship with Dickon and likewise her sister’s with the king puts the two of them in a hotbed of danger and uncertainty, and though Isabel goes to great lengths to deceive herself of Dickon’s true nature, the proof of his madness and treachery increases on a scale that can’t be denied. When he begins to enlist Isabel’s help in his dangerous plans and uses her confidences to thwart those who oppose him, Isabel is angered and heartbroken. In reality, Isabel is used by both sides in this battle, and though she doesn’t know it, her first and final betrayal of Dickon will be the loose end that completely unravels him.

Though I didn’t really enjoy the beginning, and the conclusion left me a bit tepid, the majority of the story was entrancing to say the least. To see the War of The Roses from the point of view of the villain was more than intriguing to me, and the fact that Dickon could fool not only the clever Isabel, but this reader, who already knew the outcome of this story, was an achievement in itself. If historical fiction is a genre you appreciate, I would recommend this book to you, though perhaps like me, it might take awhile for the story to really ramp up for you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough -- GIVEAWAY!

Great news! The publishers of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough have generously offered one copy of the book to my readers. I’m going to sweeten the pot and offer up my gently read book as well, which gives you two chances to win this incredibly funny and smart novel about a family of women finding their way. If you’d like to read my review you can find it here. There are no bells and whistles to this giveaway, so if you’re interested in winning a copy for yourself, just fill out the form below, and good luck to all entrants!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker — 320 pgs

Book Cover Joanie Pilcher is about to turn fifty and has recently been left by her husband. If that’s not enough to make her feel overwhelmed, her eighty year old mother is also living with her and her sullen teenage daughter. When Joanie gets a call from her ex-husband letting her know he’s gotten his new twenty-nine year old girlfriend pregnant, Joanie begins to fall off the precipice of good mental health. Trapped in an ad-exec job she hates and a divorce support group that can sometimes be judgemental, Joanie is slowly losing it. Ivy, Joanie’s mother, is also deteriorating. Though she used to live on her own, the financial crash has eaten up her savings, forcing her into her daughter’s home, where she doesn’t feel welcomed or appreciated. Meanwhile, the teenage Caroline fears she has some sort of multiple personality disorder because she can’t understand why she’s so angry with everyone in her life except the handsome and oblivious Henry. As the three women orbit each other, they come to realize that life isn’t filled with the happiness they once expected to find, and must learn to navigate not only the waters of their tenuous relationships, but the wider waters of a life that fluctuates wildly from day to day. Infused with an offbeat and potent humor, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is the story of three women of three very different generations coming to terms with each other and with the wider world around them

One of the things I liked best about this story was the way Pennebaker was able to write from each woman’s perspective so convincingly. Joanie, a baby boomer, is frustrated with her life and struggles with it due to her bitter attitude. She struggles because she believes that life should and could be so much more. She expects it and demands it, and because of all the overwhelming things that are happening in her professional and personal life, she feels as though she’s slowly sinking into a place where she might not be able to cope with it anymore. Her relationship with Ivy, her mother, is filled with anger. Part of that anger stems from knowing that she was not the favorite child, and part because, even though she has bailed her mother out, Ivy still finds many things to criticize Joanie about. It’s an issue a lot of women face. Becoming the mother to your mother can be not only confusing, but also has an odd way of building up resentment and anger. Ivy does a lot to add fuel to Joanie’s fire because of her puritanical belief system and her constant and unhelpful interjections. On the opposite side, her relationship with her daughter is difficult because she really does struggle to be a good and compassionate mother but can’t help but to put all kinds of emotional pressure on her. She doesn’t understand why her daughter is so angry and resentful when, try as she might, she just wants to connect. It was easy to see that Joanie’s relationship with her daughter was the mirror reflection of the relationship she had with her mother, with Caroline treating her much the same as she treated her mother.

To be honest, though I did like her, I found Ivy to be a little too meddlesome and inflexible. She is of the generation that believes the women of her daughter and granddaughter’s generation expect too much for themselves and that’s why they’re never satisfied. They eagerly seek happiness only to end up disappointed. She speaks at length about her own relationship with her deceased husband and how there was little to no communication or emotional connection. Ivy doesn’t understand why her daughter is so angry and depressed, or why her granddaughter is so full of angst. She is so far removed from any forms of society that she’s sometimes misled in her beliefs by the things she reads on the Internet and the age old opinions that she stubbornly holds on to. In the latter half of the story, Ivy comes to realize that she too may be depressed and she begins to act out in some alarming ways. Her relationship with her son, the favorite, is a source of painful disappointment to her, and she, at times, mercilessly antagonizes both her daughter and granddaughter. While I could readily sympathize with Ivy, she sometimes maddened me with her strange ideas and proclamations and endless insensitive questions.

Caroline was the person I most identified with, which is strange for me because usually I don’t sync all that well with YA characters. Caroline is frustrated by the role she’s forced to play in her parents’ drama. She’s constantly filled with anger because she feels that the adults around her are trying to validate their feelings through her and that everyone expects something from her. She’s in love with a boy who is only using her for her intellectual prowess and who doesn’t know how she feels about him. Caroline also is basically friendless and sort of a social outcast. She comes into skirmishes with almost everyone around her, a fact which saddens and confuses her. She doesn’t think she’s a mean person, so why is she acting this way all the time? Looking deeper into the book, I think I identified with Caroline because I’ve been Caroline. There’s a tremendous pressure and weight on her, and her need for understanding herself and her parents is something she’s not equipped for. Her confusion and anger were so real for me, her unhappiness so palpable. Out of the three women, she’s the one who seemed the most confused and troubled, and because she was so young, she had no wellspring from which to draw comfort.

