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Perseverance

August 17, 2009

Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer SurvivorsOne of the hardest parts about getting a diagnosis of cancer is the isolation you feel. Sure, I knew there were many, many people who were going through (and still are) treatment for various cancers, many of which were much more serious than my own. Still, there are moments when I felt all alone.

When I received a copy of Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors by Carolyn Rubenstein, I quickly realized it was full of stories of young adults who also felt that isolation of a cancer diagnosis. Perseverance is a collection of essays told by twenty college age kids about how they survived childhood cancer. The essays were compiled by the author, who during her own teenage years founded Carolyn’s Compassionate Children a non-profit organization that provides emotional and financial resources to childhood cancer survivors.

These kids tell their personal stories of scary diseases, long treatments, painful biopsies, surgeries and even transplants. Like Jamie Saunders, who underwent a year and a half of chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma as a high school freshman. Or Rob Dooley, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor the day before his twentieth birthday. These are harrowing stories of hardship some of us will never know and yet these kids have hope for the future.   

Emily Corwin writes about starting treatment for cancer:

“I saw five-year-olds laughing and smiling who were so sick. If they could do it, I could do it.”

Or Henry Choi:

“I now appreciate every single bit of life, and I think of challenges as ways to make me stronger.”

In the end, Perseverance is a book full of touching stories, told in unique voices, and leaves us with the feeling of hope and more importantly, that we as cancer survivors are not alone.

Perseverance is on sale August 18, 2009.

Cross posted over at Mothers With Cancer.

Sense and Sensibility, a mini-challenge & giveaway

August 14, 2009

My love for Jane Austen started in an unusual way. With most fans, a book is the first glimpse into the world of a favorite author. For me though, it was the movie Sense and Sensibility.  

It was over twelve years now, when I was living in a small apartment not far from my current home, when I on a whim picked up Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility from the video store. What I didn’t realize was how much of a emotional roller coaster the story was and how no matter how many times I would watch it, I would always cry at the end.

It’s taken me all these twelve years to finally pick up the original novel to read, which I did recently for my Everything Austen challenge. Even though I had the basic knowledge of the characters and their personalities, it was nice to take the time to get a more in-depth glimpse into their lives during 19th Century England. I really enjoyed my reading time.

Afterwards I picked up my well worn DVD and sat down to watch Sense and Sensibility again. I have to say that between Emma Thompson’s award winner screenplay writing and Ang Lee’s direction, they preserved the story of Jane Austen’s original book beautifully.

If you are planning to read or watch Sense and Sensibility during Everything Austen, I would highly recommend you do both – I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

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I hope you guys are enjoying my Everything Austen challenge so far! I’ve been thrilled to see so many reviews for the challenge pop up already (over 250 and counting) and hope that your Austen experience has been a pleasant one.

Nicole of Books & Bards was sweet enough to offer to host a mini-challenge for participants. Please stop by her blog today and join in her Do you Have What it Takes to Be a Mrs. Jennings? A Jane Austen Mix-and-Matchmaking Mini-Challenge for a chance to win a copy of the book Lost in Austen: Creat Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. Nicole also has another really great post called Regency Glosseries for the Austen-Impaired, where you can find out answers to your most burning questions (like what really is the difference between a phaeton and a barouche)!

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Also, stop by MariReads today for a really great post filled with information and beautiful pictures about her recent trip to Bath. She has also brought something back to share with all of you Darcy fans so make sure to leave a comment for a chance to win!

The Magicians

August 10, 2009

Over the last few years I’ve found myself more and more drawn to reading fantasy novels. The ultimate in escapism, good fantasy writing creates fantastic worlds very different from our own. Great fantasy leaves us wanting more. The Magicians by Lev Grossman left me wanting more.

Quentin Coldwater is an extremely gifted seventeen year old who is also extremely unhappy. He is bored with his home life in Brooklyn and doesn’t quite feel like he belongs in this world. In fact, since he was a little boy, he has been obsessed with a Narnia-like series of fantasy books from the 1930’s . Written by Christopher Plover, the series follows the adventures of the Chatwin siblings as they fight evil in the world of Fillory. Quentin dreams of one day living in a magical type world like Fillory. What he doesn’t know is that the magical world is about to find him.

Quentin soon finds himself quite magically on the grounds of Brakebills, a college for magicians hidden in upstate New York. When asked to perform magic tricks as an entrance exam, Quentin realizes that the slight-of-hand tricks he learned from books as a kid really are magic and soon he is enrolled at Brakebills.

