Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Hardcover: 241 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Published Date: September 2006
FTC: bought at library book sale

Cormac McCarthy is one of those authors I've always wanted to check out.  Besides The Road, he wrote No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and Blood Meridian.  It seems as if he writes mainly about the western expansion period in American history.  I am absolutely fascinated with that time era - I even took a history of the American West class.  However, The Road doesn't deal with the past but the future.

My synopsis:

In the not so distant future, a father and son and traveling by foot along the road trying to get to the coast.  The world has burned.  Why? Who knows. Does it really matter?  What matters is survival and maintaining humanity.

My thoughts:

The first thing I noticed while reading The Road is the brevity of the sentences.  I'll admit that it took me a bit to switch gears to get into this kind of writing. For instance, page 14

In the morning they went on. Desolate country. A boardhide nailed to a barndoor. Ratty. Wisp of a tail. Inside the barn three bodies hanging from the rafters, dried and dusty among the wan slats of light.

See what I mean?  Some sentences aren't even sentences.  They are a word or two.  There's no chapters.  Just short paragraphs.  The father and son talk to each other but there isn't a huge amount of it.  They are just the man and the boy - no names.
While it may take a few pages to get into the rhythm of the writing, it definitely works.  The writing sucks you in.  Time ceases to exist.  Since there are no chapters there is a lack of time frame in the book and days or weeks could pass with a single sentence.  I found it absolutely absorbing.

The only only problem I had with this book is that I watched the movie a while back so I knew what to expect.  I shouldn't have done that. It totally ruined the slow build to the culmination of the story.  If you HAVE read the book or don't plan on reading it - watch the movie.  From what I remember they did an amazing job adapting the story.

I also found the story making me think a lot about life.  I just had a son - he's about 18 weeks old right now and it makes you think.  How far would you go to protect your son? If it was life or death situation, could you take the life of your child to protect him/her?  So scary.  I was fascinated with what happened to the mother of the boy.  No spoilers here - but her decision was interesting - I could totally understand and at the same time never fathom what she decided to do.

Side note: I also loved that he made the son - born after whatever happened to the world - to be such a truly good person.  While the desperate time brought out the worst in most of humanity, it was wonderful to see this little boy maintain his humanity and compassion. 

Does this book fit the RIP Challenge requirements?  Absolutely.  There was a moment when I was reading the book - completely dark bedroom with just my book light - my husband and son sleeping nearby - and I was terrified.

This book also gets me going on the NPR Top 100 Sci Fi/Fantasy list - totally agree it belongs on the list.

And because I watched the movie first, the father will always be Viggo Mortensen:

Also Reviewed By:

Medieval Bookworm

Friday, September 23, 2011

European Queens Giveaway Winners!

I have been absolutely horribly belated in picking the winners for the European Queens Giveaway.  You can check out my reviews for Reign of Madness and Becoming Marie Antoinette.

Without further ado, the winner of Becoming Marie Antoinette is:

Marie at Boston Bibliophile (great blog, go check her out)

The winner of Reign of Madness is:

Colleen T.

I'll be sending emails out stat and thanks to everyone who entered!!  Thank you TLC Book Tours for letting me read, review and give away such awesome books.  Stay tuned for more giveaways!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Arrow Chest - Robert Parry

Title: The Arrow Chest
Author: Robert Parry
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Published Date: January 2011

I love that I picked this one up as my first R.I.P. Challenge read.  What a wonderful Victorian Gothic story.  Take a struggling artist, throw in a muse, and a little Anne Boleyn ghost story and you've got The Arrow Chest.  By the way....Anne Boleyn was buried in a chest built for arrows because it fit her small size sans head - thus the title.  Spooky, right?

Back of the book:

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realizes she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realizes he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

My thoughts:

This book hooked me right from the start.  It has one of the best intros I've read in a long while. It starts with Amos Roselli called in to sketch what is believed to be the bones of Anne Boleyn.  Then something ghostly happens.  I don't want to tell you much though.  It was such an awesome creepy start to kick off the Gothic story.  Amos Roselli is then summoned by his friend muse, Daphne, to come visit and paint her wealthy husband.

