Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Salon 1 - Introducing Trish

It seems kind of silly to be introducing myself when I've been blogging for almost two years, but here we go! Today is my first Sunday Salon. I've always really loved reading everyone's Sunday posts and have thought about writing my own from time to time. Why haven't I? Part of it is I don't always have something coherent that I want to say. A million things running through my head, but not just one thing I want to put down on paper (or um, typing up on screen). I also don't like to post things too closely together. Because I'm weird. I was looking at my archives for the year and realized that I've only posted 25 times this year. Some people have posted that often in the past month alone.

After recent posts this week, spurred by an anonymous comment left on Amy's post about community/connection, I took a very hard look at what I am doing at my blog. I believe that we are a community here. I have met wonderful people who I consider my friends. If something exciting happens throughout the day, sometimes I'll even think of a specific blogger--and sometimes I'll contact that person just to tell them what I was thinking. I love this connection, this little world that I discovered the summer of 2007 when I left my grad school community and was desperately searching for a new one.

And I feel like I am part of this community. While I wish that there was time that I could devote more to the goings-on, I try to participate in the bigger events--the Read-a-thon, Book Bloggers Appreciation Week--but I have found that I can't do everything that I want to. In my reflections, this past week, I also realized that while I feel like I am a part of this community, my community involvement mostly takes shape in the comments that I leave on other people's blogs. I love commenting. I love feeling like I am part of a conversation--even if it ends with what I say or what the blogger says back to me. I cherish that connection. Some weeks/months are better than others, but people sometimes ask me how I find the time to comment so much. I try to find the time where I can. And if I can't, I can't. And I realize that the 50 blogs that I subscribe to are a mere fraction of what is out there.

Because I share my thoughts and ideas and reactions through commenting, I feel like you guys have a pretty good handle on who I am. There is a connection there, and the people who I comment with regularly are the ones where that connection is stronger. It is stronger with those bloggers who take the time to respond to comments. It is stronger when I can leave a meaningful comment other than "great review." Trish--where the heck are going with all of this? Another reason why I've never done a Sunday Salon: I'm a horrible rambler. :)

I guess the point is, I don't feel like I am doing my part of upholding the community connection. At first I didn't want to get too personal on my blog. But then I found myself sneaking in little peeks of myself here and there. I think that I have a pretty solid voice--it might not be the strongest voice, but it is Trish voice, and I like to think that my voice shows through. While my more personal posts are sometimes few and far between, you've gotten to know silly Trish through the read-a-thon, nervous Trish through my incredibly embarrassing video, and little Trish tid-bits along the way, including my recent interview over at Natasha's. I have a lot to say, I just don't know if anyone is listening. Well, I know you're listening, but is anyone interested? This is a book blog. And my blog is pretty heavy on reviews. But after a year and three quarters, is that all I want it to be? For as much time as I spend on the blogosphere on other people's blogs, I feel it is time for me to put myself out there and do my part to maintain the community connection.

So--introducing Trish:

I've always been the reader in the family--for as long as I can remember, I was the one who could always be found with a book in her hand. I don't know what exactly it is about reading and books in general that I love so much, but they are a great source of comfort to me. I love even just looking at my books. Pulling one off the shelf and flipping through and picking up another one. I wasn't an honors student in school and I didn't even really care for my English literature classes. I often didn't even read my required reading (making up for that now!), but I was always reading something.

It wasn't until I was a senior in high school and I was getting ready to write my senior paper that I developed a true love for literature. We had a list of books that we could choose from to write our papers. My first choice was Pride and Prejudice and my second choice was Wuthering Heights. Of course Lisa B. got P&P and I was stuck with Wuthering Heights. But I devoured the book and fell in love with Cathy, Heathcliff, and Emily Bronte's writing. I poured myself into the paper (which was on imagery or something such) and started to sit up and pay attention during class. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had gotten my first choice of Pride and Prejudice. Don't get me wrong, I like the book well enough. But the language in Wuthering Heights was enough to make me drunk: "I lingered round them, under the benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth" (308).

