Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review of Beach Trip and a Guest Post by its Author Cathy Holton

Book: Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating: A

For: TLC Book Tours

It was a little daunting to receive this book in the mail for the TLC Book Tour and see how big it was! I started it quite awhile ago to be sure I'd get done in time for my blog tour stop, but as it turned out, I didn't need that much time at all. I think I read the last half all in one sitting. I couldn't put it down!

This is the story of four college friends who get together twenty years later for.... you guessed it.... a beach trip. There's much alluding to the fact that "stuff" has happened between them which makes the success of this beach adventure iffy. The whole book then proceeds to flash back and forth between the current day when the beach trip takes place, and their college days in 1982. Also, there's many moments were each character thinks back even further to childhood incidents. In the process, the back story unfolds and we learn about their ups and downs, successes and failures and most importantly, the relationships they have with each other.

Because we see very intimately into the heads of each one at different times, this makes for a novel that is highly character driven. I'm learning more and more that this is my favorite type of book. I loved how we truly came to know Annie (a compulsive cleaner), Sara (a fairly typical mom-type), Mel (the single, more rebellious one) and Lola (the sweet and childlike rich lady). Each personality became very distinct and strong. So that's why, by the middle of the book, I was totally engrossed and needed to find out how things would end.

The end, by the way, is.... well.... never mind.... any adjective will give away too much!

The only thing I didn't enjoy about the book? All the drinking these ladies do! Sheesh, I guess not being a drinker, I just don't get it! I know it's possible to have fun without drinking until you're sick, right? Yes, I'm quite sure. But still, even all that activity added to their personalities and character.

So yes, I deem this a very worthy summer... one might even say... beach read!

And now I'm excited to introduce to you the author of this book, Cathy Holton. As part of this blog tour stop, I've asked her to do a little guest post and to tell us about her own personal beach trips and resulting friend connections.

I started going to the beach twenty-three years ago with a group of women I met through a Newcomers Club. We were all from somewhere else, our families had been transferred to Chattanooga with various companies, and so we set about making connections and friendships in this small suburban town where we now found ourselves stranded.

We were all in our twenties and most had given up careers to stay home, at least part time, to raise children. We started playgroups, babysitting coops, and learned to play bridge and tennis. It sounds pretty cushy now, and it was, except for the constant worry over finances and sick children and the threat of being transferred somewhere else.

One of the things we did for ourselves, however, was that once a year we would leave the kids with our husbands and go off to the beach. We’d leave on a Thursday night and drive seven hours and then sleep in the next morning, rising around ten or eleven. Most of the day was spent sitting around in our pajamas drinking coffee and talking (“What in the world do you women find to talk about for six hours?” my husband always asked.) Mid-afternoon we’d pull on our swimsuits, make up a batch of frozen margaritas, and head down to the beach. We ate when we wanted to, we slept when we wanted to, and we didn’t live by schedules. It was lovely.

One of the best things about the beach, besides the lack of schedules, was the way we opened up to each other. Initially, we were tentative, we kept our masks firmly in place, but by the second or third day the masks came off, and the revelations began. Childhood trauma, marital woes, hopes, dreams, aspirations; they all came tumbling out. It was better than years of psychotherapy and a whole lot cheaper.

Now our children are grown, we’ve reentered the work force or started our own businesses, and our annual beach trips have become bi-annual. But the qualities that made those old trips so wonderful still remain; friendship, shared life experiences, the ability to let go and be who you really are. T.S. Eliot said, “At the beach, time you enjoyed wasting, is not time wasted.”

He was right.

What a wonderful story and I love that quote at the end!

I also asked Cathy to share with us the five books most important or influential to her for my new feature Authors Pick Five. Here's her list:

The five most influential books in my life: Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, because it taught me to love reading; The Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor, because it taught me what good writing is all about; Little Big Man by Thomas Berger because it taught me that good historical fiction is about more than describing how a cotton gin works; Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris because it taught me that truth rearranged by fiction can be really funny; and Giving Up the Ghost, a memoir by Hilary Mantel because it taught me that my inability to submit to authority figures and my insecurities are what made me a writer.

