Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
4 stars

Summary (adapted from Publishers Weekly): In December 1941 in St. Cassians, a mainly Eastern European conclave in Baltimore, 20-year-old Michael Anton meets Pauline and is immediately smitten. They marry after Michael is discharged from the army, but their temperaments don't mix. For Michael, self-control is the greatest of virtues; for Pauline, expression is what makes us human (whether that expression is a good idea or not). At Pauline's urging, the two move to the suburbs, where they raise three children, George, Karen and Lindy. Too much more would be giving away the plot, but it won't come as a surprise to hear that they eventually divorce, after 30 years of mostly downs with very few ups. The rest of the novel follows their separate, yet still connected, lives.

My thoughts: I'm finding that I really enjoy Anne Tyler. My book club read Digging to America earlier this year and I really liked it, particularly the parts about the little girls (it was worth it for the "binky party" - where her mother tried to get rid of her daughter's soother addiction - alone). I'd also read The Accidental Tourist back in library school for a project on popular fiction, but had put her from my mind after that. I'm glad I've found her again!

The jacket copy says "Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision..." and this is true - Tyler is excellent at capturing the sounds, smells, sights - the whole atmosphere - of a situation. I was particularly struck by the going-away-to-war party scene in the community hall - you can smell the pergoies, see the whole neighbourhood gathered together, from babies to seniors, and hear the women gossiping while they "finickily [readjust] the sprigs of parsley garnish after one or another of the men had passed through loading his plate."

Publishers Weekly pointed out that "A lesser novelist would take moral sides, using this story to make a didactic point" and this is really true - I kept wanting to root for either Michael or Pauline, but Tyler wouldn't let me. Even the characters themselves sometimes acknowledg (in non-heated moments) their joint responsibility for their problems. I think this was very well done, as many "women's novels" have the wife as a long-suffering victim and the husband as a cad, period. Here they were both long-suffering but neither was a terrible person (though they could be very unkind) - they just didn't fit together.

The title is really interesting, too. It made me wonder if I have an amateur marriage and if everyone thinks they do, at some point. I don't think mine is amateur, but after only 4 years, it's still evolving. It made me think about marriage as a process - even after 30 years, this couple didn't have a "professional" one

What I learned about Nattie: Gosh, Nattie - it's so sad. But I thank her for recommending this book. In her blurb about it, she stated that she'd had an amateur marriage that lasted 7 years. So, I learned that she was smart enough to see when she needed to leave the amateur marriage leagues before she wasted her life there (unlike this couple).

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I picked A Thousand Splendid Suns from SheReads who wrote the following about this selection:

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.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is an amazing novel. My review is below and also posted on my blog.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini
Completed September 30, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a beautiful, heartbreaking yet hopeful story about two women, Mariam and Laila, who live in Afghanistan throughout its recent turbulent years. Foes at first, Mariam and Laila soon become allies against their abusive husband. And in many ways, they are allied against the opppresive powers in place in Afghanistan, where women are to be silent, obedient and enduring, no matter what.

Parts of this book are uncomfortable to read. I will warn you - A Thousand Splendid Suns is not for the faint of heart. The story will tug at your emotions in many ways. You will be mad, sad, happy and disgusted. Good stories can do that to you.

I am glad Khaled Hosseini is writing about Afghanistan after 09/11. It helps put a perspective on this country that I honestly didn't understand. It seems to be such a beautiful, cultural place, if war had not torn it apart. I hope that this country can get on its feet and let its people live in an era of no rockets, snipers or oppression.

My review is not doing this book justice. Just go and read it. In a thousand splendid ways, it will move you. I promise. ( )

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

This novel follows Clarissa Dalloway as she plans and throws a party for the high society in London. It follows both her and a selection of guests through their thoughts, feelings and conversations before and during the event. In a seemingly unrelated story, the novel also follows Septimus Warren Smith and his wife Rezia. They also live in London, he was in the War and he met Rezia whilst in Italy where she made hats with her sisters. He is suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder which was undiagnosed at the time the novel is set (early 1030's). He is talking of killing himself and has visions of his officer who died during the war in front of him.

The two stories intertwine nicely and I enjoyed getting to know all the different characters. Clarissa is a funny lady, I wasn't sure what to make of her. It seemed she didn't quite get what she wanted out of life and was a bit silly, yet at the same time she was well liked and well thought of by all (with only one exception). Most of the characters were flawed and dealing with different kinds of unhappiness. Mr Dalloway was never really able to tell Clarissa that he loved her, their daughter missed the country, Peter Walsh never really got over loving Clarissa, Rezia missed home etc. The person I probably felt the most sorry for was Rezia. She married a charming English war hero, who then took away all affection for her after a few years of marriage. She left all her friends and family to be with him and was desperately unhappy. I wonder if she returned home after the end of the novel.

It was due to end with Clarissa killing herself originally. I am really glad Woolf changed the story to exclude this as it really wouldn't have felt right. She wasn't satisfied with what she had, but it would have seemed unjustified had it ended so abruptly. Very real and well told, a good snapshot looking into the lives of others and the human condition.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dance of the Dissident Daughter - Review

I finished reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd over a week ago. I have blogged off of some ideas that it spurred, but I have no been able to review it. It is just such a complex idea - this book. How do I tell you what I thought of it?

I will start by saying that I enjoyed reading Dance. I enjoyed it very much, actually. Kidd has a gift for sharing herself and her stories. She is a talented writer. Whether she writes about a subject I can relate to or one more distant from me, I still find myself drawn in. Her images are paintings with the paint still wet on its canvas. I could not help but enjoy this book.

I can't really review the ideas set forth by this book in a simple blog entry. I sometimes nodded, mumbled an adamant amen, scratched my head in confusion and disagreed violently. Always, emotions were evoked. Like I said, she is a good writer. In this book, she shares her journey through modern Religion to her Faith. Her story is not my story. As women, as people, we need to hear each other's stories, however, and I am blessed to have heard hers.

I have blogged some quotes from this book and some thoughts it sparked in the following entries:

I Had a Dream
Forbidden Anger
Screaming Feminist
Beginning at Zero
El Shaddai
13 Quotes from Dance of the Dissident Daughter
Just the Facts, Ma'am
Interview with Me
13 Quotes from a Lovely Book

There will probably be more entries to come. I will try to remember to update this list, if that is so. I chose this book from Bonnie's list, and I am glad I did. I have "danced" around it for ages and it was time to take the plunge. Thanks, Bonnie!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Review: Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

I picked this book, suggested by Beachreader and Library Lady as "Something About Them," because I was reading it anyway from my TBR pile for the TBR Challenge also.

It was my treadmill book this month too, which means I grabbed a large print version and read it while walking my 1/2 hour every day! Pefect book for that!

I liked this one better than the last Anita Shreve book I read (A Pilot's Wife.) This one, I cared much more about the characters, and loved how all their lives came together, and apart, at the end.

