Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm over you snow!

So this is what it looks like outside, my back porch. It's been snowing all day. After trudging through banks of it, running errands with my little toddler (who LOVED kicking off his boots!), I've decided, I'm so over it.

So, I prefer to spend my time doing this. (not in picture=glass of wine)

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

So far? Unputdownable.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why I Love Jackie Collins (Poor Little Bitch Girl review #109)

Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Fiction
Review Copy

My love for Jackie Collins goes back a long time. I could not pass up the opportunity to review this book.

I know I have mentioned in a few previous posts about how much time I spent at the library growing up. I knew each and every corner of that place by heart. I knew the children's department inside and out and as I grew I wandered up to the "upstairs" where all of the adult books were.

My love for adult fiction started as an early teen. I read a lot of V.C Andrews, Danielle Steel, Judith Michael, Judith Krantz, etc. You get the picture. I was also hooked on prime time dramas; Knots Landing, Dallas, Falcon Crest. You see why my move to Jackie Collins was bound to happen sooner than later.

I can't remember which book I picked up first but some familiar titles to me were Hollywood Wives, Hollywood Husbands, Rock Star, Chances, Lucky and Lady Boss. To me, she wrote of a world so far removed from mine, that it simply fascinated me. It was dirty as hell and totally wrong for a 12 year old girl like me to read but, hey, I was a good little sneaker. I could hide in any corner of that library and I had good look outs to watch for my mom!

I loved the glamour of Hollywood, the jet setting life the characters led, the parties, the food, the champagne, the romance, the....sex. It was all too good to put down when your world was the country and Catholic school. I'm not going to lie!

Poor Little Bitch Girl delivers much the same. It focuses on three young women; Denver; a hotshot LA attorney, Carolyn; the assistant to a famous Senator and also his mistress and Annabelle; a secret Madam and daughter of two famous actors.

Also also kicking it in the story is Bobby Santangelo-Stanislopolous, the son of Lucky Santangelo and Dimitri Satanislopolous (both main characters in her earlier and very popular novels). He's got the looks, the charm and the money but unfortunately the habit of falling for women who treat him like crap. Frankie is his best friend and boyfriend to Annabelle.

What makes these characters all collide is the shocking death of Annabelle's mother, found shot to death in her home.

I didn't know what I would think about reading her after all these years. It's been almost 15 years now but I can safely say, I still enjoyed the heck out of her! Yes, I'm no longer a 12 year old country girl who's never been kissed or left her little town but I'm still a gal up for a good fun romp of a read and this one delivered!

Rating: 5/6
If you haven't read Jackie Collin's before, I wouldn't start with this one. I would go back to her earlier novels and get a taste for Lucky's character. I really liked reading about her the best. And, of course, how could I forget the TV Movies made from these books? Lucky Chances miniseries which just happens to star Sandra Bullock, Nicollette Sheridan and Vincent Irizzary (Lujack from Guiding Light! YUM!)

I recommend her for a fun, fast, saucy read. If you want to take a little walk on the wild side while still sitting comfortable on your couch, check out Jackie Collins!

Author Website:

Book Club Pick?
Ahhh, probably not. Just have fun!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Digging through my Mystery piles


Well, in an effort to succeed in my challenges this year, I took to my book shelves. I really want to clean up what I own and give those darn books a chance before I send them on their merry way.


So I compiled all of my mystery/thrillers and decided to pull from this stack first but I will also pull from the library. I can't resist that. If I complete these, however, they will then fall under 2 challenges! My A-Z Mystery Author Challenge and the Read from Your Shelves Project. It's a win win, right?

Here's what I have found so far and yes, some of them are incredibly old.

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
Damaged by Pamela Callow
The Alienist by Caleb Carr (Stop right there Cheryl, I know!)*
The Reversal by Michael Connelly
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly
The Unquiet by John Connolly
The Reapers by John Connolly (i'm horribly behind on my John Connolly reading)
The Anniversary Man by R.J Ellory
The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy
The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison
Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
Strong Justice and Strong Enough to Die by Jon Land
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
The Straw Men by Michael Marshall
City of Dreams by William Martin
Panic Zone by Rick Mofina
The Mist by Carla Neggers
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry (shaking my head and avoiding Cheryl's eyes)*
A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter
Refuge by Gillian White
Hush by Kate White


* My good friend Cheryl, now guest reviewer, has been telling me to read these for almost ten years now.

