Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yes She Can!: Women's Sports Pioneers by Glenn Stout

I could spend my review just gushing about this biographical book or I can do a really cool summary of it and hopefully get your interest.  It's a short read full of fascinating information about fascinating women in sports history. 

The first woman the book talks about is Trudy Ederle.

Trudy was the first woman to swim the English Channel, all 21 miles from France to the coast of England.  Only 5 men had accomplished this task by the time Trudy did it in fourteen hours and 31 minutes, nearly two hours faster than the male record holder's. 

Funny stuff:  Trudy and her sister invented the first bikini.  When Trudy first began swimming, she had a rope tied around her waist and instructors declared her "too wild."

Amazing thing:  Trudy was also partially deaf.  Thus, she helped not only the future of women's sports, but also deaf culture.

The second woman is Louise Stokes and I was unable to find a picture of her.  She was a runner and with Theodora Ann Pickett, one of the first African American woman to be on a U.S. Olympic team. 

Amazing thing:  In Massachusetts, girls were not allowed on the boys' running field.  Louise and her team mates had to run alongside rail road tracks due to a lack of a real track.

I mentioned Theodora Ann Pickett, aka Tidye.

Tidye was also an African American runner, daring to stretch her legs in a time when running was "dangerous to feminine nature."  Her and Louise were accepted on the 1932 and 1936 Olympic team.  Tidye is officially the first African American woman to compete in the Olympics.  Louise was unable to compete and there is sad story here, but you have to read the book to find out.

Another woman in the book is Julie Krone.

She was a female jockey in a time when the field was mostly dominated by men.  Come to think of it, the field is still mostly male.. She started as a hot walked and horse bather and in 1981 won her first race. 

Amazing thing:  In a race one day, a fellow jockey (male) whipped her face, cutting her ear.  This chick didn't cry about it.. She punched him in the nose!  There's more to that story too, but I don't want to be accused of spoilers..

The last woman is Danica Patrick.

The book talks about her Formula racing in England, her sponsors, her quick rise to fame, and having to prove herself in the Indy 500 and win.

Funny thing:  Danica wrecked her first go kart!

Amazing thing: She is only 5 feet tall and weights just over a hundred pounds.

I highly recommend this book, which I got from netgalley by the way.  The only reason it doesn't get a five star is because both Danica's and Julie's parts had a little too much "play by play" run down of their races; which car or horse was where at a given time...

Four stars.  And though this is aimed at the teen crowd, I think adults will love it just as much.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Warrior Girl by Pauline Chandler

Warrior Girl: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc... glorified mascot or truly a holy messenger?  One thing I loved about this book is it allows you to decide.  Though about one of the most religious women in history, I never felt her talking to angels nor her messages from god were being shoved down my throat.  (I'm remembering An Army of Angels by Pamela Marcantel and not in a fond way.  That book just made Joan of Arc seem crazy.)

Yes, she is talking to angels in this book, but the novel is told from the viewpoint of her cousin Marianne so it's not a looney first person narrative.  That just doesn't work with Joan of Arc.  Marianne accompanies Jehanne on her quest to liberate the people of France and crown the rightful king. 

Upon approaching De Baudricourt about leading his army, Jehanne is told:

"..if your're to lead an army!  What did you imagine it would involve? Cheering them on from the sidelines?  Bathing their hurts with vinegar water?  Patting their hands and telling them everything would be different after a good night's sleep?"

So Jehanne and Marianne both don armour and learn to fight and they shed blood, sometimes their own in battle.  Jehanne and the captains butt head numerous times.  The Captains say to wait.. follow logic.. blah blah..  Jehanne says that god says "Avance!!"  (Attack!!)

Courageous or stupid, however way you look at it, Jehanne was just what France needed during that time.

Meanwhile, Marianne (Did I mention she was mute?  Another intriguing story there.)  has her own mystery going on irrelevant to Jehanne.  Her father was an important man to who died when she was a baby and left her a wealthy estate, but with her mother dead, she is struggling to keep the estate from her evil uncle.  It all depends on a ring seal and her ability to hold on to it.

