Monday, November 28, 2011

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (review # 141)

Title: Anya's Ghost

Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: Graphic Novel
Format: Library Loan

This is a new one for me. I have absolutely not jumped on the Graphic Novel bandwagon, even after assisting hundreds of young folks (and some old) at the bookstore and library finding the titles they wanted.

I must say, though, after reading Anya's Ghost, I am indeed interested in reading more.

I discovered Anya's Ghost while processing the new books at my library job. I LOVE this project. Now that I don't work at the bookstore anymore, it is my one life line to holding and touching new books. (I suppose I could venture to a bookstore more often but I may need money for that).

It was a cold and dreary day that day at the library and this little nugget of a book really hit my mood right. I read it in less than an hour. Now THAT's my kind of read. It helped boost my confidence in the ol' reading slump area.

The style of graphics reminds me of Persepolis, which I read many years ago for a former bookclub. Black and white, stark, honest, moody.

Anya is a teen with Russian roots she is trying to hide. She doesn't see herself as pretty, smart or popular but would like it if the world would. She has one friend at school and she is kind of a bitch. This doesn't leave much for a social life. Little did she know when she took a tumble down an old well, that her next friend would be a ghost.

Not only does her new friend Emily, the ghost, help her get the guy, get good grades and get invited to parties, she also decides she wants to live vicariously through Anya. As Emily gets more aggressive, Anya digs deeper into her past and finds that she is not the innocent, sad little ghost stuck down in the well.

Rating: 6/6
I loved this! I ran through every page. I liked the edge to it and the unexpected darkness of Emily and her story. Anya was a hoot and her life in high school seemed to be waaaaay relatable (though it's been a few years....cough*) I can see why this genre gets devoured. This was fast, fun and a thrill. I am definitely checking out more.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ladies Book Club: November 2011

Book Read:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Ladies in Attendance:
Ladies Book Club: 3 (I was unable to attend due to work)
B.Y.O.B Book Club (11 members)

Treats shared:
Ladies Book Club: Drunken Goat Cheese, Chips, Jalapeno and Mango Sausage, Chicken Wings, Hummus, Pita and Wine.
B.Y.O.B Book Club: Tortilla Roll Ups, Pumpkin Bars, Cream Cheese with savory sauces, Chips, Chocolate, a delicious cheesy/nut crockpot delight, wine and so much more I can't remember.

To Read or Not to Read:
Ladies Book Club: 2 Ladies read 25%, 1 read 75%, 1 read it all.
B.Y.O.B Book Club: 10 members read it all, 1 member was almost done with it

My Reaction:
I will not be combining my book clubs like this in future posts but we did happen to read the same book for this month. It generated a lot of discussion and I wanted to share it with you all. I was unable to make it to the Ladies Book Club night due to work but I did make it to B.Y.O.B group night, so I wanted to include their reactions as well.

First, my reaction was that it was indeed a very well written, well researched novel. I could tell the author was in awe of her subjects, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney and wanted to flesh out their story as much as possible. In some parts it was too detailed and it became a tad boring in the middle but overall, it kept my attention.
My flaw with it was that of the decisions of the characters themselves. I found Frank to be completely self absorbed, immature and irresponsible, in his work and in his personal life. I did not know anything of him or his story before I read it so it came as a surprise to me that as talented as he was, he was such a putz like little man at times.
Mamah I had issues with because of her decisions to abandon her children for Frank. I know these are real people who made these real choices and I can't dislike the book for that. I just did not agree with the choices they made. Mamah was educated, well cared for, loved by her husband and still yearned for more. She ran off to find it in Frank and along the way, she latched on to others that intrigued her. As a woman, I could identify a bit with her yearning. As a mother, I was appauled she abandoned her kids for two years to seek out those desires.
We had much discussion about this. Was it the times back then? Was it okay to do that? To leave your children with relatives for long extended periods of time?
Who knows. Perhaps. It just pissed me off. I can be a volatile reader. Don't mess with the mom in me, I guess.
Overall, I am glad I read it. It certainly was hyped up to book clubs while I was working at the bookstore. I just didn't find it to leave me with a warm feeling at the end. In the B.Y.O.B club we rate our books on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best. I rated the story a 2 and the writing a 4. Overall, a 3 rating I guess.

