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There are TWO posts today...Sorry about that :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Unfinished Review: Portrait of a Lady

Author: Henry James
Genre: Fiction, Classic, Victorian

Henry James's magnificent heroine, a "young woman affronting her destiny"

When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.

My Thoughts:

This is the third time I tried to read this book. I did get farther this time 113 of 544 total. I just could not get into it. My mind was wandering as I read the pages. I understand the writing style was to have a long single paragraphs, sometimes almost one per page, but visually, I need to see shorter paragraphs or breaks in my reading.

The character development took too long for me. I also had to think constantly while I was reading, and re-reading lines to make sure I understood what was being written. In, short, It was too much work for my mind.

I read to escape daily life and for entertainment purposes. With this book, I felt like I had to work to finish one page, therefore I could not go on any further. I have a rule: If by 50 pages I am not interested in the book, I set it aside for something else. It may be a little more than 50 for some books, it depends, but generally it's about 50 pages.

This also occurred for me when I tried James' other masterpiece The Turn of the Screw. Again, couldn't finish it.

I'm sure James is a great author, unfortunately he is just not for me.
This book was originally part of my Victorian Challenge, so I will replace it with something else.

{Cross posted on Victorian Challenge}

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lost Challenge "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"

This is post is strictly my thoughts on last night's episode. Please see other fans thoughts at the Lost Book Challenge Blog.

WOW! Excellent episode, truly excellent. I could totally buy Whitmore's story. Think about it...Ben gassed all of the Dharma initiative people, the island does not speak to him anymore, and was actually miffed that Ben moved the island instead of John. Ben has never quite fit in either, since he was a child. He is always seeking control everyone and everything. I have always thought Ben killed Sayid's wife, as a way to get him to trust him (Ben).

With respect to Whitmore, he was on the island first, but how did he get off? And why exactly did he send a Special Ops team with explosives to get Ben. Well, Ben is that dangerous, as I'm sure Whitmore knows, and the explosives are in case of emergency, so no one could find the island and Ben couldn't use the freighter. When you hire Special Ops, you can't be responsible for their actions, i.e. killing Ben's daughter.

I am not a big fan of Locke, but I understand his point of view and his character. I was feeling quite bad for him last night, especially when he was talking about his love for his girlfriend (can't remember her name). I see a religious theme developing as well with his character. Locke has to save the island, the people left behind, and bring his mainlanders back too. Also the choice of life or death screams "savior" to me. Whitmore and Ben could be the angels who sit on either shoulder, one good one evil.

And, as if on cue, Ben kills Locke, takes Jin's ring, lies to get Sun on his side, and acts like he has all the answers by bringing everyone to Mrs. Hawking. I thought the island didn't want Ben back? Wasn't he banished or something?

My favorite line comes from Sayid while talking to Locke:

"I don't believe this. You want me to go back to the island?"

It was also great to see Walt as well. I kind of forgot about him, and hope he doesn't have to go back.

I think this season is getting better every week. Progress is being made on the plot lines and it's quite entertaining and confusing at times. Love it all!

What are your thoughts?

See you next week :)

Surviving a Crisis

Since I am both a knitter and book reader, this article is relevant. It is a book excerpt and very interesting:
What it takes to survive a crisis

I can already hear my hubby saying, "I told you those needles were dangerous."
You should know I trip and fall quite often. I'm a little klutzy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Shadows and Strongholds

Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
Genre: Historical fiction

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power. England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back. Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin.

Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms. Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

My Thoughts:

Chadwick presents two medieval families that are allies and yet drastically different. The FitzWarins are tough, brutal, domineering, and a bit mean spirited. Where as the de Dinans are nurturing, loving, happy, and a bit more progressive or free thinking. The contrast between the two is very well written and helps to present the key points in the story. You can just imagine the characters uttering their lines, especially Brunin's mean Grandmother.

The de Dinans are almost too good to be true. They allow their daughters to have a say in their marriages and actually love one another quite openly. Quite a rarity in medieval times.

