Monday, December 31, 2007

The Challenge!


Everyone has chosen their five books that represent them and is now busily reading away on the books they've chosen to read! I'm looking forward to all the discussions about books that have been chosen. I'm also working on a PDF file that you can print out that includes all the books on the sidebar so that you can continue reading after the challenge is over -- I know you want to read more of these books than you can fit in in the next 5 months!

What a fun challenge! (3M's Wrap-Up)

This was a great challenge, Lisa, and I hope you do it again next year. I ended up with 7 titles when I said I would do 5-6, so I consider it a success. Thanks so much!

My wrap up post is here.

Juli's Challenge Wrap Up!

I had a great time participating in this challenge. I read so many good reviews and added a lot of new books to my TBR pile.

My full wrap up is here.



Juli's Review: So Many Books, So Little Time

Author: Sara Nelson

Pages: 232

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

In early 2002, Sara Nelson-editor, reporter, reviewer, mother, daughter, wife, and compulsive reader-set out to chronicle a year's worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the real world. She had a system all set up: fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books . . . and it all fell apart the first week. That's when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for: In reading, as in life, even if you know what you're doing, you really kind of don't.

I have to admit I did not think I would enjoy this book at all. Reading about someone else reading? It sounded boring to me. I also thought it started slowly and I almost put it down (Nelson actually talks about knowing you’re a grown up when you can put down a book unfinished because you don’t like it). Nelson really doesn’t summarize the plots of the books. She talks more about how they impacted her life or the impression they made or what they reminded her of. It was also interesting to hear her views about other people as readers.

What I Liked: Nelson reminded me of the memories books trigger in you. Where you were, a certain person, what you were doing at that point in your life. Some books you keep going back to like an old friend. She wasn’t afraid to be honest about the good and bad aspects of her life. There is an appendix that lists the books she was planning to read and the books she did actually read. I added several books to my to be read pile

What I Did Not Like: Nelson is a book snob. She seems like she wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere reading a Stephen King novel. She actually picked her books to take on a vacation based on how she thought she would look to the other women on the trip. She wanted to impress them. She considered (or did) ending friendships over bad book recommendations because of what they said about the person who recommended them.

I found this book on three lists: Sally, Vasilly and If I were to generalize and be kinda corny I would say they all have wayyyy more books to read than they have time for (well...who doesn't?). I would also guess they enjoy challenging themselves in various ways, not just those related to books. I also wondered if they had a hard times choosing their books like Nelson did. She was so picky!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Juli's Review: Gallery of Regrettable Food

Author: James Lileks

Pages: 191

Date: 2001

Genre: Non-Fiction, Comedy, Pop Culture

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:

WARNING: This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine decent, honest American spices. Learn to heed the advice of stern, fictional nutritionists. If you see any of these dishes, please alert the authorities.

Now, the good news: laboratory tests prove that The Gallery of Regrettable Food AMUSES as well as informs. Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its GENEROUS PORTIONS OF HILARITY and ghastly pictures from RETRO COOKBOOKS. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food.

Bon appetit!

I thought this book was absolutely fantastic based mainly upon it's uniqueness. Basically Lileks makes fun of recipes he has found dating from the 50's to the 70's. It had incredible photos of the dishes, retro fonts and colors, and a cool layout. I laughed out loud several times. He shows pictures of each dish and then "talks" about that dish. Most of the dishes are just plain disgusting. There were two chapters near the end that dragged a little but besides that it was a very fast read. I plan on keeping it on my coffee table so people can grab it for a good laugh.

Ladies, serve toast--and well-groomed twins in tuxedos will want to have sex with you!

Perhaps that circle is not a cross section of a spine, but a blowhole (ahem) of sorts--of a false eye to confuse predators. Put it on the floor and watch it frighten the dog.

This looks very much like a magnified cluster of warts. Although warts don't usually come with parsely.

I don't know, and I don't want to know. I just don't. It's a cucumber fun house, perhaps: notice how they seem to be pressing against the sides of the mold as if demanding our attention. Help! We're being felt up by smelly salmon in here --let us out

James Lileks has a website "The Official Institute of Good Cheer" on which the Gallery of Regrettable Food is based.

I picked this books from Tiny Librian's list and I would have to say she has a great, quirkcy sense of humor!

Tiny Little Librarian's Wrap-Up

Thanks so much, Lisa! This has been an awesome challenge.

My (rather long!) wrap-up is

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Juli's Review of The Echo Maker

From the back cover:

On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman--who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister--is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition. In The Echo Maker, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our boldest and most entertaining novelists.

If you can get through the first 100 pages of this book it is well worth reading. This is one of the more intricate novels I’ve read in awhile. There is a lot going on that is cleverly intertwined…neurology, biology, ecology, relationships…there are four or five main characters whose lives layer over each other in an amazing and sometimes sad way.
At times it was confusing. Not because it was poorly written, I just had a hard time following on occasions. For the most part I just kept reading to see what the human mind was capable of.

I selected this book from 3M's list (Michelle). When I finished reading the book and read why she picked it I was shocked to learn that she HAD Capgras and Cotards Syndrome in college! I tried to imagine her (even though I don't know her) in situations similar to those in the book. It must have been a difficult and strange time to say the least. I assume/hope that she is no longer suffering from those conditions as it seems so painful for everyone involved.

I found the book very interesting because I have degrees in psychology and biology and they overlap perfectly here. Great recommendation if you have the right mindset.

(completed 11.26.07)

The sisterhood of the traveling pants

Well, following Lisa's post, I guess I read this just in time. This was my last book for the Something about me Challenge although I did read others from people's lists that weren't on my original or alternate to read list. In the process, I discovered that I really don't enjoy the constraints of a challenge (but I may still be back for 2008!) and prefer to just read what people recommend, or new books that come out, or interesting books I find in my travels (both virtual and real). I did enjoy the camaraderie of seeing the books everyone chose and why.
I enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but didn't love it. I am curious enough to read the rest of the series although not immediately. So thanks to Lisa and everyone and see you in 2008!


Diary of a Young Girl

I finally got around to reading Diary of a Young Girl (the story of Anne Frank). I had, of course, read my fair share of excerpts from this in school, but I never read the whole thing. Pattie has raved about it and it made her Something About Me List, so I bought a copy. Actually, I think I got my copy off of Bookmooch. Anywho. It sat in my room and did not get read. I am not sure why I had trouble picking it up.

So, I added it to my Baby Steps Challenge list. Still, I procrastinated.
Finally, I picked it up, unwilling to greet the new year without having completed it.

It was wonderful.

And sad.

I knew Anne's story well enough to know it was NOT a happy ending kind of book, but I knew little enough about the details to not feel like I had read the last page first. I found the diary so real and honest. It reminded me of my OWN diary from that age. When I would find myself thinking Anne was sounding like a spoiled brat, I realized I had too at that age. The point of a diary is you CAN sound like a brat, b/c no one else will ever read it. In Anne's case, the world has seen her good and bad side.

