Friday, December 14, 2007

Mega Book Reviews

Ok, I've been seriously remiss in updating you all (all two of you!) about my reading progress. I have been reading some fantastic books, but the time to write about them hasn't been forthcoming. So below, without graphics or fanfare, are my opinions about my latest 11 books:

Fall on Your Knees: An Oprah book, if you want to know. Seriously, though, a couple of people chose it for the Something About Me challenge and I'd been wanting to read it. Engrossing, a quick read, very good. I'd highly recommend it, especially if you are interested in literature about Nova Scotia.

Prayer for the Dying: I've wanted to read more of Stewart O'Nan since I read The Good Wife a year or so ago. This was the one the library happened to have so I picked it out. But geez Louise, this was a hard book to read! It's about a town in Civil War era that is swept by cholera. Stewart O'Nan is a beautiful writer, but man oh man, don't choose an emotional time to read this one.

The Bridge of Sighs: I love, love, love Richard Russo. When I saw he had a new book out, I couldn't wait to read it. So I didn't. I listened to it, through I had to drive to San Diego (6 hours) by myself, and hour of commuting for 12 days and then home again. So I needed something to do, and I listened to this book the whole way. Like other times when I've listened to a book, part of what I come to love about it is the reader's voice and the ambiance of listening to it, so I can't say if you'll love it as much as I did if you read it. But I bet you will. Richard Russo has a way of bringing you into small town upstate New York life like no one else.

Eat, Pray, Love: Yeah, I know, everyone has read this one. Reading it at a yoga training makes it even better. This is non-fiction, if you don't know. I really don't like non-fiction, reviews always claiming that they are "laugh out loud funny" and they don't even make me crack a smile. This one really did make me laugh out loud. It's feel good all the way. If you haven't ever had a spiritual crisis, or any other kind of crisis, I guess maybe you won't really get it. But for the rest of us, it's solid gold.

Twilight/New Moon by Stephenie Meyer: These are the first two books in Stephenie Meyers series. I don't know how many books she's planning, but me and all her other readers (I'm sure about this) hope it will go on forever. I heard about these in the book blogging world, hesitated because I'm not a vampire story lover, but finally gave in. I finished Twilight on a Tuesday about noon, and we were supposed to travel on Wednesday. I actually drove to the bookstore and bought the second one for my trip, something I rarely do. I'd had to wait a month for the first one from the library and I wasn't about to wait that long again!! I've got the third one, Eclipse, on hold now. Everyone I've gotten to read Twilight has promptly called me to tell me they hate me, as piles of laundry threaten their lives. Yep, you won't be able to do anything else once you start.

Water for Elephants: What an unusual book. I almost got this one several times and decided I wasn't in the mood to read a story about a traveling circus. Finally I read it because my sister in law loaned it to me. All I can say is, don't hesitate!! What wonderful writing, what a departure from all the run of the mill books you might choose. It's powerful, you'll love it, go get it right now.

A Little Love Story: Well, I liked this book. A book about falling in love. Falling in love with someone sick with cystic fibrosis, to be exact. A good, fast read. Really didn't like being left hanging at the end, though. It's not a bad book, but I could take it or leave it.

Blood Memory: I'm a psychotherapist, and my supervisor once recommended this book in our supervision group as having a lot of information about working with people who have childhood sexual abuse issues. I put in on my list, as that's not my specialty but you never know when it will show up. But if you're not a psychotherapist, never you mind. It's a gripping crime novel type read. Nothing majorly literary about it, it's very John Grisham/James Patterson/John Sanford-y (although I think Greg Iles is a better writer than some of those). It's a big book and I read it in two days. You just have to know what happens!

72 Hour Hold: I'm reading this now and almost done, so I'll leave a review, because heaven knows when I'll be back here. I wonder if this book is fascinating to me simply because I'm a therapist, or if it would be no matter what I did. I'm not sure. The writing is good, it really delves into the dynamics that happen to parents when their kids turn out to be mentally ill. If you have no interest in this area, however, I just don't know how much you'd like it.

Alright, that's it. See you in six months! haha. Just kidding. I hope to be able to update this more regularly in the new's not a resolution or anything, mind you.....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I read this book for the Something About Me challenge. I've had the feeling for years that perhaps I'm the only person in the entire world that hasn't read this book! It's my friend Emily's favorite book in the world, so I took this opportunity to read it.

I really liked it. Normally, science fiction isn't my thing, but in the past few years I've been finding more and more SF titles that are great. This is one of them. Of course you have to suspend your own reality, but the characters are so great (and human) that you can really let yourself travel into the future and see the sights.

Even if you think you don't like SF, you'll like this one.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Review: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

This is my last "official" book for the Something About Me Challenge. I'm done! However, I'm quickly moving on to my "I hope I have time to read these" list.

Loved this book. Loved it. It only took me two days to read, because I just couldn't put it down. Authors like Markus Zusak amaze me. What happens with so many authors that I like is that after a few books I never read them again because, well, read one and you've read them all. I mean, I swear, pick up a John Grisham or a James Patterson and you can just substitute names and places and "voila!" you've got a new book! (Sorry Grisham and Patterson fans).

Not so with Markus Zusak. If you read The Book Thief and loved it, prepare for the same engaging, can't-put-it-down style, but a completely different book. Totally different premise, totally different setting, timeline, etc. There's not a thing about this book that reminded me of his other, except how much I loved it.

Now you're reading about a 19 year old card-playing cabdriver who's a bit of a loser. All of a sudden, he starts getting messages delivered to him on playing cards and you're off on a great adventure. Read this, read The Book Thief, and then you'll probably do what I'm going to do, which is scour the library and book stores for his other ones.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Review: The Eyre Affair

I know, I know, I'm really behind on reviewing the books I've read. You'll have to forgive me until I take my big test this week. Then I should have some extra brain power for other things!

I read this one for the Something About Me challenge I'm hosting. I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it. I did finish it, although it took me absolutely forever. It's about a female literary detective of sorts that pursues literary mysteries. A person who loves books should love this book!

I didn't love it, though. It has a pretty distinct science-fiction type flavor, with a bizarre world that is unrecognizable. Part of my dislike was that I felt like this imaginary world wasn't described well enough. The book is supposed to be set in 1985, but it's not like the 1985 I lived through. So what happened? How did the world get in such a state? I guess it's really not necessary to describe - you just have to let go and accept that this is a totally different world and just get into it. But I just couldn't. I liked the characters well enough, and I wanted to read to the end and make sure the bad guy got taken care of. But I just couldn't suspend my "reality" enough to fall into this crazy book world.

It probably has something to do with all the stuff that's going on in my life right now. I have little patience for reading anyway, and then this book was a little too much imaginary work. So if you have this on your list, don't give up. You might have a totally different experience. I might even try the second in the series at some point when my life isn't so crazy, who knows?

I only have one more to go from my original list of 6!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Review: Improve your Marriage!

I read this book, well, because I'm a marriage counselor and consider it my duty to know what's out there in terms of the latest self-help material. People often come in with half-baked attempts at fixing their relationship based on some book they read, or Dr. Phil show they watched, and I have to pick up the pieces! Having said that, I highly respect Pat Love, one of the authors of this book.

