Guest Review: The Green Beauty Guide

green-guideSheri from the terrific blog Bookopolis reviewed The Green Beauty Guide for TLC Book Tours and agreed to share her thoughts here at Books on the Brain.  Thanks, Sheri!

BIG THANKS to Lisa of TLC Book Tours for organizing this tour and HCI Books for my review copy!

The Green Beauty Guide” by Julie Gabriel 

Published by HCI Books

“The Green Beauty Guide” is a must-have book for anyone who wants to become more environmentally conscious and learn about organic beauty products. Even those who already know a lot about green beauty will inevitably learn something new from this incredibly comprehensive guide. From green product recommendations to money-saving tips to a beauty detox regimen, this book has it all.

After delving into “The Green Beauty Guide” it is clear that Julie Gabriel is an expert in the field and has done a tremendous amount of research. All of the information is supported by data and scientific facts, which really proves Ms. Gabriel’s points and makes the book as credible as it is educational. There are some excellent chapters on the nature of skin and the dangers of certain toxins found in commonly used products, which I’ll admit was pretty alarming! I am glad that I now have this invaluable resource that will be put to good use. In the back of the book there is even a list of recommended resources, as well as 100 toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid (talk about thorough!)

I have taken away a lot from this book, such as what ingredients to look for in beauty products and definitely which ones to avoid. Some of my favorite tips are those that teach you how to detect true organic products from gimmicks.
Certainly the most fun parts of this book are the ‘do-it-yourself green beauty’ that provide some really great recipes for cleansers, toners, facials, moisturizers, lip balms, fragrances and much more. 

“The Green Beauty Guide” is an informative and practical guide with fun recipes, product recommendations, and important information that has educated me on how to be a smarter, safer and more environmentally conscious consumer.

About the author, Julie Gabriel:

Julie Gabriel is a registered nutrition specialist (RHN) educated at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She launched a series of workshops titled ‘New Mom’s Diet’ in Toronto. She is in the process of launching her own organic skincare line called Petite Marie Organics. This line is being released April 2008.

She has been writing and editing fashion and beauty for about 15 years. In 1992 she worked in production at CNN’s Style with Elsa Klensch. She was the associate beauty editor in Harper’s Bazaar (Eastern European editions, 1998-2000), beauty editor in Atmospheres (2001-2001) and has written over five hundred articles and features on fashion, beauty and lifestyle.

Visit Julie Gabriel’s The Green Beauty website for green beauty tips, recipes and much more!

Be sure to check out the last tour stop tomorrow, Thursday, December 11th at B & B ex libris!
Here are Julie Gabriel’s past TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: 

Monday, November 17th: Allie’s Answers
Tuesday, November 18th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Wednesday, November 19th: Nature Moms Blog
Thursday, November 20th: Books and Cooks
Monday, November 24th: Green Phone Booth and Going Green
Tuesday, November 25th: The Good Human
Wednesday, November 26th: OrganicBeautySource.com
Friday, November 28th: Crunchy Chicken
Monday, December 1st: Surely You Nest
Tuesday, December 2nd: Greenstylemom
Wednesday, December 3rd: Rawdorable
Thursday, December 4th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, December 5th: Presenting Lenore
Monday, December 8th: Red Lady’s Reading Room
Tuesday, December 9th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Guest Review: Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

home_daughter

Following is a review of Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage, reviewed by Florinda of the fabulous blog, 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness. Thanks, Florinda, for sharing your thoughts on this book with our readers!

 TLC Book Tour Book Talk: “Somebody Else’s Daughter,” by Elizabeth Brundage

 Somebody Else’s Daughter

Elizabeth Brundage

Viking, 2008 (Hardcover) (ISBN 0670019003 / 9780670019007)

Fiction, 352 pages

 

First Sentence: We left San Francisco that morning even though your mother was sick. (Read an excerpt from the book’s prologue.) 

