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The Hunger Games

July 21, 2009

The Hunger GamesI couldn’t stand it any longer after reading review after review (Lesley’s Book Nook, Bloggin’ ’bout Books & Booking Mama to just name a few) of how great this book is, so I quick got my name on my library’s waiting list and ended up with a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The book takes place in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, or what used to be North America, which is run by the people in The Capitol. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, one of thirteen district’s in Panem. She is a 16 year old girl who has had to take care of her mother and younger sister after her father’s accidental death while working in a mine. Her mother never quite recovers from the loss of her husband and is almost helpless to take care of her daughters. Which means Katniss, along with her friend Gale, illegaly sneak under the fence which separates District 12 from the rest of the country to hunt for food so her family doesn’t starve.

The book opens on the day of The Reaping, a yearly event that takes place in each District and is televised throughout the country. On this day, citizens are reminded of the Dark Days, when during an uprising of the districts, the Capitol defeated twelve and destroyed the thirteenth. As a punishment for their disobedience, the Hunger Games were created. Each of the twelve remaining districts must provide, via a lottery system, one boy and one girl to compete. They are then transported to an outdoor arena to fight to the death. Whoever is left standing can return home and their district will be treated with prizes and food all year long. It’s been a while since District 12 brought home a winner.

Against all odds, Katniss is horrified to see her younger, sweet sister get picked for the games and right away insists on taking her place. Along with Peeta Mellark, a boy who harbors a crush on Katniss which she knows nothing about, Katniss finds herself on her way to the Capitol and is trying to prepare herself for the fight of her life – the Hunger Games.

With a nod to one of my favorite short stories (The Lottery by Shirley Jackson) the fast-paced, edge of your seat action makes The Hunger Games a fun book to read.  The book has good bones – interesting characters, lightning speed plot and plenty of heart-pumping scenes. Add a few unexpected plot twists and you’ve got a book that’s perfect the next time you are relaxing on the beach or enjoying some time on your back deck. Just make sure you have plenty of time to read, as this is a hard one to put down.

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)The Hunger Games is a young adult novel (for kids 12 and up) but don’t let the YA distinction scare you away. This is one of those books that adults enjoy too! In fact, due to the grisly nature of the book, I would suggest that this book might not be good for some sensitive teenagers. But if the teenager in your life loves watching Survivor and enjoys books and movies with a little adventure, then The Hunger Games might be a perfect fit.

With an ending that leaves a few unanswered questions, readers are left wanting more. Luckily the wait won’t be all that long. Catching Fire, book two in the Hunger Games series will be hitting stores in September! If you can’t wait that long to get your hands on a copy, stop by Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’ for a chance to win her ARC of Catching Fire! Oh, and I just found out via Twitter that you can download a chapter of Catching Fire here!

As for me, I snagged my own ARC of Catching Fire while at Book Expo Amercia this past May and have been saving it for the right moment to read. This Sunday I’ll be leaving on a cruise to Bermuda, so you can guess which book  I’ll be taking along with me!

The Art of Racing in the Rain (& a giveaway)

July 16, 2009

I’m writing this review minutes after finishing The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which was picked for my July book club. The book was so good, so wonderful, so great, so heart warming  and lovely that I want to run out of the house and buy a copy for all of my friends (and might just do so later)!

The book is narrated by a dog named Enzo on his last night on earth (don’t worry, Enzo isn’t afraid of dying, as he knows he will be reincarnated as a human, which he learned all about on a documentary on the Discovery Channel). He decides to lovingly reflect on his life and his wonderful relationship with his owner Denny Swift during these last moments. Denny, an aspiring race car driver, adopts him as a pup and Enzo is front-seat and center for all of Denny’s big life moments – marrying his girlfriend Eve, becoming a father and then watching his whole life fall apart around him. When Eve becomes terminally ill and a custody battle ensues between Eve’s parents and Denny, it takes all of Denny’s energy to fight to get his life back on track. The only two consistent things in Denny’s life are car racing and his dog. Enzo is there beside his best friend, frustrated that he is unable to communicate like a human, but doing his best to support Denny through these trying times.