Thanks so much Cathy for your wonderful post and fabulous list of books! Oh, and for such a fun read in Beach Trip!

Cathy Holton's Website

Cathy Holton's Blog

List of other TLC Blog Tour Participants

The Sunday Salon: Just Hanging Out

Happy Sunday!

Yesterday and today I've been totally, and I mean TOTALLY immersed in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I know I'm a little late to the party, but MAN that's a good book. I couldn't even concentrate on anything today until I finished it. Wow.

Now, I've got to continue on with Pawn of Prophecy which I started while vacationing. Right now I'm to the part where we're in the middle of a journey. Something needs to happen soon.

But first, my 10 year old daughter begged me to help her do some scrapbooking. So we hauled out all THAT mess. And as I've been sorting pictures and piles and projects, I've noticed that there's a direct correlation between when I started blogging and when I stopped scrapbooking. Hmmm.....

Meanwhile, I supposed I should fix dinner for the family. Too bad we need food in this life. That's what I say.

What the family is reading:

The Mr.: He told me last night he has officially given up on Stranger in a Strange Land, and he's halfway through! How can he do that? He says, he doesn't get anything that's going on and he's had enough.

JJ (17): She finished Unwind by Neal Shusterman this week. She told me it was sad. Now I'm not sure I want to read it too or not.

Moder (14): Percy Jackson #... whatever the newest one is.... 10?
Toto (10): Pendragon #2.
Question of the day: Have you read Edgar Sawtelle? Did it grab you and drag you in? Or was it only so-so for you?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009.24: Trivia Time

It's Trivia Time over at Weekly Geeks! So here's some random book questions for you:

1. The Grapes of Wrath is about what event in American history?

2. In what country does the novel The Far Pavilions take place?

3. By what name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens more commonly known?

4. Who are the four Little Women?

5. What does Amir's friend, Hassan, say to him many times in the book The Kite Runner?

6. Anne (of Green Gables) likes to refer to her friends as... what?

7. At the end of The Good Earth, what are the sons planning to do?

8. In The Book Thief, what's the first book that Liesel steals?

9. In Wuthering Heights, which two characters does Heathcliff force to get married?

10. Who does Kitty run off with in Pride and Prejudice?

Comment with your answers! No fair Googling! Answers to be posted later this week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Random Bookish Thoughts

It's been awhile and I'm in the mood so.... presenting my bookish thoughts of the day:

1. I will SCREAM if I see anymore reviews of Catching Fire! Just know if you post one... I'll be skipping it! :) Even if you claim there's no spoilers!

2. I made a mistake when I deemed The Story of Edgar Sawtelle my treadmill book. Actually, it's good motivation to get on the treadmill, but I want so bad to keep reading that it hurts. I think this weekend I'll give in and promote it to my main reading book.

3. I need to figure out how to get on Random House's YA ARC list. Or Harper Teens... or... someone's YA ARC list.

4. I planned on reading all evening yesterday, instead I watched Michael Jackson footage over and over and over again.

5. Ya'll need to go vote in the tie breaker poll for our latest Bookword. It's up at An Adventure in Reading.

6. If I'm to make it to the 100 books this year goal, I'm behind about 10 books.

7. I had two brand new books in my hand at Costco the other day, both I'm wanting to read so so bad (The Angel's Game and The Actor and the Housewife) and I put them down and walked away. Good thing? Or bad thing?

8. We met Aprilynne Pike at the library the other day. She was wonderful talking with the kids and telling them all about the process of getting a book published. Then I had her sign my book and I stammered and stuttered at her for a bit. What an impression I made I'm sure. I still don't know how to say, "Hey, I'm a book blogger!" and make it sound halfway intelligent and like something the author would have any interest in at all.

