Wednesday, December 31, 2008

City of Ember

I had honestly never heard of Jeanne DuProu's Books of Ember series before the movie came out recently. I was pretty intrigued with the premise though so I thought I'd check the first book, The City of Ember. I was pleasantly surprised at what a great little story it is.

Doon and Lina are two twelve-year olds who live in a city that has no natural light. The city is illuminated by lights from a large generator. Generations have lived in this manner and no one knows of any different sort of life. But the generator is slowly going out. Blackouts are becoming more common. And the food supply is starting to dwindle.

When Lina finds a box with cryptic instructions (cryptic because her baby sister chewed on them) for "egress", Doon and Lina hope they have found a way out of their city to a better place.

I thought this was a wonderful story for children and it was very well written. I also thought it was a bit more accessible (simpler writing) than say The Golden Compus. But then again I don't have kids so... But it was good enough for me to probably pick up the next couple of books in the series and possibly see the movie.

The movie poster:
Doon and Lina:Have you read the book or seen the movie? What are your thoughts?

Also Reviewed By:
Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books
Today's Adventure

Dewey's Books Reading Challenge

When I returned from our trip to Egypt I was saddened to hear that a fellow book blogger, Dewey, had passed away. Her blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, was/is very popular. She was such a huge member of this community.

So when I heard about the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge for reading some books Dewey had read and reviewed, I thought this would be a great way to remember her.

Here's the link for posting the Challenge Reviews.

So I am going to read six books, one from each year she posted.

Amanda's Dewey Books

2003: Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer

2004: The Inner Circle - T.C. Boyle

2005: Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

2006: Outlander (Book 1) - Diana Gabaldon

2007: Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman (Finished May 23, 2009)

2008: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman (Finished Nov 20, 2009)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sci Fi Experience

If you haven't checked out Carl's blog, Stainless Steel Droppings before, you should now. He's got some great posts and great challenges. Remember the R.I.P. III one?

Well his new one, the Sci Fi Experience for 2009 is one I'm going to join as well. The experience runs from January 1st through February 28th, 2009. There is really no rules except to enjoy the genre of sci fi. But if you want to read some sci fi books, you can join up the Sci Fi Experience Book Review site.

I personally love sci fi. My dad always had a ton of books lying around that I'd grab and read. And I always loved watching sci fi movies and shows. Some of my favorites?

So here's a list of books I will try and read:

Dune - Frank Herbert
Paul of Dune - Brian Herbert
Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert
Children of Dune - Frank Herbert
The Mirror of Her Dreams - Stephen R. Donaldson
A Man Rides Through - Stephen R. Donaldson
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein

Books Read:

1. A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs (Finished January 28, 2009)

2. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (Finished January 30, 2009)

3. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut (Finished February 06, 2009)

4. Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (Finished February 05, 2009)

5. The Mirror of Her Dreams - Stephen R. Donaldson (Finished January 19, 2009)

6. A Man Rides Through - Stephen R. Donaldson (Finished January 28, 2009)

7. Dune - Frank Herbert (Finished February 9, 2009)

8. Paul of Dune - Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (Finished February 16, 2009)

9. World War Z - Max Brooks (Finished February 18, 2009)

10. The Host - Stephenie Meyer (Finished February 22, 2009)

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

I was recently wanting a pretty light and easy read since the end of the year is wrapping up. I had just won a copy of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler from the lovely people at Jane Austen Today. So I thought I'd give it a try.

And it was exactly what I needed. It wasn't mind blowing or my favorite book but it was a fun little read. Here's the synopsis:

Courtney Stone is nursing a broken heart (cheating fiance) by reading a copy of Pride and Prejudice (her favorite book). She falls asleep and wakes up in nineteenth-century England. But she wakes up as a lady named Jane Mansfield. worries you die hard Austen fans...she doesn't ruin a Jane Austen novel. But she looks, talks, and has a few random memories of this Jane Mansfield. So she must figure out why this happened, what happened to the real Jane Mansfield, and what she has to do to get herself back to her own time period.

