Friday, December 31, 2010

Stickin' around and still counting

Well, each year I have a book blog. At the end of the year, I wrap it up and then start a new one. Well, lo and behold, this is the first time I've actually had followers, and I actually followers who comment! I just wasn't sure what to do.

So, I've decided to keep this book blog and start counting my 2011 reads here. I'll change the titles up a little bit, to add the year (to help with my own organization) and I decided that this year I'm going to grade the books. Keeping with the teacher in me, I'll just rate each film with by a letter grade:

A: Excellent (everyone should read it)
B: Good (recommend it)
C: Fair
D: Poor
F: Terrible

So, on to 2011- let's see what books I can accomplish this year!

Thanks to my readers!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book 82- An Abundance of Katherines

In An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, we meet Colin who is a child prodigy whose best friend is Hassan, a fat Arabic kid with a quick sense of humor.

Colin has dated and been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine. After his lasted dumping and after high school graduation, Colin and Hassan take a road trip. Colin is on a quest to write a theorem that will predict a relationship. While on this road trip, anagramming Colin and Judge Judy loving Hassan meet Lindsey, a cute popular southern girl, her mama Hollis and the true story of a dead Arch Duke.

Colin also finds out that a theorem predicting relationships might not work, just like he might realize there are other girls in the world other than Katherine.

This was an off beat read, with tons of footnotes to explain Colin's quirks. It's also humorous and quirky, and a young adult novel.

Book 81- To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my favorite book in the world. I love, love, love this novel. I was very excited that I had a chance to be a in high school freshmen English class where this was being taught. I re-read it. And I was flipping through my blog today and discovered I forgot to post about it!

This Depression era classic by Harper Lee is told by Scout Finch, a 9 year old girl living in Alabama. She and her older brother Jem are raised by their attorney daddy, Atticus, the best father in literary history, and their housekeeper Calpernia also helps with the child rearing.

In this timeless classic Scout tells of her first love and best friend Dill and about the cast of characters around her neighborhood. We hear about the Radleys, specifically "Boo" Radley who is the mysterious stranger living across the street from Scout who hasn't been seen in 30 years. The children are fascinated by the idea of him.

And throughout the second part of the story we hear about the Tom Robinson case, the black man accused of rape and Atticus defending him. The children learn how to be brave, how brave their father is, about innocence lost, about the rights and wrongs of an entire town, about the unfairness of life.

I love this book. I've probably read a million books in my almost 40 years of life, I've taught English for 10+ years, and worked in various libraries, adding up to about 6 years and I can honestly say this is my favorite book in the world. I love this story. I love the voice of Scout, the inflections, her young girl observations reflecting back through her adult woman eyes. I love the descriptions and the words. I love the richness of the story, the use of the word "linin'" and "chifferobe." I cry every time I read this book, certain pages and passages make the tears roll or the laughter burble right out loud. I love this story. As a teacher I could just analyze this story to death but when it all comes down to it, I just love this book for the book itself, for the beautiful story Harper Lee spun.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o 'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."

How can you not love descriptive writing such as this? "Soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum"... gives me the good chills.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book 80: Heart Shaped Box

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a twisted, demented modern day ghost story with an evil twist.

Aging rock star Jude Coyne has young girlfriends and one of those girl's from the past, caused him to be haunted.

Jude is into the occult and he sees an online auction to buy a "ghost." What he gets in the mail is an old man's suit in a heart shaped box. He thinks it's a funny joke until the haunting does begin.

A horrible old man ghost tries to make Jude kill his current girlfriend, Mary Beth, and then himself. Once Jude realizes he's not crazy and convinces his young Goth girlfriend he's not nuts, they go on the run, to save themselves and each other. While on the run, and through the use of a Ouji Board, Jude and Mary Beth realize things aren't what they seem. They must save themselves and destroy the ghost, but at what cost to themselves?

This was a good thriller with a ghost twist. It's deep and dark. This prose is deeply gruesome, and it will haunt the reader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Early Resolutions for 2011

I can't believe the year is over in just a few days and I didn't hit my reading goal of 100 books for the year. Last year my goal was to read 10 books a month and I capped the year at 117 books, just 3 shy of my goal. It was really rough, to hit that, so I decided for 2010 I wanted to read 100 books for the year. And I'm coming up seriously short.

I hate it when I do that. But I won't beat myself up over it. I give myself permission to be okay with however many I do complete. But I am a goal oriented person so I have a wonderful list of things I want to read in 2011. I've also decided that I'm not going to pick a number of books to read in 2011, though I have a feeling that the number 100 will still lurk in my gray matter somewhere. So, I've decided to set different goals!

  • In 2011 I want to read 10 books that are considered "classics" by the widespread public, or which can be found in the canon
  • In 2011 I want to continue to swim in the non-fiction pool. I'm shooting for at least 12 non-fictions books, and they can't all be memoirs.
  • I want to participate in Food For Thought at least 6 times (or more) throughout the year
Hopefully I'll do better at reaching my reading goals in 2011 better than I did this year. I'm considering these my New Year's Resolutions. At least I LIKE reading and will stick to it, unlike other resolutions!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book 79- Elsewhere

Elsewhere is young adult fiction. First, I am not going to make this a blog all about young adult fiction just because I now work in a high school library. This was purely a coinky-dink. I swear. But young adult fiction or not, this was a good read.

In this story, Liz dies at age 15. She finds herself, after a brief nautical journey, in a place called Elsewhere. There she meets others who are dead, yet living a life in this place.

This is an "afterlife" story with a clever plot. It's not like others with a perverted version of Heaven or tying in an aspect of hell. It's a sweet story and it could cause "deep thinking", or it could just be taken at face value, just an afterlife story.

I love the voice of Liz, while I don't always like her as a character. I think author Gabrielle Zevin addresses the question of "what happens after you die" in a creative and sweet way. This third person voice, which is so apropos, introduces many strong and likable characters, giving them clear voices as they deal with this sojourn through the hereafter.

Young adult or not, I recommend this novel!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book 78- Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a young adult novel about Melinda.

Melinda is a freshman in high school and she's be labeled a social outcast due to the fact that she called the police which busted a huge party right before school started, at the end of summer. She feels the safest place for her to be is alone, except that's not so good either. There;s something going on in her head which haunts her, too.

She has no friends, everyone hates her, the 1 one she had dumps their friendship, her grades fall except for art class, and her parents fight. She skips schools and hides. She won't speak. she's afraid of what will come out of her mouth.

She thinks if she talks about the tragic thing that happened to her the night of the party, her world will fall apart so she remains silent. Until one day, after school, when something happens, she breaks her silence.

Powerful and captivating young adult novel. I can see why it won awards. It's sad but so true.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book 77- Based Upon Availability

This dark novel is based on the lives of 8 women who all intersect because of the Four Seasons Hotel.

The first part of Alix Strauss's novel focuses on Morgan, the general manager of the hotel, who had never coped with the death of her younger sister. The other 7 women and their stories swirl around her. Trish has opened a gallery and is throwing a party for her best friend, who had just gotten engaged and lost lots of weight. Ellen thinks she pregnant. Louise is checked into the hotel to dry out and hopefully resurrect her rock star career. Anne suffers from OCDs. Franny is displaced after a fire and has nowhere to go and is so jealous of the lives of her neighbors. Robin takes revenge on her abusive sister. Shelia deals with her affair with a married man.