I don't know if there is a man on the face of the earth who would read this book. Seriously. Even though it is co-written with Steven Stosny, who is a therapist who focuses on men's issues; and even though it is actually quite male-friendly; I just can't see my husband highlighting passages and saying "hey honey! You've got to come read this paragraph!" You know what I mean?

The good news is that it's a pretty good book for women to read. I have several women clients who desperately need couples counseling, but whose husbands will not set foot in the therapy room. I share with them my firm belief that a relationship can be changed one person at a time, and this book would be a great guide to help get them there. It preaches many of the things that I am continually saying to my clients, mainly that you want to conduct your relationships according to your own personal integrity of the kind of partner you want to be, regardless of how the other person is acting.

The book is full of stereotypes. To be fair, they address this head on in the beginning. If you happen to be a woman who does not want to have long emotional conversations with your husband, or if you happen to be a man who does not withdraw when faced with conversation -- this book might not make sense to you. Largely, though, women are pursuing connection through conversation, and men are wanting to have less conversation, already. So the book is valuable, but might not apply to everyone. What I like about it, though, is that it teaches you how to be a better, more loving partner. Which, even if you are in a great relationship, certainly can never harm you!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two "Something About Me" reviews

Kristin picked this for the Something About Me challenge because she loves libraries, books, etc., and also because she thought it was one of the best new books she has read recently! I'm so glad she picked it, because I've been dying to read it! I have read a few tepid reviews of it, though, so I was a little worried. I totally, thoroughly enjoyed it, though. It's the kind of book where you are so engrossed in the story, you wouldn't notice any inconsistencies or other editorial issues. (or at least, I wouldn't). The writing is easy, pulls you in and sits you on the edge of your chair. On the other hand, when you are finished and look back, you realize how deftly the mystery was handled and how skilled the writer really is. I also love libraries and antiquarian bookstores, so this book was a treasure to find. I loved it.
JMC chose this book for the Something About Me challenge, and again, a winner in my opinion! She said this book is an "easy A" because it's so short (children's picture book) but she also said it will make you cry unless you are "cold and heartless". Yeah, pretty much. A philosophical statement about parenting, or more accurately, how to let go as a parent, it's pretty heartbreaking. Like my husband says, parenting is 18 years (and more) of letting go. Incidentally, my kids (6 and 2) loved this book as well and begged me to read it to them many times, although they didn't get the deeper message.

Here's an update on where I'm at with the challenge (the ones I've read in bold):

The Eyre Affair (heidijane and Valentina)
Number the Stars (booklogged) or The Giver (Sarah Miller) - whichever I can get
Stick Kid (JMC)
I Am The Messenger (Jill)
The Thirteenth Tale (Kristin)
Operating Instructions (in memory of Nattie)

I have Operating Instructions in my possession, and I'm truckin' along. I'm glad of this, because there are lots more that I wanted to read if I had time, and I think I might! Thanks, girls, for some great suggestions so far!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Young Adult reviews

First, The Indian in the Cupboard. Recently, a minister in my church said it was the "best book ever written". Well, besides the Bible, he reframed. Ha. I got a kick out of that, so I got it at the library, with the idea that I'd read it to my 6-year old at night. Well, he now prefers to read by himself (lah-di-dah) and didn't want me to read it. So it sat around. Until yesterday, after my surgery to get my tubes tied. I had meant to go to the library and have "The Thirteenth Tale" waiting for me to read in recovery, but time had gotten away from me. So here I was - a day in bed, Vicodin and NO BOOK. So I picked up The Indian in the Cupboard. Awesome! The best thing about it is that there is more. There's about five more sequels. Which is great, because this is fantasy at it's best. I don't know if I'd say it's the BEST book I've ever read, but if I'd read it as a child, I bet I would. It is simply delicious.
And then "Number the Stars", for the Something About Me reading challenge. Two of Lois Lowry's books were nominated, and after reading this one, I'm hoping for time to read "The Giver" as well. This is a very well developed short novel, and I really enjoyed it. I must say, I've read many books about German children during World War II, and never one about Danish children during World War II. I'm sure in some high school history class I probably knew that Denmark was occupied by the Nazis, but it gave me no more of a passing fancy than that. This book gives you yet another perspective of those who were terrorized by the Nazi regime. Oh, and did I say it made me want to visit the Netherlands? Lois Lowry will be hearing more from me.

I'm kinda getting into this YA genre! Oh yay, another 10,000 books for my TBR list. Great.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Another book I've read just for fun. I'm finding, with my study schedule, that it's great to keep things light and there's nothing better for that then Young Adult Fiction. I usually don't read this genre, but many blogs I've read have reviewed Coraline, and loved it. I was curious about the storyline so I picked it up. It seemed incomplete to me, like the story could have been developed so much more. A great idea, and I'd have like to have seen a lot more story development. But, it only took me a couple of hours to read it and it was a good book. I'd like to read some more from Gaiman. It's on my long list of things to do.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Review and an "I Give Up"

What can you say about Lean Mean Thirteen? If you have read the rest of the series, you already know that you'll love it. If you haven't read the rest of the series, you should get started. At the pool this summer, I ran into a mom on #8. By the time the swimming lessons were over two weeks later, she was waiting for #13 like the rest of us. I told her the only problem with starting now from the beginning is that you'll eventually reach the place the rest of us are at -- where you have to wait a year now for the next one. Bummer.

I'm really bad at series. In fact, I can't even remember where I left off on Harry Potter. It's true that these are pretty much all the same and I try to analyze why they keep my interest then, when no other series do. I think it's because they crack me up. I mean, I actually guffaw OUT LOUD wherever I happen to be reading. I usually never laugh out loud reading books, so that really says something. Bad language, though, for those of you who are sensitive to that sort of thing.

I finally gave up on Suite Francaise. I can see how it will be a very good book and it is still on my To Be Read list. I have limited time for reading right now, though. I'm studying for licensing exams and considering buying into a yoga business here in town that is in trouble, something I have no idea how to do. Light reading is my best bet right now. So Suite Francaise will have to be shelved while I read some fast paced reads and young adult reads. I don't usually give up on books but simply have to admit that the timing is not right.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Review for FUN!: The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks

This is the second book in a series. I know I reviewed the first one, "The Traveler" at some point, but it was before I had a book blog and I just can't find it. Let me just say, though, that the WORST thing about reading this series is that you'll have to wait for the third book! I was walking through my library the other day, saw that the second in the series was out and available and I almost yelped! in the library. What I DID do was snatch it up in a hurry.

I don't know quite what genre to call this series. I suppose it would be categorized as science fiction, which I don't particularly like and isn't my regular genre. It has a political message too -- if you think it's just hunky dory that we're listening in on other people's phone calls and holding people without cause, you might get a little annoyed by this book. Basically, it's a futuristic type book where "Big Brother" has gotten out of control and everything we do, buy, say...etc. is recorded and controlled.

The people who do this controlling are called The Brethren. The people who primarily resist this force and come up with new ideas and shake up the system are called The Travelers. They can travel to other realms (our world is the Fourth Realm, hell is the First Realm, etc.) and thus see things from a larger perspective. There are also warriors called Harlequins whose only job is protecting Travelers from the Brethren. I know, it sounds complicated. But, gosh, don't you wonder what would happen if a Harlequin fell in love with her Traveler?? You'll have to read it to find out!!!!