Though I’ve made this book sound rather dour and serious, there were a lot of laugh out loud moments and a sharp humor to the ways in which the women dealt with each other. I found the book to be surprisingly amusing and realistic in a way I hadn’t expected, and although the ending was a bit ambiguous, I could see that each woman was on the road to healing by the conclusion of the book. The issues that manifest themselves were not light and frothy, but something about the way they were portrayed enabled me to see them for who they were, and also let me get a glimpse of the redemption that they were on the road to finding. This is the type of book I think a lot of women will relate to for a host of reasons. I think each reader will have a very different reaction to the three women and will find something about each of them to admire, despite their emotional upheavals. A very worthy read.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Queen’s Lover by Vanora Bennett — 624 pgs

Book CoverCatherine de Valois is just a disheveled and neglected child in the crumbling French court of her father, the mad King Charles VI, when she first meets Owain Tudor, messenger for the king of England, Henry V. Though the two are very fond of each other, Catherine is still just a child, and of royal blood, while Owain is a disgraced Welshman working off years of servitude in the English court. Soon fate tears them in opposite directions. Through the ruination of her royal family and the fall of France to England’s forces, Catherine is dangled in front of Henry V as a proposed bride to unite both kingdoms. But Catherine’s brother Charles is still fighting against the English crown and will not let France go lightly. With the help of the scheming Queen Isebeau, Catherine makes her move against Charles and becomes Henry’s new bride, Queen of England. But life as a queen of England is not what Catherine thought it would be, and after much grief she finds herself in the middle of a royal uprising when Henry dies, leaving her infant son crowned the King of England. Though Catherine must brave these waters alone, it’s the constant presence of Owain that helps guide Catherine through her most turbulent times, and whose steadfastness and loyalty finally help her consolidate England and France into one kingdom. But it’s Catherine’s journey of the heart from caretaker of the mad King Charles to the queen who holds the heart of Owain Tudor that will leave readers restless for more in this solid and tight historical drama.

In the past few months, I’ve had the very pleasurable opportunity to read two historical novels by Vanora Bennett. The first was called Figures in Silk, and dealt with the War of the Roses, and was actually a very entertaining and thoughtful read, though I do think it suffered a bit from having a rather loose beginning. This book, however, was much more to my tastes, and I grew quickly absorbed within the pages for many reasons. I won’t attempt to compare the two books, as I think they’re totally different vehicles with very different aims, but I’m happy to say that this book was historical fiction at its very best.

Catherine was one of the most interesting characters to have read about in this incarnation, not only because the story of her life was most surprising and interesting, but because this Catherine was written with an emotional core that resonated with me personally and gave the story vivid life. She was no doubt a troubled woman. From her very early childhood, she and her brother Charles were neglected almost to the point of starvation while their wily mother kept to her rooms caught up in schemes against her older sons. Catherine’s father suffered with bouts of mental illness so debilitating that he was often shut up in private quarters, raving and tearing off his clothes. As Catherine grows older, she finally realizes just what her father is going through when she becomes his only protector and caretaker, fully realizing that France is in ruins due to the mismanagement and infighting of the royal family. Though these all sound like horrible and troublesome circumstances, Catherine remains solid, courageous and caring to the people around her. She doesn’t blame her parents for their neglect but does come to resent and accuse Charles when he goes against his royal blood. Though she is frightened, her core beliefs and resoluteness never waver.

When she meets Owain, the attraction is instant and reciprocated, but Owian, the elder of the two and to my mind, the much more pragmatic, knows they will never find themselves together. Because of the care and attention that Owian gives her, he becomes Catherine’s hero, and she doesn’t understand that he is unattainable to her. When the issue comes to a painful head, it’s Owain who turns Catherine away and directly into the path of his master, Henry V, a fact that grieves his spirit mercilessly. Though Owain goes far from her and sets a different path for his life, Catherine is his north star from beginning to end. Eventually he comes to her when she needs him most and covertly rearranges a future for her in which she can be secure and unafraid. The love between Catherine and Owain was, for me, a strong motivating force in the book. Though it was often painful and fraught with tension, there was no doubt in my mind that Owain brought to Catherine the peace and gentleness that she so desperately needed amidst a court filled with danger and trickery.

Much was made about the fall of France, not only to the hands of the dominating English, but their self-ruination at the hands of the vicious Duke of Burgundy and other opposing forces. This comes into play intently when Catherine agrees to marry King Henry V and unite the two kingdoms. It troubles her to no end that the royal blood, which she believes to be sacred and holy, will be tainted and that she will be leading her country to ruin and enslavement by the English. Catherine views the English court as very different than the French court in its heyday. The idea of a French court that was the most holy and sacred in Christendom was interesting to me because I’m mostly a reader of English history and have never really pursued France in my studies. There’s no doubt from Bennett’s descriptions that the court of France was once elegant and urbane, beautiful and blessed, but I came to see that although the English did much to damage the country and bloodline, it really started long ago in the French court’s power plays and political manipulations. It was a very insightful and instructive narrative that fully revealed the weaknesses and the strengths of each side and player.

