Sunday, January 31, 2010
I don't know about where you are but it is COLD in NYC this weekend! The cold actually gave me a good excuse to stay inside and read so it wasn't all bad - I was hunkered down all day on Saturday with a book and cups of tea and coffee. I hope it warms at least a little before I need to venture out for work on Monday!
This was quiet book blogging week for me - I had a 3 day meeting for work out of town which included evening dinners so my free time was very limited. I found I really missed checking in on the blogs in my reader, seeing what the bloggers were reading and commenting. I realized that the practice of commenting on at least 5 posts per day encouraged in the comment challenge from Mother Reader had really taken hold - I missed this daily practice when I was consumed with goal-setting and brainstorming at my work meetings!
I did manage to get two reviews up this week:
The Geography of Bliss is an examination of happiness in a variety of countries - part travelogue, sociological study and memoir.
New World Monkeys is author Nancy Mauro's debut novel. I read this for a book club meeting taking place this coming week - the author will be joining us so I will report back on the discussion
I am currently reading two books (a rarity for me - I usually prefer to read one at a time):
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. I am reading this for the Social Justice Challenge whose theme this month is Religious Freedom. By this month, I do mean January - talk about getting something in under the wire! I lost track of the challenge this month and only realized about a week ago that I still hadn't read anything for it. I will be furiously reading all day today to get this one finished. Here's to better planning next month!
The Reading Group: A Novel (P.S.) by Elizabeth Noble. This is a fun story that tracks the lives of women in a London Reading Group. So far, I am really enjoying the characters!
I am listening to two books right now - one on my Ipod and one on CD that I started during the 4 hour roundtrip car ride that I make every week for work.
Absolute Power by David Baldacci. This is my first time reading or listening to anything by Baldacci and so far it has really grabbed my attention. Stay tuned - I have an upcoming giveaway for this audiobook
You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning by Celia Rivenbark. I enjoy listening to comedy on my walk to and from work or just around town - this sassy southerner has been keeping me laughing.
I won an award!
Becky from Page Turners awarded me the Blogger Buddie Award - she awards this to top commenters on her blog. Here are the other bloggers that received the award this month:
Page Turners - go check it out! Becky -thanks again for the award!
Hope you all have a great week and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
New World Monkeys: A Novel by Nancy Mauro tells the story of a young couple (Duncan and Lily), married for 5 years, who head to upstate NY one summer in an effort (although this is never stated directly) to salvage their troubled marriage. A series of bizarre events unfold including the killing of a wild boar, Lily's friendship with a Peeping Tom and the couple's archeological dig of their backyard to unearth the body of the nanny that abducted Lily's great-grandfather. Hmm . . . sounds like a lot is going on but the main plot, that of the couple and the slow unraveling of their marriage, moves slowly with little to no progress. That seems intentional - there is no action in that plot because the couple is really examining the state of their marriage, themselves and how they relate to each other against the backdrop of the crazy townspeople lusting for revenge for the killing of the wild boar, the bones in the backyard and the revelations from the Peeping Tom.
I really like the author's style of writing - it is smart and witty with sentences that are crafted, not just written. In fact, Carolyn See in her review of the book for the Washington Post , said the book belonged to a sub-genre that is rare these days, "Educated-Women's Lit" - I think that is a great way to describe a genre for this book. Although I appreciated the smart writing style and dry humor in the book, I did get frustrated with the characters, especially Lily. She seemed supercilious and invulnerable and once she befriended Llyod, the Peeping Tom, and began partaking in his perverted afternoon adventures, she lost me. I found I cared more about her husband, Duncan, and his struggles in the ad business including his insecurities about not being smart or successful enough. But I never found myself caring much about either of them as much as I cared about their examination of their marriage - this novel isn't really about the characters but about the marriage and its fate. The narrative is so smart that is almost makes up for the fact that the characters are not really the main stars of the novel.
I read this book for an upcoming book club meeting for Hardcovers and Highballs - our meeting is Feb 3rd and the author will be present. I am looking forward to discussing the book with her and learning more about her perspectives on Lily and Duncan and their marriage. I will post an update after our meeting and share what I learn.
Nancy Mauro is Canadian but has worked at an ad agency in NY and now lives in Manhattan. I am spotlighting her for the Literary Road Trip
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner is at once a travelogue, sociological study and memoir. Weiner, a foreign correspondent for NPR, traveled the world for a year in an effort to determine how place and the characteristics of that place influence an individual's happiness. The book is a very interesting combination of Weiner's personal observations of each country visited and an examination of the science of happiness (don't worry - the science is touched upon very lightly; this is not a technical book by any means).