The story is universal as far as teen girls go.


The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Chasida)

Susie Salmon is 14 when she is raped and murdered by a neighbour on December 6th 1973. He dumps her body parts in a sink hole, locked inside an old safe. As it turns out, she is by no means his first victim and she won't be his last.

Up in heaven Susie gets to watch her family and friends deal with her death and continue with their lives, although she is not able to influence her. She watches her father suspect their neighbour with no one believing him, her mother begin an affair and disengage from her family, her sister get her first boyfriend and her younger brother lock his feelings away. One final chance is left to Susie on earth in the form of Ruth, a girl who was in her class in school.

I mostly really enjoyed this novel. The idea of heaven was interesting and I liked that it was forever changing as the soul changed and learnt new things about themselves, earth and the people still living there. It was also good to see how the different people dealt with Susie's death, it was very realistic writing. The only part I didn't like so much was near the end in a scene involving Ruth, Ray and Susie which spoilt the realistic illusion for me a little. That it didn't particularly have a happy ending to Susie's case again made it more real somehow and the fact that her death still remained somewhat of a mystery.

Friday, December 28, 2007

We're almost done here!

Hi all. I'm just going to assume everyone has finished the challenge for the final prize drawing...(except a couple of you who are in the sidebar, but didn't participate after all...)

If you didn't finish and you want to play by the rules, you can let me know and I'll leave you out of the drawing, but I won't tell if you don't!! I'm not, by nature, a rule player. :)

Hope you all had fun doing this challenge. I'll leave this blog up if you want to reference it, and see you here next year for Something About Me 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen: Trish's Review

I am so thrilled that I finished with this challenge and with such a pleasant read!

Pride and Prejudice was my final selection for this challenge. My review can be found on HERE on my blog. Because the story is so well-known I don't discuss the plot so much as a few of my feelings. While I really enjoyed the story, I'm a sucker for the new movie-version with Kiera Knightly. Yes, some parts were butchered out, but certain scenes I think are portrayed so beautifully to show the tension between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy.

If you haven't read this one, I would recommend it as the quintessential romance novel. Enjoy!

A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly

Here's another enthusiastic review for this challenge. I can't believe that so many of the best reads of the year for me come from here. First "Weetzie Bat", then "The Giver" and now "A gathering light"(or "A Northern Light") by Jennifer Donnelly.
Read why on my blog.

I'm still reading the last book on my list, so I don't think I'll manage to finish the challenge. Unless I can swap this one with another book that I read (The Giver) which wasn't on my original list. Would that count?:P
Anyway, it doesn't matter, I hope I'll manage to post another review before the end of december!

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury (Faith)

Guy Montag is a fireman. This job involves setting fire to books as opposed to putting out fires. The title of the book, "Fahrenheit 451", is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. People are being made alike and to achieve this books are being taken away to stop people who read from knowing more than others. In place of books the television has taken over with broadcasts being 24 hours a day on large walls in every home. Secretly however, Montag has been rescuing the odd book from places he has torched and hiding them in his house without giving it much thought.

One day he meets 17 year old Clarisse McClellan who helps show him how to begin questioning things again and then he attends a fire that changes him forever. He saves The Bible (possibly the last copy in existence) from the house and shows his wife his collection which they begin to read. He also tracks down a man he met in a park once who becomes involved in Montag's life for the better for both of them. The system is on to Montag though and has been silently and secretly monitoring for who knows how long. Will he manage to keep his secrets hidden and retain his books...

I really loved this book. The characters were really well written especially Montag and the Captain at the Firestation, they have a wonderful battle of words about half way through about how books can both assist an arguement and then in the same novel turn around and give the exact opposite opinion. A bunch pf professors being exiled and forced into hiding, memorising whole novels to keep the words alive is a great idea for a story. The afterward was particularly interesting about looking at how television is already conquering our lives and encouraging you to go out and get others to read more which I am sure will appeal to many out there reading this post. It compliments 1984 by George Orwell nicely and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky (LMC)

Raskolnikov, Rodion Romanovich sets out one day in the middle of a fever to kill pawn broker and money lender Alena Ivanovna. He fashions a loop of cloth inside his jacket to hide an axe after hearing her sister Lizaveta will be away one evening and she will be at home alone. Once he gets to her flat, his plans soon seem to come undone. After killing Alena, Lizaveta arrives home earlier than expected and Raskolnikov has forgotten to lock the front door. In the spur of the moment he kills her as well and then flees the scene, taking Alena's purse and some possessions.

Interweaving the story of Raskolnikov is the story of his sister Dunya. She was a governess in a household where the gentleman of the house fell in love with her. His wife arranged for her to be married to clerk Luzhim, Peter Petrovich much to her brothers disgust. Both force her to choose between them and in the meantime her former boss Svidrigaylov, Arkady Ivanovich turns up to cause further trouble for Dunya.
What is really interesting is Raskolinkov's reasons, or lack of, for the murder. He doesn't really appear to have any and he certainly expresses little or no remorse during the course of the book. He refers to Alena as an "old witch" and barely mentions Lizaveta who was such a gentle soul. He gets involved with a prostitute (Sofya Semenovna) and her family who end up being his salvation ultimately.

There are some great cat and mouse games and converations between Raskolinkov and Porfiry Petrovich (the examining magistrate) as the net around Raskolinkov tightens. Do the police know the truth or are they just playing games with him? The book isn't so much about the crime (although it is frequently mentioned) or the punishment of it by law, it's more about suffering. Raskolinkov seems to make things worse for himself by randomly confessing to people and then pretending he was joking to further increase his suffering (perhaps because of his lack of guilt and motive?). It also discusses the nature of crime and his particular belief that some people who are geniuses are above the law (like Napoleon). It also parallels Dostoevsky's own experiences with crime and just escaping being put to death at the last moment to be exiled to Siberia.

It took me a little to get into this novel as it is pretty complicated, luckily my copy had a really handy guide to the Russian names at the back as they kept using different names for the same person. Once I did get stuck in, I fell in love with it. The climax is gripping the edge of your seat to see how it all plays out and I found it nearly impossible to put down. I highly recommend it if you haven't yet found the time for it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Harry Potter

I didn't originally choose Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in this challenge (and indeed, you will not find it on my list); however, I decided to write a bit about it as I've just finished all seven books in the series.

I wasn't going to let my daughter read these until I'd read them, mainly because of the swirl of controversy surrounding them. But to my surprise, I really enjoyed them, and I couldn't put them down. In fact, I had to check them out of the library 2 and 3 at a time, because I wanted to start the next one right after finishing the previous one!

This morning, shortly after midnight, I finished the seventh and final installment. They were really, really good books. Controversy? Well, those who want to find it can surely find it if they look (after all, anyone looking for something to complain about, will find it!).