Has anyone read any of these? If so, recommend any I start with?

Wish me luck!
Atleast I have Mr. Smily Face Beach Ball Man to cheer me on!



Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Monday, January 24, 2011

Delirious by Daniel Palmer (Guest Review and Giveaway)


Delirious by Daniel Palmer

Release date: January 25


Guest Review*


My Thoughts:

I have mentioned by good friend Cheryl in several posts since starting this blog. We have known each other for going on 10 years now. We met each other as booksellers at a bookstore in Uptown Minneapolis. Our friendship began over a massive love of books and our ability to talk about them for hours! We were roommates for a time and enjoyed sitting in our hallway where our bookshelves were talking about books until the wee hours of the night. She was one of the friends of mine that went with me to BEA!

She has since moved away from Minneapolis and is currently living in Atlanta as a Project Archivist. She is super smart and great at what she does. She has truly found her calling, in my eyes. I am always excited to see her when she visits me back here at home. We do a regular sushi and wine dinner and then browse the local bookstores. Super predictable, nerdy and oh so much fun.


I was getting a ton of requests for books that I honestly did not have time to read so I asked her if she would be interested in doing a Guest review. She said sure right away. She is also a huge fan of mysteries and I thought this one would be a good fit for her. Hope you guys enjoy a new voice in reviews here at Red Headed Book Child. I know she will stop by again!



Cheryl's Thoughts:

I was very happy when Michelle asked me to do guest reviews for her blog. As one often mentioned in her posts, I’m excited to actively participate. My first review is an ARC of Delirious by Daniel Palmer, the son of medical thriller author Michael Palmer.


Description of Delirious from Daniel Palmer’s website www.danielpalmerbooks.com


“Charlie Giles is at the top of his game. An electronics superstar, he’s sold his startup company to a giant Boston firm, where he’s now a senior director. With his dog, Monte, at his side, Charlie is treated like a VIP everywhere he goes.

Then one day, everything in Charlie’s neatly ordered world starts to go terrifyingly wrong. His prestigious job and his inventions are wrenched away from him. His family is targeted, and his former employers are dying gruesomely, picked off one by one. Every sign, every shred of evidence, points to Charlie as a cold-blooded killer. And soon Charlie is unable to tell whether he’s succumbed to the pressures of work and become the architect of his own destruction, or whether he’s the victim of a relentless, diabolical attack.

In a desperate struggle to save his life, Charlie races to uncover the truth, all the while realizing that nothing can be trusted—least of all his own fractured mind…”

A blurb on the ARC also describes it as “a spiraling psychological thrill-ride filled with intrigue, questions and deception – a techno-savvy novel, with shocking twists that will mesmerize readers from start to finish.”


Raised by a single mother with a schizophrenic father and brother, Charlie’s biggest fear is being schizophrenic. Palmer deftly weaves this childhood psychological trauma with Charlie’s adult fear while Charlie’s world turns upside down for reasons he cannot figure out. It starts when he finds a sticky note on his laptop screen that says, in his own handwriting, “If not yourself, then who can you believe?” with absolutely no recollection of writing it. As things continue to spiral out of Charlie’s control, he returns to this question again and again as he tries to figure out whether he is unconsciously destroying himself or someone is out to get him. Palmer excels by offering no obvious solutions to the incidents that make Charlie question his sanity in a believable way.


Described as “techno-savvy novel,” I expected a using-technology-to-solve-a-crime thriller, which it is not and initially disappointed me. However, after I finished reading and thought about it for a while, I prefer that Palmer chose to not use his novel as a way to show off or describe the latest or future of technology, but instead of a more subtle approach of how dependent we are on it while simultaneously how much it can control our lives. He effectively explained and integrated the products and ideas into the story and combined with the “psychological thrill-ride,” I was hooked and read it in only a few days.


What is also fun is that Palmer created a blog about the company and its founders from his book, sort of as a prequel: http://www.danielpalmerbooks.com/invision-blog/. As it has virtually no impact on the story, it is not necessary to read it before reading the book. I read it after and found it amusing.


As an avid thriller reader, what I expect is to be entertained, which Palmer delivered. Well-written and compelling, I read the book nearly all the way through with no idea how it would end, which is what I want from a good thriller. I especially liked the numerous twists and turns that I could not figure out how and why they occurred.


