Monday, January 31, 2011

Torn - Amanda Hocking

Title: Torn
Publisher: November 12th 2010 by CreateSpace
ISBN: 1456355791
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 356
Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: This is the second in the trilogy.
Where I Obtained the Book: From the Kindle store for 2. 99.
Synopsis: Wendy thought she finally understood who she was and what she wanted, but everything changes when the rival Vittra come after her.
She's caught between two worlds, torn between love and duty, and she must decide what life she is meant to lead.
Review: I have to say that I love the Kindle even more. This is the second book I’ve read on it and WOW.
The writing had a few issues, typos, words out of order and the doubled up or missing word. The story was interesting and kept me reading. I now need to get the next one. She has successfully sucked me in to the life of her story. This is something many more renowned authors have yet to do. I'm hooked,* SPOILER ALERT*what will happen to Wendy and Fin? Will Loki cause a riff between them and what about getting married at 18 to someone she doesn’t even love? Matt is now involved and not only does she need to answer to the kingdom, her mother, and him, she meets her father. He is quite the tyrant and it seems he may be immortal. What is going to happen? The book flows well and you really want to keep reading and its fast.
This is going to appeal to the teen and preteen out there. A girl who feels lost and doesn't really belong discovers she was right. Wars and decisions hang on her choices. Will she marry for the good of the kingdom, or for love? Who does she really love? Will Matt be okay in the kingdom where everyone hates humans? Being Queen is a dream come true, or it is?

Author Biography: I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.
My latest book is Hollowland - a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It's a bit more violent and gritter than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.
I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand.
My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don't write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I've seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I'd take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.
I'm also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven't had a practice in like two years, so I'm not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it's an awesome thing to tell people, so I'm sticking with it.
Other Reviews:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Joys of reading

Original Article Link

Reading is one of the best hobbies a person can have. But it’s saddening to know that majority of us aren’t introduced to the fabulous world of books. If you are one of the non-book readers who feels you “don’t need no stinking books”, here are some reasons to start the habit…before you are left behind!

  1. Reading is an active mental process: Unlike sitting in front of the idiot box (TV), reading makes you use your brain. While reading you would be forced to reason out many things which are unfamiliar to you. In this process you would use the grey cells of your brain to think and become smarter.
  2. Reading improves your vocabulary: Remember in elementary school when you learned how to infer the meaning of one word by reading the context of the other words in the sentence? You get the same benefit from book reading. While reading books, especially challenging ones, you will find yourself exposed to many new words you wouldn’t be otherwise.
  3. Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world: How would you know about the life of people in Mexico if you don’t read about it? Reading gives you an insight into the diversity of ethnicity of people, their customs, their lifestyles etc. You become more aware about the different places and the code of conduct in those places.
  4. Improves concentration and focus: It requires you to focus on what you are reading for long periods. Unlike magazines, Internet posts or e-Mails that might contain small chunks of information, books tell the whole story. Since you must concentrate in order to read, like a muscle, you will get better at concentration.
  5. Builds self-esteem: The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction. Since you are so well read, people look to you for answers. Your feelings about yourself can only get better.
  6. Improves memory: Many studies show if you don’t use your memory, you lose it. Crossword puzzles are an example of a word game that staves off Alzheimer’s. Reading, although not a game, helps you stretch your memory muscles in a similar way. Reading requires remembering details, facts and figures and in literature, plot lines, themes and characters.
  7. Improves your discipline: Making time to read is something we all know we should do, but who schedules book reading time every day? Very few… That’s why adding book reading to your daily schedule and sticking to it, improves discipline.
  8. Improves creativity: Reading about diversity of life and exposing yourself to new ideas and more information helps to develop the creative side of the brain as it imbibes innovation into your thinking process.
  9. You always have something to talk about: Have you ever found yourself in an embarrassing situation where you didn’t have anything to talk about? Did you hate yourself for making a fool of yourself? Do you want a remedy for this? It’s simple. Start reading. Reading widens your horizon of information. You’ll always have something to talk about. You can discuss various plots in the novels you read, you can discuss the stuff you are learning in the business books you are reading as well. The possibilities of sharing become endless.
  10. Reduces boredom: One of the rules I have is if I am feeling bored, I will pick up a book and start reading. What I’ve found by sticking to this is that I become interested in the book’s subject and stop being bored. I mean, if you’re bored anyway, you might as well be reading a good book, right?

