...never judge a book by its movie

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King - BOOK REVIEW

Title:  Under the Dome
Author:  Stephen King
Publisher:  Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster
Published:  September, 2010
Paperback, 1074 pages
ISBN 10:  1439149038

ISBN 13: 9781439149034


GoodReads description:
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing -- even murder -- to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

My Take: If you equate Stephen King with rabid dogs and insane clowns, you haven't read his latest tales.

Under the Dome is a book that examines the evil that lurks in all of us.  Not a horror book in the true sense of the word (vampires, werewolves, and beasties; oh my!). No; THIS book is worse because what it contains is a story that could actually HAPPEN (well, except for the part about a mysterious dome appearing out of nowhere and enclosing a town within it; at least I HOPE that part could never happen).
A small town, trapped inside a dome, with the pollution levels getting higher and higher, and propane tanks that have almost all mysteriously disappeared, including the ones at the hospital.

The military on the other side of the Dome employ missiles and other means to try to break through, but no go.

The characters are all well-drawn, and the evil that is Jim Rennie is completely believable, which is what makes this story so creepy.  The fact that so many people are like sheep following him and believing him, even when he's busily setting up all kinds of bad things and hoping that the Dome NEVER goes away ... well, THAT'S unnerving and a testament to his charisma.  His creepy son .. with his "girlfriends" that he visits in the pantry.  A recently-deputized police force made up mainly of troublemaking teens and young adults ... a genius teenager and his friends teamed up with a few adults who think they know what Jim Rennie is, but have only half the picture ....

As the outside world of CNN and others congregate outside of the Dome and the story of the town becomes THE story, only a few people have a clue as to what is REALLY going on inside.  When the man who the President of the United States slated to take charge is charged with the murder of four people, one of them the former Sheriff's wife, and jailed, Rennie has no one to stand in his way.
This book, although HUGE, is just a continuous force of happenings.  There is not a single place where you can say to yourself, "OK .. time to cut to commercial" ... seriously. 

I'm not going to do my usual sort of synopsis; suffice it to say that once you open this book up, you'll be sitting with it until the wee hours of the morning, and, no, you won't be able to finish it in one sitting, but you'll WANT to.


Today he had killed two girls he'd known since childhood.
Tomorrow he was going to be a town cop.

...Jack Evans, husband of the late Myra, is standing his backyard with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and his home protection weapon of choice, a Ruger SR9, in the other.  He drinks and watches the pink stars fall.  He knows what they are, and he wishes on every one, and he wishes for death, because without Myra, the bottom has dropped out of his life.  He might be able to live without her, and he might be able to live like a rat in a glass cage, but he cannot manage both.  When the falling meteors become more intermittent -- this is around quarter after ten, about forty-five minutes after the shower began -- he swallows the last of the Jack, casts the bottle onto the grass, and blows his brains out.  He is The Mill's first official suicide.
He will not be the last.

To the southwest, where most of Little Bitch Road will within the next three minutes cease to exist, the yellowy-blue sky is burning black and Barbie has time to think, with perfect calm:  Now we're under the magnifying glass.

But mostly she is a little girl cowering on the splintery boards of the Town Common bandstand, a little girl who was punished for her innocent arrogance, a little girl who made the mistake of thinking she was big when she was small, that she mattered when she didn't, that the world cared when in reality the world is a huge dead locomotive with an engine but no headlight.
Book Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Sensitive Reader:  It's Stephen King; what do YOU think?

Disclosure:  This is a review of my own personal copy.
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Mailbox Monday and In My Mailbox - November 1, 2010

"Mailbox Monday" is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month's host is ME!   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!

I will also be offering a different giveaway every week throughout November to encourage participation! 

This week's giveaway: 

I have an extra ARC of Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane to give to one of you!

How to enter?  Simply link up YOUR Mailbox Monday post and then add a comment stating that you'd like to enter!  If you don't have a blog, leave a comment letting me know what you got in your mailbox and that you'd like to enter!  If you are outside of the US/Canada, you can enter too!  If it costs more to ship than it costs to send you the book through Book Depository, you will get a gift certificate from Book Depository in an amount equal to the value of the book!   You have until the following Monday to link up and enter!

"In My Mailbox" is hosted by The Story Siren.