This is just, quite simply, a fun quick read. You won't be able to set either book down. As I said, the only thing that I don't like is that I'm hanging off a cliff for probably, oh, a year while I wait for the third and final installment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer at my house

My kids, 6 and 2. It's all about Garfield, man.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

This will be a relatively short review. This is a great book. There was nothing that I didn't like about it or that dragged, etc. But somehow, it probably won't be on my "greatest books I've ever read" list. The story was good, the subject matter was sufficiently disturbing to keep me interested, and the characters were well developed. I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a quick, satisfying literary read. I'll definitely look for more from Kim Edwards and will pick up her next book without hesitation. I read the book in just a few days and liked it.

There seemed to be something missing, something that would have made it unforgettable; and yet, I just move on to the next book and go on. I can't put my finger on what that might be...

In another note, I'll be reading a lot less over the next few months. I know that sounds crazy, what with me sponsoring the Something About Me challenge and all. Something I hadn't considered when I started that challenge was that I was going to be (and now am) in full study mode for the State Licensing exams in California for my profession. There are two exams in order to be a Marriage and Family Therapist in California, and I'm hoping to take the first one in September and the last one just before Christmas. I will select a book per month for the Something About Me challenge (can't study all the time!) and choose alternates in case I have more time to read than I think. Still, my main focus will be elsewhere until the end of the year. I do still want to read Suite Francaise before the challenge starts in August, since that is my last book for the NYT Notable challenge.

Wish me luck!! (I'll need it, if the stories I've heard are any indication)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

NYT Notable Review: Forgetfulness by Ward Just

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Ward Just. I have only read one other of his books, An Unfinished Season (link is my review). I liked that book also, but I liked this one better. Perhaps you have to be "in the mood" for Just's books, and I was this time.

In Ward Just's books (it seems...I've only read two) nothing much happens. They are not action-packed. There is a pivotal event, and then you get to ride around in the character's head for the rest of the book while they figure out how they feel about it, what it means, and so forth. When you finish a Ward Just book, you feel like you are losing a friend in a way, so close have you been inside this person's head.

This particular book centers around the murder of a French woman married to an ex-pat American (that's not a spoiler, really, it's on the jacket and comprises the first pages of the book). This takes place post 9/11, and we get a view of how the idea of terrorism has changed the world, and the views of different cultures about it. Fascinating, a quick read, and deep well developed characters.

I said this before, when I read Unfinished Season, but Ward Just has been a prolific writer and more of his books are going on my list.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

LAST TBR Review: Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

Well, folks, I'm done with the 2007 TBR challenge. I know that I'm supposed to read one book a month, but I'm trying to get done with my other challenges before the challenge I'm hosting, Something About Me, starts on August 1.

Of course I've heard of Salman Rushdie. I remember vaguely the flap about the book Satanic Verses, back when I was in high school. It all sounded so political, so Islamic..? Back then I was ignorant, but I carried with me this idea that his books would be tome-like, too intellectual, above me somehow. So I never read that, or any other of his books.

When Shalimar the Clown came out and I read the reviews, I thought "well, maybe I should try reading Rushdie after all". I'm so glad I did. This is just the type of book that I like. Education and insight into another culture and country (in this case Kashmir) without feeling like you are being educated. In other words, Rushdie is a master at educating the reader about the conflicted region of Kashmir, while weaving it into the storyline in a way that is entertaining and masterful.

This book has it all: love, revenge, politics, culture. Read it, oh do. Here's a sample passage that I like:

For Shalimar the clown the total abnegation of the self was a more problematic requirement, a sticking place. He was, he wanted to be, a part of the holy war, but he also had private matters to attend to, personal oaths to fulfill. At night his wife's face filled his thoughts, her face and behind hers the face of the American. To let go of himself would be to let go of them as well; and he found that he could not order his heart to set his body free.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Two Reviews

NYT Notable Challenge Review: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Ugh. That's all I really want to say about this book. Why on earth it made it to the NYT Notable list I don't know. Bookmarks Magazine also gave it a pretty good was already on my to be read list before I signed up for the challenge. Usually I have good luck following Bookmarks' suggestions. This is a book about a guy who gets in a car accident and ends up with Capgras syndrome, which is a rare brain issue. There's a lot of information about brain function in the book, which I generally find interesting but in this novel was utterly boring. Also, there's a lot of information about birds -- the lead in to most chapters is a description of bird life. Also pretty boringly written. I read another book entirely while stalled in the middle of this book, something I rarely ever do. I didn't want to pick up this book to finish it, but I was on vacation and hadn't brought another book to read. So I finished it, grudgingly.
I chose this as one of the books that says something about me for the Something About Me challenge. It was the only book I chose that I hadn't read, but I knew without reading it that it would say something about me! I was an Air Traffic Controller for 11 years before I had kids and my husband still does the job. Almost every book, article, movie, etc. about air traffic control gets it hideously wrong. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed watching the movie Pushing Tin. They got some things right, too, but that's not how it really is. This book is phenomenal in detail, getting almost everything right. I "recognized" the language, the culture and the camaraderie. He goes into a lot of detail about air traffic control and how it works. This was highly interesting to me, but I'm not sure if it would be for the layperson. Still the story is engaging and horrifying (not too sure if I should have picked it to read on a plane, but...) and fast paced. If you like good suspense, I think you'll like it. Not only that, you'll get some education about the politics that go on for air traffic controllers, and you might even do something about it, like visit The Main Bang or write your senator!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Review: And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman, Ph.D.

I've said before how much I love John Gottman. As a couples therapist, I counsel primarily on the concepts that have been studied and proven to work by this brilliant man. He is one of the only marital therapists alive who is actually studying results in scientific studies and can tell us without a doubt what works and what doesn't.

This is his newest book. I have a few couples making the transition to parenthood right now, so I thought I'd read it to see if anything is new. Considering that there is a 67% drop in marital satisfaction after the first child is born, something should be done! In our society, we do all kinds of things to prepare for baby, but no action is usually taken to prevent the marital distress that usually follows the first child into the world.

This book, as expected, is wonderful for new parents to read to normalize what is happening in their relationship and to open up subjects for discussion. Many things, previously taken for granted (like good sex), now have to be renegotiated. The conversation might be easier to start if it can start with "So what did you think about what he said about x?"

If you're having a baby, or if your first child sent your relationship into a tailspin and you can't figure out why, I implore you to read this book.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Blogger Tribute

Natalie Rose
December 15, 1973 - June 7, 2007

Some of you know, from my sidebar, that I am hosting a reading challenge starting in August. The idea is to choose five books that somehow represent you. Then, when everyone has listed their five books, you choose some books you'd like to read - either because of the content of the books, or because you'd like to get to know a certain blogger better.

One of the participants of this challenge was Nattie Rose. I added her blog to my blogroll and she became one of my "blogger friends". She loved to read (she was hosting a Newberry reading challenge on her blog), had two small children, was divorced, and was an online advocate for Christian women.