When I went off to college I entered as a pre-medicine student. My background has always been stronger in math and science rather than the liberal arts, but after taking a freshman English survey course, I decided to switch my major to English instead. I entered my sophomore year at Texas A&M with a whole new focus of literature. I still shirked my assigned reading from time to time to read what I wanted to read, but a whole world of words was presented for me and there was no turning back. I didn't know what I would do with my English degree, knowing that I did not want to teach, so I minored in professional writing hoping that I could go into editing (editing you're thinking? Yes, I've never been very good at self-editing...).

After graduation, I had no idea how to get into editing. So, I started working at a small town fire department as an office manager. I loved my job and I loved working with firemen (who wouldn't!), but I couldn't do that for the rest of my life, right? I guess I could, but I wasn't being challenged in any kind of way. So, I took the bullet--something I had always been afraid of--and enrolled in graduate school. I was petrified. Graduate school is for really smart people--not people like me who sometimes read most of the books in class and don't have a firm grip on literary research.

After taking a year's worth of classes, I decided to get serious about my degree and transfer to Texas Tech University in Lubbock (well, the main reason for the move was to be closer to Scott who was getting his business degree there). After another year and a half I earned my MA in English and my lifelong affair with literature and language and reading was sealed. But in the end, Scott and I moved to Smalltown, Texas (Coleman...pop 5,000) and immediately my connection with other readers, the community that I had been apart of for a year and a half was gone. Sure I could email with friends about books, but the connection wasn't the same anymore. Which brings me to blogging...

Why I started my book blog
After several months in Coleman, I was bored and restless. I was reading reading reading, but the information was going in and getting lost somewhere in my muddled brain. A friend of mine recommended Yahoo Book Clubs, so I joined a couple. Four to be exact. But it seemed that the conversations were being dominated by the same folks again and again. Or there was no conversation about the books we were reading. I didn't feel like I was being heard--and it is tough not to be heard when there is an audience there.

On the Yahoo Book Clubs, I noticed that at the end of each month, certain members posted a link to the books they had read during the month. Curious, I popped over and...tada!! Book blogs! A whole new world where people posted about what they were reading. And then...tada!! Challenges! I quickly set up my own blog and never looked back to those book clubs. It didn't matter if I didn't have an audience here, I was writing what I wanted to write about. I was my own audience. I didn't have to worry about if people thought I was dumb or if they thought what I was saying wasn't valid because this was MY space.

Did I mention that I'm a rambler? I guess the whole point to this post is the idea of community and connection. The community is well and alive, and to many degrees I am very much apart of it. But my current method of commenting as much as I can and posting my reviews of books here and there isn't enough of a connection. I'm all of a sudden having troubles voicing what I mean because I'm not really even sure if I know what I mean. :P

I guess I want to reclaim the space that I've created for myself. My blog has always been heavy on reviews and light on other things because of the time commitment that I haven't always wanted to make, but also because I didn't think people cared. Well, guess what...I don't care if people don't care! :) People will read if they want to. If you want to get to know me more, you will. I don't have to be liked by everyone (although deep down inside I do think that would be really nice). I will never be a top-tier blogger, and I might be a little parasitic (I'm drawing on the language of that comment left on Amy's blog mentioned above). But I like that I can draw ideas from you. That I learn from you. That if I have a problem I can ask and you will be there (doesn't my blog look much better without that tired green? Thanks Dar!!). I would like to think that bloggers are mutualistic rather than parasitic. We help each other and make each other stronger readers and writers. If someone isn't learning from someone else, they are either damn good or not learning at all. LOL--now I'm ranting!!

In the end, this is my blog and my experience and I want to put myself out there more. If no one listens, I'll have a very good record of my thoughts. If you do listen, I can only hope that we get to know one another better. Whew--what a cathartic post!!

Off to Half Price Books to ditch some icky books and hopefully pick up some great new ones. So I'll leave you with a few questions--what are your blogging goals? What do you hope to get out of blogging? Are you here for the community/connection? What would you suggest to someone who is new to blogging and trying to become part of the community?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult

Title: Vanishing Acts
Author: Jodi Picoult
Date Finished: March 27, 2009 #15
Published: 2005 Pages: 418
Rating: 3.5/5

It's funny how a year ago when Picoult's book, Change of Heart, was being released, the book blogging community was all abuzz. This year, with her new release, all is quiet--I couldn't even tell you the name without looking it up. It seems that people either love Picoult's work or strongly dislike it, although lately I've seen more negative reviews for Picoult's work than any other author (emphasis on it seems). And I think that after reading my 8th book by Picoult, some of my own excitement has died down.

