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!