Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Salon- November 29

This has been a quiet week on the book front as I only reviewed one book this past week, The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. I'm passing the book on to my book friend and occasional guest reviewer here, Bonnie F. I've been clearing off my bookshelves and passing on books to friends, putting some aside for book giveaways here and some are being donated to the library. I've gotten swamped with books in my overzealousness and love for books. I am way behind on book reviews and apologize to those who have graciously sent books for me to review. I've realized that I cannot keep up with my current pace and have decided that I must limit the books that I accept for review. I need to focus on reading and enjoying the books that I own as well as those that I have stacked up waiting to be read and reviewed.

I've also updated my reviews on Amazon, you can check out my reviews and add me as a friend there. My profile name is redlady at Amazon. I also need to get my reviews added to Goodreads (Redlady there as well) and have to decide if I want to update my LibraryThing membership (Redlady's Books there) to a paid one. For those who have opted for the paid membership upgrade at LibraryThing...have you found it beneficial?

Book Giveaways:

Fashion and Fab Giveaways ending tomorrow November 30th:

Click on pictures for details and to enter or see links on sidebar to the left.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

My Summary:

The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a dual love story. A love story between a young couple, Bess and Tom and Tom's love for Niagara Falls. It's historical fiction, set between 1915-1923 and is set in Niagara Falls, Canada and during the early days of hydroelectric power. Bess is an upper class young girl of seventeen attending a boarding school when she is smitten with Tom from a lower class. Things change swiftly for Bess when tragedy strikes her family in many ways. Bess rejects a suitor of her own class to start a life with Tom.

Tom follows in the footsteps of his grandfather who had a connection and understanding to the Niagara River and became known as the river man. He has an innate ability to predict what will happen in the river and falls and becomes a local hero with his daring rescues.

My Thoughts:

I found the beginning of the book interesting, engaging and well written but the plot dragged out for me as the story unfolds. I found the accompanying black and white photographs and reference to real stories related to the Niagara interesting. I appreciate the beauty and nature of the falls and the effect hydroelectric power plants had on the falls and our environment. I found that the back and forth writing between the details of the hydroelectric power and other details just didn't flow smoothly within the major storyline. It felt forced and technical and took away some of the flow of the drama related to the characters in the story. I am one concerned with our environment and this story relates to our own world currently focused on environmental concerns. I am in awe of Niagara Falls and it's beauty and splendor. What I found lacking was the blending of this vital part of history with the human drama story between Bess, Tom and other characters. I found the ending predictable and expected the way it unfolded. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did.

For a different perspective of The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, please check out these reviews at:

FTC Disclosure: This is an Advanced Reading Copy that was sent to me as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Club & A Book Review: Blame by Michelle Huneven

I recently read Blame by Michelle Huneven with my book club this month. It's the story of Patsy, a young woman who has just received her PhD and is teaching History at a local college. She drinks too much and awakens in jail one day after a night of heavy drinking and blackout. She has been arrested for driving with a revoked license and for running over and killing a mother and daughter who are Jehovah's Witnesses, in her driveway. Patsy has no recollection of the incident and takes full blame for the crime and pleads guilty. She is convicted and sent to prison for four years. In prison, she becomes sober and becomes active in the AA group there. She also develops a friendship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed after he visits her. I found this part of the story to be implausible and unlikely in reality that someone would develop a friendship with anyone who killed their family.

I found the first part of this book to hold my interest and I liked the character development and to see how Patsy accepted responsibility for her actions and attempted to change her life. The last half of the book was a bit drawn out. Patsy is released from prison but never feels worthy of any happiness even though she tries to redeem herself in her involvement in helping others in AA. There were some funny and interesting characters but overall the book was just okay for me. There was a twist at the end that was surprising but seemed far fetched and it just fell flat for me.

We had an interesting discussion about Blame at my book club. We had varying viewpoints and opinions on the book. Nobody loved it, a few liked it and several found it just okay. We did have an interesting discussion about alcoholism, which characters we liked and didn't like, how plausible or implausible situations were that occurred in the book and what we would do in these situations.

Next month we are reading Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlan and we are having our annual book exchange. We each bring a wrapped book and number them and then we each pick a number out of a hat. It's always a lot of fun. In January we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I've read this book already but I look forward to re-reading it as it was one of my favorite books that I have read in 2009.

FTC Disclosure: This was a library copy. I am an Amazon associate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Sunflowers; A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick

When I heard about the book Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick I knew that I had to read it. I am a fan of historical fiction novels and am familiar with Vincent Van Gogh's work. The beautiful cover of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflower painting is eye catching and stunning. It is an integral part of the story and connects the characters deeply. I was most familiar with the story of Vincent Van Gogh's cutting his ear off for love and his questionable mental status. I was also familiar with his brilliance as an artist and especially with paintings such as Starry Night.

