Month in Review – July 09

So the TV is telling me that we’re coming up on the most wonderful time of the year. No not the holidays – but back to school, and whether or not I am in school, the approach and start of August always seems to get me in this frenzy of thinking about all the things I wanted to do over the summer, but haven’t. I start going over my list wondering why I haven’t done this, that or the other thing. I am at that point again, but even more then getting out and doing things (like finally getting over to walk on the new High Line) I am wondering how I could not have read more books than I have. I mean seriously, I had a round-trip flight to Copenhagen, how could I not have at least polished off a book then?!?

But instead of continuing to beat myself up, I’m going to try and get past that and instead celebrate what I have accomplished this July, at least in my little world of this blog.

Books I finished in July:
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (ironically, was the 19th book I read this year)
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Reviews I completed in July:
Shanghai Girls
The 19th Wife

Challenges I’m in:
Everything Austen (Completed One of Six books – read Pride and Prejudice)
Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge (Didn’t read any yet, but have the first two books on my shelf if that counts for anything)
Harry Potter Reading Challenge (Starts Aug 1, have the first six on their way to me)
August Reading Challenge (As name implies, it starts in August – just tracking what I am reading, no specific genre, etc.)

All in all it’s not too bad for being out of the country and not doing any posting for about two weeks. I (hopefully) see some more reading time ahead in August, which is good because I already have some ARCs staring at me from the shelf begging to be read and reviewed, in addition to my ever growing TBR pile. But all else is suspended until I finish The Girl Who Played with Fire, which will hopefully be done this weekend, or very early next week.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY:
How was your July reading-wise? Have you done most of what you wanted to do this summer already? What’s your next up for August?

Review: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The 19th WifeWith this book, you really get what could be two separate books in one.

Jordan Scott, who as a teenage boy was removed from his polygamous family home on the compound (by way of being left on the highway), returns to Utah after his mother has been arrested for the murder of her husband, Jordan’s father. The return is highly emotional for Jordan since he has not seen his mother since he was thrown out. In this track of the story we are given a look into modern-day polygamy as Jordan plays junior detective to solve who really killed his father. While on this path, Jordan learns more about himself as he opens his life up to his mother’s lawyer, the lawyer’s assistant, a teen who was also thrown out of the compound and a manager at a local hotel.

The parallel track of this story is historical fiction based on Brigham Young’s 19th wife Ann Eliza. Ann Eliza’s story is told via her memoir as well as other pieces of “primary” documentation, including: records, newspaper clippings and sermons of Brigham Young. These pieces of the book offer a history of the beginning of the Mormon religion, the migration of Mormons to Utah and the growth of polygamy. Ann Eliza was the daughter of a polygamous family, eventually became Young’s 19th wife, but later while seeking a divorce embarked on a speaking tour to discuss what it was like to be a wife in a polygamous relationship.

I was extremely impressed with how author David Ebershoff presented Ann Eliza’s story. Following Ebershoff’s extensive research, he creates a wide variety of these “primary” documents told via various voices – all seeming authentic and to actually be an original text. Before this book, I had not heard of Ann Eliza so was not sure where or how Ebershoff pulled his material. As soon as I finished the book, I was reading the author’s conversation at the back of the book so I could better understand the origins of Ann Eliza and her story. I now also find myself wanting to read both of Ann Eliza’s actual memoirs Wife No. 19 (from 1875) and Life in Mormon Bondage (from 1908). 

If you would like more insight into Ebershoff and his work for this book, an interview with him recently posted on LibraryThing.

The 19th Wife
ISBN: 978-0812974157
Pages: 544
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

Teaser Tuesday – 28 July

teaser-tuesday

It’s that time of week again for Should Be Reading’s fun meme Teaser Tuesdays.

So how does this work:

  • Grab your current book
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Today’s teaser comes from The Girl Who Played with Fire which goes on sale today. I just started it last night, and already don’t want to put it down.

But this evening she could not concentrate on Fermat, or his theorem. Instead she saw in her mind Dr Forbes sitting motionless, gazing at the same distant point in the sea at the Carenage.” (Pg 28)

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
What’s your teaser for this Tuesday? Add to the comments and let me know what you think of that book so far, because I’m looking for some new books to sample!

What Are You Reading Monday, 27 July; and Recap of Last Week

on_mondaysAnother Monday is upon us, hope you all enjoyed your weekends as much as I did.

So with the start of a new week I find another chance to set some reading, and blogging, goals that will hopefully not be subverted by frolicking in the summer-time weather. Well, OK maybe there should be a little frolicking.