This is a very dark novel and isn't always full of happy endings. I do like the story and I like the way all the characters are entwined. But it's sure a dark, yet well written, tale.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book 76- The Lake Shore Limited

The novel that went nowhere, is what I consider The Lake Shore Limited. I feel like all the characters began and ended in the same spot. Ugh!

Using 4 different narrators, we see the lives of four people: Sam, Billy, Leslie and Raffe. Leslie lost her brother during 9/11. Billy was his lover. Sam is a friend of Leslie's she tries to fix up with Billy. Raffe is the star of a theater play Billy has written.

Billy wrote a play about a guy who fell out of love with his wife but then he found out she might be dead. Raffe was in the play and was touched by it, because he has a wife that he married, divorced, then remarried again. Three years after they married the second time, she was diagnosed with fatal, long term terminal disease, Huntingtons Disease. Leslie and Sam saw the play, thus begins the intertwining of all four of these people.

I don't find any of these characters very likable and I just don't feel like this book "went anywhere."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book 75- Fang

Fang is the most recent in the Maximum Ride series, about the bird kids who are supposed to save the world.

In this literary outing, Max, the leader of the bird kids, is falling in love with Fang, and he with her. Their relationship as a couple is growing but some of the other kids in the flock thinks it's hurting the safety of the group. The kids all vote that Max should leave the flock and let Angel take over.

Max does leave and Fang goes with her, but not before Angel has a premonition that Fang is going to be the first bid kid to die. A parallel plot is that someone is still trying to kill the kids and are stalking them. Suddenly a new bird kid shows up and joins the flock because he has nowhere else to go. BUT, he seems to be "perfect" for Max.

The saga of the bid kids continues. I like the extra stuff at the end: Fang's Q and A with readers as well as experts from "his" blog. Cool series that will keep young adults reading.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book 74- Queen of the Road

First, I want to say that it is not the author's fault that I took 19 days to read this book. I'm doing about 367 other things while trying to read this book (along with reading about 12 Greek myths as well as Julius Caesar and To Kill a Mockingbird for school).

Doreen Orion's memoir Queen of the Road: A True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, A Husband, and a Bus With a Will of Its Own was a funny, funny, funny story of Doreen and her husband Project Nerd embarking on a cross country tour. In a bus. With their pets. In a bus. With lots and lots of martinis, which is the only way I'd leave my home and travel around the country for 1 year in a BUS!

Orion and hubby leave behind their lives and see the country, bonding with each other and seeing sights and friends. She proclaims herself a Jewish Princess of Long Island and she gave up her creature comforts, working from her bed all day in her jammies and her entire collection of shoes to travel with her husband, fulfilling his dreaming of traveling in a bus.

She's insightful and hysterical. And she gives such great recipes for many martinis.

She makes me want to be her, whether on or off the bus.

I enjoyed her book and plan on reading her others. I'm so glad she turned off the tv and got out of bed!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book 73- barefoot

Three women- two of them sisters who aren't very close, and a family friend- all come together to Nantucket for a summer. Each of these women have a secret.

This isn't a "chick lit" novel; Barefoot had more substance. Author Elin Hilderbrand writes with humor and substance while still addressing "women's" sort of topics like love, betrayal, child birth.

I don't want to give anything away by telling more (and I don't have a copy of the book in front of me to know what's on the blurb and what might be a spolier) so suffice it to say this was a quick and enjoyable read, without being too heavy or too stupid.

Light fare with a little kick. A good read. Makes me want to go to the beach and to fall in love.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book 72- Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen is hilarious and fun, yet offers a good think as well.

I truly enjoyed this memoir of a woman returning home to her parents after her ugly divorce, an illness and accident.

Rhoda's voice- a full of a blend of self depreciating humor, family memories, and nursing her new wounds- was refreshing and fun.

And I want to say this, loudly and clearly: she has a good relationship with her mother. Yes, her mother most certainly drove her absolutely insane, but she has a good relationship with her despite of crazy. She loves her mom and doesn't blame the ills and wrongs in her life on her mother. Thank you for writing a memoir that's funny and honest yet still endearing of family. It was refreshing.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book 71- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I picked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as a book club's choice for last July for the virtual book club I chair. Anyway, I didn't get it finished. I swore I was going to read it before the year was out because 1) I wanted to, 2) I picked it and felt obligated to read it; and 3) and I've started it twice and liked it but get bogged down by my ILL books so I have to put it aside.

This was a great story, a feel good book, sweet and fun. That's not to say it was without substance, because it will full of ripe characters and an interesting plot!

Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger who lives on Guernsey Island, which was occupied by the Germans during World War II. This is in 1946. The stranger has come across something Juliet wrote and wanted questions answered. Thus begins an amazing correspondence between Juliet and the members of the Guernsey Literary Society.

This entire story is told in nothing but letters and telegrams written by members of the society, Juliet, Juliet's publisher and friend Sidney, her best friend Sophie, her "maybe" boyfriend Mark, and a few other fun characters tossed in for good measure.

I enjoyed this story immensely. It's an extraordinary novel with memorable characters. I like that Juliet didn't dither. I love the matter-of-fact-ness of the voice of all the characters. I also like the blending of fiction with history. I did some reading about the time period (post WWII, the setting, etc) and it seems to be right on. How sad for those who lived through the war; it seems to be brought to even brighter light in this novel, but without lingering on the tragedy that is war, if that makes sense. I'm also a lover of letters, and collect books, fiction and non, of letters. One of my favorites are letters written between people (especially lovers) during WWII, so this book was even more interesting to me.

I love this book and it's certainly one of my favorite reads of 2010!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book 70- The Last Will of Moira Leahy

The Last Will of Moira Leahy (by Therese Walsh) took me forever to read because... well, I have no idea. I think the fact that I read this over a period of 6 weeks, putting it down and reading something else then picking it back up, was probably a disservice to the book, and for that I apologize. it probably influenced the fact that I wasn't really a fan of this novel.

The premise is a bit odd. The story is told now and mingled with flashbacks. Moira and Maeve are twins, separated by a tragic incident in their teens. Maeve is telling the story, about her lonely life as a university professor, with a small limited world. The story unfolds and we find that she's purchased a Japanese dagger in a sheath called a keris. The keris seems to, at first, remind her of her twin Moira, and then it seems to have some sort of magical, mystical powers, that cause Maeve to abandon her quiet and orderly life and traipse off to Rome to find answers that she's been looking for for her adult life.

There, encounters a man who wants to do her harm because of the keris, and a man who wants to help her understand the dagger's power. The man she's secretly in love with, who is in Europe on his own journey of self discovery, meets up with Maeve to help her solve the mystery of the keris. She follows the clues left her by a strange Indian man and tries to find all that is lost to her: her live, her sister, love, her music, her own sense of self.

I like the idea of ghosts and magic in a novel. I like the mysticism that can surround a modern day type of ghost story and I think I had a different perspective of what this story was GOING to be about rather than what it IS about. I just struggled getting into the characters. I often was confused at what was going on with the twins in the flashback sequences. They have strong twin powers ( activate! ) which I think was part of Walsh's tie to the magic of the dagger but it just felt overdone and overworked. And of course, since the girls were twins, they often pretended to be each other and sometimes I was confused about who was doing what, and to whom. Add to this that the "love" story between Maeve and Noel sometimes meandered into just flat out "romance novel" writing that I wanted to puke. There's a line between lyrical writing and harlequin romance style writing, and this drifted in both camps.

