Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price

I studied French for many years, went to France one summer during college, and did some ethnography and field cultural anthropology studies on the people of France. I love the culture, the food, the language, the history, and the art. So when I was approached to review this memoir of the time Marjorie Price spent in rural France, I jumped at the chance.

Marjorie went to Paris as a young woman in her twenties to explore the world of painting there. This is one of the things I liked best about the book, Marjorie's love for art and painting. During her time there, she met a dashing young French artist, Yves, who swept her off her feet. Soon they were married and she had a daughter. They had a dream of buying a studio by the sea, but instead they ended up buying half of a hamlet in the middle of nowhere. Still living in this area were people who spoke the local language and had never ventured outside of Morhiban.

Unfortunately, Yves starts to grow jealous of Marjorie's painting and quite controlling. This leads to problems in their marriage and Marjorie develops an extremely close relationship to a local woman, Jeanne. Their friendship defies language, cultural, and age barriers.

I enjoyed reading this story quite a bit, getting glimpses into a culture that no longer exists in France, and while I was saddened to read about Price's disintegrating marriage, the ways she found her own strength were interesting. Mostly I loved the relationship between her and Jeanne because I love knowing we can find friendship where we least expect it. We don't really have to have any of the surface things in life in common to connect at the heart level and this book was a great reminder of that.

Rating: 4/5
Source of Book: Provided for review
Publisher: Gotham


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LOST Recap and Discussion: 6.10 The Package

A full discussion of tonight's episode of LOST follows.

I really enjoyed tonight's episode. It felt like vintage LOST to me, rich in character motivation and interest, mysterious developments, humor, and the parallelism was outstanding. Threads of past and present ran through the episode and the idea of fate seemed stronger than ever.

It would seem that fate does not smile kindly on Sun and Jin. In their sideways universe, Sun's father is conspiring to keep them apart, putting a price on the head of Jin. They are in love but not married, keeping their relationship a secret from her father. But Keamy was hired to kill Jin. When he realizes there is no money, however, he permits Sun to go with Mikhail (that was a fun thread in the episode) to the bank so that she can get the money out of her account. This was money she had saved to start a new life for her and Jin. But unfortunately, the account was closed by her father. Jin is tied up at the restaurant (we remember seeing him there during Sayid's episode) and Sayid gives him the box cutter to free himself. So when Mikhail comes back to the restaurant with Sun and asks Keamy what happened, Jin holds the gun to him. A gun fight ensues in which Jin shoots Mikhail in the eye (right on!) but unfortunately Sun is also wounded and announces she is pregnant.

On the island is very interesting as well. Widmore's folks are keeping a close eye on Flocke's camp. Locke goes off to hunt for Sun and try to bring her back to camp, but Sun refuses to go with him. Her gut instinct is not to trust him and she flees, running into a tree. Ben finds her but Sun has lost her ability to communicate in English. When Richard finally shows back up at camp and announces they must destroy the plane, she flies into a rage, but her words are lost on all those gathered. Jack seeks her out later and suggests she try writing her thoughts, which she does. This scene shows a more gentle Jack, and a sweet sincere moment of friendship among our original Losties. Jack convinces Sun to go with them.

Widmore's camp has kidnapped Jin. They need his knowledge of the island learned from his Dharma days, specifically the electromagnetic pocket of energy. To ensure his interest and cooperation, Widmore shows Jin pictures of Ji-Yeon and Sun. This was one of those gut wrenching moments in LOST. Poor Jin! Widmore proceeds to tell Jin about a package, which is not a what but a who.

Flocke goes to try to retrieve Jin and is met with a bunch of pylons designed to keep him out. He announces war has come to the island and leaves Sayid to investigate what was kept in the submarine...this is when we get a glimpse of the's Desmond! Of course, he always was the special one.

A Few Interesting Things:
*Claire frets over going home to an Aaron who doesn't know her and Locke says Kate's name isn't on the wall anymore, but he needs her to get the others on the plane. Then, "whatever happens, happens."
*I suspect Jin is the Kwon candidate. So much for the females!
*I absolutely loved Ilana's suspicion of Ben and when he asked why she didn't believe him, she answers, "Because you're speaking"
*Sayid is numb to feeling...I believe he has lost his soul.

Overall I really enjoyed the forward momentum of tonight's episode, and the character development as well. I'm so glad to see Desmond again, and while I cringe at the words sacrifice, I suspect we will be seeing lots of death and heart wrenching moments now that we're nearing the end.

Tell me what you thought--


Interview with Lynn Weingarten about Wherever Nina Lies and Giveaway!

Wherever Nina Lies
I read Wherever Nina Lies a few weeks ago. It's a fun mystery that uses drawings and has all sorts of creative ideas in it. While I thought the lack of parental involvement was a little bit hard to believe, it was over all a fun read. I have a short interview with the author below and a chance for you to win a copy of the book!

Why did you choose to write about a missing person?

Scholastic said they were looking to do a YA novel that would have drawings in it, and so I tried to come up with a story that drawings would naturally be a part of. It seemed like it would work best if the drawings were clues. And things just sort of went from there . . .

Do you personally identify more with Ellie or Nina?

Some Ellie, a little bit Nina, but not entirely with either of them. I’ve had friends read the book and tell me they thought that Ellie sounds like me, which I always think is funny.

Do you have a sister that was the inspiration for this story?

I do have a sister who is older and helped me know what having an older sister is like. She wasn’t really the inspiration for the plot though.

I loved the idea of the Mothership. Where did you get that idea?

Oh thank you! There was a house in the town where I went to college that was actually called the Mothership, although it wasn’t at all like the Mothership in the story, it’s just where I got the name. Most of the other details are just made up, although the overall mood of the party was inspired by various wacky places that are real – a house we used to go to in high school that was only ever lit by black-light, and huge house I lived in for a summer during college (the rumor was that it was a former funeral home, and was haunted), and a giant circusy sort of house where I went to a few parties when I first moved to NYC.

What do you hope readers take away from this story?

My main goal was to write something that people would (hopefully) find fun to read. A few readers have emailed and told me things they’ve taken away from the story and while I wasn’t writing with any particular message in mind, I’ve been glad to know that they got these certain things out of it. But I can’t say any more than that or I’ll give away the ending!

I know you want to read it! Here's the official synopsis:
Nina was beautiful, wild, and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But, one day, Nina disappeared. Two years later, everyone has given up home that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look. Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she’s got a chance—her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn’t planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth. Learn more at the website for Wherever Nina Lies.

If you are interested in entering to win a copy of this book, please fill out the form below! Please note the contest rules:
Books are valued at $8.99 each.
Shipping Guidelines: This book giveaway is open to participants with a United States mailing address only (international readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.) Contest closes April 15th.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Damages and Why I Love It

(I wrote the bulk of this post before tonight's STELLAR episode. For an excellent write-up of tonight's episode, visit the Televisionary Blog.)

One of my pet peeves is the assumption that television adds no value to life. While I can agree that a lot of people probably sit in front of the tube instead of engaging in their lives, it's not really my place to judge that. And I happen to love television. Not all of it. I have gotten to the point in my life where I can really only watch a little bit. There are weeks when I barely feel I can squeeze in the time to watch LOST.

Like books, there are quite a few good TV shows out there and each person has to choose what they want to watch. Some people may choose to watch a fun show and I don't really begrudge them that choice. There's something delicious about sitting down to a show that doesn't tax your emotions or thinking. My personal favorite for that is The Vampire Diaries.

But there are quite a few good shows that will give you the opportunity to think if you want to. Really, it's up to you how much you want to engage or simply be passive when watching TV.

Which brings me to Damages. I loved the first season of this show, but struggled to stay with it the second season. This season, however, has been absolutely outstanding and has given me pause to think many times.

On the surface, this is a show about the cutthroat nature of people, lawyer Patty Hewes who goes after the big corporations and greedy giants who have cheated investors and employees out of their rightful money in one way or another. Patty is ruthless, it seems there's nothing she won't do to win her cases, often at the unbelievable expense of others. It's also about Ellen, a young lawyer who works for Patty in the first season and soon finds herself losing bits of herself in the high cost game of law and power.

These two women are the heart of the show (if the show has a heart), Patty and her continual lust for control and power and Ellen's constant crisis of identity and conscience.

The storytelling is extremely clever as well, starting with the beginning and end of the story and filling in the pieces in between as the season progresses. This is such a fun way to test our assumptions and skills of prediction. Like a puzzle, the viewer works to figure out how the story comes together.

