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.