Sunday, February 28, 2010

Social Justice Challenge: "In The World of Water, We Are All Downstream"

2010 Social Justice Reading Challenge

The Social Justice Challenge asks participants to learn about a different theme of social justice each month by reading or participating in other forms of media that focus on that theme. This month's theme is Water. This month I took part in one of the other forms of media - the Water H2O=Life Online Resource. The online resource was developed from an exhibit that was at the American Museum of Natural History . It provides a very accessible review of the issues that impact a clean, reliable supply of water and emphasizes the role of water in all living things.

We were asked to reflect on the following questions:

1. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of Water as a social justice issue?

When I think about water as a social justice issue, I think about the developing world where there is a lack of reliable drinking water and the tremendous impact that has on the health of the population. The lack of clean water has a disproportionate impact on the world's poor - potable water is needed to bring people out of poverty. For that reason, improving access to clean water and basic sanitation is one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Consider these facts from
  • 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease
  • 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea
  • 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 – 14
  • 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day
  • About a third of people without access to an improved water source live on less than $1 a day. More than two thirds of people without an improved water source live on less than $2 a day
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city
2. What, if any, exposure have you personally had to a water shortage?

I have not personally been exposed to a water shortage but I have traveled in countries without reliable access to clean drinking water. While in India earlier this year, I relied completely on bottled water and realized I was fortunate enough to be able to ensure I always had bottled water while much of the population did not have that "luxury". It made me aware of how I take the availability of clean water straight from the tap for granted at home.

What potential action steps can you think of that relate to this month’s theme of Water?

  • Continue to educate myself about this issue using a variety of resources such as Columbia's Earth Institute and
  • Raise awareness of this issue among family, friends, colleagues and via my blog
  • Water is a right but conservation is a responsibility - make changes in my daily life to reduce the amount of water I use including using a refillable water bottle in place of bottled water

Sunday Salon Feb 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon.comAs February comes to a close and we enter March, I am looking forward to some (hopefully) warmer weather and the approach of Spring.

With Spring comes St. Patrick's Day - this is a holiday about which I have mixed feelings. My parents both immigrated to the US in their early 20's - my Dad from Scotland and my Mom from Ireland. My brother and I grew up with a strong sense of our heritage as my parents tried to find that balance between assimilating to their new country, the country of our births and preserving customs and traditions from their homelands.

My Mom left behind her entire family in County Mayo and she made a concerted effort to bring us back to visit them every year so that the connection wouldn't be broken - I have many fond memories of summers spent in Ireland enjoying the new found freedom afforded by the open fields that surrounded my grandparents' home. I know it was difficult to save every year to go "home" and I will always be grateful to my parents for making that sacrifice -the opportunity to know my family in Ireland and to travel the country is priceless and it has cemented my connection to my heritage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage?
St. Patrick's Day in the United States - the celebration is marked by green beer, leprechauns and "wearing of the green". Somehow, none of that reconciles with what I know of my Irish heritage and it seems to make a mockery of the rich culture of the Irish. Growing up, my Grandmother would send my brother and I authentic St. Patrick's Day "badges" with live shamrock which my Mom would proudly pin to our school uniforms. There were no special meals or other traditions partly because the holiday has generally (until recent years) been celebrated as a religious holiday in Ireland and partly because the touchstones of our Irish heritage - the food, the music, etc were really already incorporated into our daily lives so there was no need to do anything differently on March 17th. In this National Geographic article, another daughter of an expat Irish family recalls a similar experience - badges with shamrocks and all!

At the same time, however, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day so raucously in the US thanks to the long history of Irish immigrants who have made this country their home. The experience of maintaining connections to your roots and pride in your heritage - no matter how many generations back - while still pledging allegiance to this country is a uniquely American experience. I am happy to be in a country where these connections are celebrated and enjoy watching everyone being "Irish for a Day" - I realize now that it doesn't diminish my heritage at all but rather adds to the richness of it.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day - My Way
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I will feature reviews of books set in Ireland and/or by Irish authors over the next three weeks in the lead up to March 17th. Ireland has a deep literary history spanning from W.B. Yeats and James Joyce to contemporary favorites such as Anne Enright, Colm Toibin and Maeve Binchy. I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorites with you and also reading some new books/authors. I am participating in the Ireland Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Books and Movies (head over there -you can still sign up) and plan to get some reading done for the challenge in these 3 weeks.

What are your favorite Irish books or authors? Leave a comment and let me know and feel free to link to any reviews!