This story takes place just as the stock market crashes in 1929 and how all the different characters deal with this tradgedy and how their lives are affected. It also centers around the mill workers strike and how that fires them up and gives them something to live for, yet also makes a complete mess of their lives.

Anyway, it is a sad story, but still, I enjoyed it and I think that if I lived by a beach, I could really get into collecting sea glass!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

Bella (Isabella) Swan moves from living with her mum in bustling Phoenix to sleepy topwn Forks. She is spending some time where she grew up living with her dad while her mum and new partner look for a new job in Florida. She starts at the local school and makes friends, is a hit with the boys and also encounters Edward. He has pale skin, dark hollows under his eyes and he doesn't associate with anyone else at school apart from his family. She is immediately drawn to him. What she doesn't realise is that he is a vampire. Every step she takes getting closer to him, the more she puts herself in danger.

I really enjoyed this book. The style of writing was very seductive and really drew me in as a reader. It changes some of the essential vampire ideas, giving it a fresh take on an exhausted subject. It isn't "just another vampire book" by any means. It's mostly about relationships and Bella getting to know Edward. The last 100 pages or so take a different turn when an outside threat enters the neighbourhood and Bella's life is at risk. The tone of the book changed which I wasn't sure about at first as I liked the gentle building a lot.

I will definately be reading the rest of the series and have New Moon to start when I get time. If you like a good story, vampires or teen dramas than I recommend this to you.

Chocolat - Joanne Harris

Vivianne Rocher and her daughter Anock arrive in the French villiage Lansquenet (I like that it never really tells you quite where they are from) and are clearly marked as outsiders. They don't go to church and they open a chocolate chop opposite the church during Lent. Father Rayraud from the church takes this as open warfare and begins to undermine them and try to get them to leave the villiage.

A cast of excellent main and secondary characters, this novel really drew me in. The different chocolates made my mouth water and I loved the Pagan side to the novel that was missed out of the film (which I also enjoyed but for different reasons). I liked that you never quite knew where Vivianne was from origianlly and learning the shocking truth behind her upbringing was again something left out of the film. The war between them and "The Black Man" was done well and I liked that it wasn't specifically anti-christianity. The point was there are good and bad people, religion doesn't make you either neccessarily.

The ending was quite mixed. The new blessing to Vivianne's life was wonderful, but I was sad that the wind still called to them to move on again. It would be lovely if Harris wrote a sequel. To anyone who enjoyed the film, please read the book. It is very different whilst still retaining the charm of the film. I will dedinately be reading more from this author, although I have heard this is by far her best novel to date.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Nattie-Pie Pick

I have ended up reading a different book from the challenge than I had planned. I didn't realize I would get the chance to read Sixpence House, off of Nattie's List, but I am so glad that I did. Pattie sent me her copy, and it has been such a blessing, like a few more moments in Natalie's presence. I mean, if you have ever seen the books stacked floor to ceiling in her Hobbit House, you will understand.


I give the book 4 stars. It would be 5 except for a couple of things. First of all, the book is called Sixpence House, but that building hardly plays into the book at all. It shows up in one chapter, halfway through the book, and then it is gone again. Second, I wanted MORE about books. And I wanted them to stay in Hay. It made me so sad when they flew back to America. I was living vicariously through this couple and their child, pretending I too could live in Hay. Ah, well...

Regardless, the book was a wonderful story. I loved all of the excerpts from obscure books that the author came across. I loved the descriptions of Hay, of Booth's mountains of books, etc... Hay truly is a book lover's paradise. One day, maybe, I will make it there.

If you truly love books, then you will truly love this book.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Becky's Review of Pride and Prejudice

This post is going to make the rounds. It qualifies as a "Christian" read since this edition was printed by Bethany House. This "insight edition" features notes relevant to everyone, generally speaking, but has a few targeting the Christian crowd specifically. It qualifies as appealing to the young adult crowd--which means I'll be posting it on Becky's Book Reviews. It also qualifies for two challenges I'm participating in: the Something About Me challenge and the Cardathon Challenge.

Why did I choose to read Pride and Prejudice? I love the novel. I haven't always *loved* the novel. There was a long period of my life where I was unfamiliar with this glorious work. I knew I wanted to read it one day. But I didn't have any immediate plans to make it happen. I picked up a copy--I believe it was a Dover edition--a really cheap edition, by the way, for under three bucks. I got to it in December 2005. Years after buying the book. My motivation then? Well, my best friend, Julie, loved the book. And we were discussing the movie. (The most recent movie had just reached theaters and I wanted to go see the movie...but not until I had read the book.) I read it in probably two to four days. I devoured it really. It was just so wonderful. I was graduating with my degree in library science at the time and had some gift cards to spend, so I bought the A&E DVD version with Colin Firth. If I hadn't been convinced of its wonderfulness before, I certainly would've been after seeing the movie! I remember spending the 23rd and 24th of December watching the movie and wrapping presents and feeling all wonderfully giddy. That January, I introduced the movie to my dad. I didn't know if he would like it. It is rather long. It does have a lot of dialogue. But as soon as Mr. Collins came into the scene, Dad was hooked. That summer, June or July 2006, I introduced the movie to my sister. She was skeptical at first. She thought the first hour or so rather boring. But soon she was a fan as well. Then I introduced everyone to Bride and Prejudice. Of course, Julie was the one who first introduced ME to Bride and I can't take all the credit. So there was much fun and love being spread all around in the family.

But why reread Pride and Prejudice now? Well, I saw it on the Something about Me challenge. It was tempting. But when I saw that Bethany House was releasing a special edition of the book along with their novel Just Jane by Nancy Moser--and that this edition would feature book club type questions--I really couldn't resist it. So I did request a review copy. And it came late last week. As soon as it arrived, I began reading it.

Did I discover anything new the second time around? Well, I don't know about "new" discoveries, but I certainly appreciated it more. I was able to savor it more. I knew what to expect, what was coming. I knew which bits were the "best" parts. I knew the characters. I knew their strengths and weaknesses. I love the language, the style, the romance, the characters. It really is just oh-so-magical.

For those that are unfamiliar, the plot is relatively simple. Jane and Elizabeth are the two oldest sisters in a family of five daughters. It's Regency England. Their family connections aren't the greatest, and it's really imperative that at least one or two of the daughters marry well so that they can be provided for after their father's death. Mrs. Bennet is all about getting her daughters matched up and paired off. And she's a very silly woman. Mr. Bennet is a caring father, who dotes on Elizabeth and merely tolerates the three younger sisters--who rather take after the mother. Jane is a sweet dear. Elizabeth a wit. And the book is about the complicated courtships of the two oldest children. Of course, Lydia, the youngest has her moments as the center of attention. But this isn't her story, thank goodness! Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham and, of course, the unforgettable Mr. Collins play the love interests.