My only criticism, which I should emphasize did not detract from the story and are mostly indicative that it was Palmer’s first novel, are that the characters were a bit undeveloped, dialogue a bit choppy, and bits of the story redundant as he continually reminded readers of certain incidents. I fully expect that as Palmer continues to write, these minor aspects will improve greatly and turn him into an excellent thriller and suspense writer.


I enjoy reading new authors and I am glad I found him at the beginning of his career and I will look to Daniel Palmer for entertaining thrillers in the future.


Sites of Interest:

Download a free copy of Daniel's album “Home Sweet Home” at http://bit.ly/fW6SN3

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/danielpalmerbooks

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/danielpalmer

Website: http://www.danielpalmerbooks.com


GIVEAWAY rules:

*Please be a follower of my blog.

*Please include an email address.

*Please live in the United States.

Winner will be picked on February 8.


Thanks again Cheryl! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one!


Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!


red headed book child





Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Brave by Nicholas Evans (review #108)


The Brave by Nicholas Evans
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Little Brown
Review Copy


This book was such a pleasant surprise. I received it a few weeks ago with the hopes of maybe picking it up in the next month or two to review. I was up in the air with what I was in the mood for at the time and I gave it a go. I read it in two days and was wholly absorbed the entire time. I had never read Nicholas Evans before but knew him from his Horse Whisperer fame. I remember when the book came out and the movie with Robert Redford.

You tend to compartmentalize books when you work in bookstores and I somehow put Nicholas Evans in the "Man Book" category...where Nelson Demille, Tom Clancy and Robert Parker all comfortably live. I have no issues at all with these authors, I just got used to selling them to a particular customer!


I really, really enjoyed this book. It focuses around a young eight year boy named Tom Bedford living near London with his older parents. He is a bit shy, a little socially awkward and completely obsessed with westerns, specifically the star Flint McCullough. His mother is harsh on him and his father barely speaks to him. The one that gives him the most love is his older sister, Diane, a rising actress on the London stage and screen.

He is sent to a rough boarding school when he becomes an early teen and learns the hard way how to manage. After a short stay, he is told a devastating secret about his family. This leads to his move to Hollywood to live with his sister and her new boyfriend, the popular TV cowboy actor Ray Montane. There he discovers life on movie sets and the difference between real life cowboys and the ones that pretend to be good.

He meets Cal, the owner of the ranch where Ray and Diane are filming their new movie and they bond over horses and movies. His world is filled with Tinseltown glamour, ugly truths and dreams to survive. What makes it all safe for him, even when a terrifying act threatens to ruin them all, is Diane and his new found friendship with Cal.

As this story line develops with his life in Hollywood, we jump in time to when Tom is an adult living in Montana, divorced and father of an adult son. His son is a US Marine and charged with murder in the field. Distant and a bit awkward at parenting, Tom struggles to reconnect with his son and help him with his trial. This brings up memories of the secrets he faced in his childhood and the pain he had to deal with early on in life.

Rating: 5/6
This book has a little bit of everything in it for me; old Hollywood glamour, childhood dreams, the strength of family and the power of secrets. I really liked it and was drawn to the world in which Evans creates. Never having read him before I did not know what to expect and I was so pleased. Recommended for fans of a well strung together drama with plenty of character development.

Interesting note:
Check this out from the author's website.

Hello and welcome to the website. It has been a long time since we refreshed these pages but we’ve done some work and I hope you like the changes. The reason for the delay (and, more important, the delayed publication of my new novel) is that my family and I had a serious accident: we ate some wild mushrooms which turned out to be poisonous. The guide book, consulted, stupidly, only after the horse had bolted, listed them as deadly poisonous. Fortunately, the four children who were with us had the good sense not to eat any. But their parents did, with horrible consequences. The poison attacked our kidneys and within a couple of days we were all critically ill in hospital on dialysis. Three of us still are on dialysis – five hours every other day, hitched to a blood machine. We are also on the waiting list for transplants.

It has been a life-changing journey in many ways. But with the love and support of family and friends and brilliant medical help (all courtesy of the wonderful British National Health Service), we are all in good spirits. More than anything, we are happy to be alive. I would like to thank all those many readers who sent their good wishes through this website. I usually reply to all emails but there is a huge backlog, so please excuse the delay.