Sunflowers is told in the first person perspective of Rachel, a young girl whose parents had died and her only option was to live with her spinster aunt. Instead, she ended up on a train to Arles, France and forced into the life of prostitutution. Rachel develops a friendship with Van Gogh after she finds him sketching her when she seeks refuge from the brothel in a public garden. Their friendship quickly turns into love and romance. Rachel, unrealistically believes she can eventually marry Van Gogh her customer and lover and leave the brothel. There is a deep connection between Rachel and Vincent but his madness interferes. He is frequently hospitalized and then moves away from Arles and Rachel to be near his brother in Paris. I liked how the author used letters between Vincent and Rachel when he left Arles as a way to continue the first person perspective and add in Vincent's perspective. Rachel has many moments of naivete and obsessiveness towards Vincent that was at times annoying. She was deeply in love and dedicated to Vincent and he was the only person she felt connected to since she lost her parents. He became the main focus of her life. I think that most who are familiar with the history of Vincent Van Gogh's life know the tragic end it takes. I knew this and when I got to that part in the story it touched me deeply as I was rooting for Rachel and Vincent to have more happiness in their tragic lives.

I found myself wanting to research the artwork that Ms. Bundrick refers to in each chapter. The author has a reference at the back of the book that listed the paintings referred to in each chapter. I could go online and view the paintings as well which made me feel more connected to the story. The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery was a wonderful resource.

This is a debut novel for Sheramy Bundrick who is an art historian and professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Her passion for art and the artist is evident in her writing and style. There is also very strong character development in Sunflowers and I like how the author took factual information about Vincent Van Gogh's life and added the fictional elements. I look forward to more books by Ms. Bundrick and hope that she continues on her journey of writing Historical fiction related to art and artists.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick is definitely Book Club Worthy! This would make an excellent book to discuss with a book club as there is so much to discuss including the meaning of the title, the historical vs. fictional elements, mental illness, prostitution etc. There is a reading guide at the back of the book to guide the discussion. Sheramy Bundrick has a wonderful page at her website on suggestions for reading group meetings. She even has ideas for food, drink and music to make a fun themed discussion. Ms. Bundrick recommends listening to Josh Groban's version of Don McClean's song "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)". I found this video on YouTube and am sharing it here, it really is touching and meaningful to listen to after you read Sunflowers.

Thank you to Book Club Girl for sending me a copy of this book as part of the On Air book discusssion. You can listen to the discussion of Sunflowers with Sheramy Bundrick , here.

I am an Amazon associate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Saving Sammy by Beth Alison Maloney

Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD is a powerful journey of one mother's strength and tenacity to literally save her son's life. Beth Maloney is a single mother raising three young boys in Maine. Her middle son, Sammy, had a sudden and drastic change in behavior and his ability to function normally when he was 12 years old. He was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette Syndrome. Sammy was a bright, gifted math student who was an active and happy boy. His behavior continued to decline rapidly and their family life was centered around Sammy's compulsions and behaviors. Sammy and the family were suffering and Sammy could not function on a day to day basis or even to attend school regularly. Beth would not give up and was a tireless advocate for her son to find the answers to his illness. She finally learned that Sammy's illness was caused by a strep infection, a disorder known as PANDAS. With much determination and tapping into any and all resources, Beth found two doctors that helped to cure Sammy.

Saving Sammy is a deeply touching and moving memoir of one mother's strength to never give up and an amazing boy who suffered through great pain to come through it all. This story hit home with me as I have a son who has struggled with and continues to struggle with health issues. I have had to be an advocate for my son and push to get answers. I understand that depth of feeling Beth had to find answers and the heartfelt pain in seeing your child suffer. I am still in the process of finding answers and solutions and hope to one day feel that relief that Beth has in seeing your child turn the corner and fly away from the ties that bind them in a world that others do not quite understand.

This is a video of Beth & Sam Maloney on the Today Show:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Check out the Saving Sammy website, here.

For more information on PANDAS ( Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), go to the PANDAS Foundation.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Oprah Book Club "Luxurious Hearses" by Uwem Akpan

Luxurious Hearses is the fourth story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This is the longest story in the book and one that I did have to push myself to get through as it is so drawn out. I have to say that the end was a shocker so you must push yourself through this one to read to the end. This is about a long wait for a bus ride where a Muslim boy is trying to hide that he is Muslim as the bus is filled with Christians. They are all fleeing northern Nigeria to the south. This story makes you look at how prejudice can cloud judgements of one another especially in war times. It made me think about conflicts within people and how they justify them as they have been taught certain ideologies and beliefs that consume them. The ending was unexpected and shocking. As in the other stories, it reflects the reality of the situation and time it is referencing. It's very hard for me to imagine living life like this and allows me a look into a world that I am unfamiliar with.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there was an Oprah's Book Club Live Webcast with Oprah, Anderson Cooper from CNN and the author Uwem Akpan last night. I was able to finish the book and listened to the Webcast which had some technical difficulties but was a fantastic discussion with people from all over the world participating. You can watch the webcast, I'm not sure if it's up and running yet but you can get the details here at

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about Luxurious Hearses:

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Oprah Book Club "What Language Is That" by Uwem Akpan

What Language Is That is the third story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This story is quite short at eleven pages in length compared to the other stories in this book. For me, this was an endearing story of the power of unspoken language and connection between two young kindergarten girls of different faiths and backgrounds in Ethiopia. It reminded me of my very first best friend around that age and the connection that we had. When you are connected to someone at a deep level you can communicate without words and understand one another.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there is an Oprah's Book Club Webcast Live Tonight with the author Uwem Akpan. It starts at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, go to for more details. I haven't finished the book yet but I plan to listen to the Webcast tonight.

