Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

"I don’t see there’s any harm done, waiting until now to pass it on to his brother,” he replied slowly. “But you have a responsibility not to put it off again. A duty to the dead is sacred, I needn’t tell you that.”

A Duty to the Dead
Bess Crawford Mystery, book one
by Charles Todd
copyright: 2009
publisher: HaperCollins Publishers
format: e-book
pages: 259
source: own
finished reading: March 5, 2012

Read for... Bess Crawford Read Along

Goodreads Description: The daughter of a distinguished soldier' Bess Crawford follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War' helping to deal with the many wounded. There' serving on a hospital ship' she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother' Jonathan Graham: "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right." Later' when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm' Bess returns home to England' determined to fulfill her promise.

First Sentence:
At sea...This morning the sun is lovely and warm.

My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this story. So much so, that I am very glad that I have at least three more Bess Crawford books to read. Set during World War I - England - with a very able and independent woman, Bess Crawford. This is my kind of story. To top that off, Bess is a nurse during the war. I love female characters who have worth and strong qualities admist a male dominated arena. Bess completely won me over. She is not a perfect character, but I do believe her flaws made her even all that more appealing.

I am not a mystery reader, by nature, so I was quite pleased to find myself completely enjoying this mystery story. It is not complex, but deep enough that it took me until towards the end before I had a good idea of who-dunnit. Truly though, what kept me with the story was Bess herself. She became entangled in the lives of strangers who harbor a family secret. This secret has destroyed lives and buries murder. Bess takes up the cause to help unravel the truth, bit by bit, in order to possibly help clear a man's name, and to follow-through on a promise made to a dying soldier. She is one smart woman full of integrity, and compassion.

I know there are more adventures in store for Bess, and I look forward to reading where those adventures will take us.

Bottom line: I truly left this book with a feeling that the Bess Crawford story was one fantastic and absorbing mystery. Simplistic? Maybe, but not really for me. There were enough twist and turns present to keep me guessing.

Book Cover: I like it well. It does give off a mysterious early 1900's feeling. It gained my attention.

Memorable moment: The time Bess spent abroad the Britannic continues to stand out to me. She experiences it's sinking. These scenes did their job, I felt her horror and confusion during this moment in history, so much so, that I searched out information regarding Britannic.

Note Worthy Quotes:

“If you remember, when you first decided to train as a nurse, I warned you that the burden of watching men suffer and die would be a heavy one. Young Graham just brought that home in a very personal way…. As to the message. Would you like to tell me what it is, and let me judge?”

"During training, we’d been warned about letting ourselves care too much for our patients. “They are yours to comfort, yours to heal, but not yours to dream about,” Matron had told us firmly. “Only foolish girls let themselves be drawn into romantic imaginings. See that you are not one of them.” Good advice. But Matron hadn’t foreseen Arthur Graham. …I wasn’t foolish enough to believe it was love, but I was honest enough to admit I cared more than I should…. And truth be told…there was a promise I’d made. Freely."

Bess Crawford Read Along Discussion Questions:

I did not answer all questions asked.

1. Was this the first book that you read by Charles Todd, or, the first book set in this time period?

This was my first book by Charles Todd. As of answering this question, I have now completed two books by this author team, and have decided that I most definitely want to read their other series, Inspector Ian Rutledge.

2. What was your first impression of Bess Crawford? Were you surprised by the independence she enjoyed as a woman in this time, and that her parents afforded her so much freedom? Did your opinion of Bess change throughout the novel?

My first impression was positive, straight away. I was a bit surprised by her independence during this time period, but then again I was not. There is war going on thus women were left to their own resources. Not only that, her upbringing was not "traditional". Due to her parents' lifestyle - father's occupation - I am not that much surprised by the freedoms they afforded Bess. My opinoin of Bess only continued to positively grow as they story progressed.

3. Did you know that large ocean liners, such as the Brittanic, which was a sister ship to both the Titanic and the Olympic, were called into service as hospital ships during the war?

I was unaware of Britannic before reading this story, and was most definitely unaware that luxury liners were brought into service as hospital ships. This part of history absolutely fascinates me to no end. After reading this book, I found myself digging up as much information on Britannic as I could find. Then I trailed into learning more about Navy Hospital ships. Fascinating stuff to me.

4. What did you think of Arthur's message? Do you think it was fair of him to ask Bess to deliver it? Why do you think she was so committed to not only delivering it, but to making sure it was followed by the Graham family?