Book Description (summary): In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa—now a teenager and one of Nate’s students—lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women’s shelter, her friendship with Petra, a troubled young prostitute, raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parents’ love and care, Willa can’t shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness. 

Somebody Else’s Daughter is filled with doppelgangers. Pairs of characters mirror each other forcing each one to confront the darker side of his or her psyche and question their own identity. Nate and Joe (Willa’s biological and adoptive fathers) both fall in love with Claire, a feminist artist who recently returned to the area. Pioneer’s headmaster Jack Heath and Joe are both fathers of teenage girls, each with his own secrets to keep. Willa and Petra (Pearl) are both orphaned girls, yet one has been given a caring home and the other turns to prostitution. 

The characters become more entwined as first scandal and then tragedy strikes. As the story draws to its gripping conclusion, each character must make a decision that defines who they are. Somebody Else’s Daughter is a suspenseful tale and a tightly woven psychological drama that examines, as Joe Golding observes, how “in a matter of seconds, based on the fickle inclinations of fate, your life could change forever.” 

Comments:  I wish I hadn’t been reading this book in the midst of my recent packing-and-moving adventure; I would have liked to be able to read it in a few sessions rather than in small chunks over several weeks. Somebody Else’s Daughter is an engrossing book, but there are quite a few characters and subplots, and having to take so many breaks while reading it threw off my momentum and sometimes made it difficult to re-orient myself to the story. I think if you have the time, this would be a pretty fast read. 

Elizabeth Brundage’s second novel covers a relatively short chronology – less than a year – but a lot of psychological and relationship territory in this story of the community around a small prep school in the Berkshires. She introduces a lot of characters, and it takes a while to see how their stories will intersect, but have faith that eventually they will. 

At first glance, the “somebody else’s daughter” of the title seems to be Willa Golding, who came to her parents, Joe and Candace, via a private adoption as a baby. Her birth parents were drug addicts, and her natural mother died of AIDS on the day of the adoption. Willa’s biological father, Nate Gallagher, has cleaned up and become a writer and teacher; when a position at the Pioneer School, which she attends, opens up, he takes it as an opportunity to get to know the girl without revealing their relationship. 

However, “somebody else’s daughter” could be Candace, Willa’s adoptive mother, who was raised in foster homes herself. It could be Maggie Heath, who has always felt out of place with her husband Jack’s family, and who seems to share an eating disorder with her own daughter Ada. It could be Claire Squire, feminist artist and single mom, recently returned from Los Angeles and living in her father’s old house after his death. It could be Petra – also called Pearl (although I think I missed the point in the book where her name changed) – a young, drug-addicted prostitute who centralizes several of the novel’s story arcs. I like the fact that the title could refer to any or all of the characters. 

I think Brundage balances character and plot development pretty well overall in this novel, and nearly every element she introduces does end up connecting to the larger story at some point. As a reader, I usually do have confidence that authors will tie things together eventually, and I appreciate having that rewarded. I thought that nearly all of the major characters had complexity and depth, and given the number of characters and storylines that Brundage is juggling here, that appeals to me. 

There were some elements of the writing that distracted me from the story at times – minor things that seem like they could have been fixed with more (careful? thoughtful? anal-retentive?) editing – but they weren’t a serious impediment to my reading, since there was plenty of story to keep me interested. Brundage does use the “f-word” quite a bit, but in a character-appropriate manner. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that she has included some disturbing scenes that may seem gratuitous at first, but really are relevant to the story, including several graphic descriptions of pornography and a scene at a dogfight (which I found more unsettling than the porn). 

Book Club Discussion Guide questions for Somebody Else’s Daughter 

This was my first time reading any of Elizabeth Brundage’s fiction, but I think I will be checking out her first novel, The Doctor’s Wife. She has a way with character and story, and I thank TLC Book Tours for introducing me to her! 

