#125 ~ Off the Menu ~ Review and Contest

November 24, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading | 16 Comments
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tlc-book-tours-graphic-tiny1Today it is my pleasure to serve as Christine Son’s hostess on her blog tour TLC Book Tours.  What a great way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday week!  Please see information on her entire tour at the end of this post.

For more information on TLC Book Tours, their authors and all of their wonderful tour dates, please click here.

The Review…

Off the Menu by Christine Son

Whitney, Audrey and Hercules are three Asian women from Houston, TX.  They have been friends since high school, where they were each the co-valedictorians of their graduating class.  Although they have different goals and dreams for their lives, they meet once a month at Hercules’ restaurant to discuss their lives and achievements.  The Valedictorians are about ready to enter their 30s and are all outwardly successful.  Inside, they each have anxieties about their lives and their futures that they do not share with each other for fear of what they each might think.  Independently, each of the women is bright, but they are sinking without the help of their best friends.  They learn that their troubles are best shared and resolved together.

Off the Menu is an interesting look at how three different women who share a similar race can be impacted by that in context of their family and of their country in very different ways.  Whitney is the youngest child of a traditional Korean family.  While clearly loved by her parents, the emphasis is on education and professional success.  Whitney is an up and coming attorney at a prestigious law firm, but what she really wants to do is take a shot at becoming a singer/songwriter.  She hides her weekend gigs from her friends and family for fear of how they will react.  This secret eventually becomes part of the distance growing in her relationship with her parent-approved Korean boyfriend.  Hercules is from a Chinese family.  Her mother died when she was 12, leaving her to be raised by her father, a man who never gets over the loss of his wife.  Hercules, whose given name is Xiao-Xiao, can never please her father, despite her success as a chef and restaurateur.  She constantly struggles dealing with her father’s refusal to assimilate into American culture, with his ailing health, and taking care of his personal financial matters.  Audrey was adopted by her billionaire parents from Korea when she was two months old.  Her adoptive family is Irish and it is that cultural identity she thinks of first when asked.  She often thinks of herself as white because of her surroundings.  While her family paints a perfect picture for the rest of the world, family life is not so very pleasant.  Her parents, though married, are little more than strangers to each other.

Of all the characters, Hercules was my favorite.  I wouldn’t have expected this at the beginning, though.  At first I found her to be off-putting.  Some of her very first words were f*ck and motherf*cker.  Those happen to be my favorite cuss words, but they were like a slap in the face coming right out of the blue.  After I got to know her better, I understood that her near constant foul language maintained the walls she built around herself.  My reaction to her is just what she would have wanted from any stranger.  It instantly moved her behind her wall, keeping me at a distance.  She didn’t allow her friends to get much closer, either.  When her relationship with her father come to a head at the same time as an eagerly awaited business venture with a college friend, she could no longer shut Whitney and Audrey out.  It was a treat to watch her start to blossom from within her darkest moments.

This novel was not at all what I had anticipated.  Where I was expecting chick lit about friendship with an Asian twist, I found thoughtful commentary on what it means to be a daughter, a friend, a lover, successful, an American, and a minority.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters and learning from their experiences.  This would make a perfect book for reading groups and dear friends.  I am glad that Son’s husband believed in her dream and bought her a laptop.  I’ll be looking forward to reading her next book – no pressure, Christine! 😉

The Contest…

Since it is Thanksgiving week, I thought it would be very appropriate to host a contest with Christine Son that revolves around food.  Can’t you smell the turkey now?  Well, in the spirit of this novel and its title, I know that there are those who celebrate Thanksgiving with food that falls outside of what is considered traditional.  Maybe this is because your family likes to add a cultural flair of your own, your family simply cannot celebrate anything without a particular dish, or you just don’t like turkey.  Whatever your reason may be, this contest is for anyone who serves, eats, or even dreams about something off the Thanksgiving menu.

To enter this contest, leave a comment here by the end of the day tomorrow (11/25) explaining why you like to eat something outside of the norm or, if you prepare the traditional Thanksgiving feast, what creative things you do with your leftovers.  Then, send me an email with the recipe for that dish (literatehousewife_at_gmail_dot_com).  I’ll compile all of the recipes and post them Wednesday morning, giving everyone a little time to drool over other ideas – and perhaps brave the grocery stores for the ingredients.  If I get enough entries, I’m going to publish them in PDF format and make the electronic recipe book available to everyone to download.