This book is right up my alley - I love to travel and learning about new cultures. Happiness and how people derive happiness in their lives is such a core part of a country's culture. The differences in definitions of happiness in each country and how that influences a country's "happiness quotient" certainly gave me pause and made me examine how I define happiness. Here are some interesting questions/thoughts to consider from Weiner's visit to each country:
- Netherlands -There is more to life than pleasure - do we want to achieve our happiness or just experience it?
- Switzerland - "Happiness is not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else"
- Bhutan - much has been written recently about the fact that Bhutan measures GNH (Gross National Happiness) versus GNP so I was not surprised to see it included on Weiner's journey. In Bhutan, there is discussion about the fact the "personal happiness" is not a concept that makes sense to the Bhutanese because "All happiness is relational"
- Qatar - "Is there a point where excess comfort actually dilutes our contentment?"
- Iceland - Is happiness a choice? How much of our happiness is determined by genetics or our environment?
- Moldova - How does the de-valuation of friendship and trust within a culture affect people's happiness?
- Thailand - Thinking about happiness makes us less happy. Could all our introspection negatively impact our ability to be happy?
- Great Britain - What is the impact of immigration on a country's happiness? Is there a connection between the homogeneity of a population and its people's ability to be happy?
- India - happiness and misery live side by side here. How do people reconcile their personal happiness experienced within their circle of family and friends with gross unhappiness on the streets outside their homes?
- America -"When it comes to thinking about happiness, pondering it, worrying about it, cogitating over it, bemoaning our lack of it, and of course, pursuing it, the United States is indeed a superpower" No wonder the book sold well in the US! Would readers in other countries even read a book like this?
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The movie Extraordinary Measures opened on Friday, Jan 22nd. The movie, starring Harrison Ford, Keri Russell and Brendan Fraser, is inspired by the story of John Crowley, whose children have a rare genetic disorder which is usually fatal. The story centers around Crowley's quest to bring a drug to market that will slow the progression of his children's disease and extend their lives.
I was first introduced to this story about 3 years ago when I read The Cure: How a Father Raised 00 Million--and Bucked the Medical Establishment--in a Quest to Save His Children by Geeta Anand - the movie is actually adapted from the book. You can read my review here. John Crowley and his family's story really captivated me and I was inspired by the lengths to which a father would go in an effort to save his children.
I haven't seen the movie yet but, so far, the reviews look positive. The NYT's review was not a rave but also didn't bash the release, calling the movie, "nothing extraordinary, but nonetheless satisfying". Time Magazine was more positive about the film and ran an interesting article in which they examined the move of inspirational stories, like the one told in "Extraordinary Measures", from TV movies to films. The articles compares "Extraordinary Measures" to "The Blind Side" but points out there is even more on the line in "Extraordinary Measures" - the lives of two young children.
Did you see it? I would love to hear what you thought!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Story Siren hosts In My Mailbox where book bloggers offer a peek into the books that arrived in their homes over the past week. Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page has the same objective - I can relate to the warning that accompanies this meme on her website: "Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists"
Well, I have definitely fallen victim to the topping TBR piles! The book buying/swapping has gotten out of control since I started book blogging. Here is what arrived this week"
- The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks- this is a review copy that arrived from Val at Hachette Books (thank you!). Looking forward to reading and reviewing it - I will also soon be doing a giveaway for this book.
- Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks- this is for the January theme of the Social Justice Challenge - Religious Freedom
- Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank- found this at a Borders sale and couldn't resist since my Mom really enjoys this author and has recommended her to me. I figured we will both read this book
- Oxygen: A Novel by Carol Cassella- another Borders sale find! I love novels with a medical twist - especially those written by doctors
- In a Good Place: A Novel by Rachel Johnson - another Borders sale find! This is the sequel to Notting Hell which I loved so I am definitely looking forward to this one.
- I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosby - this collection of essays was recommended to me quite some time ago but it finally came up on PBS
- MIDDLE PLACE- by Kelly Corrigan - picked this up in the thrift store as I have been meaning to read it for a long time
- Water for Elephants: A Novel-by Sara Gruen - another thrift store purchase
- The Dogs of Babelby Carolyn Parkhurst - my final thrift store find on this outing
It is hard to imagine it has been 12 days since the earthquake in Haiti - I continue to be dismayed by the devastation there and it is overwhelming to consider how the country and its people will come back from this - the medical and housing needs alone are staggering. I have been encouraged in moving through the book blogs this week to see that the tragedy in Haiti is top of mind for the book bloggers.