Rating: 3.75/5

 

** Buy Somebody Else’s Daughter online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org, or BooksAMillion.com 

 

** Other stops on the TLC Book Tour for Somebody Else’s Daugher:

 

Monday, November 3rd: It’s All Fun & Games

Wednesday, November 5th: S. Krishna’s Books

Friday, November 7th: Mabel’s House

Wednesday, November 12th: Devourer of Books

Thursday, November 13th: All Thumbs Reviews

Friday, November 14th: Welcome to My Brain

Monday, November 17th: 1 More Chapter

Wednesday, November 19th: My New Reality

Friday, November 21st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, November 25th: The Friendly Book Nook

Tuesday, December 2nd: Bookroom Reviews

Thursday, December 4th: Pieces of Me

The Sunday Salon

img_11561Ahhh, Sunday, the one day all week we don’t have to race around to be anywhere.  Unless, of course, the church bully comes downstairs and asks, “Are we going to church?” in his accusatory “You’re all heathens!” tone, and if I say I don’t feel like it, he’ll be mad at me all morning.  

It’s weird how my husband has turned into this church guy.  He wasn’t like that the first decade we were together.  The only time I ever saw him inside a church was for a wedding or a funeral.  But now that we are PARENTS, and we have to set an EXAMPLE, he is the church bully.  If I had my way, we’d go maybe once a month.  If he had his way, we’d go twice a week.  So we end up going about 3 Sundays out of 4, and the other Sunday, he’s mad at me.  I always tell him that no one is preventing him from going by himself!

img_1101Anyway!  My daughter turned 11 this week, and we caved and got her a cell phone, so she is no longer the last girl on earth without one, and she’s pretty darn happy about it.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually.  I actually like the convenience of being able to get ahold of her when she’s at a friend’s house or she’s walking home from school.  She had a laser tag party with her friends last weekend, and then we celebrated on her actual birthday by having dinner at a place of her choosing (within reason, of course!).  She picked Olive Garden, because she really loves the fact that they bring basket after basket of steaming hot breadsticks.  “They just keep on coming, Mom!”  Yes they do, dear (oink, oink).  

We watched history being made Tuesday night as Barack Obama addressed a throng of supporters with his Yes, We Can acceptance speech.  My parents were here and my mother, a staunch Republican, said to no one in particular, “Well, I hope you people are happy!”  Thanks, Mom, we are!  My husband and I are Republicans who didn’t care for McCain at all, and thought he made a ridiculous choice in Palin, and who got very fed up with Dubyah, so we jumped ship.  If the Republicans could have given us a decent candidate, things might have been different.

Yesterday my daughters’ Girl Scout troops placed flags on the graves of veterans at Forest Lawn.  Many thanks to all the Veterans out there.  We are grateful and proud of you.

image003This week I read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists aloud to my kids for my book club meeting this afternoon.  Yes, it’s a children’s book for an ADULT book club, but our hostess is friends with the author so she will be attending our meeting.  The kids are coming too- should be interesting.  They’ve been very curious about what we do at book club (drink lots of wine and laugh and talk about books- so mysterious!) so now they’ll get to see for themselves.

I also read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, my book club pick for December, and have no idea how I’m going to review it without giving it away.  Maybe I’ll just put up a Publishers Weekly blurb and then insist that everyone go read it!  It was freaky and powerful.  I’ll have to read more Ishiguro (any suggestions?  The Remains of the Day?)  I read about 80 pages of The Zookeeper’s Wife, sent by WW Norton books for review.  They sent me two copies, so I’ll be giving one away soon.  However I don’t know when I’ll finish it.  It reads like a textbook and I was having a hard time with it, so I put it aside temporarily and started The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by TIffany Baker.  This one’s an ARC sent by Hachette that will be out in January.  It’s a debut novel, which is hard to believe because it is so well written.  So far I love it and I’m flying through it.  It has really well developed, quirky characters.  Also this week I finished scheduling for this virtual book tour and began scheduling for this one.  I’m looking for tour hosts, so let me know if it sounds interesting!

How was your week?  What are you reading?