It's a story of love, hate, friendship, family, disdain, disgust, joy, regret, and jealousy. Lots and lots of jealousy. It is a read I recommend to everyone!

What is it about the "Insight Edition" that makes it special? It does feature notes. Mostly cultural notes--not scholarly ones. It likes to comment on the various movie versions of the book. It likes to add in tidbits about Austen's life and time. It points out that Jane is a good "Christian" girl. And it does feature discussion questions. The only thing I am disappointed about in this edition was the fact that I found four typos. One on the very first page. They misspelled first. They even misspelled his on one occasion as "vhis." This is sad, but hopefully it will be corrected with subsequent printings. Typos do happen. But all four could have easily been caught even with spellcheck, and they definitely would have been caught with a human proofreader.

Friday, September 21, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time

I posted a blog on my site about this book, but here is a little of what I had to say about this book:

Although I am not really a non-fiction fan I did think this book was a good book. I felt this book was well written and I did enjoy hearing about some of the books the author read, but I felt the purpose of the book was better figured out on your own than explained. It was interesting to hear about how the books came to be on Sara's list and what she thought of them, and I could easily see how and why lovers of books love this book. There were many people who chose this book for their "Something about me" choice and with this many lovers of books I completely understand.

I was a bit blunt in my own blog because I wouldn't choose to read this book again and I would only recommend it to others that enjoy non-fiction. I am glad that I read it and I think it gave me a great insight to those of you that are experiencing this challenge with me.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

This is an excerpt of my review which can be read in it's entirety here.

"Mark David Chapman now gets the fan mail that John Lennon can't; Richard Ramirez...may have destroyed a dozen women's chances for connubial happiness but still receives numerous offers of marriage in prison himself. In a country that doesn't discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable."

In a series of long, highly detailed letters to her absent husband, Eva Khatchadourian writes of their life together and raising their children. One of whom (Kevin) ends up killing several schoolmates and a staff member in the high school gym.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cheaper by the Dozen - Tinylibrarian's review

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Summary: Most people probably know the story - Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were motion study experts and they decided, early in their marriage, that they wanted a large family - an even dozen, if possible. The Gilbreths, especially Frank, used their family as a testing ground for their efficiency theories. This book covers the birth of all dozen, up until their father's death in 1924.

My thoughts: As an only child, this was a very interesting read for me. I can barely imagine one sibling, let alone 11. Large families seem to be viewed as freak shows these days, things that get you your own show on TLC or Discovery Channel. And even at the turn of the last century, a dozen was a pretty big number. But the Gilbreths managed it, and without a lot of the modern conveniences we have today and seem to have managed quite happily.

I had a few mixed feelings about Mr. Gilbreth - he clearly loved his family and was very intelligent and fun-loving. But he also seemed to really enjoy embarrassing his wife and kids, a habit I always find really irritating. But his methods for making learning fun (teaching all the kids morse code by writing out clues with rewards, making room-sized diagrams of the solar system) were excellent and it's clear he placed a great value on education. The contributions he made to industry and the military are very impressive - he consulted for many large companies such as Remington typewriters and Lever Brothers.

I thought it would be dated, taking place as it does in the early part of the 20th century, but it's really not, it feels very fresh. In fact, it gives a great example of the more things changing, the more they stay the same. Mr. Gilbreth rails against the older girls wanting to be popular at the start of the Jazz Age:

Popular. That's all I hear. That's the magic word, isn't it? That's what the matter with this generation. Nobody thinks about being smart, or clever, or sweet or even attractive. No, sir. They want to be skinny and flat-chested and popular. They'd sell their soul and body to be popular, and if you ask me a lot of them do.

Apart from the flat-chested part, isn't that pretty much what we hear about today's teenagers, who in polls often indicate they'd rather be famous rather than smart?

When I have a break in between challenges, I plan to read the sequel, Belles on their Toes, which is about how the family coped after Mr. Gilbreth's death. And I've got the 1950's version of the movie on my to-see list.

What I learned about Raidergirl: Well, this is my second of her picks that I really enjoyed - so I learned once again that she picks great books! In her blurb about it, she mentioned that she loves efficiency and this book is certainly devoted to that. Apparently she "can always get one more dish in the dishwasher," which I can not do. Maybe she could give me some tips. :)

The Tale of Despereaux - 3M's Review

taleofdespereaux.JPGThis is another Newbery winner that I listened to with my son on our road trip. We enjoyed this one even more than Bud, not Buddy.

Banished from his mouse community for fraternizing with humans (to borrow C.S. Lewis's phrase), Despereaux is sent to the dungeon where it is assumed he will be eaten by the rats. Of course, he isn't eaten by the rats, but while he's in prison he learns of a rat's plans to harm one of his beloved human friends, Princess Pea. His quest to save the Princess Pea forms the rest of the story, which I won't spoil for you!

This is a very charming fantasy tale that kept us truly entertained on our trip. It might be a little scary for those under 8 or so, though. I also recommend DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which I read and enjoyed earlier this year.

2003, 272 pp.

Newbery Award

Rating: 4.5

The Little Prince - 3M's Review

littleprince.JPGThe Little Prince is a charming story written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A pilot has crashed his plane and is stranded in the desert, where he meets a little prince from another planet. The prince tells the pilot about his planet and of the people he has met on other planets. Many lessons can be learned of the stories he tells.

This is a great book for children and adults. It is inspired by the author's own crash in the Sahara desert as well as other personal events. The illustrations were beautifully done by the author. Highly recommended!

1943, 84 pp.

Rating: 4.5

Becky's Review of Tale of Despereaux

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux.

I didn't know what to expect from The Tale of Despereaux. I had read both positive and negative reviews. I had HEARD both positive and negative reviews from people I know and trust. Yet I knew I would have to read it myself to see where I was in the spectrum. I really enjoyed The Tale of Despereaux. If you like stories with talking animals--particularly talking mice--then this book will probably appeal. (I know there are some folks that don't like the 'animal fantasy' genre as a whole. People who like their animals to be realistic.) Despereaux is the smallest and youngest mouse in his family. He was 'odd' from his birth. Odd because he was said to be born with 'his eyes open.' Many in the mouse community dislike him. They seem him as odd, different, weird, un-mouselike. He's an outsider among his own. The Tale of Despereaux is about conformity and nonconformity. About being different, about being unique, about finding love and acceptance. About searching for that love and acceptance--because often it is NOT freely given. Yes, Despereaux is different. He is not interested in mousey things. He is drawn to music that only he--and his big ears--can hear. He is drawn to the beautiful world of humans. He is drawn to the Princess. Princess Pea. But this is not Despereaux's story alone. It involves a rat, a princess, a grief-stricken king, an abused and abandoned peasant girl, a prison guard, and a hardened prisoner. The book is enjoyable. And I think many will enjoy it. It did win the Newbery after all.