It's not a flashy show, there's no soaring music to guide your emotions. It's essential to pay attention to the dialogue to follow what's going on. It's impossible to always tell who you can trust, who is working on the side of good...are any of them? As the characters battle their own demons, their selfishness,lust, and greed their observations on life are worth considering.

I really appreciated last week's episode and I'm writing this right before the show comes on for tonight. What I loved about last week's episode is that it encapsulates the entire series as Frobrisher (the first season's villain) came to terms with his feelings about Patty. Apparently, Frobrisher is on some sort of quest for redemption, he's written a memoir, he's working to develop alternative energy, but manipulative as ever, he plays his cards just right to get the man he wants to star in the commercials in exchange for the rights to option his story for film. Only, they want to portray Patty as the villain. Frobrisher resists at first. Something about this path to redemption and his conspiring with Patty last season has warmed him towards her. He insists the filmmakers set up a meeting with Patty, so they can see she's not really so ruthless as she seems. He wants them to see there are many dimensions to Patty, that she was simply doing what she had to do.

However, at the meeting, when they ask Patty about the Arthur Frobisher she knows, Patty says, "The Arthur Frobisher I know is a despicable bully. He stole from his employees, then he manipulated the system to escape prison with a slap on the wrist... Do what you want; I don't much like movies."

Frobisher is filled with indignation and rage. All his plans to have a layered Patty Hewes go out the window and he wholeheartedly agrees she ought to be portrayed as the villain.

Ah yes, life. This is the very thing I love about Damages, just when we want to feel sympathy for Patty as we watch her with family falling apart, she does something that feels nearly unthinkable to our own sense of morality. We can never be sure what her true motives are or what scheming is going on in her mind. She certainly doesn't have moral ground to stand on, yet she is clear in her own judgement and sense of right and wrong with others. She is a compelling and complex character, who certainly does a lot of good, but uses questionable means to accomplish her goals. And Frobisher's reaction to her assessment of him shows he hasn't really carved out a path to redemption, he is still reactionary in his thinking, and unable to truly live in the gray places he spoke of earlier in the show.

It reminds me of life--the way we see people depends so much on how they react to us. We certainly struggle to place them in any context apart from the way we feel we've been treated by them. It's hard for us to objectively look at the narrative of our lives and frame our perceptions of people outside of our direct experiences with them. We constantly want to feel they are good as well. Frobisher wishes to believe Patty was doing what she did because it was the right thing to do at the time, and not for any other reason. If he views Patty's actions as having been part of what leads him to redemption, he is at peace with them. But on the other side of the journey, when she still has no respect for him, he is forced to realize there might have been more at work than the story of his own life. He is unendingly self-centered.

The characters on Damages aren't necessarily all that likable. But they are so real they almost breathe, they are complex, and believable. And watching their stories unfold reminds me of the truth of life.

If you've never watched Damages, you must start from the beginning with Season One. It does have language and some violence. It's definitely dark, but it's worth it.

Also, on a fun sidenote, Damages has my favorite theme song for a television show currently on the air. I found out from the ever fantastic Televisionary that the whole song was available for download on iTunes. It's a pretty rockin song. You can see the theme song below:


Review: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Helen Adams is a photojournalist in Vietnam. She has been there for ten years, she has seen much of the war. As the book opens, the Americans are leaving Vietnam and she's fighting to get her and her Vietnamese lover, Linh, out of the country. He's in bad shape as he was just recently shot and they've been out of medicine for days.

But like the characters in the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker, war and the adrenaline of getting the perfect shot have become a kind of drug for Helen, still desperate to prove herself she ensures that Linh makes it out of Vietnam, but she stays behind.

Now I read all of this and was confused. I thought this was a book about the Vietnam War when I started reading, but it seemed like things were wrapping up at this point. Oh but I was fooled as Soli just gave me that tantalizing first fifty pages to get me to care about the characters and then she took me back to the beginning of the war.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. I liked a lot of the observations about war, about cultural differences, about news and the way government shapes media and news. For the most part the writing was solid, though there was a bit of head hopping (abrupt shifts in point of view within the same scene) that drove me crazy. And while I liked the book, it wasn't tremendously engaging. I found myself wanting to skim through some sections to get back to what happened to Helen and Linh. Because the book opened with them, because I already knew so much of the outcome, I felt most invested in their story.

I would recommend The Lotus Eaters to people with an interest in war stories, particularly Vietnam, or an interest in foreign correspondents. It's definitely not light reading.

Rating: 4/5
Things You Might Want to Know: some profanity, violence, sex
Source of Book: ARC received for book tour with TLC Book Tours
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gone With the Wind Check-in #4 -- Scarlett Continues to Evolve

So the war is over now, but survival is just as tough as ever for our heroine. But Scarlett is as tough as nails and willing to do anything to save Tara. Including selling herself as a mistress to Rhett Butler and stealing her sister's betrothed for her own.

I have to say I continue to be impressed by just how well developed Scarlett is...she's the sort of character that I would probably hate to know in real life but can't help but admire in fiction. Despite the fact that she's brilliant in some ways and completely dim in others, I find myself rooting for her and her success. I found this section to be full of interesting historical evolution and I am continually impressed with just how timeless it is.

On Scarlett and Atlanta:
"Scarlett nodded, a grim pleasure and pride in her adopted town filling her. As Frank said, it was a pushy, impudent place and that was why she liked it. It wasn't hidebound and stick-in-the-muddish like the older towns and it had a brash exuberance that matched her own. 'I'm like Atlanta,' she thought. It takes more than Yankees or a burning to keep me down.'"

Scarlett on God:
"She {Careen} prayed a good deal for when Scarlett came into her room without knocking, she always found her on her knees by her bed. The sight never failed to annoy her, for Scarlett felt the time for prayer had passed. If God has seen fit to punish them so, then God could very well do without prayers. Religion had always been a bargaining process with Scarlett. She promised God good behavior in exchange for favors. God had broken the bargain time and again, to her way of thinking, and she felt that she owed him nothing at all now."

Scarlett on Southern culture:
"She could not ignore life. She had to live it and it was too brutal, too hostile for her to even try to gloss over its harshness with a smile. Of the sweetness and courage and unyielding pride of her friends, Scarlett saw nothing. She saw only a silly stiff-neckedness which observed facts but smiled and refused to look them in the face."

Scarlett on women:
"A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett, who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright. Of course, she had discovered that this was not altogether true, but the pleasant fiction still stuck in her mind. Never before had she put this remarkable idea into words. She sat quite still, with the heavy book across her lap, her mouth a little open with surprise, that during her lean months at Tara she had done a man's work and done it well. She had been brought up to believe that a woman alone could accomplish nothing, yet she had managed the plantation without men to help her until Will came. Why, why, her mind stuttered, I believe women could manage everything in the world without men's help--except having babies, and God knows, no woman in her right mind would have babies if she could help it."

So you can see I really think this section was quite pivotal for Scarlett. Don't you love her?

A few questions for those reading along:
1) What in the world is the Ashley attraction? I think he's completely lame.
2) Do you love Scarlett or find her repulsive? Do you think the world needs survivors like her and Rhett to do the dirty work while others depend on them but manage to keep their conscience?

Also, just so you know in advance: This fall I'll be hosting a readalong for Lonesome Dove. Probably in October. So I've told you WAY in advance so you can plan for it!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Review: Hunger by Elise Blackwell

I love Unbridled Books so I was thrilled we made them our first choice as part of the Spotlight Series, which is basically an effort to bring more recognition to the many fantastic small presses out there. Unbridled Books's fiction is always of excellent quality. We will be spotlighting more small presses throughout the year, so I hope you'll go subscribe to our blog. There's no reason to limit your reading to only the best-selling names!

I chose to read a backlist title, Hunger by Elise Blackwell. I have to confess that this book kind of confused me. So I'm using the publisher's synopsis:

Set during Hitler’s siege of Leningrad, Elise Blackwell’s beautiful debut novel is the deeply moving story of one man’s confrontation with his own morality. A scientist, but a man of powerful personal appetites, unexpectedly finds himself with a choice that is informed too much by his private hungers. The danger he faces is betraying not only the woman he loves but also the principles he holds most dear.

I think my lack of understanding of the history of this time period kept me from really enjoying this short little book. I couldn't place in my mind where the events were taking place and the book itself didn't offer a lot of information in this regard. Additionally, it moved back and forth through time in the mind of the narrator further confusing me.

The writing, however, was lovely. The depictions of the extreme hunger were horrific. Some of the moral examinations were interesting, but it felt more like I was being told about them rather than that I was experiencing them along with the characters. And the fact that the narrator was only able to remain faithful to his wife for one year was disturbing.