When historical fiction is this good, it leaves me hungering for more opportunity to relish and revel in it. I think Bennet’s take on this story and her ability to capture all the fragility and strength of each of the major players was not only expert, but damn entertaining as well. This is the kind of book I love to read because it’s not only overtly and tightly suspenseful but tender and touching as well. If you think the very unusual story of Catherine de Valois sounds interesting, I would urge you to give yourself some time to read Bennett’s excellent and expert rendering of the life of a very human and regal queen and the man she raised from far below to stand beside her.

Author Photo About the Author

An award-winning journalist, Vanora Bennett is the author of Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Figures in Silk. She lives in North London with her husband and two children.

Find out more about Vanora at her website.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, March 8th:Unputdownables
Wednesday, March 9th:Books Like Breathing
Thursday, March 10th:Rundpinne
Tuesday, March 15th:The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, March 16th:Luxury Reading
Monday, March 21st:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, March 23rd:Life In Review
Thursday, March 24th:Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, March 29th:Hospitable Pursuits
Wednesday, March 30th:Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, March 31st:Katie’s Nesting Spot

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

UCF Orlando Book Festival 2011 Featured Books

The time for the festival is almost approaching, and as bloggers and authors get ready for their special Saturday in Orlando, I grow more and more excited by the wonderful literary offerings I’m uncovering daily. Here’s the second installment of some of the wonderful books that will be featured at the UCF Orlando Book Festival, and they are some good books indeed. If you’re considering attending the event, it will be held on April 16th at the UCF Arena, and not only will there be some great opportunities to find that perfect book, there will be numerous panels and chances to hobnob with some great authors. Take a peek at some of the great books that will be featured!

The Weird Sisters, by Elenor Brown

Book CoverThe Andreas sisters were raised on books – their family motto might as well be, "There’s no problem a library card can’t solve." Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard’s most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear), but they’ve inherited those characters’ failures along with their strengths.

Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up – partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don’t know where to go next. Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiancé in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she’s thought she could. Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become. And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it’s finally time for her to grow up.

The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from - each other, their histories, and their small hometown - might offer more than they ever expected.

Sex and Death, I Suppose, by Michael Colonnese

Book CoverPete Lomardo, the blue-collar private eye who narrates Sex and Death, I Suppose, isn't the kind of hard-boiled investigator that discriminating readers normally encounter in noir fiction. Pete's kinky, bankrupt, alcoholic, and bookish; he'll take all the divorce work he can get. But with an unfaithful psychoanalyst as his girlfriend and a rotten reputation with the mob, if Pete should so happen to run afoul of a cadre of lesbian Islamic terrorist while attempting to broker a sweet little real estate deal on the side, he might discover true love and solve a fifty-year-old murder mystery.

This Lovely Life, by Vicki Forman

Book CoverVicki Forman gave birth to Evan and Ellie at twenty-three weeks gestation and weighing just a pound at birth. During the delivery, she begged the doctors to "let her babies go"–she knew all too well that at twenty three weeks they could very well die, and if they survived, they would face a high risk of permanent disabilities. However, California law demanded resuscitation. Her daughter died just four days later; her son survived and was indeed multiply-disabled.

Winner of the PEN Center Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference Bakeless Prize in Creative Nonfiction, This Lovely Life tells, with brilliant intensity, of what became of the Forman family after the birth of the twins–the harrowing medical interventions; and, ethical considerations involving the sanctity of life and death. In the end, the long-delayed first steps of a five-year-old child will seem like the fist-pumping stuff of a triumph narrative. Forman's intelligent voice gives a sensitive, nuanced rendering of her guilt, her anger, and her eventual acceptance in this portrait of a mother's fierce love for her children.

Rattlesnakes and the Moon, by Darlin’ Neal

Book CoverThese are haunting stories of people bearing the burdens of ordinary life a lot more completely than most of us ever do. Wives and mothers of inmates, sisters of sisters killed in motorcycle accidents, that wonderful-but-dreary Louisiana swampishness pervasive in these eloquent and exquisitely rendered tales of hardship. These are dark stories lit by headlights and lightning, fluorescent signs and tall highway lights, tough stories so real that they have the scent of the lived-through about them, which is testament to Darlin' Neal's extraordinary gift for prose and story.

Delirious by Daniel Palmer

Book CoverCharlie Giles is at the top of his game. An electronics superstar, he's sold his start-up company to a giant Boston firm, where he's now a senior director. With his dog, Monte, at his side, Charlie is treated like a VIP everywhere he goes.

Then one day, everything in Charlie's neatly ordered world starts to go terrifyingly wrong. His prestigious job and his inventions are wrenched away from him. His family is targeted, and his former employers are dying gruesomely, picked off one by one. Every sign, every shred of evidence, points to Charlie as a cold-blooded killer. And soon Charlie is unable to tell whether he's succumbed to the pressures of work and become the architect of his own destruction, or whether he's the victim of a relentless, diabolical attack.