Arthur's message was intriguing. It certainly helped to set the tone for this mystery. I do not think it was a question of fair or unfair that Arthur requested Bess to deliver his message- it is what it is, a dying man wanting to set a wrong right and had no other option but to make his request as he did. Bess made a promise, and she felt its importance even without knwong the details - simple as that as to why she not only delivered the message but made sure it was followed through.

5. Did you guess who the real killer was before he was revealed?

I had a strong idea right before he was revealed, and only because Bess gave good clues at this point.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Books and Movies: April Read-Along, The House at Tyneford

CarrieK @ Books and Movies is hosting an April read-along.
The book of choice is The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons.

I am excited to join Carrie on this read-along because The House at Tyneford sounds like a story that I am very much in the mood for reading.

It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford – and Elise – forever

Not only does this book sound good, the discussion should be fun. No weekly post required (but you certainly can blog your weekly thoughts) just show up at Carrie's blog on assigned day to discuss in the comment section under the read-along post. My track record has not been all that great with posting, as of late, but I can comment/ discuss weekly. This read-along is low stress for me, beyond making sure I stay on schedule with reading, there is no prep work. Fantastic!

Does The House at Tyneford sound like a book for you? Yes? Then please consider joining in on the April read-along. You still have time to get your hands on the book, the first discussion post goes up on April 9th.

Head on over to Books and Movies for the April Read-Along Schedule and Sign-Ups: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Song of the Week: Safe and Sound

For week four of every month, my Song of the Week post will be centered around Christian music. But, this week I am deviating. Due to my lack of music listening as of late, this week, I am choosing a song that just happen to come my way.

Yes, I heard the following song before via Kelly's blog, The Written World. But it was not until late Thursday night...ummm, very early Friday morning.... when this song made its impact upon me.

Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars was featured during the credits of The Hunger Games movie. It immediately gained my attention, because I thought, "How perfect and fitting for this movie." Then I wanted to know who was singing the song. I asked my girls, they did not know. My 12 year old searched the song out for me, and I was quite surprised to find out it is sung by Taylor Swift. I really like the song; lyrics and vocals. It had to be my Song of the Week choice as it fits right with my Hunger Games movie thoughts.

Movies I Have Watched: The Hunger Games

Photo Jan 21, 2012 12:19 PM

Background thoughts: Knowing how I feel about The Hunger Games series will give you better insight to my of thinking regarding the movie. ​First, and most importantly, I came away, from The Hunger Games series, strongly disappointed. To be clear, I did not like the series. Gasp, I know. But so very true. I did not like the series. In the minority, I am. But wait, I DID really like the first book,The Hunger Games. I LIKED IT so much that I could not help but recommend it to anyone who came my way. I even got my fantastic friend, Jody, to read the book and then the series (with me). I had such high hopes for the journey we started, but then came Catching Fire and with that my hopes started to diminish. Then, Mockingjay came along, I hoped but dashed they were...terribly dashed. That book, Mockingjay, pretty much ruined my overall impression of the series, and soured the first book...for me. I dislike the series and do not recommend The Hunger Games, hardly ever, even though I truly LIKED the book.

​The movie is now upon us. I said, "There is no way that I will see that movie let alone pay $11 to do so." Beyond my series dissatisfaction, the trailers did not speak to my interest. I was thinking that the movie may be cheesy and fluffy and full of hype similar to the Twilight movies (which I have never seen, and will not do). Along comes 14 year old daughter filled with a plan to see the mid-night showing. I told her no. I worked Thursday night until 1130PM. But, 14 year old daughter made her case, she re-read the books. I do take her and sisters and friends to mid-night showings ...we saw the last two Harry Potter movies and it is great fun to see a movie at this hour. So, I decided to enlist my Mom's help because daughter's revised plan after an original answer of "no, i work." was not satisfactory to this parent. No way! to dropping off 4 girls at a theater by themselves for a mid-night show. Their ages- 12, 13 and 14. Fortunately, for 14 year old daughter, my mom loves doing this kind of stuff, or at least she gives off that impression. Plan in place - Grandma chaperones the girls- to theater, early, 9 PM. They stake out seats, and wait. I arrive directly after work, we watch movie. High hopes, I do NOT have. I made it to the theater in plenty of time, thanks to the 15 minutes worth of trailers for upcoming movies. Which, by the way, I now want to see Snow White and the Huntsman.

Photo Mar 23, 2012 11:57 AM

The movie. I LOVED it. Yep. This movie rocked! It is probably one of the few book -to-movies that I have seen that has enhanced the story...for me. The essence of The Hunger Games was left fabulously intact. The movie fairly accurately portrayed the story as written. Yes, there are a few changes, but I do not feel those changes negatively impacted the direction the book took its readers. The changes made in the movie are minor, or easily explained, Yes, there are several moments in the book not portrayed on screen. But, I am very okay with that, because fact is, movies cannot contain all that was written on book pages. Story is cut for sake of run-time and dramatic effect. The screenwriters did the book great justice. I will also say, the cinematography was fabulous, as well. The movement on screen impacting viewing positively.

