MIA in 2010

2010 turned out to be a very tough reading and blogging year for me.  I don’t know if it was the out of sorts feeling I had while Hubby was deployed for five months or what but I totally sucked at keeping up with things.  At times it seemed as if I had become a slower reader and was easily distracted by everything and anything.  I fell into the habit of only reading before bed and that never is a good thing for me.  I get tired and after only reading a few pages its lights out.  Book club should have helped but it really didn’t.  I only read (if I liked it enough) the selected title and didn’t read other titles in the second half of the year.  

Good news is I’m still in love with my Kindle and 2011 will bring an iPad 1 or 2 into my hands thanks to my folks generous birthday gift on the 1st.  I will download the Kindle App to whichever version of iPad I end up getting (waiting for the MacWorld 2011 conference to see if Steve Jobs introduces the 2.0) and that will allow me to read without the lights on when Hubby goes to sleep.  I don’t really like book lights.  I am off to a good start in 2011 though.  I finished my book club’s selection for Sunday’s brunch just last night.  I’m going to try to read one book of my choice for every book club selection this year.  That is my reading goal for 2011.

There were some fabulous books that I read in 2010 though and I have listed them below.  The scariest ones, all for different reasons, were Room, The Blue Notebook and Born on the 4th of July.  All very realistic stories inspired by true accounts, like Kovic’s retelling of his experience in Vietnam and the aftermath of the war back home, these books still haunt me.

The Postmistress and The Help are books that I will always recommend to the reader looking for a great novel to lose themselves in.  They are simply fantastic.  Others I listed made the list because they were either extremely unusual, Raven Stole The Moon, or made me laugh my ass off, My Fair LazyHow To Be An American Housewife took me back to Japan and made me miss the country, culture and it’s people all over again.  

I have also taken the liberty of listing my 20 favorite tunes of 2010.  I rediscovered Pop music last year and I am so thrilled that it’s laced with hot beats, fun lyrics, melodic melodies and strong construction.  Thank goodness!  Country music didn’t disappoint and the highlight for me was going to the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, TN last June with one of my best friends, Jesse.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2010?  Tunes?  Discoveries?  Please share them with me and any readers I still may have after being MIA in 2010!   

My FAV reads of 2010 (in no particular order)

Room – Emma Donoghue
The Blue Notebook – Dr. James A. Levine
How To Be An American Housewife – Margaret Dilloway
Born on the 4th of July – Ron Kovic
My Fair Lazy – Jen Lancaster
Raven Stole The Moon – Garth Stein
The Postmistress – Sarah Blake
The Help – Kathryn Stocket

 

My FAV 20 Tunes of 2010 (in no particular order)

F You – Cee Lo Green
Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars
Paris (Ooh La La) – Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
1983 – Neon Trees
Undo It – Carrie Underwood
Lover, Lover – Jerrod Neiman
Put You In A Song – Keith Urban
Smoke A Little Smoke – Eric Church
Empire State of Mind – Jay Z & Alicia Keys
Bullet Proof – La Roux
All About Tonight – Blake Shelton
Raise Your Glass – Pink
Telephone – Lady Gaga & Beyonce
Colder Weather – Zac Brown Band
Crazy Town – Jason Aldean
Roll With It – Easton Corbin
Stuck Like Glue – Sugarland

Due to restrictons on videos from YouTube I am unable to share any of the videos I wanted to here on Planet Books.  Sorry Dude!

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Book Review ~ Glee The Beginning by

Summary ~ Calling all Gleeks!
Get more of your favorite characters in this official Glee prequel!
All great performances deserve a warm-up! Enroll early at McKinley High–before New Directions was even a glimmer in Mr. Schuester’s eye. When did Rachel first decide Finn was more than just a jock? When did Puck and Quinn start their secret romance? And how did the fledgling Glee Club function without a fearless leader? Hint: It wasn’t exactly a perfect melody.
Break out the gold stars and refill the slushies: It’s time to find out what happened to all your favorite characters before the show-mance began.

OMG!!  I was tickled when I learned about this book.  Glee The Beginning by Sophia Lowell is just that, the beginning of the Glee kids story.  If you aren’t familiar with the Fox hit Glee than I don’t know what’s wrong with you (seriously, it’s a fabulous, fun and dramatic thrill for the senses!) and you have a few short weeks to catch up with the rest of the Gleeks out there and Netflix/buy/download on iTunes Season 1 of Glee before the new season starts in mid-September. 