My new novel, postponed for two years by all this real-life drama, is called The Brave. It’s out in September in the UK and October in the US. Italy and Holland hope to publish around that time too. I hope you enjoy it. Also, my wife, singer/songwriter Charlotte Gordon Cumming created an album of songs inspired by The Brave. You can listen to these songs at thebravesongs.com.

All best wishes,
Nicholas

Book Club Pick?
Hmm...I just found it to be a really good book to read. I wouldn't recommend it for my book club, just to savor and read for yourself.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just because...

I recently saw The Kids are All Right because it's a movie that I knew would be right up my alley. I knew I would get great performances from Annette Bening and Julianne Moore and I love the kid from Bridge to Terabithia, Josh Hutcherson.

But I didn't expect to get hit by the force that is....
Mark Ruffalo


Oh my.

My.

My.

My.

Hi there.

Have you seen him...I mean, the movie?


red headed book child

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For Baby...

This weekend we celebrated the kiddo's 3rd birthday. I can not believe that he is 3 already! I have been feeling all bittersweet, and full of warm fuzzies when I think of how far he has come. He went from a chubby little baby to a smart as a whip, fast talking toddler. I love him to pieces.


During his infancy we would listen to a lot of music and I would sing a lot of music to him. One of my favorite groups is Peter, Paul and Mary. We are currently on a Puff, the Magic Dragon kick here with the little kiddo singing along when I sing to him the storybook.

This got me remembering another song by them, For Baby. I would sing this one to him all the time and it would soothe him. It has a sweet message. Please click on the video and watch the beautiful Mary Travers, bless her heart, sing it to us.

Perhaps, all you parents out there can take a moment to think about your babies, new or grown.


Thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately (review #107)

Lipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster)
Format: Review Copy

There are many novels out there that deal with the war in Afghanistan and the after shock of 9/11. I have not read many of them. When it's in the news as much as it is, I tend to want to read something else. In no means am I trying to forget what happened and the tragedies that occurred, I just simply look for others topics to read for pleasure.

However, I did choose to read this novel and overall, it was a pretty quick read but it didn't leave too much of a mark on me.

This novel tells the story of two women; Elsa, an American nurse and Parween, an Afghan woman. Their stories collide when Elsa, through the UN, becomes a nurse in the village of Bamiyan, where Parween and her family reside.

The book starts out telling Elsa's story growing up in outside Boston. Raised by her mother and caring for her disabled niece, Elsa's beginnings are far from glamorous. Her desire to become a nurse and to help others carry her through. After her niece is hospitalized she befriends one the nurses and through that relationship her dream becomes a realty. After getting her education and working locally she inquires about work through the UN. The opportunity to help out in the remote village of Bamiyan Afghanistan is given to her and though hesitant she is excited at the chance. Now alone, her niece and mother both deceased at this point, she makes the brave decision to go.

The "lipstick" in the title refers to the tube she finds of her sisters at a young age. The application of the brilliant color makes her feel transformed and far away from her humble upbringings. While in Afghanistan, she finds another tube of lipstick after a bus bombing and this, in turn, leads her to her connection with Parween.

Parween's story starts out when she is a young girl with her best friend and takes us through to the day when her arranged marriage occurs. Her situation is fortunate and her marriage turns into a wonderful, safe, happy relationship. We learn however that her good childhood friend does not fair too well. Parween finds herself searching and hoping to find this friend during the many years of Taliban destruction through the villages.

I read this book over a month and a half ago and unfortunately, my memory is lacking on how exactly Parween and Elsa meet. Elsa, being female and American, has many people around her to help her with her transition. She gets a local woman as a roommate and another local man to accompany her throughout the village at times. Parween is well connected in the village. There are also American solidiers near by and though told not to fraternize with them, it inevitably happens.

A little before half way, Parween and Elsa's story come together and they begin a strong bond and work together to help the villagers and to help Parween find her childhood friend. You get a heavy sense of life under the Taliban's control; the devastation, the death, the rules. Elsa eventually begins a relationship with an American soldier stationed there as well so you also get their aspect.

There were quite a few things that fell flat for me in this book. First off, the "lipstick" reference. I find it hard to believe that a tube of lipstick could make anyone feel that much better especially after losing your entire family and seeing and working among the devastation in a third world country. BUT, we all have our own faith and our own ways of dealing with things in our life, so I will leave it at that. I found it to be a bit cheesy and a bit unbelievable.