On May 21st, she reported on her blog that she had been diagnosed with cancer, some kind of rare stomach cancer. Things happened quickly. We found out through her father that her cancer was inoperable, and yesterday he posted the above picture, letting us know that she had died. She was 33.

This is a new world of "friendship" now that we have blogging to connect us. How should one grieve for someone one has never met, or should you even? Does this even qualify as a "friend"? I've not commented on her blog, because I was in a dilemma over what one could say that would sound sincere when you've never even met someone. I've a feeling this issue will only continue to grow as we connect with one another cyber-ly, and the emotional implications are fascinating for me.

All said, I'm sad.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I don't believe it. The man is a genius. I have a hard time believing that there is any book out there that could possibly be better than The Kite Runner, but I think he's done it!!

I read this book in about two days. Slept terrible last night, wondering what on earth would become of Mariam and Laila (both names I LOVE, by the way!) This is a book that could be consumed in one sitting, except for the enormously heavy emotional toll it takes. I, not given to crying over books, cried three times in the course of this book. Last night, lying in bed, I just couldn't believe that in the 1990's, when I was driving around in my convertible with loud music, dating guys and making a lot of money -- women, somewhere in the world, were being treated like this. I'm ashamed of my lighthearted levity concerning my privileges. That's what this book does to you.

Yeah, it's fiction. But don't kid yourself. There's probably a thousand women who could tell Mariam or Laila's exact story, only it's the truth. Khaled Hosseini makes you hold your breath, gasp, cry ... he makes you want to quit your job and go work for the Red Cross or something.

One of the things I loved about the Kite Runner, and can also be said for this book -- it's like getting an education without reading a textbook. Hosseini is great at weaving details about the Afghan region into the narrative in ways that are not cumbersome or preachy.

I know this review is all over the place. It's because I'm stunned. This is truly a masterpiece. And I wouldn't be surprised if Hosseini has more in him. I can hardly wait to find out.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

TBR Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I've wanted to read this book for a long time. Specifically, since I saw the movie as a teenager. A boyfriend took me to the movie at the time, presumably for it's titillating qualities -- indeed, I'd call the movie 'soft porn'. Anyway, I didn't really understand the characters in the movie. I mean, I was a teenager and all, but even then I couldn't understand their motivations, didn't get what they were about.

I'm so glad I read the book. I'd like to see the movie again now, but from what I remember, the movie is very different than the book. The book goes into more detail. Tereza, who in the movie is a weak, waif like dependent wife, is really an abandoned child looking for someone with strength to take care of her. But also, she understands a lot more than it appears. These things are able to be fleshed out in a book format, but not so much in a movie. So, in the book, you get more of a character study of each character and why they are behaving in such manners.

Having said that, I didn't really like the book all that much. The characters seem unconnected. There isn't really a storyline. You get inside one person's head in one chapter, and another's the next. But it isn't in the context of an ongoing story. In addition, at times Kundera completely steps out of the story altogether and starts talking to the reader about his philosophical ideas which are barely connected to whatever part of the story he has been telling. I really don't like it when authors do this. Tell a story, or write a nonfiction book about your philosophical ideas...but don't try to do both at once. Later in the book, he branches off for entire chapters about his views on religion and politics. By the end, I was skimming over entire pages just to get to the end.

So the final verdict is that I'm glad I read it because of my personal history with the film....but you might not be so glad if you read it. :)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

TBR Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

My goodness. I can't for the life of me figure out what everyone thought was so great about this book. Along about page 160, I finally admitted that I had no idea what was going on. I couldn't follow who was narrating now and how they were connected...sometimes I truly didn't care about a particular narrator, mostly because the factoids given in such sections seemed to have no relevance whatsoever to the rest of the book.

I know what you're wondering (if you haven't read it). And yes, it all did end up tying together in the end. But it was all much too clever and convoluted for me. Maybe if I read it a couple more times, I'd understand it. Too much work for pleasure reading, in my opinion. I still don't get it. But I'm moving on. This is me. Moving on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today's the Day!

A Thousand Splendid Suns goes on sale today!! I cannot wait to read this book, which is getting RAVE reviews. The Kite Runner was one of my favorite books of all time, and apparently Khaled Hosseini's second offering does not disappoint! I'm off to the bookstore......

Friday, May 11, 2007

TBR Review: Waxwings by Jonathan Raban

This book has been on my list forever, it seems. I've never heard of Jonathan Raban before, and can't remember where I got this recommendation. But it's just the kind of book I love, with well-drawn characters, and engaging story and a realistic plot. There's no fairytale endings here, but a twinge of hope and triumph to get you through.

Basically, it's the story of Tom Janeway, a British man living in Seattle with his wife and son. It's a character study, a book where nothing of major importance happens, but you feel like you've been handed a slice of someone's life to look over and dwell in for a time.

He has a new book out, Surveillance, which I just put on my TBR list. It goes to prove that nothing I can do will diminish the list! Anyway, I'm planning on reading more from Jonathan Raban. I loved his style!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

TBR Review: State Boys Rebellion by Michael D'Antonio

I'm not a non-fiction fan, and I have no recollection of where I got the recommendation for this book. BUT, having now read it, I can say that everyone should read this book. D'Antonio has an easily readable and engaging style, so even if you don't love non-fiction, you can get through it easily.

Basically, it follows the life of Fred Boyce, one of the "State Boys" of Massachusetts in the 1950's. But to tell Fred's story is to tell the story of thousands of others - boys and girls caught up in the idea of "eugenics". Here's the dictionary definition of eugenics:

the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).

There were people in the early part of this century who believed that we should take all "feebleminded" children and lock them away...not allowing them to be part of society, or to reproduce, and so forth. Many of the children targeted were children like Fred Boyce, foster kids who had simply never had a loving home or any quality education and were therefore considered "retarded" or "feebleminded" when actually they were nothing of the kind.

The story told here specifically is quite interesting. But you're also left with larger looming issues. Which of our beliefs today will someday be considered horrific? Are we making assumptions, or even decisions, about certain people based on looks, language, etc., that will turn out to be horrifyingly wrong? This is a great book, not only for the content of the book, but for the thoughts that will spring from the subject matter. You should read it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bookmarks is the bane of my life - not!

I love Bookmarks Magazine. Really I do. But I almost dread its arrival in my mailbox, because it always means adding more books to my growing - and growing - To Be Read pile (My Library Thing, on the sidebar, is actually by TBR list). I now have 77 books I want to read. And although I'm reading books at a faster rate than ever before, I can't seem to read more in a month than I add with each month's Bookmarks Magazine. Therefore, I'll never catch up. I'll be drowning in books forever. The End.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

TBR Review: A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington

I am embarrassed to review this book on my book blog. It is R-A-U-N-C-H-Y. That is, when you look up "raunchy" in the dictionary, there is a picture of this book. So read what follows, but whatever you do, don't recommend it to your church's book group. (Although it was recommended to me by someone in my church - you know who you are!)

This is the story of a British man who cheats on his girlfriend with a soap star, and how he justifies this behavior to himself. Aside from the fact that it is totally dirty and raunchy, it is dang hilarious. My husband was losing patience with my guffaws while he was watching TV; everyone at the hair salon had to know what I was reading....seriously, I have never, ever read a book as funny as this one. I'm not particularly wont to laugh out loud at books. And I have been reading some pretty heavy material lately, so maybe I was just ripe.