This book was a fun, imformative (for the Gleek that I am) and entertaining read that was a perfect way to end the summer with (school started in some counties here yesterday and the rest of the students out there will start Monday.)  I know I like to read whatever all year round but it was fun to read Glee The Beginning at the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the school year.  Does our muscle memory of the beginning of school ever really leave us?  Glee The Beginning covers all the core Glee kids; Rachel, Tina, Mercedes, Kurt, Finn and Quinn and gives the fan/reader a good look into what the characters were up to before we met them in Season 1 Episode 1 on television.  Quinn was torn between who she thought she should be and who she wished she could be and Rachel was always all about being the star performer in her school.  Glee Club was flailing until Kurt had the stroke of genius to invite Rachel to join Glee for a rehersal and see what she thought.  Why does Tina stutter?  What is Mercedes home life like?  All these questions and more are answered in Glee The Beginning.

If you are looking for a quick read that will get you excited all over again for the upcoming fall season then Glee The Beginning is for you.  My secret for really diving in each time I turned on my Kindle to read was turning on my iPod and playing the Glee soundtracks.  I own ALL of them.  “Hi!  My name is Karen and I’m a Gleek!”

{Rating 4 out of 5} 

 

 

 

TLC Book Tours Event ~ Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Summary from TLC Book Tours

Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages….

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon — when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach — an “outlander” — in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord … 1743.

Who hasn’t heard of this series?  I had!  Who hadn’t read at least the first book in the series?  I hadn’t.  And then I received an e-mail from Lisa of TLC Book Tours inviting me to read/review Outlander: A Novel for the August/September book blog tour.  Of course I accepted!  While waiting for my review copy to arrive in the mail I realized I already owned it… on my Kindle.  Which is a good thing because even the smaller sized review copy that arrived in the mail a few days later proved to be bulky and cumbersome. 

The story focuses on Claire Beauchamp Randall.  A modern woman in 1945 post-war England.  She is on her honeymoon, for a second blissful time, in Scotland with her beloved husband Frank.  One evening, while in search for a specific plant one evening, she unknowingly steps through a standing of stones (not unlike Stonehenge) and finds herself in curious place.  She has traveled back in time to 1743 and a Scotland very alien to the one she had been visiting moments before.  Hijinks and adventure ensue for Claire and she is taken in (taken being the operative word) by a clan of Scotsmen who soon learn that her knowledge of medicinal treatments make Claire a special find.  Difficulties and challenges arise for our heroine and the most curious one is having to marry (for traditional reasons, a woman just can’t not be married in those times) a young Scotsman, Jamie Fraser.  Torn between the reality in her “regular life” of being married to her dear Frank and having to marry Jamie, a man Claire finds herself having feelings for, Claire must figure out how to live in this old world.  There is so much to the story of Outlander!  So much has been said about it over the last two decades so I will end my little summary of the story of Claire and Jamie here. 

Galbadon’s writing is wonderful.  It’s no wonder there are seven novels in the Outlander series so far it’s one of the most popular book series out there.  Outlander won the RITA Award for “Best romance novel” of 1991 and that was just the beginning of the praise Galbadon’s books would receive.  You don’t have to wonder why it won when you read it.  Her characters are vivid and interesting.  The plots are fun and thrilling.  I may read more of the books in this series but I haven’t even read the rest of the books in the Twilight series and I own all of them.  There are just so many good books out there to read and not enough time to get to them all.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Thanks to Lisa & TLC Book Tours for the invitation to read/review Outlander!  I look forward to reading what other book bloggers on the August/September tour have to say about Outlander and the newest book in the series, An Echo In The Bone. 

Diana Gabaldon’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 2nd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 4th:  The Literate Housewife Review (Voyager)
Monday, August 9th:  Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Outlander)
Thursday, August 12th:  Under the Boardwalk (An Echo in the Bone)
Friday, August 13th:  Starting Fresh (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 16th:  Planet Books (Outlander)
Thursday, August 19th:  Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)
Wednesday, August 25th:  MoonCat Farms Meanderings (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, August 30th:  Hey, Lady!  Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)
Tuesday, August 31st:  The Brain Lair (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 1st:  My Two Blessings (Outlander)
Thursday, September 2nd:  Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)
Tuesday, September 7th:  That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)
Monday, September 13th:  Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)
Tuesday, September 14th:  Luxury Reading (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 15th:  The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)
Thursday, September 16th:  Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)
Friday, September 17th:  Devourer of Books (Outlander)

Book Review ~ The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

The Weight of SilenceSummary ~ It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.
Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.
Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice.
Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.
Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

The Weight of Silence can be very heavy indeed.  It can make you feel slow, lost, helpless and scared.  When reading the book titled The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf one can feel slow, lost, helpless, scared and annoyed.  For the most part Gudenkauf’s novel about an alchoholic father, spineless mother and the children that suffer in their wake could be called suspenseful and mysterious.  The story focuses on the hours of confusion and fear that derive from two missing girls and one of the girl’s alchoholic father.  They all are in the expansive woods that line the community in Iowa where the story takes place.  Most of the time I second guessed the evidence provided throughout the story but then I was side-swiped by the “real” story of what happened in those woods.  But the side-swipe came from so far past left field that I was very put out. 