In any case, the writing is beautiful and I will read more of Blackwell's books. And it did make me more interested in this time period so maybe I'll look for some books that give me a better understanding.

Rating: 3.5/5
Source of Book: paperback swap
Publisher: Unbridled Books


Friday, March 26, 2010

March Faith and Fiction Round Table: In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

The Faith and Fiction Round Table is a monthly event where a group of diverse Christian bloggers discuss a work of fiction or nonfiction.

This month's book was In the Garden of North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff which is a "best-of" collection of Wolff's short stories. The short story format may have made the discussion a bit more disjointed this month, but once again I appreciated the insights of each participant. Even if you have not read the book, you should still be able to follow along with the various pieces of the conversation. And hopefully you'll make time to read along for the upcoming months!

Stuck In A Book--About Short Stories

The Quirky Redhead--The Stories we liked best and the ones we didn't

Wordlily--The tone and content of the stories, discussion on Face to Face

The Fiddler's Gun--The themes and where was the light? (by the way I really encourage you go to and weigh in on whether or not books need "light")

Strange Culture--The Coen Brothers and thoughts on "Smokers"

Rebelling Against Indifference -- The title and how the stories worked as a collection

My sincere thanks to all this month's participants for sharing this reading experience with me.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

News and the Blogiversary Thing

I am part of the SheKnows Book Club. Every two months we discuss a book and it's super fun! I hope you'll consider joining us for April/May in which we will be discussing Jodi Picoult's House Rules. I know a lot of you are Picoult fans and I think it will be even more fun to discuss the book as a group. There's a whole bunch of us...learn more about us at SheKnows.

You all know how I feel about Julie Lessman and her fantastic romance books. Right now, you can download her first book, A Passion Most Pure, for free on the Kindle. And yes, that's the last time this girl with a Sony Reader will be mentioning the Kindle on her blog. :) Anything for Julie.

Did you know there's a facebook fan page for The Heart is Not a Size? You'll be able to stay up to date easily with all of the latest news about the book, a special upcoming Heart contest, and have the chance to learn more about Juarez.

The series finale of LOST has a name. It's, wait for this, The End. I know I'm a little overly invested in this show, but I love that title and it almost makes me teary. How perfect and fitting. (and as huge a LOST fan as I am, I am not a fan of the idea of the universe continuing with Darlton's involvement, so The End is even more perfect.)

And fifth blogiversary actually has already passed. I started this blog and then promptly ignored it for like three months. As you do. But I'd like to still commemorate in March, five years I've been your friend Amy. :)

Like last year, I'm resurrecting You Ask, I'll Answer, but this year with a twist. You can ask any question you like, I'll try to answer them, but you must include a literary reference in your question. It can be either a book title or a literary character, or a famous setting from a book, and you have to somehow use it to make sense in your question. BUT the question doesn't have to be about books at all. And for a little incentive, I have a few giveaways.

I had grand plans to collect signed books at every signing I went to this year to give away, but then I lost my job. And I also missed some of the signings I wanted to go to. But I do have two!
So if you ask a question using a literary reference, you have the chance to win a signed copy of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl or a signed copy of A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by the incomparable Liza Palmer. And for a third prize, I'll put together a personal package of things I love. For example, a bookstore near me going out of business had some books I love, and I couldn't let them sit there all abandoned. So, this will be for my readers who share my faith, the first book of essays by Frederick Buechner that I read (A Room Called Remember), The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, The Passion of Mary Margaret, and a non-bookish suprise.

So when you ask your question, just also put which prize you'd like best with a 1 (Beautiful Creatures), 2 (Field Guide), or 3 (book bundle heavy on faith)

I feel exhausted already from the complicated nature of this, I can only imagine how you feel.

Please ask me questions! You can ask me anything just have to work the literary reference in there. I hope there is much humor in my future. Oh and I'll post my answers on Wednesday of next week. EDIT: Okay since I apparently made this much too difficult, new rules! Literary reference or just use the word cake in the question. Why cake? Because it's my blogiversary. :)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming Pool
When I first heard of this book, it took some effort to put the novel of the same name by Madeleine Wickham out of my mind. (it's my favorite of her women's fiction books) Once I was able to do that, though, I dove into this one and loved it.

The Swimming Pool is a different sort of book in structure. While there is a linear fashion in which the story is told, I would say the central unifying point of the story is a simple summer party at a pool. The pool representing the hidden depths of each character in the story. At this point, this beginning of the tale that is woven in the novel, each character has yet to embark on their personal journey. And we only get flashes from each significant character throughout the novel.

There are books where this sort of going and back and forth through time feels gimmicky and I find myself impatient. But there wasn't a second of The Swimming Pool that I didn't savor due to LeCraw's natural, precise, and gorgeous prose. Instead, the flashes through time felt like ripples going out in a pool, each bit of story a repercussion of poor decisions made.

LeCraw fully fleshes out her characters and their pain, confusion, desire, and rage leaps off the page. I truly felt like I was getting an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of these character's minds.

I'm hesitant to give a synopsis of the book, because I wish I hadn't read one. Instead, I'll simply say this is a story of how some people come to terms with their loss, with secrets, with the ways in which they have deceived each other.

And it's the story of how we long to know each other, how we long to fill in all our brokenness with each other, how we pass by each other trying to meet a common goal but never quite meet. Our longing to belong, to be a part of something, to know and to possess. It's a bit heartrending in this regard.

Once again, the writing is beautiful and breathes with the emotions of the characters. It's a book to be savored.

Rating: 4.75/5
Things You Might Want to Know: sex and profanity
Source of Book: ARC received from publisher
Publisher: DoubleDay (Random House)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LOST Recap and Discussion: 6.9 Ab Aeterno

The LOST episode we have all been waiting for was aired tonight--the story of Richard Alpert.

As always, full spoilers follow.

I had to look up what Ab Aeterno means and I got many variations, from the beginning of time, since the beginning of time, from the eternal. All very apt for tonight's episode.

The episode opened with Jacob asking Ilana to help him protect the candidates and then the Losties chatting around the fire about how they're candidates and have no idea why or what for. Ilana explains that Ricardo should know, but Richard at this point is rather hysterical. He announces that they are all dead and in hell. And then he tears off into the jungle.

At this point, we travel back in time to the turning point in Ricardo's life and we stay in the past throughout the episode, a rare LOST occurrence. Ricardo's wife is dying, he's desperate to save her and he goes off to the doctor, a half day's trip. When he arrives, however, the doctor is not interested in helping him, and doesn't accept Ricardo's payment. In a fit of desperation and rage, Ricardo kills him. He takes the medicine with him and goes back to his wife, but as we all probably predicted, she had already passed away. He was followed from the doctor's though, and instantly arrested.

Ricardo has committed murder, an offense that will haunt him (though he's willing to repeat it for the sake of seeing his wife again) and his priest even refuses to absolve him of this sin. Thankfully, he was learning English which earns him a passage on board the Black Rock, a slave ship bound for the New World.

Here's where we might refer back to the season finale of last year. We saw Jacob and the Man in Black sitting on the beach watching the ship approach. If you remember, the Man in Black said, "it always ends the same way." and Jacob responded, "it only ends once, anything that happens before that is just progress." In this episode we learned that yes indeed, only Jacob can draw people to the island. He draws them in hopes of showing them they can resist evil, and their past doesn't matter.

In any case, for some reason, the Man in Black or the Smoke Monster recognizes in Richard a potential person to kill Jacob. Perhaps it's the loss of Isabella that has hollowed him out, his palpable grief and longing make him vulnerable to the manipulation of the Smoke Monster. The smoke monster appears as Isabella and appeals to Ricardo's belief in an afterlife and his already present fear of going to hell by taking her form and setting this message up. After he kills everyone else on the ship, he frees Ricardo with the agreement that if Ricardo kills Jacob (the devil) he will be reunited with Isabella. Ricardo agrees and heads off to this task.

One thing I found interesting is that the Man in Black issued the same warning to Ricardo that was issued to Sayid about the Man in Black. "If he speaks, it's already too late." For some reason, their speech and the power of their words is persuasive..why is this so? Does it only affect the souls sitting right on the balance of light and dark?

So Jacob fights Ricardo and then they talk. Jacob tells Ricardo that he doesn't want to intervene and tell people to choose good, but he will have Ricardo/Richard act as an intermediary in his place. The Man in Black, he says, represents hell/malevolence/evil. He shows Richard a carafe of wine and says that the wine represents the dark and the cork is the island...keeping the darkness from escaping and spreading.