While I appreciate the settings of Maine and Rome, but not even these locales could save this book for me. I just didn't enjoy the read, which could be why it took me many weeks to complete this often tedious and wordy novel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book 69- The Murder of King Tut

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. Patterson's storytelling style spilled into this story and made it interesting to read.

I was never really was one who was enthralled with Egyptians and Tut, but this was an interesting story- was he murdered or not? Patterson does a great job of jumping from her personal thoughts and research to that of the time of Tut, to the early 1900s when Tut's tomb was finally uncovered.

Not a bad way to introduce some non-fiction into my life and learn about something I never knew.

And props to Patterson for keeping with his traditions in writing: large font, little words, the book was broken into sections, and mini- cliff hangers at the end of each short chapter. This made learning fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book 68- Little Bee

Insurmountable frustration is how I felt over Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. And I've checked this out from the library about 4 times since June and I swore this time I was going to read it; and now I wish I hadn't. But it came recommended from a friend with brilliant taste in books, who's never steered me wrong, until now, that is.

Little Bee, the name she gave herself when she found herself detained in a British detention center for refugees for over 2 years, has seen nothing but tragic events and heart ache. As I read this book, with one tragedy heaped up on another, all on this young girl, one after the other, I knew there would be a happy ending, some sort of goodness, some sort of retribution or redemption. There had to be.

Even when she got out of the detention center and found the only character in the book that had a heart, the only person who could save her, the only person who loved her... circumstances were manipulated, so bad stuff continued to happen.

I was frustrated and I tremendously disliked this book. It's not written in some Orwellian era of Britain and her lands, but now, modern times. I also found it difficult to read in the dialect of the detention center detainees. I also found it irritating that within the plot Cleave kept making reference to something that happened "on the beach" and the reference to a missing finger. That was supposed to be a mystery but it just was so overplayed that by the time Cleave got to the reveal, I was ready to chuck the book out the nearest window.

I did not enjoy my Little Bee reading experience. This was so sad and depressing that I planned how to kill myself with this book as I was reading. If you read this novel, you'll get the irony of the statement. Otherwise, as a fellow blogger said, it's books like these- so overwhelmingly, all encompassingly depressing with no happiness in sight- that it should come with a razor blade for the reader.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Readers, suggestions please! Classics needed!

I've been thinking about books for next year. Sort of my own advanced planning. I just finished reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and I really enjoyed it so it propelled my brain into thinking and planning.

I used to always read the exact same genre of books. I was a fan of female contemporary sleuths and usually they were part of a series. For example:

  • Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich
  • Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller
  • Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton
  • Goldie Bear by Diane Mott Davidson
  • China Bayles by Susan Wittig Albert
  • Cat Marsala by Barbara D'Amato
  • Carlotta Carlyle by Linda Barnes
  • VI Warshawski by Sara Paretsky
And the list could go on and on and on. Then I would read just mysteries or hunt for more women detectives by women authors.

Over the last 10 years I've started expanding my reading and I still read a few of those authors, a very few, but I have certainly diversified my reading materials. I love books with a comedic twist and dark humor (Chris Moore or Jonathan Tropper come to mind). I also like something with a bit more intellectual challenge. Daddy-O says I like smart books, or something like that. I want my brain to be stimulated. I find that fun. I read plenty of crap (like James Patterson) because too many 'meat and potato' books needs a balance with 'cotton candy' for the brain.

I am NOT a fan of chick lit, though I do find myself reading one on a very, very, rare occasion- usually I get suckered in and I find out about half way through it's chick lit. I don't usually ready anything that's going to terrify me, like Stephen King, though I completely respect the man as a writer and his talent. (On Writing is one of the best books I've ever read.) I used to avoid Oprah recommendations like the plague because they were usually so tragic with no redemption. I don't mind something heavy and serious but I need to have something redeeming happen to characters at the end. And redemption doesn't always mean a happy ending, either. I also hate romance novels and historical romance.

Last year I decided I wanted to read more non- fiction. Fiction as always been my "thing." I read some memoirs last year and decided I wanted to bring more non-fiction into my reading life. I decided in 2010 I would read a minimum of 12 non-fiction books. So far, I've read 11 and 1/2. The half comes from the book War. (It was so emotionally hard for me to read, I just couldn't get all the way through it, though Lord knows I did really try.) I have to read one more to make the goal and I have several that I'm looking at (a few memoirs and Me, Katherine Hepburn's autobiography that I'm chipping away at.) I'm going to try and surpass that goal and read at least 15 non fiction books in 2011.

Now, here's the other thing. You would think as an English teacher I would've read more classics over the years but I really haven't. I've read my fair share, of course, but there always seems to be something that is missing from my "literature" education. SO!!! In addition to my non-fiction goal, I decided I wanted to read 10 classics. But I have no idea where to start. I was hoping that you, my wonderfully well read reader, would be willing to give me lists and lists or suggestions of what you think are "classics" that I should read because ... well, you decide the because. Please, either in my comments or shoot me an email, what do you think I should read next year? titles please (authors would be good, too) and if you want to give a brief "why I should read these (this) book(s)" I would really appreciate it. I'm trying to get a good list, so your suggestions are necessary!

I appreciate your help in expanding my literary horizons!


(By the way: I have book reviews with a virtual book club here at Read Any Good Books Lately?, and the same reviews appear here, too.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book 67- Substitute Me

I enjoyed the novel Substitute Me by Lori L. Tharps. I like stories about nannies. And this is the story of a Black woman who is young and single who had no life direction so she's a nanny. I like the narrative's struggle with the idea of a Black woman being a domestic for a White couple when she was raise in an affluent, upper middle class life.

Zora isn't sure what she wants to do in life but she does like kids and she does love to cook and she does want to live in NYC. So what to do? Well, making good money can be done by being a nanny so that's the position she takes while she tries to figure it all out. But her family would hate that she's become a "mammy" so she keeps it a secret. She has a boyfriend who pressures her to be more. And her friend Angel says she should do what she wants to be happy.

Good story as we follow the story of Zora. Now, the chapters alternate narrators between Zora and Kate, the woman for whom Zora works. I think the Zora story is better and I felt Kate was just whiny and I didn't find her all that likable. But she's necessary to the story. I didn't like the trite ending, but overall I thought it was a well written novel and an engaging story.

Book 66- Frankenstein

I enjoyed reading the famous Mary Shelly science fiction- horror novel Frankenstein. I can't believe that in all the years I was teaching and going to school I never read this classic. Boy, was I mislead.

Frankenstein is NOT the name of the monster, nor is the monster stupid. See, there's a young man named Victor Frankenstein who is obsessed with death so he collects dead body parts and brings to life a monster. When he sees what he's done, he freaks out and the monster flees and goes into hiding. Then people die and Victor knows the monster he made did it but he never comes forward.

Then the monster finally comes to Victor and demands that he build him a wife because he knows he so hideous that everyone runs from him and he doesn't want to spend his life alone. Victor thinks about it but doesn't do it. The monster vows revenge and then Victor vows revenge right back.