Description from Amazon's Website:
Horan's ambitious first novel is a fictionalization of the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, best known as the woman who wrecked Frank Lloyd Wright's first marriage. Despite the title, this is not a romance, but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century. Frank and Mamah, both married and with children, met when Mamah's husband, Edwin, commissioned Frank to design a house. Their affair became the stuff of headlines when they left their families to live and travel together, going first to Germany, where Mamah found rewarding work doing scholarly translations of Swedish feminist Ellen Key's books. Frank and Mamah eventually settled in Wisconsin, where they were hounded by a scandal-hungry press, with tragic repercussions. Horan puts considerable effort into recreating Frank's vibrant, overwhelming personality, but her primary interest is in Mamah, who pursued her intellectual interests and love for Frank at great personal cost. As is often the case when a life story is novelized, historical fact inconveniently intrudes: Mamah's life is cut short in the most unexpected and violent of ways, leaving the narrative to crawl toward a startlingly quiet conclusion. Nevertheless, this spirited novel brings Mamah the attention she deserves as an intellectual and feminist.

Ladies' Reaction:
I received notes from my pal, Rachelle for the Ladies and the gals from B.Y.O.B had a pretty lively discussion. It may be a bit hard to sum it all up. The Ladies leaned a bit more towards my feelings of it all; a little dry in the middle, transitions from chapter to chapter a bit choppy, the characters were a bit whack, the roles of women at the time were intriguing, etc. B.Y.O.B gals all rated it really high, stating it was well written, full of intriguing flawed characters with a dynamic and shocking ending. I wish I could have made it to both clubs to compare so I am sorry if I have more notes from B.Y.O.B this time around. More of the gals seemed to sympathize with Mamah much more than I, saying she was strong to follow her dreams and courageous to leave her family. Also, more gals could see the genius and creativity in Frank instead of concentrating so much on the irresponsibility and the disrespect for the common man that I couldn't get past. Call me a bitch but I would have been like "Yo, Mamah..what's up? Frank's a loser with tons of debt and doesn't pay his helpers. That's not cool. And, by the way, where are your kids? Oh yeah, thats right. you LEFT them." Grrr...
I'm sure I am sound uber disrespectful and I apologize to the Cheney and the Wright family. I do. I just had a hard time with their love affair.
But I thank my book club ladies (both of them) for opening up my eyes to their views and trying to convince me of the humanness of them both. Towards the end of the B.Y.O.B discussion, I could see their point. It was a different time. The roles of women were different. Classist societies were definitely in existence. Art and creativity were something to be in awe of. And, no, Mamah did not deserve to come to a fiery end.

Good Book Club Pick?
Obviously from my rantings and ramblings you can see it was indeed a good pick. I wish I was at the Ladies meet up to discuss it but it seems they felt a bit more like me. Less impressed but still somewhat intrigued. The B.Y.O.B gals rated it a 3.98 overall and agreed that it was a great pick to discuss. We had official questions but we generated plenty of chatting on our own. They thought it was an excellent, well written book, that even with some slow parts, kept them all intrigued up until the tragic ending.

Next Book Up:
The Ladies will be having our Holiday Party next month. No book to read but there will be books to swap and pick for next year and plenty of booze and goodies!
B.Y.O.B Book Club will be reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pie? Check.

Turkey? Check.

Sweet Potatoes? Check.

Family? Check.

Good Book? Check.

Looks like I'm all set!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

red headed book child

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My First Sunday Salon-November 20

Why, may you ask, am I doing a Sunday Salon for the first time after, 2 1/2 years of blogging? Well, I can honestly say that it's the type of post I feel I can contribute now. Up until now, I've been able to have a review or a feature or a giveaway every few days to keep posts current. Lately, I've hit a wall, reading wise and have also started a very busy schedule. My blogging has fallen my the way side. I've have some moments free but, like many of you, I'm sure, have not felt it to post anything worth reading.

I've enjoyed reading so many Sunday Salons of yours that I thought it would be a nice time to recap my week or (cough) weeks since I've seen you all last.

The biggest thing that has changed in the last few weeks is that I finally got a second part-time job that I am loving. I now work mornings with Scholastic Book Fairs creating their display cases for the schools. It's pretty entry level but it's a foot in the door with a great company and I am really liking it. As most of you all know, I work also at my local library part-time as well. I was struggling with finding another job that could go around my hours there. (I sure as, you know what, am NOT giving that job up). Luckily Scholastic was able to give me five mornings a week and it doesn't interfere at all!!

Go me!

I also am going to be adding a very part-time gig as a Home caregiver for the elderly. More to come on that.

With this new job comes less time at home and with my son. I have been trying to spend more of my free time with him now as well. Unfortunately, we got a TON of time this past week because he got Scarlet Fever last Wednesday! Ugh. So, my husband and I took turns going to work and taking care of him. He is doing great but we are all a little exhausted. It was lovely to see his sweet little face all week but not when it was so sick. :(

On the book front, I am reading, just not very fast! I am almost done with Lethal by Sandra Brown for my mystery challenge. (I don't care if I've already done that letter. I'm just reading new mystery authors and that's that! Okay?!) I also finished Loving Frank by Nancy Horan for my book clubs. Both clubs read it this month and my second club is meeting next Monday to discuss it. Once I have both clubs under my belt, I will post my reviews. Boy, did this one stir up some emotion!

