Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Russian Concubine

by Kate Furnivall

The Russian Concubine is a complex, beautifully written story about a young Russian girl living with her mother in exile, in Junchow, China. Eleven years after the Russian Revolution, the same turmoil threatens China and Lydia Ivanova is caught in the middle of it.

Her mother drinks away her memories of grand old Russia, while Lydia pickpockets their way to survival. She moves easily between the European and Chinese worlds, saved by her street smarts and how easily she is accepted into polite society. She attends a prestigious private school, but just how her mother affords it, is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the book.

Lydia meets a young Chinese man who is involved in the communist movement. They fall in love, and of course danger is always just around the corner. But, the plot of The Russian Concubine is so much deeper that a simple story of forbidden love. The many layers that make up the story keep unfolding; drawing the reader in, wondering what twist the story can possibly take next. The intertwining of Russian and Chinese history and culture makes this a fascinating book. The characters and the tangled webs their lives form makes for an unforgettable story. The final piece to this wonderful book -- the story is based upon the experiences of the author’s own mother as a Russian refugee in China.

I enjoyed this book so much, I made a special trip to Barnes and Noble the day the sequel was released, just to get it. I was thrilled there was another installment to Lydia’s story, as I was not quite ready to let her live happily ever after.

Rating - A

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Sunday Salon - September 27th

Today is a BEAUTIFUL, sunny day and it is much welcomed after the 2 weeks of rain and flooding in Georgia. Most of the day I spent watching my daughter paint. She is determined to enter the school art contest this week and she had devoted hours today to creating a variety of water colors to choose from. She has quite a variety, from owls to flowers to steaming cups of coffee. I am not sure which she will choose, I however have a favorite, but I am trying REALLY hard not to push her towards my choice. We shall see.

My back porch did call to me for a couple of hours today where I finished A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester. I required my AP European History students to read this and I am just finishing the last part on Magellan's voyage and the impact it had on European thought. The book itself is an intriguing look at the transition from the Medieval world to the Renasissance and Reformation. It it an interesting read, even my students will admit that, full of little known tidbits about life in the Middle Ages. Manchester is the author of several other books and his historical research is, I believe, impeccible. His writing style is conversational and easy to follow, even when the history is complicated.

Next on my list is to finish Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Can You Keep a Secret?

by Sophie Kinsella

Can You Keep a Secret is true “ckick lit”, not my usual genre to be sure. In fact I can count on one hand the number of “chick lit” books I have read in my life. But, I was looking for an audio book to download for a seven hour solo trip (one way) and since the options on iTunes are limited, I ended up with this one.

Emma Corrigan, seems to have the perfect life, great job, perfect boyfriend, all the right clothes, until a business trip goes wrong. Her plane experiences turbulence and she spills all of her terrible secrets to the anonymous stranger sitting next to her. Once the crisis is over, she returns to her job, only to find that the “anonymous stranger” is actually the owner of the company she works for. Hilarious events ensue and Emma’s world is turned upside down.

I actually liked Emma, she was funny and the situations she found herself in were actually a bit believable and if they had happened to me I would have been truly horrified. This book exceeded my expectations. It was perfect to listen to while driving as I didn’t have to focus on the plot more than navigating the interstates. Would I run out and by Sophie Kinsella’s books? No, but I will consider downloading one again for traveling.

Rating - B

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - September 23rd

Happy 6th Birthday my Sweet Girl!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand - September

It is that time of the month, the time when I tell you what's on my nightstand to be read. Since today is the official start of the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days, this is just a big redundant, but I missed last month and was determined not to miss another one.

Currently I am reading...
World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
This is a non-fiction book chronicling the history of Europe from the Black Plague through Magellean's voyage around the world. It is a rich, vibrant look at the time periods and the author certainly does not mince words about corruption and lack of morality of the time. This is required reading for my AP European History students, so I are reading it with them.

Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman
Again, research for my AP Euro class. I am really enjoying this irreverant look at the Kings of Europe through the associations with their mistresses. If I had lived during this time, I certainly would have been a mistress, not a queen!

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett
This novel centers on Hans Holbein, portaitist to the royal families of Europe during the Reformation, as he travels to Europe to paint for Sir Thomas More, advisor to King Henry VIII. The story focuses on one of More's wards, Meg. I am just beginning this one and can't wait to read more of it.

Hopefully, next month will find other new titles on my nightstand.

Fall Into Reading Challenge

Today is the first day of fall, my favorite season. I love the colors, smells, holiday, temperatures of fall. I also love fall because it means it is time for Katrina’s Fall Into Reading Challenge! (I have a confession to make, I only began blogging so I could participate in Katrina’s Spring Fling Reading Challenge. It just looked like so much fun.)

I have spent days putting together my list of books to read – I really am a geek – and I’m still not sure I like it. See, Book Blogger Appreciation Week was last week and as I discovered so many new, amazing book blogs, I also found so many more books I wanted to read. Compound that with the books I need to read for school, and the fact that my family will demand clean clothes and food to eat over the next 3 months and you see my dilemma.

Well, anyway here is what I am starting with … I reserve the right to change this list at anytime -

Required for School –
A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester ( I am almost finished with this one)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (started, but it is slowwwww going)

Book Club Books –
September - The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
October - The Mulberry Tree by Jude Deveraux
November – TBD
December - TBD

Fiction –
The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner
The Girl from Junchow by Kate Furnivall
The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett
The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Non-Fiction –
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan
Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman (started)

And, that’s it. For me this is rather ambitious and I hope I can read most of these - to be honest, I really don’t think I can finish A Tale of Two Cities. There are several books on this list that have been sitting on my TBR shelf for too long and I am determined to read them. Good Luck to everyone participating. I look forward to your reviews and adding some of your suggestions to my ever growing list.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Booking Through Thursday 9/17

It has been a while since I had the chance to participate in Booking Through Thursday...
What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?
(Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

I LOVED The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall. In fact I liked it so much I made a special trip to the bookstore to buy the sequal, The Girl from Junchow, on the day it was released. Then, school started and I have not had time to read it, but I will!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Blog Award!