The ending was lovely.  I thought it superb.

Favorite quote:  Jehanne is dictating a letter to the English,

"...abandon your forts and go back where you belong.  If you fail to do this, I, Jehanne de Pucelle, will make such brouhaha as will be remembered forever."


I got this book from the library.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Angelina (An Unauthorized Biography) by Andrew Morton

First of all, I'm reviewing the book, not the woman herself.  I didn't love the book for a couple of reasons.  A.  It's hard to say what is fact and what is fiction.  This book really doesn't say anything good about Angelina Jolie.  I find it hard to believe she is ALL bad.  Thus, it had a tabloid feel here and there.  B.  TOO much crap about her parents.  The first quarter of the book was about Jon Voight and Marcheline's messy divorce and his leaving her for another woman more into "free love".  If the book is accurate, Angelina's mother pretty much brainwashed her into hating her father.  The guy never had a chance..

Some interesting stuff I learned from the book: 

Angelina's paternal grandmother was burried in a red bikini with a set of golf clubs in the casket.

When filming Tomb Raider, Angelina was on a curfew.  I guess they really wanted to make sure she behaved.  She was a heroin addict at the time.

At one point in her life, Angelina was shuffling five lovers (This is what the book has me believing.. I don't know for sure!!)  Mick Jagger, Johnny Lee Miller, Jenny the Calvin Klein model, Tim Hutton, and Billy Bob.

And apparently, Billy Bob was engaged to Laura Dern when he married Angie in Vegas.  I know this is normal behavior for Hollywood.. BUT Laura Dern actually babysat Angelina when she was a kid.  This just seems wrong!

I could go on but I risk sounding like a tabloid myself.  Something funny tho:  When they were casting for Beyond Borders, Kevin Costner was supposed to be the lead, Angelina's on screen love interest.  But Angelina supposedly said that he was too old for her.  He was the same age as her husband Billy Bob at that time.   LOL

Basically, this book makes Angelina out to be a home wrecker, a heroin addict, and tho the book did acknowledge her humanitarian work, it made it sound like she was replacing one addiction with another.  Replacing heroin with charity work... replacing men with kids...

Again, I'm judging the book, not the woman, but the book kinda left a bad taste in my mouth.  Even if all this stuff is true (and I'm not denying it cause I don't know) there has got to be something good about this woman.  The author seemed to not like her much and by the time I hit page 275, I didn't like her either.  I bailed when it got to the Brangelina stuff.  The author made it very clear she was just "wrecking another home" so to speak. 

I'd like to hear her side of the story too.

Two stars.  This was a library book.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Suffragette in the City by Kate Marsh/Katie MacAlister

Women obtaining the right to vote was no easy feat as heroine, Cassandra Whitney complete with a "runaway tongue, odd interests, and an wholly unconventional nature" shows us in this novel. 

It's London in the early 1900s and Cassandra has declared herself a New Woman.  She is not going to marry.  She is going to take a lover, smoke cigerettes, and fight for the right to vote.   She's funny, flighty, and topped with gumption.  It's during a protest complete with banners and women chained to a fence that Cassandra literally finds herself thrown into the arms of an insufferable, obstinate, and very fine man, Griffin.

She vows to have Griffin as her lover, but how are these two going to get from yelling at each other over tea (Griffin is anti women's suffragist movement and anti women travelers to boot)  to bedding each other down?  And Cassandra herself delcares, "I had not survived my father to have the first pig-headed man who caught my fancy to order me about."

Meanwhile, the women's suffragist union is about to divide.  More militant women want to take more extreme measures like rock throwing to make their statement while the traditional women wish to protest peacefully even tho it lands them in jail.

And yet another story line is a mystery... Someone is following Cassandra and threatening her.  The same person or persons could very well be the ones vandalizing Griffen's home and attacking the both of them.  What is going on?  Does someone wish to put a stop to Cassandra's fight for the women's right to vote or there is more going on? 