In a desperate struggle to save his life, Charlie races to uncover the truth, all the while realizing that nothing can be trusted—least of all his own fractured mind…

See what I mean? The selection and range of these books are incredible and impressive, and I can’t wait to be immersed in the bookishness of it all! Stay tuned for more information on the event.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blood of My Brother by James LePore — 352 pgs

Book CoverJay Cassio and Dan Del Colliano have been best friends since the first awful day of the Newark race riots of 1967. Bound together as tightly as brothers throughout their lives, Jay and Dan remain close, though they live very different lives. When Dan, a private Investigator, takes on a dangerous assignment and winds up dead, Jay goes looking for revenge. But the situation isn’t as easy as that because Dan and Jay have been involved in a serious situation that includes extortion, money laundering, and murder. It’s only when Jay goes rogue to find Dan’s killers that he discovers a crime syndicate based out of Mexico that wants to erase not only him, but anyone else who might be able to implicate them in their crimes. Now Jay is not only fighting them, but also the devious Agent Markey, who has plans of his own to stop the crime bosses using Jay as bait. When Jay discovers that all his hopes rest on the beautiful and elusive Isabel Sanchez, a woman also on the run, the stakes of the game get higher and higher. In this captivating story of one man’s quest for revenge, LePore brilliantly creates a narrative of high action and even higher tension.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed A World I Never Made by James LePore. Though it wasn’t my normal fare, I found the story to be utterly compelling and wound up having a really positive reaction to LePore’s ability to craft an enticing story around characters I truly cared for. It was one of the only books in the crime/thriller genre I was able to fully appreciate, so when I was offered the chance to review Blood of My Brother, I quickly decided I needed to read this latest installment. I knew very little about the book going in, which for me was actually better because it made the story all the more exciting and interesting, and it enabled me to come at the book with no preconceived notions.

One of the first things I noticed was the way LePore shifted his narrative among different times and places. Normally this gets confusing and irritating, but something about the way it was handled in this particular book made me better appreciate the scope of what was being done with the story. In its past and present reflections and its encompassing several characters and places, the story became energized for me, making the narrative seem much more fluid and cohesive than I think it would have been had the story been told from a static and linear perspective.

The characters were greatly nuanced and fully three dimensional, which is also something that really worked for me in terms of this narrative. Though Jay was rather serious, it wasn’t hard to see why Dan’s murder affected him so deeply and why he wanted to take revenge. There were a host of minor characters as well, most of them some type of law enforcement agents, and each one was distinct and carried a weight all their own. I grew to really dislike Agent Markey and came to think of him as a villain in himself, which gave the book a solid feel, for there was more than one perpetrator of evil here. I liked Isabel’s resourcefulness and ingenuity and felt that there was much more to her than your typical damsel in distress. There was a lot going on with her in terms of her importance to Jay, the crime bosses and the law enforcement agents. Everyone seemed to want something different from her that she was loathe to part with. I felt that she was really the crux of the action in the story and all the other pieces really moved around her.

The action was also quite well done, with tensions and dangers mounting with each successive chapter. It wasn’t the type of story that was predictable or laborious to read; rather it was enthralling to try to figure out just what Jay was going to do next, and a few times I wondered if he was going to make it out alive. There wasn’t a lot of plot contrivance and coincidence in this tale to make things turn out nicely for everyone; instead, LePore takes the time to write carefully and inventively to twist the tale to a natural and believable conclusion that readers will appreciate. Each character played their role perfectly, leading to a harmonious and credible conclusion.

I really enjoyed this second foray into LePore’s work. I like that he writes with confidence and skill and that he’s not afraid to take on some daring plot constructions and sophisticated characters. The fact that this isn’t my genre of preference, yet I enjoyed it so much, should tell you a lot about the book itself, and for those who are looking for a really diverting read, I would recommend this one to you. LePore also has a new book that will be released soon called Sons and Princes, and I’m eager to give that one a read as well.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression by Ida Lichter — 513 pgs

Book CoverImagine a life where, as a woman, you cannot leave the house without accompaniment by a male relative, or where you can be bartered off as payment for a family debt. Where the length of the stick your husband can beat you with is prescribed by law, or in the case that you are raped, you may well be stoned to death. These and many more startling things happen to women every day in Muslim countries around the world. In this eye opening non-fiction compilation, Ida Lichter has brought to us the voices of women subjugated by their culture and religion. In their own words, they share their public and private thoughts and accomplishments in their efforts to release the stranglehold of subjugation that hangs darkly from Muslim women’s necks. We learn about the oppression of women in Afghanistan, where those who chose not to marry the men selected by their families are at risk of honor killings, and about the rights that are withheld from women for educational advancement. We share in the horror of Algerian women who are kidnapped, made sexual slaves and are then murdered, and hear of marriages taking place between elderly men and children in Bahrain. From Syria to Nigeria, Pakistan to Kuwait, the plight of Muslim women unfolds in all its terrifying realities.

What I read here shocked and horrified me. I don’t think many Western women consider themselves in relation to our Muslim sisters who suffer these abuses every day. As I read and learned, I began to see that the women who had chosen to fight these regimes and attitudes were not only courageous but instilled with a love for the women of their culture that far outstripped anything that the men, even those of the same family, could claim to have. As one of the reformers reflects, it’s not really about women’s rights, it’s about human rights. As far as I could see, the Muslim women who are suffering each day under oppression and cruelty aren’t granted even the most basic human rights. I was stunned to learn that the traditional head-to-toe covering of Muslim women can lead to vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight and this can cause softening of the bones. It was also disheartening to hear that women were engaging in acts of self-immolation to escape their terrible existences and choices. Child rape and kidnapping are common against Muslim women, where they’re held in such low esteem that it takes the voices of two women to equal that of one man in a court of law.