Because it's looking doubtful that I'll finish my Something About Me list, I wish to submit the seven HP books as substitutes for the ones I didn't get to.

An Inconvenient Wife

An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance

Summary (from Booklist): Mrs. Lucy Carelton, who comes from one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in 1880s New York City, has been completely undone by her nerves. Her ambitious husband, a nouveau riche stockbroker, drags her from one doctor to another in search of a cure that will allow her to fulfill her many social obligations without giving in to hysteria. They think they have found the solution in charismatic neurologist Victor Seth, a champion of a relatively new procedure called hypnotism. Seth sets about freeing Lucy from the social constraints that have made her so unhappy, encouraging her to pursue her artistic talents and explore her sexuality. Seth convinces himself that his techniques, including his handy way with an electrotherapy wand, are all in the name of science, but even he is unprepared for the new Lucy who emerges - a passionate, calculating, amoral creature of large appetites.

I really enjoyed how this book kept changing - at first it seemed like it was going to be an exploration of women's submissive role in 19th century society, then it got into Seth and his ambitious quest for recognition by the medical community and it looked like he'd be a Svengali, then Lucy became her own person, so it looked like it would be about her new life, and then there was a major plot twist!

At first I was concerned that it was just going to be about Lucy and her hysteria, a fairly simple historical fiction, and I wasn't sure if I'd like it. But, as you can see above, it kept me very interested. It was well-researched, with lots of interesting details about New York society and early medicine (apparently what I'd heard about vibrators being used to treat hysteria is indeed true!). Often the way Lucy's husband and father, and even Seth, treated her made me very angry, so I was glad when she emerged from their suppression as her own woman. The discussion of the power of the unconscious mind was also interesting, especially since it's something that's still being explored today.

I couldn't find LibraryLady's reasons for picking this one and her blog seems to have gone kaput, but I thank her very much for the recommendation, as I don't think it's one I would have stumbled across on my own and I'm very glad to have read it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This Side of Paradise

Ellen chose this book:
Sure, everyone loves The Great Gatsby, but Fitzgerald's first novel is more raw and sad and charming. I read it in high school and probably re-read it at least once a year.

I agree with her assessment of the book's rawness, sadness, and it's charm. This novel had some fun prose and interesting writing. Not the most riveting, but not the most boring thing I've read in awhile either. The novel started with that particular romanticism that captured the pre-World War I era, and while the war itself is not elaborated on, the book does a good job of exploring the effects of people post-war. The novel is in some ways less refined tha TGG, but it really outlines the themes and the raw writing potential of Fitzgerald.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Am The Messenger - Wendy's Book Review

People die of broken hearts. They have heart attacks. And it's the heart that hurts most when things go wrong and fall apart. - From I Am The Messenger, page 270 -

After reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief earlier this year (read my review here), I rushed right out and bought I Am The Messenger. It has taken me 11 months to actually sit down and read it...and although I can't rate it at the level of The Book Thief, I wasn't disappointed.

Ed Kennedy is a young taxi driver, a do-nothing sort of guy who hangs around with his friends playing cards and drinking coffee with his geriatric, smelly dog, The Doorman. Then one day he intervenes in a bank robbery...and his life changes. He begins receiving playing cards - aces - with messages he must figure out. The novel creates tension in that the reader (and Ed) are kept in the dark as to who the deliverer of the messages is...until the very last page.

Written in simple prose, but with Zusak's signature brilliant language, I Am The Messenger delivers powerful and profound messages of faith, the underlying goodness of humanity, and the admonition that one must risk and stretch to achieve their purpose in life.

I want words at my funeral.
But I guess that means you need life in your life. - From I Am The Messenger, page 278 -

I love that Zusak is still a young man with, I hope, lots more stories inside of him. He is a writer of immense talent, and I Am the Messenger is just another example of this.

Recommended; rated 4/5.

I read this book on the recommendation of Jill who says:

I love this story because it shows that we are all capable of doing wonderful things. The main character receives cryptic playing cards with clues written on them, and he's charged to do good deeds to designated strangers - the catch is that he doesn't know exactly what he's supposed to do. So he must observe and be creative. And figure it out, or else...
Thanks for the recommendation, Jill - great book!

Wendy's Challenge Wrap Up

Thank you to Lisa at Breaking the Fourth Wall for hosting this challenge! My original reading list consisted of more books, but the rules state that participants must complete five (5) books at a minimum...and I have done that, so I'm taking credit for a finish on this one. Here are the books I read:

1. The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett (Completed August 26, 2007; read a review here)
2. The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers (Completed September 6, 2007; read a review here)
3. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (Completed October 12, 2007; read a review here)
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Completed December 8, 2007; read a review here)

5. I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak (Completed December 17, 2007; read a review here)

My favorites were East of Eden AND A Thousand Splendid Suns - both of which I rated 5/5. There was not a "dud" in the bunch!

I still want to read many of the books on my original posting for this challenge...and will continue 'checking them off' and posting reviews as we move into 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Challenge Completed!

I made pretty good progress with the "Something About Me" reading challenge- finishing all of my main selections plus most of my alternates. I don't think I can squeak in I, Elizabeth before the year's end, so I will officially declare this challenge completed! Please check out my blog if you're interested in reading any of my reviews on these books.

Thanks to Lisa for hosting this challenge and to all of the participants who offered up so many great books to read!

1) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Alyson, Lucca) - I plan on reading Geraldine Brook's March for the Book Awards Challenge, but I wanted to brush up on the girls before I do. Completed September 16, 2007
2) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (Lucca) - A great excuse to finally read Capote! Completed September 3, 2007
3) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (SheReads) - This book is burning a hole on my bookshelf. I must get to it soon! Completed September 30, 2007
4) The Red Tent by Anita Diamante (Sarah Miller) - I always wanted to read this book - I am beginning to enjoy Biblical Fiction. Completed August 25, 2007
5) Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Chasida, Margo) - I loved Five Quarters of an Orange, and I loved this movie, and I love chocolate! I can't believe I haven't read this book. Completed August 18, 2007
6) Blindness by Jose Saramago (Vasilly) - I share a lot of reading tastes with Vasilly, and she lists this one as one of her favorites - plus I can use it for the Book Awards Challenge. Completed August 12, 2007

1) The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (Alyson) - This sounds like an intriguing story though I will wait for more reader reviews before I commit to reading. Completed July 23, 2007
2) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella (Margo) - Kinsella's books are perfect after reading deep, complicated fiction - perfect for the poolside! Completed October 12 2007

1) I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles (Soleil) - I enjoyed reading some of Philippa Gregory's Tudor stories and thought this would be a nice addition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Becky's Finishing Post....

For this challenge, I have read So Many Books So Little Time by Sara Nelson, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, and the Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo.