If you want to break the monotony of a lazy, uncreative and boring life, go and grab an interesting book. Turn the pages to explore a new world filled with information and ingenuity.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Publisher: May 1st 2006 by HarperCollins (first published 1988)

ISBN: 0061122416 (ISBN13: 9780061122415)

Copyright: 1993

Pages: 197

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: David had it in his pile of books. (I don’t make it to the library very often.)

Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library.

Synopsis: Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. "The Alchemist" is such a book. With over two million copies sold in English and twenty-one million copies worldwide, "The Alchemist" has established itself as a modern classic that will enchant and inspire readers for generations to come.

Review: This book had me on the first page. A boy looking for his destiny and then being led many different directions during the search. He experienced many things he would have missed out on had he settled for the sheep. The King inspired me to want to find what my ‘Heart Wants’. The twists and the turns his life took and the many opportunities he had to just stop and enjoy the fruits of his labors, interested me. He kept going, disappointment after disappointment, with the help of those around him. The idea of having a goal, like visiting Mecca, yet never going because what would you do then? I can identify with that. I guess I need to make a few more goals and then accomplishing one will not leave me goal less, it will leave me with more times to finish the others on the list.

I enjoyed this book, it’s short and can be read in an afternoon. Pick it up, you will be surprised what you learn about yourself. Life leads us many places, where listening to our heart is difficult. A moment of quiet, once in awhile, may be all we need to find what we really seek.

Author Biography: The Brazilian author PAULO COELHO was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. In 1986, PAULO COELHO did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage. In the following year, COELHO published The Alchemist. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time. Other titles include Brida (1990), The Valkyries (1992), By the river Piedra I sat Down and Wept (1994), the collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo entitle Maktub (1994), the compilation of texts Phrases (1995), The Fifth Mountain (1996), Manual of a Warrior of Light (1997), Veronika decides to die (1998), The Devil and Miss Prym (2000), the compilation of traditional tales in Stories for parents, children and grandchildren (2001), Eleven Minutes (2003), The Zahir (2005), The Witch of Portobello (2006) and Winner Stands Alone (to be released in 2009). During the months of March, April, May and June 2006, Paulo Coelho traveled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella in 1986. He also held surprise book signings - announced one day in advance - in some cities along the way, to have a chance to meet his readers. In ninety days of pilgrimage the author traveled around the globe and took the famous Transiberrian train that took him to Vladivostok. During this experience Paulo Coelho launched his blog Walking the Path - The Pilgrimage in order to share with his readers his impressions. Since this first blog Paulo Coelho has expanded his presence in the internet with his daily blogs in Wordpress, Myspace & Facebook. He is equally present in media sharing sites such as Youtube and Flickr, offering on a regular basis not only texts but also videos and pictures to his readers. From this intensive interest and use of the Internet sprang his bold new project: The Experimental Witch where he invites his readers to adapt to the screen his book The Witch of Portobello. Indeed Paulo Coelho is a firm believer of Internet as a new media and is the first Best-selling author to actively support online free distribution of his work.

Other Reviews:

All Readers

Accomplished Life

Washington Times

Friday, January 28, 2011

Switched - Amanda Hocking

Title: Switched

Author: Amanda Hocking

Publisher: July 12th 12th 2010 by CreateSpace (first published July 9th 2010).

ISBN: 1453688935

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 309

Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: First book I've read on the Kindle, I wanted to give it a try.

Where I Obtained the Book: From the Kindle store for 99 cents.

Synopsis: When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth.

With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

Review: This is my first book I read on the Kindle and I must admit I'm in love. The Kindle is easy to use and to read from. I picked this book since the author is from my hometown. Also it was only .99 cents on Amazon.

The writing had problems and a few typos, but I was interested in the story and it kept me reading. I wanted to know what happened and I still do. I now need to get the next one. She has successfully sucked me in to the life of her story. This is something many more renowned authors have yet to do. I'm hooked,* SPOILER ALERT*what will happen to Wendy and Fin? Will Rhys be okay in the real world? What about her mother? I want to know.

This is going to appeal to the teen and preteen out there. A girl who feels lost and doesn't really belongs discovers she was right. Wars and decisions hang on her choices. What teenager doesn't want to mean more then they feel they do. They may be loved by their families, but to be loved and needed my a whole kingdom? That is a dream come true, or it is?

