Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Mail Call

Several books arrived this past week. I already finished It's a Wonderful Life for the Holiday Reading Challenge and I'm working on A Christmas Carol.

1. Circle Earth by Ross Anthony

2. Zen Repair and the Art of Riding Chili by Ross Anthony

3. It’s a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book by Stephen Cox

4. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

5. The Art of Meaningful Living by Christopher F. Brown

6. A Christmas Carol Special Edition by Charles Dickens, edited by Stephen Skelton

7. The Basic Book of Digital Photography by Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Reading Challenge -- It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book

By Stephen Cox

From the book jacket:

"As full as a Christmas stocking, It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book takes you behind the snowy scenes of Frank Capra's magical film starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore to make the story come alive in a new way. The film premiered in December 1946 and was nominated for five Academy Awards. Today, it sparkles as one of Hollywood's most brilliant ornaments, a treasured gift for generations of movie lovers to eagerly unwrap each year. Indeed, it has become as much a part of the holiday season as the man in the red suit himself."

This book is amazing! I love watching this movie every year and I found out so much information from reading "It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book!"

For example, I was surprised to find out Frank Capra didn't originally plan for it to be a Christmas movie. It was slated to hit the theaters at the end of January, but it was pushed forward at the last minute.

The book also delved behind the scenes and included short interviews with some of the actors and actresses. The author also talked about others who were considered for the various parts in the movie.

Plus, there are lots and lots of photos!

Apparently, when the movie first appeared, there were mixed reactions from the critics ... and there still are today. Most people either love it or hate it. Those who don't like the movie tend to think it's too cheesy or hokey.

Well, OK, but isn't that the point of holiday films? Aren't they meant to make us feel good and reinforce our beliefs in the good of mankind? If that's hokey, I'll take it over the doom and gloom any day.

I love Christmas movies and books -- even the cheesy ones. So, I'll keep watching and reading!

Thanks, Turner Publishing, for the opportunity to add this cheesy, hokey book to my shelf! I, for one, love the movie and I really liked this book!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins

I decided to gear my answers to this week's Friday Fill-In around the Thanksgiving holiday. We had a wonderful day and it was very pleasant and relaxing. But we all ate too much, yet the 'fridge is crammed full of leftovers we will pick at for days.

So, I hope you enjoy my answers and they bring back memories of holidays past and present! we go!

1. Wait! Wait, don't forget to send some of those leftovers home with visiting family.

2. Another plate of leftovers followed at once by a healthy dose of antacid.

3. The trouble is I ate way too much yesterday and now I'm feeling tired today.

4. My daughter didn't join us for Thanksgiving because she is many miles away.

5. With a faint pop the one thing everyone dreads happened ... Aunt Sadie actually exploded from eating all that food.

6. Opening the refrigerator this morning felt shadowy and ominous.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating leftovers, tomorrow my plans include eating leftovers and Sunday, I want to throw out the rest of the leftovers!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To one and all

Wishing all my readers a wonderful day full of blessings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Reading Challenge: Christmas Jars

by Jason F. Wright

From the back of the book:
"Hope Jensen is a young, single woman and an aspiring newspaper writer, and when she receives a much-needed but anonymous Christmas gift, she's determined to find her benefactor."

(Yay! I finished my first book for the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge.)

I bought this book last Christmas and hadn't gotten around to reading it. Yesterday, I decided to take a little break and picked it up thinking I'd start reading a few pages. Well, I never got back up until I finished it!

What a fun holiday read! The main character loses her adopted mother just prior to Christmas, then her home is robbed and trashed. As the police are investigating, a jar of money shows up on her doorstep. No one knows where it came from. So she sets out on a personal mission to find out where it came from.

The twist is -- she hides the fact that she's a reporter and she's planning to use what she finds in a story to boost her career. But that jar leads her on an adventure that changes her outlook on life. She meets wonderful people who all have their own stories to tell.

I just loved this little book. It's a quick, easy read that forces you to take a little time off from the hustle and bustle of the season and relax. This book would be a wonderful stocking stuffer for the reader(s) in your life or for that shy new person at the office you have been trying to make feel more at home. Give it to your teenage daughter, your elderly grandmother, your cranky next door neighbor ... the possibilities are endless. I can't imagine anyone not liking this book.

Now for the kicker! I googled "Christmas Jars" to get a picture of the cover and came across Jason Wright's Web site! You would not believe what I found there!

Jason has written a couple sequels to the book and he has this whole network of Christmas jar givers across the U.S. There's a map that shows where jars have showed up and pages of testimonials from folks who have received their very own jars. It's great fun! You just have to check it out!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Jackson

By T.P. Jones

From the book jacket:

“On the banks of the Mississippi in an Iowa city, the Jackson Meatpacking Company and its two thousand employees are in trouble. Cutthroat competition has driven the company to the brink of bankruptcy. Jackson’s mayor, a packinghouse worker himself, proposes an employee buyout. However, the idea is quickly stolen from him by the company’s CEO, who will do anything to save the packinghouse, even if it means putting his employees’ life savings at risk.”

Having grown up in the upper Midwest myself, I was able to clearly relate to the setting of this novel. Although it was a different type of factory life in the town where I lived, it was still one of the main ways people made a living there. Factories that produced a particular product everyone needed, the unions that grabbed on for dear life at every opportunity, the stress as the recession of the 1970s threatened closure of the very jobs that people depended on.

To top it off, the book is based around a main character who is a journalist hired to investigate one such factory and get to the bottom of rumors of its potential closing.

I enjoy reading books where the main character is a journalist. Because that’s what my main profession is, I like to compare how authors portray journalists and reporters against what it’s like in “real life.”