Laugh out loud moment:  When Cassandra accidentally enters a "man only" store and sees some rather interesting pump like items... "It is supposed to increase the size of a genteman's apparatus.  Merciful heavens, who knew such things were in existence?" 

Favorite quote:  "Men play fools well enough without any help from women."

I really enjoyed this and laughed quite a bit.  It's more a historical romance, but the suffragist movement had a major role and the romance aspect never overshadowed the story itself.  My complaint:  TOO much chatter and some of the characters were too dramatic to be believable.  Thus, four stars.

If you can't read that little ditty (Women's Suffrage Poem), here it is:

For the work of a day,
For the taxes we pay,
For the laws we obey,
We want something to say.

I bought this book from Amazon. It has a new cover, but I like the old one. ;)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy

This is a fictional account of the life of Mata Hari, infamous dancer and spy.  It's written much like a diary except for suddenly switching to third person narrative here and there, which I hated.  I would have preferred the book stick to the journalized account from Mata's POV. 

Anyways, the book goes back and forth between Mata's narrative which chronicles her early years in a nunnery, her sexual abuse at the hands of a teacher, her abusive marriage, her moving to and falling in love with Indonesia,  the loss of her children either to death or divorce, and her numerous affairs.  She is telling this from a prison cell.  The third person parts tell of her prison situation, her brief interrogations as she is being accused of being agent H21,  and her living conditions in the prison cell.

Basically, after a very tumultous life, Mata Hari is being accused of spying for the Germans.  She swears she is a spy for the French and has been set up.  Which is it?  She mourns for her lost daughter, desires to marry again, and just makes one bad decision after another... but she is sentenced to death.  Will one of her many men come to her aid?  Perhaps her loyal maid will come to her rescue?  Or will she be shot to death?

I liked it despite its lack of quotation marks.  Well, I liked the journalized first person POV, but I didn't like the third person POV and those parts def needed better punctuation.  Something I truly and utterly grew tired of tho as well as the switching narrative (and thus, the three star rating):  throughout the novel Mata constantly repeats one thing and it gets OLD not even a quarter into the novel.  "I walked across the sea.. blah blah blah.. the shores of Ameland.. blah blah.. I walked across the sea.."  

This was a library book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Corrag by Susan Fletcher

This read like one big monologue broken every now and then by a man's letters to his wife. The monologue is narrated by Corrag (her mother's name was Cora and she was called a hag, thus the combo), the heroine of the story. Tho monologue is about geese, witches, her mother, her mare, moss men, pretty much whatever comes to Corrag's mind.

You think this is about the battle of Glencoe and the massacre of the MacDonald clan?

 You are in for a long wait. You must get thru all the monologue I mentioned above till you will learn of the battle in the last quarter or so. And be forewarned: there are no quotation marks. (I have an ARC, but I have a bad feeling it is just one of those books..) It's almost impossible to tell if Corrag is talking to herself, talking to Charles (whom wants to know her story), or just thinking to herself.

Even tho this is an arc, there was a quote in here that I can't resist posting. It may be changed before publication, but here goes: "I know how my talking can be. I was always  for going on and on-for saying so much a person's eyes grow fish-like, and dead."

I couldn't agree more. my eyes grew fish-like and dead while reading this.

But hey, so far, I'm the only one in the world who doesn't love it, so do give it a go and form your own opinion.

I found this article on the internet about the battle of Glencoe more interesting than the book: http://www.thesonsofscotland.co.uk/themassacreofglencoe1692.htm

I won this on Librarything.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Think The Nanny (minus the funny butler and annoying Ce Ce)...

meets up with Ghostbusters in a mansion complete with a moat...

and add to that combination, a dash of Nanny 911 (cause of the screaming, bratty Alice)...

And you got Jennifer Crusie's new novel, Maybe This Time, a fun, light, and cute read.

