Saturday, March 13, 2010

Casualty of the fast lane

I know my HUGE readership will be so disappointed, but I don't think I'll be posting to this blog anymore. I have gotten busy, spent less time on the Internet, and blogging in general. I used to have my books categorized on Library Thing, but recently switched over to Good Reads. Good Reads will keep track of my reviews, upload them to my Facebook, and keep track of everything I've read. I simply don't have time to replicate this work in more than one place. So from now on, you can find me over at Good Reads. I'd love to be your friend there!! Bye Bye blogging world!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Reviews

Lark and Termite: I liked this book okay, although I don't think I share the exuberance of most reviews I've read. The book moves back and forth by chapter from the past to the present. One chapter, you are in Korea with the father of Termite; next chapter you might be in the mother's life; sometimes you are with Lark and Termite, Lark being an older girl who takes care of her disabled brother, Termite. This kind of jumping around isn't my favorite modality, so that is part of what I wasn't too excited about. Also, we know that Termite can't walk but is "filled with light" - only Lark really understands his potential. But what's wrong with him? We never really find out, except a hint that the father might be living again in his son...? Anyway, too much vagueness for me. I found myself speed reading over long, interminable descriptions and such - never a good sign. The writing was absolutely fabulous, though - gotta give her that.

The Condition: A book about a girl with Turner's syndrome and what it does to their family. A horrible marriage, a gay brother, a loser brother - we've got it all here, folks!! I never considered not finishing it, it wasn't that. An engaging story and the writing was well done. It's not a book I'll think about long after, though. In fact, I had to go back and read the reviews on Amazon to remember what it was about, and I just read it a month ago!

Sashenka: I was really looking forward to this book. As many of you who read my reviews know, if a book doesn't totally grab me by page 100, I'm done. Right around page 100, I seriously considered not reading any more of this book, and almost put it down for good. I'm SO glad I didn't stop!!! The first third is about the beginnings of the Bolshevik revolution, and didn't capture my interest much. But the last two thirds are so much better, and show how Sashenka's life turned out under the regime, including the shocking end. Then the last third is a modern day researcher trying to figure out what happened to her and her family. Really, a must read!

Black Girl White Girl: Yawn. If you've ever read a book on black/white racial relations in America, you've read it. Nothing new here, move along. Joyce Carol Oates is her wonderful self, pick another of her books though. I recommend "We were the Mulvaneys".

Juliet, Naked: Well! I wasn't expecting to like this book!! In fact, I wouldn't have even read it if it weren't that my book club was reading it. But, I loved it and read it in two days!! What a great exposition on how we become obsessed with famous people sometimes and how the reality is so much different, often, than we think. Even if you think you're not too interested in that subject (as I'm not really) you will still love this book. Nick Hornby has a way of sucking you in and keeping you tied to that chair till you're done!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of/Book List for 2009

Here it is, my complete list of books read in 2009. And I have some dubious awards to hand out!

Best book of 2009, by far: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Award winning book that I personally hated: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Book most quoted by me: Arriving at Your Own Door by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Book with the scariest, meanest main character EVER: Serena by Ron Rash
Book written by an author I personally know and LOVE: Tie between Embracing Coincidence (Carol Lynn Pearson) and
Inspiration Divine (Darwin Stephenson)
Book my book club loved and I personally hated: Three Cups of Tea
Most bizarre book of 2009 (but I loved it!): The City and The City by China Mieville
Book with the most "bodice ripping": Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Author with the most talent in terms of scope: Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow and Dreamers of the Day
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
  • Here if you Need Me by Kate Braestrup
  • Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • Jarrettsville by Cornelia Nixon
  • My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  • Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
  • Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt
  • The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
  • The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  • Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan
  • The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
  • The City and The City by China Mieville
  • I'll Steal you Away by Niccolo Ammaniti
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Inspiration Divine by Darwin Stephenson
  • Let the Great World Spin by Colum Mccan
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
  • One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
  • JULY
  • Fingerprints of God by Barbara Bradford Hagerty
  • The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri
  • Mentoring by Chungliang Huang
  • JUNE
  • The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield
  • In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard
  • 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting by Mimi Doe
  • Boundaries by Dr.'s Cloud/Townsend
  • Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
  • MAY
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam
  • Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo
  • Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer
  • The English Major by Jim Harrison
  • Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell
  • The Beach by Alex Garland
  • The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
  • Away by Amy Bloom
  • Serena by Ron Rash
  • Zero Limits by Joe Vitale
  • Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate by Brad Warner
  • The Power of Focusing by Ann Cornell
  • Arriving at Your Own Door by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright
  • Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy by Gene Gendlin
  • The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay
  • A Year To Live by Stephen Levine
  • Consider the Butterfly by Carol Lynn Pearson
  • White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • Etta by Gerald Kolpan
  • I'll Steal you Away by Niccolo Ammaniti

