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Jane’s Book Club

Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club is an interesting amalgamation of characters, but the book for me was not as satisfying as I had hoped. Many of the characters reminded me of Jane Austen’s characters, though a bit more modern. Jocelyn reminds me of a modern day Elizabeth Bennett, while Prudie reminds me of Elizabeth’s mother, especially because she prattles on and on.

For this book, I really won’t be doing any spoilers. This is one book you would have to read on your own. The characters I found most interesting, however, were the ones not delved into as much as I would have liked. I really enjoyed Sylvia’s daughter, Allegra, but unfortunately, you don’t see much of her. The narrator, who I’m not really clear on, seems to assume we know quite a bit about Allegra’s character, when we really don’t. I wonder if the narrator is an omniscient outsider or an actual book club member–this was not clear to me.

The resolution to the book club seems about rushed, and I wonder if the book club continues with another author’s works or whether it simply disbands after all of Austen’s works are discussed by the members. Fowler may have something here; perhaps she should consider writing additional book club books with character parallels from different authors.

Also Reviewed by:
The Written Word
5-Squared

Weekly Geeks Challenge 2


Hello all. I took it upon myself to start up a new policy in which I like to other blog reviews of the books I review here. Luckily, I had limited it to the last two reviews, “Human Dark With Sugar” by Brenda Shaughnessy and “Remember Me?” by Sophie Kinsella, plus all future reviews. A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore was one of the first to take me up on the offer. However, some gave me links to their reviews for older reviews on my site, like The Bookworm, who provided me with her Twilight series links. I added her posts anyway.

I believe I even offered some of my links to other bloggers as well, though right now I am struggling to remember to whom. I have a terrible memory and should start writing these things down, particularly if I plan on participating in challenges. I believe I offered a Pride & Prejudice review link and Stephenie Meyer links to The Bookworm. I also think I gave a link to my The Road review to Book Escape.

I really enjoyed reading other bloggers reviews, and I like the idea of reciprocity between fellow book reviewers and bloggers. I think it is a great idea.

I hope more people offer their links to any of my reviews. Just know it will take me some time to add your stuff to older posts.

Dirty Domesticity

Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess is a quick read for commuting and equally as amusing as her other books. I enjoyed Samantha Sweeting’s character much more than I did Lexi Smart. I also didn’t see as much of Becky Bloomwood in this character as I did in Lexi Smart. Kinsella has a fine talent for getting to the heart of high-powered career women who forget about the finer things in life while they are competing (and winning) in a male dominated profession.

****Spoiler Alert***
Samantha Sweeting is a powerful attorney in London, who much like her mother strives to be the best at her job. To accomplish her goal of becoming a partner at Carter Spink, Samantha works more hours than the other attorneys and barely has a social life. When she finally manages to get time off to have dinner with her mom and brother, she ends up having dinner with two cell phones, an assistant, and singing group of waiters. Suffice to say, her personal life can’t get much worse. That’s what you would think, but then the senior partner from the firm, the one she does not have a cordial relationship with, moves into her building, two floors up.

Early on, something goes terribly wrong at the firm and she panics. Heads out of town to the countryside where she is mistakenly hired as a housekeeper. At first she takes the job because she is still in a state of shock, but as she learns of the fallout from her “mistake,” she decides that being a housekeeper could be a fine change of pace. After many dirty domestic mishaps, Samantha realizes she needs some cooking and cleaning lessons. Nathaniel, the gardener, offers his mother’s services after laughing at her expense when she fails to start the washing machine and can barely make toast and coffee. Iris, his mother, sets about helping Samantha become domestic. She teaches her how to make food, bread, pastry, and other items, but most importantly, Iris helps her slowdown and relax…take in the little things about life and cooking. The scenes with Iris and Nathaniel on the weekends are fantastic.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I won’t go into all the details of the book, but there is a great scene in the garden between Samantha and Nathaniel that just made me swoon. Yes, I said swoon. I wish that romance of that caliber were real. Don’t get me wrong, love is still here in my life, it’s just different. The puppy love of this scene made me reminisce. The resolution of the book is exactly what you would expect; well, maybe not exactly as you picture it. But you get your just desserts.

Also reviewed at:
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Book Escape

A Soldier’s Promise

I’m not one for audio books, but the husband couldn’t resist this one when we were browsing through the discount book section. The audio book, A Soldier’s Promise, chronicles the struggles of our troops in Iraq, particularly those of First Sergeant Daniel Hendrix. I probably would never have picked up this book off the shelf because I tend to find these stories drawn out and boring in parts. However, given the way this story was read, I may have liked to read the actual book because the writing style is not obtuse or too militaristic. We were listening to this audio book on and off for about three weeks in the car as we drove into work together, so it took us longer than it would have taken me to read it on my own, but he enjoyed it. This book is set just after the fall of Saddam.