Andie and North divorced ten years ago. Apparently he chose work over his wife. Andie is ready to move on and agrees to do one last favor for North and then cut ties with him and their former life together forever.

A distant cousin of North's passed away and left his two children in North's care. They are abandoned with a looney housekeeper in a 400 year old house (imported piece by piece from England) complete with a moat... and ghosts! Of course, Andie doesn't know about the ghosts when she agrees to go to the house for month and prepare the children, a boy and a girl, for school and life in Columbus, Ohio.

So... Andie arrives at the house and finds a sullen, rude girl that screams constantly, a boy that literally just eats and glares, a housekeeper drunk on peppermint schnapps, a ghost in a blue dress dancing and talking about love, a rather sinister ghost named Peter who believes he owns the house and also a ghost that fancies Alice (the girl) is her daughter. Andie wonders, is it time to call Ghostbusters or lay off the Amaretto in her nightly tea???

To complicate matters even more, Andie begins having feelings for North again.. and he's not even there! Is she falling in love with her memories or could things possibly work with North should they attempt it again? And what of the man she has been seeing, who wants to marry her? Decisions, decisions, decisions!

But first things first. Exorcise or negotiate with the ghosts. convince the children leave the house, and something must be done about that housekeeper! It all "hits the fan" with a funny seance. (At this point tho, so many characters show up, it's hard to keep track of who is who.)

This was a fun, light read and I really loved the heroine. She is a "ballbuster." Her mother in law even says so. She takes no lip from anyone and tells it like it is.   Four stars.

I got this ARC from a friend.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pudgy's Post

Hi! I'm Pudgy Pug. My mommy has mentioned me a few times... This is my mommy's blog. Well she is off on her strange machine moving her legs around in circles and going nowhere (I don't rightly see the point) right now and my daddy is busy doing his college crap (whatever that is) and I have watched my mommy on the computer enough (she is on here all the barking time!) to think I got the doggone gist of it so... we be bloggin!

I know this is supposed to be about those clumps of paper (tasty!!) that my mommy is always carrying around, but hopefully she won't notice...

Here's what I did today. My grandma Janet sent me a package full of treats and doggy breakfast food (LOVE the bacon! WOOF!) and she also put some stuff in the box (I really like that box.. throw a blanket in there and I got me a real decent little bed.) for my mommy. Well, when my mommy wasn't looking, I decided to play dress up with the scarf that was sent for my mommy. See, I was able to paw it off the dining room table where my mommy left it. (Duh, mommy!!!) Well, I look so pawsitively doglightful, I had to share my pug mug shots.

Here is me posing as Goldilocks
Here is me ready to go shopping in my Jeep Wrangler with the top off! Don't want to mess up my hair!
Oh geez. My sister, Lola has to get her stinky anal glands involved in everything.. Here she is pretending to be that Sheerazade lady from something called Arabian Nights. What the bark? I think she has been reading my mommy's books when she steals my mommy's lap. Grrr!

If you are a doggy talent agent, I will work for treats! I gotta go now! I don't hear my mommy's machine anymore!

Memoir: A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill

This was an incredible book. I have always known that dogs are an amazing species and are much smarter than most human beings give them credit for and this story just drives that point home.

Leigh has cerebral palsy. She has struggled with it all of her life. She has trouble walking, picking things up, and often falls down the stairs. People have laughed at her, called her a cripple, and discriminated against her countless times. When she goes to the doctor one day during her college years and he says to her that she is so beautiful she wouldn't have any trouble finding a nice man to take care of her, she doesn't go find a man. She gets a dog!
Picture of Slugger from the author's website: http://leighbrill.com/

A yellow lab named Slugger becomes her assistance dog and serves as her crutch, picks up things she drops, fetches files for her, turns lights on or off and also serves as her friend when she really needs one. Slugger also boosts Leighs self esteem and Leigh finds that she speaks up for Slugger and eventually, that leads to Leigh speaking up for herself.

Leigh and Slugger even opened the door for service dogs in the workplace at one very difficult and discriminating company.