9. Since the boys are still gone scout camping, I'm going to try again with the reading all evening plan.

10. In fact, I think I'll get started with that plan right now, and in fact, I think I'll go rescue Edgar from the treadmill too!

What bookish thoughts are you having this lovely Friday?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009.23: Reading Challenges

This week's Weekly Geeks topic was suggested by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie. She writes:

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"

I like the challenges. But I don't do so well at most of them. I like to make the lists and plan ahead what I might read. But I find that I tend to read more what strikes me at the moment, a mood reader as they say, so the "planned" books get pushed down to the bottom of the pile over and over again.

Yes, some challenges will help me find books I normally wouldn't read, like the War Through the Generations Challenge. But for the most part, I join the ones that will help me read books I already own, or planned on reading anyway.

A quick look at where I stand with my current challenges:

Arthurian Challenge: So far nothing! Boy, but do I have big plans!

Classics Challenge: I've read one out of five. Wahoo! And still working on War and Peace. Really.

Book Awards II Challenge: It's all over and I managed three from my list. But I loved them all! (It appears there's a third one in process now. Hmmm.... do I try again?)

Dewey's Books Challenge: Two down, three to go. One currently at the top of my pile!

War Through the Generations: Once again, I've just read one out of five.

The 2009 TBR Challenge: Ha! Four! Out of 12. Oh, well.

The 2009 YA Books Challenge: Okay, here we go! I've read the required 12 and many more besides! :)

Support Your Local Library Challenge: I pledged to read at least 25, and at this point I've lost track. I don't think I've quite made it, but I know I'm close! I need to update my list I guess.

Printz Project: We started this one in April and since then, I haven't yet read another one to add to my list. But you guessed it...I have big plans!

Pulitzer Project: I think maybe I finished one last year?

See. Why do I even try? I like making the lists I suppose. But it appears I like reading whatever strikes my fancy even more. However, I will still have fun with the challenges and you can bet I'll keep right on joining a few here and there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Book: Beastly by Alex Flinn
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: A
For: Fun and because the librarians talked it up to the teens!

As you know by now, I just got back from a cruise. I took a gazillion books with me (well, six maybe) and this is the only one that I actually read and finished. There's actually not a lot of reading time on a cruise if you are at all enticed by all the many many activities they have for you to do. I was lucky to get the little bit in that I did get!

But this book was perfect for vacation reading. It was talked up at the library during the teen summer reading kick-off and they basically said, "You want to know what The Beast was thinking? Read this book!"

So of course, loving the story of The Beauty and the Beast as I do, that's all the encouragement I needed. My daughter JJ obviously thought the same thing because she instantly put it on hold and luckily, it wasn't long before we had it.

The surprising thing about this book is that it's a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast. And being a YA book, the characters are teenagers. So the boy, or the Beast, gets cursed because he is just snobby and snotty through and through. He needs to learn a lesson in a big way. His dad, who can't handle his transformation, hides him away at a very nice house, complete with his very own tutor, and cook/maid. It's here that he has his change of heart and realizes there's much much more to people than their outward appearance. But is there any hope for him to break the curse? Can he make someone fall in love with him (in two years time), despite the fact that he's hidden away and sheltered from society? Oh, and is an ugly beast? You'll just have to read the book to find out!

I'd never heard of this author before, and I must say, I look forward to gathering up the several other books she (I thought she was a he, but I just looked it up and nope, she's a she!) has written and reading them all.

Other Reviews:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Booking Through Thursday (on Tuesday) and a Suey's Top Ten

This was the question from last week's Booking Through Thursday:

One of my favorite sci-fi authors (Sharon Lee) has declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

I LOVE fantasy/sci-fi stuff. And what will I do to celebrate? Post another Suey's Top Ten!

Suey's Top Ten Fantasy/Sci-Fi

1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

4. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

5. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

6. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

7. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

8. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

9. Beauty by Robin McKinley

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

There's so much I haven't read. I'm sure this list is very much lacking some of the biggies. I wish I had time to read just fantasy series and get all caught up. The Wheel of Time series, the Discworld series, countless YA series..... the list is endless.