Even though Quentin is learning to cast complex spells at Brakebills, college life is still filled with lots of  typical college experiences. With some new found friends at his side, Quentin begins to develop his magical skills and his college years fly by.       

After Brakebills though, Quentin finds himself stuck in a merry-go-round of drugs and alcohol with his old classmates. After spending his life pining for adventure, he is disappointed with the life he is leading. But when someone from his past turns up with information that the magical land of Fillory is a real place, will Quentin really be prepared?

I’m sure there will be some Harry Potter comparisons to The Magicians, since there are many similarities in circumstances. In both, there are magical people living among the general population and there is a lot of focus on learning magic as specialty schools. Grossman even gives a nod to Harry Potter:

“Hang on,” he said. “Gotta get my quidditch costume. I mean uniform.”

Grossman though wrote The Magicians for an adult audience, with references to alcohol use, sex and drug abuse. His wonderfully descriptive language can be seen throughout. I love how he describes the grounds at Brakebills:

The hedges that made up the Maze were cut in the shape of heavy, slow-thighed beasts – bears and elephants and other less-easily-identifiable creatures. Unlike ordinary topiary they moved: they lumbered along very slowly, almost imperceptibly, wading half submerged in the dark foliage like hippopotami wallowing in an equatorial African river.

Plus, I was intrigued by the sinister character The Beast. Not since the Crooked Man in The Book of Lost Things have I read about such a wonderfully descriptive and scary character. Truly bone chilling stuff.

With the exception of a small slow part in the middle of the book, The Magicians is pure literary magic.

The Magicians will go on sale tomorrow, August 11, 2009. Along with the main website for The Magicians, there are four clever companion websites that are worth exploring: Fillory fan site, Christopher Plover website and even a site for the imaginary Brakebills College!

Thank you to Viking for sending The Magicians to me for review.

My bedside table & a tiny break

August 6, 2009

TBR pile 2

Tomorrow is Friday, which means that I will be in NYC for the day undergoing the last of my surgeries (you don’t even want to know what time I need to be at Sloan Kettering tomorrow morning – let’s just say that it is early)!  I am this close to putting the last year of cancer treatments and surgeries behind me and am really excited to be on the last leg of this journey.

As I will need a bit of time to recover from my surgery, I won’t be checking my computer all that much over the next week. I have however scheduled some posts to go up, including my review of the new book The Magicians by Levi Grossman, my thoughts about reading (and watching) Sense & Sensibility and also an announcement about our next mini-challenge for Everything Austen, to be hosted late next week by the lovely Nicole over at Books and Bards (click here to find out a few details about it)!

In the meantime, I’ve left you picturse of the book stack next to my bed. I recently put these books on my night stand  to remind myself of the books I plan to read over the next few weeks. 

TBR pile

It’s a lovely stack, isn’t it? I recently received Time of My Life and House & Home, both of which I will be reviewing for TLC Book Tours in September. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte came directly from the publisher and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the August pick for my book club. As for The Lovely Bones, which I read a few years back, I’m tempted to try to read it again before the movie is released (yep, The Lovely Bones will be release in December by DreamWorks Pictures and you can see the trailer here)!!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend and I will be back blogging soon.

Interview with Marsha Altman

August 5, 2009

Recently author Marsha Altman agreed to answer a few questions for my blog. Marsha has just released her novel, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, a sequel to The Darcys and the Bingleys, which is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. And it is a series; book 3 (Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape) is due out in February 2010. Please help me in welcoming Marsha to Stephanie’s Written Word!

Remember, there is still time to enter my giveaway of a signed copy of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers! Check here for more details!

What is your writing process? 

I usually have the storylines invented in my head before I sit down to write – where they come from, I have no idea – but the specifics may not be laid out except for certain scenes. I always write in chronological order, so sometimes racing the plot to get to the scene I really, really want to write is the only way the story gets written. One entire book in the series was bout 80% me propelling the characters to one scene in the woods. 

What are some of your inspirations?

I watch a lot of television and movies and I read a lot. I know that’s not a very creative answer, but I’m always surprised to see how something I’ve been into makes its way into the story, however improbably. I usually don’t notice it until six months later, when I sit down to read the story, and I’m like, “What is ____ doing in there? Oh right, I had just seen that movie, that’s what it is. Well, thank goodness it works.”

 How long it takes to write a book?