I saw two excellent posts highlighting Haitian authors- Melanie at lit*chick put together a list of books by Haitian authors or featuring Haiti. Her list includes some excellent books for children. Check out her list for some ways to, as she says, "bring some of Haiti into your heart and home".
At Books on the Nightstand, Ann has posted a resource list of charities helping in Haiti. One of those charities is Partners in Health who is providing - and has been providing for the past 20 years - modern medical care in poor Haitian communities. Ann also spotlights the work of Edwidge Dandicat, the Haitian-born author. Check out the BOTN post here.
Onto lighter fare . . .
I haven't made much progress reading this week - I seem to be doing my book blogging (writing posts, reading others blogs and posting, etc) than book reading. I am going to have to work on getting the right balance. I started blogging because I loved to read and wanted to share that with others but I need to make sure that the blogging doesn't "crowd out" the reading!
I am currently reading New World Monkeys: A Novel for an upcoming book club. So far, I am impressed with the writing although I find the story a little bizarre. Should finish that this week and then I will move on to The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (stay tuned for a giveaway of that book)
I did post a few reviews this week:
- The Cure by Geeta Anand - tells the story of John Crowley and his family. His story is featured in the movie Extraordinary Measures which opened on Friday
- Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
- Live for Your Listening Pleasure(Audiobook) by David Sedaris
- Spoiled: Stories by Caitlin Macy - first post for the Literary Road Trip
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I love Sedaris's humor when reading it but listening to him is better - his delivery adds even more to his comic anecdotes. His timing is impeccable. I saw Sedaris live at Lincoln Center during this most recent tour (so some of the essays on the recording were not new to me - still funny the second time around).
He will be touring again this April/May but I see from the author's website that there are no scheduled appearances in NY - looks like I will have to wait for the audio recording of that tour to be released to get my Sedaris fix. If he is visiting a city near you, I recommend seeing him live!
Friday, January 22, 2010
I initially struggled with this book - I think I am a little two grounded in reality for ghosts! The premise of the novel struck me as preposterous and I think that was an obstacle in my getting acquianted with the characters. In addition, like Lara, I found Sadie annoying and petty at the start of the novel. Despite this, the other characters, especially Lara, began to draw me in and I got involved in their storie. As I began to care more about the characters, the fact that Sadie was a ghost faded to the background and was no longer an issue for me. Lara is your typical Kinsella heroine - she struggles in her lovelife and career - but she has the signature self-deprecating wit of the Kinsella heroines and I couldn't help but love her as the book progressed.
I very much enjoyed this book - it is a fun, light-hearted read even though it deals with an issue as grave as death. As I compare to other Kinsella favorites, such as the Shoapholic series or The Undomestic Goddess, I would place this book just beneath those. It was very entertaining and I did enjoy the characters but not as much as I enjoyed the antics of Becky Bloomwood in Shopaholic or Samantha Sweeting in Undomestic Goddess. If you like Kinsella or are just looking for a fun read with characters you will like, definitely pick up Twenties Girl: A Novel and get in touch with your inner flapper!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Michelle at Galleysmith hosts the Literary Road Trip where book bloggers volunteer to showcase local authors. Each blogger takes a state/city/country and posts reviews, interviews etc with authors from that locale. There are still many states with no representation - if you would like to join in, head over to this page and sign-up. Even if you don't sign-up as a "stop" on the trip - definitely check-in on some of the stops to see which authors are being spotlighted!
I live (and was raised in) NYC so, to be honest, I have it pretty easy in terms of identifying authors for the Road Trip. There are a bevy of authors from or currently living in NYC. I will try, however, to shine a light on those that may be lesser known. If you are an author from NYC (or the publisher of a NYC author), I would love to spotlight you on my literary road trip stop so please contact me (leenbeen2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com).
Without further ado, my first spotlight is Spoiled: Stories by Caitlin Macy. Macy is a graduate of Yale and received her MFA from Columbia. She currently lives in NYC with her family. You can read more about her and her first book, The Fundamentals of Play: A Novel, at her website.
From the Publisher:
Caitlin Macy’s debut novel The Fundamentals of Play was heralded as a Gatsbyesque examination of love and class in Manhattan. Now, in her sophisticated and provocative story collection Spoiled, Macy turns her unsparing eye on affluent and educated women who nevertheless struggle to keep their footing in their relationships and life.