Every week we'll post about what books we have that week (via your mailbox/library/store bought)! Everyone that agrees to participate will try to visit each other's list and leave comments!  Everyone is welcome to join! You can join at anytime and you DO NOT have to participate every week. 


You Already Know How To Be Great by Alan Fine with Rebecca R. Merrill - from the publisher for Review and Giveaway (11/15) - A bold new approach to performance by one of the top coaches in the country. In trying to improve-on the playing field, in the office, or even at home-most people seek out new information to get to the next level. They read a book, attend a class, or hire an expert to give them an edge. But Alan Fine, an accomplished tennis, golf, and executive coach and a renowned authority on peak performance, believes that this "outside-in" method is precisely what's holding you back from doing your best work. He's found the biggest obstacle to improved performance isn't not knowing what to do; it's thinking too hard about what you already know. The tips and tools designed to help you get ahead can actually interfere with your ability to focus. Fine reveals his simple and proven approach to achieving breakthrough performance. It starts with reducing the interference that blocks your potential through an amazing process called G.R.O.W. (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward). No matter who you are or what you do, You Already Know How to Be Great will help you eliminate what is standing in the way of your goals.

I Am Santa by Kristy Haile - For Review and Giveaway (11/26) through Pump Up Your Book - One day little Nicholas wondered away from his mom and his sister while they were out shopping because he has always felt mostly invisible in comparison to his sister Holly.  Little Nicholas meets an old man sitting on a bench at the mall.  This old man tells Nicholas he is Santa Claus and that he is very sick and dying.  Santa Claus also tells Nicholas he will now be the new real Santa Claus and the elves would be in touch with him shortly.  Little Nicholas believes this old man a hundred and ten percent that he is to become the new real Santa Claus. Enjoy this journey into a little boy’s imagination as he struggles in a world of doubt, continuously striving to turn non believers into believers. I believe my son is the new real Santa Claus no matter what other people may believe. The question is, do you believe?


The End of Marking Time by C. J. West - For Review from the author - Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think. In reality they are enslaved to an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael believes he's being tested by the black box, but what he slowly begins to realize is that everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies.

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg - for Review/Giveaway (11/5) from Doubleday - Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process


The Christmas Chronicles - ARC for Review (12/9) through Pump Up Your Book - In this new holiday classic, Tim Slover crafts a marvelous, magical novel about how Santa Claus became the man he is today. After reading The Christmas Chronicles, you’ll believe all over again in the magic of the season.
Snow is falling, and the clock ticks toward midnight on Christmas Eve while countless children, too excited to sleep, anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus. But in Tim Slover’s deeply charming and utterly thrilling new novel, that’s the end rather than the beginning of the story. In this richly imagined tale of Santa’s origins, the man in full finally emerges. The Christmas Chronicles is at once an action-packed adventure, an inspiring story of commitment and faith, and a moving love story.

It all starts in 1343, when the child Klaus is orphaned and adopted by a craftsmen’s guild. The boy will grow to become a master woodworker with an infectious laugh and an unparalleled gift for making toys. His talent and generosity uniquely equip him to bestow hundreds of gifts on children at Christmas—and to court the delightful Anna, who enters his life on a sleigh driven by the reindeer Dasher and becomes his beloved wife.

Still, all is not snowfall and presents. Klaus will be shadowed by the envious Rolf Eckhof, who will stop at nothing to subvert him. But in the end, Santa’s magic is at last unleashed, flying reindeer come to his aid, and an epic battle between good and evil is waged in the frosty Christmas skies.

By turns enchanting, hair-raising, and inspirational, The Christmas Chronicles is a beguiling tale destined to become a holiday favorite for the ages.

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler - Won from As Told by Jen during her Banned Books Week giveaway - This one goes into Not-So-Bebe-Girl Autumn's Christmas book box! - "Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. 


To Nourish & Consume by Ryan O'Reilly - For Review/Giveaway (11/19) through PR by the Book - A HAUNTING RETURN TO A FIERY LOVE TRIANGLE Brian Falk and his best friend, Dabney, share a passion for the beautiful and wealthy Jackie, their childhood playmate and the prize catch of their social set. But, the young men are also drawn to each other a secret, illicit connection that is cut short when Jackie chooses to wed the more moneyed Dabney. Soon after graduation, a devastated Brian flees his hometown and, for ten agonizing years, tries to overcome the anguish that has all but consumed him. Now he is drawn back to try to answer some of the questions he can no longer ignore: Is he over Jackie? Was what he felt for Dabney really love? Does Jackie still love him? As Brian desperately searches for closure, old wounds are reopened, a new love appears and revelations about his past throw his life into renewed turmoil.


Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce - For Review from Bethany House Publishers - Amy Gallagher is an aspiring writer who, after countless rejections, has settled for a career as an English professor in small-town Ohio just to pay the bills. All her dreams suddenly start to unravel as rejections pile up--both from publishers and her boyfriend. But just as Amy fears her life is stuck in a holding pattern, she meets the mysterious, attractive, and unavailable Eli. She struggles to walk the fine line between friendship and something more with Eli, even as staying true to her faith becomes unexpectedly complicated. When secrets, tragedy, and poor decisions cause rifts in Amy's relationships, she must come to terms with who she's become, her unrealized aspirations for her life, and the state of her faith. Can she dare to hope that she will find love and fulfillment despite it all?

A Rush of Wings: A Novel by Kristen Heitzmann - For Review from Bethany House - When fragmented images and unfocused panic force Noelle St. Claire to flee her wealthy, sheltered life in New York, she gains sanctuary on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains. There Noelle finds solace in the breathtaking scenery she paints. But as the attentions of two brothers, Rick and Morgan Spencer, breach the wall she hides behind, the past she yearns to escape becomes a menacing threat from which she can no longer hide. Award-winning and bestselling author Kristen Heitzmann has skillfully created a story resonating with emotion and depicting a poignant spiritual journey.

The Radleys:  A Novel by Matt Haig - ARC for Review from Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster - Meet the Radleys

Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret

From one of Britain’s finest young novelists comes a razor-sharp unpicking of adulthood and family life. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.

Add YOUR Mailbox Monday link!

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It's Sunday! Time to add your giveaways to the giveaway linky!

If you are blogger hosting your own giveaway, add YOUR link to the Giveaway Linky! Don't forget to add an end date, since I clean it up every Sunday, and if there's no end date, it won't stay up! It would also be great if you added country eligibility!
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Scared Sh*tless Reading Challenge COMPLETE!

Scared Sh*tless Reading Challenge

Woot!  I finally completed a challenge and read ALL of the titles that I included! 

Maybe it was because there were only 3 books :) .. but one of them was over 700 pages and the other over 1,000!  Maybe it was because I stayed up until the wee wee hours last night reading the final 200 pages of "The Passage", determined to finish it!  Maybe it was because all three of the books made for good reading, but .. I did it!   Finally!

Next year, I'm going to start keeping a page tracker of all of the pages read .. I think that would be cool to know!

The final score on this one:

Under the Dome - Stephen King

The Passage - Justin Cronin

Draculas - various authors

I'll be joining a Steampunk Challenge soon (The Parasol Protectorate series and Leviathan by Scott Westerfield will be included on that list, so I'm looking forward to THAT) , and I'm not doing so badly with the "Fall Into Reading" challenge (I figured out that there is one book that I added that is intended to be read daily for a year, so that one will be coming off that list).

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson BOOK REVIEW

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Paperback, 644 pages
Publisher:  Vintage Books, a division of Random House
Paperback, 644 pages
ISBN:  9780307473479


Synopsis (from GoodReads): Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

My Take: What did I wait so long for?  Oh, yeah ... lots of books for review and the SIZE of this book!  But ... oh, my goodness!  I really can't wait to sink my teeth into the next two .. they are just sitting here on my desk .. calling and calling to me.

This book is a cross between mystery/suspense/drama.  Lisbeth is an unusual sort of private investigator who is originally enlisted by her boss to look up information on Mikael Blomkvist, then just as quickly told that there's no need to continue the investigation.  She, however, has her interest piqued and continues the investigation on her own.

Mikael Blomkvist is the part-owner, publisher, and journalist of a respected financial magazine who is apparently fed a false story by an old friend.  When he publishes the story, he is sued for libel by the subject of the story .. and loses, which means he will be spending some time in jail.  To preserve the reputation of the magazine, he steps down from his post.  He receives a mysterious offer (through the same attorney who originally hired Lisbeth's firm to run a background check on HIM [although he doesn't find THIS out until much later]) from a millionaire industrialist (Henrik Vanger) to look into the matter of his granddaughter Harriet's disappearance for a year.  The best thing - the industrialist's offer to give him the real dirt on the financial "guru" who sued him for libel when the year is up.