With regards to the story, it is a beautifully told medieval story. There are just enough battles without becoming bored. They are succinctly depicted as needed. Castle life is portrayed well also, and the interactions between family members and servants are described seamlessly within the story. Chadwick knows her stuff. You would think she lived during medieval times because her descriptions are so accurate. Her research is impeccable.

This book was an interesting read, but not what I was expecting when I picked it up. I assumed there would be more romance than there was. It is more of a medieval story with some romance thrown in along the way. The story itself is interesting and moves along quickly. The book is quite thick, however there are some suspenseful moments sprinkled in, so that you progress through the book more quickly than you realize.

All in all it's a nice read, but as I said, not quite what I was expecting. But that will certainly not deter me from trying another of Chadwick's medieval stories.

My Rating: 3.75/5

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Miz B from Should Be Reading hosts TEASER TUESDAYS
She asks you to:

Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

"Well", says Mrs. Johnson. "It's not like Mr. Henry to pick up and marry someone."

"You'd think she'd done something wrong, the way they're carrying on."

pg. 119 of The Dark Lantern by Geri Brightwell

Some background on the quote: This is a mystery book which is set in Victorian London. The "upstairs" and "downstairs" of the house are utilized to tell the story.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

In honor of Homer

Homer was my father-in-law and passed away yesterday morning in the hospital, after a very long stay. Homer, although not his real name, it describes him perfectly. He really did love his family, in his own messed up way. Although his actions may not have always been perfect, he had the best of intentions. No body is perfect. So this is in his honor:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,“You promised me Lord,that if I followed you, you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936

Thank you in advance for your kind thoughts and wishes. And please, if there is anyone in your life who smokes, please encourage them to quit. I used to smoke and for a great many years, so I know how hard it is to quit. It is no joke. But watching someone die from lung cancer isn't fun either. I'm not a "reformer" or anything, and I do believe in a person's right to smoke, but this experience I guess brought it home for me. Just ask people to at least consider it.
Thank you and take care!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Contest over at Teddy Rose's Place

Teddy Rose of the famed book blog So Many Precious Books, So Little Time is having a contest for 5 sets of 11 books from Hachette Books. So please get your butt over there, enter, and tell her I sent you.

Cool website I discovered today

It's called Girlebooks and they offer ebooks of classic and lesser known novels written by female authors. You'll find Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, and Elizabeth Gaskell, just to name a few.
I thought this was pretty cool and interesting and worth sharing.

Here is a little blurb from their website:

What is Girlebooks?This website is the work of one woman with the help of her mom and a friend or two. Much more than a simple free ebook resource, Girlebooks aims to make classic and lesser-known works by female writers available to a large audience through the ebook medium.

So if you're looking for something different and feeling a bit classical, go check them out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

Author: Syrie James
Genre: Fiction, romance, ?historical

From Harper Collins:

Many rumors abound about a mysterious gentleman said to be the love of Jane's life—finally, the truth may have been found. . . .

What if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart.

Jane Austen has given up her writing when, on a fateful trip to Lyme, she meets the well-read and charming Mr. Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. Inspired by the people and places around her, and encouraged by his faith in her, Jane begins revising Sense and Sensibility, a book she began years earlier, hoping to be published at last.

Deft and witty, written in a style that echoes Austen's own, this unforgettable novel offers a delightfully possible scenario for the inspiration behind this beloved author's romantic tales. It's a remarkable book, irresistible to anyone who loves Jane Austen—and to anyone who loves a great story.

My Thoughts:

This was a great little read...very light hearted, easy, quick, and fun... exactly what I needed to cheer me up. I'm sure it's no secret that I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, but that's not the reason why I liked this book so much.

It's presented as a true story (which it's not), and so it allows your imagination to take over right from the beginning. This "secret memoir" of Austen's details events in her life, which are similiar to some of the plot lines of her beloved books. The places, characters, and conversations are very familiar to those who have read Austen's novels. I chuckled and oohed and awed over some parts. You may think this is corny, but aren't books supposed to be entertaining?