This book is from Booklogged's List.

(Lack of) progress report

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

I'm trying to read this book. I really am. I picked it from Raidergirl3's list because it's been on my shelf for ages and it's high time I learned a thing or two about science.

I'd planned to listen to the audio version because I love listening to Bill Brysn read, but I got fooled -- Bryson *doesn't* read the unabridged edition. This seriously complicates things. I really don't have time to wade through the print version, and the narrator -- a slightly stuffy British fellow -- isn't doing a darn thing for me. Mostly, I just sit in the car and imagine how much better the book would be if Bryson were doing the reading instead....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maude Montgomery

This is what I wrote back in June as to why I chose to read this book for this challenge:
"This or one of the sequels is on several people's lists, including Tiny Librarian's, Raidergirl3's and Becky's. We are going to be visiting Prince Edward Island this summer. One of the highlights will be seeing Anne of Green Gables: The Musical. Don't you think I'd better read the book before seeing the musical?"
I didn't have time to read the book before our trip so my husband and I listened to it while driving through parts of Canada. We both found it to be thoroughly enchanting. Anne Shirley is one of my heroes. I want to be like her in her exuberance and appreciation for life. I can't believe I've put off reading this book until I was 56. It's utterly shameful. You can bet it will be one that I reread.

Several days after finishing the book we were thoroughly entertained by the musical. What a treat to sit in Charlottetown's theater, right on Prince Edward Island and watch the book come to life again. If you have never read this book, you need to. You will undoubtedly enjoy it and it is sure to enrich your life. If you ever get a chance to see the musical - do so.

It's always good fortune to visit the setting of a book. Prince Edward Island, especially the part where Montgomery lived, is every bit as beautiful and tranquil as depicted in this book.

*I have to mention that we were fortunate enough to meet Raidergirl3 before the play. We enjoyed a lovely visit with her over a delectable bowl of fish chowder and oysters Rockefeller. She is so gracious and sweet. She gave me the next 2 books in the 'Anne' series. I'm really looking forward to reading them and all the while I will remember that pleasant evening. Thank-you again, Raidergirl3.

My less wordy review can be found on my blog, A Reader's Journal.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Review

I am so glad I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I even loved the foreward (by Anna Quindlen). This is not a book with a heavy concentration on plot. Instead, the focus is on character, using stories to reveal their lives.

I especially related to Francie. Her love of reading and, eventually, writing spoke straight to my own little-girl-self. I had no fire escape or magic-feeling tree to hide out with, but I did use books as friends when I was growing up. Still, today, books are how I travel and how I continue my education. They are beautifully efficient teachers - both accepting and challenging to the reader.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will be added to my list of all-time favorites, without a doubt. I got my copy off of the Borders Bargain Shelf for just one dollar. If only all of my money was so well spent. If only all bargain shelves yielded such treasures.

Heather T

* I chose it from Becky's List.

Booked to Die

As usual, this review can also be found, here.

I read Booked to Die by John Dunning for the "Something About Me" Reading Challenge. It is about a policeman, Cliff Janeway, who loves books. He spends a lot of time in the old and rare bookstores and knows some of the store owners and bookscouts. When a bookscout gets murdered, he thinks it fits the M.O. of his arch-enemy, whom Janeway knows has committed many atrocities, but the evidence is never quite enough to nail him. Janeway goes after his rival with a vengeance, and something happens between them that causes Janeway to give up his badge and become a bookman himself. He gets himself a store and an employee, and immerses himself in the booking business. But the unsolved murder of the bookscout is never far from his mind. Ultimately, events transpire that cause him to decide to solve the crime himself. I really enjoyed the novel. Mystery is one of the genres I read regularly, so it was right up my alley.

What I liked:
I found the whole old and rare book business fascinating. It made me want to go right out to the thrift shops and see if I could find a rare item myself. I didn't, but I wanted to. It made me wonder about the autographed first edition book I just bought in a junk store when we were on vacation. I hadn't even noticed that when I bought it, but I looked at it and the few others I had purchased there while reading this novel. But I never heard of the author, and apparently no one on the Internet had either, and he's still alive and teaching college somewhere in California. So nothing there. From now on, though, I will always look for a little nugget on the bookshelves in a thrift store or at a garage sale.

I liked Janeway's mixed-up political outlook. I think the self-contadicting nature of it is common to many of us. Here's what he says about it:
Today I'm a mess of contradictory political views. I believe in human rights: I liked Jimmy Carter for that reason alone, though I later came to believe that he had sold out his own cause in the game of pure politics. I think the Miranda ruling has generally been good, though the public will never know what a pain it can be to work with. I believe in due process, but enough is enough: I'm a fan of just and swift execution where vicious killers are concerned. It's just ridiculous to keep a guy like Ted Bundy on death row for ten years. I don't believe it when psychologists tell me the death penalty doesn't deter - take a look at kidnapping statistics in the 1930s, when it was made a capital crime after the murder of the Lindburgh baby, before you start to argue with me. I think justice started collapsing under its own weight when they let shrinks into the courtroom. The plain fact is, for some murderers, I just don't care whether they were incapable of reason, were whipped as children for wetting the bed, or had a mother who bayed at the moon. Gacy, Bundy, Manson, Speck - you'll never make me believe the world is a better place with that quartet alive and kicking. I hate abortion, but I'd never pass a law telling a woman she couldn't have one. I believe in the ERA, find it hard to understand why two hundred years after the Bill of Rights we're still arguing about rights for half our people. I like black people, some of them a lot. I supported busing when it was necessary and would again, but there's something about affirmative action that leaves me cold. You can't take away one man's rights and give them to another, even in a good cause.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like.

Overall, it was a good read. It might have been fun to have had Pinky, Janeway's employee, or Ruby, another store owner, or both as the crime-solving sidekicks. It would have allowed the reader to get to know those characters better, exposed us to more of Pinky's sense of humor, which I liked, and allowed for an interesting twist that I can't get into because it may give something away. I liked the book, and if anyone is considering reading it, I'd say go ahead, you'll probably enjoy it.

This book was on Bonnie's list, so what did it tell me about her? Well, when she chose this book, she said she had worked in a rare and out-of-print bookstore like those described in the novel. Then she managed a bookstore and now owns her own bookstore. So I'd say she knows a whole lot more about books than the average bookworm. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sixpence House

In Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books, author Paul Collins details his experiences in the Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, population 1500, the "Town of Books" that boasted 40 bookstores. Collins and his author/artist wife and their young son moved to Hay from San Francisco, and fascinating is their journey and experience in this small town. Collins peppers his account with passages from obscure and often out-of-print books. He also describes the town, the houses he and his wife consider purchasing, quite a bit about British culture, and, of course, the town's most fascinating characters.

It is quite a fascinating read.

My favorite quotation is found on page 4, attributed to Temple Bar magazine:

We may, in fact, divide our fellow-creatures into two branches--those who read books and those who do not.

