Friday, August 31, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time

when i first heard that there was a book entitled So Many Books, So Little Time, i knew that it would only be a matter of time until i read it. (especially since my blog has the same name!) because So Many Books was on the lists of Vasilly,, and Sally, this challenge was the perfect excuse to read it. i suspect that most book bloggers could say that this book title is "about" them! i certainly can!

Vasilly said that author Sara Nelson "is one of my heroes." she appreciated what Nelson wrote about how books fit into her life and the joy that reading brings. similarly liked this book because "I love books and reading, and I love books about books and reading."

i also enjoyed this book, but I think I appreciated the concept - in which the author was going to read one book a week for a year and write about that experience - more than the actual implementation.

i read the book just a little at a time - it's easy to read in snippets - and i ended up with a number of possible additions to my own to-be-read list. i didn't ever feel personally engaged with Nelson, though, and a couple of times i found myself thinking that many of the book bloggers i know could have written this book at least as well, if not better. still, it's a worthwhile read, especially for those of us who can relate to the idea of "passionate reading"!

A Short History of Nearly Everything

You have to figure that even a short history of everything is still going to be very long. And this is. Fortunately it is also an extremely interesting exploration of the people, places and events that have furthered human understanding of the natural sciences.

Bryson touches on everything from astronomy to paleontology to plate tectonics and makes it all not only fascinating, but also intensely personal.

"Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms...probably once belonged to Shakespeare."

See? We are immortal. Our atoms cannot die. They just move on to become an atom in a dew drop, or a cat, or a piece of of celery. I think that's a wonderful way of looking at the world.

Bryson does over-explain certain things, but I suppose if you start reading this book with little or no scientific knowledge, you would need that information. But no matter how much you think you know, I guarantee you will learn a lot from reading this and I recommend you do.

This book was chosen by raidergirl3 to represent her for the Something About Me Challenge, and I'm not a bit surprised. She is extremely bright and curious and this seems like exactly the kind of thing that would excite her. Thank you for choosing this raidergirl.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bookworms Chocolat review

I just finished my 3rd book for this challenge :)

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
I enjoyed this book. It was a soft, easy read. It starts off slow at first, then begins to take off. I have seen the film version and liked it alot, maybe even more than the book. The movie is different from the book in alot of ways.

Vianne Rocher and her 6 year old daughter Anouk come to the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Vianne opens up a tempting chocolate shop, called 'La CĂ©leste Praline', during Lent no less, and across from the village church. The priest Francis Reynaud begins to preach against Vianne and her chocolate shop and discourages the villagers to enter or befriend Vianne. Vianne is also a bit psychic. She makes friends with a few of the villagers and Gypsies who come to town as well. the rest of my review here

Dreams of Dancing

I began reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter. It sparked this dream, so I thought I would share:

I am reading this book off of Bonnie's List.

Heather Truett

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Also posted HERE on my blog.
I'm so grateful to the "Something about me" challenge because it gave me the chance to discover some of the best books I've read this year and maybe ever. "The Giver" is one of these.
I don't know about "Brave new world" or the film "Pleasentville" and I've never read "1984" by George Orwell, only excerpts in school. But as far as children's literature is concerned this is an extraordinary book. It kept me glued to it for hours. I had to know how this world worked, what were its secrets, what would happen to its protagonist. It was a real page-turner. It wasn't a simple read though, like others have said. It was quick, but it made think about it for days. It was scary in a deep, subtle way. It raised strong, elementary emotions, and it made me shiver trying to imagine how a world like that would be possible.
The story is set in an indefinite far future, where society is organised in small communities, all designed with the same scheme: everything and everyone have to be up to the standards of the community. Everything is regulated by fixed and almost unchangeable laws. Individuality is not an option and neither is free will. This is the price that humanity have chosen to pay to avoid hunger and violence and war.
Families, called family units, are not decided by love or anything else but a Community Council which finds the right match for every person, thus creating the perfect harmony in the unit. Children are also regulated by a scheme: one boy and one girl, born by a group of birth-mothers, are allocated to one family who requests them.
At first this system seems to be the most organised way of living. There's no struggle for survival because everything is provided, everyone is kind and equal, though some "assignments"( not jobs) are less honourable than others. Everything is tidy, and quiet and peaceful. But there's something eerie is this peacefulness.
You can feel that something is not quite right. Hints are given here and there: people being mysteriously "released" (and you can guess pretty quickly what that means), an impersonal Voice that speaks through a microphone and gives orders and warnings. Even a rule that might sound positive and open-minded, the sharing of dreams in the morning and of feelings in the evening, has something mechanical and disturbing about it.
And then you start asking questions: where are the books, the writers, the artists? Will there be an assignment specifically for them? Because certainly they can't live without them.
"Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.” said Philip Pullman and so I kept reminding myself.
But it's not till Jonas, the boy who's the main character, has his first wet dream, or the Stirrings, as his parents would call it, that you realise how controlling and de-humanising this society is.
Shortly after Jonas' life changes completely when he is selected as the new Receiver of Memory. And here I stop. I've already said too much. I'll leave it to you to find out what that means. If you've never heard of it, like me before, then you shouldn't be spoiled with more informations. If you've read it, I'll like to discuss it with you in the comments!
Thanks to Sarah Miller for choosing it. Here she says why. I think I would relate to her very well. Like her I was amazed by it and somehow shocked, and I also believe in happy endings, always:)

Breakfast at Tiffany's

For a nice analysis of the novel, click here.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a wistful book. I read it a few years ago, and I've enjoyed reading it again. It's a novella, actually, so it doesn't take long to read. And I'm not even sure why the word wistful seems to fit, but it's a word I can't disassociate from this book.

You can find a synopsis anywhere, so I won't really point out the obvious plot points. I still think Holly is likeable in spite of her many flaws. The narrator sometimes judges her, sometimes he chooses to be her friend, but mostly he chooses to tell what he sees.

One thing I noticed as I read Breakfast this week: the language is both old and new. Some of the expressions used by Holly and the nameless, faceless narrator are obviously dated (the book was written over 50 years ago, so that's a given), but a few are expressions still in use today (and all of those are rather crude, so I won't outline them here). I loved her habit of using French words sprinkled liberally through her speech. Quel delight!

I watched the movie sometime during the past school year, and I was horrified by how much had changed from the book (Mickey Rooney as the Japanese landlord was obviously a mistake). But I adored Audrey Hepburn in the role of Holly.

This book was on Lucca's Something About Me list. She says, "There’s a bit of Golightly in me. And it’s not limited to the cat." I somehow think she is a bit wistful herself.

Review Posting Request

Hi all. We've had a request about how to post your reviews. If you are reviewing a book, make the label at the bottom the name of the book you are reviewing. This way, if someone hasn't been on the board for awhile, and wants to see all the reviews for a particular book, they can just look up all the posts with that label. I have tried to go back and add the labels to all existing posts, but possibly I may have missed some.

This would be a great way for people to find what they are looking for! Thanks!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party by Ginnie Siena Bivona

This past week I finished this book for the challenge: Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party by Ginnie Siena Bivona which was recommended by Lynn as being Something About her. (I searched for her nomination, to remember wha she said about it, but couldn't find it!)