What made this novel a pretty fun read was the fact that the nineteenth-century wasn't as glossy and romantic as Courtney realized. She had to get over the smells, the once a week bathing, the clothing, everything Jane Austen didn't write about. And I liked that Courtney didn't pop into an Austen novel (but for fans there is an Austen cameo appearance).

So this may not be a book for everyone, but it was a quick fun read which was perfect for the end of the year.
Also Reviewed by:
Socrates' Book Reviews
She is Too Fond of Books
Bookroom Reviews
Booking Mama
A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore
The Written Word

Oh, and for those of you who've read or want to read this, there is a sequel-ish book coming out soon called Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.

The Reason Why

Happy Almost New Year!

I have been very horrible at updating this blog recently but that will soon come to an end. My days of having no computer will be fixed in the next few days with the addition to our household of this:

I will also have Microsoft Office for the Mac (very cool) and will be entering into the world of Photoshop (I know I know!).

Oh...and good news. My mom is coming to visit on New Year's Day and spending the weekend with us. It's her first time to NYC and I haven't seen her since our wedding.

So stayed tuned!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Cloud Atlas - Liam Callanan

I picked up a copy of The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan at the library right before my trip to Egypt. I had thought at the time that it was the Cloud Atlas listed on the 1001 Books List. But no. Apparently there are two different books. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is a whole different book.

But I also picked up this book because the premise sounded good. Here it is:

Alaska: World War II. Louis, a young soldier on the bomb defusing squad is sent to Alaska on a top secret assignment. Find Japanese balloon bombs and disarm them. Oh, and make sure the public never hears about them.

Wow! Interesting, right? And it's actually based on true events. The Japanese did send balloon bombs across the ocean during World War II. Crazy, huh?

Not only is Louis supposed to deal with the balloon bombs, but his superior, Gurley, is one crazy guy. And...Louis falls for his Gurley's lady...Lily, an Yup'ik native who has secrets of her own.

I liked it. I wanted to really love it though. But at points in the middle the book dragged a bit (my husband agrees, he read it as well). But it was a good story and I really liked Louis. The story is told through an elderly Louis telling the story in a confession-like manner to a dying friend. So we see things unfold through the eyes of an older, wiser Louis...and the young inexperienced Louis. I really liked that aspect. And Lily's story is just heart-wrenching. And I even felt for Gurley. Ok, looking back maybe I liked it a bit more than I thought.

I didn't find any other covers for this book, which is ok since I loved this cover. So I thought I'd add photo of a real Japanese balloon bomb:

Have you read this book? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Sunday Philosophy Club

I was mulling over what to read next when I came across a book I've been wanting to read for a while now. Actually, I've been wanting to read some of Alexander McCall Smith's stuff since I've heard his series the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series is pretty good. The Sunday Philosophy Club is the first book in a different series revolving around the heroine Isabel Dalhousie.

I really hoped that I'd like the book more. I mean I love detective mysteries. I love heroines who are pretty smart. Isabel Dalhousie's job is to review philosophical articles and she loves crosswords. This should be right up my alley right? But the "mystery" was pretty lame. And the ending was just, well just not satisfying. And Isabel kind of annoyed me. I mean for being a smart philosophical lady, she really had messed up relationships. She's hung up on some past flame who treated her horribly and then moved on. And then she has a semi-crush thing on her niece's ex-boyfriend which is just kind of bizzarre to me.

Oh. And supposodly the title comes from the fact that she has a Sunday philosophy club that meets to discuess philosophical stuff. But they never met during the whole book and I don't even think it mentioned who was in the club. Hmm.

So that's all I am going to say about that. It wasn't bad enough that I didn't finish it but I am not going to read any more of the series.

I almost forgot the different covers! I prefer the one above but here's a few others:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowing Where?