I chose this book because it was one on my friend Natalie's list. Nattie chose this book as one that described a part of who she was: a book-lover. In this mutual love of volumes of the printed word, she and I found each other to be, truly, kindred spirits. We were often emailing each other about books, and trading bookerly comments on each others' blogs. She and I used to trade pictures of what we affectionately referred to as "Mt. TBR" (and in fact, she introduced me to that particular phrase). Just for the record: She won. Her cute little hobbit apartment was stacked with volumes and volumes. It made my own leaning tower of TBRs seem puny by comparison!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I selected Little Women for this challenge for, among many reasons, to get reacquainted with the March sisters before I read March by Geraldine Brooks. It also gave me an opportunity to learn more about two fellow bloggers, Alyson and Lucca, who I have read other books from their lists for this challenge. Here is what they said about Little Women:

"This is one of the first "great books" I read, as a young girl in elementary school, and one that I have read and re-read. I love Jo March. I respect her ambition, creativity, and stubborn-ness and think I share those qualities. She taught me at an early age that girls can strive for anything, and with hard work may just achieve their dreams." – Alyson

"I still go back to the book to battle my blues. I still go back to the little wisdoms." – Lucca

I have mixed feelings about this book, which I enjoyed when I was a young girl. Here is my review:

Little Women is a favorite American classic for many, but for this reader, I enjoyed the story so much more when I was a 10-year old girl. As I reread this story, I found myself rolling my eyes at the sweet goodness that is the March sisters. The allegories, the constant efforts to improve themselves and ever-apologetic stance about their faults (faults, I would argue, that made them interesting to read about) left me an impatient reader.

Certainly, Jo March was more the exception than the rule, and I am guessing that is why many modern readers enjoy this story. Jo is an independent spirit – smart, big-mouthed, creative and sure of herself, especially as she becomes a young woman. She settles for nothing, including marrying a man she loves instead of marrying a man she was obligated to love. She supports herself through her writings and is a devoted daughter and sister – all in all, an interesting character to read.

Little Women, for all my restlessness, is definitely a portrait of its time. In that aspect, I admire and respect its representation of the time in which the sisters lived. I am looking forward to March by Geraldine Brooks, which is a modern rendition of this story from the dad’s point of view. I am very curious to see how the sisters are portrayed by Brooks.

Overall, I was entertained and enjoyed the second half of the book much better than the first. However, I almost regret rereading it. I think Little Women would have been better in my memory as a precious coming-of age-tale, perfect for the 10-year old dreamer that was me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Like TinyLittleLibrarian, I read Uglies this week - which was chosen by Faith. I've posted a review on my book blog. I really enjoyed the book. Faith said, "I love dystopian fantasies, and this is an excellent representation of its kind." I agree! This is also the first book in a trilogy, so I'm off to the library to find the next book, Pretties.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Becky's Review of Number the Stars

Lowry, Lois. 1989. Number the Stars.

Number the Stars is a Newbery winner. It is the story of a young girl, Annemarie, and her family. The book is set during World War II in Denmark, 1943 to be precise. Annemarie and Ellen are best friends. The two live together in the same apartment building. The two go to school together. The two do practically everything together. But all that is about to change, you see, Ellen and her family is Jewish. And while the soldiers--Nazis--have been occupying Denmark for over a year, their policies are about to change. There is danger in the air, and everyone--young and old--can feel it. This is the story of two girls, two friends, and two brave families. I always enjoy reading about the war and the holocaust from the danish perspective. For one thing, the resistance movement is strong, powerful. Denmark was a nation with people who cared, who took risks, who did the right thing, who saved lives. I think this book can be read and enjoyed by everyone--no matter your age--despite the fact that it is a "children's book."

I read this book for three reasons.

1) It is part of the Book Awards Challenge. It is a Newbery winner.
2) It is part of the Something About Me Challenge. It is on Booklogged's list. Booklogged writes, "I really like Lois Lowry, both as a person and an author. The other reason I chose this book is because my ancestor are from Denmark, which is the setting for this story." I like Lowry as well. This one along with The Giver and Gossamer make her a must-read in my opinion.
3) I haven't read it in nine years. But the first time I read it, I had a very emotional reaction to it. I was *inspired* to seek out other titles about the war and children--especially holocaust related titles. This book started a life-long interest in the subject. And I did want to share that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
4 stars

Summary: Tally Youngblood can't wait to turn 16. That's when she'll stop being an "ugly" (basically a teen) and get turned into a "pretty" via the operation everyone gets at 16. Then she'll get to live in New Pretty Town (rather than Uglyville) where you don't have to do anything but party and be gorgeous. As the youngest in her dorm, Tally's all alone until she turns 16 at the end of the summer, until she meets Shay while out hover-boarding and playing pranks at night. Shay, shockingly, doesn't want to be pretty and she tells Tally about the Smoke, a settlement in the wilderness where conscientious objectors defect to escape the operation. When Shay runs away, she leaves cryptic directions to the Smoke, in case Tally wants to follow. Unfortunately, just before her operation, Tally is brought in by Special Circumstances (also known as "cruel pretties") because they think she knows where the Smoke is. When the evil Dr. Cable threatens Tally with being ugly forever, Tally sets off to the Smoke with a tracking device to activate when she arrives. At first Tally thinks she's saving Shay (and herself) from a terrible, ugly life but when she meets David, a young rebel leader who grew up in the Smoke and learns about the dark side of the pretty operation, she changes her mind. But will it be too late for the Smoke?

My thoughts: I'd been wanting to read this for ages! I'm so glad I did. I'm not usually a dystopian fan, but this was such a page-turner, I can't wait to read the sequels.

I did think that it had a pretty heavy-handed environmental message (clear-cutting, pollution, etc. have all been eradicated and the "Rusties" - basically us - are seen as idiots), which was a bit irritating in spots. And it had that thing about dystopian fiction that I find jarring - the ancestors of the people are always stupid - look at what they did to the planet, they were so racist, we're so clever, etc. Oh, yeah, those drugs in the water supply? That chip in your head? It's all for the Greater Good, it's why we're so happy. I guess that's the point, really, that no society is perfect. But I'd still rather have the problems of today that we're working on solving than a chip in my head. (Note, there's not a chip in this book, just an example. Didn't want to spoil it.)

The notion of everyone being beautiful was quite something. At one point the girls are looking at a 300-year-old magazine photo of an anorexic model and they can't believe anyone ever had the not-eating disease or that people were discriminated against based on skin colour. When everyone's equally beautiful, those problems seem to vanish. (Although it would probably eventually turn into the hair-colour or eye-colour wars.) On the surface, it really seems quite logical.