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Book Bloggers, Readers, and Book Clubbers from author Jennie Shortridge

jennie2Dear book bloggers, book readers, and book club members,

In case you don’t already realize it, you are the future of the book publishing business. Where once it was seen as an exclusive club of intellectuals in New York, the reading public now rules, and that was never more evident to me than at Book Group Expo in San Jose in late October.

I think it all started with Amazon customer reviews, which at first the publishing world pooh-poohed as inconsequential. Now, everyone understands that they are one of the main ways people choose books to read. Publishers are embracing readers in ways they never have, now that they have a “voice” and can communicate with other readers. Book bloggers are the natural extention of that, and are welcomed with open arms into the book publishing community, as Jill and Trish and others noticed at Book Group Expo. I would say they were actually courted by authors and publicists alike. I attended a cocktail party thrown by Carol Fitzgerald of Book Report Network, a powerful force in the publishing biz, 9780451223883l1and loved  how diverse the group there was, including publishing people, authors, and yes, bloggers! My author friends all want my contacts in the blogging world, and my publisher is delighted that I’m on blog tour with TLC.

So readers, bloggers, book club members, thank you. Thank you for reading the books that don’t get all the marketing dollars, and for telling others when you like them. Thank you for taking the time to organize, to blog, to reach out to authors. We appreciate you all so much, and with your help, we can continue to do what we feel we must: write the stories that help us come together and talk about important issues, discover who we really are, or just spin a good yarn and forget about the economy and issues of the day.

You rock my world . . .
Jennie

Jennie Shortridge and her book Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, her 3rd published novel, is currently on a virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours (view the schedule HERE).

Review and Giveaway: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

With the success of HBO’s Big Love and the recent raid on the polygamist compound in Texas, there is a lot of interest in the subject of polygamy.  The idea of a harem:  one husband married to multiple wives, underage girls marrying much older men, huge households filled with children, a community cut off from the outside world, women in prairie dresses and braided hair, husbands keeping “marriage manager notebooks” to keep track of how often they visit their wives’ beds- it’s fascinating and titillating subject matter.

David Ebershoff takes on this sweeping topic in his book, The 19th Wife, giving the reader both a contemporary murder mystery and a historical view of plural marriage.   The stories are parallel and not totally interconnected, allowing the reader to get the big picture- the history and it’s effect on current times- without confusion. 

There is the historical story of Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young’s wives, who divorced him after 5 years and went on to help end polygamy by speaking out about it.   Told with depth and clarity, from many viewpoints and with various fictionalized documents, letters, and research papers (even a wikipedia entry!), we get a good sense of the history of the Mormon religion, the early days of the church and its Prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and the divine revelation of celestial marriage that nearly caused it’s downfall. 

There is also the modern day story of Jordan Scott, a gay 20 year old who was turned out of an FLDS polygamist household, ordered by his father to be dumped along the side of a highway by his mother at age 14 because he was caught holding the hand of his step sister.  Jordan, living in California, sees a news story on the internet about his mother, also a 19th wife, being arrested for killing his father.  He travels back to Utah to see his mother in prison to find out what happened.  He becomes convinced of her innocence and proceeds to investigate, with the help of his mother’s attorney, his secretary, Johnny (a street smart 12 year old, also turned out by the sect), and Tom-also gay and estranged from the Mormon Church because of it. 

I liked both stories very much and think that together they make for an intricate and well rounded portrayal of the complex issue of polygamy; the reasons it existed in the past and why it is still around on the fringes of society today.  While reading The 19th Wife, I wasn’t clear on what was fact and what was fiction, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.  It wasn’t until I read the Author’s Note and Acknowledgements at the end that I understood that the documents were entirely fictionalized, which was fine except I wished I’d known that from the beginning.  It was all very realistic and believable.  

The 19thWife is a great book.  It drew me in and put me into the minds of people struggling with their faith, questioning their beliefs and their leaders, and wrestling with difficult decisions, something we all do.  And isn’t that what excellent historical fiction should do-present differing viewpoints and make you think?  This book is wildly successful in that area! 