I will also be sending the recipes to Christine Son.  After looking them over during the holiday weekend, she is going to select her favorite recipe.  The lucky reader who submitted the winning recipe will win a $15 gift card to the restaurant of their choice (as long as I can buy the card on-line and send it via email) or an Amazon gift card – the winner’s choice.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

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Christine Son’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Saturday, November 1st:  Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)

Monday, November 3rd:  Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)

Wednesday, November 5th:  Beastmomma (author interview)

Thursday, November 6th:  Book Nut

Friday, November 7th:  Ramya’s Bookshelf

Friday, November 7th:  Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)

Monday, November 10th:  Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, November 11th:  8Asians

Wednesday, November 12th:  Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 13th:  In The Pages

Friday, November 14th:  She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, November 17th:  Planet Books

Tuesday, November 18th:  B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th:  DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th:  Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th:  The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th:  Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th:  Diary of an Eccentric

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To buy this novel, click here.

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#124 ~ Midwife of the Blue Ridge ~ Book Review and Giveaway

November 22, 2008 at 11:29 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction | 26 Comments
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Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

Maggie Duncan lost her family as a very young girl during a massacre between the British and the Scottish.  Her destiny falls into place when she helps a injured man find his way home to his wife, Hannah.  Hannah, a midwife and local healer, realizes almost instantly that her husband’s gangrene will end his life.  Childless, she sees Maggie’s arrival as the blessing to bloom from her husband’s death.  She takes Maggie under her wings and teaches her healing and midwifery.  Unfortunately, the little Scottish town in which they live is superstitious.  They think that Maggie is bad luck given what happened to her parents.  They believe she possesses the powers of the evil eye.  When Hannah gets sick with consumption, she gives Maggie one last gift before she dies – she plants the seed about going to the America.  After Hannah’s death, Maggie is living hand to mouth.  When she’s offered the opportunity to sale to America at the cost of spending four years as an indentured servant, Hannah’s words come back to her and she travels to find her destiny in the New World.

The Midwife of the Blue Ridge is an engaging novel about the joys, struggles, and courage of those who took the risk of leaving their home land in order to make their own way in Virginia.  From the very beginning, America was seen as a land of opportunity to those whose futures in their home countries was set from the moment of their conception.  It says a great deal that people would knowingly agree to four years of indentured service under unknown masters in order to have a shot at creating their own fortunes and secure their own land.  Christine Blevins brings this all to life through Maggie, Seth Martin and Tom Roberts.  Just as vividly, Blevins writes of those who were forced to go to the New World by their privileged and wealthy families found them to be an embarrassment best kept an ocean away.  Their resentment over their circumstances colored their view of this new land and how they treated other people.  In the Colonial Virginia painted in this novel, it is a toss up as to who was more savage, the Shawnee warriors or the disgraced lords of England.

Maggie Duncan is one of the most delightful heroines I’ve encountered in a long time.  Although her accent was difficult for me to catch on to at first, I was soon caught up in the story of this clever, sassy, and giving young woman.  The very scrappiness that was viewed suspiciously by her Scottish kinsmen was what kept her safe and gave her the advantage she needed to get off to a good start as Seth’s servant.  She endeared herself to Seth, Naomi and their children by her generous spirit and her strong work ethic.  Her sarcastic spunkiness endeared her to almost every single man she encountered.  I admired her optimistic yet pragmatic attitude toward life and the courage she displayed under the most stressful conditions found in the Virginia wilderness.  I enjoyed every minute I spent with her and hope that my daughters growing up in the Blue Ridge of Virginia four centuries later will develop her same strength of character.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read a great deal of wonderful historical fiction.  For the most part, I’ve shied away from historical fiction set in my own country.  I have read The Winthrop Woman and Devil Water by Anya Seton and, while they were both novels I enjoyed, they did not ignite in me the same excitement for my country’s history that Midwife of the Blue Ridge has.  Colonial America, just like Tudor England and Venice has its own charms and dangers to explore.  After reading Blevins’ novel, I am looking forward to spending some more time at home.