​The story, in print, does impact the reader with horror of children killing each other off until there is just one victor. The movie does not totally shy away from this horror, but I will say, the screen did not visually impact me as I thought it may. The book definitely does a better job in this area. Yet, the screen does not leave any room for you to think otherwise is going on...killing is happening.

Photo Dec 11, 2011 2:19 PM

​The actors. I was not expecting acting skills of any high caliber, but wow...they all played their roles very well. Josh Hutcherson fabulously transformed into Peeta. Upon first introduction, I must admit, I thought- "oh. He is so not Peeta." that thought did not linger long. Hutcherson pulled my emotional strings as Peeta did during my reading. Now, Liam Hemsworth immediately fit my image of Gale. Not only does Hemsworth fit my image, he protrays Gale as I imagined the character to be. Do know, I am more Gale fan than Peeta fan, but gosh, I do like both. The big true surprise for me was with Jennifer Lawrence. I thought that at best, she would do a mediocre job. Remember, I did not have high hopes for this movie. Mediocre job? She surpassed mediocrity. An excellent job she did with portraying Katniss. I think she nailed Katniss's aloofness, compassion, independence streak, and fears. Lawerence impacted the screen at all the right moments with portraying Katniss's vulnerability, intelligence, strength, and weaknesses. The tension, the fear, the uncertainty, the sadness, the hard-edge, the kindness exuded from Lawerence with accurate timing and intensity. Truly, Lawerence brought Katniss to life on the screen with the skill of subtleness rather than over-the-top acting. This portrayal reminded me why I liked Katniss when I first read The Hunger Games. I must not forget Haymitch. That character has always been of interest to me. Such a twisted and complex character. He certainly brought an element to the story that enhanced rather than detracted. How fascinating to see Woody Harrelson portray this character. At first, I thought "Woody!" upon first seeing Haymitch on screen, but quickly my "Woody" became "Haymitch". A great a choice for this character.

Photo Mar 23, 2012 11:20 AM

​Bottom Line: Yes, I loved this movie. The screenwriters did the book justice. Proof of that is, upon leaving the theater, I thought - "I want to re-read The Hunger Games." and people, I almost never desire to re-read a book AFTER seeing the movie, the reverse is true. I now have high hopes that subsequent movies will help decrease my book series dissatisfaction.

Side Note: While I do truly like The Hunger Games book, I do feel there is not much depth in plot. The undercurrent political tone, and societal structure is lightly touched upon. For a book of greater depth with similar plot line, I strongly recommend reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Actually, for anyone high school aged and above who does like The Hunger Games should give Battle Royale a read. That books brings all sorts of themes and questions to the thought process of the reading brain. Horrific it is, but not gratuitously written. See my Battle Royale review for further thoughts.

​I do hope that the sequel,Catching Fire, will be hitting theater screens for our veiwing enjoyment. I do seriously have high hopes for liking the movie series, and decreasing book series dissatisfaction. This hope is mostly due to the fabulous casting as I do know the plot is what it is, but maybe it will smooth out a bit on screen.

​Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you will plop down $11ish for this flick?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Every Woman's Guide To Cycling by Selene Yeager

Every Woman's Guide To Cycling
by Selene Yeager
copyright: 2008
publisher: New American Library
format: paperback
pages: 302
source: own
finished reading: 2010, re-read in 2011, and will re-read portions in 2012

Back Cover: More women than ever before are jumping on their saddles to enjoy one of the fastest growing sports in the country-and to improve cardiovascular fitness, control their weight, and liven up their social lives. At the same time, cycling remains very much a "man's sport," an intimidating world that can be difficult for women to navigate. Now celebrity spokeswoman Selene Yeager covers all the basics-for all ages and fitness levels.