Slainte (Good Luck)!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Giveaway: Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Thanks to Val at Hachette I have 3 copies of Nicholas Sparks's Last Song to give away to readers of my blog. I will be doing a review of this one soon but wanted to get the giveaway up. Here is some info on the book in the meantime . . . .

Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.

If the story sounds familiar, it may be because you have seen the trailer for the movie (by the same name) adaptation of the book starring Greg Kinnear and Miley Cyrus which hits theatres on March 31st.

Why not read the book before seeing the movie? There is a reading group guide available that poses some great questions for discussions with friends or your book club.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below and include your email. The books will be sent directly to you from Hachette; US and Canadian residents only, no PO Boxes. The contest will close on March 14th

Good Luck!

Review: Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai is a complex novel which weaves themes of class, family and the experience of living as an outsider into a beautiful narrative. The novel is primarily set in Kalimpong at the foothills of the Himalayas in the mid 1980's during the agitation in Nepal for the establishment of a Gorkha state. However, like many of it's characters, the novel straddles two lands - one of the main storylines is that of Biju who has emigrated from Kalimpong and is living in NYC. The counter to Biju's story of struggle as an immigrant in NYC is that of the Judge, the Judge's grand-daughter Sai and Biju's father, "Cook" all living in an isolated house in Kalimpong.

As unrest breaks out in Kalimpong over the establishment of a Gorkha state, Sai, Judge and Cook are all forced to face the upending of a hierarchy that has defined their lives, for better or worse. Desai expertly tells each of their stories, albeit in snippets throughout the novel, and connects them to each other bit by bit. Meanwhile, far away from the foothills of the Himalayas, Biju is living in a different kind of chaos waiting tables and eking out an existence as an illegal alien in NY. There are many themes in this novel but that of the immigrant's sense of dislocation is one that is dealt with especially well and one that really resonated for me. Desai addresses the loss felt by many immigrants in this scene in which Biju finishes a hurried phone call from a dirty street phone booth to his father :

He could not talk to his father; there was nothing left between them but emergency sentences, clipped telegram lines shouted out as if in the midst of war. They were no longer relevant to each other's lives except for the the hope that they would be relevant . . . After the initial excitement [of returning home] was over, it often became obvious that the love was gone; for affection was only a habit after all and people, they forgot, or they became accustomed to its absence.

The poignancy of Biju's sense of being alone in NY but realizing that he also does not really fit in at home is powerful. He desperately misses his father but also recognizes that his emigration, this fulfillment of his father's dream for him, has created a distance between them emotionally that will likely never be bridged. That loss is palpable.

Writing an adequate review of this novel is challenging - the story is ambitious in the many themes it takes on throughout the multi-layered narrative and doesn't lend itself easily to summary. There are many characters in the novel and the author hopscotches among them throughout the book; at times, the story meandered and I wondered where it was all headed. But Desai skillfully knits it all together as the novel approaches its climactic end. The characters, settings and most importantly, the story, has remained with me long after I finished the book - well worth wading through characters and meandering narrative!

BBC World Book Club did an excellent interview with Kiran Desai about Inheritance of Loss - the author even addresses how she struggled to hold all the characters together as she wrote the novel. You can listen to the interview by clicking below:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - February 23, 2010


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted each week by Jill at Breaking the Spine , in which a book blogger spotlights an upcoming release that he/she is "waiting" on.

This week I am waiting on So Much for That: A Novel by Lionel Shriver. Despite all the acclaim this author has garnered for her previous books I haven't read any of them yet. But this one grabs my interest - the healthcare debate runs through this novel. That is an area in which I have a special interest so I look forward to seeing how the book deals with it. Synopsis from Barnes & Noble

Shep Knacker has long saved for “The Afterlife”: an idyllic retirement on a tropical island in the Third World where his nest egg can last forever. Traffic jams on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will be replaced with “talking, thinking, seeing, and being”—and enough sleep. When he sold his home repair business for a cool $1 million, his dream finally seemed within reach. Yet Glynis, his wife of twenty-six years, has concocted endless excuses why it’s never the right time to go. Sick of working as a peon for the company he founded, Shep announces that he’s leaving for what they’ve always tagged “The Afterlife,” with or without her. Just returned from a doctor’s appointment, Glynis has some news of her own: Shep can’t go anywhere because she desperately needs his health insurance. It rapidly becomes clear that this “health insurance company from hell” only partially covers the staggering bills for her treatments, and Shep’s nest egg for The Afterlife soon cracks under the strain. So Much for That follows the profound transformation of a marriage, for which grave illness proves an unexpected opportunity for tenderness, renewed intimacy, and dry humor, while also pressing the question: How much is one life worth?
This releases Mar 9, 2010.