This is just a quick shout out to my previous hometown, Las Vegas, who recently got dumped with snow. Check out the article here. Friends have been sending me fun snowy photos and of their kids building snowmen (a rarity for them I am sure).

We're getting prepared to get dumped on as well. NYC is predicting six or so inches tomorrow. I'd complain but then we might have a white Christmas...which I love.

Is there snow where you live?

Art History Reading Challenge

As I am wrapping up 2008 and preparing for 2009, I've been finding some fun reading challenges around the blog-o-sphere. This one especially stood out for me since I LOVE art history and have a few un-read books at home that would fit this challenge. All you have to do is read six books that has art history as a topic. (As you can see I have way too many books I want to read.) You can join along at this website:

Amanda's Picks

1. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling - Ross King

2. Lust for Life - Irving Stone

3. Luncheon of the Boating Party - Susan Vreeland

4. The Painting - Nina Schuyler

5. With Violets - Elizabeth Robards

6. Van Gogh's Bad Cafe - Frederic Tuten (Finished February 20, 2009)


7. Blindspot - Jane Kamensky (not sure how much art is in this one)

8. The Art Thief - Noah Charney

9. The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century - Edward Dolnick

10. Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures - Cynthia Saltzman

11. The Flanders Panel - Arturo Perez-Reverte

12. The Painter of Battles - Arturo Perez-Reverte

13. Cezanne's Quarry - Barbara Pope

14. Leonardo's Swans - Karen Essex (Finished July 12, 2009)

15. Stealing Athena - Karen Essex

16. Painter from Shanghai - Jennifer Epstein

17. The Forgery of Venus - Michael Gruber

18. The Passion of Artemisia - Susan Vreeland

19. The Girl in Hyacinth Blue - Susan Vreeland

20. The Sidewalk Artist - Gina Buonaguro

21. Portrait of an Unknown Woman - Vanora Bennett

22. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper - Harriet Scott Chessman

23. The Illuminator - Brenda Rickman Vantrease

24. A Rare and Curious Gift - Pauline Holdstock

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Random List Meme

I've seen this meme floating around the blog-world so I thought I'd give it a try.

The things I have done are in BOLD!

1. Started my own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (elementary school)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than I can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain (a few of Colorado's Fourteener's)

9. Held a praying mantis (my brother loves bugs)

10. Sung a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched lightening at sea (from the beach, does that count?)

14. Taught myself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown my own vegetables (I don't think sunflowers count)

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train (from Cairo to Aswan)

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (who hasn't?)

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise (not on a cruise boat, but on the Nile)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught myself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David (didn't have time but saw the fake one in the Palazzo Vecchio)

41. Sung karaoke (thanks hubby!)

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had my portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had my picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

100. Rode an elephant


Feel free to steal this one!

NYC Guests!

I've been pretty un-blogy lately but do not worry, that will soon change.

I officially have TWO people coming out to see me in the next few weeks.

This weekend a good friend of mine from Kentucky (and from this post) is coming out and I'm getting to be a tour guide. So a lot of photos and cheesy NYC tourist stuff coming up!

And around New Years my mom is coming for a visit! I'm so excited since my brother is the only family member who's come out for a visit.

In the meantime, I'll be pondering over what to buy my husband for Christmas...I am completely out of ideas. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Review Update

Just in case you think I've been slacking, I wanted to let you all know that I have a couple of cool book reviews coming up. I was asked by two different authors to read and review their books. I've finished the three books so I will be posting them shortly. There might even be author interviews...gasp!

Here's what's coming up:

From Brenda Janowitz:

And from Diana Spechler:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

100+ Reading Challenge for 2009

So far I've read 69 books this year. I should be finishing up a few more before the year ends, which led me to join the 100+ Reading Challenge for 2009 hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.

I figured if I push myself a bit next year I can get that accomplished. If you're interested in this challenge, head on over and sign up. My goal is to read 8+ books a month. Yikes!