Update & a Question

Here's where I am:

Crime and Punishment (JMC)

Chocolat (Chasida, Margo)

Can you keep a secret (Kathrin)

Of Human Bondage (Athena)

The Thirteenth Tale (Kristin)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Janet, Stephanie)

The Robber Bride (Ellen)

Anne of the Island (Becky)

Anne of the Windy Poplars (raidergirl)

Breakfast at Tiffany's (Lucca)


The Red Tent (Sarah Miller)

March (Dewey)

The Writing Life (Megan)

Anne Frank (Pattie)

I can't see me completing the challenge at this time, but I want to continue reading all my books. Since we're nearing the end, what happens next? Will this blog continue for us slowpokes? Or is that it? Just wondering what everyone's thoughts were on this.


The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Oh gosh, this is one I should be careful with, because I know it's a beloved classic. But honestly, the title really summed it up for me - quite often I felt like it was literally never going to end and I really wanted it to.

I'm just not a fantasy girl, that was the main problem. I did enjoy some of the descriptions of the places in Fantastica - the many-coloured desert and the silver city, for example. And, rather like Inhkheart, I liked the idea of it - who hasn't wanted to be transported into a favourite book, especially when life isn't treating you very well? But it just kept going on and on with another place and weird character and another and another. Telling the whole story up until Bastian entered it and then starting over again was bizarre to me - I'm sure there was lots of deep meaning I didn't get, but the "Fantastica has always existed/nothing existed until you wished it" thing didn't really make sense to me. And I found Bastian very irritating, although I was happy that he got a good ending (and not just because it was the end :-) ).

It's funny, because I adore The Phantom Tollbooth, which I've just realized is quite similar - rather annoying boy enters a story and meets all kinds of weird characters and goes on a quest. I don't know, I guess it has a lot more humour (I found very little in this one) and it's shorter. Part of my problem with The Neverending Story could also be because it's translated - I seem to sometimes have trouble with translated works (I didn't really like The Little Prince, either, as you may recall).

Oh well, I'm still glad I read it, I've been meaning to for years, to add to my children's librarian repertoire. So thanks to Holly for recommending it!

"Check Out" this Novel Mystery!

Sorry for the pun. It just couldn't be helped!! That's what you get when you have a mystery that deals with books!! Booked to Die by John Dunning (432 pgs, Simon & Schuster) is a book I decided to read for the Something About Me Challenge. Bonnie choose it as one of her selections.
And it's the first book in the Cliff Janeway Mystery series.

Denver police officer, Cliff Janeway, is a bit of an enigma. He's a good, hard-working cop that used to be a boxer. AND he's a collector of rare books. Strange combination, that's for sure. He's known all along Denver's "Book Row", and is always willing to stop and look for a great find. When he gets a call late one evening to investigate a homicide, his book expertise actually helps him out. The victim, Bobby Westfall, is one of Denver's Bookscouts. Bobby spent all his days searching for 1st editions and trying to find the "Big Score".

At first, the murder looks like a random killing, although in the back of Janeway's mind, he suspects it's related to books. His first suspect is Jackie Newton, his arch enemy. Jackie is a thug with lots of money and power. Janeway has been trying to put him away for the murder of several homeless people ever since he moved to Denver, but has never been able to get a conviction.

When Jackie steps over the line by tormenting a woman that might testify against him, Janeway takes the law into his own hands. He literally beats the pulp out of Jackie. With an investigation and a lawsuit pending, Janeway turns in his badge and decides to become what he's always known his future would hold: A Bookman. Bobby's murder gets written off as a random killing.....until murder strikes Book Row once again.

What's not to love about this book? It involves two of my favorite things: mystery and books! Cliff Janeway is a great character. He's smart, tough, and knows his 1st Editions! There are enough twists to keep the pages turning. All the way to the final sentence in the book. And there's tons of information about rare books, enough to keep my interest piqued. You can tell that Dunning is a collector himself, and it radiates through the entire book. Booked to Die is a great mystery, and one I would highly recommend to anyone! I can definitely see that I will be continuing this series!!

Thanks Bonnie!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

wrap up by raidergirl3

Wow, what a fun challenge.
I liked picking my books.
I liked reading what books everyone else said represented them.
I liked making a list of books to read.
And I loved reading all these great books.

Final tally:

the books I read before it actually started include:
A Man Without a Country (kookiejar) - see review
So Many Books, So Little Time (sally,,vasilly,) - see review
The Echo Maker (3M) - see review
Uglies (faith) - dystopian challenge see review

The books I read for the challenge:
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (Kathrin)
I Am the Messenger - Markus Zasuk (jill mrsteme)
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (Becky, karlene)
Inkheart - Cornelia Funkle (becky shereads)
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry (booklogged)
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver (dewey)
The Thirteenth Tale - Dianne Setterfield (kristin)
Tale of Despereaux - Kate diCamillo (booklogged)
Lolita - Vladimir Nobokov (heather)

Thanks to Lisa for organizing it and everyone for their books and reasons. I'm keeping my list and I plan to read many more next year as well.

last book by raidergirl3

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
recommended by Heather
Heather said: It may scare some that this book says something about me. However, Lolita grew up with a skewed view of sexuality and how to experience it correctly. I did too. I often used my sexuality to get what I wanted, but eventually I found happiness with a man who loves me.
While I recognize that this is an important book and very popular, it didn't do it enough for me. It took me two weeks, at least and I never had a point where I couldn't put it down. That is for me what makes a book terrific: I can't stop reading it, I have to know more, read more. And this wasn't it.
Maybe too important for me. No doubt, Nabokov is a genius, and the book is layer upon layer of alllusions and riddles, with interesting debates about ethics and morals and insanity that could last forever. As with most classics I've read this year, I am glad I read it, but I certainly didn't love it. At least now I feel ready to read Reading Lolita in Tehran.
my full review is posted at my blog here

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sixpence House

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins

Being a book-lover, I confess I feel guilty for not liking this book any more than I did. But while the town of Hay sounds like a book-lover's dream vacation destination and Collins has a pretty good sense of humour, the point of this book was rather lost on me. Collins and his wife decide they can't afford to live in San Francisco any more and are craving a rural setting so they move not to a small town in the US, but across the Atlantic to Wales (with their baby son and hundreds upon hundreds of their own books). They'd visited Hay on vacation and liked it, so they try their hand at living there. But the town is a bit too weird and they can't find an affordable, non-deathtrap house, so they come back (apparently to live in a small town in Oregon or Vermont, which would have made sense in the first place). They don't even live in the titular Sixpence House, they just try to buy it before realizing it's a deathtrap. Collins peppers the book with passages from obscure books that he finds in Hay and there are some interesting characters in the townsfolk (particularly Richard Booth, the "King of Hay," who turned it into a bibliophile's mecca), but overall, I didn't find it particularly gripping. I'd certainly be happy to visit Hay one day, though!

