Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Friday, it's time to hop!!

Book Blogger Hop
Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: Highlight one book you have received this week (for review, from the library, purchased at the store, etc.) that you can't wait to dig into. Hmmmm!! I just came back from vacation, and I have slacked on my reading. But before I went away I received You Don't Sweat Much for a fat girl by Celia Rivenbark and Coming up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry. Today, I was browsing my local Borders (before it closes *sniff* *sniff*). I picked up a book by the guy who runs ProBlogger and Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis. As much as I want to know about the history of the comic strip Peanuts, I have to go with ....

Tell the truth, don't you just want to dive right in? The woman on that cover sure looks relaxed. It's a collection of essays, and I haven't read a book like that in a while.

Here are some blogs I came across:
Read It, Read It, Loved It
The Midnight Bookworm
A Year of Actually Reading My Own Books

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My take on: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives: A NovelMy first thoughts when I saw the cover for The Secret Lives of the Four Lives by Lola Shoneyin, was what a beautiful cover. Shoneyin paints an ugly and sometimes graphic portrait of a polygamist family in Nigeria.  

The educated Bolanle is running from her past and makes a choice to marry Baba Segi, who already has three wives and is twice her age. I know every country and culture has its own views on polygamy, but why would an educated woman make this choice? It’s a choice that her mother and sister are against. It’s like Bolanle felt she couldn’t do better. That she didn’t deserve better.

Life in Baba Segi’s home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The three wives have their own bond. Two of them – Iya Segi and Iya Femi – are especially close. Iya Tope, the second wife, almost seemed like a ghost to me. She wants to be friendly with Bolanle and even accepts her offer to teach Iya Tope how to read, but when push comes to shove she disappears. She has no voice in the house. When the opportunities come to defend Bolanle, Iya Tope just shuts down. Nothing comes out of her mouth.

Iya Segi and Iya Femi resent Bolanle not just because they have to share Baba Segi even more, but because she represents what they could have been. They thumb their noses at the educated B olanle. In her youth, Iya Segi didn’t even want to get married. She was saving money for a life of her own, but those dreams were dashed by her mother. Iya Femi’s parents died before she could finish her education. Iya Femi was then forced into a life of servitude and torture by her own grandmother before she broke free.  Iya Femi and Iya Segi band together to try and break Bolanle’s spirit. It’s cruel the things they do.  Forcing the children to ignore her, accusing her of trying to kill Baba Segi, and other forms of emotional abuse.

There is an even deeper bond that the three older wives share. They have been hiding a big secret from Baba Segi. I won’t say what it is, but they are leading to believe he is a greater man than he is. Baba Segi is just an awful man. His manhood is linked to how many children he can sire.

The story is told from several points of view, making you feel sorry for Bolanle most of all. You understand why Iya Segi and Iya Femi have become so hardened. But why not try to break the cycle why continue to be cruel? It's not the easiest story to get through because tough subjects, including rape, are tackled. But it is a deeply engrossing read.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours. For more information on author Lola Shoneyin visit I'm currently on vacation, normal posting will resume next Monday.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My take on: Journey Across the Four Seas

Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home
“The decision was the toughest I’d ever faced. The choice was between my husband and my son. If I moved to Taiwan, I could save one but ruin the other. … My only consolation was that I was abandoning him to a good home. Thus, with a heavy heart I left Patrick behind and flew with my four other children to Taipei. It was the summer of 1963.” Pg. 263.

How much would you sacrifice for your children? Most people would do everything. But would you do it at the expense of breaking up your family.  In Journey Across the Four Seas by Veronica Li, the question of how much you’re willing to do for your children is at the heart of the book. The author’s mother Li-Shing-Ying (Flora) was a cut above the rest.

In 1920s Hong Kong, Flora’s family is struggling in the aftermath of her father’s death.  Education for girls is considered taboo. It’s better to gain knowledge from the older women in the family. They know things, and can warn you of danger ahead. It’s knowledge that boys aren’t privy to.

“Even in a society where men are supreme, the advantages of being a girl, especially the only girl, outweighed the disadvantages. For one, Mother loved me the most. … A daughter has another advantage – access to information. While my brothers walked around in a fog, I always had an older woman to light my way.”

I think this something that every woman can relate. Think of the times you sit around the kitchen table with your mother,  grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. You have a language to yourself that men just don’t understand.  Flora was also more aware of the family’s struggles than her brothers. Her mother pawned her jewelry to keep the family afloat.

Something that was a little foreign to me was Flora’s mother. Her reactions to some things are something my U.S.-born brain can’t relate to. Flora’s tears were considered bad luck, and her mother thought she brought bad luck to the family. It’s a totally different generation and culture, so it’s hard for me to grasp why a mother would blame a child for a family tragedy.

Against all odds, Flora was able to continue her education all the way to Hong Kong University – a very prestigious school. While reading the book, you get the sense that education is a big source of pride – not just for the parents but for the entire family. If you don’t do well, it’s not just your failure it’s the extended family as well.