I have three books I am deciding on for my next read. Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson (a literary thriller), We need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver ( anovel), or The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (a young adult literary/historical thriller). It's cold and snowy here and my mood is leaning towards a rich, meaty literary thriller...perhaps with an old creepy house or the rainy, cold streets of 1880s London.

This coming week will hopefully be filled with good reading, turkey, and lots of movies. My pal Dawn and I are going to see The Swell Season documentary (about the two musicians from the movie Once) and Like Crazy. We loved the movie Once and also saw them perform live a few years back when they came to Minneapolis. LOVED IT! Like Crazy is just an indie movie right up my alley and Dawn is also a fan of good, solid indie movies. We decided to make it double feature kind of a day.
Click both links and check these movies out if you have not heard of them!

My pal Amanda and I are having "Hunky Men" Movie Night. She will supply Gerard Butler movies and I will supply Mark Ruffalo movies. Wine will join us and our good friend chocolate. Good times will be had by all, indeed.

Oh and Breaking Dawn...that will happen too, I'm sure.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my first Sunday Salon. As you can see, I've been busy and will be busy this coming week. I hope to do another Sunday Salon at some point too. I am going to try to be more present in the blog world in the next few weeks. I haven't forgotten you all!!

What are you reading this week?
What are your big plans?
Breaking Dawn? Yes?

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feature: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan (BLOG TOUR)

Title: Food Rules
Author: Michael Pollan
Illustrator: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Food Memoir/Reference

I came across Michael Pollan's Food Rules awhile back and swallowed a large lump in my throat after paging through a few pages. Man, what the hell am I eating? What the hell is my kid eating? (sorry for the language)
I have since went on to read Omnivore's Dilemma, another book of his, and am fascinated with his take and knowledge on the current state of "food" in our society.

I was curious to take a peak at this new illustrated version
and check out the new rules he adds to this edition.

Here is a brief description from the author's website:

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules began with his hunch that the wisdom of our grandparents might have more helpful things to say about how to eat well than the recommendations of science or industry or government. The result was a slim volume of food wisdom that has forever changed how we think about food. Now in a new edition illustrated by artist Maira Kalman, and expanded with a new introduction and nineteen additional food rules, this hardcover volume marks an advance in the national dialogue that Food Rules inspired.

I think the illustrated version will make this quaint little book appeal to a broader audience who may have seen it before and chalked it up to "just another food book". The illustrations are qite lovely. I see it now as a way of life and a way of understanding what food really is. We all should really know what is in our food and what is going into our bodies. How does our childhood eating habits affect how we are today? What did our grandparents teach us?

I am glad I checked this book out. It puts shopping into perspective too. Why does my lunch contain ingredients I can't pronounce? Is that a good thing? Where is my food really coming from? Discover the natural goodness around you.

You don't have to be a foodie to appreciate the important message in this book.

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestsellers, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.

A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

Visit Michael at his website,

About Maira Kalman

Find out more about Ms. Kalman’s work at her website.

Maira Kalman is an illustrator, author, and designer. She is the author of The Principles of Uncertainty and she illustrated the bestselling edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Ms. Kalman’s twelve children’s books include Max Makes a Million, Stay Up Late, Swami on Rye, and What Pete Ate. She also has designed fabric for Isaac Mizrahi, accessories for Kate Spade, sets for the Mark Morris Dance Company, and, with her late husband Tibor Kalman under the M&Co. label, clocks, umbrellas, and other accessories for the Museum of Modern Art.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: November 2011

Hello Everyone! I am a few days late on getting the winner for The Ninth Day!
Thanks for your patience. Ryan from Wordsmithonia is our winner!!!!
Thanks to him and to all who signed up!

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: November 2011
Bad Moon by Todd Ritter

I am very excited to give this one away. New author to me. Very thrilling story line! Check out the description from Amazon.

On the same night that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, ten-year-old Charlie Olmstead jumped on his bike to see if there was some way he could get a better look. It was the last anyone ever saw of him. After Perry Hollow Police Chief Jim Campbell found Charlie’s bike caught in the water above Sunset Falls, he assumed the worst. Everyone did—except Charlie’s mother.