But as I finished the book this morning, I was thinking that all the Pretties basically become Paris Hilton - constant partying, drinking, having whatever you want on demand, adoration, only having to worry about what to wear and where the next party is. There's even a (male) character called Peris, although I think the book was written before the height of Paris-mania. And the sad thought occurs to me with Paris being such a huge idol, so many young women aspire to this exact lifestyle - no need to use one's brain or to work hard. With the increase of plastic surgery in young women, maybe a future pretty operation to celebrate "growing up" isn't so far in the scary future.

What I learned about Faith: She's a dystopian fan and appreciates a fine YA novel. And I agree with what she said in her blurb for the book "I cannot deny that if someone were to give me the opportunity to become earth-shakingly beautiful, I’d want to take it. And if it were to come at the expense of my brains, would the offer still be so tempting? Knowing that fact, it would not. But the people in this world don’t know it." As someone who could use liposuction, a height extension, and better hair, I found the thought verrrry tempting at the beginning of the book and thought it wasn't a bad idea (like I said above, I can see the logic). But if I had to give up my personality, well, no.

These Happy Golden Years -- Sarah's review

I chose These Happy Golden Years from Becky's list both because I wanted to experience some Beckyness and because it's been ages since I read the Little House books.

Well, now! I can’t say enough good things about this book. Granted, a HUGE part of my enthusiasm is because of Cherry Jones, the audio performer. Cherry Jones’s readings of the Little House series brings the Ingalls and Wilder families to new life the way Garth Williams’s illustrations did in the 1950’s. I am in the process of loading the entire series onto my iPod because of her.

Now, onto the story itself. Because of my own tangental historical obsessions, I couldn’t help but compare the 15-year-old Laura to Annie Sullivan as she set out to teach school for the first time. In some ways, I’d go so far as to say Laura had it worse than Annie – leaving such a happy home at such a very young age and all. Anyway… Laura and Almanzo’s courtship is so understated that it drove me bonkers as a kid, but this time around I found it rather sweet. I don’t know when Laura started to fall for Almanzo, but he had me during that awful 12 mile sleigh ride from the Brewster school in a near-blizzard.

All in all, there’s just something about watching a character grow up like this. But more than that, it’s amazing to have such a full slice of American history preserved this way. I’m in serious danger of adding the Ingalls/Wilders to my list of historical passions. Thanks, Becky!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

My original review is here.

This is actually one of my own picks - I picked it because I went to boarding school, and was a very naughty little girl. I was only 10 when I went, and did not want to be there at all - felt totally abandoned. I missed my mother, and went through puberty with her being with me - and something is missing in our relationship that I have never been able to get back. I am very independent, learning quickly to stand on my own two feet. So I selected this book from my TBR pile to see how another naughty girl coped with abandonment. I also want to see how naughty she was - was she as naughty as I was?

Well, the short answer is yes - in fact she was naughtier. I wouldn't have dared to do some of the things she did. And I got on very well with the other kids at school. My rebellion was more along the lines of breaking school rules - going out of bounds - and not doing homework. Spent a lot of time in detention. Still I gradually discovered I loved learning - and became a straight A student. I would sneak away to the library whenever I could and disappear into the world of books. I look back at that time now with fondness - but at the time I just wanted to go home at night like the day kids did.

Monday, September 10, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson--Gautami's review

Title: So Many Books, So Little Time
Author: Sara Nelson
ISBN: 0425198197
Publisher: Berkeley Books
Pages: 242
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

This was one book I started to read right away, because I liked the title and fell in love with the cover. Sara Nelson is a publishing columnist. She is a compulsive reader of books. Here she has described her booking habits, adventures and quirks along with her relationship wit her husband, son and books. She tries to make her husband read without much success.

For one who reads like mad, this book connects instantly. Reading habits are very personal. Some of the books interest us the instant we lay our eyes on those. Some we pick up never to read. A few we start and never finish. Then there are books we want to show off to the world and in our privacy we might be reading chick lit or some such light stuff. Sara Nelson has written all about that. For those reason, I think her book is an instant hit with lovers of books.

To read more, click here....

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.

To read more reviews, click My Own Little Reading Room.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield: Trish's Review

Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Pages: 405
Rating: 4.5/5

First, I would like to thank Kristin for nominating this book. She writes, "The main reason I pick this book is that I really, really enjoyed it....I think it's one of the best new books I've read in years!" And I also agree with her that this is a bibliophiles dream--books books and more books! :)

My full review can be found on my blog, but here is a little blurb:

I really enjoyed this book. The frame story is of Margaret Lea, an avid reader and amateur biographer, who is commissioned by the prolific novelist Vida Winter to write her biography. Margaret doesn't quit understand Winter's choice as she has never picked up one of her books (she prefers the Gothic classics), but she agrees to write Winter's biography under a number of conditions. The frame story was OK--Margaret bothered me in a number of ways and I wanted to scream at her several times "Get over yourself!!" But I didn't. :)

The story within the story, though, is what captured me...

If you're reading this book for the challenge, I hope you enjoy it--if not, pick it up anyway. Its a little longish, but doesn't feel like it at all.


Author: Charlotte Freeman

Review on my blog here.

I picked Place Last Seen from Wendy’s list near the beginning of summer. I just got around to reading the book and couldn’t remember why she had picked it. I decided instead of going to check I would read the book and then go back and look. While I was reading I kept asking myself: Does she have a child with Downs? Does she live near the Sierra Nevada’s? Does she like to hike? Did she lose someone? It never even crossed my mind that she might be a member of a search and rescue team, especially one of the dog handlers.

So what does this book tell me about Wendy? In my opinion, she is one tough chick mentally and emotionally. The search and rescue team from the book was out in the rain, snow, cold, worked steep rocks, late into the night, started early in the morning. They took time off from work or used their vacation days (the volunteers). Those conditions aren’t only tough on your body, they are tough on your mind. Speaking of emotional toughness, at one point in the book they find one of Maggie’s shoe. How would it feel to come across that shoe? How do you handle that? The highs and lows of finding or not finding someone are something I can’t really imagine.

My other thoughts are that Wendy probably loves dogs and is as dedicated to them as she is to her search and rescue.

Overall I did enjoy the book though I thought it moved a little slow sometimes. I would recommend it to someone who wanted to read it but probably not as a book “out of the blue”

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Borrowers -- Sarah's review

I picked The Borrowers from Wendy's list because it seemed like one of those Books I Ought to Have Read By Now. I read, write, and sell children's books, after all. How could I not have read The Borrowers yet? It's a little embarassing, you know?

At any rate, I'm so glad I finally did. What a sweetie pie of a book! There's a reason this has become a classic. It's just that good -- cozy and comfortable with a spot-on voice. After a run of ho-hum books, I blazed through The Borrowers and loved it.

I realize I'm mostly just gushing here, but I feel sort of like I'm one of the last people on earth who doesn't already know all about The Borrowers.