So if you aren't easily offended...ok, if you aren't moderately easy to offend, and you need a laugh, this is your book. If grauitous sex and swearing - along with a downright offensive God narrator - isn't your thing, guess you'll have to find something else to laugh about.

Below is the only - and just barely - printable section that I earmarked to share:

Her reply was to hoist up her nightdress and moon at me. Bit of an own goal, though, of course. Men can moon and it's funny or abusive or whatever. If a woman bends over and shows her bare bottom to you, well, the worst that can happen is you'll be too choked up with gratitude to get the words "Thank you" out properly. And, what's more, Sara's gesture was especially doomed to failure because she was unfortunate enough to possess a particularly fantastic bottom.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Review: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

I love Anne Tyler. After The Road debacle, I needed something a little lighter. Not that Anne Tyler is what you'd call "light". The families she portrays are so realistic, but also always a little bit depressing, too. This book is no exception. Many places where I've read biographies of Anne Tyler's writing, people have said that Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is her best work. I really, really loved it. Sorry I don't have much to say about it right now, but if you like Anne Tyler, and you haven't read this one, read it. If you haven't read Anne Tyler, start here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Road - No Way, No How

First let me say that I am not a person who gives up on books I don't like. I rarely don't finish a book. Having said that, there is no way in H E double hockey sticks that I could finish this book. No way. I made it to page 50.

I guess all parents have terror, that story that fills you with dread when something wakes you up at 2 a.m. and you can't go back to sleep? My nightmare is thinking about something bad happening to our country and being left to care for my children without money, food or medicine. I just can't bear the thought of it. I want to jump out of my skin.

Plus, my oldest boy must be about the age of the child in this book. I could totally see my boy asking the same questions the boy in the book was asking, having the same sweet confusion. I started reading it after the kids went to bed tonight. By the time I got to page 50, sitting in the bath, I was getting pretty crazily emotional and felt like I was going to hyperventilate.

I did read the last few pages. I just wanted to see what happened. I know, it's against all book-reading rules, but I wanted to confirm that my decision to quit was a good one....I just felt that there was no way there could possibly be a satisfactory conclusion to this saga. I was right. I'm glad I quit.

I nod to Cormac McCarthy. I know he's a gifted writer, and he probably deserves all the accolades he's gotten. But he'll have to get them from someone other than me.

NYT Notable Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

What an unusual book. This is Marisha Pessl's first book, and she sure shows off her talent for writing! I turned down so many passages I loved that I couldn't possibly highlight them here.

This is the story of Blue van Meer, a high school girl that undergoes a crisis experience in her senior year. There was a point reading the book where I said "I really don't like this book, because I hate this character." Since I believe it was the author's intent that the reader would feel that way at that point in the narrative, I guess it's an example of good writing. Many people have commented that the book really picks up the pace in the second half, and I'd have to agree. An intricate mystery, the author spends the first half of the book painstakingly putting each thread in place and then unraveling them with lightning speed in the second half.

The book is written like a research paper, so very often in the book the narrator will be talking about something and then reference a written work or fictional story in parenthesis. This is really clever, but ended up being the only thing I really didn't like about the book. By the end, I was pretty much just skipping over all the parenthesis in order to get back to the real story.

Here's an example of her writing:

As Dad said, the difference between a dynamic and a wasted uprising depends upon the point at which it occurs within a country's historic timeline (see Van Meer, "The Fantasy of Industrialization", Federal Forum, Vol. 23, Issue 9). Jade and Lu were still developing nations. And thus, while it wasn't fantastic, it also wasn't too terrible for them to have a backward infrastructure and a poor human development index. But Hannah - she was much farther along. She should have already established a robust economy, peacefulness, free trade - and as these things weren't yet assured, frankly, it wasn't looking good for her democracy. She could very well struggle forever, with "corruption and scandal perpetually undermining [her] credibility as a self-ruled state."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wikipedia Meme

Oh this is really fun. I really just tagged myself after reading Kookiejar's blog and then researching my own birthday! Here's how you play:

  • Go to and put in your birthday, without year in the search bar (mine is August 14)
  • Then list on your blog 3 events, 2 births, 1 death and 1 holiday that happens(ed) on your birthday
  • Then tag 5 more people to do it!
I'm not tagging, but if you read this and want to tag yourself, like I did - feel free! It's fun!

Three events from August 14th:

1908 - First beauty contest held in Folkestone, England
1936 - Rainey Bethea is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in the last public execution in the U.S.
2005 - Helios Airways Flight 522 crashes north of Athens, killing the 121 on board

Two births on August 14th:

1771 - Sir Walter Scott, Scottish historical novelist
1947 - Danielle Steele, American novelist

One death on August 14th:

1951 - William Randolph Hearst, American newspaper magnate

One Event celebrated on August 14th (I really love this one!):

National Creamsicles Day, United States

Saturday, April 14, 2007

6th TBR Book Review: A Hole In the Universe by Mary McGarry Morris

I've liked everything Mary McGarry Morris has ever written. I've had this one on my list for so long, hence the place on my TBR list to finally get read. On the face of it, her books are such an easy read. Well developed characters, unforgettable situations, and great dialogue. I read this one in one day.

And yet, it's not exactly a beach read. This book reminds me of "On Parole" by Akira Yoshimura. It's really a discussion about foolish crimes young people commit, and then how in the world they should reassimilate into society after years of being behind bars.

I have a special place in my heart for this topic. I am a therapist by trade, and I have a client who spent much of her life behind bars. A three-time felon, most people wouldn't give her the time of day. And yet, I have seen her struggle for years now just to make ends meet, just to make a friend, to have a menial job. I don't have the answers. I know that most three-time felons probably shouldn't be trusted. But this book just opened up again the thought on earth should we rehabilitate someone who has paid the sentence for their crime?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Book Review: Giraffe by J. M. Ledgard

I don't know if I've ever read a book that stirred such mixed feelings within me. I really like and admire J. M. Ledgard. He is an investigative reporter who writes for The Atlantic, and I always read and enjoy his stories. So when I saw he had written a novel, I was interested. When I saw the subject matter, that it was about the slaughter of 49 giraffes in captivity in Czechoslovakia in 1975, I was even more interested. The book disappointed my expectations -- and at the same time, I can't stop thinking about it.

I'm not sure why J. M. Ledgard chose to make this a novel instead of a non-fiction type investigative report type book. I read somewhere (and now can't remember the source) that he started out writing a novel because the true story of what happened to the giraffes wasn't actually known. Remember, Czechoslovakia was behind the Iron Curtain in 1975 and no one was telling the real story of what happened...if indeed, anyone was alive to tell the story. But in the course of his research for this book, J. M. uncovered the truth of what really happened. Maybe it was too late to go back and change it into a non-fiction read. Maybe his sources wouldn't be cited. I don't know.

What I do know is that character development isn't strong in the story. I felt the telling of the story from so many different viewpoints was choppy, and I didn't feel a strong connection to the narrators. (I did, however, like that one of the giraffes narrates)! So I was trudging through - almost deciding at one point to call it quits but I was in a car on a long road trip so I trudged on - and then I came to the actual slaughter of the giraffes. I cried. I don't know if I'll ever forget that literary scene. It could have been on the big screen for all that it is engraved on my mind.