Jacob couldn't resurrect Isabella. He couldn't protect Richard from hell. But he could grant him the chance to never die. When Richard goes back to the Man in Black, the man in black tells him if he ever changes his mind the offer still stands. Richard gives him a white stone.

Well, present day Richard has changed his mind. He calls out to Locke, who doesn't come, but Hurley does, to facilitate communication with Richard's dead wife. Can I just what a long time to grieve???

The episode ends with Jacob and the Man in Black talking over the events, the Man in Black telling Jacob he wishes to kill him in order to have a chance to leave. Jacob leaves him with the carafe of wine, which the Man in Black smashes.

I felt like this episode was in many ways the center of the LOST story. We have the essential details, it pulled together some fragments from last year, but it still leaves so many questions about how this all relates to the characters we've cared about for so long. What does it all really mean? And there are still all these things that don't seem to make sense in the larger story, like the temple. I'm hoping that when the show LOST ends, I have a clearer picture in my mind of what the story meant. I will need to watch this episode again to really formulate some thoughts on this, but I have to say that I really enjoyed this episode, it felt like I was greedily drinking in all of this story that has been withheld for so long! :)

I'm very eager to know your thoughts. Are you satisfied with the story of Richard? Are you satisfied with the explanation that Jacob is a sort of guardian of the smoke monster or evil? Just who is Jacob? Please tell me all your thoughts.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart

Georgia and Riley are best friends and they have been best friends all of their lives, but each girl is protecting their own secrets. They each have their own struggles they are facing and while Georgia is becoming more and more aware of what haunts Riley, she feels paralyzed to help her.

Georgia sees a notice of a group going to Juarez, Mexico and decides she wants to go and for Riley to go with her. The girls head off on this trip, but things don't go as smoothly as expected. Each girl will be forced to confront what ails them in this in a land much different than their own.

When I first realized this was going to be a book about Juarez, I expected a certain kind of read. But that's a mistake with Beth Kephart, who delivers only the most exceptional work and stories framed only as they are important to her characters. I didn't get a story that ripped my heart out hopelessly over a devastated area of the world, but rather a deeply human story that never reduced Juarez and the people who live there into something that can be fit inside a box. Kephart illustrates this beautifully when Georgia begins researching Juarez on the internet, she quickly comes to the conclusion it can't easily be put in a box. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this.

I loved the characters I was introduced to in this book. I felt for both Georgia and Riley. I understood the feeling of having a friendship that means so much on the rocks, and the hope to make a difference in the world. One of the things I love so much about Beth's books are the sympathetically drawn characters, never perfect but never condemned. Love without sentimentality. Romance whispering in the shadows. Hope that has its foundation deep within.

The Heart is Not a Size is about so many things, it's about friendship, it's about self-worth, it's about helping people, it's about the secrets we keep and the ones we shouldn't, it's about knowing who we are, it's about the healing nature of art.

Again, there's no poverty porn here. Just a beautiful story about some girls that go to a hurting area of the world and find healing where they might least expect it. It's beautifully written and achingly human. When I finished reading The Heart is Not a Size, I felt I had been treated to the very best of YA lit today, I felt moved, nostalgic, and hopeful.

Rating: 5/5
Source of Book: ARC received from publisher
Publisher: HarperTeen


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Last fall, in the midst of what is one of the busiest weeks of the year for me, I came home and found a mysterious piece of mail. Now, I often get these in book shape, but this was not one of those. When I opened the mail, I had a card with several gift cards in it. This was a gift from many lovely, hard-working bloggers to buy an ereader.

I was thrilled! But I had to wait for awhile because the model I wanted hadn't been released to stores yet. I finally got my ereader this past week when I realized it was available in stores. I got the Sony Daily Reader, which is basically Sony's high end model at the moment. I'm very excited about it, but I haven't been able to finish a book on it yet, partly because I was reading Gone with the Wind all weekend, and partly because I have yet to forget I'm reading something on an ereader. :) I'm waiting for that magical moment that has been promised me, when I'll forget the device and be swept into the story. As I drove home from the store, a grin stretching from ear to ear at finally having an ereader, I was reflecting on my days as a market research assistant (read: I called people for telephone surveys) on ebooks back when I was scraping my way through college. I had no earthly idea what an ebook was and the questions all felt very alien to me. How far we've come since then!

Also, I finally watched the pilot for Justified! I've been looking forward to this show for quite some time since they've been advertising for it so heavily during Damages (one of my favorite shows that sadly not very many people watch) The fact that Timothy Olyphant is in it, well that just seals the deal. I liked this show, and I look forward to where it goes in the future. These sorts of shows about troubled lawmen in very sharply defined environments seem quite popular. And I couldn't help but think of Sawyer on LOST (and how brilliant I think it was to have him be a cop in the sideways flash) at the end of the show when Raylan's ex-wife tells him, "you're the angriest man I know." By the way, the character of Raylan is a bookish character (created by Elmore Leonard) and the pilot was based on a short story.

Finally, I've been craving new music lately something crazy. I think it was being introduced to Jeremy Casella (who is fabulous--I'm working my way up to becoming a full time evangelist, just wait). So now every time someone blogs or tweets about some music I'm checking them out. Mumford & Sons? Owen Pallet? All part of my musical life now. I still need to get really well acquainted with them, but it's always fun to realize there is so much great music out there just waiting for me. I also just got David Bazan's Curse Your Branches after repeated tweets from a couple of people on twitter (who are sort of my "Oprahs" though I just realized almost all of my Oprahs are male. Interesting. Beth Kephart is probably the exception.) and reading a few reviews. It has taken a few listens for me to warm up to it (unlike Jeremy Casella who won me over with track 1), but I suspect some of you might like it as well.

What's new for you? New book? New music? New ereader? New car? New blog? New boyfriend or girlfriend? Tell me what's new in your life! :)


The Sunday Salon: In Which I Beat a Dead Horse

I do enjoy reading about book prizes and there are some I put more weight on than others, though I doubt any prize has consistently delivered. It's hard, the awards process, I know from personal experience. :)

So I always check out the long lists and short lists when they are announced. A lot of times I get some new ideas about books and it's always validating to see books I love make these lists.

This past week the Orange Prize for Fiction long list was announced. According to their website, "The Orange Prize for Fiction is awarded to the woman who, in the opinion of the judges, has written the best, eligible full-length novel in English."

I thought it was interesting to read one of the judges complain about how depressing all the books were. Daisy Goodwin said, according to The Guardian "I think the misery memoir has had its day, but there are an awful lot of books out there which had not a shred of redemption in them. I'm more of a light and shade person and there does need to be some joy, not just misery."

I also like books with redemption and hope. I haven't read any of the books on this long list so I can't intelligently argue whether or not there is in fact some shred of redemption. But I am very familiar with the idea that "depressing=deep" In order for something to be taken seriously, it seems that it must be depressing and dark.

I barely had time to mull over these comments, though, when a response came from Jean Hannah Edelstein that I loved. I agree, yes I do, and I know for long time readers it comes as no surprise.

Goodwin is wrong. There's a great deal of pleasure in publishing, particularly in writing by women, but it's not found on prize lists. That's because this type of book is almost invariably marketed as "women's fiction", often clad in a bright pink cover and bearing an image of a shoe or a cupcake on the front. These books may catch the eyes of readers in Waterstone's (as reflected in the bestseller lists), but their categorisation appears to be a dealbreaker when it comes to literary prizes. The rules of the Orange prize require that the books are submitted for consideration by editors, not authors – and if the books that are entered have been remarkably downbeat this year, it's perhaps because editors of lighter books by women aren't confident that they command the same respect as grim ones.

You really should read the whole thing.

Why am I bothering to bring this up again? Because it's an issue that is clearly not going away. Because it frustrates me. Because I think we should keep talking about it and fight the status quo, despite the subject title of this post.

I don't have a long personal commentary to add, but I'm interested in knowing what the last "light hearted" or humorous book was that you put on one of your best of lists. Was there one on your best of 2009 list? I didn't have any humorous books on mine, but I did have lots of books with hope! ;)


Gone with the Wind Check-In #3

I'm all caught up through chapter 27 and I have to say that I have completely been drawn into the story and I'm loving it!

Once we got past the first 300 pages of tedious character background and entered into actual plot the story really picked up for me. I have to admit to finding the look at the war and the sort of timeless look at war that is provided via Scarlett, Ashley, and Rhett's reactions and discussions fascinating. I do find the fact that while the white characters are richly developed and sharply drawn, the black characters are all sort of one dimensional and unbelievable to me. I can see why this is a major weakness of the book, but it's also very revealing of the time. I find the way Scarlett talks about Prissy hard to bear, and this part of the book uncomfortable to read in general.

