Sorry For The Delay! And The Winner Is…



Band of Angels: A Novel

Since I have four copies of Band Of Angels as well as the galley copy I read/reviewed and there were five entries in the giveaway, I decided that you all are winners!! 

Please send me an e-mail to with your snail-mail address and I’ll get your books out to you as soon as I can.  Thanks so much for visiting Planet Books and entering in this contest Ladies!!

Book Review & Giveaway ~ Band of Angles by Julia Gregson

Band of Angels: A Novel

Summary ~ Growing up in Wales, Catherine Carreg has been allowed to run wild, spending her childhood racing ponies along the beach with her friend Deio, the cattle-driver’s son. But Catherine is consumed by a longing to escape the monotony of village life and runs away to London with Deio’s help. Alone in the unfamiliar city, Catherine secures a position in Florence Nightingale’s home for sick governesses. As the nation is gripped by reports of war in the Crimea, Catherine volunteers as a nurse—and her life changes beyond all recognition. Arriving in Scutari, she is immediately thrown into a living nightmare. Amid the madness and chaos, Catherine is forced to grow up quickly, learning the hardest lessons of love and war.

Band of Angels by Julia Gregson is an epic novel of family, love, adventure and war.  Set against the backdrop of Wales, London and then in the midst of the Crimean War, heroine, Catherine Carreg grows before the reader’s eyes.  The first glimpse of Catherine is as a young girl, already with a mind of her own and an unbreakable will.  After a friendship is snuffed out by her strict, farming father and the sudden death of her beloved mother in a childbirth that left Catherine helpless as she watched her mother’s life drain from her body, Catherine vows to leave her home and find adventure by learning the art of nursing in London. 

Love is always a few steps behind her in the form of her childhood friend, Deio, but Catherine’s focus and determination to make something of herself under the guidance of the famed Florence Nightingale, “The Lady of the Lamp,” keeps her from her heart’s deepest desires.  Effects of the Crimean War (known in Britain as “The Russian War”) began reaching the ears of Londoners and the like.  Florence Nightingale is asked to put together a team of nurses to take with her to the British camp in Scutari in Turkey to assist and hopefully resolve the terrible hospital conditions that Britain’s soldiers are dying in.  

One of my favorite books growing up was an autobiography of Florence Nightingale.  I didn’t realize until reading Band of Angels and doing a little research on Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War that she was British and the soldiers she helped were injured in a war in Russia and the camp she worked at was in Turkey.  I guess I thought, since I was little, that it was the American Civil War and that she was American.  Sometimes when you are a child, your world doesn’t reach beyond your shores.   

If you are looking for more “meat” than the typical “beach read” usually has to offer this summer then be sure to pick up Band of Angels.  Some parts of the book are a gory read but the writing is great, the character development is substantial and you’ll learn a little history along the way.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, it’s a no brainer to read.  Thanks go to Stacy at Touchstone/Fireside for seeking me out and inviting me to participate in Julia Gregson’s U.S. release of her first novel, Band of Angels.  You can check out Julia Gregson’s web site HERE to learn more about her other book, East of the Sun.

If you would like a chance to win one of four copies of Band of Angels (thanks Stacy for sending me so many copies for a giveaway!!) then be sure to leave a comment on this post.  To make it fun (though winners will be selected randomly using please include the historical figure you enjoyed reading about the most as a kid along with your e-mail address.  This drawing’s deadline is Friday, May 21st at midnight EST.

{Rating 4 out of 5}

Friday Finds ~ May 14th, 2010


This was my favorite meme to put together.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,, Washington,, various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from




The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson
A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion
English by Wang Gang
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
Berlin: A Novel by Pierre Frei
A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
Page from a Tennessee Journal by Francine Thomas Howard 
The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey 
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
The Last War by Ana Menendez

29 Days & Counting!

I’m going to continue sharing music videos by numerous artists who will be jammin’ at the 2010 CMA Fest next month in Nashville, TN.  Tonight, I’m listening to the wonderful Patty Loveless and her boot stompin’ tune, Lovin’ All Night.  I love to sing this song at karaoke because it is so much fun!  I hope you’ll like it too.

Book Review ~ In The Neighborhood ~ The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim

In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

Summary ~ Journalist and author Peter Lovenheim has lived on the same street in suburban Rochester, NY, most of his life. But it was only after a brutal murder-suicide rocked the community that he was struck by a fact of modern life in this comfortable enclave: no one knew anyone else.Thus begins Peter’s search to meet and get to know his neighbors. An inquisitive person, he does more than just introduce himself. He asks, ever so politely, if he can sleep over.In this smart, engaging, and deeply felt book, Lovenheim takes readers inside the homes, minds, and hearts of his neighbors and asks a thought-provoking question: do neighborhoods matter-and is something lost when we live among strangers?   