Marrying an unstable husband and having four of her five in five years would stress anyone, but Flora still wanted her children to have the best education possible. Which is why leaving Patrick behind was such a tough choice. That drive for a top education didn’t stop when the family moved to the U.S.

The story is told to Veronica over series of tapes, each chapter is tape in Flora’s very rich life. Reading this, I think you learn not to take things for granted. The older generations went through a lot to get us where we are, something we often forget. 

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author Veronica Li in exchange for an honest review. Also, I'm currently on vacation. Outside of scheduled reviews my postings will be infrequent. Normal posting will resume a week from Monday. Thanks!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's Monday, .... what's in my suitcase?

Normally on Monday I discuss the covers of books I'm reading. But I'm about to go on vacation. So how about what I'm going to pack. Last week, I was conflicted about what to take. But I have finally come to a decision.

Only Mine (Hqn)  The Secret Lives of the Four Wives: A Novel The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer 
By J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel 
Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex A Stolen Life: A Memoir

Only Mine by Susan Mallery, The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus, Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, Journey Across the Four Seas by Veronica Li, Sugar in my Bowl by Erica Jong and A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard. Like clothes, when I go on vacation I like to have more than I need.

What I expect to finish: Only Mine, The Secret Lives of the Four Wives,  Journey Across the Four Seas, and A Stolen Life. If at all possible I want to finish Journey Across the Four Seas before I get on the plane because I'm scheduled to post a review on Friday. If I don't, well you know what I'll be reading during the flight.

A Stolen Life wasn't on my original list, but I saw her interview with Diane Sawyer. I thought I have to read this book NOW!! I was just awestruck how a person could be so articulate and strong after what she went through. When the time comes, I'm not sure I could review it the same way I would another book. She didn't write the book for entertainment. I'm more likely to just give my thoughts on the book.

Hopefully I made some good choices!! How do you guys pick what to take on vacation?

Friday, July 15, 2011

My take on: Trance of Insignificance

Trance of Insignificance, A Novel"Once again, was God giving her a sign? Where Noah couldn't comprehend the world Jules was from, Jack had lived it. Jack knew all about simple, hard-working people stuck in a cycle of emotional abuse and self-neglect. Families so buried in generations of the 'way things are,' that just like Noah's ivy league and caviar coated reality, they are blinded to life in any other form. Could she live a life always wanting to erase the dysfunction of where she came from? Or did she need to be with someone who could share her pain?" Pg. 85-86

Do you go with what is familiar to you? Or do you try a new path? In Trance of Insignificance by Jennifer Rainville, Jules Duvil is at a crossroads in her personal life. Does she continue her relationship and marriage with clean-cut Noah or give into to Jack -- the man who has hurt more than once.

Jules has worked her way out of her working class neighborhood in Boston, and made her way to New York. She followed her dream of becoming a reporter, but the road to that dream was full of obstacles. The main obstacle being Jack. Jules starts at the bottom rung of the newsroom, while Jack is the handsome station anchor. Some magnetic force draws them together, but it's a mistake from the start. Jack is all about Jack.

Chances to advance her career are met with resistance -- and downright sabotage by Jack. Jules has a chance to scoop the New York market on a big political story. She seeks Jack's advice on how to break it. He plays the supportive boyfriend, offering suggestions even. But the next day uses the exclusive for his network. Does he love her? I think not. If someone truly loves you, they wouldn't try to sabotage your career. Nothing about their relationship screamed love. It was more destructive than anything. He struggles with alcohol and monogamy. His character just screamed, "JERK!"

Years pass before Jack and Jules meet again. She has moved on from a professional and personal standpoint. Her novel is about to released, and she has supportive circle of friends. Jack is married with a kid. As much as Jules doesn't want to get sucked back in, she does. I'm thinking, "Why? Why?" Perhaps it's because every failed relationship since traces back to Jack. The novel opens with Jules and Noah breaking up, but they find their back to each other. They get married, but reading it you can tell there is something missing. Noah seems very boring, no spark to him. He's an Ivy League grad, he goes to work, goes to the Hamptions and that's about it. While being a bit of a jerk, Jack has something over Noah. He truly understands how far Jules has come from the rough streets of Boston.

Jules wants to be better than her dysfunctional upbringing. A mother who blames Jules for the problems in her life. A mother who tells lies to fit her version of the truth. An absentee father and an erratic brother are also what Jules has to deal with. Jack understood that, but can Noah? But like her mother, Jack also tells lies to fit his version of the truth.

Life imitated art with this one. Author Jennifer Rainville was once a reporter. A lot of her professional experiences are reflected in the book. If there is one caveat, it's the timeline. I used to books with a linear timeline, but this one jumps back and forth. Sometimes it was little hard to keep track. The ending was a mix of sadness and hope for Jules' future. There are a lot things people can relate to in this book. Professionally, who hasn't gone through the trials and tribulations of being the new kid on the block? At least once in your life, you will wonder about the one that got away. Has that person changed enough for you? Have you changed? What kind of future can you have?  Is it worth it to try again with that person? Give this one a read.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from author Jennifer Rainville in exchange for an honest review.