Elsa's story, in general, was pretty bland in my eyes. The beginning was written very quick and summed up a lot. Though quite a bit happened to her, I never really felt like I got a grasp of her character at all. When she eventually got to Afghanistan, I found her character to be a bit more fleshed out. perhaps because this is where the author felt most comfortable? The author served as a nurse and aid worker so I'm guessing this was a bit easier to write? Even still, when the action picked up, I still never felt very much for Elsa.

Parween, on the other hand, was a much more interesting character to read. I felt like I learned a bit about the rules of her culture and how she tried to go around them. She faced a lot of challenges and carried her strength and passion well. Her parts of the book were some of the only ones I really enjoyed reading; her strong marriage, her compassion for family, and her quest to save her dear friend.

Rating: 3/6
I think this is one of the first 3 ratings I have ever given. Really what did it for me was the lack of depth in Elsa's story and that filled a good chunk of the beginning. Once she got to Afghanistan, the pace picked up and I was able to read through it pretty quickly. I did not buy into the Lipstick reference, however or Elsa's sudden intense relationship with an American soldier. Parween's story was a bit more interesting to me.

If you are looking for a cut and dry, good vs. evil story of current events, this may be for you. I, unfortunately, was hoping for a bit stronger of a debut novel and it fell short for me.

Book Club Pick:
It certainly would bring up a lot of discussion and in that sense, I think it would be a good pick for a book club. With war, the roles of women in different cultures, the loss of family and religion as heavy topics throughout, I feel it would keep the conversations going.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child







Friday, January 14, 2011

The Ladies Book Club: January 2011




Book Read:
by Stieg Larsson

Ladies in Attendance:
6 plus 2 very social cats.

Treats Shared:
Chocolate Cake, Peanut Butter cookies with Chocolate Kisses, Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pretzels, juice and WINE! We all kinda forgot to bring appetizers. Oops!

To Read or Not to Read:
3 Ladies read the book.
2 Ladies did not.
1 Lady saw the movie.

My Reaction:
I enjoyed this book. I found it to be the perfect read for the dead of winter since most of the book is set in the middle of nowhere, on a snowy island in Sweden. However, the beginning just plain sucked. It took me about 200 pages to get into it but luckily I had some trusted readers in my life that told me this. I did not get discouraged though I did put it down and pick it up several times before finally committing.

If you click on the title, it will link you to Amazon for a description. For my book club posts, I will not go into much detail of the book, I will mostly post my Ladies' reactions and whether or not it would be a good pick for book clubs in general.

We had a great discussion about it. We talked about the mystery throughout, the choppy translation from Swedish to English, the power of Lisbeth (the female punk hacker and the "Girl" that they refer to in all of the book titles) and the overall lure and crazy of the Vanger family (the family in which the book is based around and their dirty little secrets).

The Ladies Reactions:
I was one of the 3 that read it. The other two ladies enjoyed it as well but admitted that is was trying to get through the beginning and when the mystery is solved towards the end, we all felt a bit confused as to why there were still 100 some pages left. They enjoyed the characters, loved Lisbeth and felt she wasn't present enough in this first book. The title makes it seem like it would be all about her but it wasn't. One of the ladies has read the entire trilogy and she ensured us that we would indeed find out more about Lisbeth in the next two books. It also brought up some frank discussion on the abuse of women in Sweden and the political affiliations of the author. Did his early death in 2003 create the buzz about these books?

Good Book Club Pick?
Yes, we all agreed it was a good pick for us. Though half of our group did not read it, (2 started and one saw the movie), they were intrigued with the story and the power of its success and allure.

Next Book Up:
February- Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child












Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winners of Gideon's War by Howard Gordon


The winners of Gideon's War by Howard Gordon are Stacy at A Novel Source and Kim in Ohio. Some participants in the challenge did not mention whether or not they wanted to be included in the contest so I just included everyone. My method of choosing a winner is to pick from a hat. Simple dimple!


Winners have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you, I will choose another winner.

Thanks again to Simon and Schuster for providing these copies.

Thanks again to all for participating in my first challenge and for signing up for this giveaway.

Happy Reading and thanks again for stopping by!

red headed book child

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Loosely Bound: Tales from my Literary Life, Book Clubs

Loosely Bound: Tales from my Literary Life
Book Clubs


Every year I seem to do a few little tweaks to my blog and some changes stay, others fall by the way side. All in all, I have always tried to stay true in reviewing the books I read and chit chatting a little about my life. For those of you who read it, I mentioned in my Year End Wrap Up that I wanted to share more stories and adventures with you all about my life in the literary world.