I enjoyed this quick read. A happy and sad story at the same time, about Ida Mae, who is saddened at the news that her friend is dying of breast cancer. This causes her to remember back in her life, by way of diary entries, the closeness these two friends had and how they managed to get through all kinds of things by relying on each other. Very sweet story. I epecially loved the recipes at the end and will have to try a few!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Country of the Pointed Firs - Wendy's Book Review

We were standing where there was a fine view of the harbor and its long stretches of shore all covered by the great army of the pointed firs, darkly cloaked and standing as if they waited to embark. As we looked far seaward among the outer islands, the trees seemed to march seaward still, going steadily over the heights and down to the water's edge. -From The Country of the Pointed Firs, page 29-

Sarah Orne Jewett published her best known novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs, in 1896 - first in a serialized version for the Atlantic Monthly, and later in book form by Houghton Mifflin. It was an instant success. After reading this wonderful novella, I can plainly see why.

The narrator of the story remains unnamed, but through her we are introduced to an endearing cast of characters who reside in the fictional seaside town of Dunnet Landing, Maine. Arriving in early summer, the narrator lodges with the central character - Mrs. Almira Todd - and spends the long, warm days writing and getting to know Dunnet's people and environs. She visits the surrounding islands, attends a joyous family reunion, and has tea with a local fisherman. The story ends with the narrator bidding farewell before boarding a boat bound for her home in London.

Having spent many years on the coast of Maine, I found myself smiling, nodding, and laughing at the accuracy of Jewett's dialog and characterizations.

"There was good singers there; yes, there was excellent singers," she agreed heartily, putting down her teacup, "but I chanced to drift alongside Mis' Peter Bowden o' Great Bay, an' I couldn't help think' if she was as far out o' town as she was out o tune, she wouldn't get back in a day."-From The Country of the Pointed Firs, page 99-

"You can never tell beforehand how it's goin' to be, and 't ain't worth while to wear a day all out before it comes." -From The Country of the Pointed Firs, page 76-

When the narrator writes:I had suddenly left the forbidding coast and come into a smooth little harbor of friendship (page 102), the reader finds herself nodding in agreement. From Captain Littlepage with his outrageous stories of Arctic travels, to Elijah Tilley pining eight years for his dead wife, to elderly Mrs. Blackett and her daughter, the effervescent herbalist in the guise of Almira Todd - Jewett's characters come to feel like old and dear friends.

Rich with setting, the novel places the reader on the rocky Maine coast with the sting of salt in the air and the dark green firs thrusting into an azure sky. It is a book meant to be read slowly while sipping tea and gently rocking on an old farmhouse porch. When the narrator writes: At last I had to say good-by to all my Dunnet Landing Friends, and my homelike place in the little house... (page 111), the reader will wish the summer were longer.

This is a book that will stay on my bookshelf forever and grow dogeared and ragged from re-reading.

Highly recommended. Rated 5/5; my original review here.

Note: I read this book as recommended by Megan. Megan wrote in her nomination: "I was trying to find some good New England writing. Something that had really spoken to me. The writing in this book is absolutely overwhelming." I agree Megan! Thanks for the recommendation!

My Reads So Far

Hi everyone!

So far, I've read:

Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg - Decent. I have to say that I liked Joy School more than Durable Goods. I accidentally read Joy School first. I am a stickler for reading series and sequences in order, but, when I first picked up Joy School in the library years ago, I did not know that it followed another book.

Feline Mystique by Cleo Simon - This book made me cry. I couldn't even get it out of the library. I had to go somewhere, and I knew if I checked it out right then and there, I'd just go home, read the sad parts, and curl up in a ball on my floor. I have been the proud owner of - or should I say, I myself have been proudly owned by - three beautiful cats, Twinkie, Hollywood, and Spooky.

Postsecret by Frank Warren - Sympathy. Empathy. Shock. No matter what you feel when looking through this book, you will FEEL, and you will think. That's the point.

I'd love to hear what people think of the books I chose!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Body Bags by Christopher Golden

I will be posting about the series Body of Evidence (Body Bags being the first of ten books) at my blog tomorrow as part of the Radar Recommendations project, which was the brainchild of Colleen at the Chasing Ray blog.

My list of five books posted at the Challenge blog.

My post about the Challenge at my blog, Bildungsroman.

Crime & Punishment Reviewed by Christina

I just finished this a couple of days ago. It took me quite awhile. I reviewed it on my blog here.

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's great Russian novel, Raskolnikov, a student fallen on hard times, commits a heinous murder of an old pawnbroker. No spoilers here, right from the get go Raskolnikov contemplates this crime that he believes is not a crime and by the end of Part 1, the deed is done. After the murder, the majority of the novel is spent in Raskolnikov's head, as he falls ill from the mental strain of not only trying to hide what he has done but philosophizing whether or not the murder was a crime.

Although not a difficult novel to read, I found that being in the mind of a man who is a nearly loony strenuous and I had no trouble putting it down for days at a time. Raskolnikov's erratic behaviour and bizarre ramblings were hard to follow. Fortunately, Raskol has a lot more going on in his life to keep us from going over the deep end with him. He has a poor mother and sister who's marrying a despicable man, a new friend with a consumptive wife and prostitute daughter, plus a crew of ne'er-do-wells living around him in the seedy side of St Petersburg. It's never a dull moment, and very inconvenient for a man who would just like to lose his mind in peace.

I didn't love it. It's hard to love such a dark book but it was very interesting. I'm quite glad I read it.

This was JMC's pick. She hasn't committed any murders but has thought of the perfect murder while at the grocery store. I can relate to that! The only problem with that is that Raskolnikov made such a mess of it that I'm surprised he wasn't caught in the first 50 pages. I hope she can do better than that...Or maybe not. Maybe stay clear of JMC if you happen to see her at the grocery store just in case ;)

raidergirl3 update: Ender's Game and Number the Stars

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
recommended by Becky and Karlene

winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula award

Great science fiction book, even though I seldom read sci-fi. Andrew Ender Wiggem is the child hero, chosen to save the world from the next bugger attack, sure to decimate the Earth. He is rather brutally trained to be a commander, and his struggle to accept his role at command school and within his family, is an interesting read about self and solitude. Thanks for the suggestion, I quite enjoyed it.

full review on my blog

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Newbery Winner 1990

recommended by booklogged

Thanks for the book recommendation, and not just because it is a short, children's book. That made it easy to pick up, but the story of what makes bravery was touching as well. Lowry tells the story of a girl during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in the early 1940s, and choices made by the Danes to smuggle Jews out of their country. It was another terrific read from these lists of books.

full review is here at my blog

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent is one of SarahMiller's selections for this challenge. Sarah said about this novel: "This is the type of story I love best -- strong characters, strong relationships, and terrific writing. I'm also fascinated by books that dig into the nooks and crannies of well-known stories and bring out something new." I think this is a good summary of this book, and my review is below (and cross-posted on my blog).

In Genesis 34, there is a brief mention of Dinah, the sole daughter of Jacob, who was taken and violated by an Egyptian prince, who then fell in love with her and asked Jacob for his blessing of their marriage. It is this very small Biblical mention that is the foundation to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent.

Diamant first tells the story of Jacob’s four wives, who were all sisters, whose lives revolve around “the red tent” where they spent three days menstruating among a commune of women. Dinah is born to Jacob’s first wife, Leah, and becomes a young member of this all-female tour de force. In the red tent, Dinah learns about goddesses of the earth, fertility and childbirth. The strength and differences of her four mothers develop Dinah into a smart, resourceful woman – skills that she will use later in her life.