Author Biography: I live in Minnesota, and I write young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly. The My Blood Approves series is about vampires in Minneapolis, and its available now. I also wrote the Trylle Trilogy, which is a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas.

My latest book is Hollowland - a zombie urban fantasy set in the dystopian near future. It's a bit more violent and gritter than my other books, but there is still romance. Mostly though, Remy kicks a lot of butt.

I also enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars legos, and I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand.

My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Alan Moore, and J. D. Salinger, but I don't write anything like them. I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I've seenSilence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. If I were trapped on a deserted island, the one thing I'd take with me would be a boat capable for taking me home.

I'm also the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin Aardvarks, and even though its even twice as cool as it sounds, we haven't had a practice in like two years, so I'm not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it's an awesome thing to tell people, so I'm sticking with it.

Other Reviews:

Midnight Glance

Bewitched Bookworm

Odyssey Reviews

Electrifying Reviews


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kindle review

David bought one of these for Christmas. I just couldn't imagine how this could be anything like reading a book. I watched him use it and listened to how he liked it and how much it was like a book yet better, but I still wasn't convinced. Well this last weekend we were discussing a local author and how we could get her books on the Kindle starting at 99cents. We bought Switched, by Amanda Hocking and I read it. I'm now officially in love with the Kindle.

1. Buying books takes only a second.
2. The print looks like your reading a book and you can even highlight passages.
3. It easy to hold, it only takes one hand and to turn the page you hit a button on either side.
4. Going forward and back is simple.
5. It remembers where you are in the book.
6. You can store hundreds of books and have them all at your finger tips.
7. Its not back lit so it doesn't bother your eyes like a computer screen can.
8. Its small and compact, no more piles of books around the house.

I must admit now I need to get one for myself. The only drawback is that we use the library for most of our books and now with the ease of buying and reading on the Kindle, I think it is going to cost me more money in the long run.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He Said/She Said: The Insider - Reece Hirsch

He Said/She Said is for when Lisa and I have both read the same book.

For more details on the book, The Insider, please see David’s previous post.

Title: The Insider

Author: Reece Hirsch

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 978-0425-23642-4

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 330

Quick Review: 3 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I enjoy Grisham and David won this on Goodreads, so I thought I would try it.

Review: I liked this book, very John Grishomish. I enjoy a good lawyer mystery, also this book was fast-paced and quick to read. I wanted Will to be a bit smarter and turn himself in, but then again I don't always know what’s best, and his decisions seemed to work, the whole running and hiding thing would have scared me to death. I do know to always ask for a lawyer if being questioned by the police for any reason, thank heaven so did he. Never speak to the police without your attorney, never. Innocent or guilty, keep your mouth shut. Your words can be turned to make you look guilty, even if you’re not. Use your rights; they are there to protect you.

A few stilted conversations and a bit too many/long descriptions on some things and places. It was a terrific debut novel, I imagine the next one will be much better and I look forward to reading it. Great mystery, it kept me wondering, but I did have a thought of who the bad guy was(the way he was introduced was more involved than the other side characters, but I didn't guess the end with its twists and turns). I love that Will took his life destiny into his own hands and didn't depend on anyone else to fight his battles. Sometimes in life you have no one to depend on but yourself. The story kept me interested to the last page. If you enjoy a good mystery, check out The Insider.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

House of Cards - David Ellis Dickerson

Title: House of Cards: The true story of how a 26-year-old fundamentalists virign learned about life, love, and sex by writing greeting cards
Author: David Ellis Dickerson
Publisher: Riverhead Books
ISBN: 978-1-59448-486-5
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 369

Quick Review: 2 (out of 5)

Why I Read It: The title

Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher through Goodreads

Synopsis: David Dickerson's dream is to write greeting cards-Valentine's Day, sympathy, and holiday cards. Greeting cards offer him the chance to indulge his gifted obsession with words, puns, and humor. But when he manages to win a coveted slot at Hallmark, he soon discovers his own limited life experience has left him unprepared for sentiments he writes about in his cards: As a fundamentalist-raised, twenty-seven-year-old virgin social misfit, he knows that his world is decidedly circumscribed.