My Thoughts: Warm weather is upon us, here in northern Illinois. Today the high will be 85 degrees, and the weather has been averaging in the 70's. Next week it will be in the 60's. For me, weather above 50 and definitely in the 60's means it is time to pull my bike out to go cycling. I started catching the cycling fever in 2009,and in 2010 the fever increased only to reach a higher level in 2011- the year I started to become serious. Oh, not serious in that I will participate in a Iron Man event or any race, for that matter. But, serious in that I had solid goals. This season, 2012, I will continue with last years goals, and then some. I want to ride - not casual ride. I want good form, smooth cadence, speed, endurance, and simply to enjoy myself as I ride through the landscape where I live. Beyond all that, I also want knowledge in bike maintenance. It is true, I do not know how to maintain my bike. I admit, I have relied on the two men in my life to maintain my bike. They know bikes - pull them apart and put them back together again. Last summer, my chain fell off my bike. No one was home to rescue me. I was too far to walk with a sickly bike in tow. I managed to figure out how to put the chain back on through much trial and error. One of this year's goal is to get into the nit and gritty of bike maintenance, and that will be the area for which I will concentrate my reading, for a bit anyway.

Every Woman's Guide To Cycling is an excellent book for giving a new cyclist a foot up on all the basics. Selene Yeager does a great job writing information in a straight forth, down to earth, easily understandable way without any since of dryness. Matter of fact, one of the things I appreciated is how she speaks directly to the reader - woman to woman. She hits topics that are only for woman, such as choosing a bike that fits your body, a woman's body. She states, "Because bike companies finally realized that women are not just small men with boobs....women-specific bikes...have been instantly more comfortable than their unisex brethren." p.40 she goes on to explain why. The saddle is one example of a bike part that women should pay close attention to because "No bike part is as personal or as important as the seat - known as the saddle." and "Women-specific saddles flare more in the back to accommodate this anatomical difference". Simply put, a saddle made for a man may not be good for a woman. My bike is not equipped with a woman-specfic saddle, and that is one part, of a few, that I hope to change out this year. For last year, I was able to maintain relative comfort by wearing cycling shorts, women-specifc.

Yeager gives very clear direction, specifics and understanding for purchasing a new bike, and many other areas of cycling. She teaches the novice cyclist the importance of choosing a bike that fits. She explains what you should look for, and how to know the bike fits properly. She also gives information on gearing up your bike, how to ride, how to train, build your training plan, racing, food/health, and bike maintenance. Very true, she lost me in the area of training. It was not easily understandable. What also is very true, I knew that I had a son who was getting into cycling and, frankly, that made me a bit lazy in trying to put forth some independant effort to gain clarity. Last season, with my son's guidance, I started to gain clarity on how to read the charts, and simply just understand the lingo involved. Also, I did purchase another book by Yeager which was and is quite helpful in gaining understand of the training aspects. I will post about that book at a later day, hopefully, next week.

Even though I lacked a sense of ease in gaining clarity with the training aspects, I maintain that Every Woman's Guide To Cycling was a great purchasing decision. The book has proved to be of great help in gaining understanding of cycling; informative, interesting, and well written.

Bottom Line: Cycling is truly a wonderful sport,and one that not only has fabulous health benefits, but is also extremely enjoyable. Cycling has definitely clicked with me. Every Woman's Guide To Cycling is an excellent book chock-full of advice, and straight forth information. I recommend this book to any woman who has a desire to start cycling beyond the casual bike ride in the neighborhood.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Foundation And Empire by Isaac Asimov

“The human mind works at low efficiency. Twenty percent is the figure usually given. When, momentarily, there is a flash of greater power, it is termed a hunch, or insight, or intuition.”

by Isaac Asimov
copyright: 1952
publisher: Bantam Dell
format: paperback
pages: 244
source: library
finished reading: January 2012

Read for.... Foundation And Empire Group Read hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings but I fell behind in my reading so I did not participate.

Goodreads Description : Although small and seemingly helpless, the Foundation had managed to survive against the greed of its neighboring warlords. But could it stand against the mighty power of the Empire, who had created a mutant man with the strength of a dozen battlefleets...?

First Sentence:  
Bel Riose traveled without escort, which is not what court etiquette prescribes for the head of a fleet stationed in a yet-sullen stellar system on the Marches of the Galactic Empire.

My Thoughts:
I really liked this book but did not like it as well as I did with the first of the series, Foundation. Again, this is a plot driven story that held my attention, surprisingly as I am not a plot driven reader. This really was a fascinating story of conflict between governments who try to jockey themselves into position of power, and the sci-fi elements added greatly to that fascination.  I could visualize the various world structures, and I found the spaceships and travel to be quite intriguing.

A plot driven story, this certainly was, and while that is its strength it is also its weakness. The beginning and last fourth of the book were the most interesting sections of the book. These bookends are where the action and change were for me.

I was fascinated with Bel Riose ( the empire) and with the likes of Ducem Barr (Siwennian)and Lathan Devers (the trader). The conflict surrounding these two certainly brought me into the story. As with Foundation, their story drops off and we are transported further into the future with yet again another conflict brewing, but it was not until the last fourth of the book that I became truly interested again.

