Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: A Brief History of Montmaray

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper book cover
A Brief History of Montmaray
by Michelle Cooper
Publication Date: October 13

From the publisher:

"Sophie Fitzosborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed."

Check out this website that includes reviews, reading guides, and historical background to the novel.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week? Leave your link here!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My first Challenge!

Random Reading Challenge logo
Random Reading Challenge
August 1, 2009 – July 31, 2010

Are you stuck in a rut? Do you always find yourself reading from set lists or feeling committed to reading one book while another book screams at you from your TBR mountain? Has your reading become completely scheduled? If so, the Random Reading Challenge may be just the thing to put the spontaneity back into your reading.
For this challenge, readers will be choosing books randomly from their TBR stacks. You may select one of three levels of participation.

I chose Level II:

You really want to break away from all those lists, but you do still have a responsibility to your reading groups, other challenges and all those review books. Six books is too little, but twelve is too much. Stretch a little and read nine books for the challenge.

I'll post the books here as I finish them!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (1)

Teaser Tuesdays Should Be Reading logo
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!
White Queen by Philippa Gregory book cover
My Teaser:
"I am a woman who makes things happen, and I am not defeated yet. I am not defeated by a boy with a newly won crown, and no man will ever walk away from me certain that he won't walk back."

-p. 26, The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Books By Theme: Dan Brown Read-Alikes

Today's Theme:

Dan Brown Read-Alikes!

Haven't gotten your hands on The Last Symbol? Or, have you already finished it and want more?

Check out one of these religious/historical thrillers which are also filled with secret societies, codes, ciphers, rewritten history, intelligent heroes and heroines, and exotic settings.

Expected One by Kathleen McGowan book cover
In Kathleen McGowan's The Expected One, investigative journalist Maureen Paschal has been researching Mary Magdalene for over 20 years when she receives a mysterious ring from a stranger. This ring is identical to one worn by Mary Magdalene in an ancient portrait. Maureen's search for the Magdalene scrolls takes her from Jerusalem to Paris, as she follows clues that ultimately lead her to the lost gospels of Mary Magdalene. McGowan's sequel, The Book of Love, continues Maureen's investigations.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse  book coverKate Mosse burst onto the scene with Labyrinth in 2007. Her protagonist, Alice Tanner, is spending a few weeks as a volunteer at an archaeological dig in the Pyrenees. In the novel's opening pages, Alice discovers a cave with mysterious wall markings in which she finds two skeletons, one of whom is wearing a ring with labyrinth markings identical to those on the wall. Juxtaposing a modern story with one set in 1209, Mosse sets us on another variation of the Grail quest, but this time with women as the major players.

13th Apostle by Richard and Rachael Heller book cover
Richard and Rachael Heller are best known for their best-selling “Carbohydrate Addict” health books, so it was a surprise when they wrote The 13th Apostle. Gil Pearson, a cybersleuth who specializes in catching hackers, has been working via the Internet with Sabbie Karaim, an Israeli biblical translator. They've never met in person until they're brought together to decipher a mysterious 12th-century diary. A treasure map takes them on a global quest to find a scroll that could change history.

Have you read The Last Symbol or any of these novels? What did you think of them?

Today in Literary History: Hemingway

Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway book cover
On this day in 1929 Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was published. Biographically speaking, two farewells associated with the book may be those extended to F. Scott Fitzgerald -- after reading his nine pages of suggested manuscript revisions. Hemingway wrote "Kiss my ass" in the margin -- and to Agnes von Kurowsky, Hemingway's first love.

Hemingway called A Farewell to Arms, "my Romeo and Juliet novel," and based it on his own experiences as an eighteen-year-old Red Cross volunteer on the north Italian front, where he was injured by shrapnel and machine gun fire, and then attended by American nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Her diary entries for the period of their eight-month relationship are cool, though many of her letters are not. In her final, Dear John letter -- actually it begins, "Ernie, dear boy" -- von Kurowsky cites her older age and Hemingway behaving like a spoiled child as reasons for the break-up, before dropping the bombshell: "Then -- & believe me when I say this is sudden for me, too -- I expect to be married soon. And I hope & pray that after you have thought things out, you'll be able to forgive me & start a wonderful career & show what a man you really are."