I think the most interesting thing about this book was a serendipity moment - Nick Hornby was staying in Hay when he wrote the first column for the Believer that was included in The Polysyllabic Spree. I remember thinking, "I'm going to be reading a book about that town!"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Wendy's Book Review

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls."
-from a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi-

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a sweeping generational novel set in Afghanistan over the last thirty years from the Soviet invasion through the tortuous reign of the Taliban and the post-Taliban rebuilding years. Hosseini follows the lives of two women: Mariam and Laila. Mariam is a harami - an illegitimate child whose wealthy father casts her and her mother out of his home. When she is sold to the cruel Rasheed, a man who is easily 40 years her senior, Mariam's life becomes one of pain, disappointment, abuse and endurance...just as her mother had predicted.

"...There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don't teach it in school. Look at me." "You should not speak like this to her, my child," Mullah Faizullah said. "Look at me." Mariam did. "Only one skill. And it's this: tahamul. Endure."
-From A Thousand Splendid Suns, page 17-

Laila is born in Kabul, only doors away from where Mariam and Rasheed live. When war arrives in the city, Laila finds her world turned upside down and a twist of fate brings her and Mariam together.

Hosseini's novel reveals the horrible effects of war, and the abuse and mistreatment of women under the Taliban. Heartbreaking in its scope, the novel touched my heart and had me choking back tears. As a woman born in the United States, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around the outrages done against women in other parts of the world. To imagine a life where one is not allowed outside without being accompanied by a man; cannot show her face in public; may be stoned to death for a perceived attraction to someone other than one's husband; may not read, paint or even laugh without the fear of punishment; may be repeatedly beaten by one's husband and have no recourse in the almost beyond the scope of my imagination. And yet it has happened; is happening.

Hossein's novel is a must read - if only to remind us of the suffering of women in other countries, and the outrages of war. Beautifully written, fiercely powerful, and with a message about the redeeming quality of love and hope, A Thousand Splendid Suns is highly recommended; rated 5/5.

I read this book from Becky R's list. She said:
Because the Afghanistan and Pakistan have fascinated me recently. I have read a couple fiction books recently and went to the movie A Mighty Heart. This week I am also looking forward to hearing Kahled Hosseini speak. I have developed a hobby of catching some of my favorite authors at bookstores. I think it gives a reader a special window into why they wrote a book and it always amazing to hear an author read from his or her book.
Thanks for the recommendation, Becky. This was a fantastic book!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I've always meant to read this one, so thanks to Stephanie and Christina for suggesting it! I recall seeing a PBS miniseries about it when I was a kid, but don't recall much beyond Mrs. Danvers being really creepy. I don't think it told the back story of how Maxim met the narrator, so I was glad to find that out.

While I didn't race through it (it was my bus-reading book), I enjoyed it and the plot twist of Rebecca's death came as a surprise and then I found it really picked up. I liked all the descriptions of Manderley and wanted to live there. I can see why the narrator dreamt she went there again.

I spent a lot of time being annoyed with both Maxim and the narrator, too - he had no business marrying such a young, unsophisticated girl and dumping her at Manderley with all its baggage. He does nothing to help her settle in, just leaves her at the mercy of Mrs. Danvers and expects her to know how to run a huge house. And it really did seem as if any young girl he'd picked up in Monte Carlo would've done as the second Mrs. De Winter - for all the protestations of love in the novel, I didn't buy it. She loved him in a puppy-dog way, he loved her because he needed a new wife. After the circumstances of Rebecca's death came to light, they did seem to develop an actual relationship, but it was still sketchy to me.

Still, it's an excellent example of gothic suspense and I'm glad I finally read it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

I've been reading a lot of Jodi Picoult's novels this year - nine so far, in fact. Recently I read Harvesting the Heart, which Heather had picked as "something about me." She said:

This isn't my favorite, by far, of Jodi's novels. However, I suffered severe postpartum depression, and the mother in this story experiences her own version of that illness. It is a pretty realistic portrayal of what PPD can do to a person and her marriage/life.

I experienced postpartum depression with my first child, so I can relate both to Heather - which gives me some insight into her life - and to the character Paige. This novel is more than just a PPD experience, though; it explores the parent-child relationship in many ways - and I think that's something to which we can all relate.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Wow, the Sedaris family is sure...interesting! I read his sister Amy's I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence earlier this year and it was one of the most bizarre books I've ever read (funny, but gosh-darn weird). And apparently it runs in the family! I enjoyed the first essay on being forced into speech therapy in elementary school for his lisp (where, he says, there should have been a Future Homosexuals of America sign on the door of the speech lab, since none of the popular jock boys had lisps). Sedaris Sr. sounds like quite the dad, from his desperate desire for his children to form a band, despite their lack of musical talent and interest all the way to the final chapter, which discusses his hoarding of rotten food. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about trying to explain Easter in French to a Moroccan woman, as well as the other French class ones. I don't think Sedaris will top my favourite humourist ever, Dave Barry, but I enjoyed the essays and laughed out loud a few times.

Thanks to Kelly for choosing this book - I had heard Sedaris was funny but hadn't gotten around to him, so I appreciated the chance to check him out.

Friday, November 30, 2007


It's taking me a while but I'm making my way through the challenge. Up next Chocolat...

Vianne Rocher arrives in the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes on the first day of Lent in Joanne Harris's novel Chocolat. As the title suggests, chocolate is Vianne's business, or more appropriately, magic. In a matter of days, with the help of her daughter Anouk, she transforms an abandoned bakery into the decadent La Celeste Praline chocolate shop. Vianne watches her potential customers on their way to church, right next door, and slowly entices them into her shop and away from their Lenten fast.

Watching her is the priest Francis Reynaud. He sees Vianne as a usurper of the church, a pagan, and probably a witch. Where Reyaund belittles the problems of his flock, Vianne listens with an open heart. In a short time, Vianne wins over the people with her warmth while Reyaund never really fit in to begin. He disapproves of even the simple pleasure of good chocolate. When Vianne plans a chocolate festival on Easter Sunday, Reynaud views it as a battle for the souls of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.

Chocolat wasn't a bad little book. The prose was lovely and the thought of all that chocolate...slurp...sorry, drooling. However, it was a little over the top. Reyaund was just so evil, it was almost silly. He is a caricature: Vianne's Black Man brought to life. I guess I should keep in mind that this is a modern fairy tale with Vianne as the Good Witch and that every fairy tale needs a dastardly villain.

Vianne herself was the least interesting character for me. She's nice, she makes chocolate, she had a hard childhood. Josephine, Armande, Guillaume, Roux, although secondary characters were lively, complex characters with odd quirks that made them fun to read about. I did enjoy reading this. It was a fun diversion.

I think I have a lot in common with Chasida and Margo. I loves me some chocolate. I wish I had La Celeste Praline near me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

On a stormy winter night a young woman gives birth to twins, her doctor husband just happened to be the one to deliver his children and when he saw that one of the babies (the girl) had Down's Syndrome he tells his secretary to put the child in an institution. He tells his wife the baby died.