Delia Hopkins does search and rescue for a living. She and her bloodhound, Greta, find children who have gone missing, teenagers who have runaway, and even sometimes a child who has been snatched by someone else. What Delia doesn't know is that when she was four years old her own father kidnapped her and took her across the country to start a new life. It isn't until her father, Andrew, is arrested that Delia's life and the delicately spun web of lies she has lived for 28 years begins to unravel.

Like many of her other novels, Vanishing Acts is told from the points of view of several of the main characters--Delia, her father Andrew, her fiance Eric, and her best friend Fitz. Through these four narratives, we are taken on a ride that will make you question your own memories and perceptions of reality, make you question what is right and what is wrong, and the ethics of doing what is best when is it clearly against the law. I love that Picoult uses the different perspectives and voices to tell her stories, especially as we then get to learn things we wouldn't be privy to know otherwise--what it is like for Andrew in prison, Delia's predicament on whether to support her father or to make amends with her mother, Eric's battle with alcoholism, Fitz's unrequited love for Delia. Complicated storylines that are best told from each party.

The bottomline: I liked Vanishing Acts and I liked it almost as much as I expected to like it. It is one of the better ones that I've read (although not my favorite). I'm sure you've heard people say Picoult is a formulaic writer, and she absolutely is. Is that a bad thing? As long as the formula is working, I don't think it is a bad thing. I tend to stay away from formula writers, but Picoult's formula has worked well for me. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and turning the pages.

So why has some of the excitement worn away? One of the things that I love about Picoult is that she is continually blurring the lines between what is right and wrong. Kind of like that old dilemma of whether or not it is OK to steal bread to feed your starving family. After 8 books, I guess I get the point. Life isn't black and white, but rather a funny shade of gray. It wasn't that this book didn't do as good of a job of looking at ethical decisions, its just that it didn't feel novel anymore. I knew what was coming--and I suspect that as I continue to read her books the formula will still be gripping, but a little more loosely. A little more tired.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

OUT3 and Classics Challenges plus some Awards

I know I've been posting a lot lately and part of me feels bad about that. But then I think to myself--wait, most of you post every day--sometimes twice a day! I'm not sure why I like to spread out my posts, but I admit that I do. If I read a short book quickly and know I won't finish my next book for at least a week, I'll hold off on my review for a few days so that there isn't a big gap in posts or I don't post too close together. Isn't that the silliest thing you've ever heard?

Anyway, you've got at least one more post from me before the end of the month, AND I'm thinking I might make this Sunday my first Sunday Salon experience! I've always wanted to participate in Sunday Salon and I'm going to try and make it a priority this weekend. Trish has a lot to say!!

On to the purpose of this post--challenges!

CLASSICS CHALLENGE (hosted by me! HERE)

I'm going for the feast, but we'll see how it goes. ;)

Middlemarch - George Eliot
The Time Machine - HG Wells
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton
The Romance of the Forest - Ann Radcliffe
Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
Bonus: Possession - AS Byatt
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ONCE UPON A TIME 3 CHALLENGE (Hosted by Carl V. HERE)
I have to admit that I'm incredibly jealous that 5 seconds after Carl had up his challenge post a million people joined. I guess fantasy/folklore/fairytales/mythology is much more fun than classics and non-fiction. *Sigh* If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Just kidding--I would have joined anyway as I LOVED this challenge last year! This year I'm taking The Journey (just in case I don't finish Jonathon Strange and end up with only 4 books instead of 5).

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Maguire
The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
The Book of Lost Things - Connolly
The Light Fantastic - Pratchett
Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell - Clarke (although I might save this for RIP IV)

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I also wanted to note that Jess and CJ passed on the Sisterhood Award to me. I am incredibly touched by the recognition, especially for such a sweet award. Jess is a new to me blogger, but I look forward to getting to know her more. I've known CJ almost as long as I've been book blogging. She's been an inspiration to me on countless occasions and I really look up to her.