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Christine Blevins was kind enough to send me two copies of Midwife of the Blue Ridge, but that’s not all.  She also sent some wonderful smelling goodies!  If you would like a chance to win your own copy of Midwife of the Blue Ridge, a bar of handmade lavender soap and a bag of tea leaves, please leave a comment below about your favorite heroine or your favorite destination when you read historical fiction by 11:59pm EST on Monday, November 24.  I’ll take all the entries and add them to the List Randomizer.  The first name in the list will win the grand prize.  The last name in the list will also win a bag of tea leaves.  Based on the way the tea leaves smell, they will make a wonderful and relaxing cup of hot goodness during the winter.  The winners will be announced by noon EST on the 25th.  Good luck!

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To buy this novel on Amazon.com, click here.

#123 ~ A Heart In Port

November 18, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 3 Comments
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A Heart In Port by Emily Givner

Emily Givner, the gifted Canadian author of A Heart in Port, died in 2004 of an allergic reaction.  She was but 38 years old at the time.  The stories in this book reflect the themes of her life and speak of a generational experience that we shared.  This collection of short stories left me wondering what might have been had she had more time to write.

My favorite story in this collection is “Canadian Mint.”  This story tells of two drug enhanced Generation X slackers who find themselves building a tall tower of pennies in an apartment out of boredom.  They are so enamored with what they’ve done that they decide to build penny towers on the street to make extra money.  Although it never fit my personality to live like these characters, I can close my eyes and picture myself walking down the sidewalk finding any number of my college friends doing the exact same things, having the same types of arguments.  Reading this short story was like listening to an old friend tell a familiar story.  It puts me back to a place and time in my life like “Hey, Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms or “Interstate Love Song” by the Stone Temple Pilots.

I find it difficult to review short stories.  I’ve recently received some wonderful advice on how to read shorter fiction, but I don’t feel as if I can really do them justice.  Some of the writing was not as polished as others and this is perhaps a consequence of publishing some of the posthumously.  She simply may not have been finished with them.  Still, the book is held together by the common threads of music, allergies, and interactions with older men.  A Heart in Port is an interesting collection and the cover art is very indicative of its mood.  It will never be known what Emily Givner would have done with her talent, but Canada still has this diamond in the rough.

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To buy this collection, click here.

#122 ~ The Art of Social War

November 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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The Art of Social War by Jodi Wing

Stacy Knight was at the top of her game the evening that her “I HEART New York” campaign was announced toward the end of Rudy Giuliani’s reign has mayor.  She sparkled as a member of his administration and, based upon the reception of her PR campaign, had great prospects after Giuliani left office.  On top of that, she was engaged to James Makepeace, the man of her dreams.  They both were hard working New Yorkers who supported each other in all things.  All things, that is, until Jamey’s skyrocketing career required a transfer to Los Angeles soon after their wedding so that he can take over the helm of Pacificus, a floundering film studio.  Stacy and Jamey need to learn how to navigate the shark invested waters in Hollywood to save Jamey’s career and their new marriage.

What I enjoyed the most about The Art of Social War was what set it apart from most other chick lit novels I’ve read.  While Stacey’s marriage was tested in LA, it was not in the way that most novelists would have chosen.  For me, this was a breath of fresh air.  Wing also shaped the feudal battle between the Makepeaces and the former owners of Pacificus around the 6th century Chinese military treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  I enjoyed the way that Stacey orchestrated Jamey’s counter attack using the enemy’s weapon of choice.  As preparations for the final battle were made, I couldn’t book the book down.

It took me a little while to warm up to Jodi Wing’s first novel full of corporate espionage, intrigue, and Hollywood high jinx.  Her characters are very human and I honestly liked Stacey and Jamey very much.  I found Jamey’s decision to break the news about his career to Stacey at her big party.  Given everything I was to learn about him, it was against his character.  Most noticeably, I had a difficult time believing that Stacey’s 10 to 15 years of experience in New York’s corporate environment, most recently as a member of Rudy Giuliani’s administration, left her so unprepared for corporate life in LA.  While understanding that Stacey’s deep longing for home explains some of her views, I can’t see New York as a warm, welcoming, and fair environment.  From what I’ve heard, Omarosa could give Stacey’s arch nemesis Julia Mallis (the last name says it all) and the rest of her gaggle a run for their money.