In House of Cards, Dickerson tells of his time at Hallmark and how the experience and the cast of characters he meets there open his eyes to a much larger and emotionally rich world. In comic and sometimes cringe-inducing detail, he chronicles his bumpy journey to maturity, from straitlaced evangelical Christian to (relatively) modern single guy. As Dickerson navigates supervisors and colleagues who don't understand him, he learns what it takes to connect with this new lot of personalities and how to write funny lines that resonate with the heart of America. Along the way he confronts his past, his beliefs, his relationships, even his virginity, as he ponders whether his struggle to stay true to the life he knows is worth it.

Review: I am disappointed that I have to give this book such a low rating, because I was hoping for so much more. The thing that is most troublesome, Dickerson is an excellent writer. The story flowed without and chunky plot or dialogue, and it was very readable. In fact, if it had been fiction, I would have probably given it a four; I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a novel by this author even after this book. I also like the inside look at how a company is the best in the world at what it does (Hallmark Cards) actually works. I would have enjoyed a book that focused on them. That said the problems I had with this memoir are many.

First of all, why the hell is a 20 something writing a memoir? They haven’t lived life yet and consequently their insights come across as self-indulgent tripe. This book is no exception. The title says he is a fundamentalist Christian, but when the book starts he is long past that; so it is a little deceptive. Plus he is extremely dismissive of all conservative values, as in he was an idiot who was brainwashed as a child who finally saw the light and became more intelligent. So if you hold conservative values you are admitting you are not very intelligent, or at least not has smart as the author.

Then there is the virginity thing. He actually puts forward the Bill Clinton defense with a straight face. I voted for the man twice but even I can’t do that, and I have never seen anyone else do it until now. The Bill Clinton defense? That is claiming not to have sexual relations, you are just getting blow jobs. That is an example of the nuanced intelligence you are supposed to get. His girlfriend of six years had been living apart from him while attending grad school up north; and she is extremely long suffering. He rationalized the only way he bring himself closer to her would be to receive a handjob from a prostitute. This is presented as an enlightened growth moment.

Then we get to see him at work, both at his first job and then at Hallmark. He tells story after story about his work experience but never seems to see it the way the rest of us do. It reminded me of one of my old jobs. We were teamed up with partners and one guy among us had been through 5 partners in quick succession, always due to interpersonal problems that required an immediate transfer. He ended up in my region paired up with a very successful and genuinely nice guy. Inevitably they had problems which called for an intervention wherein this young man made the statement about his latest partner; “You have the same problem as my last five companions.” He never once thought “Is it me?”

All of Dickerson’s work stories follow this pattern. His boss seems to get frustrated for no reason and calls him on the carpet. Instead of looking to change his behavior, or at least realize that he was wrong, he instead vilifies the complainer. They just don’t get him, and he is awesome. The system is screwed up, not him. This is a company who through many years of trial and error has made themselves the best in the world at what they do, and they are the ones who just don’t get it. His way is better because he is him.

At one point there is a little bit of insight. He watches himself on a video made on his 30th birthday and notices that he may have a few social/interpersonal problems. Instead of exploring that and actually gaining some real insight into his life, he soon dismisses it as trivial and moves on. All he needs to do is shave his head and get some colored shirts. Trust me, to quote Scott Adams, that is like rotating the tires to fix a flat.

So at the end I am frustrated. You can clearly see Dickerson’s talent as a writer, he is very good. I also loved the insights to how Hallmark achieves its success. I think at the end I just found the author to self-indulgent and to immature. Liked I began, if he switches to fiction I will be right there, but this book just wasn’t for me.

Author Biography: I’m a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR’s “This American Life” and at shows around the city. My book, House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions, was published in October 2009 by Riverhead. For fun, I also do a regular video blog on YouTube called “Greeting Card Emergency.” My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans.

By the way, in my earliest appearances on This American Life, Ira Glass mentions a book in progress called “How to Love God Without Being a Jerk.” If that’s how you found me, you should know that the “How to Love God” book itself isn’t in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I’m focusing on humorous memoir).