I have to say that have yet to be disappointed with Robert Parry's writing.  His novel Virgin and the Crab (my review) is the best book on Queen Elizabeth I that I have yet to read.  I love that Roselli and Daphne are such lovely characters.  Being a painter and a woman possibly marrying for money, they could have been annoying and trite but they weren't.  My favorite character was the wonderfully loyal young housekeeper of Roselli's, Beth.  While I was expecting a slightly more ghost story and a bit more Anne Boleyn creepiness - the subtleness of the similarities between Daphne and Anne Boleyn was by far more impressive.  With beautifully written and engaging characters, The Arrow Chest was the perfect Victorian Gothic tale to jump start the Autumn and RIP season.

By the way, I adore Pre-Raphaelites and I thought Roselli was an awesome fictional painter.  I was Googling around and found this painting:

From Scandalous Women

This is what I imagine Daphne to look like in the book.  Anyone know who painted it or who it is?

*** Robert Parry emailed me after I wrote this review and I'm just going to include what he wrote:

Dear Amanda,
Just to say a big Thank You for your review of The Arrow Chest yesterday - which I thought was just delightful, and I am so pleased you enjoyed reading it. I really like the painting you discovered, by the way. I asked a few art wizards on Facebook if they could identify it and they came up with the Victorian actress Lillie Langtry, painted by Sir Edward John Poynter in 1877. So spot on in terms of timing - the very year in which most of the action in the story takes place. I have a photo album on Facebook of fantasy illustrations for the Arrow Chest, and I am going to add this to it.

With Kind Regards,

***How cool is that coincidence?  Check out the Facebook page for The Arrow Chest - I'm perusing the photos there right now.

Just a side note:

Being a tad bit of a cover snob, I was curious about this unique cover. It honestly is perfectly dark but not my favorite.  I do love though that in the inside of the book it says the picture is "Daphne" by Amos Roselli.  Ok.  That's pretty cool even though someone wrote on this post of mine that it looked like her 1987 prom dress.  What do you think?

Also Reviewed By:

Maelgwns Muse
Historical Fiction & Q&A
Luxury Reading & Guest Post
Historical Tapestry  & Why Robert Parry Loves Pre-Raphelites
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Peeking Between the Pages (Robert Parry Guest Post)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. - Sam Wasson

Title: Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman
Author: Sam Wasson
Paperback: 231 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published Date: August 30, 2011
FTC: review copy from TLC Book Tours

When I saw TLC Book Tours was touring Sam Wasson's book Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. I was so intrigued.  Breakfast at Tiffany's is such an iconic movie.  I adore old movies.  TCM is my favorite TV channel and I love Audrey Hepburn (although my big brother is even a bigger fan) and we grew up watching her movies.  I also grew up listening to my dad's records - one being Henry Mancini - and even today I sing Moon River to my little guy.  When my brother visited us in New York, we made a point to see Tiffany's - it was around Christmas so we didn't do breakfast there but we still snagged a photo (see end of review).

Why does this all matter?  Because like Sam Wasson's P.S. section at the end of the book, I too find it amazing that almost everyone knows the image of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly - even if they've never seen the movie.

While Breakfast at Tiffany's isn't my favorite Hepburn movie, it is definitely, I think, the most iconic.  Why?

I found her character so intriguing that it spawned my interest in the original story by Truman Capote - an author I came to respect after reading In Cold Blood in high school.  While living in New York, I found a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's at a library book sale and snagged it up.  You can read my review here.


What amazed me even more is how a story about a call girl could be adapted in the sixties during strict production codes, and how woman today just think the movie is so "romantic."  I wanted to know what Capote thought of his story being altered to fit the time period's strict code and how Audrey Hepburn went from sweet Princess Ann in Roman Holiday to an iconic sex symbol.

Coming back to Sam Wasson's book, I found it fascinating.  He divides the book into eight chapters and just look at the chapter titles: Thinking It, Wanting It, Seeing It, Touching It, Liking It, Doing It, Loving It, Wanting More.  Then he lists the cast of characters such as Hepburn, Blake Edwards (director), and co-stars such as Marilyn Monroe.  Did you know Monroe wanted to play the part of Holly Golightly? What a different movie it would have been.  There's also a really cool map listing Holly Golightly's New York.  How I wish I had this when I lived there.  He even includes a photo of Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard sitting at the fountain that was right next door to my work on Park Avenue where I'd sometimes sit and have lunch.  So cool.

While sometimes I felt like Sam Wasson's book was a bit like a college thesis expanded, his writing more than made up for it.  While non-fiction, he writes with such character that it was never boring or long.  I would sit down to read a few pages and then realize that I had read a good twenty pages or so.  You could really breeze right through it in a sitting or two.  At the end of the book he recognizes that while non-fiction, he didn't want to pepper it with a ton of citations.  So he lists some of his sources and notes at the end and even those were chock full of interesting facts.