People, this is a cool book. It's told from the perspective of the monster, WHO NEVER GETS A NAME, from Victor and from Victor's cousin Walton. This is a very smart monster. It's also chocked full of science that well advanced and beyond the years of the time it was written, the early 1800s. Galvanism then? Really? And to think Mary Shelly was just a teenager when she wrote this tome.

It's a dark story and pretty gruesome. I honestly think a great debate could be had between who the real monster is: Victor or the monster he created. I love the parallel of this story to the Creation story of Adam and Eve. Yahoo to Mary Shelley for providing me some much needed intellectually stimulating reading material. I learned stuff, too!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book 65- How to Talk to a Widower

How to Talk to a Widower was equal parts funny and poignant. Author Jonathan Tropper does it again with his serious topics and dark humor to create one funny read that will leave you laughing and crying, sometimes simultaneously.

Doug is a 29 year old widower, wallowing in a his grief, a year after he lost his wife. He's on the verge of becoming a famous writer because he writes a magazine column called "How to talk to a widower." But since the year has passed, his life is forcing him to move on. His step son- is he still his stepson since his mother is dead, Doug ponders- is becoming a criminal and he wonders what he should be do about, and his twin sister Clare is pregnant and decides to leave her husband and move in with Doug- and force him to date. Throw in an over dramatic Jewish mother and a father with dementia, a type A personality sister marrying a man she had sex with in Doug's house while he was sitting shiva for his dead wife, and all sorts of married and single women throwing themselves at Doug, and you have the perfect setting for a Tropper novel.

I love his dark twisted stories and his character perspectives. Tropper makes me laugh and he makes me think Love his novels! Some compare him to Nick Hornby; they should compare Hornby to him!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book 64- The Postcard Killers

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson is another typical thriller, beach read style of novels cranked out by Patterson and company.

In this one, young couples all over Europe are being murdered and local journalists are sent postcards as clues. The police and Interpol work with each country and the journalists to try and capture the killers. Then a murder happens in Sweden and newspaper reporter Desiree is sent a postcard. Her former lover is a cop so they hatch a plan to run an article offering the killers money in exchange for an interview. It backfires.

In the midst of all of this is Jacob, an American NYPD cop who is tracking the killers all over Europe because his daughter and her husband were of the first victims killed on this spree. He works with the local cops, offering help and insight and chasing the killers.

Then there's something about art thrown in and some romance with Desiree and Jacob.

As I said, typical Patterson. A really quick read and a decent story.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book 63- The Nobodies Album

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst is... interesting. Octavia Frost is an author and a mother, a widow and lonely. She's estranged from her so, Milo, a famous rock star, after he reads one of her books.

A tragedy in their lives cause them to have a strained and tenuous relationship as Milo grows up, leaving this estrangement in his adulthood. Until he's accused of murdering his girlfriend. Then Octavia flies to California to see if she can help him, in some way.

During the course of the novel we hear Octavia and Milo's story as they weave through the murder accusations, as well as flashbacks of Milo's childhood. Intermingled with these stories are summaries and chapters of Octavia's books.

She feels she wants to make the world right for all her book character she's wronged, all the tragedy she bestowed upon these characters. So in her new book that she delievers to the publisher and it's ironically called The Nobodies Album, she has the original chapter of each book and then she's re-written them and that's presented as well. As the reader, we get to read these chapters of Octavia's as well as her re-writes. This is an interesting part of the book.

It was an interesting story but nothing that was really exciting. I think the thing I liked the best, or the thing I'm most curious about, are these "fake" books. As I read these "experts" of these pretend novels I really wanted to read several of them. As for the real Nobodies Album, I wasn't really thrilled and could leave it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book 62- Don't Blink

I always have high hopes for a James Patterson novel and I did with Don't Blink. But it's just another typical thriller, with poorly written dialogue. No one talks like that!

A reporter is chased by the mob and blah, blah, blah... He's in love with a girl who's his best friend and blah blah blah.

I liked that there was a reference to someone asking the main character is he ever read Alex Cross books. That gave me a giggle, since Patterson is the author of that series.

Beach read. Large font, small vocabulary, short chapters and big margins. It could be read in about 2 hours.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book 61- The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40 year friendship

This non-fiction story, The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty Year Friendship is about just that: 11 women who lived in Ames, Iowa who became friends in elementary school and remain friends to this day.

This story chronicles their lives, and their memories, of their friendships. It looks into the ins and outs of the group itself, how others perceived them, what they were like as teens and how they've evolved as a group and as individuals.

Not only did author Jeffery Zaslow interview the "girls"- which is what they call themselves and think of themselves,- their friends, their families, etc., but he also shares stats and research about women/ girls and friendships that studies have shown.

It was an interesting story, and I wonder what's happened to these women individually since the publication of the book. I say 'individually' because there is not a doubt in my mind that as a group they are still friends.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book 60- Irreplacable

This novel Irreplaceable was one I liked and hated all the way through. And now that I've finished the book, I'm still not sure if I liked it or not.

Archaeologist Alex and his scholarly researched wife Isabel have a young marriage and nice starting out life when tragedy strikes and Isabel is killed. She has signed her donor card and Alex grudgingly followed through, and donated her organs.

This novel then follows Alex in the year or so following Isabel's death; how he moved on, how he copes, his relationship with his mother-in-law, and more interestingly, the contact he starts receiving from Janet Corcoran, the woman who received Isabel's heart.

Janet wanted to thank her donor, wanted some contact and managed to do some research and found out who Alex was. She sent him letters and cards. She managed to connect with Isabel's mother and they emailed. Isabel's mother wanted the contact and valued it, while Alex was appalled and intrigued.

Also added to this interesting mix of people and storyline, is the man who was driving the car who killed Isabel. I felt the part of the story that involved him was sick, but, no pun intended, like a car wreck and as a reader you didn't dare skim or skip anything. It was mortifying and disturbing to read his interactions with these characters. I realize this was fiction, but I feel it was a strongly told story it was hard to remember these are fictional people and not voices of real humans. or many, the characters are so real, they could be anyone we know.

The story is also told, alternating chapters between the story of Alex, to the story of Janet and her family. It also oscillates between present day lives of Alex and Janet, to flashbacks the the days when Isabel was alive and before Janet received her heart and thought she was going to die.

I struggled with liking these people... well, characters. And maybe that's the problem. At some point in the story I was so wrapped up that I thought of these characters as people. And I didn't really like them very much. I think I liked Isabel the best and she was dead and only portrayed in flashback.

It doesn't become sappy. It's almost more the other direction, more harsh and maudlin. And maybe in that case, more real.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book 59- The Girl Who Chased the Moon

When Emily's mother dies, Emily is sent to a small southern town to live with a grandfather she never knew existed in the book The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.

This whimsical story takes place in a mysterious, sleepy little town where wallpaper can change patterns of its own accord, where gentle giants walk the streets, where hope is baked into cakes at the local diner, where the sweet and smoky scent of barbecue hangs in the air, and where a magical light dances in the night woods. Emily can't believe her eyes and ears as she wonders through this town her mother never spoke of.

