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Feed by Mira Grant

Source: Book Expo America
Audiobook, 15+
On Amazon and on Kobo

Feed (Newsflesh #1) by Mira Grant (a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire), read by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein, is a post-apocalyptic world in which the traditional news is no longer trusted and zombies have taken over the world, just after humanity created a cure for cancer and the common cold in 2014.  Bloggers Georgia Mason, Shaun Mason, Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier, and Richard Cousins run a semi-popular blog that reports the news about zombies and politics, with Georgia considered a newsy, Shaun an Irwin or zombie poker, and Georgette handling the fictional stories/poems and tech behind the blog, After the End Times.  When they are selected to follow the campaign of Republican senator Peter Ryman, who is running for the presidential nomination in 2040, the blog skyrockets to the top of the feed as the campaign trail is wrought with danger from zombie herds and more.  Once Ryman gains the nomination and selects Texas Gov. Tate as a running mate to balance the ticket, Richard Cousins joins the team as another newsy.

I never asked to be a hero. No one ever gave me the option to say I didn’t want to, that I was sorry, but that they had the wrong girl.

Grant’s zombie book is horrifying, but funny, as Shaun and Georgia banter back and forth as only siblings can.  Virology and the source of the virus that causes the zombies is well explained, as is how it is transmitted, but at no point is any of this information presented in a dry or uninteresting way.  The addition of blog posts from the bloggers is a nice touch as well.  However, there were points while listening that some information about the transmission of the virus is repeated throughout the book and probably could have been cut out, particularly the bit about mammals under 40 pounds not turning into zombies like animals of larger sizes.  The audio is well done, and the characters are easily discerned from one another.  The narrators did a great job making the emotions of the characters tangible.

Feed (Newsflesh #1) by Mira Grant, read by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein is a journey into a world dominated by corrupt government, news, and zombies.  This is a tension-filled, thrilling novel that presents a believable world in which zombies exist and are mostly contained.  The political machinations mirror those of today’s society, as is the government protocols that constrain movement of humans through infected areas.  Grant meshes the horror of zombie apocalypses, blogging, news, and politics very well, and there are nods to previous zombie fiction and movies, which are viewed as helpful to the society’s reaction to the infection.  Blood, death, and tragedy are expected, but the ending could surprise some readers, though as it is a trilogy, it should be anticipated.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

60th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

This is my 2nd book for:

Peril the Second:

Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories:

  • Mystery.
  • Suspense.
  • Thriller.
  • Dark Fantasy.
  • Gothic.
  • Horror.
  • Supernatural.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

Source: Gift from Anna
Hardcover, 272 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, which was the War Through the Generations August read-a-long book, is set during WWI.  When the novel opens, a woman who has been wounded finds herself in a field hospital in Marne, France, in 1916.  She was found in the uniform of a British nurse’s aide, but has an American accent and cannot remember her own name.  As she grapples with her lost memory and identity, she plucks Stella Bain from her mind and begins to call herself such, even though she knows it may not be her real name.  Stella continues to work alongside the French women near the front and eventually volunteers as an ambulance driver.  Her jumbled mind takes a back seat to her duties at the front, but eventually, she feels drawn to England and the Admiralty, though she’s not sure what she’ll find there or if she will uncover anything about who she was.

“‘No.  Nothing is normal.  How can it be? I don’t yet know who I am.  I may discover, when I know my identity, that I’m not a good person at all.  I fear that I’m not.  I seek my identity, and yet I’m afraid of it.  But I’m more afraid of never knowing.'” (page 75)

Stella learns her true identity, and her true name is a near-anagram of the one she had chosen for herself.  When she learns of her identity and all that she frantically left behind in the United States, she must make passage home.  While Dr. Bridge and his wife, Lily, helped her to be calm and recover her name and identity, they are left behind in England without so much as a goodbye from her.  However, she never forgets their kindness and through letters, readers are given insight into her gratitude.  Shreve’s prose in this novel is distant.  While we see Stella’s point of view, readers are still distanced from her, which could be intentional given the absence of her memories and true identity.  In many ways, as the mystery unravels and readers learn more about the woman without a name, she becomes an everywoman for those women leaving during the early 1900s — caged in by marriage and family, but yet yearning for something outside of their home and legally allowed to own their own property.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve is not just about a woman with shell shock or a lost memory, but a woman in an era where the modern world was just beginning to take shape.  A world in which women were fighting for independence from their families and husbands, to live lives as they wished to without seeking permission or approval.  Overall, while the ending could leave some readers wanting more, the novel would make for an excellent book club discussion.