Years later, Eric Olmstead—now a famous author and Charlie’s younger brother—has come back to Perry Hollow to bury his mother and fulfill her last request: Find Charlie. To do so, he goes to the current police chief, his former sweetheart, Kat Campbell, who happens to be Jim Campbell’s daughter. Together they soon discover that Eric’s mother was convinced Charlie was kidnapped, and that finding him—whether he was dead or alive—was her secret obsession. While she never succeeded, she did uncover clues that suggested he wasn’t the only boy across Pennsylvania to vanish into thin air during that time.

Contest Rules:
* Please be a follower of my blog

* Please leave an email address

* Please reside in the United States.

Contest Runs from November 4- November 30

Thanks to Dana Kaye Publicity for providing me a copy to give away!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (review #140)

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Fiction
Format: ARC
Release Date: March 2012

For those of you who have been following my previous posts, you will know that I found myself in a bit of a slump. A reading slump, that is. I was concentrating so heavily on my Mystery Challenge that I slammed head on into a massive, pressure induced rut. I was determined to read as many mystery authors as possible and well, the ones I picked up were less than impressive. So, I took some of your advice, and switched gears for a sec. No fear, though. That mystery challenge isn't going anywhere. It's still a top priority for me.

I looked to my pile of books.

Not only did I get the opportunity to go to BEA this year , I also had a chance to work the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, which, I'm told, is like a mini BEA for the Midwest area. I had a blast and walked away with an enormous amount books, almost as much as I got at BEA. I did not expect this at all.

One of my responsibilities was to work with authors who were guests at the trade show. I helped them sign all the copies of their books that were featured. One of the authors that I was able to help and meet was Carol Anshaw, the author of Carry the One. We chatted a bit and I gave her my card. I told her literary fiction was one of my favorite genres and she said I should snag a book and read it.

I'm certainly glad I did. This eloquent, honest character driven novel pulled me out of my slump. I chose to do the review now, even though the book is not to be released until March 2012, because it was fresh in my mind and I wanted to tell you all about it.

Here is a glimpse of what it is about from Simon and Schuster:
Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen's wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidently hits and kills a girl on a dark, country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, connect and disconnect and reconnect with each other and their victim. As one character says, "When you add us up, you always have to carry the one."

Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest tragedies and joys of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we'd expect. Deceptively short and simple in its premise, this novel derives its power and appeal from the author's beautifully precise use of language; her sympathy for her very recognizable, flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

This is a novel where everything and nothing happens. The tragic death of the young girl in the beginning of the book lingers throughout the entire book, which gives it that sense that though time moves on, the characters remain stuck in the same place. Carmen, Nick and Alice are siblings and are whom we follow over the course of twenty some years. We follow Carmen's activism in women's rights, her crumbling marriage and motherhood to Gabe. We follow Nick's addictions, his brilliant career in astronomy that he destroys time and time again and his obsession with Olivia, the driver who killed the young girl. And we follow Alice (my favorite character) in her growing career as a painter, fixated on portraits of the dead girl and her tumultuous, co-dependent relationship with Maude.

I loved and hated these characters with every page. Anshaw has a way of writing that nails the psychology of humans. She explores the complicated relationships between men and women, sister and brother, mother and daughter, by breaking wide open inhibitions, those sticky boundaries that hold us back and that pesky fear business that keeps us hiding in our closets.

Nick was a pain in the ass junkie who could have been dropped in a gutter and forgotten many times over but you still cared for him. Anshaw made you still want to care, much like you would do if it were your family member.
Carmen was passive and aggressive in her own way and sometimes you wanted to shake her but you understood she created her own sense of control to erase the guilt of that night. You rooted for the big sister in her.
And Alice, sweet, vulnerable, easily swooped up Alice. Lost, yet centered in her art. Open, yet closed off to a life that didn't include Maude. Talented, but haunted by her portraits of the young girl they killed.

Anshaw did a beautiful job in the creation of these wounded characters. It was a joy to read. She also filled the book with other side characters that give it a bigger dynamic. She also gave it an ending that was quiet, yet satisfying. Sad, but expected.

Rating: 6/6
I give this my top rating. It hit my mood just right. The writing flowed flawlessly. I had so many post its of sections I liked, it made it almost impossible to read, because they got in the way. I didn't include any of those lines. I'll just leave those for me to enjoy and perhaps, for you to discover. The most powerful line, which is included in the back cover description, is "When you add us up, you always have to carry the one."
Powerful, don't you think? What is the "one" in which we carry?
I highly recommend this novel for any fan of literary fiction. It is intense, sweet, honest and hopeful, all at the same time. I am pleased I had a chance to meet Carol Anshaw and I am honored to be able to share this review with you all.

Author Website:

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child