As Dinah gets older, she learns the trade of midwifery, which brings her into an Egyptian city where she meets her first husband, the Egyptian prince. Diamant tells their story as one of love, not rape, and when her husband is brutally murdered by her brothers, she chooses to disown her beloved family and settles into Egypt.

The Red Tent is an interesting story of Biblical women, their fertility and birthing rites, and early forms of midwifery – a respected profession for women of this era. Overall, I found the story to be a smart and engaging read. Readers of Biblical fiction and women’s literature will definitely want to check out this novel.

Tracon by Paul McElroy

Twiga's Review:

This book was on Lisa's list and is actually the reason I decided to sign up for the challenge. I had this book already in my TBR pile so I knew that there would be at least 1 book that I would want to read for the challenge.

I enjoy aviation-related books and this book is about the life and job of an air traffic controller. Highly stressful yet the main character loves what he does and enjoys the challenge and adrenaline of "pushing tin". However, his worst nightmare happens when a mid-air collision occurs and they must try to find out the truth behind why the accident happened. Was it the computer system or a human error?

I enjoyed this book, there was some mystery and romance in it. It was interesting to read about what is involved in the job of being an air traffic controller. Not a job I would want!

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

i finished The Undomestic Goddess yesterday as part of the challenge. it was one of Margo's picks. this was a super funny book and i immensely enjoyed it. it is the story a high-powered London lawyer who realizes that she has made a grave career error and subsequently runs off to the country and somehow finds herself becoming a housekeeper. this is a book that will make you laugh out loud and it is thoroughly delicious. i especially love the cooking bits. my full review is here. margo said she chose this book because she likes to laugh and it helped her get through a difficult period. what i have learned about margo: she has a great sense of humor and really likes to laugh. also the main character is really really smart and can think quickly on her feet. so i will also say that margo is intelligent and can think her way out of situations.

i highly recommend this book. :)

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

i finished The Undomestic Goddess yesterday as part of the challenge. it was one of Margo's picks. this was a super funny book and i immensely enjoyed it. it is the story a high-powered London lawyer who realizes that she has made a grave career error and subsequently runs off to the country and somehow finds herself becoming a housekeeper. this is a book that will make you laugh out loud and it is thoroughly delicious. i especially love the cooking bits. my full review is here. margo said she chose this book because she likes to laugh and it helped her get through a difficult period. what i have learned about margo: she has a great sense of humor and really likes to laugh. also the main character is really really smart and can think quickly on her feet. so i will also say that margo is intelligent and can think her way out of situations.

i highly recommend this book. :)

The Amateur Marriage - 3M's Review

Crossposted at my new website,

In memory of Nattie.

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler outlines the lives and marriage of Michael and Pauline Anton from World War II to the present day. We see their joys and trials in courtship, marriage, children, and death.

It's hard to review the book without giving spoilers away, but the book basically follows a difficult marriage. Or was it, really? Was it really much different than most marriages? Aren't even "good" marriages difficult at times? These are the questions the book raises.

This was a very readable book that I finished in a day, and I would have very much liked to discuss it with a group. I've read one other book by Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe (which I also liked), and I'll be seeking out more.

2004, 306 pp.

Rating: 4 review- The Penderwicks

Firstly here is my list of choices from other peoples books as I don't think I had posted it yet!
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (F) chosen by Kristin. I have also wanted to read another McEwan after enjoying Atonement so this seemed a perfect time to try another.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (F) chosen by Pattie. I have started a restarted this book several times and really want to finish it, so this will help me along.
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (F) chosen by Julie. As a teacher I am always looking out for new children’s books and I really liked the sound of this one.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (F) chosen by Lucca. After reading To Kill a Mockingbird recently and looking up the life of Harper Lee I was interested by her friendship with Capote.
- The World According to Garp by John Irving (F) chosen by Dewey and Chasida. I have seen Irving mentioned a few times on other people’s blogs and again thought this would be an ideal time to try him out!

I have just finished the first of my books for the challenge which was The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. This book was chosen by Julie who says "The Penderwicks, a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits and a very interesting boy I was an only child and wished I had a fun family like this to grow up around"

I really enjoyed this book, as a primary school teacher I am always looking for new treasures to read to my classes! My full review is here and so on to the rest of the books in the challenge.

p.s. I hope I did this right!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Trish's Review of Like Water for Chocolate

Title: Like Water for Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquirel
Pages: 264
Date Finished: August 22, 2007
Rating: 3/5

This is my first selection for Something About Me Challenge. I have wanted to read it for a few years now and picked it up cheap a few months ago at the local bookfair. Perfect! I love when things work out that way. This was Maryanne's selection. She writes, "This is one of the books that made me realize that the best cooks of all are the ones who cook with love." I completely agree with this statement and I believe that it holds very true for this book.

But, this book didn't do it for me. It was good and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but the book was a little too superficial. What I mean by that is that the character development was very weak, and after reading the book I didn't have any strong passions about what happened to the characters. I liked the way the book ended, but there just wasn't enough character/narrative depth. Perhaps there is more symbolic and analytical depth to the book, but if I'm not in a grad course I don't necessarily dig or delve into books the way I probably should (i.e. background research, textual research, analytical research, etc.).

My full review can be found on my blog. (Here I do go into talk about food, which is my favorite aspect of the book).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

raidergirl3 update: Jane Eyre and Inkheart

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, as recommended by Kathrin

Classic books are classic for a reason - they are great reads. I wasn't prepared for the mysterious aspect of Jane Eyre, but it had me enthralled. I loved Jane and Mr Rochester, and the love story and eerie atmosphere of the book.

Kathrin picked it because: IMO Jane has good values.

I would have to agree with her; I loved Jane's strength to do the right thing. She stood up for herself most of all, but also anytime she saw a need. A terrific heroine, and I'm sure I'll eventually read this again. My full review is here

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, translated from the German by Anthea Bell, as recommended by Becky (shereads) [which always has me singing, Shebangs She bangs after I type that!]

Becky picked this book: Because I love to read and find the idea of reading characters in and out of books fascinating.

What a great adventure novel, with books as a major theme and almost a character in themselves. Meggie and her father are trying to deal with some characters that came to life after Meggie's father read them out of the book Inkheart. Part fantasy, part adventure, with wonderful quotes at the beginning of each chapter, I flew through this 500 page book in days. And I'm giving it to my son to read next.

My full review is here.

Monday, August 20, 2007


This post can also be found here, except for the part at the end regarding what it says about alisonwonderland.

I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It is a young adult novel that takes a look at the conflicting emotions teenagers face when presented with someone different than themselves. The character Stargirl is, well, weird. But in a sweet and endearing way. The other kids don't know what to make of her. Our narrator, Leo, becomes torn between his growing feelings for her and his desire to conform and be accepted by the rest of his peers. The novel was a well-written super fast read. It was enjoyable and I found it easy to relate to the characters.

What I liked:
I think it was a fairly realistic view of kids of high school age (well, except for the complete lack of smoking, drinking and drugging, but those issues weren't the point of the novel, so we'll forgive the omission). I think we all knew someone like Stargirl, an outcast for no other reason than that she was a unique personality and didn't bother to try to conform. Looking back, I think the reason other kids would steer clear of kids like Stargirl was that they envied them their fearlessness, the ability to just be who they were without worrying about the opinions of others.