In “Annabel’s Mother,” a young woman does a good deed for her nanny, only to have it go horribly wrong. “Bait and Switch” chronicles a lifelong rivalry between two sisters. A self-made woman struggles to gain the upper hand with her comically self-assured cleaning woman in “The Red Coat.” And in “Taroudant,” a newly married woman desperate for authentic experience makes a rash decision to leave the grounds of her Moroccan luxury hotel.
Macy’s voice is as straightforward as it is original in these stories, and her characters deftly nuanced. Full of surprising, sometimes shocking insights and simmering with outrage, compassion, and humor, Spoiled is a remarkable collection from a boldly talented writer.
I read Spoiled a number of months ago for a book club - although there were stories in the collection that left me flat, overall the collection was very good. Each story had a message and prompted you to stop and think. The author, Caitlin Macy, actually attended our book club and had a great discussion with the group about her motivation for different stories, writing process and background. The discussion really added a lot of color to the stories and made me appreciate them even more.
This collection of short stories provides an insightful look at those in society who are "privileged" - no matter how recently that privilege was acquired. Caitlin Macy observantly explores issues of class and how it motivates us in this concise collection of stories. As much as you may not want to, I think most readers will recognize themselves in at least one of the characters. Worthwhile read!
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted each week by Breaking the Spine , in which a book blogger spotlights an upcoming release that he/she is "waiting" on.
This week I am waiting on The Karma Club by Jessica Brody. This is the YA debut for the author and, although I don't usually read a lot of YA, I am waiting on this one for 2 reasons:
- I read The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover: A Novel (read my review here) which are adult titles by the same author and I really liked them - good character development and likeable characters
- I have committed as part of the 2010 Challenge to read 2 YA novels, so why not start with this one?
“All the fun and intrigue of Gossip Girl with the heart of a Sarah Dessen novel and the soul of the I Ching. ” --Gabrielle Zevin, bestselling author of ELSEWHERE and MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC
“Equal parts fresh, funny, and engaging, THE KARMA CLUB is the story of one girl’s attempt to speed karma along only to discover that karma plays by its own rules. Jessica Brody has created a witty, endearing, heroine in Maddy Kasparkova—this is one YA debut you won’t want to miss!” --Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author of EVERMORE and BLUE MOON
This releases April 27, 2010.
What are you waiting on?
In 2007, I was finishing my MPH at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and was assigned a Harvard Business Review entitled "Father's Love: Novazyme Pharmaceuticals". Most of the reading to date in the program had been pretty dry and data driven. This case study was different - although it focused on the business and management decisions made by Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, it also told the amazing story of John Crowley and what he had done to try to find a cure for the disease that was stealing the lives of his children. I was so gripped by the story that I sought out Geeta Anand's book which chronicled John Crowley's story - The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million - and Bucked the Medical Establishment - in a Quest to Save His Children.
John Crowley and his wife had a picture perfect life - John was a Notre Dame grad who recently had received his MBA from Harvard; they had a beautiful house and three young children. The perfect life started to fall apart when John's wife, Aileen, noticed some motor skill defecits in their young daughter, Megan. Shortly thereafter, Megan and her younger brother Patrick were dignosed with a rare genetic disease, Pompe's Disease for which there was no cure, no effective treatment; the Crowley's were told the disease was degenerative and would gradually rob their children of the ability to walk, speak, eat and would ultimately take their lives long before they reached adolescence. John refused to accept that death sentence and set about trying to find a cure for his children's disease. He left his job, invested in Novazyme Pharmaceuticals and launched this biotech in order to develop a compound to treat Pompe's Disease. While facing the increasing decline of his children's health, Crowley struggled with the research setbacks and the business of getting a drug developed and approved. The books moves fluidly between descriptions of these struggles (and some triumphs) and those he and his wife faced at home as they coped with their children's health and its impact on their family life.
Working in R&D for a large pharma company, I have a keen understanding of all it takes to get a drug through the development and approval process - I think that is why I was so engrossed in this story. I am impressed by Crowley's dedication and his tenacity in trying to save his children's lives. It's hard for me to imagine facing so many setbacks while my children gradually declined - to race against the clock while trying to manage many things which are not within your control would be so hard. But that is what John Crowley did and the story is both heart wrenching and heart warming.
The Crowley's story has been made into a movie, Extraordinary Measures starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell, which opens Friday, Jan 22nd. Whether you see the movie or read the book, definitely learn about the Crowley's - their story will inspire you!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Story Siren hosts In My Mailbox where book bloggers offer a peek into the books that arrived in their homes over the past week - I have really enjoyed looking at other's posts for this meme so I decided to participate myself for the first time.