Gudenkauf’s writing style is clear and crisp and each chapter is told from different character’s points of view.  Some characters views are told through third person  and others are told from first person but the flow was good.  Sometimes this way of storytelling can be distracting in a book but it worked here.  All in all the writing was very good but the story seemed to drag and then speed up, drag and then speed up throughout.  I was happiest when reading the faster paced segments of course.  The Weight of Silence is the August pick for my book club.  I was thrilled with the beginning of the book when I started it but as the book progressed I started to feel a bit bored.  I just think the flashbacks took so much time, though some of them were pertinent to the present story in a way.  The Weight of Silence unfortunately could read as a non-fiction re-telling of a story out of the newspapers but thankfully this one was pure fiction.

 {Rating 3 out of 5}

Book Review ~ How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

How to Be an American Housewife

Summary ~ How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn’t been what she’d expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

Since leaving Okinawa, Japan in May 2009 I hadn’t really missed it more than the expected pang for a friend or a certain food that I just can’t seem to find in the D.C. area even though I could probably make it myself.  That was until I read How To Be An American HousewifeMargaret Dilloway has written a novel that is very special, interesting and could even be used in a social study of a Japanese/American marriage and the adjustments needed in order to make it through the day-to-day. 

Shoko-chan (“-chan” confused me because I was only familiar with the more formal/respectful “-san. Turns out “-chan” is attached to a name as a term of endearment like when calling a child “Yoko-chan! Dinner’s ready! You learn something new everyday!) survived the atomic bombing on Nagasaki, Japan in 1946.  Though the radiation probably affected her heart she continued to lead a full, at times drama enriched life as an “American housewife” after meeting an American G.I. while working the gift shop counter at a hotel near a U.S. military base.

The first part of Dilloway’s debut novel is told from Shoko’s point of view.  That included reading her spoken thoughts in broken English as a way to get across her lack of knowledge of the English language.  Usually writing dialogue this way with an accent comes across as distracting and annoying to me but because my ear is used to hearing the Japanese/Okinawan voice speaking this way in person it made it more realistic and easier to understand and imagine hearing Shoko-chan’s voice in my head. 

Part 2 is where we get to know Shoko’s daughter Sue and see Shoko through her eyes.  We also get to experience rural Japan through Sue and her daughter Helena’s “American” eyes as a first time visitors to the country and not being all that familiar with conversational Japanese.  Turns out Shoko didn’t speak Japanese very much as she was raising Sue. 

How To Be An American Housewife is a very good novel about a cross cultural family.  I enjoyed the social experimentation that this book can be viewed as and the quotes before every chapter from an imagined handbook titled “How To Be An American Housewife” cracked me up and had my jaw dropping to the floor.

{Rating ~ 4.5 out of 5}

I would like to thank Victoria Comella for sending me a review copy of How To Be An American Housewife!!  You’ve been great Victoria!  Thank You!!

Book Review ~ Uncharted TerriTORI by Tori Spelling

uncharted terriTORI

Summary ~ Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.

It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.

Tori finally has everything she thought she wanted—a loving family and a successful career—but trying to live a normal life in Hollywood is a little weird. With the irresistible wit, attitude, and humor that fans have come to love, the New York Times bestselling author of sTORI telling and Mommywood is back with more hilarious, heartwarming, and candid stories of juggling work, marriage, motherhood, and reality television cameras.

Tori comes clean about doing her time on jury duty, stalking herself on Twitter, discovering her former 90210 castmates’ “I Hate Tori” club, contracting swine flu, and contacting Farrah Fawcett from the dead. Like many mothers, she struggles to find balance (Stars, they’re just like us!)—only most women don’t have to battle it out with paparazzi at the grocery store. She talks openly about the darker side of life in the spotlight: media scrutiny over her weight and her marriage to Dean McDermott, her controversial relationship with Dean’s ex-wife, and her unfolding reconciliation with her mother.

Having it all isn’t always easy—especially when you’re a perfectionist—but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI.***

I have a secret.  I’ll bet some of you may even have the same one I have!  I LOVE Tori Spelling and have taken it past watching ther adorable and fun reality show to reading her latest memoir, Uncharted TerriTORI.  Yup!  You read that right.  I just read, and immensley enjoyed Tori Spelling’s new book.  Hubby thinks he’s losing me to the world of reality television and he even thinks that I say, “Love ya Babe!” because Tori & her husband Dean say that on their show.  (My question to Hubby may be how does he remember that if he doesn’t pay attention when I’m watching the show and he goes downstairs into the ‘man cave’?)  I can’t help myself when it comes to reality television!  I love it all, from Tori & Dean to The Bachelorette and The Real Housewives of NYC & NJ and I enjoy the laughs and gasps these shows provide me.