For over 30 years, Henrik has been receiving a yearly 'gift' - a pressed, framed flower - an apparent mockery of the flowers that he used to receive as gifts from his granddaughter prior to her disappearance.  The police haven't been able to make any progress into the case, although Morrell, the original detective in charge, has never been able to stop investigating.

That's the bare bones plot.  But the novel is so much more.

We start out with a scene of a young girl who is being held captive by someone.

We read in turn about Lisbeth and Mikael.  It is a testament to the well-developed characters that as I read about one, I forgot about the other until the narrative came back to them.  

There is intrigue, and old stories, and a serial killer, and a sadist or two, and mystery, and incest, and familial rivalry and strife, and a book that makes you want to keep turning pages to see what is going to happen next.

If you haven't read it yet .. READ it.  Seriously.

Sensitive reader:  There are references to sex, profanity, and violent scenes.


Then, as she was on the threshold of her teenage years, All The Evil happened, which she did not want to think about.  The last outburst set the pattern and prompted a review of the casebook entries from elementary school.  After that she was considered to be legally . . . well, crazy.  A freak.  Salander had never needed any documents to know that she was different.

"You see.  You've already started to adapt to the submission principle.  I hold your life in my hands, Mikael.  You know that I can dispatch you at any second.  You pleaded with me to improve your quality of life, and you did so by using reason and a little good manners.  And you were rewarded."

"The fact is, I've never worked with such a brilliant researcher.  OK, I know you're a hacker and hang out in suspect circles in which you can set up an illegal wiretap in London in twenty-four hours, but you get results."

Book Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer:  This is a personal copy.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Fragments - October 29, 2010

I haven't done Friday Fragments in a while, but I have a few things that I'd like you to know about that aren't quite enough for their own posts.

I found a post on Cool Mom Picks for those of us who are literary-minded and would like to show it through our clothing!
Pretty cool, eh? For all of us mommy and daddy literati, Out of Print also sells these in kid's sizes!  For each shirt sold, one book is donated to a community in need of books through Books for Africa.  SO .. cool shirts ... spreading the love of reading ... win win!

Bebe Boy James has finally discovered YouTube!  The video that has been playing over and over and over?  Here it is, live from Radio Disney:


WHERE did he find this old song?!?!

I'm getting more and more PR requests, so here's a tidbit for you PR people.  If you can't bother looking at my "About Me" blurb to even figure out my name, you're not really good at your job.  I'm not going to make my visitors subscribe to your newsletter or become your fan or follow you on Twitter or post something on their own blog or wherever in order for them to win your product.  I'm also NOT going to take the time to write some miscellaneous post filled with random keywords and links that you provide .. nope .. not even if you pay me a whole $3!  Each post takes at least half an hour (quite often more) and my time and my reader's time is worth more than that to me.  If you'd like me to host a giveaway, and I think it's something that my readers would like ... AWEsome!  When you send ME the books or products to send to the winners ... NOT so awesome.  That costs ME money, and the next time it happens, you'll have to pony up for the shipping package, the time it takes me to go to the post office, and the cost of shipping .. seriously.  (Unless, of course, you send me something uber-cool, like a Dyson or a Kitchenaid stand mixer, or free books of my choice for life!)

I miss getting a paycheck .. but I DON'T miss all of the politics and gossip and pettiness.  I also think it's funny (not funny ha ha but funny in a karmic kind of way), that the ONE guy I complained about (which complaints in a round-about way led to my NOT having a job .. long story .. can't prove it, but knowing it is an entirely different thing), was charged THE VERY NEXT WEEK with 7 counts of menacing by stalking and 7 counts of telecommunications harassment.  Goes to show ya .. if I complain (which I rarely do), there's something to it.  May the karmic circle continue.

Misha at My Love Affair With Books is looking for guest bloggers for November!  Exams are coming up, and we know how much time that will take up for her.  So if you'd like to help her out, click on over to her page!

Last but not least, here are a couple of cool Halloweeney giveaways:

Don't forget, I'll be hosting Mailbox Monday starting in November, so click on over on Mondays to link up (and you'll get a chance to win a prize or two!)

