Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Future Treasures

We want to hear all about your FUTURE treasures. We’ve been visiting each other and getting to know each other better…now is your chance to share what you enjoyed about BBAW and also what your blogging goals are for the next year!

Last post for BBAW this year.  Last year I stumbled upon this event and didn't feel like I could participate being so new to blogging - let alone book blogging.  This year I was excitied to see all the festivities and to actively participate. 

I'm glad I did the BBAW blog swap.  It was nice to interview another book blogger.  It was also fun to watch the BBAW community on Twitter and read all the postings on BBAW main website during the week as well.

I don't really have hard and fast goals for my blog over the next year, except to keep posting.  I still feel that my tone is more formal than other bloggers and often times its hard for me to find specific items to comment on regarding a book.  So definitely want to work on 'finding my voice' and pushing myself to find an opinion on a character or an author's style. 

I look forward to next year's BBAW festivities!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Forgotten Treasure

Again - a little late with this posting, but here goes.

Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!
It's hard to pick one book and looking over my read list from the past year I feel like the books that got the highest 'rating' from me - Let the Great World Spin, The Help, Immortial Life of Henrietta Lacks, A Thousand Splendid Suns - all really had their time in the sun around the blogosphere.

I would have to give an additional shout out to two first-time authors that I feel will keep us coming back to them over and over. I heard them both speak at ALA's Annual Conference in DC this past June.

First is Daphne Kalotay who wrote Russian Winters. I can't say enough about this author.  Her book was very captivating and descriptive.   And second is Mitchell James Kaplan who wrote By Fire, By Water (my review is coming shortly). His book made me think about the beliefs and ideals I've been taught all my life and imagine how they might be challenged in a time with lots of religious strife.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Unexpected Treasure

Yes - I know I'm a few days behind in posting.  Unexpected Treasure is the theme of Wednesday's posts this BBAW. 

We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger. What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

Even though I'm a book blogger (kinda) I don't really peruse other book bloggers for book suggestions.  I will say that I have read a book due to influence of another reader though.  Some of my friends started a book club back in February and I've read a few books that I wouldn't have picked up other than it being a book club selection.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is definitely a book that I read due to book club.  To me - I like to stick with the classics and I was worried this book wasn't going to be true to Jane Austen.   But I was wrong and in a small way enjoyed the book. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns is another book that would have never hit my radar without book club mostly because I tried to read Kite Runner after it first came out and could not really get into it.  I'm still not sure why I could get into A Thousand Splendid Suns more than Kite Runner, but I'm glad I gave Khaled Hosseini another shot.

I'm following many book bloggers on Twitter so I hope over the next year I will pick up a book because of their influence.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Interview with Book Gazing

This year for BBAW I decided to sign-up to participate in an interview swap with another book blogger.  I was paired up with Jodie over at Book GazingThanks to Jodie for answering my questions.  Enjoy!

Tell me a little about yourself Jodie.
Agh I hate this bit, I always make myself sound really dull. I’m a 25 year old woman who lives in the West Midlands in England. I work in the marketing department of a small IT firm. Ooo, the excitement! I don’t have a partner and I don’t have pets, but I do have a group of close friends who I wouldn’t be without. I like to travel and took one of my dream holidays two year ago when I went on safari in Kenya. Being a history graduate I am concerned about the way employers react to humanities students when they enter the workplace. I have seen a lot of bands this year and think the advantage of getting older is that it costs less and less to see the bands you grew up with. I have (touch wood – an yes I actually touched wood as I typed that as I’m a little superstitious) a long life to live yet and a long life list to achieve before it’s over (sadly ‘see Oasis live’ will have to wait until they regain their senses and get back together).

If you had to describe your blog in five words, what would you say?
Critical, friendly, fun, wordy, thoughtful

When and why did you start book blogging?
I started blogging just under two years ago. I’d been reading a lot of established book bloggers for years and finally decided I wanted to join in. So I spent ages trying to think up a clever title, decided everything had been used already and plumped for Bookgazing.