I should probably mention that I read the 50th anniversary editon, which is illustrated with the original British pictures by Diana Stanely. There's also an introductory essay by Leonard Marcus and a letter by Mary Norton explaining the origins of the little people under the floorboards. All fun stuff for a kiddie lit geek like me.

Speaking of anniversary editions, I was a bit surprised to discover this book is only 50-some years old. In the grand scheme of things, that's a pretty quick trip to the classics shelf if you ask me. That's decades younger than Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Little House, and heaps of other old favorites. I guess that just goes to show how good it is.

Thanks Wendy!

Weetzie Bat

Before I start I need to apologize. This isn't a favorable review, and I know we sometimes can take very personally when someone dislikes a book that we treasure. I hope that this can be read as simply my honest opinion of a BOOK, not of anyone who reads it or enjoys it, or recommends it to someone else. It's JUST a book review, and nothing personal.

I am hoping that no one writes me off as a right-wing conservative, bigot at the end of this review, but you might, and that's okay. We're all entitled to our opinions. Let me start out by saying that it isn't the elements you would think that bother me most about this book. On the outside it has cutesy pink cover and the innocent, and prevalent theme that unconditional love conquers all. I'll be the first to say that I think we could all do with a lot less judgment and a lot more love. What bothers me most about this book is that it glamorizes a lifestyle that is dangerous and often deadly and is marketed to young adults. The lifestyle of free love, partying, underage drinking and illegal substance abuse is made to look fun and fancy free on the streets of L.A, as long as you have a good friend and a funky sense of style. Even an episode that can be described as no less than a date rape is glossed over as "just another thing that happens when you live the glam life."
When my young daughters saw the cover they all eagerly asked to read this book. At ages 9, 8 and 7 it is easily within their abilities to do so. It appalls me to consider that little girls are picking up this book everyday and learning that it's alright to make poor choices as long as you're cool and open minded. I hope that somehow the author was so caught up in the idea of making what society calls a typically unlovable lifestyle more acceptable that she didn't consider the deeper and more dangerous messages she was sending.
In my mind, the market for this book is absolutely unconscionable. It's not a book I will be recommending to anyone.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy

Evening Class - from raidergirl3's list - wasn't on my original list of the books i am reading for this challenge. but because it was chosen as the september pick for my book club, i recently finished reading it and i thought i might as well post about it here. (i've posted a more general review on my book blog.)

raidergirl3 said that this book is "about me" because she likes how Binchy's "characters are ordinary people, with happy endings. That's like me - pretty ordinary, and a quiet life." Evening Class is also about raidergirl3 because she is a teacher, like the character Signora, and she went to Italy last summer, like the class does.

i would like this book to be "about me" because i would love to have the serenity that Signora has. i was continually amazed at how she could adapt to the circumstances of her life and the sometimes horrible way others treated her and still be at peace with herself. that's something i aspire too!

i really enjoyed this book - and wonder which of Binchy's books i ought to add to my to-be-read list next ...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Echo Maker - Wendy's Review

My original review of this book may be found here.

All the humans revered Crane, the great orator. Where cranes gathered, their speech carried miles. The Aztecs called themselves the Crane People. One of the Anishinaabe clans was named the Cranes - Ajijak or Businassee - the Echo Makers. The Cranes were leaders, voices that called all people together. Crow and Cheyenne carved cranes' leg bones into hollow flutes, echoing the echo maker. -From The Echo Maker, page 181-

Richard Power's novel - The Echo Maker - is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the National Book Award. Beneath a simple story lies complex questions about self and memory. How does memory define who we are? Is our sense of self and the larger world just a series of synapses and neurons firing or is it something bigger?

The novel begins with a horrific car accident along the Platte River during the annual crane migration. Mark Schulter survives the crash, but is left with a rare and devastating brain injury called Capgras Syndrome. Believing his sister, Karin, is really an imposter who is pretending to be his sister, Mark's recovery from his injuries takes the reader along a winding path of self-discovery, misidentification, conspiracies, and the complex and sometimes fragile nature of relationships. Powers constructs the novel around four major characters: Mark Schulter, his sister Karin, a renowned scientist named Gerald Weber, and Barbara Gillespie - a nursing home aide who is surrounded by mystery. It is not only Mark who struggles with his identity. Karin, a woman who has tried unsuccessfully to shed her past, finds herself searching to re-define it.

When Mark was himself again, she would restart them both. She'd get him on his feet, listen to him, help him find what he need to be. And this time she'd take him away with her, someplace reasonable. -From The Echo Maker, page 26-

Making herself over, personality du jour. Imagination, even memory, all too ready to accommodate her, whoever her is. Anything for a scratch behind the ears. Scratch from anyone. She is nothing. No one. Worse than no one. Blank at the core. She must change her life. From the mess of her fouled nest, salvage something. Anything. -From The Echo Maker, page 407-

Gerald Weber is shocked to discover that perhaps he is only defined by the way others perceive him - that perhaps his life's work is no more than a critics review: He'd let his critics convince him. Something had eroded, the core pleasure in his accomplishment. - From The Echo Maker, page 315-

This novel is meant to be read slowly - it is a thoughtful novel, and one that is challenging on an intellectual level. Powers deftly constructs a story which questions the very core of who we are and how self is defined - a fascinating treatise about what makes us human. The backdrop of Nebraska and its incredible crane migration - an astounding feat of migratory memory and ritual - is a fitting symbol of the novel's thematic content. With a surprising twist at the end, the novel is ultimately a satisfying read.

Recommended. Rated 4.5/5

Why I Read This Book:

Michelle (3M) recommended this book. Here is what she said: "This book is set in Kearney, Nebraska, where my sister currently lives and is not too far away from where I grew up. Powers did a good job of describing the remoteness of the region. The main "something about me" here, though, and this is getting a little too personal, is that the main character suffered from Capgras' and Cotard's Syndromes. Capgras Syndrome is the belief that your loved ones have been "replaced" by imposters, while Cotard's Syndrome is the belief that you have already died. I experienced these two syndromes while I was in college. Freaky, huh?"

I'm happy I read the book - and it gave me tremendous insight into both of these syndromes while at the same time learning something about Michelle! Thanks for the recommendation, Michelle!

My Review of Ender's Game

So, I have finally finished my first book for this challenge. Like I say in my blog I actually started another book before this one, but this one drew me in so well that I just had to put the other down.

My favorite thing about this book is the character. I love Ender. There are a few things in the book that aren't the best in my opinion, but overall the good parts far outweigh the bad. I would definitely recommend this book to my more mature students and others who I think might enjoy a "light" science fiction as I think I will begin to call it.

You can see my full review of Ender's Game here, but I would like to say I am very glad I read this book. I think not only will it become a favorite of mine, but it will also open me up to SF.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

BiblioHistoria: Serious Reader Meme

Are you a Serious Reader?