I'll also be participating in the Gratitude Giveaways in November!  I'm constantly amazed that people actually want to read what I write about, and to have over 400 followers since April without participating in "Follow Me" type hops is pretty cool!  Unlike any of my other giveaways, you'll need to be a follower to enter this one, as it's in gratitude for all of you who follow, leave comments, or simply send me emails about what I've written!

Hope your weekend is wonderful!  Bebe Boy James and I will be busy, as tomorrow, we have a church harvest party to go to, followed by a community Halloween party.  Sunday is my Middle Bebe Girl Jasmine's birthday (I used to call her "my little pumpkin"), so I'll be helping her celebrate THAT by baking her a cake, giving her presents, and probably watching two Grandbebes while she goes out with her friends (she hasn't asked me yet, but I know it's coming .. it will probably start with a telephone call ... "Mom, you know you love me, right?")

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Friday Book Blogger Hop - October 29, 2010

It's that time again!  Time for the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books!

What is it?  Well, it's a way to for bloggers and readers to find each other.  You write a little post about the subject of the week and link it up.  THEN (and this is the important part), you hit a few of the other linked up blogs (take your time; you can spread it throughout the weekend), visit, comment, follow if you like what you see, and make new friends.

Each week, to encourage participation, we get to answer a different question.  This week's question is:

"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

I would love to have a wall of built-in bookshelves, made out of hardwood with rich, deep cherry finish.  My current bookshelves are flimsy at best, and even though I gift and swap a lot of books, I still have a double row of books in each shelf (one in the front, one in the back).  It would be great to have enough space to organize them and simply be able to look at the spines and pull one out, instead of pulling out a whole pile to find one in the back!

How about you?  Leave a link to your post or simply leave a comment with your answer.  Happy Hopping!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010 Weekly Progress Report - October 28, 2010

I didn't realize that there were weekly questions until I visited another blog that is participating in this challenge!  Which kind of gives me a good excuse to see how far along I've come in the challenge each week!  To play "catch up" to the questions:

Question 1:  What is your biggest reading obstacle? OR, if you feel like you already read as much as you want to, what choices have you made to make that happen?

When I was working, the obstacle was that most of my weekday was taken up with work, and when I got home, I still had to help with homework, get food done, get clothes and whatnot ready for the next day, supervise bathtime, read the nightly bedtime story/devotional, try to catch up with my blog a bit, THEN find a small amount of time to read before bed!  NOW, though, since my Bebe Boy is in school during the day, and I'm not working, I get quite a bit of time to read!  Which is cool; I like it.

Question 2:   What about you? Do you read e-books?

I do, but not very much.  I don't have a reader, and I spend a lot of time in front of the computer screen, and I like to curl up on my couch with a book to read, so they get read quite a bit more slowly than other books.

Question 3:  Do you eat and/or drink while you’re reading? Or do you keep food and liquids far away from your books?

That's tricky. I often DO sip coffee or cocoa from a travel mug while reading, but since most of my books end up going out and about to others, I like to keep them looking nice (no dog-ears, no spills), so I generally won't eat while I'm reading if the food is something that will put sauce or anything on the pages.

Question 4:  What about you? Do your books have dog-eared pages or are they pristine due to your commitment to using bookmarks?

I answered this one above!  LOL!  I HATE dog-eared pages, and will use any random scrap of paper or a business card or whatever if I happen not to have a bookmark handy.  I also hate curving the spines of my paperbacks, so they are generally treated tenderly.

Week 1 Progress (well, week 1 for me)

Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Draculas by J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt 

4 down .. 26 to go!

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The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle - Book Review

Title:  The Tortilla Curtain
Author:  T. C. Boyle
Publisher:  Penguin
Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN 10:  014023828X
ISBN 13:  9780140238280


  • Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, Prix Medicis Etranger, Paris, for best novel of the year
  • Audie Prize, 2007, for best audio narration by an author
From the back of the book:

Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course.  Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community:  he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor.  Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine.  And from the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

My Take:  I read this as part of my Banned Books Challenge.

First, I cannot really see why it would be banned.  There IS a rape that occurs, but it is not graphic and really plays into the larger issue of the novel. Maybe people don't like seeing themselves in Delaney and Kyra; that's all I can think of.

In a stunning social commentary that's as relevant today as it was when first published in 1995, T. C. Boyle takes us into the hardscrabble world of Candido and America, two illegal Mexican immigrants living off the land and their quest to simply find a place in this country.  They face unimaginable hardships and the basest of poverty, while Candido struggles to make a way for his family and feels that he is coming up woefully short.