***Spoiler Alert***

The beginning of the book starts off before Hendrix leaves his wife for duty and after his unit, Dragon Company, completes specialized training. Once in Iraq, there are a series of ambushes and other events that occur, but things start to turn around for the American troops when informants turn up at their checkpoint offering information about insurgents in exchange for money or other items. The troops come to expect any Iraqis to seek monetary gain for their information, until Jamil enters the checkpoint demanding to be arrested.

The book does not completely focus on just the American troops, and I think this is what caught my attention the most. The chapters alternate between the troops and Jamil’s family. His father is a leader of one of the insurgency movements in Husaybah, Iraq. His father and his neighbor are blood thirsty and eager to battle American troops. His father wants his son to join the insurgency and stage raids and use other guerrilla tactics against the Americans. Jamil is not interested in this life and eventually sees the Americans as the only way to escape his abusive father.

At the checkpoint, he is taken into custody and begins informing the Americans about his father and the local insurgency’s weapons and plans. The troops, after much debate, agree to stage a raid, ultimately capturing Jamil’s father and several others. The problem is that his father’s neighbor, Sayed (excuse the spelling here), is on the loose and even more blood thirsty than Jamil’s father.

Jamil, who garners the nickname Steve-O, becomes a great asset to Dragon Company and the marines that take their place, but in the process a 14-year-old boy grows up too fast and loses his family to the insurgency and Iraq’s battle with itself. Hendrix promises that he will one day get the boy out of Iraq into the safety of the United States.

***End Spoiler***

I was captivated by the images in this audio book and was captivated by the underlying message that as humans we are all striving toward similar goals. We all want to be loved for who we are, we all want to be independent of other’s rule and oppression, and we are all capable of seeing past prejudice to find the humanity within. We also all have the capacity to do the right thing when the time is right. I would recommend this audio book for long road trips or just commuting to and from work.

The Sound of Words

THE SOUND OF WORDS: A SCHEME TO ROCK THE WRITER’S CENTER

Featuring The Caribbean and 32 Poems Magazine
DATE: Friday, May 9
TIME: 8 PM
COSTS: Nothing
LOCATION: The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD

Sponsored by 32 Poems

Come join in the fun this Friday!

3rd Poetry Contest Winner..and Weekly Geeks

Thanks to all who participated this past month in my celebration of National Poetry Month. I hope everyone had fun with the contest. The winner of the third leg of the contest was SUEY! She claims that she never wins anything, but I think she has better luck than I do with contests. Anyway, she will receive a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems. Billy Collins provides the introduction for this volume.

I also wanted to provide you with some of my favorites from Weekly Geeks last challenge to find five blogs that were new to me. Yes, I know that I am late this time around, but I had a really busy weekend. So here are the five:

1. Ravenous Reader: I like the bit of personal stuff she provides at the beginning of many of her reviews, allowing us some insight into her daily activities and routines, and I like how she selects passages from what she is reading to illustrate her points. But honestly, it’s the town of this blog that catches my eye because it is so relaxed and yet serious about reading. I love it.

2. Can I Borrow Your Book?: This is another fellow book reviewer and lover who integrates personal notes with reviews and even photos and anecdotes outside of the book realm. I just loved the concept of the title, which is what initially drew me into her blog. However, I think I may stick with this one as well, if not just for the month of May Book Binge Challenge.

book binge

3. The Written Word: Ok, yes, this is another blog that is a mix of personal notes and reviews, but this one also seems to have frequent contests, and what girl/woman doesn’t want to try and win free stuff? I love doing contests when I can, but I can truly say that I never win any! LOL Doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

4. Book Escape: I’m not sure that this one counts for the challenge because it was actually a redirect from The Written Word. I just loved how the review of The Road started off. I like her honestly in having a hard time with those books, but reading it anyway. I also enjoyed the fact that she read it after her husband recommended it. I enjoyed that book, my review here.

I have not picked out a fifth yet, given the busy weekend I just had, but I will post an update of this challenge later on when I have a fifth blog to post. In the meantime, please check out these 4.

Weekly Geeks, Challenge 2:

For those book reviewers and bloggers who review the same books as I do or the last two I have reviewed, please send me a link or place your link in the comments, and I will revise my post to connect to your review as well. Sounds simple. Just remember it will be for the new reviews or the last two books: “Remember Me?” by Sophie Kinsella or “Human Dark With Sugar” by Brenda Shaughnessy.

Darkness With a Pinch of Sugar Sweetness

Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy arrived in the mail from the American Academy of Poets and I was pleased because I haven’t read a book of poetry in some time. I think that it is only fair that I review this book on this, the last day of National Poetry Month. This second book of poetry from Shaughnessy won the James Laughlin Award.