But the book doesn’t only deal with the oppression of Muslim women, because most of its story lies in the acts of the women reformers who are constantly speaking out in order for the world to be informed and to manifest changes. Often these women are targeted for death or imprisoned and tortured for speaking out. Countless have had to go into hiding and a few sleep in the same dwelling only two or three nights at a time. A few have been killed by bombs or cut down in a hail of bullets. When they succeed in having laws changed to protect other Muslim women, the changes seem to magically disappear from finished documents or are ignored altogether. The religious leaders of their communities speak out against them, turning them into social pariahs running not only from their community, but from those who want to see them killed. Many have had fatwas placed upon their heads. The avarice that rains down on them continually is life altering and severe.

But stunningly, they continue to lead, to resist, to fight, and to speak. When one avenue is closed to them, they move onwards to another. They create foundations such as RAWA ( The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) and start grassroots magazines like Zanan (meaning “women” in Farsi) that grow to be widely read and influential. They fight the gender injustice through journalism and win awards and accolades from all over the world. They take heart in every small advancement and cherish their hope for Muslim women in their breast every day. Through every situation and every attack of violence, they persist in letting their countries and the rest of the world know that Muslim women’s voices will be heard. They live in the hope that the female children of the Muslim nations will one day rise up and take their place beside the men, in equality. They spearhead and chair organizations for women and children’s rights and they travel far and wide to educate and engage other nations in the things they so passionately fight for. They are courageous and uplifting, and inspire the rest of the world to join with them in understanding and reform.

While I was reading this book I was by turns sickened and awed. The no-nonsense presentation of the material made such a deep impression on me that at times it produced an awed fascination at the risks these women take everyday. This is more of a reference book than one you would read cover to cover, but as I browsed through it, I found I couldn't keep myself from stopping throughout each section to read more about these amazing women. Coming from a mindset that was ignorant of a lot of these issues, I urge other readers to pick up this book and explore not only a topic that deserves the most serious attention, but to share in the wonder of the women who make it their life’s missions to thwart the oppression of Muslim women.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte — 352 pgs

Book Cover When Jane Eyre’s parents die unexpectedly when she is only an infant, she’s benevolently taken in by her maternal uncle to live amongst his small but wealthy family. But when said uncle dies as well, it’s left up to her aunt to raise the girl, whom she despises and treats rather cruelly. After one particularly difficult incident between Jane and her aunt, the woman decides to place Jane in a stringent and horrific school for orphan girls, where Jane initially wilts and suffers but somehow rallies and becomes an instructor there after many years of residence. When Jane finally decides to move on, she finds employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, the manor house of Mr. Rochester, and begins life anew. Mr. Rochester, aside from being rather homely looking, is an eccentric with calumnious mood swings that initially shock Jane, but soon she learns to find harmony and pleasure in his company. As her time with Mr. Rochester grows, Jane begins to feel the first stirrings of romantic love, which is new and strange to her, as she has been somewhat sheltered from this particular emotion all her life. But it seems Mr. Rochester has another woman at the center of his designs, and though there’s no doubt he feels strongly for Jane, the future between them is uncertain. Through joys, sorrows, surprises and mystery, Jane and Rochester find themselves at last together. Just when it seems that all is well and their story will draw to a close, a strange and disastrous complication arises and leaves Jane fleeing her once secure home and the light of her life. As Jane now finds herself at the mercy of strangers, she becomes involved in a rather strange predicament with a man named St. John Rivers. Will Jane and Rochester ever find their way together after the horrible discovery that has separated them so painfully, or will Jane move forward into a very different and alien life, forgoing the only love she has ever known to become only a survivor in a landscape of loss? In this classic and remarkable piece of literature, Charlotte Bronte creates two of the most beloved and wondrous characters in all of literature and forms around them a Gothic Victorian narrative of remarkable imagination and triumph.

Initially I had been hoping to read A Tale of Two Cities for my February classic choice, but when I saw that the wonderful Marie over at Boston Bibliophile was hosting a Jane Eyre read-along for February and that the new movie version was slated for release in March, I changed my plans and made it my choice for this month. Sorry Charles! I have to say that although my expectations of this book were really rather high, I found that they were totally surpassed in every way by the actual realities of this book. I’ve read classics in the past that just left me sort of tepid, but this book excelled in every area in which I could have thought to place it.

Jane in herself was a rather extraordinary heroine. Though ill-used and harshly judged for most of her life, she doesn’t revert into periods of self pity and self loathing. Rather the opposite, in fact. She becomes self-sufficient, observant and independent. I got a little angry with the fact that everyone called her ugly and plain all the time, and took offense to it mightily. Jane was so much more than her outside wrapper suggested and it was only the strange and passionate Mr. Rochester that ever took the time to notice that. The realities of her life were harsh and unpleasant, but instead of bowing down and succumbing, Jane learned to blossom under her own care and confidence. She was constantly questioning, seeking and learning, and the more her personality began to flourish, the more admiring I became of her. Jane had a persistence and strength in her character that I very much admired. No matter what the fates threw at her, she was remarkably placid and yielding towards it. From her time as an orphan up until the final sections of the book, she was constantly searching for a home in which to shelter her heart, and it seemed none was to be found. As she makes her way through her solitary world, she never loses her high morality, and more than once this causes her to sacrifice the ease and happiness that she would obtain by leaving it behind. Though she’s not a traditionally stringent religious woman, she has her eye set on the Christian ideals of life and often spends time praying and considering God. At times she could be a little inflexible and prudish, especially when it came to how she dealt with Rochester and his proposed plans, but overall, I found her to be a rather complex and spirited person with a unshakable moral compass.