About the Author:

Anita Shreve is an American writer. The daughter of an airline pilot and a homemaker, she graduated from Dedham High School in Massachusetts, attended Tufts University and began writing while working as a high school teacher in Reading, MA.

Interested in the read-a-long discussions at War Through the Generations, go here; though there will be spoilers.

17th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in France, England)

 

 

27th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

22nd book (WWI) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta, Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Source: Complimentary BEA download
Audio, nearly 14 hours
On Amazon and on Kobo

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta, narrated by Robert Petkoff, is mysterious and dark, but at times, it is humorous.  Eric Shaw has lost his movie making career as a photographer/videographer in Los Angeles, forcing him to breathe life into those that have been lost or into inanimate objects for funerals, along with videos of weddings and more.  After crafting a video for a funeral or a woman with a secret that only one other person knows, Eric is sent on a job that makes him question reality.

Alyssa Bradford hires Eric to make a video of her father-in-law’s life, sending him to a once thriving vacation city that has only begun to rebound after the Great Depression when her father-in-law left to make his fortune elsewhere.  West Baden, Ind., is in the middle of nowhere, but it is the home of Pluto water, which was considered a miracle water from a mineral springCampbell Bradford, a 95 year-old billionaire, is a complete mystery … a mystery that Shaw is sent to unravel, but what he finds is not only a town being reborn but also a cast of townsfolk who are wound up tight or too relaxed.  Koryta’s dialogue could use a bit of sprucing up, as some of it is very repetitive with the use of “hell” and the like, but the descriptions of the characters, their interactions, and the mysterious experiences Shaw has are engaging.  The novel takes a great many twists and turns, but there are times when the changes are predictable.  

Robert Petkoff is a fantastic narrator, making sure that the voices and characters are easily discerned and the dialogue easy to follow.  His inflections are Midwestern, and he effectively effuses the emotions of these characters.  So Cold the River by Michael Koryta strikes a balance between suspense/thriller and the paranormal, as Eric Shaw finds himself pulled into the mysteries of Pluto water and a town that fell into financial ruin after the Great Depression.  It’s a satisfying novel to spend the summer with, full of adventure and intrigue.

About the Author:

Michael Koryta is an American author of contemporary crime and supernatural fiction. His novels have appeared on the The New York Times Best Seller list.  Visit his Website.

 

 

46th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Source: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover, 224 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is set in Northern Ireland at the Campbell estate of Dulough, which translates to Black Lake.  A pool, a cold lake, hills, valleys, mountains, cottages, and a massive estate would seem overwhelming to any newlywed, and it is hard to believe that it can be run by just three people — John Campbell, Mary Connelly, and Francis Connelly.  Woven with alternate points of view, Lane provides the reader with a well-rounded view of the hardships this family faces.  Young Philip is named after the first ancestor who built Dulough and threw out the Irish tenants after the Great Famine, and he has a legacy that weighs heavily on his head, but he’s not the only Campbell to feel the weight of family history in this place.  Will the deal with the government be enough to keep the family estate in tact or will the deal break this family from its moorings.

“Finally, he began clearing a patch of brambles and thistles; their roots went deep into the earth and he had to be content with lopping them off at ground level rather than pulling them out altogether.” (page 66-7 ARC)

John is a quiet man who knows how to deal with solitude in the Irish country, but his wife Marianne must grow accustom to the quieter life after living so long in Dublin.  His ability to be alone becomes a detriment in matters of his family, though he does enjoy schooling the children at home.  His relationship with his wife is enigmatic because he is less expressive, and she passively follows his lead until she reaches a breaking point.

“The whole painting gave the impression that Dulough might be engulfed at any moment, the lake rising to envelop the house, the sea covering the island, and the land reclaimed, the work of his ancestor obliterated.” (page 194 ARC)

Deep beneath the surface of this family are hidden bonds that only can surface in tragedy and loss.  From a man who is backed into a corner to maintain a large estate without the inheritance to do so to wife and son who have come to love their home as much, if not more, than their ancestors.  Black Lake by Johanna Lane is by turns as dreary as the rainy countryside and as dangerous as the quick-footed tide that nearly swallows the island where the estate church and graveyard lie.  Readers will be swept away by Lane’s frail family and their struggles.