And when Emily finds her mother was an evil, cruel teenager in this sleepy, little hallow, she feels she'll have to accept the magic of the place and accept any torment that comes her way because of her mother's mean past. Emily meets a boy, Win, and falls in love and can't figure out why since they only had a few chance encounters. There's her next door neighbor Julia who bakes magical cakes but she is hurting and wishing for more in her life, wishing for a past she could never have; therefore planning her future in detail. There's Stella, the woman who had and lost it all. There's Sawyer, who is sad and handsome, and wants Julia for more reasons than she can fathom.

This is a an irresistible story, sweet and simple, full of magic and serendipity and delight. A little of a modern day fairy tale, a little sweet, and just perfect, it's a great novel.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book 58- Deliver Us From Evil

Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci is an excellent thriller, and apparently the second book about secret government operative Shaw.

In this outing, Shaw runs into a private group who is killing Nazi survivors. He meets Reggie and her crew while they are working and the plan goes wrong but he's there to help.

Now Shaw, Reggie and her crew are up against the name who was the actual real Butcher of Kiev and the meanest more despicable person on the earth. He is truly evil. And vile.

This is an excellent thriller and in some spots, it's a rough read with the violence and gruesome torture methods explained in the pages.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book 57- Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God

I loved this book, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer. I don't know what it specifically was that made me fall in love with this novel, but I certainly did. It was wonderful. It's the story of three women who are strangers. They end up living together, renting room on a house boat together.

Charlotte is a young 30 something newly widower archaeologist. Grace is a septuagenarian landlady of the lot. It's revealed she's suffering from Alzheimer Disease and within the story she loses her memory to a different medical ailment. Chloe is the over weight teenager who fled her home and is facing an uncertain life.

Told with grace and humor, this quirky story is engaging to the heart and soul. The three women go in a spiritual journey together as well as a real, physical journey aboard the boat in an effort to save themselves.

I loved the voices of the women and the way the characters all seem to just spill from the page. It was lyrical at times, and often humorous in that bumbling sort of way. I love the hunt the women were on, the tie to the past but the need to go into a future of some sort these ladies discovered. The fact that Charlotte is an archaeologist helps beautifully tie this theme to tangible elements of the story. I love the ebb and flow of the storyline, and setting it on the water in New England made this an extra special book for me, since I love that area.

I fell in love with this novel!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book 56- Snuff

Hand to God the premise of this book is the that a porn star decides to participate in the largest gang-bang ever- she's going to have sex with 600 men on film, all at one time. And if she dies, then she'll leave her life insurance to the child she gave up for adoption.

This story is told in alternating chapters between 3 men who are waiting in line for their turn to be "with" the porn star, and her personal assistant.

This is a dark comedy by author Chuck Palahniuk. Oh yeah, it was gross but still so very funny, in a tongue in cheek way... no pun intended.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book 55- Faithful Place

Another wonderful novel from Tana French is Faithful Place. This thriller brings Frank into the limelight. He's the head of the Dublin (Ireland) Undercover squad. And now he's involved in a cold case homicide in his own back yard. His high school girlfriend who vanished on the night he was to run away with her to elope suddenly turns up as a dead body back in his old neighborhood, a place, a faithful Place where he hasn't sent foot in 22 years. Until now.

French continue spinning a fabulous thriller, while not all that complex, is still compelling. Her in depth characterization Frank and those around him still astounds me with every novel of hers I devour. I like that she can take a popular medium like "thriller" and take it into the world of literature with detailed character analysis. This is an excellent story.

And while Frank is a secondary character in her previous two novels, he takes center stage in this one. I appreciate that French keeps her setting and tone consistent but brings out the different characters with every novel. I love the Dublin setting, one of my favorite cities ever. I also love that while these are similar in setting, character and context, these are stand alone novels- they aren't really a series nor do they have to be read in any sort of order to be enjoyed.

Excellent third outing from French and I'm eagerly await more!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book 54- 61 Hours

This is a great Jack Reacher book. He's former Army and is now a loner with no belongings and travels the world, righting wrongs when he finds them and just taking in life.

Until he finds himself on a bus tour with a bunch of senior citizens. The bus crashes in the middle of a South Dakota winter. Reacher goes with the seniors into the nearest town and learns of some evil afoot. He's befriended by the assistant chief of police and Reacher decides to stay and help right some wrongs in this small town where a prison was recently built.

Excellent thriller. Lots of twists and turns. A good read!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book 53- Private

Typical beach read from James Patterson...

Jack Morgan owns a private security company that does PI for the rich and famous. When his best friend's wife is killed, he sets out to find the murderer, even if it means breaking the rules.

Jack's hunt for her killer brings about harm and terror; revenge is good.

Good stuff, and a super fast read.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book 52- Walking Dead

Walking Dead by Greg Rucka is part of the Atticus Kodiak series. Atticus is going after a missing girl who's been sold into prostitution as revenge for evil her father had wrought. Atticus finds himself going around the world, hunting her, in hopes to bring her back to some sort of safe life. While his girlfriend Alena disapproves because it might ruin their lives and ruin the cover they've developed over the years, he must still do it anyway to right a wrong.

Pretty exciting stuff, and it was nice to see a character appear from Atticus's body guarding days. Even though there was quite a bit of Russian "stuff" it was still easy to follow. Lots of action!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What was I thinking?

Okay in theory it seemed like a good idea to read a whole bunch of books with the same theme: memoirs written by women who turned to cooking careers. I checked out several of these from the library and started reading and... it's not the fun I thought it would be,

I read Julie and Julia last year and it was awesome, and I loved it. I also read I Loved I Lost I Made Spaghetti and loved it as well. Ditto the recently read The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry. I also read a few others so that's what nudged this project along for me. I thought since I tend to gravitate to these books and enjoy them, reading several for a theme month would be fun. I was wrong.

First, I screwed up because I ended up with books that weren't exactly what I was looking for. While Spaghetti, Knife and Julie were about just regular women doing cooking, the books I found were a bit different. I read Garlic and Sapphires which was about a woman who was a food critic for the NYTimes. While it was interesting, it wasn't what I wanted, exactly. I read The Recipe Club which was a fictional story of the friendship between two women told through letters and recipes. While it wasn't what I wanted, I did, however, REALLY enjoy it, and was glad I found it (thanks for the recommendation from a fellow blogger who pens Food for Thought!)

Then I found a book called Spoonfed about a woman who turned critic and something about her messed up life and blah blah blah. I have to admit I didn't even finish it! Spiced was about the alleged drama in the life of a new pastry chef. And it wasn't that dramatic as it claimed to be; I read it cover to cover waiting for the spiciness.

I wanted more of a feel like Julie, Knife and Spaghetti, I guess. Or maybe I read too many of the same genre all together. Whatever my problem, I just know it wasn't my best plan. So now, I'm back to mixing it up a bit. I'm got lots of good books in my stack:

  • a new Greg Rucka book with the Atticus Kodiak character
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • State Fair (a Bennie Harper mystery) by Earlene Fowler
  • Beachcombers
So with that failed projected off my plate, I can turn to my waiting list of books, which is about 100 right now. Until I come up with another harebrained scheme!

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book 51- Fly Away Home

When Sylvie Woodruff was in college and when she met Richard she was a wild bohemian girl. Now in her mid 50s she's a politicians wife: put together, elegant, perfect, and stand behind your man sort of woman. Who just found out, in a very public way, that her politician husband Richard screwed a woman.