Amanda's 100+ Reading Challenge for 2009
Number of Books Read: 100
January: 7 books
February: 8 books
March: 6 books
April: 9 books
May: 9 books
June: 6 books
July: 6 books
August: 5 books
September: 6 books
October: 12 books
November: 13 books
December: 13 books

1. The Shack - William P. Young (Finished January 05, 2009)
2. The Scent of Sake - Joyce Lebra (Finished January 12, 2009)
3. After Dark - Haruki Murakami (Finished January 15, 2009)
4. The Mirror of Her Dreams - Stephen R. Donaldson (Finished January 19, 2009)
5. A Man Rides Through - Stephen R. Donaldson (Finished January 28, 2009)
6. A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs (Finished January 28, 2009)
7. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (Finished January 30, 2009)
8. Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (Finished February 5, 2009)
9. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (Finished February 6, 2009)
10. Dune - Frank Herbert (Finished February 9, 2009)
11. Paul of Dune - Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (Finished February 16, 2009)
12. World War Z - Max Brooks (Finished February 18, 2009)
13.Van Gogh's Bad Cafe: A Love Story - Frederic Tuten (Finished February 20, 2009)
14. The Host - Stephenie Meyer (Finished February 22, 2009)
15. Time and Again - Jack Finney (Finished February 27, 2009)
16. Belong to Me - Marisa de los Santos (Finished March 4, 2009)
17. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote (Finished March 4, 2009)
18. Coventry: A Novel - Helen Humphreys (Finished March 6, 2009)
19. Rabbit, Run - John Updike (Finished March 12, 2009)
20. The Likeness - Tana French (Finished March 20, 2009)
21. If on a winter's night a traveler - Italo Calvino (Finished March 25, 2009)
22. I See You Everywhere - Julia Glass (Finished April 2, 2009)
23. The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor (Finished April 6, 2009)
24. Godmother - Carolyn Turgeon (April 9, 2009)
25. Rain Village - Carolyn Turgeon (Finished April 13, 2009)
26. 1984 - George Orwell (Finished April 15, 2009)
27. Practical Magic - Alice Hoffman (Finished April 22, 2009)
28. The Good Fairies of New York - Martin Millar (Finished April 24, 2009)
29. The Little Book - Selden Edwards (Finished April 28, 2009)
30. Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen (Finished April 29, 2009)
31. Photographing Fairies - Steve Szilagyi (Finished May 04, 2009)
32. The Red Leather Diary - Lily Koppel (Finished May 07, 2009)
33. The Sugar Queen - Sarah Addison Allen (Finished May 12, 2009)
34. The Gargoyle - Andrew Davidson (Finished May 16, 2009)
35. When You are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris (Finished May 19, 2009)
36. Daphne: A Novel - Justine Picardie (Finished May 23, 2009)
37. Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman (Finished May 23, 2009)
38. Night Music - Harrison Gradwell Slater (Finished May 26, 2009)
39. Heart of Darkness/The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad (Finished May 30, 2009)
40. Shoot the Moon - Billie Letts (Finished June 01, 2009)
41. Made in the U.S.A. - Billie Letts (Finished June 03, 2009)
42. The Given Day - Dennis Lehane (Finished June 07, 2009)
43. The House at Riverton - Kate Morton (Finished June 11, 2009)
44. A Madness of Angels - Kate Griffin (Finished June 18, 2009)
45. Charming Billy - Alice McDermott (Finished June 23, 2009)
46. Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier (Finished July 3, 2009)
47. Off Season - Anne Rivers Siddons (Finished July 5, 2009)
48. The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist (Finished July 6, 2009)
49. Leonardo's Swans - Karen Essex (Finished July 12, 2009)
50. Interred With Their Bones - Jennifer Lee Carrell (Finished July 25, 2009)