I smiled appreciatively as I finished this tasty piece of chick lit.  Although the first half of the book moved somewhat slowly for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the pay off.  Knowing the ultimate outcome did not take away from my delight as the ride took off.  Quite appropriately, The Art of Social War has already been optioned by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.   I’ll be looking forward to finding out who will be playing Stacey, Jamey, Julia and Simon.  This novel has all the potential needed to become a great chick flick.

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The Art of Social War will be released tomorrow!  To order this book, click here.

#119 ~ Finding Nouf

November 9, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in Books | 3 Comments
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Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris

Nayir, a devout Muslim of Palestinian descent, has created a life for himself in Saudi Arabia as a desert guide.  Although he longs for the marriage that alludes him because he is an orphan with no one with whom to negotiate such a contract, he takes pride in the honorable life he leads and enjoys the home he has created for himself on his house boat.  Over time, he has created a good relationship with the prominent and powerful Shrawi family due to his faithful service to them.  When Nouf, one of their daughters turns up missing and feared lost in the desert, he is proud that he is asked to help locate her.  When she is ultimately found dead, her brother Othman asks him as a special favor to look into her death, Nayir takes his role seriously.  What he discovers is that investigating Nouf’s death requires that he questions who he is, who his friends are, his faith, and the role of women in the home and in society.

While Saudi Arabia is a world away from the United States, there are some things that are universal – when a suspicious murder takes place in a powerful family, the roadblocks are numerous.  You can never be sure if someone is helping you are purposefully leading you down the wrong path.  What makes his investigation even more trying for his is that Nayir is forced to come face to face with much that finds immoral and debase in modern society.  When he goes upon Othman’s request to bring Nouf’s body home for burial, he faints at the sight of her naked body.  He takes his faith seriously and cannot deal with the feelings he has seeing a woman like that, even though she’s dead.  He also has great difficulty coming to terms with the one person equally determined to bring Nouf’s killer to justice – Katya.  She is Othman’s fiance and she is the embodiment of a modern Muslim woman.  She works outside of the home in the coroner’s office and is outspoken and aggressive.  As they get closer to uncovering the truth about Nouf’s life and death, Nayir worries about how much his investigation will cost him.

Finding Nouf, Zoë Ferraris’ first novel, is compelling both as a murder mystery and as an examination of modern MIddle Eastern society.  Through Nayir eyes, I feel I got an honest understanding of the origins and intentions behind Muslim customs.  His shame and his fear of change were real.  I shared his anxiety as his involvement with Katya grew and called his friendship with Othman into question as well as his own political safety.  While he is like a chameleon going between the desert and the water, he has a great deal of difficulty handling social change and coming face to face with cultural hypocrisy.  Nayir is the most genuine and honest character I’ve met this year.  I whole-heartedly recommend this novel.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#117 ~ Janeology

November 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Books, Family, Historical Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 7 Comments
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Janeology by Karen Harrington

Janeology, Karen Harrington’s first novel, opens after Jane, young mother of toddler twins, who suffers from depression following a miscarriage, turns manic and drowns her son Adam and nearly drowns her daughter Sarah as well.  This novel, however, does not tell this story from Jane’s perspective.  Instead, it is told from her husband Tom’s perspective.  After Jane is found innocent of Adam’s murder by reason of insanity, Tom is indicted for neglect.  The state decides to prosecute him for not recognizing the depth of Jane’s illness and for leaving his children solely under her care while he went to work.  This truly is something that could very easily happen today.

Once the initial shock of what has happened to his family wore off and Jane’s trial came to an end, Tom was eager to be or at least to feel punished for what happened to his family.  He might not have even defended himself at all had his mother not hired an attorney.  Luckily, she did, and Dave Frontella proposes a revolutionary defense strategy.  In it, he holds Jane’s genealogy ultimately responsible for what happened and this was nothing that Tom could have ever known.  Not only is the defense unconventional, his means of determining what it was in Jane’s genes is entirely controversial.  Dave locates Jane’s half-sister Mariah, a clairvoyant.  Mariah knows about a family trunk in the attic.  Inside this trunk are photographs and other heirlooms of which Tom was completely unaware.  She uses those to invite Jane’s ancestors to tell their stories.