So tell me, what SF/Fantasy book did I forget?

(Twilight should be on my list too, but I opted for some others instead.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Sunday Salon post of sorts... on Monday

Our ship (Mariner of the Seas) docked in San Francisco.

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge! Awesome!

At Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC... with a very ornery 10 year old.

Sunset at sea

I've been gone for a week. It's incredibly hard to get back into the swing of things. I'm scared to look at Google Reader. I'm told it's okay to hit "mark all as read" but I still can't do it. So I hope to at least see what some of you have been up to the past week.

I know I missed a Bloggiesta of some sort! Wow, that looks like it was quite the event. And something I really need to do. I've been so out of the blogging mood, but hopefully having a week off will help me get back into the mode again. And I can just do my own bloggiesta after the fact.

But instead of blogging this past week, I was eating, sleeping, cruising, site seeing, visiting Canada for the first time!, eating some more, ice skating, reading (only a little though,) playing games, eating, driving ... and sleeping.

So, yeah, I really do need to get going again because coming up this week I have the Weekly Geek question (anyone with any really great ideas they want to throw my way?) and a blog tour post for Beach Trip! So stay tuned!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA
Rating: A
For: Fun

I was a little bit scared of this book. The subject matter, anorexia and bulimia, is hard to read about. Very hard. Yet the whole experience was very enlightening, and it's totally amazing the way this author can get into the head of a girl going through this stuff.

The story follows Lia's struggles with food, something that began when she was just a very young girl. She and her friend bet each other about who could get the skinniest. Now, years down the road, it's all made worse when that same friend dies in the very opening chapter of the book. Lia feels the death is her fault, so she punishes herself even more. She tries to be "normal" for her little sister, but her parents make her crazy and she fights against everything they do to help her. This part was especially hard for me as I saw myself in the parent role and knowing that no matter how hard you, as a parent, try to help, the teenager struggles even harder to resist that help.

I am a little reluctant to let my own kids read this one, but I'm not sure I can put into words why. Perhaps because this particular problem is more within the realm of possiblity for them then some of the other teenage problems that we often read about, so I don't want to give them any ideas... or something. I don't know. I just know that it's scary.

But, it was a great book!

Other reviews:

Beth Fish Reads
Presenting Lenore
Maw Books Blog
Books. Lists. Life.

and a gazillion more!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Listening to Josh

A whole different sound to this song. Love love love it!

Watch more AOL Music videos on AOL Video

Booking Through Thursday: Niche

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

I love to browse through crafty type books and quilt books. But I haven't done it for a long time. The craft and quilting mood seems to have left me awhile back. I'm hoping it will hit again soon. I really miss it.

In the past, I've been known to enjoy decorating books and landscaping books. It's been awhile for those too.

I really like books about castles in Great Britain. That's fairly "nichey", right? I've got a bunch of them on the shelf. And if there's a ghost story to go along with, that makes it even better.

Oh, and of course cookbooks.... "baking" books to be specific.

That's about all I can think of at the moment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bookword Game: And the winner is.....

Whoopsabooksy as suggested by Jenny !

This what we'll call a book that we buy that we forgot we already read/own.

Congratulations Jenny!

And now for the next bookword:

We should we call a non-fiction book that reads like fiction?

Add your suggestions in the comments. Don't be shy because even off-the-top suggestions that at first you may think are silly (as Jenny did with Whoopsabooksy) may end up winning! :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009.21: Summer Fun

This week for Weekly Geeks we have several options for talking about summer fun. I'm choosing option #2 (with sort of a twist) and I'm going to list fun things we do during the summer.