Please go visit these lovely ladies and tell them hello.

I also wanted to pass this award on to a few people. It seems like I've known these ladies for ages and I look forward to their posts on their own blogs as well as their encouraging and loving comments on my blog. You guys are what make blogging so special to me.


I look forward to meeting more fabulous bloggers as the journey continues.

***********************************************************************

One more thing (I told you I was chatty lately!):

READ-A-THON!!!!! Who's excited? I AM!!
April 18-19
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! :D

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford
Date Finished: March 21, 2009 #14
Published: 2009 Pages: 285
Rating: 4/5

Isn't that the most beautiful cover? I don't remember requesting this book, so I was so surprised to get it in the mail right before Christmas--right before I decided to stop taking in ARCs because Trish has too many books!! Eeeep! :)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the story of Henry Lee as he looks back on events that shaped his life. One afternoon he passes by the Panama Hotel in Seattle and notices that the hotel has come under new ownership and will be opening its doors for the first time in decades. Buried in the basement of the Panama Hotel, however, is a world of treasure from a lifetime forgotten--items that were left behind by the Japanese who were relocated to internment camps during WWII.

Seeing these items being brought into the open takes Henry back forty years to when he was a 12-year-old whose traditional Chinese parents stop his education at the Chinese school so he can attend the "white" school. At first Henry is the only Asian student, but soon he discovers a beautiful girl, Keiko, who is of Japanese descent. Their relationship is rocky at first and then one of necessity as they are teased by the other students--especially in light of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon they grow to be the closest friends, but they will have to part when Keiko's family is forced to leave Seattle for an internment camp in Idaho.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a really touching book about friendship and love, but also an important story of a piece of American history that is quickly looked over. I don't remember learning about the internment camps when I was in school--the first time I remember any mention is when I was read Snow Falling on Cedars several years ago. While this was a beautiful story, we don't learn very much about the internment camps other than they were heavily guarded, very large, and in the beginning not very pleasant (I felt that Ford sometimes simplified the camps). I do have a few books jotted down that I'm interested in reading, but I had hoped there would be more detail or perspective in this book.

While a great deal of the book takes place in flashbacks to the 1940s, there is also Henry's story in the present time. He is dealing with his wife's death and a shaky relationship with his son. I enjoyed both portions of the book, and thought that Ford pieced them together very nicely. I would recommend this book--while it won't be my favorite of the year (for me it was lacking a little ooomph), it was very enjoyable--heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I guess like the title: bitter and sweet.

Reader Spotlight Interview at Maw Books


Natasha at Maw Books was so sweet to invite me to participate in her Reader Spotlight Interview. Go check it out!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle (and Lentil Soup Recipe)

Title: A Year in Provence
Author: Peter Mayle
Date Finished: March 16, 2009 #13
Published: 1989 Pages: 207
Rating: 3/5

The way that my f2f book club works is that each member is responsible for their own month--picking the book and setting up the meeting. This has worked great so far and we've had a really diverse selection of reads. After the initial horrible book club pick for March, the "hostess" quickly chose another book for us to read. I think this book was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, or in other words bland.

Peter Mayle and his wife (whose name isn't mentioned that I can remember!) pick up one day from deary England and move to Provence. A Year in Provence is just that--their first year in Provence. This travelogue, though, isn't as much about their experiences as expatriates, but rather a look at the Provincial culture. Lots and lots and lots about food. Lots about the work ethic of those who help renovate their house, work that takes the entire year. Lots about different events and festivals that occur in Provence. Lots about the tourists that travel to Provence and create headache for the natives.

I think I would have liked this book better if it contained more of a personal account. Very little is said about Peter and his wife such as why they moved to Provence, what they did in England before the move, how they adjusted to the new lifestyle. The book did make me very hungry, though! It is very light reading, but not very exciting either. Like I said before, bland. We did have lots of yummy bread and brie at the meeting, though! That definitely left me much more satisfied than the book did.