What are you waiting on?

Review: Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven

One of my regrets is that I did not take the summer (or year) after college off to travel the globe beginning life in the corporate world. Worried about future job prospects, I dutifully took a job which started only 2 weeks after graduation and pledged to take as many trips as possible during vacations. Although I have made good on my pledge to travel and have had the opportunity to go to many far-flung destinations for work, it is not the same as a post college backpacking adventure. So I was immediately drawn to this book when I heard about it - even though the tale it tells certainly blurs the idealistic picture I may have had of backpacking.

Susan Jane Gilman
's Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven is a memoir which tells the story of the author and her college friend's post-graduation backpacking trip around the world which begins in China. This is China before it was fully opened to tourists and given an overhaul for the Beijing Olympics so travel there (especially on a budget) was difficult - Gilman and her travel compadre, Claire, faced more than just pollution, putrid smells, bizarre noises - the general assault on the senses - encountered by most travelers to the third world. They also had to contend with the military police tracking their movements and restrictions that the Communist regime had placed on foreigners requiring them to use designated traveler's currency and account for every item they brought into the country upon their exit. Throw in a health crisis or two and Claire's gradual loss of her grip on reality and you can see how this backpacking adventure starts to unravel.

The story is told with the witty, at times snarky, voice of the author and I found myself laughing out loud as I read. From their nightmarish trip to the hospital accompanied by a schoolteacher who spoke little English to their attempts to find an insect-free hotel room, Gilman tells her and Claire's story with smart, funny anecdotes. She expertly describes the emotional rollercoaster she rides as she faces her fears of being away from home, alone in a foreign country and riddled with self doubt:

In China, I was having trouble knowing who I was anymore. There was nothing familiar to reinforce my sense of self: no loved ones, teachers, report cards. While I'd once imagined I was savvy, here in Asia it had become abundantly clear that I was not. . . . Certainly, the primary tool I'd always relied upon for the bulk of my personality - the English language - was no longer at my disposal much. What was really left of me?

It is not all grimy hotel rooms, squat toilets and loneliness; Gilman also describes all the glories of travel - even in the third world. Her description of her trip to the Great Wall and the majesty of the scenery surrounding it perfectly captures one of the true joys of travel - a views ability to make you forget just about everything (even your travel mate's rapid decline into psychosis!)

If you love to travel (or just read about it!) and enjoy funny, smart writing, you will enjoy this one. Makes me want to rush out and plan my next trip . . . and still a little wistful for that backpacking trip I never took!

Thank you to Miriam at Hachette for providing this review copy. This book meets the criteria for the Memorable Memoirs Challenge

Monday, February 22, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - February 22, 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. These memes are great in that they offer us a chance to see what others are reading- it's like candy for book addicts!

Here is what arrived in the mail this week:

I'll Know It When I See It: A Daughter's Search for Home in Ireland by Alice Carey- this author returns to her mother's homeland, Ireland, to buy a home with her husband. The book recounts the hunt for the house and their life together in Ireland. (from Amazon)

An Irish Country Childhood: Memories of a Bygone Age by Marrie Walsh - this author is from the same part of Ireland as my Mom - it looks to be a charming memoir and I thought my Mom would love to read it when I was done. (from Amazon)

100 Shades of White by Preethi Nair - I read and reviewed the Colour of Love by this author earlier in the year and really enjoyed the writer's style so I decided to pick up another of her books (Bookmooch)

On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial Systemby Henry Paulson - I don't undertstand nearly enough about the economy but am fascinated to learn more especially about the events that took place late in 2009 (Hachette)

What came into your mailbox this week? Have you read any of the ones I received?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Salon: February 28, 2010

The Sunday

What a gorgeous day here in NYC - the sun shone all day and, although it was a cold, it was great to see the shining sun and a crystal blue sky! I had made plans to meet friends in Central Park for a walk and was glad I had made the commitment. Otherwise, despite the good weather, I may not have trekked over to the Park but it was so worth the trip over there. We had a great walk catching up and admiring the scenery. I have included below a couple of shots I took on the walk.