Other Reviews:
Wall Street Journal


Monday, January 24, 2011

Evil Plans, Having fun on the road to world domination - Hugh MacLeod

Author: Hugh MacLeod
Publishers: February 17th 2011 by Portfolio Hardcover
ISBN: 1591843847 (ISBN13: 9781591843849)
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 192
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why did I read it: I won this book on Goodreads.
Where was book Obtained: It was sent by the publisher.
Synopsis: "It has never been easier to make a great living doing what you love. But to make it happen, first you need an EVIL PLAN. Everybody needs to get away from lousy bosses, from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate, and ACTUALLY start doing something they love, something that matters. Life is short." -Hugh MacLeod
Freud once said that in order to be truly happy people need two things: the capacity to work and the capacity to love. Evil Plans is about being able to do both at the same time. The sometimes unfortunate side effect is that others will hate you for it. MacLeod's insights are brash, wise, and often funny.
Review: I liked it. I need an evil plan, I need to start thinking about what I can do to make a difference in life and in my life especially. What can I give-away and back. Wakers, I want to be one. Haters, I want to have some of those(I think I may already(how exciting).) Life is for the living and taking a risk has never been easy for me, but I need to do what I need to do. I've written four books and only me and a close friend have read them. My friend wants me to do more then just write them and maybe now I will. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, but that is where the fun lies. How boring it would be, who would want to touch it, read it, look at it, eat it, if it were absolutely perfect? No one. I'm not perfect and neither will anything I produce. My blog, my kids, my cooking, my writing, and me, all works in progress. Like the book, 'Think Like a Black-Belt' says, "I can just try to be better today then I was yesterday."
This is a fun book and educational at the same time. I hope my senior in HS will read it next, I think he's creative at heart and working 9-5 may kill him. He's a thinker and a performer but working for someone else will be a challenge. I'm easily bored(ADHD maybe?) and so being a substitute teacher keeps that at bay, but it also limits my exposure to the students(which I love.) I think I may be settling because it is comfortable right now, but I really don't want to look back and wonder why I didn't step out of my comfort zone when I had the chance. Change is going to happen whether I like it or not, I may as well get started now.
Read this book and think about what you can do. The world is a changin', can you keep up?

Author Biography: Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist and professional blogger known for his ideas about how Web 2.0 affects marketing. After a decade of working as an advertising copywriter, MacLeod started blogging at in 2001, publishing cartoons that he drew on the backs of business cards in his spare time. He lives in Alpine, Texas.
Other Reviews:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Savages - Don Winslow

Title: Savages

Author: Don Winslow

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781439183366

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 302

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: Sarah Weinman listed it as her crime novel of the year.

Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library.

Synopsis: In Don Winslow's New York Times bestseller Savages two young marijuana dealers refuse to back down after they are blackmailed by a Mexican cartel.

Review: It is so hard to get the dialogue driven novel right, yet Don Winslow has nailed it perfectly with Savages. Two young pot dealers in Laguna beach, a humanitarian and an ex- Navy Seal, have been doing quite for themselves bringing in the money but are beginning to get bored. The Mexican drug business is fracturing and the cartels are looking for new markets in Southern California. So they send a delightful little video to our two heroes showing them the decapitation of the last competitors who didn’t want to work with them. The message is clear, we are your new boss.

But our guys do not want to deal and just tell them no, but you can have the business; we’re leaving. This is a sign of disrespect so the cartel takes their shared girlfriend hostage and gives them the choice of 20 million now, or three years of service.

What is ensues is an action packed story of revenge and back stabbing that brings the whole enterprise to its knees. Like a fine sports car, this novel gets into high gear right from the start and smoothly just speeds along all the way to end. The action never ends and yet the ride is so smooth the 300 plus pages just fly by. It literally only took a couple of hours to read without any feeling of being rushed.

If the pacing of the novel wasn’t enough, you can peel this book like an onion and get the biting wit that Winslow has used throughout. The analysis of their society is so spot on, but at the same time sparse, you will find yourself wanting to read the book again just to catch it all. Under that, a stylized world that you just want to admire like a work of art. Savages is the crime/drug novel at its best.

Author Biography: Don Winslow was born in New York City but raised in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. At various times an actor, director, movie theater manager, safari guide and private investigator, Don has done many things on his way to being a novelist.

Don lives on an old ranch in the San Diego area with his wife, Jean, and son, Thomas.