About the Author:

Johanna Lane was born in Ireland, studied English Literature in Scotland, and earned her MFA at Columbia University. She teaches composition and creative writing in New York City.  Check out her Pinterest board for the book.

12th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in Ireland)

 

 

 

 

32nd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Source:  Little, Brown & Company
Hardcover, 275 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris is a collection of essays and some short blurbs that he suggests could be used by students in their competitions for “forensics.”  Many people talk about Sedaris’ humor and outrageous tales, and while many will look for his signature humor here, they may find that it is a bit subdued and less abrasive than usual.  Many of these essays seem more reflective than probing (think poking with a needle), but they also resemble the tall tales that young children tell their parents when explaining what they did that day or why they got in trouble, etc.

“Their house had real hardcover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read.” (page 60 ARC)

The first two essays in the collection showcase backhanded sarcasm aimed at American and especially modern ideas about parenting and socialized healthcare, especially the dark fear that socialized healthcare means dirty cots and “waiting for the invention of aspirin” and the coddling of kids who are clearly engaged in bad behaviors simply because a stranger points out the child’s misbehavior.  The end of the collection, “Dog Days,” is a bit more crass in its humor, written in a rhyming poem about various dogs and the parts of themselves that are licked, snipped, and dipped.  These little stanzas were by turns slightly funny to just mediocre as they are things that any person with “toilet” humor would come up with.  In this essay collection, they stood out from the rest, but in a grotesque way.

The essays that reach back into his early family life are the most interesting, and the essay “Author, Author” is ironically humorless in its telling, but it drives the point home not only about author tours — the good and the bad — but also the changing landscape of book stores and readers.  Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris is an interesting essay collection, but fans may find it a bit more subdued than his other work.

About the Author:

David Sedaris is a playwright and a regular commentator for National Public Radio. He is also the author of the bestselling Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy, Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Me Talk Pretty One Day. He travels extensively though Europe and the United States on lecture tours and lives in France.  Visit his Website.
This is my 41st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds, a debut novel by Kevin Powers, is a powerful look at the confusion soldiers experience while abroad during the Iraq War between 2004-2005.  Private Bartle and Murphy become connected and friendly, but their friendship is tenuous at best as it relies on the anxiety and adrenaline of war to sustain it.  What do these two men really know of each other than their age, the fact that one has a girlfriend and mother back home and that the other has only a mother, and that they both joined up with the promise of a new future ahead.

“I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I’d been trained to think war was a great unifier, that it brought people closer together than any other activity on earth.  Bullshit.  War is the great maker of solipsists:”  (page 12)

Powers attempts to examine the ideas of “freedom” and “free will,” especially through the actions of the soldiers, with Murph seeking out time in his day to watch a female medic from afar without interacting — creating memories that are not beyond his control.  But what does this control say about the notion of freedom, particularly since Murph is attempting to take, at least partially, control of his own memories.  At one point early in the novel, meanwhile, Bartle says, “I remember feeling relief in basic while everyone else was frantic with fear.  It had dawned on me that I’d never have to make a decision again.  That seemed freeing . . . ” (page 35)  Does freedom from decision-making mean that soldiers are free and that their will is free to act as it pleases?  It’s a catch-22 for without will, there are no decisions.

Beyond the calls to assess freedom and its consequences, Powers is asking the reader to question the ideas of right and wrong, miracles, and circumstance.  What does it mean when a bullet strays from you and hits another?  In Bartle’s case, he sees no meaning; it just happens.  In this way, Powers illustrates how far removed Bartle has become from morality and emotion, something that many soldiers experience.  Even his attempts to reconnect with Murph are faulty, and while many may view Murph as fragile, there is something more human and less robotic about him than Bartle.  One is the foil of the other as the war has worn them both down, and their differences — no matter how pronounced — are a testament to the ability of Powers to demonstrate the ways in which war can take its toll on the human psyche.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is less an emotional book than it is a psychological one, though the shift between years is well documented, it can be distracting to pinpoint where the events fall in a time line.  However, while the style is something that takes a bit of getting used to, it does showcase the mind of soldiers when they return from war — as trauma makes it harder to think of events in a linear fashion.  Powers includes not only the gruesome details, but also the beauty of the foreign land in which these soldiers find themselves battling the enemy.  The juxtaposed images make the horrors of war even more heartbreaking and tough to take.