1-2 months. It depends if I’m fully devoting myself to the book or doing it while doing normal life things, like leaving my apartment or going to work or taking a class or something like that. Some books have taken 3, mostly because they were slowed down by some non-literary thing going on in my life. I can’t think of any off the top of my head that took 4, though I’m probably wrong there. Revision takes much, much longer, mostly because I hate revision.

If the book deals with an unfamiliar topic/culture and I have to do a ton of research before writing it, add an additional 2-3 weeks to that counter. 

What does your office/writing space looks like (with pictures if you like to share)? 

I decided, as my desk isn’t that interesting, to include one of my many, many bookcases. I have a tiny apartment in New York, so the place is pretty much bookcases, and most of those books are history books.

 Marsha's bookshelves

What motivated you to become a writer in the first place?

I dedicated my first book to the cheetah kid, who got me writing in the first place. I don’t remember his name, but in 3rd grade library class there was some kid who wrote a one page “book” about a cheetah, and the librarian spent most of the class praising this kid. I thought to myself, “I can beat that kid” and spent the next year writing a 24-page story about an alien who came to earth named Joey. I’ve been writing ever since. I don’t think there’s ever been a period in my life since then where I wasn’t actively or occasionally working on some writing project.

Writing to me is a bit like breathing. I don’t notice when I’m doing it, but I notice when I stop. 

About the Author

Marsha Altman is a historian specializing in Rabbinic literature in late antiquity, and an author. She is also an expert on Jane Austen sequels, having read nearly every single one that’s been written, whether published or unpublished. She has worked in the publishing industry with a literary agency and is writing a series continuing the story of the Darcys and the Bingleys. She lives in New York.

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers (& a giveaway)

August 2, 2009

I was so excited to find out about the publication of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, second in the series that continues the stories of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Marsha Altman’s first novel, The Darcys and the Bingleys (which I reviewed last year here) followed the two newlywed couples the first few years of marriage. With a mix of humor and drama, I thoroughly enjoyed her first book and couldn’t wait for her second one.

In The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, we now find Elizabeth and Darcy married with a very active toddler son. Elizabeth has been trying to have a second child, but her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage. Her sister Jane also is a mother of three and lives close by with her husband. Shortly after the book begins, there is word from Mary Bennet, younger sister to Elizabeth and Jane, who has been studying in France. She has now come back to England with news that could ruin the reputation of the entire Bennet clan.

It’s up to ever proper Darcy and his lovely wife to save the family from trouble. Elizabeth and Darcy are off on an adventure, first in France and then on to Italy, to clear Mary’s name. Along the way, Darcy learns of some hidden family secrets that will escalate in a confirmation with the ever-scheming Wickham.

Again, Marsha Altman has written a novel that is utterly charming. The book is written with just the right amount of humor and the plot moves at a steady pace, and is just so much fun to read. Which give you a clue as to why I so enjoy Altman’s books. They are just plain fun!! You can tell that the author has a good time writing about the beloved characters of Pride and Prejudice (and who wouldn’t? Just imagine if you took your favorite book and molded the future of the characters).

Having said that, I think this book will ruffle a few feathers of Austen purists. Unlike her first book, I felt that Altman’s plot was a bit far fetched and didn’t feel like the characters integrity were preserved as well as in her first novel. But, I still enjoyed it for what it was – a really enjoyable read.

I read this book for my Everything Austen Challenge and the author was nice enough to offer a SIGNED copy of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers to one lucky winner! To enter all you need to do is leave a comment on this post (and also leave your e-mail address, as I will e-mail the winner directly). For an additional chance to win you can Tweet about this giveaway (@SWrittenWord has a SIGNED copy of The Plight of the Darcy Brothers 4 #everythingausten 2 giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/lze83d) or post about this contest on your own blog. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US residents and you have until Saturday, August 8th at 12 midnight EST to enter. Good luck!!

Also, please stop by Stephanie’s Written Word this Wednesday to read a guest post by Marsha herself!

Such a Pretty Fat

July 29, 2009

Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest To Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass LookBig, Or Why Pie is Not The AnswerDo you like your memoirs with a dose of sarcasm, plenty of snark and a little bitchiness? If so, you MUST check out Jen Lancaster!

Author of best selling books Bitter is the New Black and Bright Lights, Big Ass, fellow blogger Lancaster is hilarious as she chronicles her weight loss journey in Such a Pretty Fat, One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer.

For anyone who’s ever thought about going on a diet, are currently watching their calorie intake or are contemplating all the diet programs available (i.e. if you are a typical weight obsessed American, keep reading) then this truly funny memoir of Jen Lancaster is right up your alley.