Books I've Given Up On in 2009

  • Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen
  • Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Reviews

Dear American Airlines: I was told this book was witty and a quick read. I found it to be the kind of complaining rant that I see enough in my actual world -- I don't need to read about it in my spare time! It begins as a complaint letter from a man who got bumped from a flight - a flight to his daughter's wedding. As he camps in the airport overnight, he begins to tell American Airlines in his complaint letter about his life and all the mistakes that he made in it. He did make a lot of mistakes in his life -- I found him completely unlikeable, and am a trifle resentful that I spent an afternoon with him!

The Lightning Thief: I am reading this series with my 8 year old son. If you have kids that age, read these!! I love them. I tell people they are a cross between Harry Potter (magical stuff) and Wimpy Kid (hilarious kid relationship stuff). They are making a movie of this soon. We are finished with The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters and are in the middle of The Titan's Curse. We both "sneak" reading the book ahead when the other one isn't looking.

My Latest Grievance: Oh, this book is kind of my latest grievance! Elinor Lipman is another supposedly very funny author. This book is about a couple who work for a private girls college. Their daughter, now a teen, has been raised on the college campus. They believe themselves to be a very egalitarian household, always asking their daughter her opinion and being very considerate of her. What this girl really needs is some boundaries!! Sheesh. If I want to see rotten kids, I'll go to my therapy office, thanks!

Jarrettsville: Recently, I went to a book discussion put on by our local paper. This book was one that the book discussion leader suggested; she said she had recently read it and loved it. I bought it on my Kindle for a recent airplane flight and just devoured it. It is based in the Civil War era -- and I'm not a huge fan of that genre. But this one has a twist...Jarrettsville is right on the Mason-Dixon line and so there is a split in the town - some boys fighting for the north and some for the south. The book starts with a young lady gunning down a man at the local saloon -- then you get the back story to explain the first chapter. It's really great. Not only that, this book is based on stories that Cornelia Nixon heard in her childhood -- apparently a true family story!

Cutting for Stone: I knew nothing about this book, but keep hearing awesome things about it. I read it in the beginning of December, so I had a hard time getting through it. There were times that I almost didn't pick it up again, but I'm so glad I did. I think I can chalk it up to the general busy-ness of my life right now. In the end, I thought this was an amazing book and one that I keep thinking about even though I finished it over a week ago. The one issue that I had was that Abraham Verghese is a medical doctor, and went into great detail about the surgeries and medical procedures happening in the book. I found the inside information about being a doctor really great, but honestly, I don't need to know every single gory detail of a surgery! I love that you get such a history and visual picture of Ethiopia and Eritrea in this book, along with a fantastic story. A definite must-read.

Dragonfly in Amber: I'm really annoyed that I finally gave in to the Outlander series. This book (the 2nd) was 760 pages and the next one is 880 -- and there are like 7 so far!! But now that I'm addicted, I gotta have the stuff. I must confess that I really do love time travel books -- and I have learned so much about Scottish history in this series. I could do with a bit less ravishing, but ... you can't have everything perfect!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mid-month Book Reviews

Dreamers of the Day: I think Mary Doria Russell is one of the best authors around. Usually, I like an author for a book or two, but then it becomes clear that all of their books have a general style that I'm done with. That's why I'm always stumped when people ask me my favorite authors. I rarely read everything an author writes. But Mary Doria Russell has written a group of books that seem to have nothing in common. Not style, not theme -- it's amazing. You would never know these books are written by the same person...The Sparrow and Dreamers of the Day??? Incredible. This book is a fictional account of the Cairo Conference of 1921, something that has been written little about, but shaped the modern Middle East, to a large degree. Our main character is a "nobody" who falls in with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill. It's really fascinating, and despite the heavy subject matter, an easy and enjoyable read.