About the Author:

Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, VA. In 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honorable discharge and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012.

 

 

This is my 15th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey & Read-a-Long

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey, which is her first novel, is an incredible, sweeping novel set in Ireland during the beginning of the nation’s struggle for freedom from Britain, the rise of the IRA, and WWI.  Eileen O’Neill, our heroine, comes from a long line of warriors or so her Da tells her, and she revels in his folklore and his stories about how the O’Neills stole back the yellow house from the Sheridans who had once stole it from them.  The dynamics of the family often mirror the political situation in Ireland as her father is struck down and her mother looses her moorings and drifts.  Eileen’s brother Frank becomes even more angry and distant, mirroring the heightened angst over Ireland’s freedom and the dedication of its people to the Cause.

“Secrets are the cancer of families.  Like tumors, they grow ever larger, and if they are not removed, they suffocate the mind and spirit and spawn madness.  As long as they remain, they cast a shadow on every truth that is uttered, clouding it, constricting it, distorting it.  Secrets hurt the secret keeper as much as the poor souls from whom the secret is kept.  And even once the secret is out, its shadow echoes into the future, the remnants of its memory leaving us vigilant and fearful.”  (Page 241)

A young woman with a dreamer for a father and a mother keeping secrets is bound to get into trouble, and Eileen is no different, especially since she’s such a headstrong and stubborn girl to begin with.  Her family falls apart when times get financially troubling for them and their father, who is a poor farmer, is forced to mortgage their home.  Their mother sets about turning things back and begging for her own family’s forgiveness and pity to save her own family.  As the dominoes begin to fall heavily and quickly around the O’Neill family, some members fall apart, some rise up and hold onto their anger and resentments, and others hold onto their dreams.

“As we strolled along the promenade, I looked down at the gold wedding band on my left hand.  It felt heavy and strange, as if this new identity were crushing me.  I tried to smile.”  (Page 138)

Eileen meets James and is swept away by his passion for a free Ireland and a comeuppance for the Protestants who continue to save all of the jobs for their own kind.  Readers will be swept away by Eileen’s passion and dreams as she struggles against forces beyond her control and even against her husband, whose dreams are no longer her own.  WWI intervenes in the struggle for independence and forces many of the characters to reassess their priorities, including Eileen’s friend, Owen Sheridan, and even Eileen herself as she begins working with the injured soldiers at the hospital.

Reuniting the O’Neill family becomes a driving force in the novel, and Falvey’s prose is at once haunting and steeped in its own lore.  Her characters are flawed, frustrating, and forgivable, but the gem here is the symbolism and the history she weaves into Eileen’s story from the yellow house and the mountain Slieve Mullion to Ireland’s historic struggle for independence.  The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey is excellent.  It will sweep readers off their feet, whisking them off to the Irish countryside, into the workhouse slums, and back again.  Fast-paced, deep, heartbreaking, and romantic — Falvey is a writer to watch light up the shelves with her prose.

Another winner for 2012.

***Here are the final week’s Ireland Reading Challenge read-a-long questions and answers.  These may contain spoilers, so if you don’t want to read them, skip to the giveaway!***

Check out part one, two, and three of the discussions.

Were you as angry as I was when Eileen slept with James while pregnant with Owen’s baby, in order to pass the baby off as his?

I expected it as a “good” Catholic girl in a bind and already plagued by talk of the affair at the mill, etc.  Plus, she’s impetuous and does things without thinking about the consequences until later.

Was Owen’s reaction to that justified, in your opinion?

Yes.

Did you understand why Eileen was so torn about reporting what she knew about James’ plans for the mill?

Yes, but I’m glad she did.  James is her husband, though that matters little, but it does matter that he’s the father of her daughter and no mother wants to have to explain to their child why their da is in jail or dead.

What about her hesitancy to marry Owen?