A great book. I can't say enough good things about it. It had sad moments and funny moments and moments that just made me very angry. Funny moments usually consisted of Slugger's obsession and love of manure piles. I got angry and frustrated when ignorant people taunted either Leigh or her dog or refused to hire her because of her disability or her need for a furry companion. FIVE stars.

I got this e galley from netgalley.com.

I know it's getting off track of the book itself, but I found this interesting and heart warming article when I sat down to google more information about service dogs for those with cerebal palsy and I highly encourage everyone to click the link and take the time to read it. http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/therapy-service-animals/assistance-dog-cerebralpalsy.html

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Hidden Will of the Dragon (Countess of Bathory) by Charlie Courtland

The Hidden Will of the Dragon is book two of the Countess of Bathory (yes, she really existed) series by Charlie Courtland. If you haven't read the first one, Dandelions in the Garden, you are SO missing out...

Dandelions in the Garden (Countess Elizabeth Bathory, #1)

Nevertheless, book one left off with Amara (the countess's longtime companion and friend) married to a dark knight, Draco, and Elizabeth, the countess of Bathory, discovering that her ancestor, Vlad the Impaler left some secret property to his descendents. Thus, this book picks up where the first one left off and a "modern" day Amara, declining in health, writing the tale for John (the grandson of her lover, George.) The tale concists of Amara dressing as a boy to scope out the Impaler's property, Elizabeth's passionate but sad love affair with a painter, Amara's inner battles with her love of two men, the parties and the passions of Venice, and of course, Elizabeth manages to anger the wrong people and get herself exiled.

Sounds frivolous? I assure you it is not... Approximately 50 percent into the book, it got pretty exciting. Call me morbid, but when these two ladies begin misbehaving, I LOVE it. When some Turks dare to attempt to defile Amara in the woods one day... the following dinner party and stew... OH MY WORD. There is a pattern here tho.. When these women are angered by men, when men tell them no, when men take away their choices and when the women cannot make their own decisions, when men force them into exile, these women get mad and they take their anger out in the only way they can. They (Yes, Amara too, seems to be having bouts of madness) do things in their basement to people noone will miss..

And then, Elizabeth begins to be obsessed with finding the perfect anti aging potion and opens her school for noble girls... (gee I wonder why...)

No, there is no bathing in blood, but there is plenty of action. Thumbs up to Charlie Courtland for her ability to transport me. I literally felt as tho I was in Venice or Catchice and the author didn't need to use 50 thousand adjectives nor describe every detail from the window hangings to the lace on the ladies dresses to do it. Fabulous writing about fascinating characters.. You love and hate them both.

I bought this in an ebook format from Smashwords.com.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber

The time is 1903. The setting is Chicago. Rachel is working as a cook in a boarding house, living at home with her parents to whom she hands over most of her paychecks to, and there are no marriage prospects in sight unless she wants to settle for a slaughter house worker and still be a cook in a boarding house ten years down the road. So when a fine fellow, Isaac Dupree comes around talking about 160 acres of South Dakota land, Rachel pretty much proposes to him. The deal: She gets her own 160 acres and hands it over to him in exchange for one year of marriage.

Fourteen years and a couple kids later. Rachel has gone from being a cook to trying to scrape enough beans and water together to make the smallest meal. There is a drought. The animals are starving to death, the cow's milk has run dry. Added to that is some doubts she is having about her husband, Isaac and his possibly shady past. He also treats her like a farm hand, not a wife. She is battling back and forth with herself.. Stay in the Badlands or go home to Chicago? Is there even a home for her there anymore? One by one, ranchers are leaving and pretty soon Rachel is the only woman left in the area in the only African American family.

It's a good story as far as showing readers what life in pioneer SD was like and especially during a drought but I didn't like Rachel enough to give it a five. She locks her kids in their room while she does stuff rather than watch them.. and even tho she does it to run off and find another one, it's still wrong. What if the house catches fire or something? She also sticks her kid in the dark depths of a well screaming and crying to get the last dredges of water rather than ask for a handout.. When you have kids, you gotta swallow your pride.. That's going too far.