If Peter Lovenheim came to my neighborhood and stayed overnight for one of his sleepovers at my house, he would find a loving, television and internet addicted, pet dog obsessed couple who have been married for six years.  He would also learn that we only “know” a few of our neighbors.  He would probably try to get us involoved in relationships with other neighbors based on common interests or jobs.  I wouldn’t stop him either.  Thus, the premise of Peter Lovenheim’s book, In The Neighborhood ~ The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

I picked this book up when I was at a Borders Bookstore up in Maryland last month.  I was drawn to the cover first and then, after reading the inside flaps, I knew I had to read this book.  See, Hubby, Rocky and I had a house built last summer in a brand new community.  There isn’t a lot of outdoor activity on a daily basis but I have observed the comings and goings of my immediate neighbors, who has elderly parents living with them and which ones like to take leisurely walks during the day, who works tirelessly on their lawns and landscaping on a weekly basis and who has the classic car and tinkers on it once in a while.  There are a total of forty houses in our development which is just over a year and a half old.  We live on the back-end of the neighborhood so we have to drive by most of our neighbors homes and get to observe changes as they occur. 

In The Neighborhood starts with the question of how well do we really know our neighbors, the people who live and sleep sometimes just yards away from our own house?  Peter Lovenheim’s seemingly peaceful neighborhood is shaken (especially Peter himself) when a husband shoots and kills his wife with a shotgun in their home and then kills himself, leaving their two children to flee their home for the neighbor’s house and safety.  I live in the DC metro area and unfortunately there are always disturbing news reports of murder/suicides, homicides, rapes and burglary in areas not far from our quiet piece of the American Dream.  You just never know do you?! 

The project that Peter creates for himself, of getting to know his neighbors in the intimate way that is sleeping in their homes for one night and spending a whole day with them as they go about their regular schedule.  He learns that two women who live just two houses apart have very similar passions and goals in life but have never met.  There is the lonely elderly neighbor who is a widow and retired doctor and becomes an important person in Peter’s life once they get to know each other.  The people who Peter meets, who share the same street name with him, eventually become more neighborly but it isn’t without Peter and his clever thinking and plotting that gets people who didn’t know each other before to care about each other later. 

My parents will have lived in their house in Maryland for thirty-three years this summer.  Even after all those years they don’t really know their neighbors.  They talk on the sidewalk once in a while but they were never the kind of people to host a neighborhood cookout or get a block party started.  As far as I know nothing like that has ever occured in the immediate vacinity of their house though.  I try to be more approachable in my new neighborhood but I do find it hard sometimes.  People are tired when they get home from work and then have kids to worry about or chores and dinner are waiting.  We don’t have a homeowners association in place yet because the developer hasn’t turned it over to the neighborhood yet but I hope to be active in it when it does. 

The most neighborly people I have ever met (and it wasn’t always a good thing) were my girlfriends and their neighbors who lived on military bases in Okinawa, Japan.  Hubby and I were sometimes attending block parties, house parties, birthday parties, wet down (promotion) parties and graduation parties every weekend during certain times of the year.  It was a blast but sometimes it felt like dorm living in college.  Everyone was into everyone else’s business, gossip was a dangerous weapon and friendships combusted into enemy and frenemy relations.  Being close neighbors can sometimes be toxic!  Too much of a good thing I guess.

This book has inspired me to say hi more often and ask how my neighbors are doing when I do see them outside.  What about you?  Are you a good neighbor who feels involved in your neighborhood? 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

30 Days & Counting!

In thirty days a dream of mine is going to come true.  One of my best friends, Jesse, and I are going on a road trip.  This isn’t a road trip to just anywhere either.  We are going to Music City USA, Nashville, TN to attend CMA Music Fest aka Fan Fair!  I have been a lover and singer of country music since 1992 (and Olivia Newton-John’s country records from the 70’s since birth) and can’t believe that I’m going to the “Mecca” of country music in a few short weeks.  Yee Haw!!

A week ago Jesse and I were concerned that the festival wasn’t going to happen next month after the massive, deadly and destructive floods wreaked havoc on Nashville.  Last Monday night I received an e-mail from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel announcing that due to the detrimental flooding that changed the resort into a giant pool, they will be closed for at least three months and that all reservations made for those dates will be cancelled.  Uh Oh!


After checking The Tennessean, CNN and other news websites the following morning I decided to make a new reservation at a hotel in the downtown area that has an easy cancellation policy.  I still didn’t know if the show would go on so I wanted to play it safe but I also wanted to be sure we had a hotel room in case it was still on.  Turns out the Gaylord Opryland Hotel makes up 12% of all hotel rooms in the Nashville area!  WOW!  I consider myself lucky that I got a room for us at a great rate and closer to the action before all the hotels in the area booked up with displaced people attending the festival. 