Just like Tom, I had to suspend disbelief as Mariah embodies Jane as a young child.  As the stories of her family keep unfolding, I was drawn more and more into the history until I was almost frustrated with Tom for being so stubborn and not admitting that things are making more and more sense.  This mixture of historical fiction within a “ripped from the headlines” story worked very well for me.  Tom is a college literature professor, but like many such men, he comes off as being somewhat removed from his own emotions.  He is numb and could only seem to feel safe experiencing his life was back when things were right – back when he and Jane were young and in love.  Jane’s ancestors, however, are quite the contrary.  They are true to their nature.  They are messy, they are passionate, and they are entirely flawed.  I may not like them all, but I could wrap my arms around them and feel compassion.  I was acutely aware that my feelings toward Jane’s ancestors mirrored those Tom held in his heart for his wife.  He was unable to shake his love for Jane because he could not forget the story of their lives and love before she snapped.

Reading Janeology was a powerful experience for me.  As someone who suffered from post-partum depression, I could relate to Jane very well.  I could also very well understand Tom.  I feel that he very much did his best to make it through Jane’s depression, hoping that one day she would come back to her family.  In that way, he provided insight into what my own husband experienced.  I was also lucky to have read this novel while I was in Boston because some of the most important revelations about Jane’s family centered in that city.  It was thrilling for me to have come back from a three hour walking tour of historic Boston only to read about one of streets I crossed along the way.  It made that section of the novel that much more real for me.

In addition to being compelling, most especially during Mariah’s sessions with Jane and her ancestors, Janeology asks a question that cannot easily be answered: How much of who you are is determined by what your ancestors were?  In some ways this makes me wish I had a Mariah who could tell me the stories of my family.  In other ways, I think I’d rather not know.  Regardless, I enjoyed my time reading Janeology and look forward to reading Karen Harrington’s next novel.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#116 ~ Bible Illuminated: The Book (New Testament)

November 6, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading, Religion | 16 Comments
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Bible Illuminated: The Book

I have now had my copy of Bible Illuminated for two weeks and I absolutely love it.  The PDF copy that I mentioned last month did not do it justice, but it did give me a good indication of how it would feel and read.  It is the same size as a W magazine and it reads like a magazine, too.  It is much less formal than a typical Bible.  It doesn’t look or feel like one, and that’s what makes it feel as if I am coming to the text for the first time.  I very much liked the text clean of verse numbers and references and the pictures make it magnificent.

I like having the option to read the New Testament both in its standard format as well as in this modernized version.  It gives me a separate text depending upon why I’m choosing the read the Bible.  As a Roman Catholic, I’ve been taught to look for the imprimatur, which means that the current book is considered error free in regard to doctrine and morality by the Church.  If I wanted to study the Bible, I would choose one with that seal.  Bible Illuminated, which does not carry an imprimatur, is much more conversational and the pictures provide something additional and enriching to bring to prayer.

I have not read the entire translation yet, but what has stood out to me thus far is Mark.  How can it not with a wonderful picture of Muhammad Ali working out at the beginning.  It caught my attention right away and stayed on my mind while I read it.  Over the days leading up to the election, there was one quote highlighted in red that I kept reading:

If a country divides itself into groups which fight each other, that country will fall apart.

It has been my prayer that our country, which seems to have moved away from civil discourse to trade increasingly ugly and personal insults with each other, will change.  We cannot continue on demonizing each other and survive.

Bible Illuminated is just what I needed to freshen up my spiritual life.  It appeals both to my heart and to my eyes.  It is a new and exciting way to look at the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.  I would have to say that in the new age that we are about to enter that it is just about perfect.  I would encourage everyone, whether you are young or old, new to the Bible, estranged from it, or its constant companion, to give this version of the New Testament a try.

In 2009, there will be a Bible Illuminated version of the Old Testament will be published.  If it is anywhere near as spectacular as this, I’ll be first in line for that.

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To buy this book, click here.