For us, summer usually consists of the following things:
  • swimming lessons for at least one kid

  • the library summer reading program once a week

  • growing a garden

  • taking the camping trailer to the mountains for a long weekend

  • going on a hike and picnic in the mountains (five min. away from us)

  • a family reunion or two

  • dance tour for JJ

  • working on scout merit badges and/or Eagle projects

  • playing lots of computer games

  • watching lots of movies

  • reading A TON of books! :)

  • a barbecue at every holiday

  • the city's summerfest complete with carnival and wonderful fireworks

  • sleeping in (though what I love is to get up early and do stuff while everyone ELSE is sleeping in)

  • sometimes a bake sale (NOT a Koolaid stand you see)

  • sometimes a real vacation

  • catching up on scrapbooking and quilting

  • working harder on home improvement projects

  • working harder on teaching kids how to cook and/or do laundry

  • church camps and scout camps for teenagers

  • space camp for one boy

Ah summer. Sometimes I really dread it, but sometimes it's nice too.

So what do YOU spend your summers doing?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Sunday Salon: This and That

The first week of summer..... survived!

I didn't get much reading done during the week. My brother got married on Wednesday, and previous to that day, I was working hard on his video presentation. You know, the one where it shows him and his fiance growing up and then together. It turned out pretty good I guess, but it was nice to get it done and to stop worrying about it.

The wedding day was great, long and tiring, but great. Then after the wedding, I sort of crashed. Thursday I felt like a zombie for sure. But Friday and yesterday, I read like crazy.

Friday I read and finished Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Such a sad and scary story. It very much lets you feel what an anorexic person feels, I'm guessing anyway.

And then yesterday I finished Beach Trip by Cathy Holton. I'm on schedule for a blog tour later this month. I got very wrapped up in the story as I read yesterday and pretty much could not put it down.

And now it's Sunday, and I can start anything I want again! I'm tempted to nab Edgar Sawtelle from the treadmill, but having a great book on the treadmill really motivates one to use the thing. So I think I'm leaving it there for now. But I'm for sure loving that one so far.

Other things this week. We've got a new bookword for you all to vote on. Be sure to check that out. I caught up on some reviewing, but after yesterday, I'm behind again! The library's summer reading program started, so I'm hoping it helps to motivate the kids to keep reading. We usually don't have too much problem with that. I'm very excited to see Aprilynne Pike at the library in a couple of weeks. Oh, and we got the ball rolling on a Twitter book club this past week. During the BEATwittyParty, it was suggested and many of us thought that would be really fun. Click here on the brand new blog to learn more about it and to make nominations for our first book.

Looking ahead, this week I'll be getting ready for vacation and stressing about what to take to read. What a funny decision this is! When I know what wins, I'll let you know.

What the family is reading:

The Mr: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Bud: Since he's now an LDS missionary for a couple of years, he'll just be reading lots and lots of church stuff!

JJ: not sure... I think last I saw, she had a pile of books on her lap and was trying to decide.

Moder: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series #5)

Toto: The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale (Pendragon series #1)

P.S. Go see the movie Up! It's wonderful!

Review: Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

Book: Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Genre: YA
Rating: A
For: Fun and sort of for my F2F book club

A few weeks ago when we met for my F2F book club, we discussed Janette Rallison and all her fun books. One of my friends loaned me the two latest books to read. She seemed to think that this one, Just One Wish, was the best one. So I saved it for last. And I have to agree. It is the best one so far!

Why is that? I think because it had a little more depth to it then the others. Yet, at the same time, it was funnier even than the others. Both elements mixed together made it the very best one of all.

Annika's little brother has a brain tumor. She pretends she has a magic genie that will grant him some wishes. She thinks she knows what he's going to wish for, and she has it all ready to give him.... the Teen Robin Hood action figure. But he surprises her and wishes for the REAL Teen Robin Hood!

So in order to keep him thinking positively, she has to go to California and track down the actor and... wow, some funny stuff happens after that.

This book had me laughing and crying both. I loved it.

Here's what the author has to say:

Other Reviews:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Book: Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: A

For: Fun (and part of my ongoing "support your local author" quest)

I've been avoiding writing this review because I don't quite know how to describe it without giving away too much.