I liked her random acts of kindness. In particular I LOVED what she does with spare change. So much so, that I intend to do it myself. Which leads me to my favorite excerpt from the book:
Throughout the day, Stargirl had been dropping money. She was the Johnny Appleseed of loose change: a penny here, a nickel there. Tossed to the sidewalk, laid on a shelf or bench. Even quarters.

"I hate change," she said. "It's so... jangly."

"Do you realize how much you must throw away in a year?" I said.

"Did you ever see a little kid's face when he spots a penny on a sidewalk?" she said.

I liked the old man who had become a kind of mentor to a group of the kids. He was a font of wisdom, yet he didn't just dole it out, he made the kids come to the realizations on their own.

What I didn't like:
Well, to be honest, I can't really think of anything. Oh, wait, there is something. Spinelli spelled Hillari with an "i." That replacing the "y" with an "i" thing for the sole purpose of... well, nothing really, annoys the hell out of me. A byproduct of growing up with a bunch of girls named Candy, Mandy, Tracy, Wendy, Becky, etc., who on the same whim everyone was having back then, became Candi, Mandi, Traci, Wendi, Becki, etc., I guess. They're parents didn't do it to them, they did it to themselves, and then they did it to their kids. Oh, the 80s. :) So I didn't like that, but that's just a petty thing.

Overall, great book! My daughter said she hadn't gotten to it yet, so I'm going to push her on it. And I will be getting her the sequel, which I will also read.

So what does this book say about alisonwonderland? I could state the obvious and say that I think she picked it because Stargirl reminded her of herself or of who she wanted to be as a teen but maybe didn't have the courage. And then I could say that I would think it's the former, because hey, look at her name here in cybertopia: alisonwonderland. Kind of like Stargirl. After that I could say that I looked at her list of choices and why she chose them and they all have a lot to do with finding yourself, that is, figuring out your place in the world in relation to everything around you, embracing it and exploring it and being true to it. To conclude, I could say that alisonwonderland has made this journey herself, and is satisfied with the results. I could say all that. So I will.

I borrowed the image from 3M's review, because the image from Amazon looked like it was glowing like neon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two Reviews

Kristin picked this for the Something About Me challenge because she loves libraries, books, etc., and also because she thought it was one of the best new books she has read recently! I'm so glad she picked it, because I've been dying to read it! I have read a few tepid reviews of it, though, so I was a little worried. I totally, thoroughly enjoyed it, though. It's the kind of book where you are so engrossed in the story, you wouldn't notice any inconsistencies or other editorial issues. (or at least, I wouldn't). The writing is easy, pulls you in and sits you on the edge of your chair. On the other hand, when you are finished and look back, you realize how deftly the mystery was handled and how skilled the writer really is. I also love libraries and antiquarian bookstores, so this book was a treasure to find. I loved it.
JMC chose this book for the Something About Me challenge, and again, a winner in my opinion! She said this book is an "easy A" because it's so short (children's picture book) but she also said it will make you cry unless you are "cold and heartless". Yeah, pretty much. A philosophical statement about parenting, or more accurately, how to let go as a parent, it's pretty heartbreaking. Like my husband says, parenting is 18 years (and more) of letting go. Incidentally, my kids (6 and 2) loved this book as well and begged me to read it to them many times, although they didn't get the deeper message.

Here's an update on where I'm at with the challenge (the ones I've read in bold):

The Eyre Affair (heidijane and Valentina)
Number the Stars (booklogged) or The Giver (Sarah Miller) - whichever I can get
Stick Kid (JMC)
I Am The Messenger (Jill)
The Thirteenth Tale (Kristin)
Operating Instructions (in memory of Nattie)

I have Operating Instructions in my possession, and I'm truckin' along. I'm glad of this, because there are lots more that I wanted to read if I had time, and I think I might! Thanks, girls, for some great suggestions so far!

Trish's List (Finally)

I am sorry I'm getting this out so late. I'm not sure why I'm apologizing to all of you :) I've been Internet-less for about 3 weeks and I'm currently using hubby's labtop, which I hate using because its difficult to type on. Hopefully our Internet will be hooked up early this week so I can catch up on everyone's reviews, as well as my own blog. Urg (we've been on vacation and moving...which is why no Internet).

My list (with alternates, which I'm not sure we are allowed to do but am listing anyway!):

The Thirteenth Tale (Kristen)
Like Water for Chocolate (Maryanne)
High Fidelity (Rhinoa)
Sea Glass (Beachreader and Library Lady)
Pride and Prejudice (Bookworm and Pattie)

The Other Boleyn Girl (Margo)
Bell Jar (Holly and Soleil)
The Robber Bride (Ellen)

Basically I picked these books because I already own them or they are not already cross-posted with other challenges. I'm bored to pieces with my George Washington biography, which is why I'm braving the hard-to-use keyboard to post my list--and find another book to read. :)

Happy reading!


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Good gosh, I love chocolate. Just the very thought of it makes me salivate and crave its luscious goodness. I selected Chocolat as part of this challenge because I love chocolate so much - and it looks like Chasida and maybe Margo do too. Thankfully, I was not disappointed by this rich tale.

To those of you who have only seen the movie, this book is a different story. It's a darker, more spiritual story of Vianne, the "witch" who comes to a small French village with her young daughter to open up a chocolate shop at the beginning of Lent. She's embraced by several already-outcasts of the village and hated by the village priest, Reynaud, who sees her as a threat to the power he believes he has over the village.

Vianne is a multi-dimensional, smart and driven woman whose character I thoroughly enjoyed. Her intelligence and wit keep her one step ahead of those who are out to ruin her. I also enjoyed her daughter, Anouk, who is wild and smart and impish like many young girls. Her spirit is contagious and fun to read.

I highly recommend Chocolat to readers who enjoy a tale of good food, good friends and good indulgences - and not afraid to see the darker sides of things held in high regard, such as the Church, marriage and good health. Like the delicious enrapture of my favorite dessert, Chocolat is a delightful, almost sinful reading treat.

The Polysyllabic Spree

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
143 pages
Rating: 4/5

It was Athena who picked The Polysyllabic Spree as a book that describes her. She's right when she says that this is not your average collection of book reviews. The book is a collection of monthly essays that Nick writes every month for The Believer magazine. Every month Nick starts out by telling the reader what books he's bought and which one he ended up reading. I'm the same way. I buy, trade, or check out books every month, but a lot of them I don't get to. I don't feel guilty about it. Sooner or later, I'll probably read them.

Nick Hornby writes like he talks and you end up feeling like you're having a conversation with a new friend instead of reading a book. He has such a passion for books and life. Becoming a father again or being an avid soccer fan doesn't stop him from reading, but he shows us that reading isn't everything. It's close, but you still need a life. The Polysyllabic Spree is a short read that will give you many book recommendations and have you wanting to subscribe to The Believer magazine.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Also posted HERE .
I'm not a huge fan of chocolate. I knew it already. I'm more into those very unhealthy and very artificial pick 'n mix sweets, or cheesecakes or apple crumble, or ice-cream. But you don't have to love chocolate to enjoy this book, and I'm the living proof. I didn't crave for truffles or for easter eggs while I was reading it. In fact, it took me a while to get into it, but it won me eventually.
At first I was annoyed by Harris' use of the past and the present tense at the same time. I would have preferred if she sticked to one of the two. I know I'm a bit fussy, but I really tried not to be bothered by it. In the end, it was Vianne and her little daughter that made me love the book. Vianne is such a charming character, I was really fascinated by her, and even more maybe by her daughter Anouk, so wild and confident and understanding, the way only 6 years-old kids can be.