I was thrilled to get the wonderful award from my friend Steph at Stark Raving Bibliophile. I have only been blogging since March, 2009, so to have people actually read my book reviews is GREAT!

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude. Here are the rules for accepting this award:

  • Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
  • Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
  • Link your nominees with your post.
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award.

Here are some of the blogs I read on a regular basis that inspire me and make my life a little easier.

  • Katrina at Callapider Days---She was the first blog I discovered and fell in love with. Her Spring Reading Challenge is the reason I began blogging.
  • Heather at Age 30+... A Lifetime of Books--- Love her reviews and her book club blog is an inspiration.
  • Marie at The Burton Review --- I share her love of historical fiction and her Friday Fill-ins are great.
  • Allie at Hist-Fic Chick --- I have to visit her blog sparingly or I end up at Barnes and Noble with a bag full of historical fiction books she has reviewed.
  • Jennifer at Snapshot --- She reviews wonderful books for kids and young adults. My son's reading list is richer because of her blog.
  • Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie--- I have time to read because of Laura's great tips and especially her Meal Plan Monday.
  • Carrie at It's Frugal Being Green--- She makes me pay attention to frugal, environmental size of me that tries really hard to hide! I have found lots of inspiration on her site.
  • Ashley at Make It and Love It--- She makes things I can only dream of. Wish I had her talent.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

In honor or BBAW, I wanted to share some of my very favorite book blogs. These are the ones I try to read on a daily basis.

Hist-Fic Chick
My Cozy Book Nook
My Round File
Lost in Books
The Literate Housewife
Stark Raving Biliophile

Wordless Wednesday September 16th

Chinon, France - June 2008

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Sunday Salon

For teachers, school started on August 3rd. The last book I finished was on August 2nd!! I was so glad this week to find time to pick up a book and really READ.

This week I started and finished Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen. I also read part of The Prince and I am working my way through A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester. The last two are for the European History class I am teaching, so they really don't "count" as pleasure reading.

Today, I spent a great deal of time outside planting my fall/winter garden, but I have also managed to read Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman. This is a fun, eye opening read about royal mistresses throughout history. I am hooked! Not much in here I can share with my European History class, but I am sure enjoying the exploits of Europe's royal families. Our American politicians look really dull and puritainistic (is that a real word?) next to the kings of Europe.

And finally, my most exciting news of the day.... I received my first blog award from my friend Steph at Stark Raving Bibliophile. Thanks!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Finally!!! I finished a book! The Other Queen

by Philippa Gregory

Finally, I found the time to read a book. This is the first book I have finished since school started on August 3rd. Let me tell you, I MISS reading!!! I made myself a promise I will not do this again. Yeah, right. Grading papers, making lesson plans, staying one step ahead of my European History class, 13.5 hours per week at the ball park, dinner, laundry, homework, time with my wonderful husband and dear children… yeah, it might be awhile before I finish another book, so I will just enjoy this one.

Philippa Gregory is one of those authors I love because of where I discovered her. In the summer of 2004 I took a group of 5 girls to England and Ireland. I had picked up a copy of The Other Boleyn Girl at the airport. All 5 of us traded this one copy back and forth all during the trip. Reading this book as we discovered the beauty of England was magical. Touring Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and The Tower of London all while reading and incessantly discussing the book made it come alive in a way no other book had before. In Westminster we found the tomb of Mary Carey and her husband. We discovered the tomb of Anne Boleyn in the chapel at the Tower of London. Tower Green, the Crown Jewels, the Royal Apartments and the dungeons of the Tower made the story so real. The fascinating place that is Winsor Castle was amazing. Thus began my love affair with the books of Philippa Gregory. Say what you will about historical inaccuracies in her books, her descriptive, imaginative writing draws me in every time.

Westminster Abbey

The Other Queen is Gregory’s story about the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots by Elizabeth I. During this time, Mary is kept under the guard of George, Earl of Shrewsberry and his wife Bess at a variety of their homes and castles. It is a disaster from the start. Bess is a self-made woman. She has made marrying well an art form and through her 4 marriages has earned the title of Countess and amassed property and treasures in her own right. Mary, an ordained Queen has been raised in the French court, married to the King of France and is a Scots Queen on the run. She seeks shelter from the Scots rebels in England and finds herself the prisoner, although in a very luxurious prison, of her cousin, the Queen of England.

The book follows the intimate relationships that develop, the hardship of supporting the court of an exiled queen as well as the various plots to free Mary. Gregory does a good job of telling the story from the viewpoints of Bess, Mary and George, without favoring one character over another. I could easily view each side and understand the actions and reactions of the characters.

Prior to this book, I had not read much about Mary, Queen of Scots, but now I am very interested in learning more about her. Off to see if Alison Weir (my favorite Tudor biographer) has written about Mary….

Rating - A

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall Into Reading Challenge Is Coming

The start of school always stops my reading progress in its tracks. I have not even opened a book for 5 weeks! My husband asked the other day why I was so grumpy and I really didn’t have a good explanation. After thinking about it, I really believe it is because I have not had time to read - relax and escape – in such a long time. BUT, I have just the event to remedy that! Katrina at Callapidder Days announced the Fall Into Reading Challenge is coming next week. Immediately, I began collecting a list of books I can’t wait to read and review. So, if you need a reading jumpstart, head over the Callapidder Days this week and join the fun.