The Art of Racing in the Rain had me totally hooked from the beginning pages and may just go down as my favorite read this year. If you have ever had a pet that you loved, then you have to read this book. It will give you a whole new perspective on your relationship with those furry little creatures. Add commentary on the role of money in the US justice system and lots of metaphors between racing cars and life, and you’ll see that The Art of Racing in the Rain is a story less about a man and his dog, and more about the true meaning of life.

This book have plenty of heart-tugging, philosophical moments, like this one below:

To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. When I am a person, that is how I will live my life.

Or this one:

He (Denny) says racing is doing. It is being a part of a moment and being aware of nothing else but that moment. Reflection must come at a later time.

It also have lots of humor and I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit (especially at this passage, when Enzo remembers Eve’s pregnancy):

I admire the female sex. The life makers. It must be amazing to have a body that can carry an entire creature inside. (I mean, other than a tapeworm, which I’ve had. That doesn’t count as another life, really. That’s a parasite and should never be there in the first place).

Rumor has it that The Art of Racing in the Rain is being made into a movie starting Patrick Dempsey. If that is so, I’ll be one of the first in line for it (with a box of tissues of course, because if it’s anything like the end of this book I’ll need it)!

Garth Stein was just in NYC signing copies of his book – now I wish I had gone in to see him since I enjoyed his book so much. Luckily, I can still listen to him speak as he will be participating in a Blog Talk Radio show with Book Club Girl on Wednesday, July 22nd. For more information about the show just click here. And for info about  about Garth Stein, you can visit his website here.

Would you like to win a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain?

I have an extra paperback copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain to giveaway and all you need to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post telling me how a pet has affected your life.
For an additional chance to win you can Tweet about this giveaway (@SWrittenWord has a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain by @Garthstein  to giveaway! ) or post about this contest on your own blog. Please note that this giveaway is open to my international readers too!

You have until next Thursday, July 23rd at 12 noon EST to enter. Good luck!!

Our first challenge winners (& Sea Monsters)!

July 15, 2009

Thanks to the wonderfully enthusiastic  blog posts and tweets about my Everything Austen challenge, we now have over 200 people participating!! 

From now until the end of the challenge, you can click on the green Everything Austen tab at the top of my blog to link to your reviews or leave comments about your progress. There is also a complete list of participants there so you can see who else has made the commitment to Everything Austen. Make sure to check back here often as I will be posting about Everything Austen often!

Now for the winners of my first two giveaways!

The winners of the three copies of Ms. Taken Identity by Dan Begley are:

Mike B. @ Liquid Thoughts


Lisa of Lit & Life

And the grand prize winner of the DVD Lost in Austen is:

Vicky of Reading and Stitching

Congrats to all the winners! Make sure to e-mail me at wordblog(at)optonline(dot)net with your addresses and I will make sure to get those prizes out to you very soon! Don’t fret – if you didn’t win this time, there will be plenty more chances through the challenge as publishers and authors have been very generous in their contributions for Everything Austen!

Also, check out Debbie’s World of Books as she is currently hosting a giveaway of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre!

Sea Monsters?

Yes, Quirk Publishing has done it again – taken a Jane Austen classic and made it, well, quirky.

From the Quirk website (publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies): 

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands the original text of the beloved Jane Austen novel with all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels?  This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest-and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!

For those of you who can’t wait for the September 15th release date, take a quick peek at the book trailer here!

The Local News

July 13, 2009

The Local News: A NovelThrust into the local spotlight when her older, more popular and athletic brother Danny ends up missing, Lydia finds herself navigating a new strange world. Students at her high school who wouldn’t have given Lydia a second glance are now approaching her with tear-filled eyes. She is subjected to Chuck, a local psychiatrist, to talk about her “feelings” for her brother. Lydia struggles in vain to connect with her grief stricken parents, her father now staring at the TV news endlessly and her mother obsessively making notes about her missing son on index cards. Added to the mix her naive budding feelings for Denis, the detective her parents have hired to look for clues.

Having tolerated Danny’s often cruel behavior, Lydia is not exactly all that upset that her brother is gone. But where exactly does this situation leave her? Not the grief stricken relative everyone expects, but more like someone observing her new life from afar.