From trying to blame her laziness on the noxious fumes coming  from her broken furnace to stress eating (worrying about the nineteen cheesecakes she’d be compelled to eat if her husband gets laid off) Jen recounts various attempts throughout her adult life to lose weight.

Such a Pretty Fat is filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and put a smile on my face. But it’s not just full of snarky comments. Lancaster really needs to lose weight in order to be healthy and just wants to find what works for her (and that comes in the form of Barbie, her personal trainer).

Some of my favorite passages:

When recounting her ordeal of knocking over someone’s wineglass at a local restaurant with her over-sized butt, Jen’s friend Angie says:

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad. Besides, I saw you a month ago, and your butt was fine. I’d noticed if it was seventeen feed wide.” Of course, Angie is a mom and routinely lies all day – for example, That fluffy bunny on the side of the road is covered in delicious raspberry jam! And he’s napping; shhh, don’t wake him! – so I’m not so quick to believe her.

AND

I’m aware that I do well when I have a deadline, but anything with a due date is linked to compensation. Checks with my name on them certainly propel me toward achievement, and I’m sure I’d lose weight if I were being paid. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of employers out there needing people to “be less fat.” A pity, really.

OR when the author writes about visiting her local J*nny Cra*g weight loss center:

A trim brunette in her mid-thirties leaps out of her chair to greet me before I take the seat across from her desk. The receptionist leapt when I came in, too. And walking down the hall, I saw another counselor leap up from her desk when her client entered. Awful lot of leaping going on here. I’m sure that’s not going to be annoying at all.

Yep, even though Jen Lancaster has plenty crazy and funny stuff to say in Such a Pretty Fat, her message is clear – work out and watch what you eat and you too can lose the weight. I enjoyed Such a Pretty Fat and can’t wait to read Jen’s newest book, Pretty in Plaid: A Life, A Witch, and a Wardrobe, or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase, which is in bookstores now.

BBAW is back!

July 27, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is back and it’s bigger and better this year! From the website:

Book Blogger Appreciation was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.

The first Book Blogger Appreciation was observed in the fall of 2008 and occurs every September. The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities. Book Bloggers are encouraged to register their participation for inclusion in a database of book bloggers.

The second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be taking place the week of September 14-18, 2009.

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate.  In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together,  celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards.  There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog!  (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter.  In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word.  I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

Please register your blog by filling out the registration form! Registering ensures your inclusion in the BBAW 09 Database of Book Bloggers and enters you into the drawing for the BBAW 09 Grand Prize! Then click here to nominate your favorite book blog in various catagories!

For Dawn

July 24, 2009

I’m posting this lovely video for Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books. Dawn is walking this weekend in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Three Day Walk and I can’t tell you how much something like this means to everyone who has survived this disease. She has added my mother’s name, as well as mine, on her t-shirt. As a breast cancer survivor, I am so amazed by the wonderful work people do to help find a cure.  

Dawn,

May your walk be safe.

Thank you so very much.

Love, Stephanie

Bon Voyage (& a winner)!

July 24, 2009

Can you see me in this photo? Nope, I’m not on the boat yet, but will be on Sunday. I’ll be taking my first cruise this weekend and am so excited! I’ll be cruising with my Dad and seven year old daughter (hubby and our youngest will be staying home since we are currently having work done on the house). I’m looking forward to spending some one on one time with Leah and visiting Bermuda for the first time. I’ve got my books all picked out and am pretty much ready to go!

Norwegian Dawn by twg1942.

Photo from twg1942's photostream on Flickr

While I’m away I am hoping to publish at least two posts (I’ve never tried scheduling an automatic post, so keep your fingers crossed that they work)!

I most likely won’t have access to my e-mail for the week, since internet time on a cruise ship is a major rip-off! Plus, it will do me some good to unplug for awhile. But once I’m back from vacation I will be posting a review for my Everything Austen challenge of Marsha Altman’s The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, along with a great giveaway.

Now, before I forget, the winner of a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain is

Nancy of Bookfoolery and Babble

Congrats Nancy! Nancy wrote about her cats: “Both of my cats (one now deceased) have helped me through a great deal of heartbreak in recent years. We’ve lost so many family members. Our little Miss Sunshine used to climb up on my chest and stick her head under my chin when I cried. Sometimes, she’d even lick the tears off my face. I think she was more puppy than cat! I miss her terribly”.

 I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did Nancy! Send me your address at wordblog(at)optonline(dot)net and I will get the book in the mail to you once I am back from vacation.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! Be back soon!