No denying, I am greatly intrigued with the fate of the Foundation and that of the Empire and Second Foundation but I do wish there was more character development and connection.  That desire was felt greatest in the middle of the story as it dragged - it lagged on too long with one aspect of the story, and, without the feeling of solid character connection, I struggled a bit with reading this part of the book.

But all was not lost, because the last part was fabulous. The plot picked up in pace, and I became excited, once again. The pace was built up with the introduction of a different angle to the Foundation. Not only that, the last part of the story afforded me a connection with Bayta and Torah - well, more so than with any other character.

While, earlier on in the story,  I was curious about Bayta - the only female in the story - she remained more on the periphery. But, the ending portion of the book found me intrigued by her...not necessarily her, but the roles of women in the various cultures. Bayta entered a world where women are secondary to men. I had hoped the story would play up on the differences - the differences in Trantor’s attitude and expectations of women. But, the story did not play this up. A bit disappointing, but not so much because the pace kept the story moving without much pause. Beyond the role of women, I found another fascination and that was with Trantor’s agriculture ability which was similar to our own.

This last part of the book certainly intrigued me, and along with that intrigue - the plot thickened.  Twists occurred that I did not see coming, and I was certainly hooked into wanting to read the next book, Second Foundation.

Bottom Line: The plot driven story is working for me so much more than I would have thought. However, the lack of character connection was felt in the middle but fortunately for not too long. Fan- super- tastic is how I ultimately felt about Foundation and Empire, and the last part of this book - the ending most especially - is what contributed greatly to that Fan-super-tastic feeling.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Foundation by Isaac Asmiov


The temptation was great to muster what force we could and put up a fight. It's the easiest way out, and the most satisfactory to self-respect--but, nearly invariably, the stupidest. ”

by Isaac Asimov
copyright: 1951
publisher: Bantam Dell
format: paperback
pages: 244
source: library
finished reading: January 2012

Read for.... Foundation Group Read hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings

My Thoughts: Fascinating. Simply fascinating. I am not a big science fiction reader. Matter of fact, I steer away from classic sci-fi for fear of boredom and unknown terminology as well as the system and structure of the world the story sets. For some reason, I felt a nudging to read Foundation - curiosity, only 244 pages, and a
group read lead by a fabulous blogger - Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. My goal was to experience classic science fiction and gain insight through the group read.  Experience I gained, and more so. I found myself loving Asimov’s storytelling abilities through his fabulous woven story of intrigue, mystery, and suspense.

Foundation is a timeless story - the plot, and language were not outdated. Matter of fact, there is much within the story of Foundation that can be found relevant to today’s world. The language flows naturally, and at times was witty; I chuckled a few times with phrases such as “No, by Black Space.” and “I don’t care an electron...”.  There are gobs and gobs of cleverness woven into this spanning story. That was the big shocker for me. The few times that I have dipped my toes into science fiction - it was either fluff or too intricate and geeked out with sci-fi lingo that I just could not become engaged. Not so with Foundation - fluff it is not.

Like I mentioned, there is real-now-world relevancy which has brought about a few good discussions. And, the lingo is straight forth - make sense and enriches the environment instead of distracting my reading.  Ahhh...but the beauty of Foundation is the incredible intrigue that enveloped me straight from the start, and that is most likely my biggest surprise. I did not anticipate a mystery that would capture me and maintain suspense from page one to page two hundred forty-four.

Foundation is plot driven, that is for certain. I am a character driven reader so this could have been disaster for me. It was not, and I contribute that to clipped pace, and the frequent changing of time and circumstance.  Those three factors contributed to the immense intrigue and suspense I felt throughout.  While I missed the sense of a character connection, my mind was not allowed to focus on that fact for too long. Instead, my mind was engaged with the intricacies of the political maneuvering, and the fascination with the world’s system or lack thereof.

Fascination sparked, simmered, and started boiling as the story unfolded and layers were shown.  This fascination of mine was certainly gained with smart characters as they twisted, maneuvered, achieved, crafted, manipulated, and interpreted events - past, and present.  Not only was I fascinated by these smart characters, I was also quite enthralled with the vastness of the galaxy, and the systems put into place within individual habitats. That was another accessible reading aspect of Foundation.

While it is set in galaxy that stretches my imagination and tended to rely a bit on a known visual of Star Wars - I felt the structure of the setting, and the realities of life to be of understanding to my mind. It did not feel so out of this world that I could not make any sort of connection to the environment.  This book read well for me - it worked from plotting, to characters, to setting, and down to its enormity of spacial vastness. I am anxious to see where Asimov will take us readers next. I am anxious to move on because ultimately, I want to the theory of psychohistory for the good of man-kind, or is there some ulterior motive on the part of Seldon that we have yet to discover?