The first section of the book is Anodyne, also known as a pain-killer. This section of the book is not euphoric by any means. It is almost as if she is attempting to kill the pain with the sharpness of her words. For instance in “I’m Over the Moon:”
“How long do I try to get water from a stone?/It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.// Better off alone. I’m going to write hard/and fast into you, moon, face-f**king.//”

The second section of the book is Ambrosia, from the Greek mean of food or drink of the gods that confers immortality on the consumer. Is the narrator of Shaughnessy’s poems interested in immortality? One of my favorite poems from this section is “Three Sorries,” particularly the “1. I’m Sorry” section of the poem:

“Soon 1. born 1970
2. Cried: all along
3. Loved: you really so very much and no others

blurred into: 1. begging off for the dog-years behavior
2. extra heart hidden in sock drawer
3. undetected slept with others”

It seems as though she really is not sorry for her actions or the events leading up to the incident. It’s amazing how many of these poems appear apologetic and wistful on the surface, but then turn to sarcasm and bleakness.

The third section is Astrolabe or astronomical instrument to surveying, locating, and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. I think the best illustration of this concept is Shaughnessy’s “A Poet’s Poem.”

“I will get the word freshened out of this poem.// I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second./ and now it won’t come out.// It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,/ so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow// and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked/a cigarette.//” The poem ends quizzically: “I can’t stand myself.”

“No Such Thing as One Bee” is another poem that illustrates this need to pinpoint a location. Shaughnessy uses a narrator that is unsure of where they are in life and how they fit into the greater scheme. Where it is a busy worker bee or a bee that goes out to collect pollen. I guess you could almost equate it to the Bee movie with Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is one of the better poetry books I have read in some time. I love the sarcastic and bleak language used by Shaughnessy in her poems. It’s the darkest side of humanity she examines, and she tries not to sugarcoat it, but sometimes, she just can’t help herself.

Weekly Geeks Challenge

Weekly Geeks Challenge

I need to generate further traffic to this review site, and I figured this would be a prime opportunity to do so. Also, it provides me with an opportunity to learn about other blog review sites and generate new blogging buddies. Thanks Suey for blogging about this challenge and giving me the idea.

Today, at some point, I plan to review those bloggers listed on the site to find some new blogs to read. Should be an interesting adventure, and I will keep you posted about sites that I find.

I hope everyone will consider joining as well.

Until then, remember my National Poetry Month Contest? May 2 is the last day to enter the final round of the contest for your FREE volume of poetry.

I Wouldn’t Want to Remember Her Either…

Sophie Kinsella‘s Remember Me? reveals how changes to one’s life can be bad, as well as good. The novel centers on a young businesswoman, Lexi Smart, who wakes up in a hospital after a car accident and cannot remember the last three years of her life. The last thing she remembers is that it is 2004 and she was out with friends at a local bar the night before her father’s funeral, having fun before she fell down a set of stairs.

***Spoiler Alert***
Lexi wakes up and her mom is the same she ever was, but her sister has grown up into a teenager. Lexi cannot believe her eyes; her little sister has grown up and is a sarcastic, budding criminal. She also finds out that she is married to a hot stud, who happens to be a millionaire and knows how to drive a speedboat. This part of the description cracked me up. Why would it matter if he can drive a speedboat, but I guess it does to Lexi who is obsessed with all things material. She also discovers that she is now the director of her department and is a total B**ch boss who has lost all of her friends, including those she remembers from the night at the bar in 2004.

She struggles to remember any part of the last three years, including her time on a reality television show, much like the Apprentice. But she cannot remember a thing. To help Lexi out, her hot husband, Eric, gives her a “marriage manual.” The manual spells out how often they have sex, how they have sex, how she greets him, how they say goodbye in the mornings, how they initiate foreplay, etc. It is a step-by-step process to their relationship and marriage. A bit overwhelming for a woman with amnesia, but beyond that the manual makes their marriage seem more like a business transaction.

Throughout her re-acclimation to her “new” life, Lexi learns that she also was having an affair with Eric’s business partner and architect, Jon. Jon, who claims that they are in love and were on the verge of telling Eric, cannot believe that she does not remember him. Moreover, Lexi must return to a job that she does not feel comfortable performing and cannot imagine ever being capable of performing. Worse yet, her subordinate, Byron, is after her job and wastes no time putting her down when she returns from the hospital.

Despite her best efforts to save her job and her marriage, Lexi fails to save her department, but in the process finds her inner businesswoman and learns how to be independent and self-sufficient without injuring her friends. The part that is the most accurate in the book is that she fails to fully regain her memory by the end of the book, though there is a glimmer of hope.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey with Lexi Smart. She may have changed her life in the three years she cannot remember, but she changes the most in those months following her car accident more profoundly than she did after her father’s death.

I’m not sure I would want to remember myself if I had changed so utterly in those three missing years. There is a significant disconnect between the woman she was in 2004 and the woman she became into 2007.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

For other Reviews of this book:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Lous_Pages

And the Winner Is…

Anna won this week’s Poetry Book contest for National Poetry Month. She received a volume of Yeats poems and selected plays.

I also want to alert you to the third contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. So it looks like this will be the last chance to win a volume of poetry for National Poetry Month. You’ll have to check out these National Poetry Month links to find out their secrets.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

Unfortunately, my aunt and Anna will not allowed to grace us with their witty poems this time around since they both already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.