The story is a well-known one: Vianne, a traveler, decides that Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a small town in in the French countryside, with its sad and grumpy faces, is in serious need of a bit of magic. But young Father Reynaud doesn't think so. It's just the beginning of Lent and he feels that the opening of a tempting Chocolate shop will tackle his authority and control over his "herd". Vianne Rocher is obviously ready for the challenge. All she needs is time, cause she has more than a special gift. She can read into people's soul and tastes, guessing exactly which one is everyone's favourite. Her kind and welcoming manners will do the rest. Slowly she manages to break the wall of hostility bringing a whole new approach to life for many people in the community, which involves cherishing pleasure, joy and friendship.

It's crazy how much the book is different from the movie. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. The movie was a light fairy tale. The book is much more complex than that. It tells us of Vianne's pasts, of her fears and nightmares and of her pagan beliefs, so brave to be shown in such a small and religious community. It also tells the story from the opposite perspective of the priest, which didn't do him any good, anyway! To those who might be offended by Harris's description of a Christian priest, I might say that she didn't invent anything. Yes, she chose one of the worst examples that could be, but it serves the story so well and it's also so true. Life is supposed to be enjoyed. Chocolate (or cheesecake for me) is there to help!

This book was chosen by two people: Chasida and Margo. I know Chasida chose it because she loves chocolate (fair enough!), but I couldn't find the reason for Margo. Thanks to both anyway:)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

This post is reproduced over on my blog as well, except for the last paragraph.

I read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's not my usual reading fare, but it sounded interesting, so I thought 'what the hell heck.' And it was interesting. This is a novel written by Anne Rice (yes, she of the vampire fame) from the point of view of Jesus as a 7-8 year-old boy. It is a believable story about the events that may have taken place within Jesus's family, thoughts he made have had as a young boy and his awareness or lack thereof that he is somehow different than the other children. Now, I admit that I'm no Bible scholar. I have not read it cover-to-cover (I've tried a couple of times, but I somehow never get past Exodus), and I only know the well-known stories. So I may say that I wondered about something that Rice touched on in this novel, and you may be thinking, "Well, duh, it says all that in the Bible," and you would be right that I am ignorant of it being right there where I could have eased my wondering mind all along.

What I liked:
I liked that Rice gave voice to things I had wondered about regarding the virgin birth. For example, in the novel, it WAS a scandal, people DIDN'T believe Mary. When she returns to Nazareth with Jesus, he is almost denied admittance to the school to learn from the rabbis, because he is thought to be a child conceived in sin. All of this is only alluded to, no one ever comes out and says that people assumed Mary had had sex with someone and become pregnant, but everyone thinks it.

I liked Mary's brother, Jesus's Uncle Cleopas. He's a lot like me in that he was continually amused by people not just saying what they mean. Everyone danced around what they knew, and refused to just come out with it, but Cleopas thought that was ridiculous. The only reason he stayed silent was because he promised Joseph.

I liked that Jesus was portrayed as a real kid, one that liked to run and play, though he was obviously wise beyond his years. It was through play that he realized he had "powers" that others did not - the power to kill, the power to give life. He desires things, as children do, but his desires actually happen. When he wishes for snow, it unexpectedly snows. The wise beyond his years part was what kept him in check. If my almost seven-year-old discovered that whatever she wished for happened, my house would be full of Webkins, and we would eat every meal at Chuck E. Cheese's. But Jesus realizes what is happening and decides to only pray for things that are God's will.

I liked the sibling rivalry. That James, Joseph's older son, could envy and at times even hate Jesus, knowing he was the son of God, was a true testament to the intensity of sibling rivalry.

I liked Jesus's reaction when he finally put together the story of his birth and realized what had happened because of it. Not that it was a happy part of the book. I liked it because Jesus had a very human reaction. We'd probably call it a nervous breakdown. This was the only part of the book that elicited an emotional response from me.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like. It was a bit of a slow read, and seemed to drag in places.

One thing I didn't like, because it just wasn't mentioned at all, was that while Mary was 13, Joseph was 60 or thereabouts (right?). And they were betrothed. Pedophilia anyone? Now I know things were different back then, but today Joseph would be in jail, so I thought maybe it deserved a mention and some sort of rationalization.

Overall, it was an interesting novel that I'm glad to have read. It was nice to read some speculation, particularly well-researched speculation, on Jesus at ages that aren't mentioned in the Bible. I think in the Bible we see his birth, he pops up around the age of 12, and then we see him as a man. But what of the child? I'm glad Anne Rice addressed this. BUT... I would have liked to see a more mischievous child-Jesus. I would've liked to see Jesus play some practical jokes with his powers. Something that would have made me able to relate him to my nephews at that age. Maybe next Rice will speculate on a teenage Jesus, call it 'God's Rebellion' or something.

As a side note, the 'Author's Note' at the end of the novel was really worth reading. Rice gives her religious history, details the research involved in writing this novel, and wonders about the various ways to portray Jesus.

I selected this novel from Jill(mrstreme)'s list. I think her choice of this book tells me that she is a person who is interested in knowing people in a more in-depth way than what is presented to the world. In other words, what was this person like aside from the stories we've heard? I'd have to say that Jill is not one to "judge a book by its cover," but is willing to take the time to find out what's inside the book, why someone bothered to write it.

The Stand

Wow! I finally read a Stephen King book!

I picked this from's list. I also already had it on by TBR Challenge list, so I killed two with one!

The horror genre makes me a bit nervous, but I've heard so much about this particular book, so I was curious enough to check it out.

And wow! What a story it is! But, I must say that I was getting too depressed by it and was glad to see it finally come to an end. It wore me out! The end of the world scenario depicted here seems like it could be so real. It's quite scary. There's a lot of political AND religious stuff that King is trying to say here that I couldn't even begin to list. But all very interesting.

There was lots of icky stuff too that maked me grimace and feel a bit squeamish, but that's to be expected in a so called horror book, right?

Anyway, I'm glad to have finally read it, but I must say that I'll probably give Stephen King a break for awhile!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wuthering Heights Bookworms review

I've just finished my second book from my list.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
I enjoyed this book very much. It's not what I expected at all.
Being partial to the classics, I enjoyed it and actually got through it quickly. For some reason, I expected this book to be like "Gone With the Wind'...I was so wrong.

Anyway, what is 'Wuthering Heights'? It's a house. With a name like 'wuthering' (which I can't find in the dictionary by the way) I expected this to be a romance novel. Supposedly 'wuthering' is a Yorkshire word that refers to turbulent weather.

I kept hearing this is a 'gothic romance'. It is dark and gothic. It is a love story, but not just that. It's about death and revenge as well.
read the rest of my review here....