Interesting Hemingway Links:

Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Time
Online gallery and biography presented by the National Portrait Gallery. Includes photographs and background on his marriages, works, and friends.

Hemingway at Shakespeare & Company

Literary Traveler is a website featuring original stories about important locales in literary history. This article discusses the relationship between Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare & Company and the great writers of the era, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.

What's your favorite Hemingway work?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pope Joan by Donna Norfolk Cross

Pope John by Donna Norfolk Cross book cover
Pope Joan
by Donna Norfolk Cross
Crown Publishing Group, 2009
432 pages
Historical Fiction

Summary in a sentence:

When her older brother is killed, Joan, a rebellious ninth-century woman, assumes his identity, enters a monastery and becomes a great Christian scholar, eventually attaining the throne of Pope.

My Thoughts:

I've always been a big fan of historical fiction and Pope Joan definitely delivers. I mean, a story about a female pope who might have existed? Bring it on!

Pope JoanJoan is a very strong character. She is brave and educated in an age that saw an educated woman as unnatural and sinful. She also has a vast knowledge of medieval medicine which comes in handy later in the novel. The plot is action-filled; this is a book that sucks you in and can't be put down until it is done. Author notes in the back of the book are very informative about the Dark Ages and the church in Joan's time. I became so interested in the period while reading this book that I found myself researching the legend of Pope Joan...researching for fun! What is that?

One of the themes of the book is the idea of inner conflict, especially in regards to religious upbringing. Joan is the child of a pagan mother and a strict Christian father. She constantly struggles between faith and doubt and between her mind and heart.

The novel raises plenty of questions about women in the church both in the Dark Ages and today and whether Pope Joan even existed in the first place. I highly recommend this book for all historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a novel with a strong female protagonist.

Rating: 5/5

Read Alikes:

Author information: Learn more about the author at her website: Meet the Author: Donna Norfolk Cross.

Other points of view on the book:

Peeking Between the Pages

One Person's Journey Through a World of Books
Books for Breakfast


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: Last Night in Twisted River

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving book cover
Last Night In Twisted River
by John Irving
Publication Date: October 26

From Publishers Weekly:

"Irving (The World According to Garp) returns with a scattershot novel, the overriding themes, locations and sensibilities of which will probably neither surprise longtime fans nor win over the uninitiated. Dominic “Cookie” Baciagalupo and his son, Danny, work the kitchen of a New Hampshire logging camp overlooking the Twisted River, whose currents claimed both Danny's mother and, as the novel opens, mysterious newcomer Angel Pope. Following an Irvingesque appearance of bears, Cookie and Danny's “world of accidents” expands, precipitating a series of adventures both literary and culinary. The ensuing 50-year slog follows the Baciagalupos from a Boston Italian restaurant to an Iowa City Chinese joint and finally a Toronto French cafe, while dovetailing clumsily with Danny's career as the distinctly Irving-like writer Danny Angel. The story's vicariousness is exacerbated by frequent changes of scene, self-conscious injections of how writers must “detach themselves” and a cast of invariably flat characters. With conflict this meandering and characters this limp, reflexive gestures come off like nostalgia and are bound to leave readers wishing Irving had detached himself even more."

I love classic Irving- you know, The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Let's hope this book is a return to Irving's former glory!

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Inaugural Posting!

Hello, and welcome to A Bookshelf Monstrosity! I am an avid reader and follower of book blogs, so I figured I might as well join in on all the fun. Giveaways are one of my favorite features of the book blogging community, so I will be sure to have plenty of those. To everyone who I have been faithfully following for awhile, I would appreciate all of you helping me to get the word out on my burgeoning blog! That's all for now...back to reading!
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