Other Reviews:

New York Times

The Independent

LA Times

FYI: Oliver Stone is supposedly adapting it for the big screen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Madame Tussaud - Michelle Moran

Publishers: February 15th 2011 by Crown Publishing Group
ISBN: 0307588653 (ISBN13: 9780307588654)
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 464
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why did I read it: I won this book on Goodreads.
Where was book Obtained: It was sent by the publisher.
Synopsis: In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.
Review: History, murder, friendships sold for nothing, love, death, wax, the guillotine, high fashion, corruption, deceit, despair, loss and more. This book has it. The story constructed around the history of the French Revolution kept me reading late into the night. I wanted to know what happened to Marie and to her family. Would she lose Henri forever? Would the salon be lost and with it all her work? Would she be captured and tried as a Royalist? Marie and her family played both sides to survive, she assisted the Kings family and she made the wax death masks for the Revolutionists. Her mother called them Survivalists, but Marie worried that by tutoring a royal and being friends with the other side, her family would suffer. Fear for her life and the lives of those she loved kept her working, but would she be able to keep playing both sides undetected? Would they capture her and her family, and if they did what would happen to them?
The characters in this book keep you tied to the story, will they live, will they die. You really care about each one and worry for them. Marie is a strong independent woman who wants to be known for her art, but she finds that there is more to life then fame and fortune. Love is found and lost in a moment of indecision where death is around every corner. Her wax museum kept up with the news and produced scenes for the people to see of the weekly happenings (early TV news). Writers wrote and spoke the news filling the French with their sensationalistic words and lies. Truth didn't sell newspapers or make a writer famous, but the better the lies the more they sold. Isn't that the way it is with life now?
If you love historical/fiction you will enjoy this book. This book is well written and fast to read. I now wish we hadn't skipped Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum when we were in London.

Author Biography: Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.
Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband.
Other Reviews:

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Man From Beijing - Henning Mankell

Title: The Man From Beijing
Author: Henning Mankell
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 9780307271860
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 367

Quick Review: 4 (out of 5)

Why I Read It: Love Henning Mankell and (I believe) I have read all of his translated work.

Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library

Synopsis: In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene. Judge Birgitta Roslin has particular reason to be shocked: her grandparents, the Andréns, are among the victims. The police insist that only a lunatic could have committed the murders. But when Birgitta discovers the diary of another Andrén—a gang master on the American transcontinental railway in the nineteenth century—that describes the cruel treatment of Chinese slave-workers, she is determined to uncover what she suspects is a more complicated truth.

The investigation leads to modern-day Beijing and its highest echelons of power, to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. But the narrative also takes us back 150 years, into a history that will ensnare Birgitta as she draws ever closer to solving the Hesjövallen murders.

Review: When I was in my early twenties living a few hours north of my hometown, I walked past a newsstand and saw an acquaintance from my youth pictured on the front page of most of the newspapers. He was a few years older than me, but I still knew him fairly well. Well that thing does not happen everyday so I bought one of the papers and began reading. It turns out he had a pedophilic relationship with a boy and then when confronted he beat the boy and his family to death with a bat.

I bring this up because that is similar to how The Man from Beijing begins. In a remote northern Swedish town a majority of the residents, 19 in total, have been murdered in their homes. An older judge sees the story in the paper and realizes she has a connection to one of the Elderly couples. Being inquisitive, and having to take forced time off from work for medical reasons, she begins a private investigation. From the remote winter climes of modern Sweden our story goes back 150 years to China and the American West, and then jumps forward to modern China and Mozambique. A mystery that spans time and the globe, but still remains a story based in the common emotions found in all of us.

Henning Mankell is the master of the police procedural, the breaking down the crime to its barest elements and slowly putting together the puzzle to a satisfactory conclusion. The heart of the story is found in greed, power, and man’s cruelty to man. Layer on revenge and an underlying political message of the dangers of colonialism, you have a fantastic story that is like an onion, layers of intrigue to be peeled gently lest you miss something.

If you have never read his Wallander series and are looking for a place to jump in the world of Mankell, you cannot go wrong with The Man from Beijing.

Author Biography: Henning Mankell is an internationally known Swedish crime writer, children's author and playwright. He is best known for his literary character Kurt Wallander. Mankell splits his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He is married to Eva Bergman, Swedish director and daughter of Ingmar Bergman.

Other Reviews:
LA Times
New York Times
Wall Street Journal

FYI: Book Trailer

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TStevens top Non-fiction for 2010

Even more choices for you. I tried to stick with only five books that were also published in 2010, but I added a bonus for you at the end (it was published 2009). My favorite non-fiction books for 2010 in no particular order

In the Neighborhood: The search for community on an American street, one sleepover at a time. By Peter Lovenheim

The author came home to his quiet street to find the police at a neighbor’s. It turns out that the husband murdered the wife and than killed himself, all the while leaving the kids upstairs. He soon realized he didn’t know his neighbors, any of them, at all. So he began a project to get to know them, mostly by having a sleepover. You will slowly realize how little you know your neighbors when you read this book, and how much you should need them.