I agree that she should wait and take some time to sort through those events that hit her boom, boom, boom…from the injury of her brother, seeing Billy killed, and finally reuniting with her sister, plus informing on her husband and nearly shooting James, that’s a lot for a person to process.  I think it showed maturity that she knew she needed more time to think about things and sort it all out, rather than her usual rash decisions that ruled her life.

What did you think of how things ended for the following characters: Frankie, Lizzie, Terrence, Fergus, and, of course, James?

I’m glad that Lizzie and Eileen were reunited and that her return even seemed to perk up their mother.  Terrence must still be living with a lot of guilt, and while I don’t like that Frankie was injured so badly, I think returning him to a happy child is a good ending for him.  He was far to angry, and its tough to come back from that even if you have an epiphany.  Fergus….ah, Fergus…not sure what to say about him.  I like that he was taking matters into his own hands, but I don’t like that he put Eileen in the position she was in.  James got his just desserts.

Were you satisfied with the way things ended for Eileen’s mom?

Yes and no.  Maybe there is hope for her yet.

And, lastly, were you happy with how things ended for Eileen?

Eileen needs to now learn how to be happy and not wallow in self-pity and all of that.  She deserved her happy ending.

About the Author:

Patricia Falvey was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. She was raised in Northern Ireland and England before immigrating to the U.S. at the age of twenty. She currently divides her time between Dallas, Texas and Northern Ireland.

 

 

This is my 2nd book for the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 9th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

This is my 21st book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

The Yellow House Read-a-Long, Part 3

As part of the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge, we’re reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey.  For the first week, we read pages 1-90, and the second week was for part 2, pages 91-164.

Today, we’re discussing part three, which is for pages 165-238.  This week, we’re asked to talk about the section and ask our own questions.

Please be aware that this discussion could contain spoilers.

 These are some questions I had about this section:

Do you think Owen has a right to ask Eileen for something in return for his kindness and do you think he goes too far asking her to give up her role in the Troubles and commit to volunteer work?

I think its about time Owen sought some reciprocation for all of his generosity and given that all he asks is for her to stop engaging in the violence of the civil disobedience and to help out at the hospital, it’s not a lot to ask.  I think the volunteer work will go a long way to assuaging her guilt and anger, and maybe even begin to open her eyes to the troubles before her people and country.  It also is likely to open her eyes to the suffering of others and that she hasn’t cornered the market on that suffering.

What do you think Owen’s frankness with Eileen about her behavior say about their relationship?

I think that Owen’s ability to be frank with Eileen demonstrates his great regard for her, and dare I say, love.  She’s equally frank, if not harsh, with him, which illustrates the deeper emotional connection that they have, even though neither seems to want to admit it.

Do you think Owen is right that confronting the past can help us heal? Do you think it will help Eileen?  Her family?

I do agree to an extent that revisiting the past and making sense out of it and what it has brought to your life can be cathartic, and in this case, visiting the hospital where her sister is extricated from the family and quarantined is more helpful than Eileen or Owen could have imagined.  I’m still not sure that what transpires in this section will ultimately achieve Eileen’s original dream of reuniting her family at the Yellow House, but it may heal them a bit.

Anna wants to know:

Do you think Frank is justified in abandoning his family and in the treatment of his sister?

No.  I don’t think Frank is justified in abandoning his family and in the treatment of his sister, although I understand that he was disillusioned because he learned that the father he has known all is his life is not his biological father.  On the other hand, he was a very angry man to begin with, which fueled his disappointment and drive to show everyone he could be successful.  I’m particularly angry with Frank in how he tells his sister what to do with regard to Owen and basically forbids her to see him again because it is not good for his business (working both sides of the Cause).  He has absolutely no right to do that; he is not her father and has never been there for her, so how can he expect to have a say in her life — Och, because he’s arrogant, even more so now that he is the owner of the grandfather’s estate.

Do you think finding Lizzie will help Eileen’s mom to heal?

I’m not sure that finding Lizzie will help Eileen’s mom, but anything is possible.  Will finding Lizzie help Eileen?  I think so.  I think Eileen has been looking for some closure and learning that her sister is alive is one way to do that, and she’s even getting some kind of closure with Frank with him talking to her — though he’s still an a**.

What do you think about Owen buying the Yellow House?

