Thursday, March 25, 2010

Because I Just Can't Stay Away...

Someone from the blogosphere emailed me this link...
Check it out while you wait for us to return!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

We Interrupt This Maternity Leave...

...to bring you this breaking news.

If you've ever wanted to visit beautiful Salem, Massachusetts here is your chance.

The publisher Harper Collins is featuring a travel getaway to celebrate the publication of a new novel set in Salem.

The sweepstakes entry is here - enter by April 1, 2010.

(This is not a RFS giveaway (we only wish we had the dough to throw about willy-nilly). But one of our amazing and talented bloggers lives "in the area" (for internet-anonymity) and if on the off chance a RFS reader wins, I'll she'll host you for dinner (crossing my her fingers you aren't creepy.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Can Bloggers Take Maternity Leave?

Dear RFS Readers,

I thought I'd give you all a little heads up on my upcoming absence. You see, I'm having a baby today (or so they tell me) and I'm needing to cut myself a little slack in the reading/blogging department for the next few weeks so that I can focus on my family (and sleep).

I'll be back soon, I promise. After all, this blog is called Reading for Sanity because that is what I do. I read to keep myself sane while juggling the responsibilities of chef, chauffeur, secretary, personal assistant, nanny, maid, and accountant. I am fairly confident that the impending addition to our family will prompt a reading binge the likes of which this blog has never before seen. I plan to return, along with all the other reviewers, on April 1st and so I hope you will join us then!

Wish me luck!

- Mindy

PS. Publishers and authors can still contact us at mindyoja AT hotmail DOT com for any review offers. After all - I'll still be checking my email - I'm not insane.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier

Summary: From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Though poor and uneducated, she discovers on the windswept beaches of the English coast that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to gossip--and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with uncommon interests, she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man.

Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster recently exiled from London, who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.

Remarkable Creatures is an inspiring novel of how one woman's gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship. (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com )

My Review: I’ve long been an admirer of Tracy Chevalier. Not only because it’s incredibly fun to say her last name, but because I adored Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue and highly recommend them. Her later works – The Lady and the Unicorn and Falling Angels - didn’t sit as well with me and I must confess that because of my mild disappointment with them I didn’t even start Brightly Burning. However, I was instantly caught by the premise of this novel. I’ve always been fascinated by the earth - it’s formation, history, and all that that entails - and decided to give this one a whirl despite my feelings for the last few of her books.

I’m very glad I did. It reminded me of why I loved Chevalier’s writing in the first place. Her stories have an understated and calming elegance that is easy to sink in to and surprisingly captivating. Remarkable Creatures is a beautiful historical fiction, set in a time when the concept of an extended version of history, or even an extinct species, was beginning to shake the foundations of certain longstanding and devoutly held religious beliefs. I LOVED that it made me dissect my own beliefs about evolutionism vs. creationism and how (or if) the two could ever be reconciled. I think they can, but that’s another post for a different blog.

Beyond the opportunities offered for introspection, Remarkable Creatures is moving story about friendships gained, lost, and rediscovered. The characters of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot were stunningly written and based on actual women who made real and significant contributions to the early geological community and never really received their due credit during their lifetimes. Despite their differences in class and education, they were able to form a bond over shared interests and it was fascinating to “watch,” through their alternating narrations, how each of them viewed the world. It was refreshing to read a book that wasn’t inordinately focused on some sappy, unrealistic romance, but instead dwelt in the deeper emotional territory of friendship, respect, and loyalty between women.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who has loved Tracy Chevalier before. It’s on a different track than Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue but it still resonated with me in the same quiet way.

My Rating: 4 Stars. As an added bonus, a sensitive reader will find very little if anything to object to (if my memory serves) in terms of language, sex, etc.

Sum it up: Chevalier regains some of her former glory with this story of scientific upheaval, true friendship, and fossils.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

Also reviewed by Heather and Mindy.

Summary: Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. (Summary from back of the book and image from Amazon.com)

My Review: I was very excited to see that there was a series out, aimed at middle school students, that taught about Greek mythology. I read quite a bit of Greek literature in college, thus reading the first in this series became a fun review.

Being labeled ADHD and dyslexic, Percy is the bane to every teacher's classroom. I couldn't help but feel empathy for him, even before he (and I) learns this all stems from his half-blood genetics. Like most kids with these labels, they don't want to be different anymore than their teachers want them disrupting their class.

Percy's life drastically changes with everything Percy holds dear taken from him. He now finds himself trying to grasp a strange reality and on a quest to save his honor...and prevent WWIII. Nothing too hard for a 12 year old boy. It stayed true to the depiction of the Greek Gods and their vanity combined with their talents. Pushing past this though, Riordan gave it a modern twist with modern locations and the God's using modern conveniences. It was fun to contemplate what it would be like if Olympus really did exist today. I also liked how Riordan painted humans as only seeing what they wanted to see.

This book had just enough high adventure, history, friendship, and smart-alec fun to be a great book. I only gave it 4.5 stars because as an adult, this wouldn't quite deserve 5 stars. For kids I'd say it definitely could hold the 5 star label. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, The Sea of Monsters.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Sum it up: A kid-friendly way of learning Greek mythology with a modern twist.

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