And now my questions.

1) How are you enjoying the story so far?
2) Do you like Scarlett and admire her strength and conviction to survive or does she bother you?
3) Melanie? Do we like her?
4) Has reading this book changed your thoughts or given you any additional insight into this period of history?

I think I might curl up with the book for the rest of the day! I'm just loving it!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Faith'n'Fiction Saturday: Let's Discuss Young Adult Fiction


Faith'n'Fiction Saturday is a weekly discussion about the intersection of faith and fiction. You may participate by posting a comment or writing a post on your blog. Next week is the second round table discussion. The book we discussed was In the Garden of the North American Martyrs. For a complete schedule of the round tables for the rest of the year, please refer to this list.

Today I'd like to talk about YA fiction for Christian teens. The Christian fiction market for YA is still quite small and not varied. It seems heavy on fantasy or girly books. Let's be honest.

But that doesn't mean there's not a wealth of great books published in the general market for Christian teens. Today's challenge is to compile a list of recommended books, Christian or general market for Christians teens.

Here's my list:
Jenny B. Jones The Charmed Life series (Thomas Nelson)
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Delacorte)
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr (Little, Brown)
Undercover by Beth Kephart (HarperTeen)
Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart (HarperTeen)
The Heart is not a Size by Beth Kephart (HarperTeen)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press0
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt)
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt)

LOL I just realized I don't have a single male on that list. Clearly, I need to expand my YA reading!

Let's hear from you!

Review: This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This World We Live In
I loved the previous two books in this series so much, to the point they consumed my mind for days. This World We Live In was my most anticipated book of this year, and it did not disappoint. It was very different than I expected, though. Oh and you have to read the first two books in the series before you read this one. (both of them are available in paperback now)

I'm not sure how much I can really say about the book. For example, the synopsis on the back reveals things that don't happen until halfway through this very short book of only 239 pages. But so much has been revealed that I suppose I can say that the book is once again told from the perspective of Miranda's journals and that yes, Alex shows up.

Once again, Pfeffer takes us from small bad things to the biggest ultimate bad things. We journey through this hardship with the characters. The relationships and the tension are so well depicted, so believable. I was surprised by just how often I laughed out loud, but I suppose that in the middle of all that bleakness comedic relief (in the form of Miranda's voice and observations not so much the things that happen) is necessary.

The characters struggle with their values, they struggle with being charitable and loving and trying to survive. They battle their selfishness and their rough conditions.

The turn this book took I really wasn't expecting at all. I don't want to say too much, except for that I think Pfeffer was absolutely fearless. It was bold and it completely worked for me.

Pretty much, this was another strong installment? I thought this was a trilogy but I didn't see anything on the book like, "the conclusion to the moon crash trilogy" so I'm not sure that it is. If it is, the ending still works for me. If it's not, I look forward to book 4.

What can I say? I love this series. LOVE. I loved this book.

Rating: 4.75/5
Source of Book: While I received an egalley, I read a hard copy that I bought with an Amazon gift card.
Publisher: Harcourt


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Literary Identity, The Weight of Recommendations, and More

There are times as a book blogger or recommender of books that I wish I had a more defined sense of taste. The truth is that I enjoy a great variety of books and feel antsy whenever I think of fitting into one niche or genre. At the same time, I often feel without roots or a strong sense of like minded community in the book blogosphere. (and beyond)

I can look at other bloggers and generally guess what they like. Their sense of taste and preference is so highly developed that it's easy to recommend books to them, or to guess what kind of book they will enjoy.

This has been on my mind a lot more since my friend Rebecca mentioned that my taste was hard to pin down. But it's always been on my mind, especially when I work on things like BBAW and read blogs that devote themselves solely to one kind of book. I've been thinking about it because some of the people I admire and respect most in this world have highly developed taste. I generally know what sort of thing they will like and what they won't. Sometimes I think they have what might be considered "better" taste than me, because it is so consistent.

Of course it was Jason of Moored at Sea's post that really made me think about this in more depth, particularly this part:

it is very easy to find bloggers with very precisely similar interests - and in knowing those persons, your opinions become even MORE similar over time, as a group, on the trend. This makes these pockets of culture that at times can clash.

I have to admit, I was I have a group like that? I mean sure we all read The Hunger Games and loved it, but honestly that's about where it ends! After all, I review a good chunk of Christian fiction which quite a few of my closest blogging friends won't touch, same for romance, same for YA, same for any chick lit I still find time to read. Often I want to read the books that are trending, such as Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, but there are so many other books I want to read, I'm not sure I'll find the time. And I wonder if the books I recommend that I think my other friends would like have any impact on them...for example, I wonder if because I like Christian fiction, they don't trust my taste in what is called literary fiction. Or if they do trust my taste in literary fiction, why do they not also trust my taste in Christian fiction. I wonder just how powerful and effective it is to recommend without a niche. While it's probably just out of pride, I wonder, essentially, how weighty my recommendations are.

I guess what I'm asking is how much do you weigh the full measure of one's taste in deciding whether or not to trust them? One of the best examples I can give you springs from my comments yesterday when a commenter suggested I might give a book a try because Andrew Peterson endorsed it. If you've known me for any length of time, you know I'm a huge fan of Mr. Peterson. In fact, I would say he's one of those people, along with all of the people who blog at the Rabbit Room, who have highly developed taste. But, I don't always like what they like and the most unfortunate example I can give is that I'm neither a huge fan of Narnia or Tolkein. This is actually extremely perplexing to me as they are not the only ones I respect who cite them as major influences. I think it pretty much boils down to the fact that I'm not a terribly huge fan of straight fantasy. But it amazes me that the art they produce, so richly influenced by these other works, is of profound importance to me. And so generally,I put great stock in their recommendations, weighing only lightly the Lewis/Tolkien love.

I was thinking about this, as well, at the Beautiful Creatures signing I went to a couple of months ago. Kami and Margie talked about their influences and naturally named all the big fantasy names. I felt a stab of envy listening to them, because they have a literary identity. They have a culture and a heritage they are a part of. I feel like that's something I'm lacking, because I can't commit to one genre. I can't be well read in any one area, because I want to taste from all the different wells of literature. But I envy the fantasy community, the romance community, the YA community, because they have the ability to be wholehearted about one area of books. I envy also bloggers in more general fields like Nymeth and Rebecca who have obvious thematic elements to the books they enjoy.

And so because I'm like this, I feel adrift in the sea of people who love and talk about books. People who open themselves up to be influenced by books and who influence for books. I don't think I have that community that Jason mentions where our taste has become more similar over time.

I'm not suggesting we should all have THE SAME taste, though. I think that's probably impossible. Our different perspectives on books certainly illuminate our different life experiences. Different perspectives allow us to help each other understand books in new and different lights when discussed and help us to understand each other better. So please don't misunderstand.

I'm just reflecting on my lack of literary identity and culture. I'm wondering if because I don't have a clearly identifiable pattern of what I like, if my recommendations are less weighty. I guess I feel sad that sometimes a relationship is one sided in this regard, that while I trust one person's recommendations, they take mine less seriously.

Oh and one other thing! There are times I know someone won't like a book and in those cases I don't want them to take my recommendation, but again, that's an example of that other person having a highly developed and recognizable preference and taste.

Okay I realize this post is rather self-indulgent, but I'm curious if anyone else ever feels the same way. Do you have a sort of literary heritage you identify with? What do you think about the nature of recommendations in this world where word-of-mouth is king? Do you find yourself going to the same people over and over for your book recommendations so that your tastes have grown more similar over time? Or do you primarily make your selections based on your own gut instincts? If someone glowingly recommends a book you end up hating do you trust them less next time?


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Newsy Links and Stuff

I feel like there's a great assortment of stuff I've been meaning to pass on to everyone and haven't. For being unemployed, I am surprisingly busy.

Touching Home
Last year I reviewed Either You're In or You're in the Way by Logan and Noah Miller. I really enjoyed this memoir of making a film, and have eagerly been awaiting the film getting some distribution which has finally happened. It will open in select cities April 30th, and the trailer has been released which is not exactly the typical movie trailer, but check it out:

Fiddler's Gun Book Club
Still hoping many more of you will join the Fiddler's Gun Book Club! Don't forget to order your books from Kate, you'll get them for just 11 dollars!

You'll want to be sure to check out this awesome new website from Harper where you can:
Discover new adventures from middle grade authors like Frank Cottrell Boyce (Cosmic), Megan Whelan Turner (A Conspiracy of Kings), Herbie Brennan (The Shadow Project), Maryrose Wood (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place), Paul Adam (Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island) and
Jon Berkeley (The Hidden Boy) and see the stories come to life with free online games, book trailers, podcasts, and more.

Other Stuff

5 Minutes for Books is heavily promoting Fireworks Over Toccoa. (I went to college in Toccoa!) Find out how you can nominate your book club to receive copies of this upcoming book!

Rachelle Gardner addresses the issue of Christian worldview which I often get asked about when I try to explain what I think "Christian" fiction is. I'm with her. I like hope.

This is a pretty interesting and insightful review of Crazy Heart. I think the reviewers liked it more than I did, but I did appreciate it.

If you're feeling sad, you should check out this picture of Finn.

I love this post on researching creative nonfiction by Beth.

I love this post about the nature of taste by Jason. It was seriously thought provoking for me in many ways.

This review of Peter Gabriel's Scratch my Back is the perfect example of reviews being sheer pleasure to read. (especially for the musically ignorant like myself)

And Other Stuff of a Different Kind

I want to give a shout out to my friend Thomas, a very special thank you for sending me a package of books from my wish list this week. Right now, I am unemployed and can't really be buying books, so it meant a lot to me! Also, my love language is gift giving so whenever someones does something thoughtful like give me a gift it makes me happy. (I hope he's not embarrassed!) But I know you all want to know what I got! :)

Last week, Damon Lindelof tweeted about Scalped. It's a graphic novel and looks totally different from what I normally like, but dude. DAMON LINDELOF recommended it highly. When one of the creators of one of your favorite stories ever recommends something, it must be read. At least, this is how I operate.

Oh it wasn't all books! I got Jars of Clay CD The Long Fall Back to Earth. This is a good step in the right direction of remembering that I love music as well as books!

Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace by Cathleen Falsani has been on my radar for ages, really looking forward to it!

Petals from the Sky by Mingmei Yip was a previous Waiting on Wednesday pick. This book is about a woman who wants to become a Buddhist nun. Books that deal with faith of any kind are very high on my list of what I want to read, so I'm looking forward to this one a lot.

What was the last book you got as a gift?


CFBA Book Spotlight: Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

About the Book: A mother who cannot face her future.
A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.

A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

Review: The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor

Melissa's father passed away when she was in seventh grade. They were close and his struggle with cancer and resulting death has left her with a lot to deal with. She doesn't relate as well to her mother and her sister is very different from her as well--popular and beautiful and interested in beauty pageants. Add to that, her lifelong best friend, Ryan, has sort of turned into someone she'd be interested in romantically, but so is the beautiful new girl in school.

I have been in a severe reading slump--a mixture of being over committed and reading books that were good but not great. Reading The Life of Glass was the first time in days I've remembered what it's like to simply love the process of reading, to be pulled into a story, to care greatly about the characters, and enjoy the process of discovering what happens to them. I even read it during the commercials on LOST last night!

I loved Melissa because she reminded me so much of myself in funny little ways, like when she wondered if applying nail polish well was something in your genes. I love how she read her father's journal of notes for his book, to both discover who he was and discover the world. I thought she had such great heart and I enjoyed watching the process of her discovering that she uniquely had something to offer the world.

Her observations on life are also surprisingly insightful and true. I would just be reading along and there would be a total gem of insight.

The Life of Glass is a completely enjoyable and honest look at the first year of high school, of being genuine with yourself, trusting your instincts, family relationships, and first love. I enjoyed every second of reading it and I look forward to reading more by Jillian Cantor in the future.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: A little bit of profanity
Source of Book: Provided by publicist for review
Publisher: HarperTeen


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LOST Recap and Discussion: 6.8 Recon

As always, full discussion of the episode below! Please avoid if you haven't watched yet.

I feel like the creative team on LOST is on a roll, I thought the episode tonight was fantastic (not just because it was Sawyer-centric) and I absolutely loved beyond measure what they did with Sawyer's sideways flash, I think it makes the most sense of any of them, yet.

And how about Charlotte showing up? Is there a female on this show Sawyer hasn't slept with?

Anyway, I loved how when she asked him on their date why he became a cop he said was at a point where he was either going to be a criminal or a cop and I love that they explored the other side of that coin in his sideways flash. Being a cop didn't change his life objective of killing Anthony Cooper. It didn't mean he was a man at peace, he seemed just as full of anger and unease as ever. He couldn't trust the person he should have been able to trust the most, Miles. His obsession and unrest with his past destroyed his ability to have solid healthy relationships. Sure his life had taken a different path, and a logical path for his history, but it didn't mean that he was a whole man.

On island he sort of proved Locke right that he was a great liar, I had absolutely no idea what the heck was going through his mind. I didn't know if he was really teaming up with Widmore or not. But it seems he wants to let them have their war and he's going to take off with Kate. (was anyone else hoping he'd see Juliet in sideways? I have to admit to feeling a little sick over the scene where he went in the cage and touched Kate's dress. BLECH)

In other news, Claire? Tries to kill Kate and Sayid just sits there with totally dead eyes. I think Sayid has given up. I think he just doesn't care. And Claire was all over the place with the crazy. Still not sure what to think about that.

And who is Mama Smoke? I wasn't expecting that one at all and I'm interested in just who she is.

I'm completely excited for next week's episode about Alpert which will hopefully finally answer the question, "what is the island?" :)

ETA: Oh and Little House? Too funny! And how about Charlie's brother showing up at the station?

Tell me what you thought!


Review: Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

Markos and Dino are brothers growing up on the island of Zante in Greece. They are young and headstrong. Markos has a temper problem that puts his family in a serious problem and soon he and Dino are forced to flee to America with Markos' girlfriend Sofia.

But things aren't any easier there, and problems and tragedy continue to haunt the brothers as they seek a life of peace and love.

I was really excited about this book because I love Susan May Warren's books, and I love a good epic love triangle story. And while I enjoyed Sons of Thunder, I have to admit it ended up being a little bit of a disappointment to me, mainly in the resolution of the triangle. This book definitely spans years and tries to accomplish a lot. The story takes place all over the place and into many different experiences. Admittedly, there was one section in the middle where I thought it was the hugest soap opera I'd ever read! Not that I'm against soap operas, I enjoy them, but the pace went almost too quickly jumping from one emotional reality to another. Also, whenever a word is overused I tend to pick up on it and it starts to really stand out to me. In this case, variations of the word fist were in heavy abundance.

I don't want to be a complete downer though, it was still a very enjoyable read. I love the way Susan May Warren creates love stories. She manages to write very intense believable love scenes without any, well, love making. :) I also loved a lot of the atmosphere of the book, and really believed it.

This is a Christian fiction book and so there are a few sections where the characters talk about their faith in God. These scenes do at times feel message-y or forced, but they are quite minimal in the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next in the series!

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction
Source of Book: Provided by publicist for review
Publisher: Summerside Press

Litfuse Publicity and Susan May Warren are also running a contest to promote the book:
Be sure to check out Susan's fun contest for the book's release: Each one of us has a wealth of stories from the past – while they might not all be as sweeping and dramatic as that of Sons of Thunder’s Sofia and the Stravos brothers (swoon), your family history is a treasure nonetheless.

Well – let’s hear them! Were your great-grandparents ‘fresh off the boat’? Was your great uncle a war hero? Did your grandmother make unbelievable sacrifices to help or protect the family? Did your father harbor a family secret until his death? Are you related to someone famous? Do you have a family treasure? Whatever it is that is unique in your family history – share your story HERE! (click on the here button) One grand prize winner will receive:

• Memory Prize package containing a gift certificate to create your own hard cover photo book
• 6 month membership to Netflix (to satisfy that flick fix!)
• Signed copy of Sons of Thunder!

5 runners up will also win signed copies of Sons of Thunder!

You can also be entered to win a copy of Sons of Thunder by helping us Spread the Word during the blog tour!

TWEET THIS:(must use hashtag #SonsofThunder to be entered - no limit on entries! Tweet away!)
Please RT! @susanmaywarren launches new Romantic Suspense #SonsofThunder. Share your story 2 win a fab prize pack!


Monday, March 15, 2010

FIRST: Dead Reckoning by Ronie Kendig

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Dead Reckoning

Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***


Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. In addition to speaking engagements, Ronie volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers and contributes monthly to the highly acclaimed Novel Journey blog, and is a columnist for the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Her espionage thriller, Dead Reckoning, releases March 01, 2010 through Abingdon Press and the first in a military thriller series, Nightshade, will release July 2010 from Barbour Publishing. Ronie can be found online at or at Facebook.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's Facebook.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 142670058X
ISBN-13: 978-1426700583


Mumbai Harbor, India

Shafts of yellow light pierced the blue-green waters, silhouetting the dive rig that hovered on the surface of the Arabian Sea. Shiloh Blake stopped and watched a wrasse scuttle past, its tiny fins working hard to ferry the brightly striped fish to safety.

Clad in her wetsuit, Shiloh squinted through her goggles and tucked the underwater camera into her leg pocket. Gripping a small stone artifact in her gloved hand, she propelled herself toward the surface. Ten meters and she would reveal her historic discovery to long-time rival Mikhail Drovosky.

Shiloh smiled. The guy would go ballistic. Score one for the girls. Between her and her new dive partner Edie Valliant, they had surged ahead in finds. Not that this was a competition. Not technically. But everyone with the University of California-San Diego dig team knew it was make or break time.

Shiloh broke the surface. As the warm sun bathed her face, she slid off her mask and tugged out her air regulator before hauling herself onto the iron dive flat. She squeezed the saltwater from her hair, the auburn glints catching in the sunlight. Her long auburn hair glowed in the sunlight.

“What did you find?” Khalid Khan knelt next to her.

With a smirk, she peeked at her best friend. Her own excitement was mirrored in his dark eyes. Then she noticed Edie’s absence.

“Where’d she go this time? And Dr. Kuntz?”

“She wasn’t feeling well.”

“More like she had another date.” Irritation seeped through her pores like the hot sun, boiling her to frustration. She couldn’t believe her dive partner kept cutting digs to flirt with locals.

Khalid reached over to remove her dive tanks.

With a hand held up, she shifted away. “No, I’m going back down.”

Footsteps thudded on the deck. “It’s my turn.” Mikhail’s glower fanned her competitive streak.

“Sorry.” Shiloh grinned. “Not for another ten minutes. You’re not going to stop me from qualifying for the Pacific Rim Challenge.” She nearly sighed, thinking about racking up enough dive hours for the deep-sea assignment—her dream.

On his haunches, Khalid swiveled toward her, cutting off her view of Mikhail. “What’d you find?” he whispered. Damp from his last dive, Khalid’s jet black hair hung into his face. “Please tell me you aren’t playing games.”

From a pouch hanging at her waist, she produced the lamp. “This for starters.”

He took the piece and traced the contours. “Soapstone.” His gaze darted back to hers. “You mapped it on the grid, right? And photographed it?”

Any first-year grad student would know to take a picture to verify its location and record it on the mapped grid of the site. “Of course.” She patted the camera in the pouch.

Not so many years ago a sunken city had been found in the area. Would she find another? Her heart thumped at the prospect. Tools. She would need better tools to safely remove the vase waiting at the bottom of the sea. Shiloh stood and hurried to the chest to remove an air pipe to suction the silt and sediment away and grabbed an airlift bag. As she plotted how to excavate the piece, she tucked the tools into holsters strapped around her legs and waist.

“I’m coming down there whether you’re done or not.” Mikhail bumped his shoulder against hers and pursed his lips. “If you find it in my time, I get to log it.”

Eyebrow quirked, she swept around him to the stern and sat on the ledge.

“I mean it, Blake!” Mikhail’s face reddened.

She slipped the regulator back in her mouth, nearly smiling. With a thumbs-up to Khalid, she nudged herself into the water. Glee rippled through her. The look of incredulity on Mikhail’s mug buoyed her spirits. Finding the lamp had been exhilarating, but one-upmanship had its own thrill. Besides, how many divers worked this dig in the last year? Like them, she found a piece of history. Divers and researchers had scoured this area and other sites along the coast of India.

Dr. Kuntz would have insisted on diving with her if not for ferrying Edie around Mumbai. Irritation at her new dive partner swelled. Why they had ever agreed to take on that useless woman, she’d never know. How could partying compare with the discovery of the past?

Although the silt and sand shrouded the lip of the vase, Shiloh spotted its outline easily where she had marked the place with a flag. She lifted the red vinyl square from the sandy floor and worked quickly, refusing to relinquish this relic to the overblown ego of Mikhail Drovosky. He’d beaten her out of top honors for her bachelor’s degree, relegating her to magna cum laude, lessening her scholarship. Enough was enough.

Why hadn’t anyone else found this vase? As she brushed away the sediment, confusion drifted through her like the cool waters. A spot in the clay smeared. Her heart rapid fired. Had she ruined the relic? Yet something . . . Shiloh stilled, staring in disbelief. What on earth?

She rubbed the piece. Metal gleamed beneath the clay. The lip and handle floated away. This wasn’t ancient pottery. She turned it over in her hand. What was it? It almost reminded her of a thermos. About eighteen inches long, the cylinder’s weight surprised her. What was it doing here, buried like treasure? Just as she freed the object, her white watch face flashed, snapping her attention to the competition. Time was up.

Joy ebbed like the tide. Whatever this thing was, she wouldn’t leave it down here for Mikhail. Holding the bag open, she tried to ease in the metal tube. The piece teetered on the edge, nearly falling out, so she slipped it under her arm and started toward the surface. Light again directed her to the rig. Suddenly, thrashing ripples fractured the luminescent water, stirring particulates beneath the wake of a powerful motor.

A speedboat? Why were they so close to the dive area? Didn’t they see the warning beacon, the one that announced divers below? What kind of idiot would put someone’s life in danger for a thrill ride?

A torrent of waves rattled her, threatening her grip on the vase. What . . .? A half-dozen bicolor parrotfish shot past. Shiloh paused, watching their incredible color—like a psychedelic underwater show.

Thwat. Thwat.

A sound vibrated against her chest. She searched for the source but found nothing.

She continued upward, and then someone dropped into the water. Could Mikhail not wait? Sticking to the schedule ensured everyone’s safety. He wasn’t supposed to enter the water until she climbed out. He was in such a hurry to win that he would risk injury to her and anyone who got in his way. She’d throttle him. Only, it wasn’t Mikhail.


A plume of red swirled around his dark form like some freakish science experiment. Blood? Was he bleeding? Her heart skipped a beat—he wasn’t swimming.

Shiloh launched toward him as adrenaline spiraled through her. She struggled to breathe, threatening the nitrox mixture in her tank. Why wasn’t he swimming? He’d drown if it he didn’t paddle back up.

She pushed into his path, and he thudded against her. Hooking her arm under his, she aimed toward the surface, scissoring her legs.

A shadow loomed over the water. Another body plunged toward her, sinking deep and fast. Mikhail’s open, unseeing eyes stared back at her, a shocked expression plastered on his face. Reminding her of an Egyptian plague, the water turned red.

Watery tubes pursued him. Bullets!

What’s happening?

Khalid. He needed oxygen. She wrangled him toward her so she could share her air. The metal cylinder fumbled from her grasp and sunk back into the oblivion where she’d found it. Whatever the thing was, it couldn’t be worth a life—especially not her best friend’s. She removed her air regulator and stuffed it into his mouth.

Khalid jerked. Pain hooded his eyes. His dark brows knitted as he gazed at her. He gripped his side and grimaced. That’s when she saw the source of the red plumes. He’d been shot too. Her gaze flew to the rig. What about the captain and his son?

Khalid caught her arm. With a firm shake of his head, he pointed away from the rig. Escape.

Shiloh linked her harness to his and swam from the rig. Uncertain where they could find safety if someone was determined to kill them, she barreled away from the nightmare. If she could make it to an island—she remembered seeing a small one in the east—they might be safe. Khalid tried to pump his legs, but not successfully. At least he hadn’t passed out. Or died.

Her stomach seized. No way would she let Khalid Khan die. Shiloh wagged her fins faster, thrusting both of them farther from the boat. Seconds lengthened, stretching into what felt like hours. With each stroke, her limbs grew heavier, dragging her down to the ocean floor. She pushed upward, refusing to become a victim.

Suddenly, she was drawn backward, pulled out to sea by the strong natural current hugging the Indian coast. Battling the forces of nature, she did her best to keep herself and Khalid aimed in the right direction. Her chest burned from oxygen deprivation.

The mouthpiece appeared before her. Surprised at Khalid’s attentiveness, she stuffed it in her mouth and inhaled deeply, savoring the strength it gave her. Another twenty meters, and the water collided with mangroves. Shiloh struggled around the roots to a small, shallow inlet. On her knees, she tore out the regulator, dragging Khalid as she clawed her way to safety. He attempted to crawl, but collapsed. She yanked off her goggles and released their d-rings.

Khalid coughed, gagged, and vomited sea water.