I think Owen did it for reasons that he was even unaware of.  Although I think he’s know he’s liked Eileen, I’m not sure he initially bought it for her but for what he says to bring his wife home.  He seems dedicated to his family and keeping them close and the war has changed him in that way, making every moment precious.  I think he now has a better sense of what family should be and wants to capture that.  And I think at the heart of that is Eileen and her family before all the bad things began happening to her — when they were happy in the yellow house and making music.

That’s all for this week.  We’ll be finishing up the book for next week.  Stay tuned.

The Yellow House Read-a-Long, Part 2

As part of the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge, we’re reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey.  For the first week, we read pages 1-90.  I’m going to answer the read-a-long questions here for part 2, which is pages 91-164.

Please be aware that the answers to these questions could contain spoilers.

Were you surprised by the turn the romantic storyline took?

No!  I knew the minute Eileen said that she was determined to hate him that they would end up in some capacity.  With a passionate, fiery woman like Eileen, it is inevitable that her passions would lead her to a rebellious man like James.  However, her path to Owen has not ended with her marriage to James, as I suspect the life of a rebel and champion of a united Ireland under Home Rule is likely to be killed or jailed.

What do you think of James? Is his treatment of his family – all in the name of the cause – justified?

James is a man set in his own ways and his own idea of how family is expected to act.  Eileen does not fit into that mold, and though I feel for her, she should have known what marriage to him would have been like given his relationship with his mother.  More than once his mother placed the needs of James above everyone else in the family — he was given a room in the house while Fergus was relegated to the shed and the other two siblings were forced to work in the mill to pay for James’ seminary education, which he clearly abandoned.  James has always been put first, and he acts accordingly.  He has no other expectations of his wife.  While he was drawn to Eileen’s passion for the cause, he also believes that his ideas and needs are superior to everyone else’s.   Is his treatment of his family justifiable in the name of the cause? To him, it is!  To the rest of us and Eileen, it is not.  Given Eileen’s background and her father’s devotion to the family in spite of his inability to farm, she expects more from her husband than his dedication to the cause — she expects him to provide for and protect them.  But she fails to see who James really is.

What do you think of Eileen’s reaction to James’ final betrayal – the emptying of her savings account?

I think the reaction is typical of her character, but I also would have expected more of her by this point.  In a way, her reaction is still that of a girl who does not know how to react to betrayal.  She needed to calmly accept the news and craft a better plan.  While I think she’s passionate and has a tendency to react as her mother does, which could lead to a similar fate, she is likely stronger than her mother if she draws on that O’Neill warrior inside.

How do you think the author is handling the intricacies of the political situation?

I really like how the reader learns about the political situation as Eileen learns of it and becomes more involved in the movement.  I like that she also provides the translation of terms like Sinn Fein, which I didn’t know about before.  I do like how there is not the one-sided against the British feeling to the story.  I think Falvey is doing well here.

Other thoughts:

I really enjoy Falvey’s writing style and the way that she weaves in the political and historical aspects, but keeps it grounded in Eileen’s personal story.  Yellow continues to play a significant role here in the story, and I’m still pondering what it means…though at this point I’m leaning toward the notion of “hope.”

For next week’s discussion we’ll be reading through page 238, which includes these sections: “Truce, 1920-1921? and “Passion, 1921.”

The Yellow House Read-a-Long, Part 1

As part of the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge, we’re reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey.  For the first week, we read pages 1-90.  I’m going to answer the read-a-long questions here.  Please be aware that the answers could have spoilers in them.

1.  What do you think of the writing?

Falvey’s writing is very in step with other Irish writers I’ve read in the past where the diction and the style resembles the time period and the very mythical Irish culture.  I’m enjoying the detail and the description a great deal; it gives me a sense that I am there in the valley below Slieve Mullion, the mountain looking down on the O’Neill house.

I had a hard time stopping after the second section in the book when I hit page 90.

2.  What do you think of Eileen’s parents?

Eileen’s parents have secrets, and these secrets are well hidden from the children, as to be expected during that time.  Parents did not openly talk about their courtships or previous relationships with their lovers and/or parents to their children.  I’m surprised at how lively Eileen’s mother talked of the past once it was revealed where their grandfather lived.  It seemed a bit incongruous to me that she would suddenly want to reminisce with her kids about a past she had kept so hidden and one that was fraught with despair and heartache.  I really was disappointed that such a strong woman was unable to bounce back after tragedy to help her other children!  It saddened me to think that she would withdraw so much, and after the death of the father, she became an unrecognizable woman…that seemed a bit extreme to me.