Without by Donald Hall

Without- Donald Hall

81 pages

Rating: 5/5

Gracie picked this book of poetry as her sixth pick for the challenge. I read this book years ago and had forgotten it. Without by Donald Hall is a book of twenty poems about love and grief. In 1972 Hall married Jane Kenyon, a fellow poet. Kenyon died in 1995 of cancer and this book is Hall's tribute to her. So many of the poems are written in third-person and the grief lingers on every word. I think that Hall probably couldn't write about such intimate things in first-person. The pain was too great. At times I had to put the book down because I was trying not to cry. There were few poems that I like every part of. But I got somethiing out of every poem. One poem that I do love every part of is Last Days. It tells of Kenyon being told that the bone marrow transplant didn't work and she was going to die. Phone calls had to be made, funeral arrangements planned, last good-byes had to be said. I felt the horror of it so fully. The horror of being diagnoised with cancer and then dying of it. This book made me think of Dana. Dana, I'm so glad you are well. I'm so glad you are alive. I hope soon cancer will be a thing of the past. A good book for everyone to read about love, life, grief, and death. Thanks Gracie for the recommendation.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Jane Eyre (Thanks Kathrin!)

I completed my reading of Jane Eyre. I am not sure where to start to explain my thoughts on it. I loved it. That is for sure. I am head over heels in love with Mr. Rochester. Jane made me laugh and yell. I wanted to hug her and hit her, simultaneously. I chose this off of Kathrin's list. Makes me think I might just like Kathrin. *grins*

A big plus to reading this is that I have been spending more time with a girl I met three years ago. She was away at college until recently. Now, we work together, and I love the chance to get to know her better. Jane Eyre is one of her favorite books. She has written college papers on the book. When she found out I was reading (and liking) it, she suggested Wide Sargasso Sea. I MUST read that book. Why? Because my only real complaint about Jane Eyre is that it does not truly explain Bertha. We hear Rochester's explanation, and it isn't a bad one, but I am left feeling like there could be so much more. Granted, Jane Eyre isn't a thin book, as it is, but still... I will definitely be searching out a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea and sharing my thoughts on it.
I am so glad I took this challenge and read this book.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why I Wore Lipstick for Think Pink Dana

My first completed book for this challenge is: Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy by Geralyn Lucas, from Think Pink Dana's original list. She actually chose another book after this was a choice, but this is the one I found first. I'll try to catch the other one, The Five Gifts of Illness, another time.

I've known Dana online for several years now, and for the longest time all I really knew about her was that she was younger and cuter than I am, that she mothered little girls as do I, that she was a minister's wife as I was---and that she was a breast cancer survivor. Her email signature line has always said something like, "Young women can and do get breast cancer...and survive! Surviving and thriving since 1996." I've read her blog with her cancer story, and it is nothing short of amazing. Through the years I've learned more about her: her strength, her hunger for God's word, her desire to serve God, her compassion, her intolerance for silliness and unnecessary drama. She challenges me often to reexamine what I think and believe about things. I am proud to call her my friend.

Lucas's book was, in many ways, an echo of Dana for me. I am glad I read this book, because I feel it gives good insight into what it is like for a young woman in today's society facing the loss of something profoundly and foundationally female: a breast. I have always had respect for Dana, and this book only served to remind me of what she has gone through.

Cancer, that evil in a cell, manifests in many forms. It claims lives like my friend Nattie's; it claims breasts and portions of breasts; it crops up in the most unexpected places. But it can never conquer the human spirit, and it will never, EVER, conquer God.

Originally posted at:
Author's Web Site:

Blindness by Jose Saramago

Vasilly selected Blindness by Jose Saramago, calling it one of her favorite books in the world. She didn't elaborate why, but it must be true because she lists this book as her favorite on her blog, other blogs and her PaperBackSwap profile.

I found Blindness to be intriguing and gripping. I can see why Vasilly was so moved by this novel, and I am glad to have read it for this challenge. My review is below and also posted on my blog.

Thanks, V, for sharing this book with me!


Imagine if you suddenly became blind - your eyes glaze over with a white light, and one by one, your loved ones, neighbors and enemies all become infected by this same white blindness. How would the government respond? How would the medical community deal with this epidemic? And more importantly, how would you survive when you cannot see?

This sense of despair is the central theme to Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago's novel, Blindness.

A group of blind people become allies during quarantine at a government facility guarded by soldiers. Within the facility, lawlessness rules over organization, and this band of blinded victims, led by a woman who fakes her blindness so she could stay with her husband, must steal, murder and endure sexual assault to survive these horrible conditions.

Blindness will leave you breathless in parts and exacerbated in others. Translated from Portuguese, the novel is written with run-on dialogues (with no quotation marks or attributions), extremely long paragraphs (some of which take up the entire page) and stream of consciousness writing. Once you get used to the writing style, the novel will leave you wondering: "What would I do if I suddenly became blind?"

I believe Blindness is a social commentary of how "blind" people are even when they can see. Blinded, no one could distinguish between different races, economic classes or intellect. A chamber maid and a doctor are now on the same playing field. With the absence of "normal" distinctions, new ones emerge. Those with food, with weapons, with a place to stay. And those who have nothing - not even hope that they will recover from their sudden blindness.

Readers who enjoyed The Road or other dystopian tales will find Blindness to be enjoyable, exhilarating and gripping. Overall, I am glad to have been introduced to this imaginative piece of Portuguese literature.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Hey, I bet you all forgot I said there'd be prizes to this challenge! I'm going to give one at the beginning for a winner of all those who nominated books "about them". Then at the end I'll do a drawing of all those who finished their own reading challenge!

I went to, and asked for a random number between 1 and 66. We have 66 participants to this challenge, and they are listed randomly at the bottom of this page. gave me #17, which was AlisonWonderland! Then I asked it to give me a random # between 1 and 330, which is how many books are on the side bar. It gave me #184, which was A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain off Athena's list!

SO, I'll be sending Alison a copy of A Cook's Tour!!

Now get reading, and I'll do that again at the end! Who knows what you might win!

Review: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Last week I read "Number the Stars", for the Something About Me reading challenge. Two of Lois Lowry's books were nominated, and after reading this one, I'm hoping for time to read "The Giver" as well. This is a very well developed short novel, and I really enjoyed it. I must say, I've read many books about German children during World War II, and never one about Danish children during World War II. I'm sure in some high school history class I probably knew that Denmark was occupied by the Nazis, but it gave me no more of a passing fancy than that. This book gives you yet another perspective of those who were terrorized by the Nazi regime. Oh, and did I say it made me want to visit the Netherlands? Lois Lowry will be hearing more from me.

I'm kinda getting into this YA genre! Oh yay, another 10,000 books for my TBR list. Great.

I bet you thought I forgot

I played a little 30 minute catch-up today reading over all the posts made in the last month and the reviews that are up already. Then I began looking over everyone's lists and making decisions. It was hard--hard,hard, hard. I wanted to make a list of ten and commit to five books from the list. I ended up with 11 or 12 from which I will read at least 6, hopefully more. Here they are:

1000 Splendid Suns (shereads) - I need an excuse to dive into this rather than calling it just "pleasure reading." I've been DYING to read it anyway

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Beachreader) - I am also a beach reader and something in the name of this one really appealed to me. It did not lose it's appeal when I looked it up on amazon. I'm very excited about this one.

I Am the Messenger (Jill) - I loved The Book Thief with a pure and wonderful love. I can't wait to read more Zusak

A Gift from the Sea (alisonwonderland) - also one that I have wanted for some time and just needed a kick in the pants to get me on it.