Sylvie goes into hiding at her family summer home while she tries to decide what she wants to do with her life and her marriage.

Her daughters are as different as night and day. Dianna the doctor has it all but feels her life is terrible and in the midst of it all, she takes a leave of absence from work and goes to the beach house with her mother. The other daughter, Lizzie, is the family screw up who's been in and out of rehab. She's trying to get her life right this time, but she makes a new type of mistake and she too flees to the beach house to be with her mother.

None of these women were close to each other, but now they all come together, each with her own struggle, and try to find a way to survive, and they are all brought closer together.

This was a well written story (who could've used a better editor because I found 4 glaring errors) but it was predictable. It became a pretty traditional romance novel combined with chick lit. It's good for a beach read, but wait for it to come out in softcover. I was so disappointed because I wanted something more. I loved author Jennifer Weiner's In Her Shoes and felt it had a dash of the unpredictable and wish she would be more daring in her writing again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book 50- Garlic and Sapphires

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise is about former New York Times restaurant critic's adventures in reviewing. It's also about her evolution as a reviewer and the great lengths she went to get get fair treatment rather than the royal treatment reserved for critics and kings. Though in one instance, she received better treatment than a king.

She donned disguises and took friends, family members, and colleagues to eat in the best of the best that NYC has to offer. During this time in her life as being the most important food person in... well, the world, she also went through a personal evolution and realized this wasn't the sort of writer she wanted to be. It also wasn't the sort of "eater" she wanted to be.

Author and former NYTimes critic Ruth Reichl is not the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine.

This is obviously a memoir and try as I might reviewing someone's life doesn't seem right. So basically I can say it was entertaining but still sort of sad. It's sad that such "fancy" and "exclusive" restaurants give crappy treatment and cheat the food to the poor and unknowns who visit their establishments. It was nice for someone like Reichl to go through what she did to give honest reviews. The anecdotes she shared about her son Nicky were some of my favorite parts of this non-fiction story.

I like that she enclosed recipes within her her book, of her favorite foods to fix, since she really loves to cook.

I still liked Julie and Julia and I Loved I Lost I Made Spaghetti better!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book 49- Spiced

Spiced: A pastry chef's true stories of trials by fire, after hours exploits, and what goes on in the kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen is a memoir of her early years as a pastry chef. And it basically is what she said it is: what goes on in the kitchen during and after hours. It's not scathing nor is it raunchy, but just a factual account of her pastry making experiences.

I did enjoy this book when I read it but as I sit here writing the review and summation, I can't think of any reason it stands out that made me REALLY like it, or even, any special details to share about it. Again, it's certainly part of a genre I enjoy reading: women, food, cooking. She tells her story in a pleasant voice, and she also doesn't take herself too seriously. Almost, but not quite.

Actually, she really deviates from what I like best about the "memoir by a woman about her life turned to cooking" stories- the humor, the love, the humor. She was sort of funny, but it didn't seem as real as some of the other books in the genre. Again, it was a pleasant enough of a read but nothing that makes me jump and down for having read it. One other thing was missing as well: recipes. She talked about all these wonderful desserts she created and it was a memoir so recipes, or at least PHOTOS of her creations would've been just lovely.

I guess I didn't like it so much after all. I hope her pastry is better than her book.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book 48- Sizzling 16

Bounty Hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum is back and this time she's hunting for her slimy, sexual deviant boss and cousin Vinnie. Vinnie who owns the bond office has been kidnapped and if Steph wants to keep Rex in hamster pellets she needs to find him. Even though having him killed by his bookie's goons doesn't seem all that unappealing, Steph is from the Berg, in Trenton, where the family rules. And since Vinnie is family...

But finding Vinnie is tougher than it seems. But with reformed ho' Lula as her sidekick and with Connie the Italian mobster's daughter office manager in tow, the three women find Vinnie. Then lose Vinnie. Then get him back and lose him again...

Between the typical Ranger and Steph sexual tension, the Mooner, some Hobbits, Cluck In A Bucket, Grandma Mauzer's typical spectacle at the funeral home, some car wrecks, and some other crazy FTAs that Steph has to catch, we have a rollicking good time story with plenty of giggles and some interesting "action."

I love these books. I would love them more if Steph would have more Ranger sex. And I think this one is better than the last few, though this is the 16th in the series so it's nice to see a bit of "freshness" in Evanovich's writing.

And I did break my stride of 'women, food, memoirs' because I LOVE this series and was dying for it to be released!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I didn't like it

So I decided I was going to read a bunch of books with the theme of women, cooking, food and memoirs. I think I should be more specific. I should've said I want to read about women who love to cook so they do cook. Sometimes they go to school to cook and other times they cook for fun and pleasure. I also like that the cooking is tied to their lives, to love, to fun stuff, to laughs and tears.

I ordered a bunch of books from the library with what I thought was going to be what I wanted. the first book I read was fiction but I really liked it. I knew it was fiction when I ordered it but I did like it. The second one was a memoir, non-fiction called Spoon Fed: How 8 Cooks Saved My Life. This is not what I was wanting to read at all. I guess the author liked to cook but she's actually a food journalist. So she writes about food like articles as well as restaurant reviews. This particular book wasn't about her love of cooking influenced her life.

It was about a bunch of people who did food stuff that she admired. And it was boring. Each chapter read like a mini bio of these 8 folks with a small blip about how much she admired these people.

I didn't finish this book. I read about 80 pages and stopped. I feel bad when I don't finish a book. I also think if I've read about a third then I should finish it but I just couldn't. I was finding about 300 other things to do than read this book. So I gave up and returned it to the library. It's the first book of the year- I think- that I started and didn't finish.

Now on to the next one...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book 47- The Recipe Club

Earlier this month I said I wanted to read a bunch of memoirs about women and cooking. Well, tucked into the recommendations for this genre was this fictional novel, which I decided to include in my personal theme, and I'm glad I did. This is the first in my grouping of women and food books, with the focus usually to be on memoirs, but since this is the exception, it's first. More about women, food and memoirs will follow over the next month.

The bulk of The Recipe Club by authors Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel is an exchange of letters between two life long friends who always love and hate each other. The chronicling of the friendship between Val and Lilly is also punctuated by recipes; their story spans from childhood into their middle-aged adulthood.

This was an interesting story and I didn't always like the characters, but I like the letter exchange way of telling a story. And while often found the story predictable, I have to say I liked the book because of the format. I also LOVE the layout of the book. It's is laid out as emails and letters, which changing fonts and the pages are in color with pictures and such, so it actually LOOKS like letters oft times. I like the "stationary" and post cards, and little drawings. I'm a letter writer and I do things like that when I send a paper letter through the USPS.

I also thought the recipes were great. I liked they were all easy and very practical, nothing to complicated, and made with ingredients that are going to be accessible to most people, and they sound delicious and basic, but yummy.

So, I'm glad that I read a review from Food for Thought blogger Once in a Blue Moon. I enjoyed the concept of this novel, the basic story was fine, but the food and fun lay out were the kick for me!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book 46 The Lace Reader

I can't decide if I like this book, or not. The Lace Reader (by Brunonia Barry) is set in Salem Massachusetts in 1996.

