The Sunday Salon 9.7.08 & 100th Review Contest

September 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 12 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comThis has been a productive week in Literate Housewife Review land. I read three and a half books, hosted a book tour, got nominated for a BBAW award, and published two reviews, which brought me just one review away from my 100th review!  I remember back in January of 2007 that I never in my wildest dreams saw this day coming.  I was hoping to make it to 52.  I had no idea what this would become.  Now, I’m looking forward to my next 100 reviews.  The sky’s the limit when you keep and open mind and follow your heart.

I hosted C.W. Gortner on his blog tour on Tuesday and published my review of his delightful novel, The Last Queen.  Please feel free to keep leaving comments and questions for him.  He’ll be coming back periodically to check out what’s going on.  He seems very nice and you can also find him on the new and improved site of the Historical Fiction board.  If you enjoy historical fiction and haven’t checked out this board, you really should.  You’ll find some familiar book blogging faces and other interesting people.

Adam at Letters on Pages wrote a wonderful review of The Blue Death.  He graciously agreed to read and review it for me.  Thank you, Adam!

On Friday, I found out that I was nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week award and I’m so thrilled.  I was nominated in the Best Book Club Blog category and I’m thrilled.  Please take the time to vote for me (if you choose) and all of the other wonderful nominees at My Friend Amy.

Last night I finally published my review of The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when I typed in the “#99” in the header for that post.  This leads me to my 100th Review Contest…

Tonight at midnight I will be publish my 100th review.  I am tomorrow’s host for Kathleen McCleary’s blog tour for House and Home, which is being sponsored by TLC Book Tours.  I don’t want to give away too many details here.  You’ll have to come back after midnight to find out all the details, but I’ll leave you with this clue:

I missed The Sunday Salon last week, so I want to take this opportunity to thank four of my book blogging friends:

I was one of the lucky winners in Chartroose’s 101 post contest at Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage and last week my treasured Jane Austen action figure arrived in the mail.  She now uses her super writing powers to guard and protect my collection of her books.

Shana at Literarily nominated me for the SuperCommenter award and I’m so delighted!  I will be making my own nominations next week.  Thanks, Shana!

Don at Don’s Stuff also awarded me for my comments on his blog.  I have say that I am tickled by this graphic and may have to use it in another post if I’m so lucky as to win any other awards.  Thanks, Don!

Finally, my friend Marcia at The Printed Page sent me a copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.  I have been wanting to read this novel since I first read Devourer of Books’s reviewMarcia’s review made me even more excited to read it.  I’ll be participating in the author’s book tour in November, so I only have a little while longer to wait.  Thanks so much, Marcia!

So, that’s my week.  It was nice feel good about what I’ve accomplished again.  I seem to have mostly recovered from the start of the school year.  How’s your week been?  I’m wishing everyone a great week ahead!  I’m hoping to keep up the reading and post four reviews.  Let’s see if I can meet my own personal challenge on that.

#99 ~ The Seamstress

September 6, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Books | 6 Comments
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The Seamstress: A Novel by Frances De Pontes Peebles

Some of the best aspects of reading fiction are visiting places you may never otherwise see and providing a glimpse of what it might be like to live in a different time in history.  The Seamstress, which takes place mainly between Taquaritinga and Recife, Brazil during the late 1920s and early 1930s, is an engaging novel that provides the opportunity for both.  It tells the story of Emilia and Luzia dos Santos, orphaned sisters who are raised by their Aunt Sofia, the seamstress for the community’s Colonel.  The sisters, while very different people, both find peace, creative release, and ultimately their destinies in sewing.

Emilia dos Santos is the oldest sister, and she has high aspirations for her life.  She is not content to remain forever in Taquaritinga, a small interior town whose prospects do not allow her, despite her charm, the ability to rise above her warm, yet meager existence.  Her refusal to consider the many bachelors who have asked Aunt Sofia for her hand has given her a reputation for being a young woman who thinks too highly of herself, but she finds her escape in her collection of Fon Fon magazines, which provide patterns for the latest fashions along with guidance on being a lady and short stories about gentlemen and romance.  What gives her hope is marrying a gentleman and moving to Recife, where life is beautiful and full of opportunity.

A vintage cover of Fon Fon from the 1950s

A vintage cover of Fon Fon from the 1950s

Luzia dos Santos is quite the opposite from her sister.  She has no interest at all in her sister’s fashion magazines or fantasies of Recife.  As a young child she fell from a tree and broke her arm.  Because of the inadequate medical care she received, her arm is permanently bent at a 90 degree angle.  Her disability makes ends all prospects of marriage for her and she becomes somewhat of an outcast in Taquaritinga, earning herself the knickname Victrola because her arm resembled the arm of the popular record player.  Unlike Emilia, Luzia rebels against society and its ways.  She fights every way she can because she sees no real future for herself until The Hawk and his band of cangaceiros invade Taquaritinga looking for water during the dry season.

Brazil in the early part of the 20th century was a corrupt and harsh place to live, especially outside of the large cities surrounding the coast.  There was no fully authoritative centralized government, so the wealthy landowners, or Colonels, ruled their territory as they saw fit.  The ease of life in the interior portions of the country was very much dependent upon the weather and the life experience of the current Colonel.  As many of them were prone to be tyrants, this gave rise to the cangacos, groups of bandits who roamed throughout the countryside as nomads in search of food, money and, above all else, revenge against the Colonels and gentry.  Emilia and Luzia came of age at a time when a powerful leader to over power in the central government through revolution and began to take power away from the Colonels.  This change in political climate brought reforms, but also chaos into the country.  As much as it is about the vastly different lives Emilia and Luzia led, The Seamstress tells the story of how the relationship between coastal and interior Brazil changed this new government took hold of the country.