A Girl Named Zippy - one of Nat's choices. 'Nuff said.

Echo Maker/ Mere Christianity (3M) - these are kind of a cheat as I am reading both for other groups, but I am excited about both as well.

Grapes of Wrath (kookiejar)- another that I am reading for another challenge. I hated it in high school, but I think I am a better reader now.

A Walk in the Woods (Wendy) - one of Bill Bryson's I have not read. I so enjoy him though. And I grew up near part of the Appalachain Trail.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (Lucca) - I read my first Capote this year and enjoyed it immensely. I want to read more.

Weetzie Bat (Soliel)- the name and the description totally intrigue me

To Sir, with Love (Gautami) - I watched this movie with my Dad, and we loved it.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery
(Soleil has Le Petit Prince on her list but zut alors, I can't read French.)

Summary: The narrator is a downed pilot in the Sahara Desert, trying to repair his wrecked plane. His efforts are interrupted one day by the apparition of the Little Prince who asks him to draw a sheep. Absurd as it seemed, he did, and so began their friendship. The Little Prince describes his journey from planet to planet, each tiny world populated by a single adult, as well as his journey across the desert where he discovers the secrets of what's important in life, as well as the power of love.

Favourite parts:
- The narrator's discussion of how he was discouraged from drawing when no adults could recognize his picture of a boa constrictor that had eaten an elephant - a very good example of how adults need more imagination and can't see things from a child's point of view.
- The drawings are very charming.
- The Little Prince's journey to the different planets, each populated by one adult representing an incomprehensible-to-a-child adult trait was a bit heavy-handed but good in a fable-type way. Particularly the ridiculous king who tries to make the Little Prince his judicial minister even though the only other thing on the planet is one rat or the Little Prince could be the judge of himself.

Overall: Honestly, this one just didn't do a lot for me. I feel kind of guilty about that, since it's such a treasured classic. But I'm just not that big on metaphors. I also get irked by children's books that aren't actually for children, as this one seems to be (although its age lets it off the hook a bit for that) - most of the themes would be way beyond a child's reach (they were beyond mine!), apart from the numerous times that adults are pointed out as being silly. I certainly agree with that!

This is going to be blasphemous, but I actually found the Little Prince himself to be rather annoying. He supposedly loved his flower, but he abandoned it quite cruelly. He was incredibly self-centered, although I suppose that the combination of being a child and having been the only person on one's planet would do that to you. I really didn't understand how he charmed the pilot so much, especially when he was in mortal danger and the Little Prince kept harassing him.

I don't know, I probably wasn't coming at it with enough depth or the wrong spirit. I appreciated the message of seeing what's truly important in life with your heart rather than your eyes and liked the observations and humour about grown-ups, but I didn't find it particularly magical and found it quite sad, overall.

What I learned about Soleil: In her blurb about the book she says "I still don't feel like a grownup and I have made some of the same observations he makes about them." So I've learned that we have that in common - I don't feel like a grownup, either! And more power to us, say I! :-)

Oh My Goth

In this young adult novel (chosen by the amazing Stephanie for the Something About Me Challenge), Jade Leigh is a goth girl (you know the type, black lipstick and black nail polish) whose arch enemy, Mercedes (the kind of girl who enjoys wearing pink) makes high school life pretty much unbearable for anyone who is 'different'. In this respect the novel is quite realistic. I know, because in high school I was 'different'. Some would say I still am.

Anyways, as punishment for their constant fighting they are put into a virtual reality game wherein the majority of people in the town are goth and the 'freaks' dress normal (whatever that is supposed to mean). I guess they were supposed to get a taste for each other's situations and come to a better understanding for one another. Which, predictably, they do.

Maybe Goths are different in other parts of the country, or maybe today's young Goths are different from the Goths in my day, but I just never believed that Jade was a real Goth. It seemed like she just lived on the surface of the lifestyle. I've known lots of really dark Gothgirls and I can't imagine any of them reacting to Jade's predicament (sudden popularity in the virtual world) the way she did.

My favorite part was where Jade discovered her normally boring, conservative teacher has spiked hair in the virtual world. The stuff where Jade shares her first kiss was sweet, too. However, I breezed through this one in under 2 hours and it left me ultimately unsatisfied.

This in not the book's fault. It is a light, funny, breezy novel. I just don't care for YA novels. That is my failing. I chose it because it was the only book on Stephanie's list that I hadn't already read and she is one of my favorite bloggers. So, thank you Stephanie for helping me step outside my comfort zone for a little while.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA novels, especially ones with strong, smart, independent female heroines.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

this was really good! it was a fast quick read. and i did enjoy the movie version years ago but the book is so. . . much. . . better!

mia thermopolis is your average high school freshman. she's on the fringe, not pretty (in her words) or popular. she bemoans the fact that she is 5'9, wears a shoe size 10 and an A cup bra. she describes her hair as being 'shaped like a yield sign.' she is in fact adorable. i love that she wears combat boots with her school uniform, is strictly vegetarian and is a devout greenpeace follower. she is so sincere yet so clueless when it comes to boys and the finer aspects of being a girl. this book is written in a diary form complete with algebra notes and little to-do lists.
it was a very quick and fun read. and now i want to read the rest. the movie really condenses the story and kind of twists things around.

i got this from kathrin's list and she said that "This book is for the child in me. I enjoy being like that from time to time. It makes life a bit easier, more fun, more enjoyable..."

thanks kathrin for the recommendation! i wonder if you are at all like mia and lilly. . . ? i love how they are nonconformists and are opinionated and stand up for their beliefs yet also have wacky fun. i love how mia finally learns to assert herself and wises up early to josh's (read most popular boy) antics and tells him off and stands up for herself. i wish they had had that in the movie. . .

I Am the Messenger, read by raidergirl3

With all the love I read about Markus Zusak and The Book Thief, I decided to read one of his other books, I Am the Messenger, as recommended by Jill (mrsteme).

She said: 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...

Ed Kennedy is a twenty year old cab driver in Australia, with not much hope in his life. He plays cards with his equally hopeless mates, is in unrequited love his best friend Audrey, is on the outs with his family and lives with his very smelly dog. One day he witnesses a bank robbery, inadvertently gets involved, and then his life is never the same. He is given a playing card, with a very vague message on it. Ed takes up this challenge and has to help some people.

I loved Ed's acceptance of his role, his faith in people and especially himself, to know the right thing to do, without knowing why he was doing it. I found this a very uplifting story, seeing how small, seemingly insignificant events can be so important. Ed's bravery to confront people, especially his friends, is quite a message.

How many people get this chance?
And of those few, how many actually take it?

This is a book that will stay with me for a while. Thanks to jill(mrsteme) for recommending it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Finally posting my TBR list....

I'm off to a slow start, but at least I'm not the only one! Here are my picks:

1. From Historia's list, 84 Charing Cross Road, because ages ago when I worked at the library Elaine told me I'd love it.

2. From Becky's list, These Happy Golden Years, even though I did read it a long time ago. This will be an excellent excuse to listen to Cherry Jones read the audio edition. Besides, this time I will read in the context of Beckiness. ;)

3. From Little Willow's list, The Neverending Story, because I've only seen the movie.

4. From Wendy's list, The Borrowers, because in anticipation of choice #5, I'm going to need a shortie, and it just seems like someone who sells children's books ought to be someone who has read The Borrowers.