The Local News by Miriam Gershow has some really good attributes. The author is dead on in her description of social hierarchy in high school. She also doesn’t sugar-coat the relationship between the protagonist Lydia and her brother. There’s was a relationship of sibling rivalry both at home and at school. 

While it is pretty obvious from the beginning of the book that Gershow is a talented writer, I felt that the story lacked an emotional connection between writer and reader. I struggled through most of the book, having a hard time sympathizing with any of the characters. I think I’m probably in the minority, since The Local News got glowing reviews from Books on the Brain and Everyday I Write the Book. For me though, I was left with mixed feelings about the book. Sure the writing was good, but in the end I felt it was a forgettable story.

I read this book as part of TLC book tours.

Some Zombie giveaway goodness!

July 12, 2009

I was so thrilled, while browsing through the reviews that have been pouring in for Everything Austen (which you can see for yourself by clicking on the green Everything Austen tab at the top of my blog) to see that so many of you have decided to host your own giveaways!!

First, check out Adventures of Cecilia Bedilia to win a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, along with a really cool handmade zombie bookmark. All you need to do is leave a comment on her post by July 26th answering the question, “Zombies are attacking. Why are you afraid?”

After you win Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or if it is on your Everything Austen Challenge list already, then stop by Velvet’s blog for her Zombie bag o’goodies giveaway (to coincide with September Zombies Week). Her giveaway will include the book Never Slow Dance With A Zombie by E. Van Lowe (check out the cool book cover on the left). All you need to do is read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by September 5, 2009 and leave a link to your review on her post to be entered.

Thanks so much to all of you who have decided to generously offer giveaways for Everything Austen!

A couple Austen-ish giveaways!!

July 10, 2009

Ann over at the With My Needle blog has created this beautiful stitching chart for Everything Austen and wants to give it away to one of you!

Just stop by her blog and leave a comment to enter. Deadline to enter the contest is 12 noon, Central time, on July 15!

Also, have you seen the Facebook group entitled I’M A MAN WHO LOVES JANE AUSTEN? The group is inspired by Dan Begley’s book MS. TAKEN IDENTITY, a novel about a struggling male literary novelist who decides to write a fun commercial novel–but he has to pose as a woman to do so. The author has also written an essay entitled MAN! I FELL LIKE A WOMAN.

Hatchette Book Group has very generously offered three copies of MS. TAKEN IDENTITY to Everything Austen participants. If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. To double you chances, Tweet about this giveaway on Twitter ( #everythingausten giveaway! 3 copies of Ms. Taken Identity ). I will announce the winners on July 15th, the same date that one lucky participant will win a DVD copy of Lost in Austen.

The Blue Notebook

July 8, 2009

The Blue Notebook: A NovelThe Blue Notebook by James A. Levine is the story of fifteen year old Batuk, a young girl sold into prostitution by her family at the age of nine. Told from Batuk’s point of view, she tells us about her young childhood in a remote Indian village, how she learns to read while hospitalized with TB and then her transformation from naive little girl to the sexual slave she is forced to become:

I became transformed as I lay on that bed, which was the most luxurious I had ever felt. When clay dries in an oven, it is changed from a soft malleable form to a solid, defined one; once baked, the hardened clay can never be molded again, only broken. A few hours earlier I had entered Gahil’s house as a soft glob of warm clay. I would leave there a hardened, useful vessel.

I’ve sure you’ve seen a lot of reviews floating around about The Blue Notebook. I read this book practically in one sitting, entranced and disturbed by the brutality that young Batuk has to face. One of the only things keeping her alive is her notebook in which she writes all of her innermost feelings. Beautifully written, The Blue Notebook takes us deep into the recesses of Batuk’s mind, where she tries to reconcile what is happening to her. The hardest to read, but one of the most beautifully written pages in the book, was the moment when Batuk looks for a place within herself that is untouched by the horrors surrounding her:

There is plenty of room for all the words in the world to live in me; they are welcome here. He may have taken my light and extinguished it, but now within me can hide an army of whispering syllables, rhythms, and sounds. All you may see is a black cavity that fills a tiny girl, but trust me, the words are there, alive and fine.