Eileen’s father is a typical dreamer, which has been seen in other Irish novels, but what’s intriguing here is that he is not a drunkard and does not make foolish monetary decisions that leave his family out in the cold for the most part.  He does make a go of farming, though eh fails miserably at it, but rather than gamble away the future, he takes the reasonable road and sells a portion of the land…at least until he takes out a mortgage on the house.

3.  It seems that the book is heading in a romantic direction when it comes to Eileen and Owen Sheridan. What do you think of this potential romance?

Eileen and Owen have a sort of forbidden love, which can be tempting, but for now it seems that Eileen is being level-headed…however, there also is the wild card of James, whom she is determined to hate.  But will she really, and will he really become a priest?  That remains to be seen.  It also seems to be a similar set up going on here that may mirror her mother’s past when she became pregnant with Frank and instead of marrying his father, she marries Eileen’s dad.

4.  As we closed the second section, the world is on the brink of the First World War, and Ireland is being torn apart by the fight for Home Rule. Have you learned anything about Ireland or the world at this time period that was new to you?

I finally understand the difference between the Unionists and the Nationalists!  These were mentioned in A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (my review), but it was so confusing given the main character, Willie had little knowledge of politics related to WWI or the Irish struggle for Home Rule.  I hope there is more of the politics behind the wars in this one.  It’s fascinating to me, though I don’t want the book to lose its pace or its dynamism.

***Some Other Observations***

I really love how Falvey has used nature here to demonstrate the struggles of the Irish, and her descriptions of the Music Men are fantastic at demonstrating the power of music and how it became a safe heaven for many Irish.  I’m also getting curious about the significance of yellow here; it seems to be recurring in the house paint, Eileen’s dress, and other events.  I cannot wait to see how that ties into the overall novel.

For next week, we’ll be reading pages 91-164 or sections “War, 1914-1918″ and “Insurrection, 1919-1920.”

Giveaway: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

As part of Hachette Books’ Giveaway, I’m offering a book club up to 10 copies of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

Description from GoodReads:

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others

Read an except, here.  Also check out the Facebook Page.  Téa Obreht, author of THE TIGER’S WIFE, calls THE ART OF FIELDING “an intricate, poised, tingling debut. Harbach’s muscular prose breathes new life into the American past-time, recasts the personal worlds that orbit around it, and leaves you longing, lingering, and a baseball convert long after the last page.

Of the blogs participating in the tour, one of the winning book clubs will be selected by Hachette Books to have a Skype “call in” with Chad Harbach. Hachette will contact the Book club representative to coordinate their meeting schedule with Chad Harbach’s schedule.

To enter the giveaway, you must be a U.S. resident and all 10 books can be mailed to you or individually to your book club members.

1.  Leave a comment about your favorite, recent book club pick and fill out the form below:

2.  Facebook, Twitter, or Blog share this giveaway and leave a link for up to 3 more entries.

Deadline is Feb. 10, 2012, at 11:59PM EST

Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim is the second (my review of Volume 1) in the series providing Meyer’s fans with even more Edward and Bella, but in visual form.  Kim’s images are sharp and well shaded, but there are only a few splashes of color, mostly red.  The story line is basically the same, with Bella and Edward running from James and Victoria.

There is a bit more back story of Carlisle and James here, and some of the scenes are modified to adapt it for the graphic novel and speed up the action.  Kim is a deft talent with her shading and life-like images.  She takes the story to a new visual level, making her characters almost 3-D with their depth.  Twilight fans who cannot get enough of this saga will love to add these books to their collections, and others might simply enjoy the art in these volumes, especially how the clothes move with the vampires and humans so realistic that readers would wish to feel the fabric.

There are odd moments in the novel where “conversation bubbles” are empty except for an ellipses, which may be unnecessary, given the depth of Kim’s talent to create believable facial expressions.  Meyer is surely capitalizing on her saga’s fame, and she’s looking to her character notes and sketches to offer her readers more than just the same story.  Is there enough in these graphic novels to satisfy the less-than-die-hard fan?  Maybe.  What is the real gem in Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 2 is Kim’s talent as an artist.