Bottom line: Foundation is an accessible read by way of ease of understanding, flow of storyline, interesting characters, and ultimately an interesting plot.  This accessibility  also comes in way of not subscribing to bizarre unknown terminology throughout the book, and  nor does it have a vastly differently societal structure.  Those two aspects helped to give the story familiarity needed for me to comfortably embrace the plot. Isaac Asmiov crafted an intelligent story with sharp writing that enabled a plot-driving story to engage and engross this character-driven story reader.

Book Cover: Not a fan. I just am not. This cover has done nothing to draw me to the story. Frankly, if not for the group read, I would have passed on this book because the cover validated - in my mind- my preconceived classic sci-fi notions.

Side note: I really can see Foundation as a tv series or a mini-series. The structure and characters offer a great deal for seasons of material.



Friday, March 9, 2012

Song of the Week: A Pound of Flesh

The second Friday of the month means my song of the week theme is…. Top Five Played Songs on my iPod in the past week. But, I have not been listening to much music these past couple weeks. Also, my laptop is still out of commission so I could not even check my song listening stats anyway. Have no fear, I do have a song this week thanks to watching a movie tonight.

Yep, Forks Over Knives had an attention grabbing credit song which featured Radical Face - Almost Home. I immediately knew that I heard about Radical Face via Alita Reads and her post Weekly Round Up (2.19.12). The thing is, I did not listen to the songs she posted. Sorry Alita, I meant too but time constraints swept me away. If I did listen, I could have been listening to this fantastic music for several weeks now instead of immediately gobbling up all the songs I could on YouTube this evening. I could own an album by now which would allow me to listen to the music on my drive to work in the morning. But nope, I will be having a Radical Face free weekend. A shame, because this music almost perfectly fits my musical mood.

A Pound of Flesh is one amongst several Radical Face songs that I greatly enjoyed listening to tonight. Something about this one put it on the top of my list...for now. The video is fantastic, and what is even more fantastic is the fact that it was created on a $165 budget. Gotta love that.

So, what do you think? Gonna listen to some Radical Face? Have you come across music that you heard for the "first" time while watching a movie, AND had to listen to it once done with the movie?



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

“Men who watch, and say little, very often are much wiser than the men they serve.”

The Winter Sea

by Susanna Kearsley
copyright: 2008
publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
format: paperback
pages: 533
source: own
finished reading: January 31, 2012

Read for... 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Back Cover: In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth - the ultimate betrayal - that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

First Sentence:
It wasn't chance.

My Thoughts: It has been a long time since I became so utterly lost in a book that I read it in 1 ½ days....a very long time it has been since I have read a book that quickly, a book of 527 story reading pages. I fell hard and fast for this book - for the characters - for the history - for the setting - for the romance. I could not put the book down, and found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning. I certainly was enthralled with all the aspects of this story, and most pleasantly pleased with how the history unfolded.

While reading, I was mesmerized and induced into a trance. I was brought into this absorbed state by the following...

  • The writing was beautiful with the choice of words in dialogue,and description.
  • The setting felt tangible. At times, I really felt the atmosphere, and surroundings as Carrie experienced.
  • The characters, compelling they were.
  • The history was absolutely fascinating.
  • The romance was wonderfully written, and more of a backdrop rather center stage hogging the scene from the history.
  • The pace and flow was smooth, and lent beautifully to the tangible type feeling gained with the setting.
The overall effect left me feeling like I was at home in the story.

The Winter Sea transported me into a time of history that fascinates me to no end. Susanna Kearsley crafted a story that smoothly alternated between past and present while weaving in history as relationships were formed, and grew. That is the utter beauty of this story - historical fiction through and through yet romance was perfectly blended into the mix.

I would classify The Winter Sea as historical fiction, no denying the vast amount of history and genealogy that flows through the pages. Yet, if one were to call this a historical romance, then I would say - this book is a perfect example of what historical romance should be - solid storytelling that balances the elements of romance without overtaking and neglecting the history and setting. And, as a matter of fact, the romance being secondary or even tertiary to the focus of the story. In this case, early 1700 Scottish history.