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Lentil Soup (from Betty Crocker)
This book made me crave food so badly, that I decided to make homemade soup for the first time in years (with fresh bread of course).

3 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced (about ¾ cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 cups water
12 ounces dried lentils (about 2 cups)
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 Tbsp. snipped parsley
1 Tbsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ to ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
1 cup water

Fry bacon in dutch oven until crisp; drain on paper towel. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to bacon fat; cook and stir over medium heat until celery is tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, 4 cups water, the lentils, bouillon cube, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.

Cover and simmer until soup thickens, about 1 hour. Stir in tomatoes (with liquid) and 1 cup water (may need more water if too thick). Simmer uncovered 15 minutes.

Serves 6 (1 ½ cup servings).

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka

Title: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Author: Marina Lewycka
Date Finished: March 14, 2009 #12
Published: 2005 Pages: 294
Rating: 4.5/5

I had heard good things about this book from Bethany and Corinne, but I didn't expect to fall in love with the characters and story like I did. Isn't that always a pleasant surprise? Plus, I just realized today that this is on the 1001 Books list! I'm on a roll so far this year!

"Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcee. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six" (1). Thus begins A Short History of Tractors. As Nadia, the narrator, and her older sister, Vera, begin to investigate their father's new romance, they realize that Valentina, the Ukrainian tramp, is probably seeking marriage in order to obtain a UK visa. But their father is hell bent on marrying his little Ukrainian strumpet--the one with the marvelous chest. The story is a battle between logical reality and very illogical romance as the daughters watch their father's situation go from bad to worse.

While the premise sounds amusing, A Short History is full of deceptively heavy themes. Lewycka tells an endearing story of two daughters trying to take care of their father, but the daughters themselves don't get along. Nadia begins to discover that while she is a "Peacetime Baby," her sister suffered much in labor camps as a "War Baby" after her parents fled Soviet controlled Ukraine and before they found refuge in the UK. Nadia and Vera have polar opposite views of immigration, social reform, feminine rights, marriage and divorce, education, post-colonialism, really anything where one can take a definite side. Nadia seeks to discover her heritage while Vera does everything in her power to keep the family history in the past.

Even while this slim novel surprisingly contains so much meat, it is Lewycka's writing style that endeared me to the book. While the writing is in many ways simple and fluid, Lewycka also plays a great deal with the language, especially as Nadia's father and Valentina are not native speakers of English. Nadia herself has such a personable voice that beckons the reader to take her side, to like her and trust her despite her continued impatience with her father and her continued disdain for Valentina. In a sense the writing is very intimate, like listening to a best friend's narrative about her childish father.

I don't think I'm doing this book justice. In a few words this book is funny and heartbreaking, endearing and thought-provoking. I'd definitely recommend A Short History, and while it didn't take too terribly long to read, I'll be remembering the characters for a time. This book is my first for the 2009 Orbis Terranum Challenge (Ukraine--although Lewycka was actually born in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany).

**Also reviewed by Bethany ~ Corinne ~ Tricia ~ Hedgie ~ Trixie--if you've reviewed it too, let me know and I'll include your link!


ORBIS TERRANUM CHALLENGE 2009
*The Inheritance of Loss - India
*Cry The Beloved Country - South Africa
*Doctor Zhivago - Russia
*Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Ukraine
*Suite Francaise - France
*Graceland - Nigeria
*The Horseman's Graves - Canada
*Septembers of Shiraz - Iran
*Possession - UK

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hawaii - March 2009

HAWAII - Oahu

Scott and I had been tinkering with the idea of another vacation lately--debating the merits of heading toward a resort in Hawaii or opting for another cruise (we love cruising). When Scott emailed me one afternoon at work and said, Let's go to Hawaii, I said YES and the trip was booked that night.

We visited the island of Oahu for a week and had an amazing time. I do have to admit that the weather was very disappointing, but as you can see from the pictures we still did a plethora of activities. The blue sky in the pictures is deceiving--we probably had sunshine 15% of the trip. I usually do a fair amount of typing about our trips, but this time I'm going to let the pictures mostly speak for themselves in a kind of Trish and Scott's Top 10 of our Hawaiian Vacation.