After the walk I headed over to the American Museum of Natural History to see an exhibit on water. It was suggested as one of the media recommendations for this month's theme (water) of the Social Justice Challenge. I clearly need to pay better attention when I read the directions for these challenges. If I had taken the time to click through to the website, I would have seen that the exhibit closed in May 2008 and what was recommended was actually the online resource that had been created from the original exhibit at AMNH. That would explain the looks of confusion from two different museum guides when I asked them where "the water" exhibit could be found! Someone finally directed me to the marine life section of the museum - there was water there but it was obvious that the exhibit was not about water. Anyway, I learned some valuable info and had a pleasant afternoon in the museum! I will post my "water" post for SJ Challenge later this week.

This week I finished and reviewed Joseph Monninger's Eternal on the Water (my review is here) - this novel is beautiful and has stayed with me since I finished it. I love when books have that effect on me!

I am now reading (will finish early tonight for sure) Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman for a blog tour that will come by my blog this Tuesday (please stop back for my review). This is a smart read which recounts Gilman's post-college backpacking trip to Communist China. I love to travel and am finding this memoir very funny!

Speaking of travel, I posted a review of Bill Bryson's Notes from A Small Island. I so enjoy Bryson's humor and I apparently am not alone in my affection for Bryson. I got many comments on this post from other bloggers who are also Bryson fans. Both Amy from the The Black Sheep Dances and Becky from Page Turners recommended Bryson's travelogue from Australia, In a Sunburned Country while Tea and Tomes recommended Bryson's commentaries on the use of language - Made in America and The Mother Tongue. So now I have a few more of Bryson's books to pick up - thanks to everyone for stopping by with your recommendations!

Blog Stuff
I chose winners for my first giveaway this week - congrats to the three winners! I still have the audiobook of Swan Thieves up for grabs (see sidebar) and I will be posting a few more giveaways later this week.

I signed up this week for the Blogger Con - yahoo! I am excited for this opportunity to learn from other bloggers and best of all - meet other bloggers! Let me know if you will be in NYC for BEA and Blogger Con!

Have a great week!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson

As an unabashed Anglophile, I am a big fan of Bill Bryson. Even though Bryson was born and raised in Iowa, he lived for much of his professional life in North Yorkshire, England after meeting and marrying his wife while working in the UK following college. In 1995, however, he and his family decided to return to the United States - his observations upon return to the country of his birth are chronicled in I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, another great Bryson book. I love how he recounts his reasons for returning to the US:

"I had recently read, that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me."

That quote is typical of Bryson's dry wit. His books are found in the travel section of a bookstore but could as esily be shelved in the humor section. Before leaving the UK, he decides to travel the country one final time. Notes from a Small Island is the book that came of that final trip.

Bryson travels through England and stays in charming British towns - each in which he inevitably heads out for a walk and finds a pub for a meal and a good pint. As he completes this ritual in every town, he shares the locale's history, comments on its architecture and topography. That may sound dull but as Bryson conveys it all with his sarcastic wit, it is anything but dull. Furthermore, he peppers these descriptions of the towns with his real specialty - observations of Brits and their customs. From Dover to Bath and to Devon, Bryson offers up his witty commentary on the British. This type of commentary could easily drift into criticism told with a foreigner's superior tone (read my review of Lysall's Anglofiles) but Bryson's affection for the country and its people shines through and makes this humorous travelogue a real winner!

We have winners!

My first giveaway for 3 copies of the audiobook of David Baldacci's Absolute Power ended on February 16th. Thanks to all who entered by commenting to let me know why you like audiobooks! I chose the winners via the random number generator at (the statisticians at work would be so proud!). Here are the lucky winners:

Denny from Alaska
Janice H
Jo from Jo Jo Loves to Read

Congrats to the winners and don't forget to enter my other giveaway for an audiobook of the Swan Thieves (ends Feb 28th - see sidebar)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All Signed Up and Ready to Go!

Book Blogger Convention

Well - I have jumped into the BEA and Book BloggerCon pool and signed up for the BloggerCon! I was excited to hear that all this action would be taking place in my hometown of NYC but worried about what I would do there, would I know anyone, etc. But I have been following the BloggerCon blog tour and reading all the tips from the book blogging pros that attended last year and they have reassured me that I need not fear BEA!

I look forward to welcoming everyone to the Big Apple for the conventions and since everyone has been so generous in sharing their tips and tricks for navigating the convention, I would like to share some NYC info and tips. Check out my list of favorite places to read in NYC that I put together for the NY Challenge hosted by Jill at Fizzy Thoughts. As we get closer, I will post other info such as a list of good but cheap eats in the city - let me know if there is something in particular you would like to know more about!