51. Margherita Dolce Vita - Stefano Benni (Finished July 31, 2009)
52. The Girl on the Via Flaminia - Alfred Hayes (Finished August 3, 2009)
53. Three Junes - Julia Glass (Finished August 11, 2009)
54. The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein (Finished August 14, 2009)
55. Julie and Julia - Julie Powell (Finished August 25, 2009)
56. The Coral Thief - Rebecca Stott (Finished August 31, 2009)
57. The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff (Finished September 01, 2009)
58. Dark Star - Alan Furst (Finished September 05, 2009)
59. The Seamstress - Frances de Pontes Peebles (Finished September 11, 2009)
60. The Romanov Bride - Robert Alexander (Finished September 15, 2009)
61. Gone Tomorrow - Lee Child (Finished September 21, 2009)
62. The Return - Victoria Hislop (Finished September 27, 2009)
63. The Last Dickens - Matthew Pearl (Finished October 04, 2009)
64. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Finished October 11, 2009)
65. Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant (Finished October 12, 2009)
66. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (Finished October 15, 2009)
67. The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens (Finished October 20, 2009)
68. The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Finished October 21, 2009)
69. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys (Finished October 23, 2009)
70. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (Finished October 24, 2009)
71. Real Murders - Charlaine Harris (Finished October 26, 2009)
72. Seeing Redd - Frank Beddor (Finished October 30, 2009)
73. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway (Finished October 30, 2009)
74. Sunflowers - Sheramy Bundrick (Finished October 31, 2009)
75. Gourmet Rhapsody - Muriel Barbery (Finished November 1, 2009)
76. Smoke and Mirrors - Neil Gaiman (Finished November 3, 2009)
77. Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger (Finished November 5, 2009)
78. Only Milo - Barry Smith (Finished November 5, 2009)
79. Now & Then - Jacqueline Sheehan (Finished November 11, 2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (Finished November 12, 2009)
81. Giv: The Story of a Dog and America - Boston Teran (Finished November 13, 2009)
82. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (Finished November 16, 2009)
83. The Creed of Violence - Boston Teran (Finished November 19, 2009)
84. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (Finished November 20, 2009)
85. Arch Enemy - Frank Beddor (Finished November 22, 2009)
86. The Information Officer - Mark Mills (Finished November 24, 2009)
87. Hunter - Campbell Jefferys (Finished November 30, 2009)
88. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (Finished December 3, 2009)
89. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (Finished December 4, 2009)
90. The Jewel Trader of Pegu - Jeffrey Hantover (Finished December 9, 2009)
91. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (Finished December 10, 2009)
92. Life After Yes - Aidan Donnelley Rowley (Finished December 11, 2009)
93. The Duty of Love - Ronald Neal Green (Finished December 14, 2009)
94. The Good Plain Cook - Bethan Roberts (Finished December 17, 2009)
95. Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll (Finished December 22, 2009)
96. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (Finished December 23, 2009)
97. A Man Without a Country - Kurt Vonnegut (Finished December 28, 2009)
98. Persuasion - Jane Austen (Finished December 28, 2009)
99. Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris (Finished December 30, 2009)
100. Eugenie Grandet - Honore de Balzac (Finished December 31, 2009)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blog Personality