The Invisible Gorilla and other ways our intuitions deceive us. By Chris Chabris and Dan Simons.

Our mind deceives us all the time; it is the only way we can cope with all the stimuli that surrounds us. Go watch this short video on YouTube to understand exactly what they are talking about.

Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void. By Mary Roach.

Once again Mary tackles a science topic by asking all the questions we want to ask, but most of us are to embarrassed to actually do it. How do you go to the bathroom in space? What about showers? Sex? And all is done with a good sense of humor.

As Good As Gold. By Kathryn Bertine.

How hard is it to get on the Olympic team? What about the “easy” sports. Well Kathryn was already a national caliber athlete (unlike the couch potatoes most of us are), and through funding from ESPN she gives it here best shot. A great motivator and humbler all rolled into one.

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the meaning of things. By Randy Frost and Gail Steketee.

Maybe it’s only me, but hoarding is endlessly fascinating and this book delves into the roots of the problem with some compelling examples. It is about the relationship with stuff, not the actual stuff that matters. That is why throwing out the junk won’t solve the problem.

Born to Run: A hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen. By Christopher McDougall

If you have ever run, wanted to run, or even tried to run this book can change your life. It is the best treatise on the minimalist movement I have read, plus you get a whole side story on a small tribe of Indians from the Copper Canyon area of Mexico who are among the best distance runners ever (by distance I am talking 50 plus miles at a time)

Lisa picks her top 5, non-fiction of 2010.

Best Non-Fiction I read in 2010.

These are not in order, they are my five favorites.
It was hard enough to pick five.
They are each linked to my review.

1. The Immortal Life of Henreitta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unbearable Lightness - Portia de Rossi

Title: Unbearable Lightness

Author: Portia de Rossi

Publisher: November 2nd 2010 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group

ISBN: 1439177805 (ISBN13: 9781439177808)

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 272

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)

Why I Read It: I saw it on David’s pile of books, so I picked it up to read the back.

Where I Obtained the Book: At my local library.

Synopsis: Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn't enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder.

From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women's health issues.

In this remarkable and beautifully written work, Portia shines a bright light on a dark subject. A crucial book for all those who might sometimes feel at war with themselves or their bodies, Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit

Review: I was surprised by this book, I picked it up to hate it read the back and then couldn’t put it down. I loved it. What a struggle she went through, I cannot even begin to think some of the things she thought. Weighing food, keeping track of every bite, eating less then 300 calories a day, obsessing that someone would notice she never ate, worried her favorite bowls(invisible measuring tools she used) would go missing and still exercising like a demon(several hours in one day). The thinking she did about food is scary. I never think about food like that, there isn't enough time in the day. She discovered that an had to hire an assistant so she could keep the obsession and still work. Her life was preoccupied with not eating, but always thinking about food. Thinking about all the food she couldn’t eat and all the things she wanted to eat, it was enough to drive anyone crazy. She would starve herself and then binge and purge. She went from 87-165 pounds during her struggle, which will never truly be over.

I enjoyed the last bit of the book about eating like a normal person and keeping her weight the way she wanted it. I agree with that, don't obsess and feel better about everything. Life will not always be easy, but making the best of it is what makes it worth living. This is an amazing book. I thank her for letting us see her craziness and being honest(scary honest) about what she went through. It makes me feel good knowing that others have problems and being perfect isn't possible, even for Hollywood.

Author Biography: She was born Amanda Lee Rogers in Horsham, Victoria, Australia the daughter of Margaret, a medical receptionist, and Barry Rogers. She was raised in Grovedale, a suburb of Geelong. As a child, she modeled for print and TV commercials. She adopted the name Portia de Rossi at the age of 15, stating in 2005 that she had intended to reinvent herself, using the given name of Portia, a character from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and an Italian last name. She studied at Geelong Grammar School and Melbourne Girls Grammar School, then the University of Melbourne Law School, but left before finishing the course to pursue an acting career.

Other Reviews:

Associated Content

LA Times

Leigh Peeple

Reeders Read

Disclaimer for all reviews sent by the publisher, publicist or author for review.