Towner (aka Sophya) Whitney, a young woman from a long line of fortune tellers and mind readers, comes back to her childhood home because of the death of her beloved aunt. Towner is a self proclaimed liar and claims she's had hallucinations, which caused her to become an inpatient in a mental institution who requested shock therapy. Now "better", or at least medicated, she returns home after having just had a surgery (which readers never find out specifically what happened, though we can guess through some veiled references) to her Aunt Eva's house.

She knows her aunt didn't accidentally drown. While trying to convince a local authorities of this, based on her feelings and visions, she comes in contact with Rafferty, a police detective takes a romantic interest in Towner. He was also friends with Eva and he doesn't want to believe she drown either.

During the course of the story, Towner also meets with her mother, May, who gave Towner's twin sister away when they were babies. May gave her to her sister Emma. Emma was married to Cal, who beat her do badly she's mentally handicapped and blind now. May takes care of her. But Towner's sister suffered in a childhood tragedy. Call is now out of prison and has started his own cult like religion and causes problems for the whole Whitney family. May also takes in abused women and gives them a job as lace makers, and a safe place to stay.

Because the mystic abilities that run in the Whitney family, all the women are fortune tellers or readers of some kind, and they can all "read lace" as a way of telling a fortune. Apropos since they family fortune comes from making lace, too.

Take all these pieces together, Rafferty is trying to solve the death of Eva and to see if it ties in to the disappearance of Angela, a girl who ran away from Cal's cult, and you have The Lace Reader. I like the setting in Salem; obviously the witch history plays a part in this novel. The peripheral storyline of witches, and the tourists who visit the historical town, as well as the modern day witch who inhabit Salem are an interesting and fun part of the story.

There is a wicked, wicked (no pun intended) twist to this story. Interesting read. I also found at the beginning of each chapter interesting because of the lace reading information.

I just can't decide if I like this or not. It was sad, tragic really, and though I like a good twist, I thought this one was "twisted." Psychological thrillers often leave me feeling out of sorts. I also hate it when author's leave important details left unanswered.

Just not sure how I feel about this one...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Books I've loved and hated over the years

I love, love, love Water for Elephants. I'm tell everyone I know to read it or buy it. Could be a gift for friends and family for Christmas, I love it so much! I was hesitant about this novel at first. I read reviews of it about a million times. I was carrying it around in a book store to buy and some guy asked me if I read it yet and when I said no (uh... logic here... I'm in the store ready to BUY it...hello?) he raved about its greatness. And it WAS good. I love the female author telling a first person POV of an old guy and in flashback no less. I like the circus, the touch of romance, the mystery, the passion, the sensuality, the friendship building, the story line and the tone. This was a good read. Once I got going, I couldn't put it down. I read it several years ago and it was so good, I might to pull it out and reread it. I highly recommend it. Get this book!

Then there is the opposite of loving to hating with The Mermaid Chair. Do not waste your money on The Mermaid Chair. This is tripe. This is a bad wanna be The Thorn Birds and doesn't even come close. This sucks. I was so disappointed. I have no idea how a mom cutting off her thumb, a childhood trauma, a mermaid legend, religion, and a failing marriage all come together to make a story. Oh wait... they don't! I hate this book. Actually, the more I write about it, the more I dislike it. Yuck!

Maybe I should stick to writing about books I love? I've been lucky to be able to teach one of my all time favorite books: To Kill a Mockingbird. I love reading this book. Scout's voice gives me the good chills. And it doesn't hurt that Hollywood helped with a positive visual in that of Mr. Gregory Peck. I love this novel and teaching it is a true pleasure in life.

I've also taught another favorite: A Separate Peace. Again, another coming of age story that's an intelligent read to boot. I like the language and the simple ideas but complex emotions that tie this story together. (Oh listen to me being all up in Oprah's book club shit- take that Ms. Winfrey!) I read this the first time when I was a sophomore in high school and for me, it never gets old.

And if I haven't said to go read anything by Greg Isles- then by all means go! Now! Well, not now, after you read ME, then go get one of his books. Better yet, click over to Amazon, order a book and come back here. I would suggest Turning Angel. I would suggest anything. I've also read Devil's Punchbowl and True Evil- both are good, chilling, terrifying. His mysteries are a far cry from the cookie cutter sleuth stories that are being tossed at us by publishers at an alarming rate. His mind is sharp and he entwines many plot twists and turns. The deep south setting adds to the story; there is something already "haunting" about the deep south with it's historical ghost lore, so I think stories set there are creepy to start with. And this is not to say he writes ghost stories- I'm just using that as a comparison that lends to the unsettling setting. I always feel my heart pound and I feel sweaty when there is some excitement building because it's not just hot in the south in his books, but it's damn sweltering HOT, and he builds on this, creating a place for the reader just inside the door of the story. Gawd, his books are marvel-ous!

Furthermore, while you're clicking around finding stuff to read over at Amazon instead of reading me, read 1000 Splendid Suns. This was a great follow up novel to The Kite Runner, which you better read, in case you so haven't. Both are wonderful. Don't let the setting- Iraq- stop you. This is a masterful story and it made me cry and made me self aware and made me think and gave me joy and sometimes made me a little bit uncomfortable with the world around me. Good, good, good. I love a book that I can read for pleasure and also that makes me think. The Kite Runner is one of the best books ever written.

Now, we all know that I practically worship Christopher Moore. And I love ALMOST anything he writes. But I have a problem with the vampire series. I don't have a problem with vampires at all, but sometimes I just think the story lines in this series sort of... suck. (haha- puns!) I don't exactly hate You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore but I sure as hell don't love it and nor would I recommend it. The pop culture references of the vampire sub culture were made with such fluency that if you aren't a vampyre lover and master to the culture then you were totally outta da loop. (I've never watched an episode of Buffy nor watched that sister witch show all the way through... I had a rough time with all the vampire references.) I like Christopher Moore's books, usually, but this would be the exception. Turning your lover into a vampire because you are lonely and don't want to spend eternity alone is a hard place to start a story and for me... it just didn't work. A blue hooker? A gang of vampire hunters who work at the Safeway? A homeless guy who is god-like? An 800+ year old vampire out for revenge and a 16 year old goth girl with a gay side kick who has to save the world? Uh...nope. And that carries into Bite Me, which I read earlier this year and have about the same opinion of it as well!

Finally, I think reading Jodi Picoult is a great way to spend some reading time. Alert: if you want happy chick lit, beach reads, James Patterson snappy-ness, then DO NOT read her. She is deep. She is smart. She is complex. She is a WRITER. Her books can have grit and meat. These are books written in a conversational way but sucks the reader in. The material is hard hitting. Touching. Painful sometimes. But this is some of the best fiction I've read in a long, long time. I've read many of her books but since she is heavy and sometimes emotional, I try and spread her out through my leisure reading. (And when I say heavy and emotional I don't mean depressing all the time!) Check out 19 Minutes, Plain Truth The 10th Circle, House Rules, and My Sister's Keeper. Oh wow- and the endings blow me away each and every time. Totally unpredictable.

Okay, now go buy or find your library card and read, read, read!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book 45- Home Repair

Home Repair is a nice little novel about a woman whose first husband died and her second one left her while she was having a rummage sale. And that's probably the best part of the book.