Sorrows of an American: This book got great reviews in Bookmarks Magazine. I'm sure the author would hate this, but I was also drawn to it because the author is married to Paul Auster -- a household like that has got to create awesome books, no? Anyway, it was a good read -- I'm not raving about it. I really enjoyed the references to psychotherapy (being a psychotherapist and all) but I don't know that the average reader would. There was something bulky about it -- I found myself skipping over whole passages of the father's journal (then regretted that at the end when I realized that the father's journal passages were actually REAL passages from the author's father's journal - the rest was fiction). The whole gist of the book is that there is a big secret the characters discover about their father after he dies -- but the secret turns out to be a big fat nothing, really...I thought it was going to be a suspenseful mystery and it wasn't. It was really more of a character study. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

The Samurai's Garden: A year or so ago, I saw Gail Tsukiyama at my library and put all of her books on my "to be read" list. This is a different book than the ones I've read previously, mainly because the main character was a young man, and she usually writes in women's voices. Still, as always, her books are intelligent but entertaining; informative about both Japanese and Chinese cultures and their conflicts; and just good storytelling. There's nothing here that is incredible or amazing -- her books are slow, thoughtful and nothing much happens in them - not a lot of drama. But it is enjoyable and a very good read.

The Heretic's Daughter: Someone picked this for my book club. I had never heard of it, and still haven't really heard anything of it or seen it around. I can't understand it - it was such a fantastic book!! Basically, it is the story of Martha Carrier, one of the women executed in the Salem witch trials. Apparently Martha Carrier is an ancestor of the author, so it remains to be seen how much is true fiction, and how much is a story that has been passed down through stories in her family. I've never really been much interested in the Salem witch hunts, but this book was fascinating and revealing. At one point, I was trying to sneak in a couple of minutes between seeing clients, and I was crying!! Crying in my office between seeing therapy clients!! ha. It was awful!! Anyway, the conclusion I've come to after reading this book is that we haven't changed all that much....put religion and fear together, and, well.....thankfully we have laws that prevent us from killing people we disagree with. They weren't so lucky then....Read this one!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October Book Reviews

Inspiration Divine: Here's a book that is close to my heart. The author, Darwin Stephenson, is a loyal yogi at the yoga studio that I own. His story is that he had an enlightenment experience where he got in touch with God's purpose for his life, and really, for all of humanity. He debuted the "Inspiration Workshop" at my studio, Cosmic Dog Yoga, and continues to offer these workshops. I took the workshop and thought it was awesome, so of course I had to read the book. There was some stuff here I didn't exactly agree with necessarily, but can't really argue with, either. The main point is that we need to balance our mind, body and spirit regularly. If you are always lost in your head, how about nurturing your body some? If you are a rigid eat healthy/exercise person, how about investing in your spirit? Balance is key. Take his workshop; read his book! You'll like it!

Catching Fire
: The 2nd offering in "The Hunger Games" trilogy. I was almost afraid to read it, seeing as how The Hunger Games will probably make my "best of 2009" slot. Could it possibly live up to it's predecessor? Oh yeah. If you loved The Hunger Games, do not delay!! It's just as awesome.

Songs for the Missing: Oh, depressing, depressing. It's classic O'Nan. I keep reading him because his writing is just beautiful and lovely. But this book, written about the family of an 18-year old girl who disappears, is just what you'd expect. Why do I not read the news? So I don't have to know about this kind of stuff! And here I am reading it. Still, O'Nan will pull me back time and again. A beautiful book -- if a bit of a downer...

The Good Thief: My local newspaper is reading this for their monthly book club pick. I've read almost everything they've picked previously, but I'd never heard of this one. So I figured it would be a no-brainer that I'd like it. Also, they almost always have their discussions on a night I can't go, and this time I can!! This book was really great - I have no idea who Hannah Tinti is, but I'm going to watch her for sure!! A very quick moving and well planned story about an orphan boy with no hand. He has no idea who he is or how he lost it -- until the day a man comes to adopt him and we are taken on a rollicking romp to find out the truth. **Update: The book club had mixed reviews - many didn't like it, said it was "too dark and gory". I still like it, but agree it is quite 'different' than most books I read.