For fun, check out this site to see what personality type your blog says about you.

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Green Beauty Guide Winner!

I apologize profusely for taking so long to pick the winner for The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel.

I guess I've been more jet lagged than I realized I would be.

So without more ado, the winner is:


I will be emailing you for your contact information shortly.


Friday, December 5, 2008

When We Were Gods - Colin Falconer

I'll admit that I have not done that great of job on my Egyptian book challenge. To be honest, I got through half of Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie and was bored to tears. It felt a lot like Murder on the Orient Express...except on the Nile.

So I when I found When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer at the Housing Works Book Fair, I snagged it up and read it. I'll have to admit this was the first book I've read which is set in ancient Egypt. Well, I guess more modern ancient Egypt. Anyway. I really liked it!

Here's my synopsis:

Cleopatra wasn't born to be the Queen of Egypt. She had to scheme and fight for it. After her father's death, his children scrambled for control of the throne. And through much manipulation and scheming (and a few deaths later) Cleopatra is the queen of Egypt...and she's still in her teens!

But securing the throne is just the beginning of her problems. Rome with Julius Ceasar as a powerful force is a threat to Egypt. Egypt's military is no match and Rome is eying the rich resources of the Nile area. Cleopatra's only option is to try and join forces with Julius Ceasar to protect her throne. Cleopatra and Julius Ceasar are a powerful couple. But this is their downfall. We obviously knows what happens to Julius Ceasar. So Cleopatra turns to a close friend and military man, Marc Anthony.

Ok. I don't want to give too much away with what happens. I knew this story just a bit...kind of like how most people know how Romeo and Juilet ends. But this book really filled out the story for me. And Colin Falconer did an amazing job of protraying Cleopatra, not as a beautiful bombshell that wooed two powerful Roman men. Instead, she was politically savy and smart. I mean I just admired her a lot!

Ok some fun facts:

- Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian. She was from the Ptolemy line, Greek, which was installed as rulers during Alexander the Great's romp through history.

- Cleopatra had children with both Julius Ceasar and Marc Anthony.

- Cleopatra learned many languages which helped her politically

- The carpet scene is in the book. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the book.

I couldn't find any other book covers for this book which is a shame. I think Cleopatra looks a bit odd on my version.

Could this have been what she looked like?
Or more like this:
Or like:

Have you read anything about Cleopatra? If so what do you think of her?

Chez Moi - Agnes Desarthe

Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe is another library book I picked up. I don't remember where I originally saw or heard about this book. It was originally written in French under the title Mangez-moi (Eat Me) and is translated into English. I hadn't read a review but it sounded a lot like Chocolat which I loved (ok...I watched the movie but haven't read the book...yet). And it's another book with a gorgeous cover that just popped out at me.

So here's the story:

Myriam, a woman in her early forties opens a small restaurant in Paris called Chez Moi. She is the sole owner and sole employee. With no formal training, Myriam is amazing chef but she's lied to get her loan for her restaurant and has no clue what she's doing. Along the way we start learning about Myriam's past and about what she's running away from...her ex-husband, her college-age son, and a horrible deed and secret she's hiding. (**Note: It may sound like a fluffy chick-lit book but it is not.)

I really really wanted to love this book. And certain parts I did. I loved Agnes Desarthe's writing. It reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate, they way Myriam thought and described food. Beware reading this while you are hungry. But I just never connected with Myriam. She was unreliable. She had serious issues. I kept expecting her to open up more but I never saw that change. And there's people who are a bit kooky, a bit crazy...and then there's people like Myriam whom I thought really had some psychological problems. So it's not as if I didn't like Myriam, I just thought she needed professional help. And while the ending of the book should have left me just didn't.

I am curious if anyone else has read this book and would love to hear your thoughts. I probably would have liked it better had I been prepared for the seriousness of the novel. I'll dig around and see if I can find any other reviews.

Oh, and if you read or have read the book you'll know why she named the restaurant "Chez moi" or "at home".

Here's another cover version I just don't like as much. This book is definitely too serious for a chick-lit-ish book my opinion:
Also Reviewed By:
The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore
Books on the Brain

The Septembers of Shiraz - Dalia Sofer

I did manage to read a few books while I was on vacation. I guess two 12-13 hour flights and a 16 hour train ride (not kidding) gave me some time. I have a TON of books I own that I haven't read but silly me grabbed three library books to take. That's what happens when I have an hour wait and there's a library nearby.

I picked up The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer and I am so glad I did. It's one of those books that was familiar but I couldn't remember what it was about. And I thought I'd seen good reviews. And come on...the cover is just gorgeous.