It is quite clear that James is an Austen fan. The author's insights and extras at the end of the book are also worth reading. I think James' research is excellent and does Jane Austen and her novels proud.
I highly recommend this book.
My Rating: 4.75/5

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

It's time for Teaser Tuesday courtesy of MizB from Should be Reading.

The rules are:
Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 & 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your "teaser" from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Please avoid spoilers!

As I raised my skirts with one hand and took his hand with the other, I felt great pleasure in the strength of his grip and the warmth of his touch, which I could feel through the soft leather of my glove.

pg. 109, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I "B" tagged

Chartroose from Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barage! was tagged with this meme from Trish at Hey Lady. The person that tags you assigns you a letter from the alphabet You must then pick 10 of your favorite things that begin with that letter, and explain each. Chartroose assigned me B, so here goes:

1. Books - Now I know that is obvious, but any one who knows me, knows I love books. As soon as I could read, my head was buried in a book. My all time favorite is Pride and Prejudice.
I know this is the DVD cover, but it's Colin Firth people. The ultimate Mr. Darcy.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Normally T.V. is all about entertainment for me. However, this show made me become emotionally vested in its characters. Maybe, it's the growing up differently than others, or having to become an adult much earlier in life. The loss of a true love and or friend. This show captured everything. The actors were fabulous, and the writing was witty and on point. There was always at least one great one-liner per episode. You must at least check out one episode called "Hush" it is 95% silent. You will not be disappointed.

3. Bond... James Bond - Hot, sexy, and saving the world. How could you not love a spy? I owe my love of these movies to my father. These are a favorite of his as well, and whenever one was on T.V. we watched it together. It's amazing how these movies have changed over time. Now with Daniel Craig they are much edgier, and more adult. A reinvention, if you will, but a good one.

Sean Connery my # 1

Followed closely by my # 2 Pierce Brosnan

4. The Beach - The sea air and the sand between my toes just makes me feel good. I could look at this all day...

This is Hapuna beach in Hawaii

5. Ballet - Amazingly beautiful. The dedication that ballet dancers have just blows me away. The music, movements and stories of ballet are just lovely.

6. Balls of yarn - Well, I love to knit, and nothing could make me happier than soft balls of yarn in beautiful colors. The squishiness, softness, and fell of yarn is very comforting to me.

7. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches - On a bagel or a roll, these are delicious and easy to make. A staple during my college years, these are tasty little sandwiches. Crispy bacon, soft scrambled eggs, and melty cheese...yummy!
8.Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! - Cute and funny movie about the after life, including the Handbook of the Recently Deceased. If I'm flipping around the T.V. stations, and this is on, I will stay and watch it. Goofy movie, great dance scene (Day-o dance). Always makes me smile. Michael Keaton completely owned this character and did a fantastic job.

9. Billy Joel - The Piano Man. He puts on some of the greatest concerts I have ever been to. Clapping, dancing and singing in the aisles. His songs have been the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life as well. Lots of memories. Hard to pick a favorite, but Captain Jack is one of them.

10. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Virginia - Excellent theme park, based on European coutries with accompanying thrill rides, like the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster in Scotland. My Dad (Mr. Griswold) took us here on vacation and we had a blast. Even though he was afraid of heights, he would still take me on the roller coasters. To hear him scream like me was awesome, becasue it made me less afraid. if that makes any sense. Good food and a nice place to take the family. Very clean too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Contest over at Ann Aguirre's Blog

Ann Aguirre is having a contest to celebrate the publication of her new book Blue Diablo on April 7, 2009. She is giving away some fabulous prizes too. So go check her out. You will not be disappointed.

"This Place is Death"

This episode had me slapping the arm of my chair saying, "I knew it!" Charlotte was previously on the island, and knew Faraday. Could this explain his tender behavior towards her? I think so.