Q&A with Jennifer Rainville

Here are a few questions I had for Jennifer Rainville author of Trance of Insignificance

Q: As a former reporter and political aide, you share a lot of traits with Jules. How much did you model Jules after yourself?
A: The novel was definitely inspired by my professional experiences in both TV news and politics, but Jules, and the circumstances she finds herself in, was invented. I think many novelists would say that real life often serves as the raw material, which is then mixed with a healthy dose of imagination!  

Q: In the book reporters have the power to tell the story as they see it. I was wondering if that is part of the reason you self-published?
A: My decision to self-publish was partly influenced by the fact that there were multiple "gatekeepers" - a literary agent, editors, etc. - who wanted to change the direction of the novel.
I had a vision for how the story was to unfold and I wanted to stay true to that. I'm grateful that I was at a point in my adult life where I had the self-confidence and courage to go my own way. I knew this book would find an audience and I am overwhelmed by just how much it is resonating with readers.

Q: Sept. 11 plays a powerful part of the book. Were you working then? Was it hard to include that?
A: I was working as a production assistant at WNBC 4, the NBC affiliate in New York City, on September 11, 2001. The scene in the novel was challenging to write but one I felt was important to include.  Everyone sees what happens in front of the TV news cameras when tragedy hits, but few have any idea of what happens on the other side. Hopefully, my experience of actually being there helped me to portray the events and the characters in an authentic way.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on my next book - playing with the genre - not sure whether it will end up being memoir or fiction, but the story is developing.

Q: In three words how would you describe your book?
Self-discovery through love.

Let's hop, hop, hop!!

Book Blogger Hop

Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-books hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap? If it's on sale, I usually buy books at Target, Walmart or Borders. Sometimes, if I'm in the area I just go to browse. I will thumb through several books. I come close to buying books a lot lately. But my vacation is coming, and I have put myself on a book buying ban since February. I have received review books here and there. BookExpo America and Book Blogger Con really helped feed my reading addiction. I'm pretty sure I'm going to break that ban in a few days. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been in a library in years.  As a teenager, I would go to the library all the time. But back then I had no money and no job. I also read a lot faster then. Now, I'm a slower reader and I prefer to own the book.

Here are some blogs I came across:
The Bursting Bookshelf
Book Light Graveyard
Nicki J Markus

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home

Every Monday I discuss the covers of books I'm reading. I'm still reading Trance of Insignificance by Jennifer Rainville. A review and Q&A will be posted on Friday.

The latest book on my reading pile is Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home by Veronica Li. It's been awhile since I've read a memoir. This is the story of Li's mother, Flora. How she overcame poverty, fought to have an education, and how she kept her family together. The woman on that cover looks hopeful, and somewhat happy. Hard to tell of any strife in her life. I'm excited about this one. It's always good to read about other cultures.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What to pack?

My vacation is fast approaching. I'm wondering what books to take. This is probably where an e-reader comes in handy, but I haven't crossed over to the dark side yet. I will be taking physical books on the plane. The trick is I can only take what will fit into a small beach bag. I figure seven or eight books is the max.

Here is what I must take:

The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed AmericaThe Secret Lives of the Four Wives: A NovelOnly Mine (Hqn)

The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus and The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin (TLC Book Tour for the last one). Only Mine by Susan Mallery also part of a blog tour, which will be posted on August 1. Mallery's book is rather small. It's a mass market paperback, so maybe that shouldn't count towards the total? I'm definitely taking it, but I just don't think it will take up much space.

After that, it's kind of hard to choose. So, I thought I would ask for a little help. First, the offerings from my adult reading pile:
The Passage Publisher: Ballantine BooksSing You Home: A Novel 
Before I Go to Sleep: A NovelSugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex

I bought The Passage by Justin Cronin on my vacation last year. I think he's getting a little lonely (and dusty) at the bottom of my pile. I went to Jodi Picoult's signing for Sing You Home in March. It was great to meet her. I'm a big fan. I think I have about 10 of her books, three of which I still need to read. The best way I can describe Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, is a creepy adult version of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Sugar in my Bowl by Erica Jong is a combination of stories where women talk about sex. This one is out of the ordinary for me, which is why it intrigues me the most.

Adult books are great, but I also have a DEEP Young Adult pile I want to get to. This is where the decision-making gets a little tricky.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Daughter of Smoke and Bone Between Here and Forever Annabel: A Novel 

(Psssst!! I'm not done yet!)
Angel Burn The Gray Zone Nightshade: Book 1Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, vg

And I guess I will stop there. The list could go on, but these are some of the books I really want to read. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott, Anabel by Kathleen Winter, Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, The Gray Zone by Daphna Edwards Ziman, Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. I have the entire Harry Potter set, but obviously I can't lug seven heavy hardcovers with me.

I think the adult pile will be easy to choose from, but I think I need a little help the rest of the way. Any thoughts out there?