You can visit David’s website for all kinds of fascinating info at The19thWife.com.  It’s interesting to note that in 1875, Ann Eliza Young really did write a bestselling and controversial memoir, Wife No. 19, and you can download and read the original memoir from David’s site. 

So, have I piqued your interest?  Want to read the book yourself?  If you’d like a chance to win a hardcover First Edition copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, leave a comment here by Friday, November 7th.   So sorry- this is only open to residents of the US and Canada due to shipping expenses. 

I received this book as part of David’s TLC Book Tour, and he also generously sent me a 2nd signed and personalized copy to keep (thanks, David!) but what’s up with that date?  My calendar says 2008! 

David Ebershoff has been all around the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts.  Here’s his schedule if you’d like to follow his tour:

David Ebershoff’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, Oct. 15th:  Maw Books (Natasha got to meet David at a book signing!)

Thursday, Oct. 16th:  Maw Books (review)

Friday, Oct. 17th: Reading, ‘Riting, and Retirement (guest post and review)

Monday, Oct. 20th:  She Is Too Fond Of Books (will have another post soon with David answering questions from readers)

**Check out this post at She Is Too Fond Of Books about a book signing with David

Tuesday, Oct. 21st:  Age 30 – A Year in Books

Thursday, Oct. 23rd:  A High and Hidden Place

Monday, Oct. 27th:  It’s All About Books (guest post) and review

Tuesday, Oct. 28th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty (review and author interview)

Thursday, Oct. 30th:  Books on the Brain (giveaway)

Monday, Nov. 3rd:  The Cottage Nest

Tuesday, Nov. 4th:  B&B ex libris

Wednesday, Nov. 5th:  Anniegirl1138

Thursday, Nov. 6th:  The Tome Traveller

Friday, Nov. 7th:  Educating Petunia

Monday, Nov. 10th:  The Literate Housewife

Wednesday,  Nov. 12th:  Diary of an Eccentric

Friday, Nov. 14th:  Book Chase

Guest Review: The Best Place to Be by Lesley Dormen

Ellen, a very cool New Yorker from the very cool blog Wormbook (please stop by!), wrote an excellent review of Lesley Dormen’s The Best Place to Be, currently on a virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours, which I am publishing here with Ellen’s permission.  Enjoy!

If you somehow haven’t read it yet, Melissa Bank’s instantly successful novel THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING presents a chronicle of a woman growing up through various episodes, mostly involving some man, which don’t so much build as layer over each other to deliver a portrait. Often imitated but never duplicated, Bank’s work is also probably the most popular contemporary novel in stories, but retains the chronological orientation of a more classic novel. Much more interesting — and more difficult to pull off — is the out-of-order sequence of Lesley Dormen’s book THE BEST PLACE TO BE, in which each story acts simultaneously as a self-contained story and another shade to the portrait of New Yorker Grace Hanford.

The first inkling I got that this book wouldn’t be just another Bank pretender was the mention, in the opening story “The Old Economy Husband,” of… well, a husband. Dormen doesn’t try to build suspense over whether her character, who in later chapters is single, attached and having affairs, will ever reach that conventional chick-lit milestone of getting hitched. And honestly, Grace’s relationships with men in THE BEST PLACE TO BE often take a back seat to other relationships in her life, from the disappearance of a close friend in college to the strain she feels trying to communicate openly with her mother. Each story is built up over a string of sensually evoked moments, from an early dinner of lobster tails to the sight of her husband reading late at night in a hotel tub.

Grace’s career is secondary to the novel, true, but her life is not without event, albeit the kind of small turns of which most lives have been built. But as we travel back in time, a portrait develops without the self-consciousness of “explaining” how Grace ended up the way she is in “The Old Economy Husband.” Her rocky rapport (often lack thereof) with her father and stepfather are turns in themselves, not (or not merely) insights into her future relationships with men. These causal relationships are so often forced in the service of epiphany or drama, it’s a relief that Grace herself isn’t able to reconcile all these stories of her past into her current self. That might not be the best place to be, but it’s a place we can all get to.