Did you read when you were a kid? Which is your favorite book from your childhood?
I was a big reader when I was a kid and I used to reread books over and over. My favourites were all kind of predictable stuff, big name series like Narnia, Harry Potter and Redwall and books by Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton. I think one of my favourites that’s a little less well know was ‘The Exiles’ by Hilary McKay. Four sisters get shipped off to Big Grandma’s house for the summer. Maybe it doesn’t sound so special, but the individual characters of each sister and the strange, group dynamic they form make this book so much fun.

Are you participating in any book challenges this year?
I’m trying to scale back my challenge involvement this year, but I am taking part in the TBR Challenge, RIP V, the GLBT Challenge and The Year of Biodiversity. Any other challenges I signed up for seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Beside blogs, what other sources do you use to discover new books?
I read Bookslut regularly and the Times arts supplement at the weekends. I like Waterstones catalogue, even though I tend to skip all the features and jump straight to the employee reviews. I return to some publisher websites regularly like Snow Books. The majority of the books added to my TBR list do come from blogs though.

What are your hobbies other than reading?
A couple of years ago I’d have had something to say here, but right now reading is my only hobby. I like to go out with friends, but drinking is not really a hobby and neither is concert attending. Hobby wise there are more things I’d like to get back into like crafting and swimming, than things I’m actively doing right now.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island alone for the foreseeable future, what five books would you want with you?
So hard and unnecessary because clearly I would be on a ship with a library and I would have time to rescue all the books:
‘Captivity’ – Debbie Lee Wesselman
Jane Eyre’ – Charlotte Bronte
Small Gods’ – Terry Pratchett (but really I should take ‘Nation’ for practical survival tips)
Who will Run the Frog Hospital – Lorrie Moore
Wolf Hall’ – Hilary Mantel
I’m already second guessing that list.
What are your top reads for 2010 so far?
I’m going to limit myself to five because I’ve read so many great books this year already:
‘Devil’s Kiss’ – Sarwat Chadda
‘The Windup Girl’ – Paoulo Bacigalupi
‘Crossing’ – Alexander Xia Fukada
‘The Still Point’ – Amy Sackville
‘Liar’ – Justine Larbalestier

Name a book you recommend to anyone and everyone and they always love it.
I’m not sure I’ve ever managed that, but I think ‘A Wish After Midnight’ by Zetta Elliot would be pretty hard to dislike. It manages to teach readers about a hard time in history, while remaining an enjoyable story.

Check out Jodie's post with my answers as well!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - First Treasure

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  Even though I've been blogging officially for two years, I still feel like a novice.  At first I was apprehensive about blogging, but now I've found that writing down a few thoughts about a book I read helps me to come up with an opinion instead of just "really good" or "must read".

Today's topic for BBAW is sharing a new book blog you have discovered since last year's BBAW event.

Definitely in the last year I have become more of a Twitter user which has lead me to some great book bloggers.  Here are a few of my favorite *new* blogs to visit:
  • Library Love Fest - behind the scenes fun & recommendations from the HarperCollins folks
  • Shelf Life - recommendations from Entertainment Weekly
  • Book Maven - Book critic for WETA whose #fridayreads hashtag provides good suggestions each week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fourty-one: The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

I rate this book in my top 10 of books I read this year.  I could not put the book down and the writing just drew me in.  I've always had a fascination with World War II even since I did a report on Schindler's List in high school.  I think also my fascination comes from trying to understand what that time period was like here in the US and what my grandparents lived through.

The Postmistress follows the lives of three woman - Iris, Frankie & Emma - as they cope with the war and telling the truth.  Frankie Bard is an American who broadcasts on Edward Murrow's radio show the conditions in London during the Fall of 1940.  She learns to capture the scene through her vivid storytelling and calm voice.  Back in the states, Emma and her new husband Will, the local doctor, listen to Frankie's stories every night.  One night after losing a patient, Will decides he wants to join up with the war effort and help out in London.  Emma cannot understand why he wants to go to the war and leave her all alone in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Iris, the local postmistress in Franklin, keeps tabs of the residents via their mail.  She has a crush on Henry Vale the owner of the local gas station.  Their courtship starts slowly and grows into an urgency of love and caring that only wartime "fears" can create. Henry is sure that the Germans will send their U-boats to attach the US.  He anxiously scans the coast line every day looking for the first sign of their coming.