If you are a fan of Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, old movies, or can just relate to Holly Golightly - a "dreamer of dreams" - then this is the book for you.

Here's the photo my brother took of me at Tiffany's:

Sam’s Tour Dates

Tuesday, August 30th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Thursday, September 1st: Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, September 6th: Reading Lark
Wednesday, September 7th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Thursday, September 8th: Books Like Breathing
Monday, September 12th: Elle Lit.
Tuesday, September 13th: Amused By Books
Wednesday, September 14th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Thursday, September 15th: Alison’s Book Marks
Monday, September 19th: A Library of My Own
Tuesday, September 20th: The Road to Here
Wednesday, September 21st: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Friday, September 23rd: My Bookshelf

Visit Sam at his website,, follow him on Twitter, and friend him on Facebook.

Friday, September 2, 2011

RIP VI Challenge

O yeah. It's that time again. How cool is Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings?  He's been hosting the R.I.P. Challenge for SIX years!!  What would we all do if he decided to take a year off? I shudder at the thought!

This will be the fourth time I've joined up.  Here's my posts on RIP III, RIP IV, and RIP V.  I have to say this is my all-time favorite challenge.  Besides the advent of college football (WAR EAGLE!!!), September marks RIP season and I just adore the feeling of reading gothic and dark literature.  Especially now that we live in Vegas again and it still feels like full-blown summer outside.  I can not wait for the cooler weather.

What is the R.I.P. Challenge?  From Carl's site:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Dark Fantasy.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.
There are two simple goals for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

As I do each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.I.P. VI without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.

R.I.P. VI officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. 

I usually sign up for Peril the First - which is read Four books.  You know me though, I can't just pick four.  A few weeks ago I was rummaging around my bookshelves for picks for the challenge.  I think my husband thought I was nuts but was smart enough not to ask what his crazy wife was doing.  Here's my stack:

I also have an alternate stack:

I ALSO have some books I've requested from the library.  And right now I'm listening to the audio version of The Name of the Wind:

I just finished reading The Arrow Chest this morning.  I'll have a review up soon.  Such a perfect Gothic tale to start the challenge:

I also love listening to new music and I found Christina Perri's music to be so lovely.  Little Man is loving it too.  Here's a great moody music video to start the reading season.  Enjoy!

Almost forgot!! Here is the review site - check out who else has signed up and what they are reading!

Carl V is also doing a group read of a few books.  I might join in on The Lantern if I get the book in time.

What I've Read:

The Map of Time - Felix J. Palma
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
The Arrow Chest - Robert Parry
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
The Redbreast - Jo Nesbø

Thursday, September 1, 2011

30 Days of Lists

Pic from

So I was perusing some of my favorite blogs and I came across Click. The Good News' post on a cool thing called 30 Days of Lists.  Check out her posts here and here.

Anyways, so I decided to check it out and sign up.

I feel a little scattered right now.  I just had a baby, we just moved (again), I feel like the house is a wreck because we moved in when I was pregnant....anyway....

I love love lists.  I always have notebooks, scraps of paper, etc just jotting down lists and thoughts.

While picking up some groceries at Target, I came across this awesome Moleskine notebook on clearance for under 2 bucks.  Awesome, right?

My Book of Lists

So today's to-do is: Goals for This Month

I have so many goals.  And not just for this month.  I have a lot of fixing up on my blog - finish the blog roll list, update my review list so all the links are for this blog and not my old one, transfer reviews to GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc.

I have personal goals.  Our house is a mess so I am working room to room to clean and organize.  Can you guess that I am making a cleaning list?  Things that need cleaning daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

I am going to stop using Flickr and start using Google to manage my blog photos. I also need to print out some more photos of Little Rocket to send to family.

I've been working out a bit but I want to get on a schedule and a plan to get back into running and maybe eventually be able to run for causes again.  Since my dad passed from Leukemia, it's been on my heart to join a Team in Training.

I need to manage my clothes.  I seriously lack in the wardrobe department.  That and a ton of my clothes don't fit well anymore or I just lack a lot of basics.  My jewelry is also a big jumbled mess from the move, so I want to re-organize all that.

These are just some of the on-going list of things I want to accomplish.  What do you think? Do you have goals you want to accomplish this month?  Do you love lists?