The secretary (who is secretly in love with the doctor) can't stand the idea of the baby in a place like that, so she keeps the child and raises her on her own.

Those two decisions (the doctor's and the secretary's) have long lasting implications for everyone involved and we follow their lives to their inevitable conclusions.

This was a pretty fair novel, with an original story, but the prose isn't going to light any fires. The best that can be said is that it is very readable.

I was a little disappointed that the most compelling relationship in the book didn't even start until near the end of the book and was only given 4 or 5 pages. No fair.

My good friend 3M chose this for the Something About Me Challenge because it takes place in an area of Kentucky where she used to live and like the male twin, she found out later in life that she had a sister she didn't know about. I can see why this book would so appealing to her (especially the relationship I mentioned in the last part of the book, I'd imagine). You could do worse than to read this book.

I am the Messenger

I chose to read I am the Messenger (357 pgs, Knopf) by Markus Zusak for a couple of reasons. I picked it for the "Something About Me" Challenge. It was on Jill's list. I had already read The Book Thief by Zuzak and I loved it. And finally....I liked the name!

Ed Kennedy is a nineteen-year-old cabdriver. He is a self-proclaimed screw-up. He didn't try hard in school, never went to the University, and only took a job cab-driving because it was easy. He spends all the rest of his time with his extremely smelly 17-year-old dog, The Doorman, or playing cards with Richie, Merv and Audrey -- his best friends and comrades in doing just enough to get by. But all of that changes one day.

The four friends had stopped at the bank before going home, and were caught up in the middle of a robbery. After a really inept attempt, the robber tried to flee the scene, and Ed chased after him. He held him until the cops arrived and was thus labeled the local "hero", a title that was rather unusual to Ed. He wasn't used to the attention. And then it happened. He received a card in the mail. Not just any card, but the Ace of Diamonds. There was nothing on the card, but 3 addresses, with a different time next to each. But what did it mean? What was he supposed to do?

Ed didn't have a clue what to do, but Audrey felt that he was chosen for something special because of the robbery. So late one night he arrived at the first address, only to find a very scared wife and daughter that had to endure the torture of a drunken man each night. Ed knew in his heart it was up to him to rescue them, but he wasn't a hero. In fact, he was rather a coward. Would he be able to find the courage to tackle each assignment as it came along? Could he deliver the "messages" that needed to be sent?

To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about this book when I decided to read it. But I liked The Book Thief, and thought I would give it a try. It turned out to be a very special that touched me very deeply. Have you ever had a book weave it's way into you soul? Deeply, like there was spot there waiting just for that book?? Well, I am the Messenger was the book that did it for me. Ed Kennedy was a wonderfully flawed character. He knew his weaknesses, and was afraid to actually do anything that might disrupt the sameness of his life. Page after page the story builds, and Ed evolves into someone new.

Usually, we walk around constantly believing ourselves. "I'm okay," we say. "I'm all right." But sometimes the truth arrives on you, and you can't get it off. That's when you realize that sometimes it isn't even an answer -- it's a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced."

I can understand this. I can relate to this. I FEEL this sometimes. I really loved this book. The absolutely only thing that kept this a 5-star review was the ending. I thought it was rather rushed, and tied up a little too neatly. The entire premise of the book is a little unbelievable. But it made me WANT to believe that one person really can change the world. 4.5/5

Thanks for choosing this book Jill!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Man With a Beautiful Voice

by Lillian B Rubin, Ph. D.

this is my fourth read for the something about me challenge. i really enjoyed this book. lillian is a therapist. the first chapter she describes in depth the practice of therapy, what it's based on, what they teach, what they don't teach. she also describes what it was like once she officially had her license and had her first appointment. i was right there with her feeling her anxiety and trepidation and self-doubt. the following six chapters are separate accounts of specific patients. i really liked the way she described the journey she took with each one. you know how it started, where they went and how it ended. there was resolution and follow-up. i always want to know what happens after.

i want to eventually become a therapist. i really appreciated her struggles and her honesty. it made me think a lot and wonder a lot. what will my experiences be? will i be able to trust my intuition?

all in all it was a great book. if you want to know what it's like on the other side of the couch then this is a must-read.

lisa picked this book because she's a psychotherapist. i wonder, lisa, if you had similar experiences starting out that lillian describes?

JMC's Wrap-up (unless I manage to eke out a couple more reviews)

The "Something About Me" reading challenge is wrapping up now, and I obviously committed to reading MANY more books than I am going to be able to finish. My original list of the books I wanted to read is here, though I did add I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak to it later. Unfortunately, it is becoming fairly obvious that unless I figure out a way to halt the world around me while I do nothing but read the books that I have yet to complete for the challenge, I am not going to be able to read everything that I had hoped to read. I have read Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter, and will be posting a review soon. I hope to get one or two more read and briefly reviewed this week, but don't hold your breath.

I do intend to read all the books that I selected. I have all but two of them sitting on my dresser. No one has these two listed on Bookmooch and my local library does not have them. They are The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, suggested by Christina, and Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald, suggested by Suey. They will remain on my Bookmooch wishlist, until I break down and just order them, as I really do want to read them at some point.

The ones I did manage to read up to today:
From Bonnie's list: Booked to Die by John Dunning

From Twiga's list: The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

From Chasida's list: Good Grief by Lolly Winston

From Dewey's list: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

From Jill(mrstreme)'s list: Christ the Lord by Anne Rice

From Booklogged's list: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz

From Vasilly's list: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

From alisonwonderland's list: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

From Becky's list: Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card

From Stephanie's list: Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

From Sarah Miller's list: The Giver by Lois Lowry

My favorite of these is The Time Traveler's Wife, no question.

This was a great idea for a challenge, and I loved getting all these suggestions of reading material. I read and enjoyed several books that I wouldn't have normally read. So thank you for expanding my horizons via my reading list!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sea Glass - Anita Shreve: Trish's review

Title: Sea Glass
Author: Anita Shreve
Pages: 376
Rating: 4.25/5

This is my fourth Shreve book and my favorite so far (coming in second is The Weight of Water). I picked this up at a booksale and read it for Something About Me - based on Library Lady and Beachreader's selections--thanks ladies!!

Anyway, this book is about a number of characters who are drastically different from one another but manage to come together for a common cause. The book takes place during 1929-1930--the first difference from the other books I've read which are more contemporary--and follows each of the main characters instead of a select two or so--which is also different. Among the characters there is Honora, the naive young wife of Sexton who is not always entirely honest. McDermott, a lower class factory worker who takes in the young Alphonse under his wing. And Vivian, an upperclass socialite who gets mixed in with the others at first just for something to do.

The rest of the review is on my blog: HERE The only book left on my list is Pride and Prejudice!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From the Corner of His Eye

I read From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's the story of a boy who can stay dry in the rain by walking where the rain isn't, a man who can toss quarters into other worlds, a girl who can see all the ways things are, a narcissistic killer who suffers terrible physical ailments when he kills, and the ways in which their lives intersect.