I thought I would start that now. My friend Rachel came up with the clever title, Loosely Bound for my posts. I'm loving it. It's appropriate.

For those of you new this blog, I will share with you a bit about myself. My 11 year run in book retail at one of the large chains ended a year and a half ago due to a lay off. That experience not only furthered my passion for reading, it taught me a lot about the book business. I learned how to run author events giving me the opportunity to meet many wonderful authors and some not so lovely. I learned how books are marketed and sold. I was given the opportunity to work with many people in the book business; from publishers to literary agents to buyers. The greatest thing I think I got out of it, however, was that I became incredibly comfortable and grew to be very passionate about recommending to other readers.

This passion of mine, when my career ended there, sort of sizzled. I felt like an actor without a stage. It sounds silly but true. My husband and family and friends had all heard my rants, my declarations of great literature findings and frankly, they had enough! Yeah, sure they were readers but not like I was. I can safely say that my good friends, Cheryl and Trever, are the only two friends of mine that match my enthusiasm for reading. Cheryl is probably the only person I could really talk to about books for HOURS. Sorry Trev!

I needed another outlet.

So this is why this blog was created and its been my voice and my continued "stage" to act out my book love.

I have been blessed also to now work at my local library, a completely different beast than book retail. This has been a wonderful surprise addition to my life and now I get to recommend once again, face to face with readers. Coupled with my blog, I am in literary heaven.

So now that you know a bit about me or have received a little reminder, I will move on to the real purpose of my post. One of the things that has been a staple in my literary life for about 6 years now is my participation in book clubs.

Many years ago, when I lived with my friend Cheryl, we would attempt to read the same books at the same time and discuss ( a mini book club, perhaps?!). This was pulled off ....hmmm...maybe three times in the few years we lived together. We would always pick something huge and adventurous and then we would both fall flat on our faces. Or...well, I would fall on my face. Example: The Autobiography of Henry the Eighth by Margaret George. Yeah...that didn't happen for me. Ask Cheryl, it was a lovely book, in her opinion. She is still waiting for someone to talk to her about it. :)

I digress.

Book Clubs. About six years ago, a good friend of mine started up a book club. We had roughly six to ten gals at any monthly meet up. Those that attended took turns picking the books and we would meet at different restaurants or cafes and chat for maybe an hour or two. This group was nice because I read a grand variety of books; from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert to How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. However, it proved to be really difficult to get schedules lined up and most of the time the majority did not read the book. This began to tick off the hostess, rightly so, so it disbanded.

One of the gals, and another good friend of mine, decided to take over. This is the one I am currently involved in. We have been doing it for about 3 years now. We have on a good month 8 ladies join together. Sometimes it's just four. What I like about this group is that it is really laid back. We are pretty easygoing and honest about our busy lives. So if you read the book, GREAT! If not, that's okay too. There is always a few who have read it and there are always a few that haven't. We just roll with it. We then lapse into talk about our lives, our kids, our partners, our careers, and we drink wine and eat treats. We meet each month at someone's home (much more relaxing and cheaper) and we each bring a few choices to pick for the next month.

Though I read books last year for my book club and posted what I was reading on my blog, I never reviewed them. I just realized that this month. Hmm? I said. Why is that? Is my brain so compartmentalized that I didn't even factor in my BOOK CLUB into my BOOK BLOG? Hmmm? I must have a toddler on my brain. Yes, that's it.

So I am putting an end to that silliness. I am going to post every month a book club post; what we read, if I read it and my review (i'm gonna be honest now, I'm NOT going to read them all), and the ladies reactions. We have never had a "name" for our book club. A few of us have simply said, "We are getting together with the Ladies". So, I am officially naming us The Ladies Book Club. Michelle at The True Book Addict has been kind, once again, to be my button queen and create one for my posts. Thank you, Michelle. And, might I saw, what a lovely name you have.

Stay tuned. I will have a 2010 Book Club Wrap Up post coming soon and this Wednesday we meet to discuss The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. I am looking forward to hearing what they thought about THAT one.

How many of you are in a book club?