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about What Language Is That :

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Review: Oprah Book Club "Fattening For Gabon Say" by Uwem Akpan.

Fattening For Gabon is the second story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This is the story of two young children, a brother and sister who are being raised by their uncle as their parents have AIDS and are dying. You learn as you read this story the deceit on the part of the uncle who tries to sell the children. I assume it is for sex trafficking but it is not said straight out in the story. This is a story that allows you to connect to the experiences and feelings of the children, a brother and sister taken away from their loving parents, brothers and sisters and extended family. It's gut wrenching at times although the language and dialect added to the dialogue is confusing at times and makes it hard to follow. I found myself guessing as to what was being said and reading between the lines. The last line at the end left me hanging a bit as I was unsure as to what really happens to the children.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there is an Oprah's Book Club Webcast Live Tonight with the author Uwem Akpan. It starts at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, go to for more details. I haven't finished the book yet but I plan to listen to the Webcast tonight.

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about Fattening For Gabon:

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is the last book in the Millenium trilogy by Swedish Author Stieg Larsson . This final book in the trilogy picks up where the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire leaves off. It's over 600 pages and gets bogged down in details now and then but it's still a very gripping novel. We are able to follow Salander as she faces her past head on and ends up barely holding on to her own life. Mikael puts the pieces together and helps solve a mystery related to a hidden group that has protected one man and themselves amongst high government security. Larsson's writing style is rich and detailed and is strongly character driven. There are definitely disturbing parts to this novel as in the others that are graphic and violent in nature, so be forewarned if this is something that bothers you. From what I've read about Larsson, I believe it was his intent to bring attention to the issues of violence against women that he must have believed was a societal issue as well as government corruption. This was a common thread throughout the Millenium Trilogy. Wikipedia shares some interesting information about the books where it states Larsson's literary influences:

"However, one of the strongest influences originates from his own
country -
Pippi Longstocking by Sweden's much-loved children's author, Astrid
. Larsson explained that one of his main recurring characters in the Millennium series, Lisbeth Salander, is actually based on Pippi Longstocking and in his books is reimagined as a grown up version of her"

I found Lisbeth Salander to be the most interesting character in the series. She was a strong, quirky, unique and feisty character. She endured a childhood of abuse and tragedy that was horrific and continued into her adulthood. In the toughest situations she endured and fought and never gave up her fight for truth. She was resilient and intelligent and even referred to as possibly having Aspergers Syndrome which would explain some of her social challenges and genius level abilities with computers.

Sadly, Stieg Larsson was a Swedish writer and journalist and died before the Millenium Trilogy was published. You can read more about Stieg Larsson here. This is the last book in the Millenium series and I will miss reading more about the characters and some storylines that were left hanging and we will never know the answers especially is what happened to Lisbeth's twin sister Camilla. We are left to our imaginations now.

*My wonderful friend Ginny who I know from an online book group read the series ahead of me and sent me her copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. She was so anxious to read it and couldn't wait until the US version would be published and available in 2010. She ordered a copy through Book Depository UK which is the hardback edition. I passed it along to another friend Marie-Louise who is also in our book group, it's being shared among friends! Thanks Ginny!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Salon: November 1st

Today is my son Andrew's 11th, I can't believe that he's growing up so fast! He's looking forward to celebrating and of course, his gifts. I'll be giving Andrew the card I won this summer in a custom card contest at ...DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW?.

Ginny made me a beautiful card for Andrew's 11th birthday. You can see more details here. Make sure to stop by Ginny's blog, ...DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW?. she is a very talented lady and has a beautiful blog, lots of crafty ideas on making cards, bookmarks and other goodies. Thanks Ginny!
I'm also back in the reading and blogging groove! I've caught up on reading and writing several book reviews. I need to catch up on more reading now!
Reviews and Giveaways posted this week:

  • Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
  • Review & Giveaway: Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy by Mary Tomer

    Current Giveaways: Fashion & Fab Giveaways sponsored by Hachettte

  • Review: Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner

    Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner is a cookbook filled with 62 unique recipes for the chocolate lover and connoisseur. It's a cross between a cookbook and coffee table art book. It's filled with a combination of photographs and artwork with an art deco avant garde look to them. They are definitely engaging and fascinating to look at. To be honest, the recipes are pretty fancy and not simple everyday baking. I think that you need to be a more experienced baker or adventurous chocolatier to take on the challenge of making some of the recipes. This would be a wonderful gift book for the true chocolate connoisseur.

    I found this video which takes you into Max Brenners restaurants and shows some of his amazing chocolate concoctions:

    *Thanks to Hachette for providing a copy of this book for review. I am an Amazon associate.