So, Laurel has just moved with her mom and dad to a new house. She's trying to get used to her new life and new school. Things are going okay. She's made friends with a pretty cool, very nice guy who gets her to eat lunch with him and his crowd.

But then she starts freaking out because there's a lump on her back. This lump does not turn out to be what you might think it is.

Meanwhile, she's very concerned about her old house. It's on some land to which she is very much emotionally attached. Her parents are trying to sell it, and it just doesn't feel right. She is able to go back and visit a couple of times, and while there, she meets another guy. And wow! This guy is amazing!

And so the love triangle is formed. The struggle with her mom and her old house intensifies. Discovering who she really is, is quite mind-blowing. All this makes for a very fun story, and yet another YA fantasy that I couldn't put down!

And from what I understand, there's more on the way. At least I really hope there is because the story is just getting going when this particular book ends.

Other Reviews:

In Search of Giants

Teen Book Review

Reading Keeps You Sane

J.Kaye's Book Blog

Melissa's Book Shelf

Aprilynne Pike's Website

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Sticky

I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

1. Life of Pi

2. The Book Thief

3. The Hunger Games

4. Wuthering Heights

5. Jane Eyre

6. Pride and Prejudice

7. The Longest Walk

8. John Adams

9. Lord of the Rings

10. Harry Potter

11. Pope Joan

12. Pillars of the Earth

13. The Good Earth

14. Twilight

15. Ender's Game

Once again, the list bears a striking resemblance to my all time favorite list! Yep. Funny how that happens.

The Bookword Game: Time to Vote!

Okay, so I forgot to post The Bookword poll yesterday!

It could have been that I was gone all day at my brother's wedding and all its festivities.

It could have been that I was worrying more about The Secret Keeper blog tour post.

It could have been that I just plain forgot!

Whatever the reason, here's the Bookword Game poll a day late. This time, we are choosing a word for a book you buy that you forgot you already read/own.

The nominees are:

Whoopsabooksy by Jenny
DupliBook by Arcona
A Double-Trouble book by Joy
AmnesiBook by Bybee
OubliBook by Bibliolatrist
An Unrecollected-Recollected book by John Mutford

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Review and Interview: The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris

Book: The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Rating: A-

For: TLC Book Tours

The book begins with a heart-stopping scene in which our hero, Danny, is suffering terrible abuse at the hands of an unknown enemy. It was quite the intense foreshadowing moment.

Next, we learn that Danny had been a war correspondent in Sierra Leone for quite some time, several years before this opening incident. While there, he fell in love with a girl, Maria, who was also working there, though not as a reporter. He little later, he learns that she is trying to rescue the child soldiers; boys kidnapped from their families and forced to fight, including killing their own families.

In the opening chapter, Danny gets a letter from Maria that, in part, says:


I need you. I'm in trouble. I know it's been too long. I'm sorry. It's my fault and I hope you forgive me...... I need you to come to Freetown to help me. I'll explain it all then.
All my love as ever,

So he leaves his life behind once again, even if it is a life full of all sorts of its own problems, to head back to Sierra Leone in order to help his friend. When he gets there, he finds out that he's too late. She has been murdered.

The story then jumps back and forth between the first time he was there, in 2000, and his second trip made in 2004. In the 2000 segments, we learn how he met Maria, some of the war situations he found himself in, and how they parted ways. The 2004 segments are about his mad frenzy to solve the mystery of what's happened to Maria, his struggles with his current girlfriend and his father, and his ongoing fascination with the country of Sierra Leone.

I must say the whole time I was reading, I was anticipating catching up to that first prologue scene... anxious for it and a little bit dreading it. But it did keep me on the edge of my seat that's for sure!

I enjoyed the book simply because I knew nothing about this conflict in Sierra Leone. It was all quite eye-opening. I was also fascinated to read about the life of a war correspondent, and how they seem to live for the danger, to want to get always closer to the action, and that they seem to have no fear. Let me just say, I don't think I could do it. Oh, and the only caution I would give to readers of this book, beware the F-words!