Rochester was another animal indeed. At first cold and aloof, he seems to manifest his passion on Jane quite suddenly, and is rather inflamed by it. An inflamed Rochester is sometimes a scary thing, and more than once I wondered if Jane was getting in over her head. In parts of the book I didn’t like his all-consuming passion, but underneath it all I felt he was indeed right in being so passionate in his feelings for her. I think the disconnect came in the way he expressed himself. He could at times seem overwhelmingly controlling and demanding. I wavered between feeling that he was too pushy and self centered, and feeling that he was protective and loving in just the right degree. But Jane’s reluctance to submit to his will when events took an unexpected turn made me a little scared because his passion bordered on the violent at times. Do I think he would have been violent towards Jane? No. But his speech at these times made me think him a little overwrought by passions he couldn’t quell. I also didn’t like that he was deceptive towards Jane more than once in the story, and these deceptions revolved around his suiting his own ends. When Jane flees him, I felt a curious feeling of relief and sadness, because while I think she definitely did the right thing, I knew no man would ever love her the way he did and was unsure if they would ever be together again. I’m happy to say that towards the end, Mr. Rochester does indeed become less agitated in his passion, which made me a lot more comfortable with him as a whole. He was a great character and I felt torn about my perceptions of him for most of the book. I wanted to fully embrace him the whole way through, but like Jane, I had reservations that kept me from doing that.

Though this book is ostensibly a love story, it also spends much time on the life Jane lives before meeting Rochester. It goes into great detail about her life at the hands of her abusive aunt and her period at the orphans’ school. Though these parts were what led to the major crux of the story between Rochester and Jane, they were also fully engaging and did a lot to flesh out Jane’s character and the adversity she faced. While I enjoyed the time that delved into the relationship between Jane and Rochester, I felt these other sections really honed in on who Jane was as a person and how her character was formed.

There was also a section given over to Jane’s life after leaving Rochester, and here was another example of a life that was stringent and without real love and affection, only tolerance. These sections were no less passionate, only in a different scope and degree. In the majority of these sections we see Jane as being downtrodden and excluded, as well as living under harsh privations. What’s interesting about these two sections is that her light still shines just as brightly, but what that light reflects is a sinister quality of life that has trapped her in its barbs. I admired her greatly as she fought through it all and felt that if there was some degree of justice, she would one day break free, which I was pleased to discover that she did.

I have to admit this book was a pleasure to read for a lot of reasons. Not only was the story filled with unexpected twists and turns, it was accessible to modern readers and had a great level of tension and suspense running through the narrative. I may have cried a little while I was reading the story of Jane and her life, and it’s unusual for me to cry over the books I read. If you haven’t given this book a chance, I must say that you’re missing out on a brilliant story and a character that seems so far beyond her times that it’s genuinely surprising. It was a wonderful read all around and I admired it greatly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Horns by Joe Hill — 416 pgs

Book CoverOne morning after a particularly heavy bout of drinking and doing “terrible things,” Ignatius William Perrish wakes up with devil horns growing out of his head. But even stranger than that is the fact that the horns seem to have a magical power to tease out the most disturbing secret thoughts of the people he comes in contact with. Ig is confused and dismayed by this turn of events, not that life has been easy leading up to this transformation. It was only a year ago that Ig’s girlfriend Merrin was raped and murdered at the old foundry, and everyone is sure Ig committed the crime, though he wasn’t held as a suspect. With the sudden appearance of the Horns, Ig learns that even those whom he thought were closest to him are mistrustful of him. When his brother, Terry, sees the horns and finally admits he knows exactly who killed Merrin, Ig goes from the persecuted to the persecutor. Flashing backwards and forwards in time, we see Ig’s first meeting and subsequent love affair with Merrin, to the awful night when she was killed, and of course his struggles coming to terms with the new additions to his body that have a most unsettling effect on everyone around him. In this high tension horror/thriller Joe Hill proves that he is at the top of his game and gives us the most lovable demon you will ever come across.

Joe Hill is an author I’ve heard a lot about. When his first book, Heart-Shaped Box, came out, the reviews and comments on it were phenomenal, and I knew it wouldn’t be something that I could easily miss. But as so often happens, life got in the way and time grew short and I didn’t pick it up. So when I was contacted by Trish from TLC Tours to review this book, I did a little happy dance and was very excited that I would soon be reading a book by this amazing author. And I was hooked from the first sentence; It was that good. I spent my time with this book in a fever of anticipation and had to sneak in a few pages everywhere I went, sometimes even when people were having a conversation with me!

Ig is your typical nice guy, which makes it all the more strange that he suddenly has horns growing out of his head. When he first notices them, they are but small little red bumps that he thinks are a part of his hangover imagination. When he begins to notice that the horns make people say the most awful things on their mind, he’s not only frightened, but angered by what he hears. No one is safe from the power of the horns, and though Ig searches for comfort and normalcy in the people he comes in contact with, he finds none. The horns also have the power to make shocking secrets known to Ig whenever he touches someone’s skin, and these things also repulse and anger him. I relished Ig’s coming into contact with someone new throughout the whole story, because I knew there would be outrageous confessions and startled reactions, though I can imagine that Ig didn’t. When I was reading about all this I was wondering if the horns would eventually fully turn Ig into the demon he was beginning to resemble, but that never happened. Though he does a few malevolent things, Ig mostly keeps his honor and goodness intact, but it becomes ever harder once he discovers Merrin’s killer is one who has been lurking close by for years.

