Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review: Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan

It's quite difficult to review this book without spoiling the plotline. So if it seems rather general, I'm sorry. I really loved Andrew O'Hagan's writing, though. One of the quotes on the book said he "writes like an angel" and I'd have to agree.

This book reminds me of Gilead, both in writing style and content. It is narrated by a fifty-something priest, in a new diocese and lonely. As in Gilead, nothing really "happens" per se, it's simply the slow, unfolding story of his life. Fascinating and beautiful.

Here's a sample:

I can only say it now. At the centre of himself, a man cannot choose whom to love. He can choose how to live and can honour the truth of himself where he may. But he cannot choose whom to love, any more than he can choose how tall he is or how good. One can take up platform shoes or fine deeds, but the heart will always have the last word, and when the word is love we can recognise, we can respond, we can submit and we can try to ignore, but we can never choose. Love is not a matter of choice but an obdurate fact of surrender.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

60 page rule. Then I gave up. It got great reviews but did nothing for me. I couldn't keep track of the characters, and couldn't tell you what was going on by 60 pages. I've got 88 books on my list to read this year and can't waste my time on books that don't grab me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff

Well, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't read this book. I couldn't follow it. It had way too many characters, way too many chapters before they surfaced again so that when they did, I had no idea who they were. The only reason I kept reading a couple of times was that my mom really wanted me to read this book.

In the end, it started to get good and I enjoyed it - about the last 100 pages or so.

The Last Disciple presents an alternative to the popular Left Behind series. The Left Behind series features a rapture prior to the tribulation. This is a different philosophy, saying that the Tribulation was actually connected to Roman rule and wasn't referring to the 21st century in any way.

Interesting. But not really my cup of tea. Thanks anyway, mom.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Well, I'd hoped against hope that this would be the last book in this series. Seriously, the series is enough to crush a person with anticipation. I can't stand the suspense. Sadly, there will be a fourth, and we'll probably have to wait until towards the end of 2008 for it. Maybe by then I'll have enough willpower to pass it by.

Don't get me wrong. This is a great book. Great. She hasn't slowed down or lost her stuff at all in between Twilight and Eclipse. My advice is to read the end of this one in the bathtub, like I did, so when your husband comes in you can pretend you're sweating and not crying. Spoilers in the rest of this review, though....


The problems is: I like Jacob so much better than Edward. Now that Bella realizes that she loves Jacob too, why wouldn't she pick him? She could have a normal life, have kids, etc. etc. From here it appears that Stephenie Meyer has written herself into a lose/lose situation. There's just no solution to this problem that's going to please everyone. Or maybe even anyone. I thought the end of this book was about the best she could do to end it all, given the corner she's written herself into. Who in the world knows what she'll do next?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Review: Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib

So back on December 14th, Roberta Isleib read my blog reviews, commented, and asked me if I'd like a copy of a book she'd written called Deadly Advice. Wow! The blogosphere can be a weird place, so I went to her website, and she seemed to be a legitimate person. "Of course", I said, "I'd love a copy of your book! I'll even review it!" I worried about the last. What if it was terrible? I didn't promise a great review, and I have to be honest about my book opinions. Cross that bridge if it comes I thought.

I got the book (signed!) amazingly fast, and delved in. I promise you, readers, I'm not just saying this because I was a victim of random kindness -- I really loved the book! It's good. Mind you, it's not a literary tome that will be discussed in graduate literature. No, this is the little mystery you grab when you are going to the beach, or waiting for some interminable appointment and you just want to be entertained, darn it!

The main character is a clinical psychologist. I'm not a psychologist, I'm a psychotherapist (M.A. instead of a Ph.D.) but still, I could relate. I must say, though, I usually hate books where there is a therapist as the main character, because the authors usually get it so wrong. I find myself saying "She can't reveal that!" or "She would never say that!" through the whole book. Roberta got it spot on. Silly me, it took me half the book to glance at her bio and realize she is a clinical psychologist! No wonder she has it so right! duh. These clinical details don't mire you down, but even if you have a faint interest in the therapy world, you'll be glad that it's done right.

I also like mysteries where the main character isn't necessarily a sleuth or detective, just a normal person finding themselves swept up in investigating something. Roberta does this very realistically, not making it seem like the main character is excessively nosy or bizarre. Of course, at the end, her motivations are even more clear. And then there's the very end, which of course leaves you hanging deliciously so that we can look forward to the next in the series.....

There will be a next, right, Roberta?

She also has a golf mystery series that I might check out. I just love having small, easily readable paperback mysteries on hand for those occasions where a book in the purse is just what you need....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Books of 2007

Ok, I don't have time for a fancy list with links to all my reviews. I'm just going to post my completed reading list for 2007 here so I can start a 2008 reading list on my sidebar. In 2007, I read 66 books - 15 non-fiction, 51 fiction. As usual, before the list, here's my dubious awards:

Best Book of the Year, hands down: The Book Thief
Worst Book of the Year, hands down: The Inheritance of Loss
Best Young Adult Book: The Giver
Best Non-Fiction Book: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
Book that made me laugh so hard milk came out my nose: Eat, Pray, Love
Book I loved that other people hated: Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Book I hated that other people loved: The Echo Maker/The Eyre Affair
Book I just can't stop thinking about: The Doomsday Book

And without further ado, here's the list:

This Year I M. J. Ryan
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Changing for Good by John Norcross
An Unfinished Season by Ward Just
Change your Brain, Change your Life by Daniel Amen
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Empire of the Sun by J. D. Ballard
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Deception by Denise Mina
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Plot Against America by Philip Roth
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ by Jay Haley
Half of a Yellow Sun
Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
The Brief History of the Dead by Keven Brockmeier
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
What is the What by Dave Eggers
Turn Stress Into Bliss by Micheal Lee
Giraffe by J. M. Ledgard
A Hole in the Universe by Mary McGarry Morris
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington
Falling in Love is Not Enough by Joseph Dragun
The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D'Antonion
Waxwings by Jonathan Raban
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
TRACON by Paul McElroy
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
Forgetfulness by Ward Just
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The pH Miracle by Robert Young
The Giver by Lois Lowry
How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about it by Patricia Love
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
New England White by Stephen Carter
The Divide by Nicholas Sparks
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Fall on Your Knees
Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan
The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
A Little Love Story by Ronald Merullo
Blood Memory by Greg Iles
72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell
How to be a Wealthy Therapist by Casey Truffo
True Evil by Greg Iles.