#114 ~ Bad Monkeys ~ Review and Giveaway

November 2, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 9 Comments
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Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Jane Charlotte is in trouble.  She’s been arrested for a murder that she committed as it was authorized by Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, otherwise known as “Bad Monkeys.”  Bad Monkeys are part of a much larger covert organization.  As a Bad Monkey, Jane Charlotte had the responsibility to eradicate evil in American society.  The Bad Monkeys did what the government couldn’t or wouldn’t.  Bad Monkeys tells Jane Charlotte’s story through her discussions with her court appointed psychiatrist.  As he questions her in an attempt to determine whether she is fit to stand trial, he gets into her story, which is reminiscent of “The Matrix,” and just as compelling almost all the way through to the end.

This novel was much more science fiction than I normally read.  There are some neat gadgets and special powers, such as the gun that can give someone a fatal heart attack or brain aneurysm when you shoot them, educational classes that took place during sleep, cameras that were everywhere and recording everything that you were doing for playback at any time, and some wicked mind altering drugs that allow the characters to move and react exceptionally fast.   Still, the fact that this novel was science fiction didn’t occur to me until nearly the end because it’s all housed within Jane Charlotte, the most deliciously unreliable narrator I’ve come across in a long time.  She is so unreliable that when aspects of her story are called on the carpet by her psychiatrist, she brushes them off using one of the oldest of Biblical stories: Cain and Abel.  After killing his brother, Cain was banished from his family to live with those in the land of Nod.  Given that his parents were Adam and Eve and were said to be the first people on the earth, what was Nod and who lived there?  Those from the Judeo-Christian tradition accept that story on faith, despite the obvious hole in the plot.  So, when Jane Charlotte’s story runs into a wall with her story, the wall is simply just another “Nod problem.”  She believes it and expects her audience to as well, despite its improbability.  To me, this was pure genius.

Bad Monkeys hooked me from the very beginning and, as always, I love going along for the ride with unreliable narrators.  I only wish that it ended as her story did in Las Vegas.  Instead, what could have been an ending that would have kept me pondering whether Jane Charlotte was insane, a supreme and able liar, or a woman caught between the society and a covert operation that enabled society to run despite itself was resolved in a dirty, messy bow.  I suppose one could argue that there are still multiple ways to read the ending, but none of them are nearly as satisfying as what each reader could imagine for themselves.

Although the ending left a bad taste in my mouth, I loved Jane Charlotte and the story of her life.  I enjoyed that she secretly could not get enough of straight laced Nancy Drew but turn on anyone when it suited her.  Because there was a slight little bit of conscious to her, I was squirming along with her when the least savory scenes from her life with the “Pet Boys” were displayed on the big screen in front of her.  She couldn’t leave.  She was forced to confront her ugliest self.  Those scenese reminded me of how uncomfortable it is to  watch Chris Hansen walk out and confront child molestors on Dateline NBC’s “To Catch A Predator.”  She got herself into that situation, but I just couldn’t help wanting to rescue her.

While in the Bad Monkeys, Jane Charlotte helped those her organization determined were beyond the hope of redemption by a heart attack or anuerysm delivered from her gun.  This novel raises interesting questions about living in a civilized society: Who has the right to judge whether another human being is suitable to remain in society?  If the government can’t or won’t, should someone else to up the gun and dole out rogue justice?  What do we really know about the motivations groups and individuals like that?  What should happen with Jane Charlotte?  I guess the answer to all of those questions depends upon whether you are a Nancy Drew, a Bad Monkey or a bad monkey.

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As luck may have it, I received two copies of this novel and I would love to share both copies.  To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment below.  I will enter your name into the List Randomizer and will give the books to those who end up in the first and the last slots.  You can enter this giveaway until midnight EST on Tuesday, November 4.  I’ll announce the winners on November 5th.

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To buy this novel, click here.

Literate Housewife Spotlight ~ October

October 1, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Reading, Religion | 11 Comments
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Several months ago, when I was compiling the list of books I’ve reviewed for this blog, I found some that I had forgotten all about.  That doesn’t necessarily meant that I didn’t enjoy them.  They just didn’t stick with me.  There were others that easily remembered and know that they were read and raved about by other authors.  There were still others, however, that I truly loved that I have not found much other discussion about at all.  I couldn’t quite figure out why more people hadn’t reviewed them.  The more I thought about this, the more the idea of featuring these novels in a different way started to shape and take form.  That idea is becoming a reality this month in my first installment of the Literate Housewife Spotlight.  Every other month I will be featuring a book that has stayed with me after I closed it for the last time.  It is a book that I believe in and want to share with you.  As part of the Literate Housewife Spotlight,  each Thursday I will post something new about the book, its topics, or its author.  I hope that you get as much out of this as I do.  Mostly, I hope to encourage you to find a copy of the book and check it out for yourself.