Reading Uncharted TerriTORI gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look into Tori Spelling’s life and a much more detailed understanding of her inner monologue, fears, joys and frustrations.  Tori turns out to be so “normal” and even more likeable than she already appears to be on her Oxygen Channel shows.  Tori loves her family, loves her businesses and still faces all the same challenges us “normal” people do but on a much bigger scale at times.  it’s fun hanging out with Tori as you read Uncharted TerriTORI and after finishing the last page and looking at all the family photos just helped seal the fact that I really like Tori Spelling and admire her and all she is able to accomplish in her busy Hollywood/but still normal everyday life.

I like that the co-writer and editor on Uncharted TerriTORI kept the words and vibe true and uniquely Tori.  At least what I feel to be Tori based on watching her reality shows and seeing her in interviews and co-hosting The View.

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

 

 

Book Review ~ Born On The Fourth Of July by Ron Kovic

Born on the Fourth of July

Summary from Wikipedia ~  is the best-selling autobiography of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran who became an anti-war activist. Kovic was born on July 4, 1946, and his book’s ironic title echoed a famous line from George M. Cohan’s patriotic 1904 song, “The Yankee Doodle Boy” (also known as “Yankee Doodle Dandy”). The book was adapted into a 1989 Academy Award winning film of the same name co-written by Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic, starring Tom Cruise as Kovic.

 I had been wanting to watch Born On The Fourth Of July again and for the first time in twenty years (it came out in 1989!) lately but instead I decided to read the book first and then watch the Academy Award winning movie.  I’m glad I did!  Ron Kovic retells his childhood, high school years as a competitive wrestler, his dreams and hopes of becoming a great Marine and then the transformative years he endured in the U.S. Marine Corps while fighting for his beloved country in Vietnam.  Transformative is the word I choose to describe those years Ron Kovic trained, fought, gave three-quarters of his body for his country in a war zone thirteen thousand miles from the land he loved and then fought against his fellow Americans for the respect and care he, as a Vietnam Vet, deserved but wasn’t receiving. 

Ron Kovic states in the introduction of his heartbreaking, stoic and memorable memoir that he wrote Born On The Fourth Of July in “one month, three weeks, and two days, on a forty-two-dollar manual typewriter.”  I can’t imagine how liberating, horrific, sad and therapeutic it must have been for Kovic to sit in his wheel chair and type his life onto blank pages.  Maybe he didn’t realize that thousands of readers would be looking into his soul when they read those very words one day and then years later when his life would be replayed on the silver screen by a firecracker and knock-out actor named Tom Cruise.  I’m so glad that Kovic decided to but his thoughts, memories and opinions on paper. 

The layout is nicely done with plenty of time and detail taken for each aspect of Kovic’s life.  The book is a quick read but I enjoyed savoring every word and letting the scenes play out in my imagination.   The reader gets to know Kovic as a child with patriotic dreams that blossom early in his mind and heart.  Dreams that lead him to join the U.S. Marine Corps and then to the jungles, rice fields and beaches of Vietnam.  It’s there where his adult story begins.  It may be tough to read for the weak stomach readers out there but Kovic’s descriptions of life, battle, death and pain in Vietnam are very vivid.  His use of imagery was so brilliant in my mind’s eye. 

After Kovic sustains the devastating wounds to his psyche and later to his body that leave him without the use of his body from the chest down the horrors truly begin for him.  He is sent to a VA Hospital in Bronx, NY for treatment and recovery.  The conditions in that hospital are worse than hell on earth.  The fact that Kovic’s beloved government and country weren’t supplying the funds necessary to help the wounded of a war it continually funded blew his mind.  Kovic eventually made it part of his life’s work to speak out against the ill-treatment of U.S. Veterans in VA hospitals and the conditions they were helplessly forced to endure. 

“When I got back to the tent, Michaelson told me he would see me in heaven after today.  He was to die that afternoon.  Every one of us seemed to have a funny feeling.  I kept thinking over and over that I was going to get hit – that nothing would be quite the same after this day.”

Born On The Fourth Of July unfortunately is a timeless and relative story in today’s world.  I am glad that I read Born On The Fourth Of July (I did watch it On Demand as soon as I finished the last page this morning) because it is a true life glimpse into our country’s history and into the life of a man who almost gave all to his country but continues to try to give all to his fellow citizens. 

{Rating 5 out of 5}