Eve must persevere while she deals with her aging crabby mother, her son Marcus who is about ready to graduate from high school but can't seem to pass his driving test, her daughter Noni who misses her dad but is years older than her 9 years, and her life that's falling apart.

She works in the Art department of a college. Eve is also loosing lots of weight, walks her dogs, meets a Koren family that she starts tutoring English, and she meets Jonah, a man who works at the park and hits on her. She wants to redecorate her house and her car is falling apart. How much can go wrong with this woman?

There's more.

I like author Liz Rosenberg's writing style but i didn't care for the characters in this book. I appreciate the humor but it was just so depressing and so many bad things- and then throw in a few TRAGIC events- and it just was too mired in the sad for the humor to win out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book 44- Every Last One

Every Last One is a profoundly sad and powerfully written novel by author and columnist Anna Quindlen.

This is an unforgettable and beautifully written portrait of a mother and wife, of a woman who survives an unspeakable horror brought upon her life.

Mary Beth had built a wonderful life for herself and for her family. She and her husband Glen and their three children have a great life together. They are survivors. When one of her son's becomes depressed she gets him help. But in the midst of helping him she misses other things happening and her perfect world is shattered.

This is an amazing novel. I don't want to say any more so not to give any detail away. I've always been a fan of Quindlen's columns and this is the first novel of her's I've read. I enjoy her writing style most certainly, and they way she weaves a character is breathtaking. Excellent novel. Tragically sad, but excellent.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book 43- Jane Austen Ruined My Life

This started out very strong- the first paragraph made me laugh but by the end of Jane Austen Ruined My Life (by Beth Pattillo) it was merely chick lit. Dang!

Emma Grant gets divorced and loses her job, so she's homeless, penniless and loveless. And it's all Jane Austen's fault, or so Emma thinks. So in an effort to try and resurrect her career, if nothing else, she goes to England in search of the lost letters of Jane Austen.

Once Emma arrives in London she stays at her cousin's house only to find her best friend from college, Adam. Adam and Emma reconnect with each other and even though their friendship is blooming again, she can't tell Adam what she doing because he's a college professor like her and she doesn't want him to infringe on her project.

While she's looking for the missing letters she meets some quirky women who claim to be the guardians of the letters. This group, called the Formidables, make her complete tasks before she can 'see' the letters. And she develops a crush on her friend Adam.

It just screams Chick Lit; I was hoping by invoking the Austen name it would be more substantial but to no avail.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book 42- A Thousand Days in Venice

A Thousand Days in Venice [An Unexpected Romance] is a love story memoir by Marlena de Blasi. She chronicles her first trip to Venice, Italy and the relationship she has with the city, and the relationship she doesn't want to have, because it's the city of love and magic. After she succumbs to the city, she returns often and then one day, the magic of the city takes her over with an encounter with a strange man.

And in an instant, they have fallen in love. And after a few days and a visit, they plan to marry. Marlena plans to give up her career, her cafe, her home, most of her belongings, her life as she knows it, to move to Venice for this love affair, this romance, this first time with love, and she's well into her 50s when this happens.

This isn't something she does as a young woman, but as a grown adult.

And she does it in a rush. They don't take time to get to know each other, they rush, head long into this romance, and from their meeting in December, she moves in June to Venice and they marry in October. Ah sweet Venice, so she can marry her Venetian, a man she calls the Stranger. To a man who speaks very little English and she, a woman who speaks very little Italian, except for food.

I do like the whirl wind of it all. I like that she argues that she didn't want to wait, didn't need to wait, didn't need to go slowly, because why wait when you found the person you're in love with, why wait to be with him any longer? And the magic of it all, is that he felt the same way about her. It was an instant.

Now, what I didn't like, or maybe I should say, who I don't like is her Venetian, her Fernando. He's sort of an ass. And after she gets to Venice, it became rather mired in the "I'm living here so I have to learn everything" drudgery. She just seemed to go on and on about the slowness of the Italian culture, from cooking to planning the wedding to re-doing their apartment; it was such a long process of telling of the long process- blech.

I was hoping it would be rather like the other books I've read but there was very little love of food, though there are recipes at the back of the book. There is quite a bit of just... well, love. Love of the Stranger, love of Venice, learning to love herself, love her apartment, love of wanderlust, but very love WITH food, Fernando mostly didn't even love food. And I felt like this book had an author who lost her self, lost her own identity, who she was, with this huge transformation. I wholeheartedly agree that moving around the world for love is wonderful, but as I read I just felt like de Blasi gave up who she was for this adventure.

Or maybe it burst my bubble a bit. I've always wanted to visit Italy, especially Venice, but after much of her description, other than of the city itself, I think my frustration would come full tilt in dealing with the mindset of the people, rather than letting me fall slowly in love with the city of love.

Food, memoirs, women

So, I'm thinking about a "reading theme" for myself for the summer. I'll read other stuff, but I was thinking of trying to read several books of a particular type.

I really enjoyed the book Julie and Julia: 356 Days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment (and I also loved the movie!) last year. Another one of my favorite books I read last year was I Loved I Lost I Made Spaghetti. And earlier this week I finished The Sharper the Knife, The Less You Cry and enjoyed it immensely. What do all these have in common? They're memoirs of women who have made some life changes that usually revolve around food, cooking, eating, or all three. For some reason, this particular genre has hugely interested me. I don't know if it's the journeys these women take, if it's all the food, if it's their writing styles, their voices.... I don't know, but I do know that I really like this particular style. I usually enjoy a memoir by a woman (Eat Pray Love seems to be the exception to that rule since I hated that book- yeah, I'm the only woman in the world who hates that book, it seems. So, shoot me!) and I've read several. But the one's about food/ cooking and the woman searching for something in life really speak to me.

I have no desire to go to a cooking school but I do love food. I love to cook and I LOVE to eat. I like to be creative in the kitchen when time and resources allow for such. The food part is always interesting. And life and food always generate some wonderful metaphors and analogies from "Life is like a box of chocolates" to "people are like onions. Keep peeling back the layers.." sort of thinking.

The women who've written the three books I've read so far are pretty smart women, too. I like how they've written their stories, and they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. I also like that all these start at the adult point in their lives. Food may been important to them since they were children or someone in their childhood might have influenced their food love, but these are memoirs not biographies so I like forgoing the long drawn out family stories about food- blah blah blah. I like the here and now, "I am woman, hear me cook" sort of stories.

The one thought that gives me pause is that if I read several more of these books, will I burn myself out? Will I feel as if I've over indulged in this decadent dessert type of reading to the point where I'll be sick? (I said I like food metaphors and analogies.)

I've made a list of titles:

  • Garlic and Sapphires: The secret life of a food critic in disguise
  • Cakewalk: A Memoir
  • Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life
  • Spiced: A Pastry Chef's true stories of Trials by Fire, After Hours Exploits, and What really Goes on on the Kitchen
  • Under the Table: Saucy tales from Culinary School
  • Lunch in Paris: A love story, with recipes
I've always enjoyed books about food. I read several fiction writers who incorporate food in their story lines and characters. It just seems to be something I'm drawn to.

Now I just have to see what the local library has, what Half Price Books has and what I can get ILL and from Amazon. And if anyone here has any of these and wants to share, please let me know!