My favorite line of the night...."Monster!" from Jin. So the smoke monster is protecting some ancient temple on the island. Makes sense. Ties in with the big four toed statue. But who were these ancient people? Where did they go? Did they leave the smoke monster to try and protect people from the island or vice versa? Or both?

Mrs. Hawking: gotta love her. Very business like and matter of fact. Faraday could learn a few things from her, because he is a bit wishy washy.
My sympathies are with Danielle. To lose everyone, deliver your own baby, apparently, and then have her taken from you, my goodness that women was tough. I thought the discussion of the baby names was a nice touch as well.
All in all this was a very enjoyable episode. There was some suspense and I felt as though some plot lines progressed or were at least resurrected. Great episode!
And please don't send Desmond back to the Island. I think he has done enough suffering.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

It's time for Teaser Tuesday courtesy of MizB from Should be Reading. The rules are:

Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 & 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your "teaser" from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

"It's very well you don't try to console me; it would not be in your power," she heard him say, through the medium of her quickened reflections.

--Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, pg. 269 (Paperback)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Anti-Valentine's Day Contest

Breezing Through Books are having an anti-valentine's day contest. And I agree with their sentiment. Romance and love are good on any day of the year, and should be celebrated more often. What's with this one day thing? So to celebrate, they are giving away 3 romance books. Go check them out.

Lost Challenge "The Little Prince"

I enjoy and follow the show Lost, so when I found a book challenge and blog dedicated to one of my favorite shows I just had to join. How could I not?

Now, I can't remember everything that happens exactly, and there are some things that I read from other blogger's posts, that just make me say, "Wow, I so did not get that."
So here are my thoughts about last night's episode. What follows is by no means a re-cap.

Has the writing gotten better or is it just me? The following lines are some of the best ever:

"Who are they? Other Others?"
"Time travel is a bitch"
--both courtesy of Sawyer

To a certain extent I feel as though they are bringing things together full circle. Showing the past lives and inhabitants of the island, and how they all intersect with one another. However, they are definitely leaving me with more questions: The bleeding thing...why is Juliette having this issue now too? Why is Faraday continually evasive about it? What happened to the other Oceanic people?

With respect to the Oceanic 6 back on the mainland, I knew it had to be Ben flushing Kate out. However, it may back fire on him. And Sun? She is one angry person right now. Doesn't she care about her baby, even though she left her in Japan. I guess I'm just waiting for all the Oceanic people to come together on the island and solve some of those mysteries! I feel like they are dragging it out a bit. But haven't they done that for a while now? Oh well, it's still entertaining TV, and I will keep watching until the end.

And btw, I knew Jin had to be alive. They could not just kill him off. And the time period he woke up in? Wow! Poor Jin.

Part of the Lost Challenge is to read books that have been seen or mentioned on the show. Here is my list of five that I will read before Lost is completed in 2010:
  1. A Wrinkle in Time
  2. Valhalla Rising
  3. The Pearl
  4. The Mysterious Island
  5. Laughter in the Dark

I look forward to reading the other challenger's posts at the Lost Book Challenge Blog :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I've been tagged!

Wendi from Wendi's Book Corner tagged me for this meme. I am flattered and after a lot of pondering her goes:

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who has tagged you. Write down six things that make you happy. Post the rules, tag six others and let them know you did it. Then tell the person when your entry is complete.

Six Things That Make Me Happy:

  1. Reading books - Is this too obvious? Books are my version of crack, and I love going to bookstores and libraries. I love the smell of new books. Oh, some of you know what this is...don't lie. It will be our little secret :)

  2. Knitting - The people, the yarn, the community(mostly on-line), everything about it. I have met some really wonderful people, and have made long lasting friendships through knitting. Besides, knitting calms me down so I don't flip out on others. It's very meditative.

  3. Beautiful spring or fall days - These are my two favorite seasons. I guess because these signal a change from harsh seasons, the cold of winter to the beauty of spring. the crispness in the air when that first fall weekend arrives, and the smells of pumpkin and spice.