The City and The City: I've been enjoying more and more "soft" science fiction lately. I really liked this book, and picked it up after I read a review in the local paper. It's hard to even describe. It's your well-known and well-understood murder/crime mystery, with a twist. There are two cities occupying the same geographical space - they're "crosshatched". If you're in one city, you have to "unsee" the other city, or else you're in the breach. People in the "breach" are never heard from again. So what happens when a murder takes place in one city, and the body is dumped in the other??? Whoa. Read it and find out!!

I'll Steal You Away: What a strange book! Translated from the Italian, it's just different in nature and culture than most books I read. If I read about small town America - even though I'm not from a small town - I understand the cultural references. Not so much here. There were some things in this book (that I'll leave unsaid for suspense purposes) that I can honestly say I have never encountered in ANY other book in my lifetime!! If you read it, email me and we'll talk!!! Seriously, I struggled a little with this book, but I'm glad I read it and feel like I grew, just in terms of becoming more familiar with a culture that is not mine.

The Graveyard Book: Oh, Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman!! What can you even say about him?? What's not to like, I ask you?? I actually had a bit of a hard time getting into the first chapter here, just because of the concept that I knew was coming.....a little boy being raised in a graveyard, a la The Jungle Book?? How could he really make it work? And yet, it does, and beautifully. You'll never ever regret reading a Neil Gaiman book, and this one is certainly no exception.

Let the Great World Spin: A couple of years ago, I read the book "Zoli" by Colum McCann, and thought it was a really, really fantastic book. So when I saw he'd written a new book -- and especially when I read that the story revolved around Phillipe Petit -- I ran out and got it right away! (Phillipe Petit is the man who walked on a tightrope between the World Trade Centers when they were being built? If you don't know about it, I highly recommend the children's book "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" as a keepsake) Anyway, while Zoli swept me up and away in a minute, I struggled and struggled throughout this book. Maybe it was the expectation. I thought the book was about Phillipe Petit, so I kept wondering "Is this character Phillipe? How does this tie in?" This book has a million gazillion characters who are all seemingly totally unrelated. It all revolves around the day that Phillipe Petit walked on the tightrope, but almost nothing in the book is actually about him. Of course, by the end, the characters are all related in some way - but there were so many and they were so vastly unrelated throughout that I almost didn't have the patience to find out what the end was all about. And even then, the relation between characters was so insignificant, it wasn't even really worth waiting for. The only thing that saved the book from being tossed in the dustbin was McCann's gorgeous and wonderful way with words and with a story. He's so good, I'll struggle through an awful book just to see what he has to say. Here's hoping he'll redeem himself with the next.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: 3 Book Reviews

This book is like a car accident. You don't want to look. You can't bear to see. But you have to, you are compelled to continue until the carnage is over. The main thing I hated about this book is that my life did not come to a skidding halt in order to allow me uninterrupted reading time.

It's horrifying. It's awful. And it's the most consuming book I've read for quite some time. I absolutely cannot WAIT until the next book, which comes out very soon.

This is billed as a young adult book - You are in an awful, post-apocalyptic America, which has been separated into 12 Districts. Each year, a boy and girl are chosen from each District, and placed in a reality-game type setting where they must fight to the death. That's right, 11 deaths, one winner - with the entire country watching. And if you start this book, you'll watch it too. And you should start this book. Now, if possible.

I've had this book on my list for so long. An Iran post-Shah in the 70's. A Jewish family gets caught up in the wave of imprisonments that came after (and come after) regime change. This book is pretty brutal, too - although much more real than the above book. This stuff really happened. Like Hitler-era type brutality, this book depressed me at times. I hate to think that humans are capable of this kind of cruelty, but apparently they are. I wouldn't rave wildly about this book - the characters didn't completely capture me and carry me away. But I certainly have no complaints about it. I'd recommend it for sure, especially if you have an interest in this culture, this era, or the plight of Jews around the world in various countries and regimes.

I read this book many moons ago and remember not liking it all that much. I rarely, if ever, read a book twice. However, my book club is reading this and I did not remember enough to have an intelligent discussion about it. Now I wonder if I had read this pre-therapist days, because this time around I found it fascinating. This author so accurately captures the thinking and associations of an autistic-spectrum child it was amazing! I think you'd like it even if you don't know a kid like this, but if you do, all the better. The richness of the character's world proves that these kids aren't dumb or vacuous. There's a lot going on in there! I really enjoyed this book this time - so glad I gave it another go.