I liked that the second part of the book takes us back to Ig’s childhood, where the restlessness of adolescence and his first meetings with Merrin and his close friend Lee take place. This section gave the book a really well rounded feel and made it easy to sympathize with the reality of Ig’s loss. Merrin was wonderful to read about, and she captured Ig’s heart instantly. Funny, wise and beautiful, it was easy to see just how young Ig fell in love with the girl. As time progresses and their relationship grows, I saw a more mature and considerate love replace the childish crush as Ig and Merrin both move onwards towards adulthood. All of these milder sections were shattered when, after an argument, Ig drives home alone and wakes up to find that Merrin has been raped and murdered at the abandoned foundry. Although he was never really a suspect, all those around him believe Ig was the culprit and that his family’s wealth helped him get away with murder.

When Ig discovers the true murderer with the help of the horns, pardon the pun, but all hell breaks loose. Not only is Ig angry, he wants vengeance and he won’t let anything stop him. Tender and sweet Ig is slowly transforming into something altogether more violent and strange as time passes and more and more comes out in the open. Though he fights the influence of the horns, he can’t help but play the part that’s written for him, and become the thing that all men fear. The conclusion was unexpected but I felt it fit well with the rest of the story and I was pleased by the whole atmosphere and mood that Hill created. Though the true murderer was revealed early in the book, Hill has a way of flashing backwards and forward so convincingly that we got to see the whole thing, from the motive to the conclusion and the retribution. It was a masterful way to handle the whole thing and I was completely enthralled with all of it. I was also surprised at how funny this book could be. While it seems that this frightening affliction with the horns should be serious business, Hill really comes through with the funny moments and has great comic timing. After devouring this book in only a couple of days, I can now honestly say I have a total crush on Joe Hill. He can write like nobody’s business and knows just how to keep his audience in the palm of his hand. This book also contains a novella called The Devil on the Staircase, which was first published in Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio’s collection called Stories. Hill explains between the two stories that they are very different endeavors, but both are representative of some of ideas he has cultivated on the subject of the devil.They were both very good, but as I said before, very different. Horns is an impressive novel and not one you should miss, and I have a feeling there will be a lot more Joe Hill in my future.

Also, great news! The first 1000 people to preorder Joe’s latest novel and then email with proof of purchase will receive a specialized bookplate from Joe – he’s been signing and doodling all sorts of creations on bookplates for days now! For more information on this giveaway and the rest of Joe’s books, visit his website and follow Joe on Twitter @joe_hill

Author Photo About the Author

Joe Hill is the author of a previous novel, Heart-Shaped Box, a story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and an occasional comic series, Locke & Key. He is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year’s Best collections.
Connect with Joe:

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, March 8th:Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, March 9th:I’m Booking It
Thursday, March 10th:Luxury Reading
Thursday, March 17th:Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, March 21st:Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, March 23rd:Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, March 24th:The Ranting Dragon
Monday, March 28th:Debbie’s Book Bag
Tuesday, March 29th:My Life in Not So Many Words
Wednesday, March 30th:My Reading Room
Thursday, March 31st:MariReads

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Other Life by Ellen Meister — 320 pgs

Book Cover Quinn Braverman is struggling. The thirty-something beloved wife and mother of a six year old boy, Quinn has just found out the child she’s carrying has a severe birth defect. She’s also not quite past the despair of having lost her mother to suicide many years before, a fact that Quinn blames on herself. Her homosexual brother, also the recipient of the mental illness that robbed Quinn of her mother, is involved with a man who may or may not be totally wrong for him, and under the pressures of her life, Quinn is mildly despondent.

But there’s something special about Quinn: She has the ability to access special portals that will enable her to squeeze back into the life she left behind, and this, more than anything she is going through right now, is a constant pressure in her life. When she finally can’t resist the temptation to flee her everyday life anymore, Quinn steps into the portal to see just what would have happened if she hadn’t married her husband or had her son. This other life is more glamorous but also has its drawbacks, as she is confronted with Eugene, the neurotic and dependant radio-star boyfriend whom she left behind and who totally monopolizes her time and attention. But the thing that really excites Quinn about this alternate reality is that, in this world, her mother is still alive.

As the stress and pressure begin to mount for Quinn in her everyday life, she begins to cross over more and more frequently, exploring her other life in intimate detail. Crossing back and forth between her two lives through the portal, Quinn discovers that she can choose to stay in either life but that there are stiff consequences to staying in either. But time is running out, and as Quinn grapples with returning to Eugene and her mother or staying put in a life with a very damaged infant on the way, the choice to flit between worlds might be something that doesn’t rest in her hands alone. In this mystical and heart-wrenching tale of a woman and her two very different lives, Ellen Meister explores the what-ifs of of woman who is struggling with more than she alone can bear.