T.P. Jones did a pretty good job of making the book believable. He spent quite a bit of time researching his subject matter before attempting to write the novel and it definitely shows. He knows what he’s talking about and as a reader and a reporter, I appreciate that.

This book was sent to me by Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Mail Call

Just two books to report this week!

1. True Blue by David Baldacci.
I am such a fan of this author, so I was thrilled to win a copy of his book!

2. Samson's Walls by Jud Nirenberg
This is a bound publisher's copy of the book sent to me for review by Carol Fass Publicity.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: College Girl

By Patricia Weitz

From the back of the book:

“College senior Natalie Bloom is beautiful and ambitious, but also painfully insecure when it comes to sex. At twenty, she’s still a virgin, never even having had a boyfriend. At school, Natalie hides out most weekends in the library – until she meets Patrick, her fantasy (she thinks) of a cultured, intellectual Prince Charming.”

This book took me totally by surprise. I became so engrossed in it I couldn’t put it down and finished it in three sittings over the course of about 24 hours.

That’s unusual. I’m typically so busy, I have to force myself to stop and take some time to relax.

Not so once I started “College Girl.” It became quite the opposite and I have notes staring at me waiting for the newspaper article I need to write by the end of the weekend!

“College Girl” is a debut novel by Patricia Weitz and she’s quite the writer. She brings to life on the pages a cast of characters who will get into your heart in one way or another.

Natalie, the main character, is such a sad soul, yet she has such potential. I rooted for her from the first page and waited and watched as she came into her own.

I couldn’t help but despise her so-called boyfriend. He was obviously using her and I wished I could get my hands around his throat. He is such a cad – in the true sense of the word.

I also wished I could talk to Natalie face to face and convince her that she is a lovely girl and not to be so hard on herself.

This is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year and it definitely deserves my rare “5 books” rating. I hope Patricia Weitz will continue to write as I will be watching for more books by this innovative new author.

And thanks to Penguin Group for offering me the opportunity to review this novel. I’m certainly glad I read it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Nibble & Kuhn

By David Schmahmann

From the back of the book:

“Two likeable newcomers learn the ropes of corporate law at Nibble & Kuhn – and fall in love – just as that most proper of Boston’s venerable firms comically tries to “rebrand” itself for the Google era. Pompous and arbitrary, the ruling junta of partners at N&K saddles Derek Dover with a high visibility lawsuit just weeks before trial. The diligent young attorney arranges things so that Maria Parma, his sassy aristocratic girl friend, also gets named to the case.”

Derek and Maria are in love. However, the cards are stacked against them. First, the partners of the firm don’t want any fraternizing with fellow employees. And second, Maria is engaged to be married … to someone else.

Throughout the book, I found myself rooting for this young couple. I really wanted them to find some way to be together.

They are both such likeable characters, especially Derek who is just a polite, pleasant fellow. He truly adores Maria and wants nothing more than to be with her always.

As for Maria, she’s a sweet girl who is trapped into a traditional life. She still lives with her parents and her forthcoming marriage borders on “arranged.”

I really liked the way this book was written. I’m not a fan of long, drawn-out “court” novels. I prefer to read the story behind the scenes of the legal battle (rather than the play-by-play court scenes) and that’s exactly how this book is written.

The author does keep the reader up-to-date on how the case is coming along, but the focus is on the people in the story. For example, there’s the big shot law partner who seems to be out to get Derek. He’s rude and you can’t help but hate the man, which I’m sure is what the author wants you to feel toward him.

Then, there is the woman hired to organize the offices and the staff. She’s a flat out kook and Derek’s interactions with her are, at times, quite humorous as he goes out of his way to give her grief while at the same time telling her he’s not working against her.

Plus, to top it off, Derek has an awesome secretary, an older woman who has been with the firm for years and treats him almost like the son she never had. She’s a fabulous character and I wonder if there is someone in the author’s life he modeled her after.

I liked this book a lot and I hope to have the opportunity to read more from this author in the future.

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge

Nely over at All About {n} is hosting a reading challenge for this holiday season. This should be lots of fun and not too difficult, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Here are the rules:

1- Challenge will start Friday, November 20 and will end Thursday, December 31.

2- You can read anywhere from 1 to 5 books for the challenge and, of course, if you're like me, you are more than welcome to surpass that number.

3- And now, here's the clincher... they must be holiday related books. That's right, the holiday doesn't really matter, but it would be more "jolly" if your choices were Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.

4- The size of the book does not matter, nor does the genre. It is also okay for the book to overlap with other challenges. The only thing I ask is that they are not children's books. YA is okay. And so are re-reads. I for one tend to read the same books every Christmas - they are tradition.

5- To sign up - leave a link back to your challenge post. There will also be a post for review links as well as one for challenge wrap-ups.

6- And.... there will be goodies. That's right, we'll call them presents. At the end of every week that the challenge is running I will choose one winner from the review links and I will allow them to pick a book of their choosing (of course, I will provide a list). Meaning the more books you read, review and link up, the more chances you have at winning a "present".

So, if you're interesting in joining the fun, stop by Nely's blog and check it out.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Mail Call

The UPS driver has started giving me a hard time about getting so many packages! The other day, he said, “This is becoming one of my regular stops!” I said, “Well, too bad this box is for my son, not me!”

Too funny.

Here’s my list for the past month. And they didn’t all come UPS; most were regular mail. So, take that, UPS driver!

1. College Girl by Patricia Weitz

2. The Black Minute by Christopher Valen

3. The Michael Jackson Tapes by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5. Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty

6. Thirsty by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

7. Driven to Kill: Vehicles as Weapons by J. Peter Rothe

8. Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

9. The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer

10. Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story behind the Songs by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Jo-Ann Geffen

In my e-mail box: Just My Luck by Gail Koger, Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa