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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"The Cinderella Pact"

by Sarah Strohmeyer, 2006, 287p, rating=3

Here's a twist... I like the TV movie version better than the book!  I saw the movie about a couple weeks ago on  Lifetime Movie Network (titled Lying to be Perfect) and enjoyed it.  Poppy Montgomery was wonderful as Nola Devlin/Belinda Apple.  Her leading man, real husband Adam Kaufman as David Stanton Jr. wasn't bad either.    A 21st century Cinderella fairy tale rendition ... instead of pitiful to princess, it's fat to skinny.  Can we guess why that attracted me?  Yeap, someone's been carrying an extra load or two *huge grin*, so I can certainly relate!

I'm not sure if I would have liked the book version better than the movie adaptation had I read the book first.  I just really enjoyed the movie take on it.  I would even venture to say it's just about completely different.  The only thing that stayed the same was the plot ... fat lady takes on an alter ego to stay afloat in her career and in the process becomes skinny and ends up with a rich handsome man.  Sexiest?  Not exactly.  Certainly if you go political on it, but then you'd lose the fun of a simple romance story.  It's simply a chick flick/read.

Synopsis by Goodreads:
Nola Devlin has a secret identity. By day she is an overweight, frumpy, and overlooked editor at Sass! (the "celebrity magazine with an edge!"), but by night she slips behind her keyboard and into her alter-ego: Belinda Apple. Belinda is thin, gorgeous, British and the author of a trendy advice column- she is, in effect, the latest Carrie Bradshaw. Not even Nola's two best friends or her self-absorbed sister (who worships Belinda as the "sister she never had") know her secret.
When "Belinda" jots off a column about how easy it is to lose weight, Nola is shocked when her best friends take her own lies to heart and urge her to follow Belinda's weight loss program. Since Nola can't reveal herself as the real Belinda Apple, she bites the bullet and joins her friends in making the "Cinderella Pact"- a last ditch attempt to lose weight (again!) and transform their lives for good.
But as the pounds come off, things don't turn out the way the three friends expect. Their journey of self-discovery leads to the return of an old love and the unmasking of new problems. Meanwhile, Nola finds herself torn between two different men as she stomps out fires caused by her deception as Belinda Apple and falls in love with the man who just might be her prince - or the rat in coachman's clothing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blog Hop


Hello and welcome!  It's been an exciting week ...including the Mockingjay recent release.  I was fortunate to run into the series late so I didn't go through the stress of waiting long.  Anyway, thanks again to our host Parajunkee for bringing us together.  You are fabulous!

Have a look around and if you like what you see become a follower and I'll hop on over your pad and follow you as well.  Be sure to leave a comment and leave me an addy or link to make it easier for this middle-aged lady to track you down!  ~Thank you in advance!!  =]

Happy Hopping!!

"An Ordinary Camp"

by Micheline Maurel, 1958, 141p, rating=5

(I own this book and this is my scanned copy of the cover)
"Micheline Maurel is one of the spokesmen of whom Francois Mauriac speaks. For this book is her testimony to the dignity and the courage of the human soul in the face of apparently unsurmountable obstacles. It is the story of one woman's attempt to retain her humanity in the midst of the most pervasive and obscene corruption the world has ever seen." (Goodreads...which btw I added to their book list since this edition was not there and I added this synopsis as well which I copied from the book front flap; you will find it in Goodreads under the French name, Un camp tres ordinaire)

Rephrased from the book's synopsis:
Mlle (mademoiselle) Maurel, a 32yo French woman who was active in the Resistance movements was captured by Vichy government in the summer of 1943.  She was sent to Neubrandenburge concentration camp for women (22,000 prisoners, some Poles, Czechs, Russians, a few French).  This is her memoir of her two year stay there.  She describes brutalization such as daily forced marches, long hours at attention on the parade ground, and constant beatings.  She also tells of the battle against filth and lice, mysterious disappearance of the very sick to unnamed "rest camps", and thieving and cheating over tiny luxuries ...
"But woven into the story of cruelty and brutality is another theme:  that of the few women who fought boldly and tirelessly, in spite of shaved heads and inedible food and humiliations of every kind, to retain some remnant of human decency and dignity; the story of women who shared their last scrap of bread with the dying, who wrote birthday poems to keep up their fellows' spirits, who sang the 'Marseillaise' on the march to work when they new it could only bring them a violent beating.  It is this account of unflagging courage and endurance that given An Ordinary Camp its special, compelling quality." (book back flap)
This is definitely a moving book.  I cried from the depth of my soul...  My sincere appreciation Mlle Maurel for sharing your life with us.

A couple of attributes of dark stories are that they help us to realize how good we really have it and give examples of what men are capable of enduring.  Mlle Maurel's story certainly has done those and so her invitation for all to be happy and to live comes from understanding.

A truly must read book!  ...Thank you Honey for having this in your library.

My quote-ables:
"Just think, there are people who are eating, Michelle would mutter.  People who eat and who think they are badly off!  Imbeciles!" pg 97
"I fumed at myself for all my former depressions, sadnesses and all my blue moods.  How could anyone, in the outside world, be unhappy?  Oh, if we were to go back now, I would know how to live.  I wouldn't be stupidly sad.  I wouldn't let a single moment be spoiled by the sorrows of love or by metaphysical anxieties.  I know now what I would do:  I would live." pg 97

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Mockingjay" (Hunger Games Book#3)

by Suzanne Collins, 2010, 390p, rating=3

"Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year." (Goodreads)
As few of you know, I had possession of this books days before it's release but was unfortunate enough to not have read book #2 yet so it did me no good.  Well, that's not completely true, I was giddy and thrilled at securing a copy.  Though late in coming, I caught on with the excitement of this book series.  And what an awesome series it is!!  It's books like these that make reading fun and exciting.

Okay, now for the review.  Well of course it starts off where book #2 left off.  Smooth reading and by page 84, I could have stopped reading and been totally satisfied.  I ran into a statement that was profound to me and felt it was the core of what to take out of this trilogy.  But, I kept on reading and so I was caught up with the storyline again.  Just when it seems nothing was moving, Ms. Collins did her magic and at the end of chapter 12, I found myself gasping, "No!".  However, the follow through came lacking for me.  Sure it still had the infamous Collins twist and turns to keep you turning the pages, but I guess the nine lives of Katniss became a bit of a stretch for me.  I wasn't crazy about the final character developments of Gale either.  I really hoped for an energetic fight from him and he didn't deliver. 
My quote-ables:
"Frankly, our ancestors don't seem much to brag about.  I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet.  Clearly, they didn't care about what would happen to the people who came after them." pg 84

**The above quote was the profound statement that blew my mind ...particularly, "Clearly, they didn't care about what would happen to the people who came after them.".  I got to thinking that it is important to what kind of legacy we leave for our posterity.  What we're doing today can very well affect what the future could bring.  How decent are we to each other?  Are we building a community that would sustain a safe environment for our children and their children and so forth?

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Catching Fire" (Hunger Games Book#2)

by Suzanne Collins, 2009, ebook, 391p, rating=4

"Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge." (Goodreads)
Although I enjoyed the first book more, this installment still delivered excitement.  Full of twist and turns that had me ooh-ing and aah-ing.  It introduced more characters that helped to continue the independence vs interdependence issue.  Because the games are back and this time it's the 75th so that means it's Quarter Quell time (every 25yrs)!  A huge reminder from the Capitol to the people of Panem that even the strongest cannot overpower them, thus dissipate any action of uprising. 

Here I was particularly impressed with the character developments of Katniss, Haymitch, Cinna, and District #13 (hint hint).  Just in case we forget that Katniss is still a kid we are reminded when she and Finnick gets right into Peeta's face for a hilarious scare (my favorite part in the book because finally, some fun amidst crude intensity).  More substantially, when Katniss was not in on the "plan" because who knows, her head might swell and that kick butt attitude of hers might take Panem into an opposite direction.  Let's have the grown-ups do the "planning" and that's where Haymitch comes to play.  After all he is experience and has much to offer..surprise!!  Moreover, Cinna's pretty brave here and I like it!  Oh, and as far as District #13, what a cliffhanger!!  The fight's on, Baby!!

Thank you Steff for emailing me this book so I was able to read it through html form.  ~The person who checked it out from my local library has not returned it yet so who knows when I'd finally get a hold of it.  You totally rock and now I'm ready for Mockingjay!!  Which by the way I've already started but it's been a busy busy weekend so I'm turning in early and will continue to read it with the rest of you tomorrow.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I was hoping to get more scoop on Gale from this book because I don't want to rule him out.  The first book leaned favorably on Peeta so I was curious where Gale would stand in here.  Hmmm, still a draw for me.  How do you choose from a too-good-to-be-true guy to a best friend knows-me-best guy? ... ya got me, I'm leaning on Team Gale ... but we'll see again in the next book. =]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"after the quake"

by Haruki Murakami, 2002, 181p, rating=4

"The six stories in Haruki Murakami’s mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakami’s characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman.


An electronics salesman who has been abruptly deserted by his wife agrees to deliver an enigmatic package—and is rewarded with a glimpse of his true nature. A man who has been raised to view himself as the son of God pursues a stranger who may or may not be his human father. A mild-mannered collection agent receives a visit from a giant talking frog who enlists his help in saving Tokyo from destruction. As haunting as dreams, as potent as oracles, the stories in After the Quake are further proof that Murakami is one of the most visionary writers at work today." (Goodreads)

Another nice find of Mr. Murakami writings.  Too short that it may seem pointless but surprisingly pacts quite a stirring.  I'm beginning to like Mr. Murakami's quirky imaginative story telling (though I get a bit 'blushy' at the erotic references).  This book gets you to ponder about ones substance.  Do you feel empty?  Is there something missing in your life?  Will you do something to find what's missing?  What would you do for love? ...and much more.

My quote-ables:
"But there's such a thing as a way of living that's guided by the way a person's going to die." pg 51

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blog Hop


Welcome to another round of Blog Hopping graciously hosted by Parajunkee... whom I personally dub as queen of fabulous Linkys ... she's got linky too for those who have contests/giveaways ... how totally cool is that?!!  Be sure to check that out.
Anyway, please feel free to take a look around.  Don't mind my poor activity lately.  Been on a funk and slowly getting out of it.  I know your support will help cheer me up so if you like what you see become a follower, leave me a comment, and I'll follow you right back. 
~Take good care~

Deleting ...

Got soooo excited I did a virtual scream and then a few of you pointed out something that didn't cross my mind.  I certainly don't want to get my library in trouble due to some miscommunication or what have you.  I love my library and wouldn't want their funds cut or whatever the consequences might be. 

Thanks ladies. 

....still very excited though and a friend will loan me book #2.  :D

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"A Grief Observed"

by C.S. Lewis, 1996, 76p, rating=2

This book was originally published in 1961 under the pseudonym of N.W. Clerk then restored under C.S. Lewis in 1996.  This is a memoir of Mr. Lewis' lament of his beloved wife's death. 

This went over my head!  His thoughts and questions were too deep for me to get a grip.  It had a poetry feel to it and you know how I am with poetry ... I'm dumbfounded.  It's a terrible feeling!!

Going on my "feelings", I did sense his great love for his wife.  I appreciated his struggle to make sense of his situation.  Everything and everyone, including God, became target to his plight to understanding.  He was writing down his observations that were befalling him.  How heavy and inconsolable those information must have been.  And somewhere in there, I found a sense of disagreement with him about some of the things he said about God.  But I can't seem to pinpoint them.  My spirit just felt confident that something was not in array.

Grief is no picnic ... no picnic at all.  The process however seems to be inevitable because we are mortals.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blop Hop

Welcome to another weekend of the Book Blogger Hop!  This week's question is:  How many books do you have on your 'to be read' shelf? ...Well, I'm a late bloomer and started regularly reading just since this past February.  My main source of books to read comes from the library (call me frugal) but I managed to get three dozen or so for my book shelf (haha... from my library's fill a bag for $5 book sale). 

Anywho, thank you for stopping by.  Be sure to leave me a comment so I can hop on by your way as well.

Have a great weekend!!  =]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"The Melting Season"

by Jami Attenberg, 2010, 289p, rating=1

It was a chore to read this book.  I thought about giving up but then I pushed forward hoping it'd come together by the end.  Nope, not really!  The mysterious and "not feeling" protagonist (Catherine) stayed pretty much that way ...okay, maybe there was an implication that growth had taken place but I felt that it was one of those imagery endings that did not work here.  Don't get me wrong, I don't need the ending to be neat and explained ... remember, I liked Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, ... but I was not satisfied with the character development here.  A couple of the supporting characters (Valka and Prince impersonator) were promising but there too I craved more.  Plus, I didn't care for how the adult context was presented.  It wasn't necessarily the prudish side of me, I can handle sensuality.  I just felt that it was not done right for my taste.  Consequently, this is an equivalent of the movie rating of "rated R" ...and a bad one at that.  Sorry Ms. Attenberg and Attenberg fans.  Please don't shoot me (or the like).

Book's synopsis:
"Catherine Madison is headed West with a suitcase full of cash.  She's just left the only home she's ever known, a small town in Nebraska, after things fell apart with the only man she has ever known, her husband, Thomas.  She's also left behind her deepest, most shameful secrets--among them a dysfunctional family she's never quite been able to escape and a marriage whose most intimate moments have plagued her with self doubt.  On the road, she's going to become a new person.  Or so she thinks.  But leaving everything behind isn't as easy as she had hoped.  When she reaches Las Vegas, Catherine meets the beautiful but damaged Valka, a single woman struggling with her own painful history.  Against a backdrop of casino lights and celebrity-impersonator shows, the two women forge an unexpected friendship, and as their bond deepens, Catherine is compelled to reveal what she has never told anyone before.  With Valka's help, Catherine realizes that if she is ever to overcome her past, she must finally uncover the truth about her family, come to understand what destroyed her marriage, and prevent her troubled younger sister from repeating her mistakes."
My quote-ables:
"...you should have more respect for your insides.  The fact that you can conceive, that your body works in that way.  You should not be careless about your power.  There are people who would kill to have that power.  You should appreciate it.  It's your body.  You do what you want with it.  But you respect it." --Valka, pg 271-272

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"The Hunger Games" (Book#1)

by Suzanne Collins, 2008, 374p, rating=4.5

I wanted to see what lead up to all this hype for the around-the-corner release of Mockingjay (book #3) so I got my hands on this book, The Hunger Games, the first book of the series.  I was pleasantly impressed!  The title is clever ... silly me, I initially thought it was the hunTer games.  Anyway, it was an easy and smooth read. 

Certain TV shows ("Survivor", the Olympic Games, "Miss America" pageants, soap operas) and movies ("The Truman Show" and "Gladiator") came to mind while reading this book.  Crazy mix but it actually worked.  It had crude adventures, pageantry, and drama.  Throw in a contemptible government, dystopia, bows and arrows, food, and you got yourself a seducing book!  Quite a cliffhanger in the end, henceforth, I'm looking forward to more character developments ahead in the next books.

This annual Hunger Games is televised for all of the nation of Panem (once known as North America) to see.  An event that the Capitol (government) holds annually to keep the twelve districts (states) in line.  What better way than to select children, a boy and girl from each district, to fight to the death.  Absolutely barbaric!!  That's why Katniss volunteered to take over her sister's spot as one of the tributes (players).  "But Katniss has been close to dead before --and survival, for her, is second nature.  Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.  But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love." (book's synopsis).

My quote-ables:
"My best hope is to not disgrace myself and ... I want to die as myself ...I don't want them to change me in there.  Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not."  Peeta, pg 141.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Kafka on the Shore"

by Haruki Murakami, 2002--original, 2005--this translation, 436p, rating=5

Another mind bender of a book.  The first half was incredible!!  I fell out of my seat and rolled in laughter when I got to page 240 (now don't peek!!).  I tell ya, Mr. Murakami does not suffer from lack of imagination when he wrote this book!  I found my jaw dropping and was in complete joy at turning from one page to the next.  Moreover, the character developments were amazing.  Also, the dream/reality sequence was spell bounding.  It was a roller coaster riddle of a ride!!  Truly an enjoyable read.  I think I might have found myself a new favorite author. =]

If you like Greek mythology (or maybe paranormal fiction) then I think you will like this book.

Book's synopsis:
"This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader.  A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters:  a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.  Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events.  Cat and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky.  There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a ridddle--yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own."
My quote-ables:
"In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion." pg 21.
"...where there's no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise." pg 122.
"It's like Tolstoy said.  Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story." pg 145.
"Actually what I'm doing is shifting the analogy, ... One of the most effective methods of argument, according to Aristotle." pg 164.
"...asking a question is embarrassing for a moment, but not asking is embarrassing for a lifetime." pg 235.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Ilustrado"

by Miguel Syjuco, 2010, 304p, rating=4

Talk about art reflecting life!  The fictional character is named after himself (author)... exactly Miguel Syjuco.  An outlandish concept to me and part of the genius this book offers ... the confusion is a foreshadow of telling you to prepare yourself for a brain workout!  Yes, this book is definitely a find that challenges the brain (see my blog title description).  Pull out your dictionary because Mr. Syjuco, both the author and character (haha), throws out many fancy words.  After all, he has to prove that he is among the elites educated abroad like those back in the 1800s that returned to the Philippines to aid in the revolution that ousted Spanish control.  Hence, through the title Ilustrado, defined in the book as enlightened ... the literati ...the educated class... calls out to the 21st century expatriates and wonders if they will return back home to aid their vulnerable native country now!  Thus, this book explores the satire chaos of the Philippine politics.  A biting look into its governance, migration, work, sex, poverty, and so on.  I must warn you that it is full of such Filipino nuances that much might go over your head ... it did for me and I'm a Filipino!  Granted I've lead an ignorant life of what's it is really like back in the Philippines now.  Funny, am I then one of those expatriates and so I should do something for my native country?  Crap!!  --Anyway, congratulations to Mr. Syjuco, the author, for winning The Man Asian Literary Prize.  A prideful boast on my part ... yeay, Filipinos can write!

Book's synopsis:
"It begins with a body.  On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River --taken from the world is the controversial lion of Philippine literature.  Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families.  Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate.  To understand the death, Miguel scours his teacher's life, piecing together Salvador's story through his poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs.  The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves.  Finally, we are surprised to learn that this story belongs to young Miguel as much as to his lost mentor, and we are treated to an unhindered view of a society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm a Versatile Blogger!


If I was computer savvy I'd photoshop this and make it glow to match the glow on my face!!  What a thrill!!  Thank you Brenda at WV Stitcher and Kaylee at Kaylee's Bookshelf for honoring me with this coveted The Versatile Blogger Award.  You young gals rock!!  --To my readers, make sure to check them out if you haven't done so already.

Here's how this award works:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 10-15* bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.
*(Brenda says 15 and Kaylee says 10... looks like there was a change somewhere... things that make you go hmmm.)

Seven Things About Me:
1. I like the rain. Don’t like the worms that results from it but the weather is perfect to be cozy in bed ...and playing in the rain is fun too!
2. Pet peeve... when people don't wash their hands after going to the restroom!
3. I wanted to grow up to be Wonder Woman. She was gorgeous, can make people tell the truth, and had that awesome invisible plane!
4. I donated my hair twice to Locks of Love.
5. I pay off my credit card bills every month.
6. Being a mother is my most favorite calling.
7. I love being married to my dear husband. He completes me. He's my Superman! ...and I'm his Wonder Woman! :D

Now, I share the joy and bestow the following wonderful book bloggers The Versatile Blogger Award:

1.  Geeb's Book Club -- simply gives honest and thoughtful reviews with no extra hoopla ...love it!
2.  Tina's Book Reviews -- great reviews and selections of YA books ...I'm a big fan!
3.  A Thousand Books with Quotes --original way of blogging through quotes ...fascinating!
4.  Chachic's Book Nook --this young gal's love for reading and book community is infectious!
5.  The Reading Life -- here you'll find other 21st century books not on the fad list.
6.  Random Ramblings -- good book/movie reviewer that also cares about causes.
7.  The Nerd's Wife -- her blog has it all!  I can't imagine this gal ever getting more than 2hrs of sleep!
8.  Dearest Dreams -- book reviews with some food recipes ... gotta love it!
9.  BookHounds -- wide range of books, contests, and good reviews.
10.  Bookmarked! -- dedicated book blogger ... reviews are insightful and thorough.

Okay, ten for now and perhaps I'll reserve the other five for later! :)

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