1. Driving around the island in search of sun (finally putting the top down on the jeep after rain all day--as soon as we got back in the car the rain started again, but not for long)


2. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay where we saw tons of fish and even a giant sea turtle (picture on regular old film...not developed yet) The brown you see in the picture is the reef--yes, that close to the shore!

3. Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. A very sobering must see--did you know that gallons of oil still seep from the ship all these years later? The water is covered in oily film!


4. Windsurfing OK, so no picture, because I didn't want to take the camera to the beach or in the water. But just imagine! It was actually around 25 mph wind when we attempted windsurfing, so we didn't do as well as we hoped. But we sure had fun!


5. Dole Pineapple Plantation and World's Largest Maze (which we didn't finish). I didn't know that pineapple grew out of the ground! Definitely not what I expected.




6. Hiking up Diamondhead (second picture is view of Waikiki Beach where we stayed). See what I mean about the clouds? As soon as we got down the crater back to the car, it started pouring. :)



7. Hiking to the Manoa Falls (the Hawaii as we truly imagined--although these pictures look awfully similar to our hiking trip at Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska!!)




8. Peace and Quiet at Byodo-In Temple - Valley of the Temples on windward side of the island.


9. Spending quality time with husband (picture taken at sunrise the first day--that 4 hour time difference was a beating!)


10. The drop-dead gorgeous scenery










*If case you're wondering--Trish, how did you get all of those pictures of you and Scott in those remote places? ALL of the pictures of us except the one on top Diamondhead were taken with the help of my gorillapod. The greatest, handiest traveling devise ever. See example below.

Hawaiian Vacation - a sort of top 10 list

HAWAII - Oahu

Scott and I had been tinkering with the idea of another vacation lately--debating the merits of heading toward a resort in Hawaii or opting for another cruise (we love cruising). When Scott emailed me one afternoon at work and said, Let's go to Hawaii, I said YES and the trip was booked that night.

We visited the island of Oahu for a week and had an amazing time. I do have to admit that the weather was very disappointing, but as you can see from the pictures we still did a plethora of activities. The blue sky in the pictures is deceiving--we probably had sunshine 15% of the trip. I usually do a fair amount of typing about our trips on my travel blog (which I don't keep up with very well...except big vacations), but this time I'm going to let the pictures mostly speak for themselves in a kind of Trish and Scott's Top 10 of our Hawaiian Vacation.


1. Driving around the island in search of sun (finally putting the top down on the jeep after rain all day--as soon as we got back in the car the rain started again, but not for long)

2. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay where we saw tons of fish and even a giant sea turtle (picture on regular old film...not developed yet) The brown you see in the picture is the reef--yes, that close to the shore!

3. Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. A very sobering must see--did you know that gallons of oil still seep from the ship all these years later? The water is covered in oily film!
4. Windsurfing OK, so no picture, because I didn't want to take the camera to the beach or in the water. But just imagine! It was actually around 25 mph wind when we attempted windsurfing, so we didn't do as well as we hoped. But we sure had fun!
5. Dole Pineapple Plantation and World's Largest Maze (which we didn't finish). I didn't know that pineapple grew out of the ground! Definitely not what I expected.
6. Hiking up Diamondhead (second picture is view of Waikiki Beach where we stayed). See what I mean about the clouds? As soon as we got down the crater back to the car, it started pouring. :)

7. Hiking to the Manoa Falls (the Hawaii as we truly imagined--although these pictures look awfully similar to our hiking trip at Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska!!)

8. Peace and Quiet at Byodo-In Temple - Valley of the Temples on windward side of the island.
9. Spending quality time with husband (picture taken at sunrise the first day--that 4 hour time difference was a beating!)

10. The drop-dead gorgeous scenery











*If case you're wondering--Trish, how did you get all of those pictures of you and Scott in those remote places? ALL of the pictures of us except the one on top Diamondhead were taken with the help of my gorillapod. The greatest, handiest traveling devise ever. See example below.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Date Finished: March 8, 2009 #11
Published: 2002 Pages: 376
Rating: 4/5

Do you ever just not wanna? I don't want to think. I don't want to type. But I also don't want to let my thoughts on this book to disappear to wherever my thoughts on books disappear to. What's a girl to do?