The Blue Notebook gives you a glimpse into the brutal world of child prostitution. It is also a testament to the written word and it’s power to transport us from our everyday troubles to a safe haven. When describing the cage in which she services men, her vivid imagination paints a beautiful picture of her surroundings (full of sunshine, lush cushions, encased in gold) which we know is not her reality:

No! I am not deranged. I do not believe for a second that I lie each day in a nest of gold with attendants and creamy foods. My cell, with its steel bars, is the size of a toilet. That is my home. I wait for the gray concrete night to become day – not that it matters a speck, for the walls never change. The dirt slowly accumulates with each entrant.  

Inspired by a trip taken to India, the author (a doctor at the Mayo Clinic)  interviewed a young prostitute in Mumbai who was writing in a notebook. I would highly recommend this book, although caution that it is an uncomfortable read.

The Blue Notebook is on sale now and ALL proceeds from the novel will be donated to the International and National Centers from Missing and Exploited Children.

Everyone likes Austen

July 7, 2009


Introducing the youngest Everything Austen participant, my two and a half year old daughter, who grabbed my copy of Sense and Sensibility this morning. Notice that she is comfy with her legs crossed and is wearing her older sisters pajamas. All she needs is some hot coffee (preferably using this mug) and she would be all set!

Already the reviews are pouring in! Just click on the green Everything Austen tab at the top of my blog to see what people have been watching/reading/crafting for the challenge. Also, check out Fuzzy Cricket, who has linked to a wonderful site that any Pride and Prejudice fan will enjoy. Just make sure that you have some time and good speakers on your computer.

If you haven’t done so yet, there is still time to sign up for Everything Austen (deadline is July 15th). Stop by here to for details.

Everything Austen X Two (our first mini-challenge)!

July 3, 2009

The lovely Laurel Ann from Austenprose has come up with a fabulous idea for all of us Everything Austen participants – check out Everything Austen X Two! She is raising the ante of my proposed six Austen inspired books or movies for the Everything Austen Challenge to twelve (more like a maxi-challenge than mini-challenge)! That’s two Austen inspired books or movies a month. Plus, crafty endeavors can be included on your list (just see the gorgeous stitching project Mary Kathryn is working on below). 


Feel like taking this challenge to another level? If so, here is how  you do it!

If you are already signed up with the Mr. Linky on this post but have decided to increase your challenge list to twelve items, there is no need to re-sign up on my blog – just stop by Austenprose and leave a comment on this post to let her know you are participating!

Otherwise, if you are just now deciding to sign up, follow the protocol for  signing up on this post with a list of either the initial six Austen-inspired items or twelve! Then just stop by Austenprose to let Laurel Ann know that you are in for doubling your list.

Please note that you are under no obligation to increase your challenge list – if you are comfortable with six items for the next six months, then just keep your list as it is. If you do feel like taking on more items, just know that you will be in the running for a copy of a book or movie of your choice from the Austenprose reading/viewing list!

everythingausten1Remember, the deadline to sign up for Everything Austen (regardless of whether you will be reading/watching/crafting six or twelve Austen-inspired things) is July 15th! I will announce our first challenge winner (a DVD of Lost in Austen) on that day!

Also remember that you can now find on the top of my blog a tab entitled Everything Austen. Make sure that each time you write a post about the Everything Austen challenge on your blog (other than your original list) to stop back here and click on the Everything Austen tab and use that Mr. Linky to link to your posts, that way everyone can follow along with your progress!

Creative use of old books

July 2, 2009

Have you guys seen this great Etsy crafter who calls herself Spoonful of Chocolate? She makes beautiful handbags from recycled books. Check out what she created with a two different copies of Pride and Prejudice!

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen Book Handbag- Retro/Funky green

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen Book Handbag- Retro/Funky green

Or another version of Jane Austen’s classic (I know you Everything Austen participants will appreciate it).

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Book Handbag- Maroon and Gold

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Book Handbag- Maroon and Gold

Arent’ they lovely? According to Spoonful of Chocolate no pages were harmed during the purse making process. She takes gently used books (and only uses the covers) then takes the sleeve and wrap it back on to the fully intact book and donates that to a Refugee Center in Arizona.

She has many different designs, include the ones below from Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

DO NOT BUY- Retro Alice in Wonderland Book Handbag- Beige and Pink

The Wizard of Oz Book Handbag- Purple and Yellow
 To see more designs, check out her Etsy shop here.