Archive for September, 2010

September 30th, 2010

Cross-Bloggination with The Lost Entwife

by Gwen

I want to thank Gwen for hosting my (late) entry to Cross-Bloggination, a
brainchild of mine that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying! It’s an honor to be guest-
posting here. Chew and Digest Books is one of my favorite blogs to read!

I read
a few really striking books this month that had me reeling with how powerful
they were – but none compared to Room by Emma Donoghue.

If you haven’t heard of this book, let me tell you a little bit about it. This is the
story of Jack and Ma. Jack and Ma have been living in a small room for the entire
lifetime of Jack. Ma has been living there even longer. They see sunlight through a
skylight. They have everything for a meager existence within the four walls provided
by Room.

Does that intrigue you? It did me. Enough that I went out and bought the book
without reading a single review, without sampling Donoghue’s writing like I normally
do. Then I came home and Room ousted the top book on my TBR pile without a
single apology.

I stayed up until 3am reading this book. I couldn’t put it down. I was horrified and
fascinated at the same time. I was worried about how I would recommend this book
(because I knew within a few pages that I’d be recommending it) without seeming to
be perverse. All I can say is it impacted me deeply. It made me uncomfortable. It
made me angry. It made me full of sorrow.

Due to the sheer volume of books I read these days it’s pretty rare when one can
affect me so deeply that I’m moved to tears and have a difficult time moving onward
to another book. Room did that to me. Jack and Ma have made a little spot in my
hearts and will remain there for quite some time.

You can view my review of Room by Emma Donoghue on my blog,
The Lost Entwife.

Be sure to check out Danielle from
There’s a Book’s post on my blog
as well for our Cross-Bloggination feature and
Gwen from here at Chew and Digest Books has
posted over on Danielle’s blog

September 27th, 2010

The Tree by John Fowles ~ Review NF

by Gwen





Thirty years ago, the renowned novelist, John Fowles published a sort of mediation on nature and humanity’s relationship to it. Fowles is known as one of the best novelists of the twentieth century with The Collector, The Mangus, and most widely known, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Ecco is bringing out a special edition of The Tree and it has never been more relevant.

Born near London between the two World Wars and therefore shaped by both, Fowles’ father was an inveterate pruner and controller of nature. He had a mini and very productive orchard growing up and instead of becoming like his father, he grew up to value not restricting nature.

Just as Fowles had trouble putting into words just how he felt about nature, this review is rather tough to write. He made so many great points that we all need to think of, that it is hard to narrow it down.

Here is what I walked away with…

We spend so much time “classifying” nature and the natural world that society has tended to keep it at arm’s length. What does it matter what Latin name something has or what yield it will give if pruned “correctly”? Are we so caught up with controlling nature and “saving” it that we are too busy to really experience it and truly treasure it?

I read this while taking breaks from yard work and the timing was uncanny. (it is only 80 pages long, so it is a quick read) While busy cutting back roses and trying to decide what shape to trim a bush in my front yard, I pondered what I was really trying to achieve with precious hedge trimmers. Was I doing it because I wanted to, because it was ascetically pleasing, because I like to be able to see my front door? Or was I busy trying to control one of the few things in my life that I, seemingly, have the ability to control.

The Tree was a totally new perspective on the environment and the green movement. It made me question the things that I do and the causes that I contribute to. That is major.

In case you are curious, I more of less answered my question of why I was busy trimming. I was doing it because I figured that my landlord would be a bit miffed if I let the yard go into a jungle. At the same time, I was shaping things and choosing my own hedge shapes because I still needed that measure of control in my life. Some may call it just a hedge, but it is my hedge for gosh sake, and it is going to be rounded!

No fruit for those who do not prune; no fruit for those that question knowledge; no fruit for those who hide in trees untouched by man; no fruit for the traitors to the human cause.”

The Tree by John Fowles

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061997773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061997778


    September 24th, 2010

    A Bit About Me(Me) ~ Where Do I Start?

    by Gwen


    It is time once again, to step out from behind the book and get to know one another better.

    We all have a story and a life beyond the book and thanks to Danielle from There’s A Book, we get share. She asks the questions and we get to answer.

    Do you have a job you just couldn’t stand or possibly one that you were completely embarrassed by (ie. funny costume, etc.)?

    Decisions, decisions… I take the easy way out or do I dig deep and go for more depth?

    Horrible Job

    Let’s see, there was the time that I started a job in the toy department at Target on Black Friday. Black Friday would be a bad day to start any job in retail, but in the toy department? Throw in that I am not really a kid person and it made for the longest 4 hours of my life. I clocked out and never went back.

    Mortifying Job

    Then there was the time that I decided to try telemarketing. Going in, I knew this probably wasn’t going to be the gig for me. Seriously, I HATE being on the phone. I think that Caller ID was made for people like me. If it is my mom, I have to answer it because if I don’t, she gets all crazy and thinks that I have run of to desert to join a cult or something. Everyone else? They usually get voice mail.

    Where was I? Telemarketing. It could have been a really profitable job. I just had to call people and talk them into setting an appointment to hear about a super snazzy water filter setup. How hard could that be? Everyone drinks water, right?

    They gave me a list of people to call. Where they got this list, I had no freaking clue, but after a few calls, I had a good idea. I start calling and asking for Mr. So and So or Mrs. XYZ…….BIG PROBLEMO These people were, ummmmm, dead. Before I knew it, I was commiserating with widows and widowers. I was crying, the people on the phone with cloudy water that I was supposed to be selling clean water to were crying. It was horrible. I was a telemarketing grief counselor. I lasted about 2 hours, 1 hour of that was training.