Kyra and Delaney live a relatively tranquil life, cocooned from harsh realities until the day that Delaney hits a pedestrian on the road leading home, gives him a tiny amount of money, then leaves.

No matter what side of the immigration debate you are on, this is a must-read, as it offers the reader more than a glimpse into the motivation that causes many to make that treacherous trip across the border, the ways and means that illegal workers are taken advantage of, and the various ways people allow their views to be influenced by others.

Although there are some places where the writing seems to skim the surface, the stunning and heart-rending ending is enough on it's own to make it recommended reading.

Don't read this book if you are uncomfortable with maybe uncovering your own hidden prejudices; or if you think that all illegal immigrants and poor people deserve the hard lives they lead.

Sensitive Reader:  There is some profanity, and a non-graphic description of a rape. None of it is gratuitous or excessive.


A feeling like joy took hold of her, but it wasn't joy exactly or joy without limit -- she wouldn't feel that until she had a roof over her head.  But if Candido had work they'd have enough money to eat for a week, two weeks maybe, and if they could both find a job -- even every second day -- they could start saving for an apartment.

"Why should we be providing jobs for these people when we're looking at a ten percent unemployment rate right her in California -- and that's for citizens.  Furthermore, I'm willing to bet you'll see a big reduction in the crime rate once the thing's closed down.  And if that isn't enough of a reason, I'm sorry, but quite frankly I resent having to wade through them all every time I go to the post office.  No offense, but it's beginning to look like fucking Guadalajara or something down there."

Yes, he told her, yes, that's the way, and he was happy, as happy as he'd ever been, right up to the moment when the wind plucked the fire out of its bed of coals and with a roar as loud as all of the furnaces of hell set it dancing in the treetops.

BOOK RATING:  4.5 out of 5 stars 

Disclosure:  This is a review of my own personal copy.

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Winner! The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen Winner!

Woot!  Caught up enough to actually pick winners the day AFTER the giveaway ends!

Random.org did it's thing:

and the winner of an autographed copy is ... FDP 4 Life ... who said:

33. FDP 4 Life said...
The Life O'Reilly Wins First Place Honors in the 2009 Reader Views Literary Awards. susansmoaks at gmail dot com
Congratulations!  I will be shooting off an email; please reply within 72 hours and I will forward your information on to the author for fulfillment!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Eyes of Willie McGee - BOOK REVIEW

Title:  The Eyes of Willie McGee
Author:  Alex Heard
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN 10: 0061284157
ISBN 13:  9780061284151


A gripping saga of race and retribution in the Deep South and a story whose haunting details echo the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird 
In 1945, Willie McGee, a young African-American man from Laurel, Mississippi, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping Willette Hawkins, a white housewife. At first, McGee's case was barely noticed, covered only in hostile Mississippi newspapers and far-left publications such as the Daily Worker. Then Bella Abzug, a young New York labor lawyer, was hired by the Civil Rights Congress—an aggressive civil rights organization with ties to the Communist Party of the United States—to oversee McGee's defense. Together with William Patterson, the son of a slave and a devout believer in the need for revolutionary change, Abzug and a group of white Mississippi lawyers risked their lives to plead McGee's case. After years of court battles, McGee's supporters flooded President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court with clemency pleas, and famous Americans—including William Faulkner, Albert Einstein, Jessica Mitford, Paul Robeson, Norman Mailer, and Josephine Baker—spoke out on McGee's behalf. 

By the time the case ended in 1951 with McGee's public execution in Mississippi's infamous traveling electric chair, "Free Willie McGee" had become a rallying cry among civil rights activists, progressives, leftists, and Communist Party members. Their movement had succeeded in convincing millions of people worldwide that McGee had been framed and that the real story involved a consensual love affair between him and Mrs. Hawkins—one that she had instigated and controlled. As Heard discovered, this controversial theory is a doorway to a tangle of secrets that spawned a legacy of confusion, misinformation, and pain that still resonates today. The mysteries surrounding McGee's case live on in this provocative tale of justice in the Deep South. 

Based on exhaustive documentary research—court transcripts, newspaper reports, archived papers, letters, FBI documents, and the recollections of family members on both sides—Mississippi native Alex Heard tells a moving and unforgettable story that evokes the bitter conflicts between black and white, North and South, in America. 