As I said, I really like J.M. Ledgard. I think he would have done the story more justice if he had stuck to his genre of investigative reporting. But he didn't -- and I still think you should read this book, even if you slog through the first 200 pages.

Ok - Join the Something About Me challenge!

I've created a new blog just for the "Something About Me" challenge. For those of you who are interested, go on over here, and comment on the first post with your email address. I'll invite you to be a contributing member of the blog and then you can start to post your book choices. You can change, add or modify your lists until the challenge starts on August 1st. Then you'll choose the list of books you'll read and our discussions will begin!

Monday, April 9, 2007

The "Something About Me" Reading Challenge

Ok, I'll make this challenge idea I have a August or September challenge, since that is after the Non-fiction Five and some of the others are finished....

I'm working on a button....

Start thinking about some books to nominate that will "represent" who you are as a person outside the blogging world. The characters could do your career, your hobbies, live your life....or the setting could be where you live, etc.

Everyone can nominate up to 5 books that represent them (fiction or non-fiction)....then each reader will choose a list they want to read out of all the books nominated. We won't read them collectively as a group, everyone will make their own list...

Any other suggestions?? Pass the word along, as it might take people awhile to figure out what books they want to nominate for the list...

Also, we can start compiling the lists in the summer -- June or July -- so that people can choose their reading lists and be ready to start by August or Sept...

This will be mind is spinning with the possibilities for my choices!

Friday, April 6, 2007

The seeds of a challenge idea...can someone finish my thought?

I have the seeds of what could be a new book challenge, but can't seem to complete the thought into a coherent idea....maybe our community of book lovers can comment to tell me if this is a lame idea, or if it could be fun.. What I was thinking about originally was a way for us to all get to know each other a little more than just our book reading lives. So the challenge would go something like this:

First, each participant would nominate a book (or books) that relates somehow to herself (or himself?). In other words, I could nominate a book in which one of the characters was a therapist...Lesley or bookseller chick could nominate a book where one of the main characters works in a bookstore...OR, you could nominate something that doesn't have anything to do with your job -- I could nominate a book set in San Francisco, or a book about yoga, or anything that, if you read it, you might feel like you knew me just a bit better...

Then, when we have a large list of books to choose from (along with who recommended them), we could choose a number of them that we commit to read. We might choose based on the book itself, or maybe curiosity about the one who chose it...

The "Get To Know You" book challenge?? Someone? Anyone?

I'm a thinking blogger!

I finally got nominated by Kookiejar for the Thinking Blogger award. This is a sort of "chain letter" that's been going through the book blogging world. I don't mean that in a bad way, I just mean that there is no official Thinking Blogger Foundation or's just a way to showcase five blogs that you read and that make you think. Then the people you nominate do the same, and perhaps somewhere along the process you'll pick up a few more blogs to add to your daily blog addiction!

Most of the book blogs that I read and appreciate have been nominated already, which is partly the reason for this lengthy introduction. I'm going to nominate 5 blogs that I read often that do really make me think. Maybe some of my fellow book bloggers will appreciate the content, maybe not. But it will definitely bust out of the book world. Whether or not these bloggers will pass on the favor, who knows????

Without further ado:

: She's been a little quiet lately, and does occasionally post about something she read in People magazine. But when she's thinking about something deep, she'll knock you off your feet!

Moments of Adequacy: This is your spot for analyzing male/female relations -- or hockey stats, take your pick.

Playin' the Edge
: Corilee's yoga blog is about a lot more than yoga....recently "how to let go if you're a control freak". Let her wisdom wash over you.....

Yoga Gumbo
: Also a wise yogini, Yogamum will tempt you with delicious recipes, motivate you to write a novel, and occasionally - like today - help you do things like manage your restless mind...

Smart Sisters: How could I leave them out of the Thinking Blogger award with a title like that?? Two sisters with advanced degrees who are in the middle of the struggle of so many of do we be great mommies and still have a brain??

Ok, that's five and I do hope these people are good sports and play along....Nominate five, link back to the person who nominated you, and if you want to, display the Thinking Blogger award in your post or on your site.

Yeah, okay, I can't stick to five, but the last one is someone who doesn't read my site. But really, if you want to know the sorry state of air traffic control, you have to read the Main Bang. You might not fly again -- OR, you might write to your Congressperson.

*crossposted on my main blog.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

FINALLY! Review: What is the What by Dave Eggers

I feel like it took me absolutely forever to read this book. It's almost 500 pages, but with very dense typeset and tiny margins, it's more like 1,000 pages in "real life".

The subject matter, however, is fascinating. It's labeled "fiction", but it's really non-fiction with some facts that can't be verifiable. So to avoid the James Frey issue, they're calling it fiction. The subject is the war in Sudan (different from the Darfur conflict going on now) and one of the "Lost Boys" as they came to be known. Hundreds of boys ran from their villages and were orphaned or lost track of their families and thereafter lived in refugee camps for the remainder of their childhood.

One of these lost boys was Valentino Achak Deng, who is now living and working in the United States. This is basically his story, from the time he ran from his village, to hearing boys eaten by lions, to life in the refugee camp, to transitioning to life in the United States. I've never really been able to get into Dave Eggers writing (although I admire him and McSweeney's) but boy does he do this subject justice.

I had jury duty the other day and saw a guy reading this book. We were both at about the same spot in the book, and I just wanted to go sit by him and have a lengthy discussion of the book...but didn't because I didn't want him to think me totally annoying. But trust me, if you read this book, you're going to want to talk about it! I have a hard time thinking about the conditions described in this book - and to think of people living under these conditions just 5 years ago, as I was cuddling my first baby in my warm, safe house full of food and clothing. Heck, who am I kidding? I can't believe people are living like this in refugee camps all over the world this very moment. It's really hard to comprehend.

This closes my "Africa" month. I didn't intend for it to be that, but after Half of a Yellow Sun, Beasts of No Nation and What is the What, I think I'm ready for something lighter!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I haven't disappeared.....

I'm just reading "What is the What" which is a very long and dense book. Must say, though, it's the first book by Dave Eggers that I've really enjoyed.

More to come.....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NYT Notable Review: Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

A horrible and shocking little book. At 142 pages, it sure packs a wallop, and is a book I probably won't forget for a long, long time. Set in an unnamed African country, it is the story of a young boy who is conscripted to be a soldier in some unnamed war. Placed in a terrible dilemma - go along with the soldiers or die - you journey with him into hell.

One of the difficult things about reading this book is that it is written as the character would think -- in other words, in a type of pidgin English. You get used to it very quickly, but here's a small sample:

This darkness is so full like it is my mother's hug. Heya! I am remembering my mother and how she is so good to me that each time she is hugging me that is all I am needing to see the dark skin of her arm holding me close to her and I am knowing that the life I am living is so good. I am walking with my hand stretching out in front of me because I am trying to catch all of those thought that is floating around me so I can make sure no part of me is missing.