Wormbook was the first stop on Lesley Dormen’s blog book tour for the paperback release of THE BEST PLACE TO BE. You can download a PDF excerpt from the book at Dormen’s Website, LesleyDormen.com

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday!  I have so much catching up to do, it’s ridiculous.  First, before another second goes by, let me announce the winners of two contests that were over long ago!  Valerie M. is the winner of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot DVD collection contest!  AND Shana from Literarily is the winner of Sweetsmoke by David Fuller!  Congrats to the winners!

My husband came home from China this week.  His business trip was extended an extra day due to a typhoon, but fortunately he got out ok and made it home without incident.  The kids divebombed him the second he walked through the door- “Daddy, daddy, we missed you, what’d ya bring me???”  He had all kinds of junk ancient Chinese artifacts.  My oldest was especially excited because her 6th grade class is studying ancient China right now.  She freaked out when she discovered he’d seen the Terra Cotta Warriors– he had no idea she was studying that in school and couldn’t believe how much she knew about it. Her class had a field trip Friday to the Bowers Museum to see the amazing Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit, the largest display of Emperor Qin’s army of 7,000 soldiers outside of China, where she proudly boasted that her daddy had been there just last week.  

My younger daughter (of I Hate You, Mom fame) was just happy to get a red shirt and red pajamas from China (red being her favorite color) along with lots of other cheap souvenirs I have no place to put lovely keepsakes.

I’ve been without a camera since March, when my old NIkon went in the shop and never came out. Apparently a 5 year old digital camera is an antique that is nearly impossible to get parts for.  I finally gave up hope of ever getting it back and bought myself a sweeeet new camera- a Canon EOS Rebel Digital SLR. It arrived this week from Best Buy Online (free shipping!) and all I want to do is play with it!  I LOVE IT and have been so busy reading the manual and figuring out all the features that I haven’t done much other reading.  (The picture on top is the first pic I took with my new camera.)  I’m still working on Peony in Love by Lisa See for my book club and it’s wonderful.  I plan to devote a couple of hours to it today.  Or maybe I’ll just take pictures.  We’ll see.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that we have two new TLC Book Tours starting this week:  Lesley Dormen, author of The Best Place to Be (tour schedule HERE), and Kim Powers, author of Capote in Kansas (tour schedule HERE), will be making the rounds.  

What have you been up to this week?

Sunday Salon

It’s finally SUNDAY!  I think a lot of us bloggers have a BBAW hangover this weekend.  So many posts to read, so many giveaways, so many awards and so much excitement!  It was a great week, put on by the tireless My Friend Amy, who did a phenomenal job putting it all together and keeping track of everything.  A round of applause for AMY!  (clap, clap, clap)

My BBAW giveaways will be ending this week too;  this one on Monday, and this one on Tuesday.  Hurry and enter if you haven’t already!

Fall has arrived here in Southern California. I used to love this time of year growing up in Michigan- back to school, sweater weather, fall colors, apple picking.  The change of seasons is more subtle in So. Cal. but when you’ve lived her awhile you start to notice small things.  We go from hot to warm, green to brown, and dry to not quite as dry, over the course of several months.  It’s still blazing hot right now, but it cools off in the evenings, and it’s chilly in the early morning.  The kids are back in school (and already have tons of homework), and by next weekend we’ll start to see pumpkins and scarecrows on porches to remind us that it’s fall, since the weather doesn’t offer much of a clue.

I’ve got so much reading lined up but it’s a challenge to find time.  My husband is in China on business, so I’ve been a “single mom” for the past week.  Things I’ve had to do without him include:

* going to Back to School night alone

* taking the girls on an overnight campout at their school (I  made the kids put the tent up, so it wasn’t that bad- it was just the carting things back and forth and the sleeping on the ground that sucked!)