  4. Spending time with family and friends - Whether for coffee, sitting out in the yard, laughing with my mom, talking sports with my dad, knitting with friends, whatever the activity is, it makes me happy to be with them.

  5. Hot fudge sundaes - There I said it!

  6. My husband - Last but certainly not least. He may drive me crazy from time to time, but at the end of the day, he is my best friend and lover. We have complete honesty and trust, and actually like each other. Not many couples can say that you know. He is my baby, through good and bad.

Now it's time to pass this along. Hmmm this is tough, and I'm new to the book blogging community, but I'll tag the following peeps:

Marg from Reading Adventures

Dar from Peeking Between the Pages

Lynda from Lynda's Book Blog

Chartroose from Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!

These are some very interesting blogs so I urge you to check them out. And for those whom I've tagged, please don't feel obligated to do this. I just wanted to spread some love around :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

It's time for Teaser Tuesday courtesy of MizB from Should be Reading. The rules are:

Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 & 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!
"I know you could do it," Sybilla said. "There is that in you which makes you capable...but so you want to unleash it? What would you become?
Pg. 385, Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
Really enjoying this book!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Who would have thought?

Your result for The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test...

Katharine of Aragon

Dutiful, Loyal, Loving, Dignified, Devout, Headstrong.


"Humble and Loyal"

Katharine the Queen was the first of Henry's wives, and one of the most beloved monarchs. A devout Catholic, Katherine was solemn, dignified, loyal, and stubborn, until the day she died. Previously married at 16 to Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's brother, Katharine steadfastly maintained her virginal status was true upon her marriage to Henry after Arthur's death. As Arthur was ill at the time he married Katharine, he likely was unable to consumate the union; Katharine well could have been a virgin on marrying Henry. Katharine was 23; Henry, 18.

Although it is quite probable that Henry did love Katharine when they were married, the betrothal would come to a tragic end. The bible states that a man who takes his brothers wife will never bear children, and the union would be unclean- and although Henry maintained this to be his reason for wanting to be free of her (and Henry may well have believed his own rhetoric- he was trained to enter church service, not to be king), the more likely reason was his infatuation with Anne Boleyn.

Katharine suffered many miscarriages, never giving him a son, only Princess Mary (who would grow to become Bloody Mary); Anne Boleyn promised him a son upon marriage. This cemented Henry VIII's resolve, and in 1533, he divorced Katherine, after a seven year battle with the Roman Catholic Church, leading to his excommunication and the Reformation.

Katharine fought Henry tooth and nail, maintaining her virtue was intact when she wed Henry, despite his assertion that she had had relations with Prince Arthur and was therefore unable to have been elligible for marriage. She refused to conceed, no matter what reason Henry appealed to. Even as Henry sent Princess Mary away, ostensibly to be educated as a princess, but really as a form of punishment for Katharine, she would not relent. Henry forbade Katharine contact with their daughter, and in his zeal to be rid of Katharine, inadvertently abandoned Mary.

In a last ditch attempt to be rid of her and free to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry demanded Katherine resign her throne and enter a nunnery. Katherine refused- she was the rightful queen and would not abdicate her crown.

Frustrated, Henry banished Katharine from the castle, sending her to live in isolation, with one lady in waiting and a meager stipend. Sent to a castle so shabby that it leaked water and was crusted in mold, Katherine lived just three years more. She had not seen her daughter Mary in more than five years, and was reputed to have had her daughters name on her lips when she finally died of heartache, stress, and the shabby conditions to which she was exiled.

She wrote a dying letter to Henry professing her love for him had not been changed, and forgiving him for his actions against her. It is unknown if Henry read the letter- he had been rejecting Katharine's mail for years- but her death had a profound effect, and was one of several events that marked the beginning of the end for his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Take The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Check out this contest

Teddy Rose from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time is giving away 5 copies of the book The Italian Lover By Robert Hellenga
So get yourself over there and post a comment. Please tell him I sent you as well. Afterwards, make sure you browse his blog. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, but Teddy has some wonderful reviews and posts for you to read too.
Happy Reading!