As part of the blog tour today, I've been able to ask the author, Paul Harris, a few questions. Having himself worked as a war correspondent in Sierra Leone, there was one question that I couldn't get out of my head the whole time I was reading. So even though I know it's the same question everyone else is asking, it's the first one on my list. Then, please be sure to read on to see the new feature I'm introducing with this interview!

Suey: The whole time I was reading Danny's adventure, I constantly wondered if you personally lived the same experiences first hand. So which, if any, experiences did the two of you share?

Paul: I don't want to give away too many plot points, but I think I can answer this question without spoilers. Basically, some of the incidents come straight from my own experiences and some have roots in my own experiences that I have then drawn out and expanded. For example, a scene where Danny attends an anti-rebel march at which several protesters were killed was almost the same as my own experience of being there. A scene at the end where Danny ends up in a town where a battle suddenly breaks out was also pretty close in a lot of details to what happened to me. Some of the characters (especially Kam) are drawn exactly to match real people I knew.Others, such as Ali, were inspired by real people but very much took on a life of their own. The romance between Danny and Maria was inspired by a love affair that a colleague in Sierra Leone was rumored to have been having with an aid worker. It was not based in my own experience! That was something I had to explain to my girlfriend when she read the first draft!

Suey: I'm glad you cleared that up about the love affair, because you know I was wondering THAT too!

The scenes with the child soldiers were really heart wrenching to say the least. Were there really those who were trying to save them? Do you know how things stand now for those kids?

Paul: There were some 5,000 to 10,000 child soldiers who fought in the war. There were then and are now numerous charities and individuals who sought to help, either by setting up orphanages or other institutions to care for them and treat their problems and eventually rehabilitate them and their society. They still face problems now. Funds are often short and needs are great. There is also still great local social prejudice against them. Here is a link to a story about them from a charity called SOS Children's Villages .

Suey: Thank you for that link. I think that was the thing that hit me the hardest about this story.

For those of us who are quite clueless to world affairs, describe briefly what was behind the conflict in Sierra Leone and is it all resolved today?

Paul: The war in Sierra Leone has both long-term and short-term reasons. Like all countries essentially created by colonialism and Western involvement in Africa, Sierra Leone ended up as an independent nation full of competing ethnicities and interests who did not necessarily feel the same national awareness that, say, the French or Germans do. That leads to an unstable country, corruption and a competition for resources, in this case usually diamonds. That's a recipe for civil war. The short-term reasons began in1991 when rebels, backed by Liberia, and led by a former army officer called Foday Sankoh, started attacking government facilities. It was theoretically a rebellion aimed at fighting corruption and the domination of traditional elite groups. It ended up a bloody free-for-all that lasted for ten years and destroyed the country. Fortunately, things are better now. After British military intervention in 2000 (described in The Secret Keeper) the rebels were ultimately defeated and Sankoh arrested. Since then peace and stability have returned, elections have been held and economic recovery has begun. It is a slow process. But is it is progress and, most importantly, it is peace.

Suey: I'm so happy that things are looking a little more optimistic these days.

So, now what are your plans for future books? Will you be basing them on more journalistic experiences?

Paul: I'm just starting a second book that will be set against the backdrop of a US presidential primary campaign. That will draw on my journalistic coverage of the 2004 and 2008 elections which should give me a lot of personal experiences to draw upon.

Suey: That sounds like it could be quite intriguing.

And along more personal lines, what would a perfect day be like for you? Orin other words, if you could have a whole day to do whatever you wanted,how would you spend the time?

Paul: What a great question! But hard to answer as I think it varies so much from day to day and one's mood. I have just returned from a week with my family in England and - amazingly - the weather was superb and reminded me how stunning England can be. So at this moment I would say a perfect day would involve rising early, having some strong coffee and then walking through the English countryside on a beautiful sunny day. At the end of the day, I would arrive in a village, tucked away in the hills, and get a room in a B&B next to a good pub, where I would spend my evening chatting to the locals.

Suey: Ah, England! That does sound like a perfect day.