5. And even though I know darn well I will live to regret this, my final pick is the very enormous A Short History of Nearly Everything from Raidergirl3's list, because I've had it on my shelf for at least two years now and I'm tired of feeling guilty every time I see it.

Plus, if I get really ambitious, I'll read Jane Eyre (Kathrin's list) because my Aunt Wanda gave me a copy at least ten years ago and I'm very embarrassed to admit that I Still. Haven't. Read. It. (But don't feel bad, Aunt Wanda -- Uncle Bob gave me The Hobbit when I was 13 and I didn't read it until after he died.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Holly's lists

Life and summer intervened, but luckily all but one of my "something about me" books are on other lists (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Neverending Story, The Bell Jar, and Speak). My fifth pick:

Six Memos for the Next Millenium, by Italo Calvino
A collection of essays by one of the most creative, brilliant minds in the last century asking, what qualities of literature should survive into the next millenium? The qualities he proposes are lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. The sixth, consistency, remained unwritten at the time of his death. This little book provided a window into the kind of writer I wanted to become and led me to his fiction. His little novel, Invisible Cities, about a visit to Kublai Khan by Marco Polo, remains my favorite book of all time. (Ok, so that was cheating, two in one.)

I plan to read:
  • Oh My Goth, by Gena Showalter (from Stephanie's list)
  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler (from Julie's list)
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert (from Karlene's list)
  • Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (from Faith's list)
  • A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly (from SheReads/Diane's list)

Gautami's Review of 'The Namesake'

Title: The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
ISBN: 0618485228
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company/2004
Rating: **1/2

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world.

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This is what Heidijane writes about this book:

"I found this book, about the clash of cultures between Bengali and American very funny, very entertaining and very moving. As a German-born half British girl now living in the UK, I could relate to some of the identity crises, although obviously the cultures from one European culture to another are not as different as cross-continental cultures."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bonnie's review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

1. Title, author, and date of book?
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards, 2005

2. Genre: fiction

3. What made you want to read it? Did it live up to your expectations?
Because several people had recommended it, I put it on the lists for two of my challenges: Something About Me and Saturday Review of Books. Yes, it was as good as I had expected.

4. Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy; his daughter has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the infant to an institution and never to reveal the secret, then tells his wife their daughter was stillborn. Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the baby at the institution and disappears into another city to raise the child herself. What happens when secrets are revealed? (Hmmm, I just realized that's TWO books about children with Down's I have reviewed here ... two out of two.)

5. What did you think of the main characters?
This book has three main characters. I cannot imagine lying to a spouse as David did. I do understand Norah's being more upset by her child's death than her husband had expected and Caroline's desire to raise the baby rather than consign her to a life in an institution.

6. Which character could you relate to best, and why?
Caroline, who raised the little girl and fought for her right to an education, even if she did have Down's.

7. Were there any other especially interesting characters?
I liked Albert (Al) Simpson, who helped Caroline when her car battery died during that night's blizzard, and Dorothy (Doro) March, who later became Caroline's friend. The twins were also interesting: Paul, who was smart and handsome, and Phoebe, who thrived in a loving household.

8. Did you think the characters and their problems were believable?
Most of the time, yes, but Dr. Henry's problems were self-inflicted and could have been solved if he had had the gumption to tell the truth. Of course, we wouldn't have had a story then, would we?

9. Share a quote from the book:
"He had tried to protect his son from the things he himself had suffered as a child: poverty and worry and grief. Yet his very efforts had created losses David had never anticipated" (p. 258).

10. Share a favorite scene from the book:
Paul, the son, sees himself as a "caretaker of the past" (p. 378). "His to choose, what to keep and what to discard. ... his deep sense of responsibility, how what he kept from this house of his childhood would become, in turn, what he passed down to his own children someday -- all they would ever know, in a tangible way, of what had shaped him" (p. 378).

11. What about the ending?
I could think of better ways for it to end, or at least as I would have wanted it to end. But the story works with the ending the author gave it.

12. What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
How secrets can tear a family apart or harm them in unexpected ways. Not everyone in my own family agrees with me, but I do believe in telling the truth and getting secrets out in the open so they don't poison relationships. I kept turning those pages, wanting to know what would happen, whether the wife would ever learn what really happened to her daughter.

13. How would you rate the book?
Rated 9/10, excellent!

14. How does this book tell me something about 3M, who selected it?
When 3M chose this book for one of her five, she wrote: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards has several 'something about me' qualities. It is set in Lexington, Ky, and I live less than an hour from there. The author is a UK professor and mentions the school and the Wildcats, and my husband got his undergraduate degree there and is a UK fanatic. Like Paul (the boy twin), when I was an adult I found out I had a sister that I never knew about. Like David (the husband and father), I felt like an 'imposter' in my (brief) professional life. He is a doctor in the story; I was an engineer. This was probably due to his poorer family background, which I can also relate to. Like Norah, I suffered from postpartum depression."

So I learned something about the area where 3M now lives, though she says (in choosing another book) that she is originally from Nebraska; I learned that she has a sister she knew nothing about until they were adults, that she wasn't entirely comfortable being an engineer, that she was a teacher (from her introduction of another book), that she relates to the fictional character's poorer family background, and that she has experienced postpartum depression. I think I know you a little better, 3M, but I would really like to hear what it felt like to learn you had a sister.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Oh My Goth

i picked this young adult novel, written by Gena Showalter, from Stephanie's list. this is what Stephanie said about it:

This is the story about a girl in high school (for me it was college) that is a nonconformist and who values individuality. She dresses "Goth", wears all black. Then one day her smart mouth gets her in trouble at school. ( THIS sounds like me!) She wakes up to find that whole world has gone Goth and she is no longer different....but POPULAR! I've been known to wear a LOT of black, even lipstick and nail polish. I always liked being different. Guess this one is really me!

i found this to be a fun, quick read. i don't think it is as well written as, say. Stargirl, my favorite high school nonconformist story. but reminiscent of the films 13 Going on 30 and Never Been Kissed, the moral of the story is a good one - although the kids that most need it are probably not the ones who are most likely to read the book (or get the message) - and i do like a happy ending!

thanks, Stephanie, for the recommendation!

The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

also posted on my blog HERE

I picked this book from Soleil's list for the "Something about me" challenge, because I had a vague notion of Sylvia Plath being a famous feminist poet of the "second wave", studied in universities courses and worshipped by many. I don't usually read poetry so I thought her only novel might be a good way to know her.I thought the story of her life might be inspirational. But her life have been so depressing that I had a hard time finishing the book. Every situation, setting, atmosphere, was so gloomy and unwelcoming. If that's how she perceived life, I understand why she took hers. I'm glad I finished it though. The most interesting part is the last one, when her "insanity" brings Esther/Sylvia in different asylums and shows us the way doctors used to deal with "madness" at that time. It was obvious to me that she wasn't in any sense mad. She was depressed, insecure, unhappy, living constantly under a bell jar, feeling trapped. But all they could do was giving her electroshocks and injections. Not one of the doctors tried to listen to her, or even understand her. That was irritating, discouraging and very disturbing.
I felt it was a necessary read to do, but I didn't enjoy it, and I'm happy I'm done with it.