Warm sand mired Shiloh’s trembling limbs as she laid there, panting and gasping. The swim had been harder and much longer than she’d expected. They both could have drowned.

She squeezed her eyes shut. Thoughts of what was lost . . . Mikhail! Was he truly dead? Who would attack grad students on a dig? Why?

Shiloh pressed her hand to her forehead, tiny grains of sand digging into her flesh. She rubbed her temples and tried to make sense of the chaos.

“What happened back there, Khalid?” She flipped onto her back, the sun blazing against her pounding skull. “Who was it? Did you see?”


Shifting, she rolled her head to peek at him. He wasn’t moving. On all fours, Shiloh scrambled and shook him.

“Khalid!” His gray wetsuit glistened red from the blood that poured from his side. She clamped a hand over his wound, the warmth sickening. “Khalid, talk to me.”

He groaned.

“No!” Fire flashed through her. “You aren’t chickening out. Not now.” Again, she shook him, but this time he didn’t respond. “Please!”

Shiloh examined his chest. Not breathing. With two fingers pressed to his neck, she tried to feel past the hammering of her own heart to detect his pulse. Nothing! She started compressions and breaths, counting between each to keep a steady rhythm. His blood stained her hands. While she pumped his chest, she took a cursory glance around the thick vegetation. It was so thick, she’d never know if someone stood five meters off.

They needed help—now! She activated the emergency beacon on her watch as she again searched—hoped—for help. Her heart caught when she spotted a “mechanical giraffe” staggering in the shifting fog. Jawahar Dweep.

“Butcher Island,” she mumbled, as she tried to revive her friend. The isolated spot only offered isolation and oil. No help. They were alone.

“At least we’re safe,” she said. But would Khalid die? “Don’t you dare!”

She pounded his chest. More blood dribbled from the wound that seemed too close to his lungs.

A rasp grated the air. His ribs rose.

He moaned.

Tears stung her eyes as she slumped next to him. “Khalid, stay with me. I’ve activated the beacon.”

His blue lips trembled against his chalky skin. “C-cold.”

She’d always admired his dark olive complexion, but the pallor coating his rugged face worried her. Would she ever see his dark eyes ignite when she made some snide, inappropriate remark? Who would help her through her episodes? She’d told only him about her rare disorder.

“We should move you closer to the rocks to stay warm until help arrives.” Shiloh once again hooked her arms under his and drew him to the side. Blood stained the sandy beach.

A wave rolled in, then out. Red streaks reached toward the warm waters. She nestled him against a large boulder and lay close to keep him warm.

“Stay with me, Khalid. No naps. This is the ultimate test, got it?” She looked to where the ocean kissed the horizon. Mumbai sparkled in the distance. So close, yet so far away it might as well be a million miles. She could only hope they would be found in time.

“You just wanted to kiss me,” Khalid mumbled.

Shiloh jerked toward him, frowning. “What?”
“CPR. I didn’t need it . . .” He coughed. “You just wanted to kiss me.”

With her hand pressed to his forehead, she smiled. “Ah. Just as I expected—delirious with fever.”

A half-cocked grin split his lips.

She tried to swallow. He had been her rock for the last four years. Despite the tight-knit relationship between their parents, Khalid and Shiloh had forged their own friendship in the fires of college life. They’d been inseparable since he came to America to study.

How long would it take Search and Rescue to locate her signal? What if the SAR team didn’t make it in time? If this were American waters, it would only be a matter of minutes, but in the Arabian Sea . . .

Shiloh’s head dropped to her chest. She had to believe everything would be fine. They’d be found, a doctor would tend Khalid’s wounds, he’d recover, and then they’d be off to the Pacific Rim Challenge. She had worked so hard for it. They both had. For the last two years, they had prodded each other toward their common goal. Their requisite dive hours were nearly complete. No, nobody would die, especially not Khalid.

Mikhail died. She clenched her eyes shut and blotted out the image of her rival slipping through the water, sinking lower and lower.

Biting her lip, she groped for something to refocus her attention. Naming the scientific classification for the sun star. Animalia. Echinodermata. Asteroidea. Spinulosida. Solasteridae. Solaster dawsoni.

“Miss . . . Amer . . . ca . . .” Khalid’s words, though broken, speared her heart.

She scooted closer. “I’m here. Be still, Khalid. They’re coming.”

“Marry me.”

“You dork.” She let out a shaky laugh as a shudder tore through her, threatening to unleash tears. Lips pulled taut, she forced herself to remain calm and look at him. “Rest.”

His fingers twitched. She lifted his hand and cradled it in hers.

A gurgling noise bubbled up his throat. “I love . . .”

“No, shh.” He couldn’t love her. Not her.

“Shil . . .”

When he didn’t finish, she knitted her brow. His eyes closed, and his mouth remained open.


His arm went slack.

“Khalid!” Tears blurred her vision, making it impossible to see if he was breathing.

A horn blared in the distance. She whipped around and spotted the massive white Indian Coast Guard rig racing toward them with its lights swirling.

* * *

Reece Jaxon straightened and watched the woman without watching. Seeing without being seen. She batted her auburn hair, thick and tangled with ocean water, away from her face. Hiding in plain sight on the rescue boat, he tracked her movement with ease. She hadn’t noticed him yet, even though he was less than a dozen feet away.

Wrapped in a gray thermal blanket Shiloh Blake stared at the injured Pakistani on the medical stretcher as the local authorities churned across the water toward Mumbai. She hadn’t left the man’s side since the rescue.

Another man in his early fifties hooked an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. Dr. Kuntz, according to the file, was fifty-three. Married. Three grown children. An unfaithful wife and a divorce later he’d partnered with a local Indian museum to arrange underwater excavations with U.C. San Diego. Something about the man didn’t sit right with Reece.

“Noor Hospital,” Dr. Kuntz insisted to the Coast Guard captain.

An hour earlier Kuntz had stormed into the Coast Guard station and interrupted Reece’s conversation with the officer. Surprised at the man’s intrusion, Reece feigned disinterest, although Kuntz’s story corroborated what Reece had relayed to the authorities after witnessing the attack. Then? The emergency transponder signal erupted.

Reece noticed Shiloh stiffen under the professor’s protective touch. Kuntz spoke soothingly to her, reassuring her that Noor Hospital would give Khalid the best care. Bent to shield his face, Reece tightened the laces on his boots while memorizing everything that took place in the boat’s small cabin. Now if he had judged her character right, in about twenty seconds she’d pull away from Kuntz.

Shiloh took a step out of the man’s reach.


“I need something to drink.” Reece watched her cross through the hatch. “They said they had coffee up front.”

Dr. Kuntz laughed, his arms outstretched. “But you don’t drink coffee.”

“It’s chilly,” she called without looking back.

Chilly. Interesting. It was a mild sixty-five degrees on the Arabian Sea, and she was chilly.

Shiloh Blake strode straight toward him with her head held high. Calm. Relaxed. Confident.

Come on, look at me, Reece silently dared her.

Blue-grey eyes collided with his. He scratched his beard, wishing he had more than two weeks’ growth, but it was enough to conceal his identity. With an acknowledging nod, he stayed in position. Now if she would only hold his gaze.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give to smile his pleasure as she stared at him. She only tore her eyes from his when it became impractical not to. Reece guessed she would never show any weakness.

Atta, girl.

Although he’d already skimmed the preliminary data on the American students, Shiloh’s impressive character made him want to know more. She had a higher confidence level than most of the people he had monitored in the region. What gave her that unshakable demeanor? Reece determined to get a DNA sample and run her through the system. Was she working undercover?

As the ship bumped Victoria dock, he leaped off and lassoed the pylons. Heavy thuds sounded against the weathered planks as the emergency crew transferred the young woman and her Pakistani friend to a waiting ambulance. Dr. Kuntz doted on her once again, but with no room in the narrow mobile unit, the professor was relegated to a rickshaw.

Shiloh huddled on a small bench in the ambulance, her glassy gaze locked on her friend as the emergency personnel worked on him. Just as the doors swung closed, she glanced toward Reece. A load of steel partially blocked his line of sight. Yet, despite the stenciling on the rear window, he saw her tilt her chin just enough to look for him over the emblem. The ambulance bumped over the sandy path, and then settled on PD Mello Road. Sirens wailed. Lights whirled.

Reece strolled down the boardwalk toward the beach, retrieving the cell from his pocket. He hit autodial. Having to report one American dead was bad enough. But having to tell Ryan Nielsen that another sat neck deep in an ocean of chaos—

“We’ve got trouble.”

What was Shiloh Blake doing at a nuclear arms dead drop?