Finally, something new I'd like to start on my blog called Authors Pick Five, which is basically a list of authors' top five most influential/important books they've read. So, what five books would you put on that list? Five books that have greatly influenced you, had some importance in your life, or are simply near and dear to your heart.


1) The Therapy of Avram Blok, by Simon Louvish. I discovered this book by accident when I was about 15 years old. It is a strange, rambling hilarious tale that is impossible to describe. I love it.

2) High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby This is the only book that I have read for the first time and then immediately started it again. Perhaps it was the age I was (mid-20s). But it felt like it was a book that spoke intelligently, warmly and above all honestly about what men feel about love.

3) The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien What can I say? I was a fantasy geek and this was the ultimate hit. Still stands as one of the greatest works of human imagination.

4) Animal Farm, by George Orwell Brilliant and devastating political satire through the medium of animals on a farm. As true and relevant now as it was when it was written.

5) The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold I read this while traveling on holiday in Europe. It was just heartbreaking stuff. I must have looked a sight groaning and sniffling to myself at a variety of restaurants in Central Europe as I was gripped by the tragic beauty of it (marred only by a slightly off-key ending).

Suey: Great list! Thanks so much for these wonderful answers and for visiting my blog today.

For more information, visit Paul Harris' website.
For a list of all the blog tour stops, click TLC Blog Tours website.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Guest Post Review: Don't Call Me a Crook by Bob Moore

Book: Don't Call Me a Crook by Bob Moore

Genre: Memoir

Rating: A- (as per The Mr.)

This book came in the mail from Dissident Books awhile back, hoping to get read and reviewed. I accepted it thinking that it was something my husband might like and so I said to him, "Here, read this.... then when you're done YOU can write a review!" Still, I have plans to get to it myself one of these days, and then you can get my perspective too.

And so, I'd like to welcome to my blog, The Mr., and his wonderful review:

“Don't Call Me a Crook,” is a charming, yet eerily alarming, tale of Bob Moore, a young Glaswegian (a dude from Glasgow, Scotland... don't you just love that word?) who travels the world, steals from anyone and everyone, kills at least one person, and continually runs from his enemies. And yet at the end of the book I found myself genuinely liking the guy. The read was an exciting, brutal, fast paced adventure that extended from Scotland, to New York, to the lawless inner depths of the Yangtze river in China.

The book, written ostensibly as an autobiography of Bob Moore, is a chronological overview of the events of Mr. Moore's life. The book is divided up into short chapters many of which capture an entire little vignette. For light reading, I love this format because I always have a nice close stopping place. But, I found myself, each night, wanting to sneak in just one more, and then just one more..., chapter before turning off the bed table lamp.

The character of Bob Moore is one that would intrigue psychologists, mobsters, and law enforcement officers alike. I was not sure if he was totally delusional, in denial, or just stupid. He defends himself, “I am not a crook at all, because a crook is a man who steals things from people, but I have only swiped things when I needed them or when it would be wasteful to let slip an opportunity.” What?!?!?

The book is full of acts that would repel an average moral person, and yet, Mr. Moore performs them without remorse. His writing is candid, unfeeling, and complete enough that the reader knows what happened but is spared all the gory details. Most of his acts left me thinking, “Wow, this guy is crazy.” but there was one that I just could not believe. I will not bias you by describing it here. You should read it and see if you have the same reaction. It was related in Mr. Moore's typical unemotional way, as if it was of no significance, and yet it forever altered people's lives. After that, I was completely converted to the belief that Bob Moore was more than crazy.

If you are looking for a quick, intriguing read, give “Don't Call Me a Crook” a try. While I did feel pangs of jealousy for his fun and wild life, it also reminded me of why I put importance on responsibility and dedication to family and community.

What a great review, huh? He should start up his own book blog I'm thinking. Or at the very least, we'll just have to have him do this more often!

Other Reviews:

Dan's Journal
Gramma's Reads
Duffbert's Random Musings


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