I found this novel to be quite interesting and I enjoyed reading it, though I did miss the dry wit found in many of the characters in Koontz's other works, most notably (for me, who hasn't read ALL of Koontz's work) the Odd Thomas trilogy. While the wit and non sequiturs are absent, the novel makes up for it with many diverse characters. In addition to the main characters mentioned above, there are twin brothers obsessed with disasters, one with natural disasters and one with man-made; the twins' sister, also the dry-in-the-rain boy's mother, the amazingly generous pie-lady; a pharmacist who takes to constant walking once his beloved polio-stricken wife dies; the Baptist minister, whose sermon about "This Momentous Day" serves as a common thread throughout the various stories, and his wife and daughters; the doctor who delivers the girl who sees all the ways things are, who had lost his wife and twin sons; Maria, a seamstress from Mexico; a piano-playing landlord-from-hell; a private investigator with perfect teeth; and a lawyer with morals.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were a few places where I felt like things may have dragged a bit, where I felt like, "come on already, bring these stories together," but I'm glad that I read it. Koontz has a perspective on good and evil that resonates. The novel makes one think about the ways in which each decision, regardless of its seeming import, a person makes can affect his/her life and the lives of many, or even all, others.

I chose this book from Booklogged's list. She said that Koontz is one of her "chocolate" authors. I can definitely relate; I have a TON of "chocolate" authors myself.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

i finished the seventh of my picks for this challenge last week, and i've posted a general review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on my book blog. i can't believe that i never read this book before. it was delightful!

i selected this one from Becky's list. she had only discovered it about six months before this challenge started, but she picked it because she identified with the main character Francie. this is a quote from the book that Becky included in her post - and it's worth repeating here, i think, as many of us book lovers can probably relate:

From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.

Anne of Green Gables

By L. M. Montgomery. I missed on reading this Canadian classic when I was kid. I really wish I had. It was a bit slow at first, and I wasn't sure I had warmed to Anne, but I think she won me early on. I liked all the characters in this book. The dialogue was clever and observant, and while loquacious at times, Anne is such a great character. I love her curiosity, kindness, ambition, and dreaminess because I can be quite similar, and her love of the outdoors and of Green Gables. From the get-go, I really loved the characters of Marilla and Matthew. The book is also very Canadian in my humble opinion. Montgomery seems to really know her characters and their quirks. It's no wonder this book is a classic. I really enjoyed the simple life of Anne at Green Gables. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Crossposted from my blog aquatique,net

Many people picked this for their list: Gracie, Trish, Ennavic, and Tiny Librarian. Thanks for the push to read this.

East of Eden

So finally, after a long long time of no book reviews, I am getting around to writing one for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. I still have a bunch to do, so I've got to get crackin.' I finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck over a month ago, but being the huge procrastinator I am, I am just now getting around to the review. I decided to read this book for the challenge because I don't normally read classics just for the heck of it, but I always feel that I should read them. So basically, I need a reason. When Vasilly listed East of Eden, a book which I had always thought I'd get around to reading some day, I decided that here was my reason.

East of Eden is about two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, their lives and how they intersect and affect one another. There is sibling rivalry akin to Cain and Abel, and love, or its absence, plays a pivotal role. Good and evil, and the measure of each in a person, is a continuous thread through the work. For me, this novel was not a fast read. It was not an edge-of-your-seat, have to know what happens next immediately type of read. It was interesting and satisfying, and at times surprising in its modernity. I'm not sure what I expected from a book written in the 50s and set in the late 1800s to early 1900s, but modern urban slang wasn't it. "Frigging" was used in place of "fucking" in one instance, and the word "crib" was used as a place to live, albeit one run-down and decrepit, whereas today it can mean any type of home. I also didn't expect a sociopath or a gang rape.

What I liked:
I liked the character Lee, the way he faked who he was to be what people expected, but then was able to be himself later, and his humble and wise ways.

I found it interesting that Steinbeck himself is a character in the novel. As a descendant of the Hamilton clan, the book is told as if he is telling the story, which made me wonder if, in fact, this is an autobiographical work. I quick perusal of the Internet, and consensus seems to be semi-autobiographical.

I liked A LOT of the observations Steinbeck makes throughout the novel. He inserts them seamlessly into the text, yet they easily stand apart from it. There are so many passages that I would like to quote here, but then this review would be entirely too long. So just one particular favorite:

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

Okay, one more:
Humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well - or ill?

There wasn't anything in particular that I recall that I didn't like. It was well-written and interesting. It was obvious why it is considered a classic.

What does this choice tell us about Vasilly? Well, I actually couldn't tell much from this one choice, but looking over all five of her choices, I think I can deduce that she is a spiritually oriented person, in that she looks within herself to her spirit and beliefs when faced with difficult situations. Am I close?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I chose this book from Juli's list, as well as for Nattie's Newbery Challenge (my list is here). I can't find Juli's post about this novel and why she chose it, but I imagine it's tied to the adventure and wonderful story.

This was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I loved it, probably because I admired Karana's resourcefulness and strength. I still do. What an amazing book! I can't wait for my daughters to read and enjoy this.

I had the privilege of meeting Scott O'Dell himself in 1983 when I was in the 8th grade. Michele Andrews and I were chosen from both of Ms. Wood's 8th grade Unified Studies classes to be a part of a day where we could interview Mr. O'Dell. We had a great time, even though we were the oldest students there! (I think almost everyone else was in the 5th and 6th grades.) I remember Mr. O'Dell commenting on Michele's lovely Texas accent, and complimenting us on our insightful questions. That evening, I heard him read from one of his books, can't remember which one, but I remember his white hair, and his voice.

I am happy to show you the autograph I received inside my copy of the book!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chocolat -- Dewey's review

Cross-posted at my blog.

I love the movie Chocolat, and have seen it many times, so when Chasida listed it as a Something About Me book, it seemed time to finally read the book.

I was really surprised by how different the book is from the movie. I suspect that if I had first read and love the novel, I would have been annoyed by the movie.

For those who have neither read the book nor watched the movie, a quick summary: The main character is Vianne, who is a single mother with a young daughter, Anouk. She moves into a small French town and opens a chocolate shop. She is met with resistance by a community that is steeped in a tradition of self-denial, and unfortunately the opening of her shop coincides with Lent. She finds herself at odds with the town priest and members of the community, both over differences in opinion about the evils of life's little enjoyments and over differences in opinion about accepting a nomadic group of river gypsies.

The biggest surprise in the book was, for me, that instead of a seriously straightlaced and repressed mayor and a young, more open-minded priest, there was only one character, Reynaud, who was basically the same as the mayor in the movie, only he was the priest. I read at Harris' site that those involved with the film decided to make the main antagonist a mayor instead of a priest to avoid offending Catholic people. Personally, I don't find Catholic people that easily offended, and I hate censoring art in order to avoid upsetting a powerful group, but ok. It works beautifully as a movie anyway. In the novel, the priest is a more prominent character, and is even the narrator in some chapters.