My Take:  I am always interested in reading about events that really happened, especially if they have historical significance.

This book centers around Willie McGee, a young black man accused in the 1940's South, of raping a white woman named Willette Hawkins.  The evidence was circumstantial; the trials were rushed, and the outcome was inevitable, based on the time period. 

Willie McGee became somewhat of a "cause celebre", with various groups and prominent figures taking up the fight, first for a new trial, then another, then for his execution to be stayed, then for him to be pardoned.

It IS apparent that Mr. McGee was abused for an extended period of time to extract his initial "confession".  What's NOT apparent, however, is whether or not he was actually guilty, AND whether or not there is even a rape that occurred at all.

Much of the book, although centered around Willie McGee, focuses on the events happening outside of this particular story. 

Although it is apparent that the writer performed meticulous, laborious, research and spent quite a long time gathering the material to put this book together, including getting together with the surviving family members of both families, this book did not grab me. I wanted to be interested in it, but just could not summon up the interest to read more than a chapter or two at a time, which is a shame, because someone actually lost their life over this story.

The writer did not pick sides, which was good .. but ... well, it amounted to what to me came down to a bare recital of the facts and the times, and it just didn't pull me in.  I DID, however, learn some facts about the times and people that I did not know prior to reading this book, and learning something new, even if it's only something that could be used as an answer on the Jeopardy category "1940's America" .. that's worth the read.


The day after his electrocution, the French paper Combat spoke for many when it declared that "the Mississippi executioner has won out over the world conscience . . . Yesterday morning a little of the liberty of all men a a little of the solidarity between the peoples died with Willie McGee."

Over the years, Pyles sat for several interviews in which he talked about what it was like to defend McGee.  Describing packed courtrooms and a "wrought up" public mood, he said he had no doubt that he and Breland could have gotten McGee or themselves killed if they'd said or done the wrong thing in court.

"The lynchers went back to Greenville and drank coffee."
BOOK RATING3 out of 5 stars

BUY IT: At Amazon and through other on and offline booksellers

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this title through Crazy Book Tours to facilitate my review.

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The Very Good Day That Almost Wasn't

This summer, Bebe Boy James won the chance to be the "Play Ball" kid for our hometown baseball team, the Cleveland Indians!


... The day before we were supposed to go, he came down with some sort of flu.  Usually he feels better within a day; however ...

1 PM on the day that we were supposed to be at the ballpark at 5:45:

"Buddy, are you sure you still feel sick?"

(from the lump under the covers on the couch that's been there all day without moving): "Yes, Mom ... I still feel sick"

"How about if we pump you full of some more cold and flu medicine?  Think you can make it then? You get to be the PLAY BALL kid ... you've been rehearsing for weeks!"

"No, Mom ... not gonna happen"

So, I left a voicemail message with the marketing person, Anna, who was arranging everything.  And I didn't hear back from her ... for a few weeks ... sigh ... and wonder of wonders (our team's not very great), the Indians actually WON the game we would have been at.

THEN I get a phone call.  Pick one of these dates ... so I promptly did .. and here's the result:

This is when he was getting ready for the microphone to switch to him, and is really the first picture where I can see his "man face" coming out :(  (he's 10; he's my youngest; I'm allowed).

We had a great time (even though our team lost), and we have memories that will last.  It was great to spend some mommy time with just Bebe Boy James, doing something 'manly' like watching a game.

Enjoy them while they last; they're out of the house all too soon!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wanchai Ferry and Romano's Macaroni Grill - At Home! - REVIEW and GIVEAWAY {CLOSED}

I love cooking!  I really do.  I didn't really get into it too much until I entered an unextended period of unemployment, and I started experimenting with cooking to give myself something to do, then I found just a joy in putting together random ingredients or using a recipe as a guide, adding in ingredients as I saw fit and coming up with something yummy!

I would LOVE to make all of my dinners from scratch.  BUT with a busy busy lifestyle, that's not always possible.  Most convenience foods are junk food, which we try not to have in the house.  What's a girl to do when there are hungry mouths clamoring for REAL food, but there's just not enough time to prepare it?

Enter in the new boxed dinners from Romano's Macaroni Grill and Wanchai Ferry!