* dealing with the emotions (“I miss daddy” sniff sniff)

* hauling the garbage cans to the curb and back (his job)

* feeding the dog and picking up poop (also his job)

* taking my youngest to her golf lesson (always a daddy/daughter thing)  

On the plus side, I’ve only cooked dinner once all week.  A couple nights we had leftovers, a couple nights we went out, and one night we had “breakfast for dinner”.  Oh, and I haven’t shaved my legs.  Ha!

Right now I’m reading Peony in Love by Lisa See.  I’ve wanted to read this since it came out, but was waiting for my book club to vote it in.  So far I LOVE it.  I was already a big fan after reading Snow Flower, now I’m a bigger fan.  Her writing is so lush and evocative- you get such a sense of the surroundings, you can almost smell the jasmine on the breeze.  Lisa is going to join our book club meeting in October by speaker phone and we could not be more excited!  

Next on the TBR pile is Immortal by Traci Slatton for Jennifer’s online book club at Literate Housewives (not to be confused with her regular blog, Literate Housewife). This one is somehow a cross between historical fiction and time travel.  It’s set in Florence in the 14th century, and the back cover says something about a golden boy having to make a choice between immortality and his only chance to find his true love (I’m paraphrasing wildly).  

After that, it’s on to The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for a TLC Book Tour stop here on October 30th.  It’s about Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  There’s also a parallel story about a present day murder in a polygamist family.  I can’t wait to start it.  

And last, but hopefully not least, I’ll be reading Run by Ann Patchett.  The only Patchett I’ve read is Bel Canto, which I intensely disliked, but because my friend Jill at Fizzy Thoughts liked Run so much, and then offered to send me her copy, I’m going to give it a try.  I’m also interested in Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face), so I’m going to give her a second chance, and then possibly a third.  

I’m curious- If you’ve read a book that you didn’t like at all, do you give an author another chance and read more of their work?  Or do you “fire them” forever?  

Happy Sunday!

Review: Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers

Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers is an unusual novel, with a fascinating cast of (real life) characters, a strange plot, and interesting settings.  Powers blends fact and fiction to create a dreamlike portrait of lifelong friends Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and (Nelle) Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), close as children but estranged in adulthood after their relationship took a wrong turn.  

The book opens with a troubled and fearful Truman calling his former confidante Nelle late at night, twenty years after they’d last spoken, claiming to be visited by Nancy Clutter, the murdered teenage girl from In Cold Blood.  Sensible Nelle, bitter from all the hurt and all the years that have gone by without word from Truman, writes this off as nonsense.  However Truman, in a fog of booze and drugs, has shaken Nelle’s world and awakened long buried memories.  And when a ghost appears to Nelle too, it seems that perhaps these ghosts are real and not just the alcohol fueled rantings of a pitiful, paranoid Truman.  What follows is an original story of spirits, strange packages, misunderstandings, secrets, and lies. 

My favorite sections of the book are Nelle’s sections, with vivid memories of her childhood friendship, and later, her time in Kansas with her strange little friend Truman, researching the Clutter’s murders for In Cold Blood.  The end, where we find out the true nature of the hauntings, was anti climactic. 

I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, which detailed his fascination with these celebrated authors and gave full disclosure about what was and was not fact.  The people were real but the thoughts and dialogue were all products of Kim Powers’ vivid imagination.  I had a small issue with taking such creative license with a person who is still alive, especially one as famously private as Harper Lee-placing her at real events where he knew she’d never actually attended.  

Readers who are fans of To Kill a Mockingbird or In Cold Blood will enjoy this the most.  I haven’t read In Cold Blood but I never felt like I was missing some key piece of information while reading Capote in Kansas.  I just think it would have enhanced the experience for me.  

If this review is a bit too wordy and you’d like to see it in haiku form (only 17 syllables!), click HERE.

Capote in Kansas will be available in paperback beginning September 22nd.