I am happy to report that I did finish up the books I listed to read last week (of course I didn’t finish Pride and Prejudice until this morning, but still). I’m happy to be done with those, both of which I enjoyed for very different reasons, so that I can have a clear plate to throw myself into The Girl Who Played with Fire. It’s long and I assume I won’t be able to put it down, but going to try so that I can at least try and keep up the two books a week track record I have had of late.

Last week I was also busy putting my name and blog address on no less than three Mr. Linky’s! I am signed up to participate in: the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge, the Harry Potter Reading Challenge and the August Reading Challenge – this in addition to the Everything Austen Challenge that I am in as well. I have the first two Sookie books here that I will crack open come the beginning of August, and have the first six Harry books on their way to me. Also on its way to me, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Colin Firth that I rented since I have never seen this version. I am not adding it specifically to my list for Everything Austen, it’s more of a supplement, but think I will wait until I watch and do post of the book and movie.

As for blog goals, I have a few reviews I would like to complete, and also like to add a specific 2009 Challenges page. Of course this is in addition to keeping up with my Google Reader, which I finally totally cleaned out last week. It took longer than I thought to clean because I am enjoying reading all the blogs I subscribe too, but also because I have found so many new ones to add when you all share awards and kudos, so thank you all for introducing me to more great blogs and people to follow on Twitter. I also hope you like what you find here and will subscribe and say hello to me on Twitter as well. Links for both are on the right.

So, happy reading to you all, and hope you have a great week ahead!

Books I completed the week of July 20:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Books to read the week of July 27:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
(OK, I know I was planning on reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after finishing P&P, but to appreciate both, I think I need a book in between.)

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY:

  1. What books did you finish last week? What is on your TBR pile for this week?
  2. Are you participating in any challenges? If so, which ones and how are they going?

The Well-Traveled Shelf

I love to travel and have been lucky enough to have visited some amazing places around the globe. Whether traveling for work or as a tourist, of course I need to bring back souvenirs. My home is filled with artwork, pillows, wood carvings, figures … sorry the list goes on and on and while I will not bore you with an entire inventory of my belongings I will share one more thing I have gotten during my travels, books.

Obviously I am a lover of books, so I’m not sure where I was when it first hit me that an equally memorable souvenir would be a book. I don’t get a book in every location I go to, but all the ones I do bring back have a story or significance attached (even if it is just, I don’t know I was in X City, saw this book and decided to get it). 

On my most recent trip I bought a book in Copenhagen and in Stockholm. Copenhagen was in the totally random category.

But in Stockholm, while on a tour outside the City proper, the guide offhandedly mentioned that she also led tours of locations from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, pointing out a location or two as we passed. OMG! How could I have forgotten that Stieg Larsson was from Sweden and much of the book’s action took place in Stockholm?! Once the kind tour guide shook my memory, it became my mission to see if I could find an English-language edition of The Girl Who Played with Fire. I was not any place where there was a bookstore for hours. But with my final free hour I made a dash, not even asking where I might find a bookstore, hit a touristy-looking street filled with a variety of stores and much to my happiness I spotted a book and card store. I ran in and found one shelf of English-language books and one lone copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire. Obviously it was meant to be. Not that you need to travel to Stockholm to get a copy, it hits the US shelves this Tuesday (July 28th).

I could go on and on, telling the tales of some of the books that line my shelves. And that’s what makes my traveling even more fun. These books might not be the most obvious tokens of my travels, but to me – that makes them all the more special.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you have a special “traveling book” story?

3 for 3 in the Reading Challenges Department Today: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

Sookie Reading ChallengeNow I know I am a little late to the game here, but seeing as I have signed up for two other reading challenges today, I am finally committing to the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Why has it taken me so long to finally sign-up? I don’t have a good answer for this. I watch True Blood, and for weeks have been picking up and then putting back Dead Until Dark when I go to a bookstore (I did this even while I was in Copenhagen – but I did take a promo bookmark for the series from the store). But today was finally the day, I went out and got both Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas. I am going to try and hold off reading them until August since my TBR pile is huge, and I can add these to my August Reading Challenge as well.

Thanks to all the bloggers out there who are hosting these challenges (I am now participating in four right now)! And happy reading to all the participants.

Reading Challenge: The Harry Potter Reading Challenge

HPRCFor what seems like years now, friends of mine ranging from avid readers to people that I never even really talked about books with have asked if I have read Harry Potter. It certainly happened more than once, and in fact often enough that I began to sheepishly answer that in fact I had not read any of the books in the series, I have never even seen one of the movies.

I’m not really sure exactly I haven’t read any. Originally it was because I really thought it was for kids.  But that was short-lived as I was soon encouraged by friends with kids that they loved it too, and so would I. Then the next thing I knew it seemed that readers of all ages were just wild about Harry. (As an aside, I have a Harry Potter fan moment, a few years back I was in London right before one of the books was about to be released and could not get over the line of costumed fans who were sitting out days before it even went on sale. Unfortunately I left the day before it went on sale or I probably would have bought a copy of whichever book it was and not be in this situation now of being one of the last left standing.)