The first one we tried was the Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken & Pasta:
The dinner kit includes:
  • Linguine Pasta
  • Creamy Sauce
  • Basil & Cheese Seasoning
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • Grated Parmesan & Romano Cheese Blend
All I needed to add was the chicken!  It takes just 20 minutes and .. voila! A great meal for 4 of us (the box says that it serves 5, but .. well, we ate it all in one sitting, so it only served four!)  Because Not-So-Bebe Girl Autumn is a vegetarian, I did part of the recipe without adding the chicken, just used the sauce over the pasta and steamed broccoli - she liked it a lot as well!

I also visited the product page and used one of their pairings recipe selection to add a truly "Easy Tiramisu Dessert"!  This meal was a big hit and one that I would definitely add to my "I must make a good meal in a short amount of time ... what do I do?" list!

The next meal we tried was the Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken:
This meal includes:
  • Orange Sauce
  • Long Grain White Rice
  • Seasoned Cornstarch
  • Red Chilies
Again, all I needed to do was add the chicken!  For Not-So-Bebe Girl Autumn, I visited the product page and made the Lettuce Wraps (without chicken) and paired it all with Cashew Green Beans as well.  This came out perfectly and was once again gone in one sitting!

I wish I could post pictures of our dinners, but my USB connection for my camera is not working, and I keep forgetting to buy a replacement (sometimes we only think of these things when we actually NEED them, not when we're in the store!).

If you love a real meal and don't have the time to prepare everything from scratch all of the time, I think these boxed diners are definitely the way to go!

If you're planning a couple's night in, these meals can go a long way toward creating that romantic flavor without a boatload of prep!  After all, who wants to be sweating over a hot stove when you can be placing the proper candlelight?  So stay in and go all out!® Make your meal an experience by perhaps adding some ambiance with candles and flowers.

There are LOADS of other great flavors available!  Visit Wanchai Ferry At Home or Macaroni Grill At Home - there are sure to be some flavors your sweetie would love to share with you!

You can click to get a coupon worth $1.50 off of two Wanchai Ferry or Macaroni Grill At Home dinners kits!  You can also follow Macaroni Grill on Twitter and “Like” the Facebook page to keep up with all of the latest news on your Macaroni Grill favorites!

How would YOU like to win a Date Night package to enjoy a home-cooked meal for a night in without the fuss? 

WIN IT:  Thanks to Wanchai Ferry, Macaroni Grill, and My Blog Spark, you have a chance to win your own Date Night prize pack that includes one Wanchai Ferry dry dinner kit, one Macaroni Grill dry dinner kit, and a $25 Visa gift card that you can use to create a magical date night at home!

MANDATORY ENTRY:   Where did you and your significant other have your first date?

EXTRA ENTRIES: 1.  Follow via GFC (left sidebar), follow via Twitter, subscribe via RSS, subscribe via email, enter another giveaway that is current. (1 entry/comment per giveaway).  You can receive one entry for each that you do.

Current subscribers/followers receive 2 entries - please leave 2 comments 

2.  Visit either Wanchai Ferry At Home or Macaroni Grill At Home and tell me which flavor you and your sweetie would most like to try!

3.  Tweet this giveaway (can be done daily!)  Include @jewelknits in the tweet so I can see it and leave the link in the comments section.  (To make it easier, you can use the "Share" button at the bottom of this post!)

ELIGIBILITY:  Open to US entrants only

End Date:
  Tuesday, November 9, at 11:59 AM EST.

ALL ENTRIES:  Please leave your email in your comments: Like this: imacrazedmommy at whydidihavekids dot com OR like this imacrazedmommy(at)whydidihavekids(dot)com to avoid the spam bots.  If I can't reach you, you can't win!

Also, if you follow, subscribe, etc.  please leave the name or email address (for subscriptions) that you follow or subscribe under.  I need to be able to verify your entry.

Disclosure:  I received a Date Night prize package as described above from Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill through My Blog Spark to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was provided, and I was not required to post a positive review.
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Teaser Tuesdays - October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along; you don't have to be a blogger! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teaser this week:

No words would pass between them.  It was bad luck, Peter knew, to speak to someone waiting on the Mercy 

- page 269 The Passage by Justin Cronin

Oh, boy!  I have NO idea what THAT'S about .... sounds kinda creepy!

How about you?  Feel free to leave the link to YOUR Teaser post or simply comment with your teaser!

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