    Humiliating Job

    Being the low man on the totem pole is never a good thing. When you are new to a job you get all of the crappy tasks that no one that knows better wants to do. You have no pull and you have to look eager. You are there to impress so you will do anything.

    Let me introduce you to the wonderful idea of “Kids Nite” at a restaurant. It didn’t matter that I was hired as a server, I was the new kid. I got stuck with the most hated role I have ever played in my life. The poor schumck that has to don a costume and stand on the corner enticing every yahoo that drives by to come and eat.

    I give you my costume


    Do I need to say more?


    September 23rd, 2010

    The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian ~ Haunting

    by Gwen

    The Gendarme2

    First things first- Can someone explain to me why The Gendarme is categorized as “Psychological Thrillers” on Amazon? I was thinking it was like Historical semi-fiction with a touch of Romance. True, it builds and builds up to a sad and somewhat shocking conclusion, but Psychological Thriller, it is not.

    Emmett Cohn is a 91 year old widow that lives in Georgia. He falls in his front yard and when being checked out at the hospital he learns that he has a brain tumor. Suddenly he starts having these vivid dreams from his past, yet they don’t jive with what little remembers from his past.

    Emmett fought on the Turkish side during WWI and after a head injury, his amnesia was so severe, he was really never able to remember anything that happened during his service. Luckily, he met Carol, an American nurse in a British hospital. They fell in love and he started all over with Carol in America.

    But in these dreams, these dreams that feel less like dreams and more like memories, he is a Gendarme in charge of moving the Armenians out of Turkey. Brutality, starvation, rape, you name it happens on this forced march of Armenians. Emmett, then Ahmet, is the leader. His job is to get this hated group of people across the border, out of Turkey. Was he not a soldier? Did he take part in the Armenian genocide?

    The story floats back and forth effortlessly. In one chapter, we have Emmett being taken to doctors appointments to deal with tumor by his daughter. Their relationship has always been strained because of her past. The next chapter, he is dreaming of crossing a desert with half naked starving people, forcing them along.

    Early on in the dreams he comes across one young woman that catches his eye. Or really, her eyes catch his eye. She has one blue eye and one green one. For some reason, he holds back from brutalizing her. He tries to protect her and their relationship grows.

    The story goes on, but it grabs you. Are memories important if you no longer remember them? What happened to the one that got away in war time? Did they survive?

    Mark Mustian is a brave man. In fiction, he has confronted issues that entire governments and their people continue to ignore or attempt to sweep under the carpet. Approximately 500,000 Armenians lost their lives from 1914-1918 with these forced marches and massacres. Even in the “Author’s Note”, Mustian notes that he had problems getting a native Turkish speaker to look over his manuscript because the genocide was still such a touchy subject.

    Books entertain us, they keep us company on a dark stormy night, but most importantly, they educate us. They can do this with a story or straight facts, but no matter how they do all of these things, they are important. We need to continue to grow as humans so that open our eyes and don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. Mark Mustian does us a service with The Gendarme, make sure that we never forget…..and never stop learning…or forgetting that compassion is our greatest gift.

    The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian

    • Hardcover: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (September 2, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0399156348
    • ISBN-13: 978-0399156342

    For another review of The Gendarme, check out Amy Reads


    September 22nd, 2010

    5 Things I Learned at the Central Coast Book & Author Festival

    by Gwen


    On Sunday I put on real pants and went to the Central Coast Book & Author Festival in San Luis Obispo, CA. Getting me into pants with zippers and shoes with actual laces is no mean feat, I whine, bitch, and moan. However, I am grateful that I went and here are some of the reasons why……


    1. There is something whimsical about sitting in a Carnegie Library. I attended a few sessions and there were times that it was hard to pay attention to what the speaker was saying because I was so busy staring at all of the architectural details.



    2. Anthologies seem like a lot of hard work for the editors. Victoria Zackheim talked about her experiences as editor of with The Other Woman, For Keeps, and The Face in the Mirror. On the other hand, she has worked with the likes of Alan Dershowitz and Jane Smiley.

    3. The setting for a book is often a character all by itself. Gordon Snider talked about 1906 San Francisco, the setting for his book, The Hypnotist. It was an unforgiving place even before the earth started shaking and the fires started.

    4. There are 4 elements to a short story according to Sunny Frazier and Doug Danielson. They are your best sentence, a universal message, authenticating details and you have to tell the reader something they don’t know.

    5. Sometimes being somewhat rude can be a great way to meet people. Funny story, I walked up to one table and before even smiling or saying hello, author K.M. Kavanagh yelled out, “I am leaving in 10 minutes so if you want a book, you have to buy it now!” I couldn’t help it, I laughed and mentioned that it was a unique book selling technique. We talked for a while after that and she was nice enough to give me her book.

    SLO Mission Plaza

    It was a great day down at Mission Plaza and a huge success for me personally. Truth be told, I don’t get out much and I am beginning to get way too comfy in sweat pants and Crocs. Like Meg wrote in her recent post, How Blogging Has Made My Life Pretty Awesome, blogging has given me so much self confidence and opened up so many new vistas.

    So tell me, what have you learned lately and what has blogging done for you?