God knows I have no business bringing anymore books into this house - the shelves are overflowing! But for each one, I have a very good reason for needing it (ahh . . . the art of justification).
- New World Monkeys by Nancy Mauro - this one is for an upcoming Hardcovers and Highballs book club meeting. I have started reading it and so far, so good.
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - this is for an upcoming Chick Lit Book Club meeting
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - Also a Chick Lit Book Club selection (although I probably would have gotten this anyway)
- That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo - this was on my Paperbackswap.com wishlist. It takes a while for these books to move up in the queue - how could I say no?
- The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle - I had read Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle and was on the lookout for other titles of his when Farm Lane Books reviewed Inner Circle. It was available on Bookmooch so I ordered it right away.
- Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen - I read this in high school but have recently decided that it warrants a re-read as an adult.
Monday, January 18, 2010
In a nod to the Golden Globes which took place in a rainy LA last night, I thought I would let everyone know about two book giveaways which I recently won - I rarely win anything so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be notified about these wins!
From Nely at All About N I won the Cleaving Audiobook - I recently started traveling to another office at least once per week and it is a 2.5 hour drive each way - audiobooks are rapidly becoming my friends! I am looking forward to listening to this second book by Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia fame) even though the reviews have been mixed.
From Swapna at S. Krishna's Books, I won Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra - I won the South Asian Author Challenge sign up prize. I am having a great time with this challenge - the prize was just a really nice bonus!
Thank you, Thank You to Nely and Swapna for my first book blogging prizes!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Ahhh . . . a three day weekend - can't beat it!! It's hard to imagine that I am already looking forward to a break after just returning from a 3 week vacation but having the three day weekend does ease me gently back into work! I have been fighting jetlag all week so the weekend gave me chance to get much needed sleep and I happily report that I am fully caught up and operating in my correct time zone.
This week went by in a blur but started last Sunday with the wrap-up of Bloggiesta hosted by Natasha at Maw Books - I really loved this event because it introduced me to the community of book blogging. I started my book blog to share my thoughts on books I read but also to hear from others about those same books and others that they recommend. After Bloggiesta, I have been introduced to many new blogs and have had some great dialogues with fellow book bloggers - thanks to all of you who have stopped by and I look forward to continuing the dialogue!
I did some work on my blog during Bloggiesta including adding the comments widget and the RSS feed - I keep current with my favorite blogs in my yahoo reader and realized I wasn't even offering a RSS option on my blog - beginner's oversight, I guess! I also started tracking my reads on Fyrefly's spreadsheet. Mmmmm . . . I work with data and graphs every day in my job and love to analyze and cut data different ways - this spreadsheet may have unleashed a monster!
Here is what I reviewed this week:
Colour of Love by Preethi Nair
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Here is what I read/listened to this week:
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella - review coming this week
Live for Your Listening Pleasure by David Sedaris (audiobook) - review coming this week
Hope you all have a great week and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
- Win a copy of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World at Books Like Breathing Ends Jan 20th
- Win a copy of Shanghai Girls: A Novel at Diary of an Eccentric Ends Jan 24
- Win a copy of Remarkable Creatures at Stacy's Books Ends Feb 1st
- Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books is hosting a comment challenge for a selection from her prize box - head over there and comment! Ends Jan 31st
- Here's another one from One Person's Journey Through a World of Books - a signed copy of Nefertiti: A Novel - Ends Feb 15th
- Bermudaonion has three giveaways underway right now:
- Win a copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Ends Jan 31st
- Win a copy of The Swan Thieves Ends Jan 31 st
- Win a copy of Lonely Hearts Club Ends Jan 25th
- Luxury Reading has quite a few giveaways going on:
- Wish - Win one copy Ends Feb 2nd
- Win a copy of Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq Ends Jan 31st
- Win a copy of The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life Ends Jan 29th
- Win a copy of Shanghai Girls: A Novel Ends Jan 23rd
Peeking Between the Pages is also hosting a number of giveaways:
- Win a copy of Shanghai Girls: A Novel Ends Jan 31st
- Win a copy of Holly's Inbox End Jan 31st
- Win a copy of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County - Ends Jan 31st
- Win a copy of Crazy School Ends Feb 6th
- Win a copy of Nicholas Sparks's The Last Song Ends Feb 6th
- Win a copy of James Patterson's The 8th Confession (The Women's Murder Club) Ends Feb 6th
- Win the audiobook The Swan Thieves Ends Feb 7th