So, I was quite happy to see that Galleysmith is hosting a Harry Potter Reading Challenge. I just signed up today for the August Reading Challenge hosted by Pizza’s Book Discussion, so talk about cross-over (but luckily the challenge gives a year to finish all the HP books), and now I can finally get in on the Harry Potter conversation. Maybe I will even rent the movies as I finish each book. But I will continue to update the blog as I finish up the books.

Want to join in on the fun, check out Galleysmith’s Harry Potter Reading Challenge post and sign-up! You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #hprc.

A New Challenge: The August Reading Challenge

August Reading ChallengeWith July swiftly winding down, I can’t help but wonder what happened to summer and all the wonderful plans I had for reading so many books (case in point: bringing five books on vacation, buying two more while away, and only reading two)?

So, while I was finally catching up on my Google Reader (which is still out of control, but is at least under 550 posts) I saw J Kaye’s Book Blog post on a new reading challenge for August hosted by Pizza’s Book Discussion. Intrigued, I took a look and see that this challenge is a contest to see who can read the most in August. So, here I am – making this a new challenge for myself.

While I don’t think that I will read more than my other esteemed bloggers who are participating, this is a good opportunity to challenge myself to up my reading time especially this last month of summer. I have tried to limit TV watching already (and really what do I need to be watching, we’re mostly in reruns), so this challenge should be the final push I need to really focus more on reading.

I am also in another challenge right now, Everything Austen, and have just started my first book Pride and Prejudice — I figured it was the best place to start. I also think I will join in the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge, I just want to pick up one of the books first before I make it official.

If you are looking to challenge yourself too, here are the links to the August Reading Challenge and Sookie Stackhouse Challenge (sign-up for Everything Austen is now closed). Looking forward to sharing this with you all.

August Reading Challenge hosted by Pizza’s Book Discussion
Sookie Stackhouse Challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads

ONGOING UPDATE: Books I Have Completed for the Challenge
1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (8.6.09)
2. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (8.9.09)
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (8.11.09)
4. Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (8.21.09)
5. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris (8.27.09)

Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls

Living in relative privilege, we first meet sisters Pearl and May Chin in Shanghai in 1937 as they are preparing for evening out to sit and be painted for yet another beautiful-girls calendar. The Chin sisters are different in both looks and temperament, but together they have been the faces for many products’ beautiful-girl calendars that hang in homes across China.

It is only a short time later that the world these girls know is forever changed in so many ways. Upon returning from a late night of posing then partying they learn that their father, to pay off his previously unknown gambling debts, has “sold” them as wives to two brothers who live in the United States. While this alone might be too much to bear for these girls who planned to marry for love, they soon find out that what lies ahead is so much worse.

We see Shanghai bombed by the Japanese, and follow the girls as they attempt to make their way out of Shanghai. A trip that will scar them both in separate ways.

Eventually, the Chin sisters make it to the United States, only to be held for months in a detention center on Angel Island, off of San Francisco, until they are finally cleared through immigration to meet their husbands and rebuild their lives in Los Angeles.

I don’t want to write too much else on the plot as I don’t want to give anything away. What I have above is really only about the first third of the book, and contains even more drama than I have noted here.

As with author Lisa See’s other novels (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love) this book is filled with such descriptive passages and gripping emotional turmoil that I found it hard to put the book down. It also provided me with a brief history of Chinese immigration during and after WWII that I previously didn’t know much about.

This book is certainly not light-hearted or easy fare, but is a very nice piece of story telling.

Shanghai Girls
ISBN: 978-1400067114
Pages: 336
Publisher: Random House

Teaser Tuesday – 21 July

teaser-tuesday

It’s that time of week again for Should Be Reading’s fun post Teaser Tuesdays.

So how does this work:
• Grab your current book
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week’s teaser comes from J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel Commencement, which I just started this morning:
“She put on an Indigo Girls CD to block out the noise and told herself not to be nosy, but halfway through the first song, she could no longer take the sound of a stranger in pain, and also, she was dying to know if Bree and her fiance had broken up. She scribbled a note on the back of one of the house meeting flyers (Join the Radical Cheerleaders and Pummel the Patriarchy with Pep!) and slid it under Bree’s door: I feel your pain. Want to come next door for vodka and Oreos? – Celia B. Room 323.” (Page 13)

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
What’s your teaser for this Tuesday? Add to the comments and let me know what you think of that book so far because I’m looking for some new books to sample!

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