I also would have preferred she have a bit more backbone with Isaac. She just let him run and control everything. Spineless.. until the very end. Good ending.

The story itself tho, going back and forth between 1903 Chicago and her meeting Isaac to the 1917 Badlands and drought and hungry children, and strange Native American visitors was great. 4/5 stars.Picture of a sod house in 1898. I imagine it was a home like this that Rachel and Isaac started out with. This picture was taken by a frontier photographer named John McCarthy and the location is Milton, North Dakota. It later became a famous stamp, honoring the Homestead Act.

My friend, Irene passed this book on to me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Memoir: You Had Me At Woof by Julie Klam

This was a fun, short read about a woman who got a dog, a Boston Terrier named Otto and fell in love.. From that day on, she always had a Boston or two in her little NY apartment as she got more involved in Boston rescue and became a foster dog mom.

The woman is Julie Klam and this is her memoir. And what a memoir! I laughed so hard (more than once) that people at work (where I was reading on break and lunch) asked me what I was reading.. I think I snorted during the Beatrice wearing a diaper episode and almost wet my pants when I got to the part about Mr. Man and his extreme diarrhea walking down the street.

There was some sad stuff about people getting dogs who shouldn't have dogs, abandoned dogs, dogs hit by cars, and dogs being fed Doritos and ice cream (I don't mean Frosty Paws) and chinese take out (No! No! No!)

I frowned at a few things the author did (actually only one thing.. bringing a dog with kennel cough into her home and risking her own dog's health) but it's her memoir and I'm judging the book, not her. As books and memoirs go, I loved it.

Favorite quote: "I know I'd rather have any amount of time with a dog I love and suffer the mourning than not have the time at all."

I got this ARC from my friend, Susan. It being an arc, the above quote may be changed or different in final publication.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Countdown: Egypt

Time for my second installment of Countdown! What it is: A list of 5 books of a certain topic, subject, or setting, one book being a 5 star read (Superb!), one book being a four star read (Very good), one being a three star read (OK), one being a two star read (I didn't like it) and of course, a very bad one star read (I hated it!).

The subject of the month: Egypt.

Five star read:
Zenobia by Haley Elizabeth Garwood. First published in 2005, it is the fourth installment of Garwood's Warrior Queen series. One does not have to read them in order tho. This installment is about Zenobia (duh), queen of Palmyria in the 260s AD. (What is now Egypt) She fought the Romans and struggled to keep the throne for her sons. There is romance, war, and plenty of strong women in this one.

Four star read:
Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. First published in 2007 (at least my paperback copy was). It's the tale of Egypt's famous Nefertiti told from the viewpoint of her younger sister, Mutny. Great book. The only reason it didn't get a five from me was Nefertiti comes off more as a bi polar hollywood starlet than a queen. Always having her bust done and ignoring the needs of her kingdom. I loved Mutny tho.

Three star read:
Virgins of Paradise by Barbara Wood. First published in 1989. Great look at women in Islam. Full of family scandal and secrets. Great writing style. My problem was one of the main characters, Amira. She got on my nerves so bad.. one of those characters you want to jump in the book to slap around. Unfortuneately, she had a HUGE role in the book.

Two star read:
Hand of Isis by Jo Graham. Published in 2009. It's a sequel to the same author's Black Ships, which I did not read. It's about Cleopatra and told from the viewpoint of one of her ladies in waiting. Just more of the same.. Cleopatra having lots of sex. Her women having lots of sex... They sleep with anybody that serves their purpose.

One Star read:
The Woman Who Would Be Pharoah by William Klein. Published in 2009. Picture a modern day hotel heriess (I'm not naming names) running around half naked, having wild sex, doing table dances, and making fun of her fiance's manhood in ancient Egypt. And I got nothing against little people, but the copulating dwarves in here... OH. MY. GOSH.