On a side note, the author of this book - notable by the New York Times, was born in 1982. So that's what it's come to. I'm reading books by people born when I was in high school. Boy, do I feel old.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Review: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Absolutely fascinating concept for a book. In alternating chapters, Kevin Brockmeier tells the story of those who have died and are living in an after-life city, and the story of a woman alive on the earth, stranded in Antarctica in what was supposed to be a corporate exploration. I greedily devoured each chapter of this book. It was a quick and absorbing read. At the same time, I found myself deeply disturbed along with lost in philosophical thought about exactly what I think happens to us after we die.

The rest of this review will have some pretty major spoilers -- it's just too hard to discuss the book without them -- so stop now if you don't want to know!

So here's this huge city of people who have died, and are in some type of "holding" city. They remain there as long as someone on earth still remembers them, so some people are hanging around in this city for many decades. They still eat at diners, do jobs, or remain homeless, still have their bodies, still have trouble sleeping, still have love lives, and so on. I don't know about you, but this depresses me. I believe in an afterlife, and I sincerely hope this is not it. I'm not down on life, but I sure hope "heaven" or even a "holding place" for heaven doesn't contain the same endless mundane details that are required to make a life work. Frankly, I'm looking forward to a new body!! :)

And then there's the alternating chapters. Here's Laura, the last person left on earth. I mean, at first she doesn't really know that, but at some point she has to realize that no one else is left but her. It's fascinating to me that she still had such a will to live....that she'd choose the slow death rather than just throwing herself down a crevasse. Who knows if this is how a person would really feel, but I certainly wouldn't want to be the last one left standing, if this is any indication of how it would feel.

And then - the plague that killed them all. Could anything be more chilling? Someone finally found a germ warfare that would spread like wildfire. They put it in Coke and there goes the world!! It's one of those "I hope Al Qaeda isn't reading this" moments. One of those moments where you realize that something like this is probably only a plan away at any given moment.

The world is a scary, lonely and horrible place in this book. What's disturbing is that the after-world isn't too much better. What an amazing, innovative idea for a book. But.....pass the anti-depressant, please.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

5th TBR Review: Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller

I've never read any Sue Miller, although whenever I see her books, I always feel like I've already read them. How bizarre is that? Anyway, I put this one on my TBR list some time ago and have avoided reading it for unknown reasons.

It is basically a "coming of age" novel, mixed with a portrayal of how people deal with grief. The book starts out with Eva's second husband being killed in a car accident, and the rest of the book is about how Eva and her (first) ex-husband Mark deal with it, along with their two teenage daughters, and Eva's small son Theo. It is well written, pulls you in and along. I felt connected to the characters, and how they acted and the choices they made made sense to me.

Having said that, there's nothing extraordinary about the book. I liked it, I'd read it anew, I'm not sorry I read it. Nothing like that. It's just that there seems to be a group of women writers who write fairly similar material...Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Joyce Carol Oates, Sue Miller....I'm really not saying "if you've read one, you've read them all". I enjoy these books, I think they have good themes, great stories, sometimes I even learn something. They are just not extraordinary.

Maybe the problem is that I've read some extraordinary works lately (The Book Thief, Doomsday Book) and these books seem a little run-of-the-mill by comparison. I don't know. I guess I'm just trying to say that I'm not panning the book. It's good. And sometimes we do need a relaxing read - like in between Half of a Yellow Sun and Beasts of No Nation. Good timing for this one!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

NYT 2006 Most Notable Books Challenge

Finishing "Half of a Yellow Sun" marks the end of my Chunkster Challenge books. I wasn't very ambitious there because this is my first year doing challenges and I didn't want to overwhelm myself. Anyway, I think I'm ready for a new challenge (along with the still-going TBR challenge). So I'm joining the NYT 2006 Most Notable Books challenge. Looking at the list, I see that I've already read three of the books on the list (links are my reviews):

Black Swan Green

Half of a Yellow Sun
The Inheritance of Loss

I'm adding the following books, all of which are already on my reading list. In other words, I'm joining a challenge that just gets me in gear reading books I already want to read anyway!! Here's what I'll read from this list in the remaining months of this year:

Beasts of No Nation
The Echo Maker
The Road
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Suite Francaise

There's a blog dedicated to this challenge - you can find it here. As soon as I'm a contributor there, I'll cross post this list to the other participants!

3rd Chunkster Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

I really liked this book. I don't think I liked it as much as some other reviews I've read. Most people talk about it grabbing them from the first sentence and so forth. It took me awhile to get into it. I hate to admit this about myself, but I sometimes have trouble identifying with characters when I can't pronounce their names. It's kind of a crazy thing to say, but I think that is part of what I experienced here.

This is the story of the Nigerian civil war back in the 60's. I was slightly embarrassed to be American as I read this book, since it was made clear that we didn't really intervene much or care much about the atrocities that were happening at the time. Late in the book, when one of the reporters mentioned that his brother's body had been sent home from Vietnam, I remembered that we had some other pretty serious issues on our plate at the time.

I have to confess that I went and looked at my son's globe while reading the book to see if Biafra ever actually became a country. It becomes clear as you reach the end of the book that it did not.

This is the kind of book I love -- a well-written absorbing story in which I learn something (actually many things) about countries and peoples that I know nothing of. I highly recommend the book, and don't think anyone would be disappointed. While reading this, I received "Beasts of No Nation" from Paperback Swap -- a story of a child soldier in an African nation. I think I need to read something a little lighter in between before I take that on.....

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's been fabulous....

It's been really great spending so much time reading these last couple of'd think I didn't have anything else at all to do! But I'm starting to have some real angst over some other projects that have gone by the wayside. We just got bunk beds for my boys, and I'd like to have quilts that match. I bought enough material for two, finished one, and the other has languished in the closet for two years now. Here it is time to put my baby in a big boy bed and the quilt is still not made. Also, I'm a year and a half behind on my scrapbooking. I don't like it when I start to feel stressed over something that is supposed to be fun!!

Anyway, I'm well ahead on the TBR challenge, and have only one more book on the Chunkster Challenge (Half of a Yellow Sun, which I picked up at the library today and expect to make slow progress on this month!). So I'm just saying that you might not see too many new posts from me this month as I try to knock out some other things.....but I'll be back soon!

To entertain you, here's a great poem that I ran across earlier today on Bryan's blog:

A Color of the Sky
by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
or being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I’m glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

I don't really like science fiction. I just can't get into books about otherworld creatures on planets that don't exist and so forth (with the notable exception of "The Sparrow" which is one of my favorite books of all time). But one of my fellow bookbloggers recently did a review of "Doomsday Book" (can't for the life of me remember who - sorry!) and the review was SO compelling that I put it on my list without any secondary recommendations. I saw it at the library this week and was in the mood for an impulse read, so I got it.

It's hard to tell the story of this book without spoilers, so I'll have to keep it brief and vague. It's a book about time travel, which I love (other favorites are "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "The Traveler"). The book is set around 2050, and a young historian wants to travel back in time to England in the early 1300's, just before the Black Death (bubonic plague) killed half of Europe.