See you all in May!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review: Eternal on Water by Joseph Monninger

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

Publisher Summary (from Simon and Schuster):

From the day Cobb and Mary meet kayaking on Maine's Allagash River and fall deeply in love, the two approach life with the same sense of adventure they use to conquer the river's treacherous rapids. But rivers do not let go so easily...and neither does their love. So when Mary's life takes the cruelest turn, she vows to face those rough waters on her own terms and asks Cobb to promise, when the time comes, to help her return to their beloved river for one final journey.

Set against the rugged wilderness of Maine, the exotic islands of Indonesia, the sweeping panoramas of Yellowstone National Park, and the tranquil villages of rural New England, Eternal on the Water is at once heartbreaking and uplifting -- a timeless, beautifully rendered story of true love's power.

My Review

This book is beautifully written - the prose is simple but artful in its simplicity. There is a lyricism in the writing that is difficult to articulate in a review - as a reader, I felt that I was gently carried through the novel. Below is an example of the simplicity of the writing:

"The boy's breathing had been unsteady for the past two hours. Air had become more difficult for the boy to find."

By saying air was "difficult to find", the author allowed me to visualize the boy struggling to breathe without saying it so plainly. There are many other such examples throughout the novel.

The storyline is poignant but relatively simple and there are no sudden turns in the plot - in fact, the book opens with Mary's death so you really already know how it ends before you begin. Yet, despite that, I was completely drawn in and enjoyed every moment of Mary and Cobb's story. I was honestly surprised by how much their story captivated me - there is no background provided about either Mary or Cobb before they meet so you are not invested in them as individuals at all before they meet and fall in love. They fall in love immediately and are discussing futures including the possibility of children within two days of their initial meeting. I am not a romantic by any definition of the word - I can be logical to a fault at times and I struggle to understand love at first sight. I cannot imagine falling so quickly and completely for another person and yet I loved Mary and Cobb's story - I credit the author's skill in subtly telling their story with my ability to set aside logic and just fall along with Mary and Cobb.

Mary and Cobb's relationship faces a challenge - Mary knows she will likely develop Huntington's disease which is progressively debilitating and ultimately fatal. Having watched her father die a horrible death at the hand of this disease, Mary has strong feelings about living life fully and exerting some control over her own death. The specter of her death and the hand she expects Cobb to play at the end of her life challenges the reader to consider important questions - would I choose to live my life differently knowing for certain that I would not live a long life? How does one summon the strength to make difficult end of life decisions?

This book has it all - a beautifully told love story, scenery spanning from Maine to Indonesia and it challenges you to consider life's big questions. I absolutely loved this novel and the emotional ride I took with Mary and Cobb.

Thank you to the publisher for providing this review copy.

This book qualifies for the "body of water" category of the What's In a Name Challenge and the "New in 2010" category of the TwentyTen Challenge

Monday, February 15, 2010

In My Mailbox/Monday Mailbox - February 15, 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. These memes are great in that they offer us a chance to see what others are reading- it's like candy for book addicts!

This week I received a very manageable number of books in the mailbox which is good since I seem to bring them in faster than I can read them!

Here is what arrived this week:

The Swan Thieves - Audiobook arrived from Hachette for review and giveway (see my sidebar for a chance to win!). This 17 CD audio edition features multiple narrators including Treat Williams and Anne Heche - I know this will easily fill the time during many a roundtrip to our site in CT.

Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neil - although I don't have kids, I thought this one looked funny and it came up on my PBS wishlist

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger - this arrived from Simon & Schuster for review. The book goes on sale on Feb 16 and my review will post that same day. I love this book and can't wait to tell everyone all about it!

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - this is another PBS wishlist item that I have wanting for a long time.

What came into your mailbox this week? Have you read any of the ones I received?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Salon - the Valentine's Edition (2/14/2010)

The Sunday
Happy Valentine's Day!
I have to admit - this is not one of my favorite holidays. I am sure that is heavily influenced by the fact that I have rarely been in a relationship on V-Day and the holiday can be a bitter reminder of the fact that you are alone. In the past, if I was alone on Valentine's Day, I have done everything possible to NOT be alone - planned vacations away with friends, attended parties, etc. This year, I have decided to revel in being alone and am having a massage and facial and will spend the rest of the day curled up with a good book and many cups of coffee. I have to say - I am looking forward to it!