The beauty of the writing swept me further into the Scottish history of early 1700s. I truly found myself absorbing and lingering on the words and phrases throughout. The style of writing flowed and immersed me into the setting and lives of the characters. Many times, it felt as if I were on the coast of Scotland as Carrie discovered the surroundings. I found myself mesmerized by the events, and in awe of all that I learned. Susanna Kearsley did a fabulous job of giving historical information without feeling like the reader was being spoon fed. Nor were the historical facts felt forced into the plot, or spoken about in a way of telling. Rather, she showed the history through the eyes of her characters; within the past through the character of Sophia, and within the present as Carrie acquired information. This back and forth between present and past - the flow of history, and genaology worked perfectly for me.

While I do love to read about Scottish history, and most especially when set in the 1700s as this is a favorite century of mine, I am not a keeper of facts - I loose that information - so I was very pleased with the detailing of events and people, and most utterly pleased at how smoothly I obtained knowledge.

Compelling characters most certainly were found in The Winter Sea. I took to Carrie, our present day heroine, immediately. Her narration lent perfectly to the storytelling of the history, and while an element of suspending belief was in order, I found it was easy to do. I also liked Sophia a great deal too. They both were compelling and endearing in their unique ways. Their connection on the family tree only made them that much more interesting. I dare you not to feel drawn towards John Moray and Graham. They helped to anchor the lives of our female heroines, and to feed the history.

I greatly appreciated the trail through the McCelland’s family tree. Fascinating, and inspiring. I really should take this inspiration and put it towards tracing my own genealogy, and writing down the stories of family that my mother knows. An interest of mine for years that has not gone from my head into action. In some ways, I can see myself creating a story as Carrie did based on a name and time of person in her family line. Albeit, not so elaborate, for certain. Nor powerful or personal. The connection she has between herself and Sophia would be amazing to experience if truly possible.

Bottom line: The Winter Sea is superbly rich in history that is brought to life through the lives of the characters. This is truly a fabulous historical fiction that twisted my emotions around, and while it had some predictable moments, it was never dull, slow, or boring, and certainly contained many moments of surprise. From start to finish, The Winter Sea was beautfiuly crafted.


Book Cover: I so do love this cover. Not only is it alluring, it fits the mood of the story.

Note Worthy Quote:

“There's a line in The Barretts of Wimpole Street - you know, the play - where Elizabeth Barrett is trying to work out the meaning of one of Robert Browning's poems, and she shows it to him, and he reads it and he tells her when he wrote that poem, only God and Robert Browning knew what it meant, and now only God knows. And that's how I feel about studying English. Who knows what the writer was thinking, and why should it matter? I'd rather just read for enjoyment.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's On Your Nightstand? February Recap - March List

In the past, I participated in this meme and did enjoy the process. I have decided to participate, once again, but I was not prepared last week. Then, I thought, I would place this list on my Sunday Post. Yet, that post did not manage to be written. Here I am, one week later, writing out my plan. Well, my plan was written out on an index cards per my usual, but I managed to loose the card. That has propelled me into action for this post.

I will use my What's On Your Nightstand? post to recap what I read the month prior, and to list my plans for current month.


Books Read - February
My "review", if done, will be hyperlinked to book title.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
Completed on February 1st

GoodReads Description:How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

- Due to its unique delivery of story, this is one of the best books I have read.

One Day by David Nicholls
Completed on February 3rd

Back Cover:
It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

- A terrific book that was hard for me to put down until completed.

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asmiov
completed on February 17th

GoodReads Description:Although small and seemingly helpless, the Foundation had managed to survive against the greed of its neighboring warlords. But could it stand against the mighty power of the Empire, who had created a mutant man with the strength of a dozen battlefleets...?

- A very good book that certainly has kept me with a desire to continue reading the series.

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Completed on February 22nd

GoodReads Description:This first novel in a new trilogy from bestselling author Trigiani offers a heartwarming and hilarious story of Valentine Roncalli and the decades-old family business she struggles to save, finding love and the life she wants along the way.

- A terrific book that was hard for me to out down until completed.

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Completed on February 23rd

As "Brava, Valentine" begins, snow falls like glitter over Tuscany at the wedding of her grandmother, Teodora, and longtime love, Dominic. Valentine's dreams are dashed when Gram announces that Alfred, "the prince," Valentine's only brother and nemesis, has been named her partner at Angelini Shoes. Devastated, Valentine falls into the arms of Gianluca, a sexy Tuscan tanner who made his romantic intentions known on the Isle of Capri. Despite their passion for one another and Gianluca's heartfelt letters, a long-distance relationship seems impossible.....and the description continues but I do not want to give away the entire story.

- A very good book that kept me entertained.


Books to Read - March

I doubt that I will read all the books listed. If I read a total of 5, then I will be pleased. I listed 10 for sake of choosing based on my reading mood.

1. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Was in progress at end of February
Completed on March 1st

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family.

- Excellent book, and for a few reasons it ranks as one of the best.
While I could set it down, I was equally anticipating picking it back up again.
A book I want to own.

2. A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
Read for the Bess Crawford Series Read Along
Completed on March 5th

The daughter of a distinguished soldier' Bess Crawford follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War' helping to deal with the many wounded. There' serving on a hospital ship' she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother' Jonathan Graham: "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right." Later' when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm' Bess returns home to England' determined to fulfill her promise.

- A very good book that was very hard for me to put down. Almost excellent.

GoodReads Description:One of the most powerful dramas of Christian faith ever written, this captivating allegory of man's religious journey in search of salvation follows the pilgrim as he travels an obstacle-filled road to the Celestial City. An enormously influential 17th-century classic, universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language.

- In Progress

4. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Reading for 2012 TBR Pile Challenge

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, of the human heart and soul.

5. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Reading for my Read Aloud with Elliana, A Classics Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Challenge

One of the world's best-loved stories of shipwreck and survival, The Swiss Family Robinson portrays a family's struggle to create a new life for themselves on a strange and fantastic tropical island. Blown off course by a raging storm, the family-a Swiss pastor, his wife, their four young sons, plus two dogs and a shipload of livestock-must rely on one another in order to adapt to their needs the natural wonders of their exotic new home. Inspired by Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, this classic story of invention and adventure has fired the imaginations of readers since it first appeared in 1812. Freely translated over the years, with major sections excised and new subplots added, the novel is published here in its original English translation, fully restored for a new generation of readers.

6. The Silent Gift by Michael Landon Jr and Cindy Kelley
Reading for 2012 TBR Pile Challenge

GoodReads Description:
The 1930s were a decade of enormous uncertainty--for the world, for America, and in particular for one lonely, struggling mother and her disabled son. Their story is one of love and enormous sacrifices in the face of circumstances horrendous beyond belief. When her husband leaves her for someone whose time isn't wrapped up in a silent, handicapped kid, Mary and little Luke are out on their own in a world that has no room for the poor and disabled. Especially not at a time when most Americans are simply trying to survive their economic woes and job losses. But then arrives The Gift...where has it come from, and why? How can a young boy who can neither hear nor speak provide comfort, direction, and sometimes challenges to seekers who learn of the special ability? Whatever the source, its presence brings a single shaft of light and hope to Mary and her beloved Luke. Will it be enough?

7. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
Reading this one just because the title came my way, and I am curious. A library book, it is.

8. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Reading for 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

9. Haunting Warrior by Erin Quinn
Reading for My Book Manifesto - it is off my shelves

When his father vanished after uncovering the secrets of the ancient Book of Fennore, Rory McGrath transformed from an innocent boy into a troubled, cynical man. Leaving Ireland, he shunned his family, his heritage-and the very magic that defined his people for centuries.
Then he began dreaming of an ethereal beauty, who calls him to return home to a destiny that will take him beyond the realm of anything he imagined.
Lured to the castle ruins where his father disappeared, Rory is plunged back in time, and into the body of another man-a man betrothed to the very woman of Rory's dreams. In possession of the secrets of his past, his family, and his identity, her hold on Rory is inescapable. For she is his doom, his salvation-and his destiny.

10. Running Away To Home by Jennifer Wilson
Reading for 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Jen, her architect husband, Jim, and their two children had been living the typical soccer- and ballet-practice life in the most Middle American of places: Des Moines, Iowa. They overindulged themselves and their kids, and as a family they were losing one another in the rush of work, school, and activities. One day, Jen and her husband looked at each other–both holding their Starbucks coffee as they headed out to their SUV in the mall parking lot, while the kids complained about the inferiority of the toys they just got–and asked themselves: "Is this the American dream? Because if it is, it sort of sucks."

Jim and Jen had always dreamed of taking a family sabbatical in another country, so when they lost half their savings in the stock-market crash, it seemed like just a crazy enough time to do it. High on wanderlust, they left the troubled landscape of contemporary America for the Croatian mountain village of Mrkopalj, the land of Jennifer's ancestors. It was a village that seemed hermetically sealed for the last one hundred years, with a population of eight hundred (mostly drunken) residents and a herd of sheep milling around the post office. For several months they lived like locals, from milking the neighbor's cows to eating roasted pig on a spit to desperately seeking the village recipe for bootleg liquor. As the Wilson-Hoff family struggled to stay sane (and warm), what they found was much deeper and bigger than themselves.


What are your book reading plans for March?


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