Emilia and Luzia found that getting what they wanted always comes at a price.  Because of their background, they are never fully welcomed in the communities they joined.  What kept them from alienation and made them whole was the only things they took with them from Taquaritinga, their survival skills and their passion for sewing.  When they find themselves at odds in the new political climate, will their bond be enough to save them?

The author really brings to life both the environmental harshness of the arid Brazilian countryside and the political and social harshness of Recife.  While the cangaceiros were fighting to stay relevant in an age when the Colonels were losing stature and authority, the upper class in Recife were fighting to rid the country of the terror created by these random acts of violence and retribution.  The fear felt by the establishment opened the door to use phrenology to catalog criminals in order to predict who will become harmful to the state.  It was a fascinating look at a developing Latin American country.

The Seamstress expertly blends the threads of family, culture, crime, punishment, sin and redemption into a beautiful canvas that highlights both an exotic land and an intriguing time in Latin American history.  While it took me a while to read this book, there isn’t any part that felt unnecessary or should have otherwise not been included.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.  I grew to care deeply for Emilia and Luzia and was interested in their world.  I hope to learn more from Brazil and look forward to reading more from Frances De Pontes Peebles in the future.  The story of these sisters and their country will stay with me for a long time to come.

*******

To buy this novel, click here.

300th Post and August Recap

September 1, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, My Life with Books | 13 Comments
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I couldn’t believe it, but my WordPress stats indicate that my post yesterday about Maw Books’ Darfur fund raiser was my 299th post.  That makes my August Recap my 300th official post!!!  Whoo Hoo!  Thanks to each and every one of you who have read this blog.  It’s really been an anchor for me.

Non-Reading Reading-Related Activities

This month I created my first challenge: Expand Your Horizons.  No one has joined Mark and me, but I’m hopeful that there are others out there who might find it fun to share books with a friend.

My first guest post was published on Saturday at The Friendly Book Nook and I was really excited about that.  Thanks to everyone who responded with comments.  It really meant a lot to me.  A special thanks to The Friendly Book Nook for honoring me this way.

I’ve been hard at work organizing the relaunch of The Literate Housewives’ Book Club.  I’ve been sprucing up the blog site and adding the forum.  I’ve also been hard at work on the bookmarks for everyone.  Unfortunately I was not able to get to the post office at all this past week.  I met Emma when she got off of the bus all last week.  Without a lunch break, I just didn’t have time.  Rest assured that everyone will get their bookmarks this week.  The club will officially open on the 15th of September.  I’m hoping to get invitations to the forum sent out tomorrow.

Reading Activity for the Month

Now for the downer…  I read only 6 books in August.  Actually, it’s closer to 5.75 because I read half of Surviving Ben’s Suicide in July and I read the last 6th of The Seamstress today (since I read over 500 of the pages of this book in August, it’s counting in August).  Here’s how that all broke down:

Non-Fiction:

Surviving Ben’s Suicide by C. Comfort Shields
The Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell

Expand Your Horizons Challenge:

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Fiction:

Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles (review coming soon)

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself because of the numbers.  It took me a week to read the 250 I finished of Melmoth the Wanderer and it took me another week to read The Seamstress and Pattern Recognition.

August Favorite

The Sunday Salon

August 24, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.com

This week was by far less eventful than last week. For that I am very grateful. I was able to read two books: The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner and House and Home by Kathleen McCleary. I also posted my review of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.

I became absolutely entranced by Juana La Loca while reading Gortner’s novel. Her story is tragic as she was betrayed by every man in her life, but she was such a strong woman. I hated that Jennifer was translated into Juanita in my high school Spanish classes. It wasn’t as sexy as Carmen or Pilar. It sounded plain to me. Now I would happily take on the name Juana for the strength and courage it signifies. Besides, what’s wrong with people thinking you might be crazy? They should be careful.

I read McCleary’s novel for one of the first TLC Book Tours, so you’re just going to have to come back on September 8th, when the tour reaches The Literate Housewife Review. This will be the second time I’ve participated in a virtual book tour. My first go round was for Mrs. Lieutenant by Phyllis Zimbler Miller. It was a good experience for me and I’m hoping that when Bethany from B&b ex libris is less bogged down we can get together with the author and hold a discussion.

This week I launched my first reading challenge: Expand Your Horizons. The object of this challenge is to exchange books with a friend who has different taste in books than you do. The first reviews for this challenge were Special Topics in Calamity Physics, written by my friend Mark and my review of Pattern Recognition. I’m hoping that Mark and I will do this again soon. It was a good experience for the both of us.

Marcia from The Printed Page will be sending me her copy of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. I’ve been coveting this book ever since it was offered as an Early Review book through LibraryThing. Jen’s review at Devourer of Books only intensified it. I am so excited to be receiving it. Thanks, Marcia! I’m starting the next book I’ll be sending you today…

Which leads me to what I’m going to be reading this week. The first book up is The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Pebbles. It is set in Brazil, a country I’ve never visited before and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a 600+ page book, but I’m thinking that it will read quickly. After that, I’m going to read Femme Fatale by Pat Shipman, which is a biography of Mata Hari. I’m really looking forward to this. I just discovered that she was a Dutch courtesan. One of my people… 😉

I’ve gotten a little behind in my blog reading, so I’m hoping to catch up on that tonight. I hope that everyone has had a wonderful week. Emma starts kindergarten tomorrow and after a great experience at her open house, she’s looking forward to it. That will help me keep my tears to a minimum. 😉

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