Another surprise is that I've always perceived the movie to be set in the 1950s. The Wikipedia article states that it's the winter of 1959. The book, though, seems set at the time of its publication, 1999.

Sadly, the Roux character is not Johnny Depp in the book, and he seems to belong more to Armande (as a friend) than to Vianne. But in the book, the prejudice of the town towards Roux and his friends is a stronger storyline than in the movie.

One difference I liked a lot is that the character Armande is more developed and more interesting. The movie glances lightly over the fact that Armande is diabetic, and Vianne at times seems careless with Armande's health in allowing her to indulge in chocolate. The viewer does perceive that it's not really a black and white situation; Armande is an adult and should be allowed to make her own decisions about her health. In the book, though, it's much more clear that Armande, as a woman in her 80s, does not want to spend her few remaining years restricting her diet or being treated like a child by her domineering daughter. The reader is made very aware that a woman that old is going to die fairly soon, and Armande chooses to die in her home living her life as usual, rather than in a facility being an invalid. I had respect for the book Armande's decision to enjoy the remainder of her life to the fullest, including developing a relationship with her grandson. The movie Armande just seemed stubborn and grumpy, and as a much younger woman (60?), self-destructive in her decision to behave in a way that led to her death.

The novel also focused more on Vianne's past, her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with her daughter, Anouk, all of which were rewarding storylines the movie could only glance over.

There's a sequel to the novel, The Lollipop Shoes, which I'd like to read and will add to my wishlist.

The Polysyllabic Spree -- Dewey's review

Cross-posted at my blog. This was one of Athena's books.

This book really reminded me of a blog. Nick Hornby, an author whose fiction I enjoy, had a column in The Believer, called "Stuff I've Been Reading." The Polysyllabic Spree ia collection of those columns. There's a list for each month of what books he bought, which books he read (not always the same as what he bought), excerpts from books, and his musings about the books and the reading life.

There's a sequel, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, more collected columns.

Someone put a list of all the books Hornby bought and read September 2003 to August 2004 at Wikipedia. Thanks, list-happy person!

I recommend this book for people who liked So Many Books, So Little Time and Book Lust. For me, the most interesting thing about the book was reading Hornby's comments on books I've read. I'm sure that for some people, reading this book would make the ol' wishlist grow, but I mostly skimmed when he talked about books I haven't read.

Although I liked the book, I think that rather than buying Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt, I'll just read Hornby's columns.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Summary: Sixteen year-old Miranda's normal life of swim team, friends, a crush, and life with her divorced parents and two brothers comes to a halt when a meteor crashes into the moon, throwing the earth's forces of nature off course and causing earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Her diary details her family's struggle to survive.

My thoughts: This one has been getting a fair bit of good press and one of my colleagues is simply crazy about it, so I thought I'd give it a go. Survival stories aren't usually my bag, but this one was really well done. I thought it was a pitch-perfect account of what life would be like - the dwindling food, fear, cabin fever, finding joy in small things, alternating between optimism and despair and between loving and hating the people you were trapped with. School Library Journal rightly describes it as "frighteningly plausible." It also blew my mind that a change in gravity would cause all of those disasters - what do we take for granted more than gravity?

What I learned about SheReads: She says she found this book fascinating and not so far-fetched that she couldn't see it happening in the here and now. I agree with her on both counts, although I certainly hope it doesn't happen! She also noted in her challenge writeup that she seems "to read a lot of books that are YA and fewer and fewer adult books." - I'm finding that happening to me, too. I'm trying to reduce my TBR pile but SO many fab new YA titles come across my desk that the old adult ones get put aside yet again.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Daphne du Maurier was partially inspired by Jane Eyre when writing this book, so I could not help compare it to that book which I love. The characters are not exactly the same, but I enjoyed reading this book almost as much. It is very well written. I'm not someone who writes a lot gothic or mystery literature, but the atmosphere is almost perfect. Du Maurier is an excellent writer. The prose can be poetic. She's good at dialogue especially with characterizations as well. Mrs. Danvers is incredibly creepy, de Winter is mysterious, and the nameless protagonist is relateable. While very naive at the beginning, it's hard not to feel sympathetic for the character. She's also been put in a very hard situation when they go back to Manderley. The use of the nameless protagonist device is something I encountered in Fight Club, so I was not put off by that. Though it did feel du Maurier was teasing the reader at the beginning with the fact we'd never find out. All in all, a very good read with lots of atmosphere, suspense, and just enough romance.

I did not read this book for awhile because I had seen the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I did not have the time to rewatch the film, but I remember liking it very much as I do most Hitchcock films, and I also like Olivier. I recommend it as a companion to the book.

What I learned about Chris: She mentioned relating to the young heroine in this, and I did as well. She also appreciates good prose and gothic suspense. Unsurprisingly, Chris has good taste in

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Awakening

Sometimes we, as modern women, forget just how many freedoms we have. In the midst of all the complaining about unequal wages and glass ceilings, we neglect to acknowledge that we currently have a voice in society to even make such complaints. We forget that it wasn't always this way.

There was a time when women were deemed fit only for bearing children and tending to the house. They weren't allowed to have interests about the larger world, or hobbies other than art, nor were they allowed to exhibit any kind of passion. Women who married well-to-do men weren't even allowed to do the chores: what a horrible, boring way to live.

Kate Chopin gives readers a peek into the life of just such a woman. Edna is married to a wealthy businessman in New Orleans. She has a couple of kids and a wide circle of friends. She seemed happy, until her passion was sparked by a young man named Robert. Suddenly, she saw that her life was, in fact, a prison from which there was no possibility of escape.

I was deeply moved by this book; moved in a way that I can't even fully explain. I think all women feel like Edna at one point or another. Chopin really beautifully captured the first blush of passion, the mind numbing effects of romantic obsession and what it feels like to be a conflicted woman.

"As Edna walked along the street she was thinking of Robert. She was still under the spell of her infatuation. She had tried to forget him, realizing the inutility of remembering. But the thought of him was like an obsession, ever pressing itself upon her. It was not that she dwelt upon the details of their acquaintance, or recalled in any special or peculiar way his personality; it was his being, his existence, which dominated her thought, fading sometimes as if it would melt into the mist of the forgotten, reviving again with an intensity which filled her with incomprehensible longing."

I love that. Edna was obsessed with the mere idea of Robert's existence.

I highly recommend this book. It was chosen by Pattie for the Something About Me Challenge, who read it at a time in her life when she was separated from her husband and children for a week. I can understand why someone in those circumstances would feel such a strong connection with Edna. This book was also recommended to me by my good friend and former bandmate Karen. I can see exactly why this book affected her so much. Thank you both ladies for giving me such good reasons to read this truly outstanding book.