When I was first approached to participate in this tour, I took a look at the book that was being featured and began to be very excited. Who hasn’t wished they could look into the abyss and discover the secrets of the road not taken? For me, the road probably would have looked a lot like a tragedy, but I can imagine other people, women in particular, might have some feelings of excitement and longing to discover what could have happened had they made different choices. I have to admit I was really rather excited about this book because I felt it would be vicariously thrilling to discover what Quinn found on the other side, and if she would feel a pull to stay there after all the trauma began to come down on her in her everyday life.

Quinn was an excellent character to be able to get invested with. She was very different from most women in fiction because she admitted to herself and those surrounding her that to feel complete, she had to feel needed and essential. This was one of the stumbling blocks she had in her marriage to her husband Lewis. He felt the need to coddle and protect her, and her role in his life was much like the role she played in Eugene’s life all those years ago. When Quinn discovers her portal back into Eugene’s life, this force of being needed was one of the things that drew her in. Of course it wasn’t the only factor because after Quinn learned of her daughter’s birth defect, it seemed that the portal was her escape and her refuge. The choices Quinn had to make regarding her daughter were gut-wrenching to read about and the way Meister explored them was very realistic. She was fraught with the idea of terminating the pregnancy and had to weigh that against raising a child that may or may not survive at all. That alone would have pushed me through the portal, but Quinn was made of very solid stuff and had the ability to manage one crisis after the other with grace and fortitude. One can certainly argue that Quinn’s frequent passage through the portal was her way of escaping and coping, not merely satisfying her curiosity about a life she left behind.

One of the main cruxes of the book was the relationship that Quinn had with her mother. As a mentally ill woman, Nan was torn in her ability to raise her children lovingly and in her ability to deal with the crippling depression that eventually forced her to take her own life. Like a lot of children who survive after a parent’s suicide, Quinn harbored a lot of guilt over Nan’s fate and somehow felt that her mother’s ultimate action was a direct effect of Quinn’s decision to marry Lewis. When she steps through the portal for the first time and discovers that Nan is indeed alive in this world, the stakes go up for Quinn tremendously. How can she go back to a world where her mother doesn’t exist and where she’s going to have to cope with life-altering changes? The problem with this is that by staying in her alternate universe, she would lose her son, essentially doing the same thing to her child that her mother had done to her. I imagine the choices Quinn had to make were more than unnerving and very frightening, and the way that Meister captures Quinn’s uncertainty over these convolutions of her fate were rather thought-provoking.

The reality and science behind these portals were never explained in any detail other than the fact of how they were thought to come into existence, and to me this wasn’t bothersome. The story sort of blended a mix of women’s fiction with a light touch of science fiction, and the effect was a bit mystical. The existence of the portals was something that elevated this story beyond the scope of women’s fiction, though if I was pressed, I would have to stick to that description of the book’s genre. The tension of this pseudo-duel storyline was palpable, and as Quinn made more and more trips over to the other side, I became nervous for her safety and mental stability. In the end, the story leaves a little to the reader’s imagination in regards to what will eventually happen with Quinn and her choice, but overall, the lessons imparted and the conclusion of Quinn’s fate were handled with a lot of sensitivity and what I felt to be courage.

I ended up liking this book a great deal and felt it had some of the hallmarks of the film Sliding Doors. It was emotional and intriguing in a very vivid and unique way, and by creating tension and believability in both story lines, I think that Meister hit a sweet spot with this book. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys something a little more unique and moving in your women’s fiction choices, I would have to say this book would probably be a great fit for you. Its impact and scope really impressed me, and it’s a book that I would definitely recommend.

Author Photo About the Author

Ellen Meister lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.

You can find out more about Ellen at her website, and you can also follow her blog and on Twitter: @EllenMeister.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, February 15th:The Lost Entwife
Wednesday, February 16th:Rundpinne
Thursday, February 17th:Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, February 21st:Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, February 25th:Colloquium
Monday, February 28th:In the Next Room
Wednesday, March 2nd:Chefdruck Musings
Thursday, March 3rd:Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, March 4th:Raging Bibliomania
Monday, March 7th:Stephanie’s Written Word
Tuesday, March 8th:That’s What She Read
Wednesday, March 9th:Reviews from the Heart
Thursday, March 10th:BookNAround
Monday, March 14th:Teresa’s Reading Corner
Tuesday, March 15th:Debbie’s Book Bag
Tuesday, March 15th:Book Chatter
Wednesday, March 16th:The Book Faery Reviews
Thursday, March 17th:Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, March 18th:Tina’s Book Reviews

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Very Literate Dinner

Last Wednesday night I had the great pleasure of meeting Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books and Sandy of You've GOTTA read this! for an amazing dinner at Citricos, located in Disney’s Grand Floridian. The food was, of course, amazing, but the highlight of the evening was dishing with two of the most interesting and relevant bloggers on the scene today. We shared a bit about the books we loved and hated, the inside details of our respective book clubs and the many nuances of being a book blogger. Our dinner lasted over 3½ hours and not for a moment did things get stale or topics get sparse. We dished about our families and histories, and shared our optimism about the new directions our blogs were taking us. We even had a blast in our efforts to find our way back to Dawn’s hotel. It’s always funny to me that book bloggers can create such strong ties with each other over virtual space, and when they finally meet each other in person, there’s such an immediate connection and a shared passion. It was a great evening out and I’m so thankful I got to spend such a great time in such esteemed company. Here’s a shot of the three of us at the restaurant bar, a photo which includes Phillip the chef, who seemed to sneak his way into almost every picture we took!

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