Jesse and I, and probably all the other country music fans who will be attending CMA Fest 2010, are looking forward to going to one of my favorite cities in the country, spending our money to help the local economy and seeing/listening to some amazing music.  The festival lasts four days/nights and concerts will be held at the Riverfront Stage, LP Field as well as at the local honky-tonks on Broadway, 2nd Avenue and other venues in Music City USA.

So, to mark the beginning of the count down, I would like to share a video of one of the groups I can’t wait to see on the Riverfront Stage.  They are called Steel Magnolia and are the winners of last year’s CMT’s Can You Duet.  Their awesome single is “Keep On Loving You” and I can’t wait to hear them perform it live. 

Sunday Salon ~ May 2nd, 2010

Well, HELLO Stranger!  Man, it has been awhile since I did a Sunday Salon post.  Sorry about that!  It seems that the weekends here fly by so quickly that it’s almost mid-week before I remember that I should have written a Sunday Salon post. 

Okay, enough of the excuses.  I haven’t been lagging to badly when it comes to my reading lately.  Though it took a long two weeks, I finally finished reading Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.  This book is my book club’s May selection.  My club’s meeting is going to be pretty cool because we are (weather permitting) going to have a picnic lunch on the grounds of The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  I will be posting my review here on Planet Books closer to the date of our meeting which is scheduled towards the end of this month. 

In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a TimeThe good thing about finishing The Lost Symbol is that I can now read In The Neighborhood – The Search For Community On An American Street, Once Sleepover At A Time by Peter Lovenheim. 

What an interesting book!  This sociology project of sorts was executed and written by an author, who with his family, moved into his childhood home on a picturesque street outside of Rochester, NY.  After a shocking murder-suicide occurred in a house down the street, Peter wondered who his neighbors really were and why there was no sense of community and neighborhood.  His way of getting to know his neighbors is a common practice but usually among America’s youth, not their parents.  He decided to get to know his neighbors by sleeping over in their homes and observing them during a “typical day.” 

I think my interest in reading this book stems from being a first-time homeowner in a brand new and beautiful neighborhood in Northern Virginia.  It’s a very quite place most of the time, what with adults working days, children in school and busy social and television watching schedules keeping most neighbors inside or away from home.  Sure, we all wave at each other when neighbors drive by and others are checking the mail or doing yard work but I only know the names of my immediate neighbors.  I have built some kind of a relationship with the neighbors we share fence lines with and have even had our lovely neighbors on the left over for dinner and I occasionally go over and pop a squat on their couch and catch up with them, but others, as we have, have fallen between the cracks. 

I can’t wait to see what Peter Lovenheim concludes about his neighborhood at the end of his book and I’ll be curious to see if he inspires me (the daughter of very private parents who have lived in their house for 33 years this summer and still only know their immediate neighbors) to branch out and get to know the people who live in floor plans just like mine. (80% of the houses in my neighborhood are the same model as ours.)

Book Review ~ The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Summary ~ The powerful and enduring work of fiction about men and war– now with more than two million copies in print. They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated Bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits.


I’ve said this before.  I believe that reading historical accounts be it memoirs, biographies or historical fiction is very important for our futures.  We, as a society and members of the human race, will always learn from our mistakes (hopefully) and reading things like The Things They Carried is a great way to do that.  The Vietnam War continues to affect Vets, families and countries.  The veterans of the Vietnam War live among us but face haunting memories everyday. Author Tim O’Brien allows us to take a look into his memory, as well as fellow soldiers from his platoon who lived through hell on earth during the Vietnam War. 

The Things They Carried was full of disgusting and disturbing stories of death, combat and possibly the worst conditions I could never have imagined.  Tim O’Brien’s book is also full of brotherly love that goes soul deep and laughter.  War happens, unfortunately, and before recent times it was our brothers, sons, fathers and uncles who fought on the battle lines.  One of my uncles was one of the lucky few who didn’t face battle during the war in Vietnam, but instead was drafted to help build churches in Vietnam because of his skills.  I have friend and former teacher from college who wasn’t so lucky.  He lost many friends to gunfire and unknown horrors and has lived with those memories all these years.  Thunder and lightning storms can create otherworldly horrors for him when we just hear and see nature’s fury.  

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories from various magazines that were published in the eighties as well as short stories that when put together in this book create a story telling experience that transports the reader to the rice paddies, mountains and jungles of Vietnam during one of our countries most unpopular wars.  The men in this book, who’s stories Tim O’Brien tells so vividly, mostly started out as boys who were either drafted or had a dream of fighting for their country.  The stories will hit you and stay with you.  That’s a good thing, though some stories can be upsetting.  

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}