I can't remember where I first heard about this book--maybe the Something About Me Challenge two summers ago? I had forgotten what the book was really about (those thoughts must have gone where my other thoughts go), and I had it in my head that this was some type of Jane Eyre romance spin-off. How wrong I was!

The Eyre Affair is set in 1985, but it is a type of futuristic 1985 "where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taking very, very seriously" (back cover). Thursday Next, the main character, is a SpecOps agent in charge of literary crimes--such as forgeries and manuscript theft. She is called into a special case when the original manuscript of Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit mysteriously disappears.

In an effort to recover the missing manuscript, Thursday finds herself in the midst of the most heinous literary crime--a villain by the name of Hades is going into original manuscripts (literally going in) and disposing of characters. Hades next victim will be Jane Eyre if Thursday cannot stop him first. Imagine--a world without Jane Eyre.

While I was expecting more of a literary feast with this book, it was an incredibly fun read. You hear about books for book lovers, and this is one in full force. Literary allusions abound on each page, Fforde uses metaphors and wit, and I often found myself chuckling out loud. I love the idea of being able to travel into a book and cavorting with the characters--such as Thursday did with Mr. Rochester (Jane never knew of Thursday's existence, but boy was she suspicious!). But when she travels into Jane Eyre, will the story as we know it change and be lost forever?

I'd recommend this book as a light and entertaining read. When I mentioned thinking about reading it for the read-a-thon, I got a few comments about the complexity of the book, but other than piecing together how Thursday's 1985 world looks and musing about some of the literary references, I found it to be a pretty quick read. And again, who doesn't love books about books--especially one about one of the most beloved classics?

Also read by:
~ Amanda ~ Raidergirl3 ~ Dewey ~ Samantha ~ Eva ~
If I've missed yours, let me know. I know some of you others (Chris!) have read it, but I couldn't find a review.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison - Pete Earley

Title: The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison
Author: Pete Earley
Date Finished: March 6, 2009 #10
Published: 1992 Pages: 441
Rating: 4/5

I borrowed this from one of my coworkers. Not to be alarmed, but she's a little obsessed with prison books. :) After several months of coercion, I finally gave in and took this one to Hawaii with me. Couldn't wait for the Non-Fiction Five coming in May!

In the late 1980s, Pete Earley was granted permission from the warden of Leavenworth, in Kansas, to extensively interview the prison's staff and inmates for an unprecedented look into one of the more dangerous maximum-security prisons in the nation. Earley focuses on six inmates as well as a couple of guards and the warden over a two-year period of time. He writes about the crimes the inmates have committed, what life is like for them in prison, and how the guards handle the pressure of maintaining peace within the prison walls.

This book is hardcore. I'm not a rubbernecker (HUGE pet-peeve), but this book was like looking at a horrible accident. You just can't look away. I was fascinated the entire way through--learning the stories and what makes some of these criminals tick. One of my roommates in college was a criminology major, so I've heard plenty of stories of crimes pre-arrest, but to learn about what goes on IN the prison was fascinating. There is a fair amount of violence and language in the book, but I didn't feel it was excessive, especially given the topics.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that Earley separated each chapter out by character with a thread of the Cuban prisoner situation running throughout the novel. But, only a partial part of the inmate's/guard's story was told in each chapter, so by the time I got back around to the person, I had forgotten the details. By the end, I could tell you a long list of things that happened, but I couldn't tell you who committed what crime, what happened while that person was in prison, or what happened to them once the book was over (with the exception of a sociopath who spent most of the two years in solitary confinement). I'm not sure if there would have been a better way to present the material, and it could have been because I was on vacation and only reading a little bit here and there, but in the end everyone's story was a little interchangeable.

Do I recommend it? Like I said--it's hard to look away. Isn't everyone just a little bit interested in the criminal mind and how it works? Even just a tinsy bit?

Also reviewed by: Kari and Laura (incidentally also both coworkers, although not the one mentioned above--this book has definitely made the rounds!) Also, Stephanie reviewed this one.
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