The book is set in the early 1980's in Iran just after their revolution. It eerily reminded me of France after their revolution. Or I guess of what happens after some revolutions in general. The people revolt, king is killed or flees, and suspicion runs rampant. People are accused, imprisoned, and killed for a number of reasons. And not all accused are guilty.

Enter Isaac Amin, a Jew, and his family into this setting. Isaac is a jeweler and is arrested early on in the book. Before the arrest, the family sent the eldest son to New York for college and to ensure his saftey and survival. The mother and the young daughter are left in Iran without knowing why Isaac is arrested and whether his is alive or not. The son is set adrift in a new country knowing the likelyhood of seeing his family again is slim.

I loved this book. It was such a page turner and is beautifully written. It's written through the perspective of each member of the family and how they are coping, dealing, and trying to survive in the new Iran. It's truly horrifying that outcomes of revolutions like the one in Iran continue to mass exterminate segments of a population. It's happened in the past, it's continuing to happen in the world, and it will happen again.
Also Reviewed By:
Trish's Reading Nook
She is Too Fond of Books
Booking Mama
Everyday I Write the Book Blog
The Novel World
Fizzy Thoughts

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Light Up That Tree!

Ok, so I think tonight's the night that the famous Rockefeller Center tree gets lit up (with eco-friendlier LED lights). My husband and I briefly debated on going but then thought better. One reason: hordes of people.

Last year I had to go because Rockefeller Center is just around the corner from where I work so it just seemed like a waste not to go. My husband's co-worker and boyfriend joined us as well and he found us a great spot to watch the tree. We seriously couldn't get any closer.

So, because I am not going this year I thought I'd post a few photos from last year. And just a note: the tree is HUGE! There's even a whole blog/website just for the tree!

Before the tree is lit:

And after:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm Back!

Hello everyone! We are finally back from our long trip to Egypt and are decompressing and trying to get back to a normal sleep schedule. Four o'clock is way too early to be up in the morning :)

Thank you for all your wonderful comments while I was away. I'll be picking a winner for The Green Beauty Guide today. Sorry it's a bit late. I'll be sure to post more photos from my trip. We had a great time. And I will also try and catch up on all your blogs. Amanda at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Checking IN

Hello everyone! Just checking in from Sharm al-Sheik. We found an internet cafe in the Old Market for five Egytian pounds. People are insanely friendly here. We are learning to say "no thank you" a lot.

I'll try and check in later, hopefully with a picture or two.

TLC Book Tour - The Green Beauty Guide and Giveaway

I was honored to be asked to review The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel as part of the TLC Book Tour. Honestly though, I saw this was an upcoming book and I really wanted to read it so I asked. I have to say that this is one of the best books I have read in a while. It's really a must-read, I think, for any person who wears make-up, cares about their hair and skin condition, and/or just wants to make healthier decisions. So really it's a must-read for everyone.

The Green Beauty Guide isn't a "going good to feel good" kind of book. Julie Gabriel has definitely done her research. She's a registered nutrition specialist and has been a writer and editor of beauty and fashion. She knows her stuff. She also has a skincare line called Petite Marie Organics. But this book isn't a promotional piece for her line.

The first two chapters are fascinating:The Nature of Skin and Beauty and the Toxic Beast. Realizing how skin, our largest organ, works is key to understanding how to take care of it. And it's amazing how chemicalized we've become. The next chapter Become an Ingredients List Expert clues you in to how many chemicals common lotions and make-up contain.

But my favorite part, of course is the do-it yourself beauty recipes. She has a chapter devoted to each common product: cleansers, toners, facials, moisturizers, sun protection, hair care, baby care, etc. And she makes it easy by providing a hand grocery shopping list for common products used in the recipes. She also provides good tips for commerical products that are better for your health.

I'm still amazed by the wealth of information contained in this book. And it's fairly cheap: $16.95 US dollars.