After Frankie loses a journalist friend - Hannah - to the bombings, she is determined to take up Hannah's cause of showing the world what is happening to the Jews in Europe.  She persuades Murrow to let her go into the field in France and Spain and capture the voices of the travelers as they try to escape the war.

Sarah Blake intertwines these lives together both in Franklin and in London.  She allows the reader to feel the emotions that the characters are feeling.  Many times I felt I could picture Frankie in the bomb shelter or Emma sitting on the porch waiting for Will to come home.  Although the title suggests the main character is Iris - it is Frankie that ends up connecting everyone together.  I definitely recommend this book.

Fourty: Stiltsville - Susanna Daniel

***Full disclosure: This book was provided for free by Harper Collins at their Book Buzz session part of ALA Annual Conference ***

Stiltsville follows Frances Ellerloy, who is from Atlanta, as she visits Miami for a wedding and ends up meeting her future husband, Dennis, out on the Biscayne Bay.  It's the first time she's been out on the open water and she feels so alive.  The connection with Dennis is strong and she ends up coming down to Miami every weekend after that.  Finally one weekend she moves down to Miami after quitting her job and moves in with Dennis' sister Bette.

Frances & Dennis' relationship grows as they experience life together in Miami and marry once Dennis finishes law school.  They visit the family house on the bay every weekend.  Marse, their friend who originally introduced them, joins them sometimes with her boyfriend of the month.  They have a baby girl - Margo.  Frances get pregnant again multiple times but ends up miscarrying each time.  Dennis & Francis accept they will only have one child.

Susanna Daniels explores their marriage over the years as stormy weather - multiple hurricanes - and outside factors - job loss and potential affair - threaten their love.  It's heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time to see how Frances & Dennis adapt to their lives and their love of each other over the years.

This book was my savior while reading Salt.  I'm glad I pared them together to read at the same time.  Many mornings on the metro I had to force myself to remember to get off the train because I was so engrossed in the book.  The latest 100 pages or so are sad as well and many times I had to fight off the tears. 

Thirty-nine: Salt A World History - Mark Kurlansky

September Book Club Selection

I didn't realize it until a few weeks ago, but I had another book by the same author already on my 'to read' list.  I honestly didn't know what to expect with this book.  I've read other historical food (is this a genre?) books and found that 75% of the information was useful with the other 25% not as much.

Kurlansky starts our journey in ancient China and works his way West with each chapter until he hits the Americas.  He captures salt consumption through the Civil War days and then makes his way back East towards Asia again.  Different techniques for mining salt are explored throughout the chapters as well as the need for taxation on this commodity by many different countries.  Wars and independence movements were started with tracings back to salt. 

The word salt is a chemical term for a substance produced by the reaction of an acid with a base.  Salt was found useful in preserving food and protecting against decay as well as sustain life.  Growth in animal raising for consumption caused a demand for some form of salt to help preserve this meat. 

Salt helped many nations prosper in the shipping and transportation business as well.  Taxation on salt was common because salt was one commodity that was used by people of every income; therefore providing equal opportunity for taxation.

Salt helped shape many cuisines and cultures around the world as well.  Soy sauce and ketchup are two of the many sauces that have salt origins.

My favorite chapter was about the origins of the Morton Salt Company which is iconically famous in many households in the United States. The United States is the largest salt producer and salt consumer.  Only 8% of salt production is for food though.  The largest single use (51%) is for deicing roads.

I'm not a fan of Kurlansky's style of writing and often found myself skipping over multiple pages in order to move through the chapters.  I felt that he often times setup the history or background in relation to the salt usage almost in a tangential way. Halfway through the book I was hoping that the next chapter was not going to be about how another country or region used salt to preserve fish or another type of meat.