Over at the Book Bench, the book blog of the New Yorker Magazine, they have an interesting post in honor of V-Day - it is a collection of "Dear John" letters submitted by readers. The letters are very clever and play on topics in pop-culture and current events. For example, below is one written to "John Congress":

Dear John Congress,

I wanted to have faith in you, I really did. When you promised to honor and obey me, I thought you meant it. Now I find that your head can be turned by the enticing hips (or do I mean tips?) of any passing lobbyist. Sure, John, their boobs (or do I mean bribes?) are bigger than mine, but can’t you see beyond the superficial?

We had something good together, John. Something meaningful. “Representative democracy,” I think it’s called. I prefer to think of it as love. But these days, you’re not representin’ what I’m presentin’, do you hear what I’m saying? No, of course you don’t. You’re too busy lapping up the honey (or do I mean money?) from your latest sweet-talking minx (or do I mean Incs.?).

My mind is made up. This voter is going to motor. No more congress for you, John.


Ballot Caster

Books and Reviews
With things at work still busy, my reading during the week is certainly suffering! I did finish and review Elizabeth Noble's The Reading Group; I also read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for book club but we were supposed to meet Wednesday and with the blizzard that hit the city our meeting was canceled. I am waiting to see if I will be able to make the make-up date because I would prefer to edit my review with feedback from the group but if I can't make the new date, I will get that review posted. I am currently reading Eternal on the Water for a blog tour for which I will post my review on Feb 16th - so far I am loving the book so stop by on the 16th to hear all about it!

Blog Stuff
This has been a big week for my blog - I reached a milestone and exceeded 1000 visitors - I couldn't have imagined getting here when I was busy checking my stats multiple times a day! Thanks to everyone who has (and continues to) stopped by my blog to read and comment - it means so much! I have two audiobook giveaways going on (see sidebar of my blog) - please enter for a chance to win!

Have a great week!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble

The Reading Group: A Novel (P.S.) by Elizabeth Noble tells the story of a book club which consists of a collection of middle-aged women facing a variety of challenges in their lives and how the friendships they develop support them through these crises. Although it deals with heavier topics, such as infidelity, abortion and the death of one's parents, it is a decidedly light-hearted novel which celebrates female friendship.

The book is told from the perspectives of each of the book club members (and sometimes others in each of their lives) - at first, it was difficult to follow each story but I quickly became familiar with the characters and looked forward to the next chapter which would focus on their story. I do think, however, the story could have done without the perspectives of those outside the book club (such as the significant others of each of the reading group members). The story would have been tighter without the distractions of these other character perspectives - since these characters were not well developed, their points of view didn't seem as relevant to the reader. Other than this criticism, I have positive things to say about the book - I really enjoyed it and it felt like a familiar, comfortable read to me. Was it predictable at times? Yes - but that was Ok as I was quite caught up in the characters and their friendships and that was more important to me than a riveting plot with unexpected turns. I have read other Elizabeth Noble novels (Alphabet Weekend) and will certainly read more.

The reading group in this novel is really just a device to bring together these women, have them tell their stories and develop relationships with each other. The book opens with a quote by Margaret Atwood which I think is pretty apt for the book clubs I have been fortunate to be part of: "The real, hidden subject of a book group discussion is the book members themselves". Like the women in the novel's reading group, the lives of my fellow book club members have unfolded during many a book club meeting and we have looked to the group, at times, to provide emotional sustenance in difficult times. The women in this novel do the same and, as the novel progresses, they look forward more and more to their monthly meetings. My book clubs have mostly talked about the books (I have left book clubs in which the book never came up at a meeting) but the discussion would weave through the book but also the lives of each member or our opinions on issues in the book. The books in the novel are given are very light touch by the reading group - there is no real literary criticism going on at these meetings - but I like how the books are always a backdrop to scenes in the novel and to each of their lives.

There is some interesting content at the back of the book - in addition to a brief bio and interview with the author, there is a list of tips for setting up a book club and a piece written by a member of the author's book club which describes each member and how they approach their book club meetings. For a book club lover like me, this content was a great added bonus!

So, tell me about your book clubs - do you strictly talk about the books at your meetings? Do you clubs consist of friends, acquaintances or both? How do you choose your books?

This book qualifies for the Typically British Reading Challenge and the "TBR" category of the Twenty Ten Challenge