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child






Friday, January 7, 2011

The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok (review # 106)

Publisher: Free Press (Simon and Schuster)
On Sale Date: January 11
Format: Review Copy


I received this book last summer and have been waiting for the right time and mood to read it, for I knew it would be a powerful one. I was glad I waited until after the holidays when I had a few days to breathe and relax. This book took it out of me, both physically and emotionally. How can I compare my anguish in reading this story to Mira Bartok's living it? I can't.

I'm including the description from the back of the review copy to better explain the deeply layered story of this woman's life. It explains it far better than I could. (text may be different on finished book)

Mira Bartok spent seventeen years hoping that her mother, Norma Herr, would never find her. A severe case of schizophrenia caused Norma to obsess over her daughters' lives-calling them fifty times a day or more, appearing unannounced at their jobs and homes, threatening them if they suggested that she get treatment for her illness.

After Norma violently attacked her daughters when they insisted she get help, Mira and her sister decided that they must change their names and cut off all contact in order to stay safe.

During the next two decades, Mira traveled the world but she could not abandon her past. As Mira struggled to balance her alliance with her sister, her burgeoning art career, and her anguish over losing her mother she and Norma began exchanging letters through post office boxes.

At age 40, a debilitating car accident leaves Mira with a terrible brain injury. She could retrain herself to draw and to write but struggled to regain memories. When she learns that her mother has been hospitalized with terminal cancer, Mira and her sister decide to visit Norma before it is too late. In those final weeks, they experience a cathartic reunion that none of them had imagined possible and Mira begins to reconnect with the memories the she feared had been lost.

The power of reading a well written memoir is feeling like you have been hit by a truck after its done. Though I love memoirs and appreciate the honesty that comes along with sharing your own story, I find it unnerving when I walk away changed. On one hand it's a testament to the talent of the storyteller, on the other it's the tragedy of the story itself that makes you look at your own life differently.

Mira Bartok, in my opinion, has a lot of guts for sharing her story. Schizophrenia is a terrifying disease and not one that should be candy coated. She tells it with brutal honesty how her mother was enveloped by this but at the same time, her love for her is still so powerfully present.
I was excruciatingly uncomfortable while reading certain parts of this book especially during her mother's manic, tragic moments; the ranting, the accusations, the threats, the violence.
I was also deeply saddened by the sheer neglect of these two little girls during their childhood. Mira's Grandparents, though close (down the road), are still absent in their own way; the Grandfather, an abusive alcoholic; the Grandmother, a submissive woman just wanting some peace. Sure, they were fed and given a place to sleep but nurturing was not something they receive enough of.

I admire Mira for forging on through her adult life and making the brave decision to cut all ties with her mother. One thing I have learned for working in social services with children is no matter how horrible your home life is, it is still your home and you will always feel attached to it. I can only imagine the guilt and sadness she must have felt all those years away from her mother and her connection to her home.

The story does take different twists while Mira explores the world in her art career and during those parts, her mother is still present but not as vibrant and intense. It was a nice break as a reader and I don't mean that in a negative way. It was simply too emotional to read page after page of her mother's trials and it was refreshing to see Mira find some peace in her own corners of the world.

Rating: 5/6
This was a profound memoir, almost a little difficult to review. The power was overwhelming and I honestly don't feel my words could do it justice. It is certainly a journey, one that doesn't get neatly wrapped up in the end. The story is filled with many lifetimes and Mira Bartok does a fantastic job in the details. All I can do is say thank you for sharing your heart wrenching story with all of us and I hope more can learn from it.

Here is a definition of A Memory Palace from the book:
Ricci, a jesuit priest who possessed great mnemonic powers, traveled to China in 1596 and taught scholars how to build an imaginary palace to keep their memories safe. He told them that the size of the palace would depend on how much they wanted to remember. To every thing they wanted to recall, they were to affix an image; to every image, a position inside a room in their mind.

One of the last lines of the book written by Mira are powerful:
If memory is a palace, let me live there, forever with her, somewhere in that place between sleep and morning. Without her long nights waiting in the rain, without the weight of guilt I bear when I buy a new pair of shoes. Let me dream a palace in the clear night sky, something between Perseus the Hero, and Cygnus, the Swan- a dark comforting place. A place lit by stars and a winter moon.

Websites to check out:

Book Club Read?
Yes, though it may be intense for some, I feel it would generate a lot of discussion. Topics like Mental Health, Familial Obligation, Art, Domestic Abuse, Substance Abuse are heavily present in this book.

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child