The first novel featured in The Literate Housewife Spotlight is The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman.  I read this novel last winter and was drawn into the world of Güde Müller, an elderly woman living in early 16th century Germany.  It was a time of superstition, just ripe for the witch trials sweeping through Europe.

Witchcraft, witch trials, and the political and social vulnerability of women are timely themes.  I’ve recently read Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall and have read several wonderful reviews of The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent.  Both of these novels take place in or near Salem, Massachusetts.  The Sisters of Misery takes place in modern day while The Heretic’s Daughter takes place during the height of the witch trials in the United States.  During Salman Rushdie’s discussion about his newest novel, The Enchantress of Florence, he touched on these topics as well.  He made one especially interesting observation.  The now stereotypical signs of witchcraft in that day and age, the pointy hat, the broom, and even the cat were common to almost any woman.  If the woman was ugly, that could be the sign of a witch.  If the woman was beautiful, she was a temptress for the devil.  In every situation, all that was ever needed was an accusation.  That is it.  In essence, all a woman needed to be was eccentric, envied, hated, or seen as an easy scapegoat to be a witch.  Imagine what it must have felt like to know that a witch hunter was coming to town.  What would you do to survive?

The following is a reprint of my review from February of this year:

The Witch’s Trinity tells the story of Güde Müller, an elderly grandmother who lives with her only son Jost and his family. They live in Tierkinddorf, Germany and have been experiencing two years of extreme famine. The strain of living without adequate food is taking its toll on the family and the town as a whole. Güde can tell how much Irmeltrud, Jost’s wife, resents her being alive and taking food that would ordinarily go to her children. After a Catholic priest is called in to investigate whether witches are to blame for the town’s hard luck, one of Güde’s childhood friend is burned at the stake. Still, the town is desperate. The able-bodied men leave the village in search of food. While they are gone, the village starts to turn on one another and it seems that no one is safe from being accused of witchcraft.

This book had a powerful affect on me. It made it difficult for me to sleep well for almost a week. It’s unbelievable the things that humans will do to one another and it’s frightening how open women and the elderly are to abuses of many kinds. It’s especially shameful how women turn on each other instead of supporting each other. The terror experienced by Güde and other helpless citizens of Tierkinddorf was so believable that there were entire sections of this book that had my heart racing. I left this book feeling thankful to be alive in 2008 instead of 1608. Witch trials make workplace cattiness seem like child’s play.

As with many books, The Witch’s Trinity was tidied up too quickly and neatly. I would still suggest that anyone interested in witch trials or the plight of women or the elderly read it. You will continue to think about this book and its themes long after you’ve finished it. That certainly sets this novel by Erika Mailman apart from the rest.

The Witch’s Trinity is being published in paperback on October 7th.  Over the course of this month, Erika Mailman is graciously offering copies of this novel to three lucky readers.  Come back each week for details on how you can win your own copy of this novel.  Not willing to leave it to luck?  Click here to order a hard cover copy of this novel for yourself.

Check Out Alyce’s Review of Making War to Keep Peace

September 19, 2008 at 3:57 pm | Posted in Books | 1 Comment
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Feeling overloaded with ARCs, I offered Making War to Keep Peace by Jeanne Kirkpatrick to another reader who would be interested in reading and reviewing it.  Alyce at At Home with Books graciously accepted my offer.  She’s read and reviewed the book here.  In my heart of hearts I really wanted to keep the book and read it.  I knew that it just couldn’t happen.  Reading Alyce’s excellent review made me regret not reading it even more, but I’m so glad that it was reviewed and is out there.  It sounds like an important book for our day and time.  I’m definitely going to be buying a copy of this book or renting it from the library.

Alyce, I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to read and review this book.  You certainly did it proud!

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