I was sent two copies so I'll be giving away the second copy. Honestly, I was going to give it to my sister instead but I'm just going to be buying a copy. So leave a comment for a chance to win the book. For an extra entry, go to The Green Beauty Guide website and tell me something interesting that you found out. The contest runs until November 30th.

For other reviews of The Green Beauty Guide and more, check out TLC Book Tours.

Julie Gabriel’s 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:

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

Wednesday, December 10th: Bookopolis (will also be posted asa Guest Review at Books on the Brain)

Thursday, December 11th: B & B ex libris

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We're Off!

We are off to Egypt for our belated honeymoon! I will be back at the end of the month. But come back on November 18th for a book review and giveaway. I also might pop in for an update. I'll be back with lots of photos!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random NYC Photo

I love when people come visit NYC and I can play tourist. My friend from this post will be coming in December to visit. Yippee!! So for now, here's a couple photos my brother took one day last December. It was absolutely freezing that day.

We were loving the color accent thingy on the camera which picked up the red in my scarf among other things:

Hmmm...this building might be a bit less festive this year:
Stone Street Tavern. Haven't been in there but I love that the sign is backwards. According to their website it's been around since 1656. There must be a pretty interesting reason:

Yep, that's me somewhere in Chinatown trying to figure out where my husband was:

Ok. Must stop procrastinating and do homework. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Random NYC Photo

I took this a few weeks after I moved to the city. My husband's company party was on a boat that sailed around the island. Obviously I was a happy camper and snapping photos.

Good Friends

We are wrapping up things here lately to head off to our Egyptian belated honeymoon trip. We are insanely excited. And while I was making lists, buying extra memory cards for my camera, etc. my good friend sent me her wide-angle lens to use with my camera.

Good thing to note: all Canon lenses are compatible with any Canon body. Too cool.

So this Saturday while I'm running errands I am going to try some practice shots with the new lens. After this trip I KNOW I'm going to be saving up for one of my own.

So here's a BIG thank you to my friend. I've known her for 13 years now. She is my road-trip buddy and was one of the people who helped develop my love of photography.

I don't have very many photos on my work computer but here's just a few from our road tripping days.

I'm not sure what National Park this one is from (fairly sure it's Glacier):
This is one of my favorites from Glacier National Park.
And her trusty truck which has taken us everywhere from Alaska to the Grand Canyon:

*Note: We are WAY overdue for our next road trip. We are thinking Maine's Arcadia National Park or Iceland. Where would you go?

Harlem River at Night

A while back after I bought my new camera, I snapped some photos at night in our park while walking the pups. I don't have a tripod yet so I had to be very still while shooting at night with no flash.

Just a little note: Manhattan Island is obviously surrounded by water. To the East is the East River (clever name really), the West is the Hudson River, and the north where our neigborhood is has the Harlem River. The Harlem River connects the East River to the Hudson River.

We are also really close to the Henry Hudson Bridge which connects Manhattan Island to the Bronx. Actually, it spans what used to be the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. There's a small portion of land across the river called Marble Hill that used to be connected to Manhattan Island. They diverted the creek for shipping purposes and Marble Hill is now part of the Bronx. Here's a fun little map from Wikipedia:When we walk to the Bronx from our neighborhood (there's a Target, a Starbucks, an Applebee's, and other stores) we walk along the Broadway Bridge. Broadway, yes THE Broadway runs a long long way in New York State. In fact it runs all the way up to the state capital, Albany.

So here's the Henry Hudson Bridge. The lights underneath are the Spuyten Duyvil train stop for the Metro North Line:

And here's some a view of the Bronx to the right. The bright lights underneath the building are the Marble Hill train stop of the Metro North Line. The bubble area to the right is part of Columbia University. Their two stadiums are behind these buildings. I'm not sure what sport goes on in the bubble building which only appears when it gets cold. The building you can see is the Columbia University's rowing house. Sometimes while I am walking the dogs in the morning, the rowing teams are out practicing.
For some more of my posts on this area, check here, here, here, and here.