So many things go wrong that you are sitting on the edge of the couch, in danger of falling off while you wait - until the very last page - for some kind of resolution! But it's not only a suspenseful read. Willis did wonderful research into the Middle Ages in Europe and gives you a real picture of what life was like back then. So it's great on so many levels....a slice of historical fiction, a slice of futuristic time travel, a slice of great suspense. I woke up this morning with a cold, and actually wondered for a moment if the germs had come through the book, which is exactly something that might feasibly happen in Connie Willis' world.

I suggest that you do all the dishes, laundry, and maybe even some make ahead meals to have ready for a couple of days. Then pick up this book. If you are not a science fiction reader, I promise this will change your mind about the genre.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Book Review: TBR #4: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

A book of the imagination. It's the early 1940's, and instead of what actually happened, the author imagines another outcome. Charles Lindbergh, a man with some actual association with Nazi Germany, gets elected President of the United States. Instead of entering World War II, America takes a neutral stance. Instead of Hitler being stopped in his tracks, his influence spreads throughout the world until the U.S. is sucked into a Anti-Semite, Nazi leaning state. Told from the Jewish perspective, it's pretty harrowing stuff.

I must confess, I couldn't help wondering what Charles Lindbergh's living relatives think of the book. They can't have been too pleased with his characterization!

Philip Roth's writing is delicious. That's the only word I can think of that fits. I originally got this book on Audio CD, though, and I must confess I enjoyed listening to it a bit more than reading it. The sentences are long and flowery in nature, and being a speedy reader, I find it slows me down a bit in order to savor and enjoy all his skill with language. I'd like to read more of him, and plan to.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My "haul" from the 40th California Antiquarian Book Fair

This weekend is the 40th Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco. They alternate between Los Angeles and San Francisco and my brother and I take turns flying to the other's city to attend the fair together. His budget is considerably higher than mine, but we always have a great time together!

The first book I found that I wanted was a first edition of "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostava. When collecting first editions, my focus is books (both fiction and non-fiction) that have a religious, philosophical or spiritual theme. I hesitated to buy this, because I thought it might be a BIT of a stretch, but as Dracula might represent the devil to some, I let myself make the stretch. A brand new copy, signed by Kostova, for $50.

Next, I found a great copy of "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. I've been looking for a good first edition of this book. Most of the ones I find are signed and can be upwards of $250. That's just beyond my budget. I found a great, brand new first edition, unsigned for $85. In my budget, and no stretching necessary to make it fit in with my collecting theme.

At this point, I'm pretty darn happy, but I always like to find some unusual, older book that I haven't read which fits in nicely with my theme. I found a few non-fiction titles at a booth that I've frequently bought from in the past, but they just didn't speak to my heart. Then, shortly before leaving, I found the crown jewel!! A first edition copy of Herman Wouk's non-fiction book "This Is My God" about Judaism (published in the 1950's) for $75. Go ahead and wrap me up, I was in heaven.

I just can't spend on first editions like I'd like to, so this is my yearly book buying binge. And I'm supremely happy with the results!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Review: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

I've read in so many places about what a great author Graham Greene was and that one should read all his books. The first time I read this, I'd never even heard of Graham Greene, which always embarrasses me and makes me add all said books to my "to be read" list, so as not to look like I'm not well-read!!

Anyway, the book I chose to read as an introduction to Graham Greene was The End of the Affair, which was made into a movie. (I'd be interested in hearing comments from anyone who saw it!) I liked this book. I don't know if I can explain what I mean, but it's an "intelligent" book. The writing is flawless, the subject matter fascinating, and yet it doesn't sweep you along so that you forget to eat dinner. It's more subtle than the style of most modern fiction where we expect to be swept away and riveted by the plot.

Having said that, I never faltered in reading it, wasn't bored. In fact, I read it in just a few days and was surprised at the emotion that it brought up since it wasn't written in an effusive style. It's a book worth reading. You'll feel more intelligent and well-read if you do.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

TBR #3 Review: Deception by Denise Mina

This book was pretty good, as mysteries go. Being a psychotherapist, I always like a bit of psychological suspense. The book is narrated by the husband of a psychiatrist who has been convicted of murdering one of her patients. She worked at a state prison, and was seeing a convicted murderer who was set free and then became a murder victim himself. The husband is convinced that his wife did not commit the murder and snoops through her things to find something to base an appeal on. And thus begins the rollercoaster of suspense that is the basis of the book. Also, this couple has a 19-month old child, so it adds a heartwrenching twist as well.

There were a couple of things I didn't like about the book. First, in the process of going through all his wife's things, he comes across lots of articles and court documents. The author prints them in full for the reader, and about halfway through I just started skipping them. They didn't really add any element for me, and I thought the book could have done without them.

Also, the prologue and epilogue of the book are letters to the reader from Denise Mina. In these chapters, she presents the rest of the book as if it is a true crime story. Basically, she acts as if the bulk of the book is simply a journal that she came in possession of. I hate when authors do this. I can't figure out what's real. The book is fiction, so obviously it isn't really just the husband's journal. I'm thinking it is some sort of ploy by the author to make the reader feel like the story is more real? Anyway, I really don't like it, because it makes me feel a little stupid, like I can't figure out if it's fact or fiction.

But if you just want a quick mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it's a great read. I read it in a day or two.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Review: #2 Chunkster, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*cross posted on

Oh my goodness. Read this book. Read it right now. I mean, set down whatever you are doing and get in the car and go buy this book. Seriously. So many people I know and blogs I've read have named this as one of their best books of 2006. I've never seen so much raving about a single book. Now I'm doing it too. I told my husband last night that this might just be the best book I've ever read.

I found the book hiding in the Young Adult section of the library. All three copies were there. Maybe no one knows where to look for it! The first few pages I wasn't entirely sure. I hate it when authors try to do something "different", something "clever" just for the sake of being different. The story is narrated by Death, unusual in itself. But then, every few pages, Death stops the narrative to make an "announcement" - some kind of a statement that he wants the reader to know - in bold writing and with a lot of asterisks around it. It distracted me for about two pages, and by then I was so lost in the book that it never bothered me again. Somehow it seemed to fit. After all, who knows how Death would behave differently than a normal narrator?

This book is set in Nazi Germany and follows a little German girl from about age 10 to age 14, right in the middle of World War II. I won't say more than that as not to spoil it. But this book is highly meaningful and has more depth than most books I've read. I don't know where Markus Zusak has been hiding - and I understand this book is different than most of his -- but, in the style of Death:


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Review: Empire of the Sun by J.D. Ballard

A few years ago, my brother-in-law said this was one of the best books he had ever read. My brother in law is a schoolteacher who spends his life extolling the virtues of reading. He's been buying my kids books since they were born, and he isn't given to lavish praise. So it really struck me when he gave this book such high praise.

I've had the paperback for awhile, and just haven't picked it up. Recently I did, and boy am I ever glad. Set in China during World War II, it is the story of a British boy who gets separated from his parents in the days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The rest of the book tells the story of his ordeals in the camps that the British and Americans were put into, and his survival without parents.

The most heartbreaking part is that although this is a novel, the writer says in the beginning that it is his own recollection of what happened to him as a teenager. It was made into a Steven Spielberg movie, but don't miss this book just because you saw the movie. It's gripping, well-written and eye opening. I don't know if I'd say it's one of the "best" books I've ever read, but I'd definitely recommend reading it.