Want to know more? Visit (Mr.) Kim Powers’ website HERE.  Book clubs can find discussion questions HERE.

Kim Powers and Capote in Kansas will be on tour, virtually, through TLC Book Tours in October- what better time for a Southern ghost story? You can see the full schedule HERE.

Sunday Salon

This is the last Sunday of summer vacation. My brats kids go back to school on Tuesday, and we are all excited (mostly me!) This summer felt about two weeks too long- you know it’s time to get back to the routine when everyone is fighting and whining and just generally not getting along. Sadly we have reached that point. My kids and I have been riding an emotional rollercoaster with huge peaks and terrifying valleys and all I can do is hang on and hope I don’t puke. I’ll be doing the happy dance in the school parking lot after dropping them off in 48 hours.

We crammed as much fun into this last week of vacation as we could stand. We visited Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time (The Simpsons virtual reality ride alone is worth the price of admission!). We made one last run to the water park before our passes expire. We had 10 giggly Girl Scouts camp out in a tent in the backyard. We went swimming at Grandma’s and cooked marshmallows over a fire. It’s been a fun overload. Too much fun. A fun frenzy. I feel a little dizzy and sick. You know how you can feel sick from eating too much candy? It’s like that.

School shopping took up a lot of our time this week, too. After checking out the class lists yesterday (which brought tears to my 9 year olds eyes because she and her best friend were separated) we went shopping for school supplies. School clothes and shoes and haircuts and backpacks and lunchboxes have wreaked havoc on an already tight budget, and the supplies busted it entirely. It made me crazy to pay full price for school supplies knowing full well it would all be 60% off in a week or two. But what are you gonna do? Schools have no money and kids need all this stuff.

I did do a little reading this week, but not much. I’m still reading Sweetsmoke (click HERE to enter my giveaway)- the book is great and it’s not the book’s fault that it’s taking me so long to read it. It’s just my vida loca and my forgetfulness- I would have had a couple extra hours with it if I hadn’t forgotten to grab it on our way out the door to Universal. Luckily for me I had my new book club selection in the trunk, so I started reading that. 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson isn’t exactly a page-turner, but it’s good in it’s way. You should read it- it’s important, this book, but not enthralling. Like healthy food vs. junk food. Or like One a Day multiple vitamins. It’s good for you.

After 115 pages, I can also report that 3 Cups of Tea has one of the ickiest scenes I’ve come across in recent memory. After Greg witnesses a yak take a “huge, steaming” dump in the snow, a 10 year old girl races over and starts making yak dung patties- yes, that’s right, while it’s still oozing and steaming, she’s got her little hands in there, and pat, pat, pat, she’s making patties. Why? Because when it dries, it becomes precious fuel for their homes. Say it with me- Ewwwwwww. I kept thinking, how will she wash her hands? They have no running water, no hand sanitizers or anti bacterial soap. They’d have to melt snow over a (yak dung) fire, I suppose, so that she could wash up. And what do you want to bet she’s not sick a day in her life? Do you know how many times a day I say “Wash your hands”? My kids still get sick 3 or 4 times a year! Maybe I should send them to the back yard to make Golden Retriever dung patties.

We will be attending a wedding this afternoon. Our neighbor’s lovely 23 year old daughter is marrying her high school sweetheart. We’ve been neighbors since she was 5 years old so we’ve watched her grow up. It’s almost like one of my own kids getting married. She babysat our children from the time she was 14 until she went away to college and they adore her too. I’ve already stuffed my purse with tissues because there will be tears.

Labor Day Monday will be a day of relaxing and resting and getting ready for school. And then on Tuesday, yippee! The 1st day of school! Woo Hoo! Partaaaaaay!

Tuesday is also the beginning of our first TLC Book Tours!! We will have Kathyrn Maughan and Did I Expect Angels on tour (click here to see where she will be) along with Kathleen McCleary and House and Home (click here). We’ve also signed several new tours for October and November. Check it out!

What are you up to this weekend? And what are you reading?