Evening Class

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy 5 stars

Summary (from Amazon): In Evening Class, Binchy zooms in on the working-class of Dublin. Schoolteacher Aidan Dunne organizes an evening class in Italian with the help of Nora O'Donoghue, an Irishwoman returning home after 26 years in Sicily. When the somewhat squashed-by-life denizens of the surrounding neighborhood take the unexpected step of enrolling in the class, they find their lives transformed.

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'll definitely be checking out more Maeve Binchy, whom I'd also thought I'd like to read. I like books where all of the characters are connected in the end and this had that in spades. I didn't realize it would focus on 8 characters, though, when I started, I thought it would be all about Signora, but then each section was named for a new person and people from previous sections started appearing and I was really interested to see how they would all come together. Each section could almost be a short story in itself and still be enjoyable, but it was much better to have them all connected. The device for the coming together was a trip to Rome for the class - it was so lovely that everyone enjoyed the class so much and made it a success when the school officials thought it would be a waste of time.

I'd love to have a Signora (what Nora was called in Italy) in my life - she had a wonderfully gentle way of making things right without people even really noticing that's what she was doing. It really is a "tale about ordinary people that brings out the extraordinary in everyone" - some of the characters are only mentioned in the background of the evening class at first and then when their chapter comes, you discover all kinds of secrets and sacrifices and loves and hates and hidden depths.

Of course, I knew everything would end happily (or unhappily for those that deserved it), but hooray for that, say I. I'm a big happy ending fan.

What I learned about Raidergirl: From her post about this one I learned that she visited Italy last year, and I'm envious! I already knew we had some similar reading tastes (I've picked 3 of her books!) and this proved it again - I'm an even bigger fan of hers now! Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Lucca selected Breakfast at Tiffany's for this challenge, saying that "there’s a bit of Golightly in me. And it’s not limited to the cat." Not knowing Lucca very well, I would hate to speculate which part of Holly Golightly reminds Lucca of herself, but I hope it's the fun, glamorous side - and not the call girl side. =) My review is below and also posted on my blog. Thanks, Lucca, for selecting this novella; it was a fun read!


I had the sweet, innocent face of Audrey Hepburn burned into my head when I started this novella. Not knowing anything about this story, except for the movie poster, I was quite surprised to learn that Holly Golightly was, in fact, a prostitute. I laughed out loud when I discovered this fact. In fact, I grinned my way through most of this story, but the overall impression I have of Breakast at Tiffany's was a story about desperation.

Holly Golightly is an interesting character. She's a train wreck, living a glamorous life, turning tricks and capable of explosive outbursts and grudges. She's one of those girls who enters a room and presents a whole new energy. You're drawn to her like a Venus flytrap. However, underneath the glamour, is a girl with lots of secrets, naivete and innocence about life. It's this side of her that causes her undoing.

I have not seen the movie, and I am curious to know how, in 1961, they pulled off a character like Holly, who is not prim or proper. One day, I'll have to find out.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a delightful story - far from perfect and full of life - just like Holly Golightly herself.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

We Need to Talk About Kevin reviewed by raidergirl3

Dewey said in picking this book: I'm reading this book for the second time right now. The narrator is the mother of a boy who has committed a Columbine-like school shooting/mass murder. I teach high school. I was teaching high school the day the Columbine shooting happened, and we all stopped what we were doing in class and watched the news in horror. This book really freaked me out the first time I read it, because I'm also the mother of teenage boy -- a white, middle-class, suburban boy, which is what these school shooters tend to be. Although the narrator is really hard to like, I just feel for her anyway, because I can not even imagine what it must be like to be the parent of one of these boys. Yet I have to keep in mind at all times the possibility that something like this could out of the blue happen in my classroom at any time.
I'm a high school teacher too, and a mother of a son, so I can connect with Dewey on this one. And what a powerful book this was. I see several other people have selected this book as well, so I won't say too much, other than this was an amazing book. It took me about 100 pages to get into, because the mother is not the most likeable person, and it was hard to read what she said. She is brutally honest about herself and it can be uncomfortable. But nothing about these school incidents is comfortable.
Also, once some other people have read it, I'd love to talk to you about what happens in the book. There are lots of things to discuss in here, which should be what happens after a tragedy.
My full review is here at my blog

Review: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

So there are good things about being sick, one of which is that I have nothing to do and some books piled on my nightstand. What the heck; may as well read all day!

I read this one for Nattie; it's one of the five books she picked that said something about her. I generally don't read non-fiction. It just never seems to be able to hold my interest, even when I wish it would.

This book I finished in two days. I literally guffawed out loud numerous times during the book. I can't remember when I've laughed so much in a book. I also was compelled to read passages to my husband, something I rarely do because he does not read and can't comprehend the hilarity of words on a page. I had a hard time reading them out loud because I was laughing so hard, and it even got a laugh from him.

Anyone who has ever been a first time mother will just revel in the total honesty of how all consuming and confusing that first year is. There's a lot of forgiveness here too, if you're still confused about how you can love your kid so much and still want to disappear into the woods never to be seen again.

I also just love her irreverence about religion. She is highly spiritual, highly respectful of God, and yet clear and unapologetic about how she arrived there. If that was part of what Nattie related to, I like her even more than I already did.

The sad part was that Anne had a best friend who, in the latter part of the book, got a severe form of cancer. There's a postscript saying that she died shortly after the end of the book. Wow. That, of course, got me thinking of Nattie more than I already was. How ironic that Nattie chose this book to say something about her, not knowing that it would parallel her life more than she knew.

I finished it sad and disturbed, thinking of Nattie and all unfair, untimely deaths. What a great book, though.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Booklogged put this title up for selection because she had similar religious beliefs with those expressed by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. She thinks that:
...this little book instructs us in the methods used by the devil to gain our souls ...This book reminds me that there's a battle going on between good and evil. I need to be mindful of the voices and promptings to which I listen...
I picked this book because I agree with her :)

Here is my review (Original found here)

In his preface C. S. Lewis states that he has no intention of telling us how the correspondence fell into his hands. Then proceeds to let us read thirty-on letters written by Screwtape.

Wormwood is a devil in training and has been assigned his first 'patient'. All Wormwood has to do is keep his patient away from the 'enemy', God. However, Wormwood is finding that temptation is not as easy as it seems and soon - horror of horrors he finds that his patient does the unthinkable and becomes a Christian. Enter Screwtape, Senior Devil, and Uncle. Screwtape offers advice on how to seduce the patient to the dark side to the confused young Devil. We are only ever given Screwtape's response to events, but there are times that you cannot help to feel a little sorry for Wormwood, as he is so desperately tries to steer this human soul into the temptations of evil.

As a Christian it also helps you to understand that it is not necessarily the big things in life that can steer you off the path - mostly it is the little things. Little events such as jokes, often slightly off mark or at the expensive of another! or the tiny white lie. Being friends with someone to benefit ourselves. I didn't necessarily agree with everything that C.S. Lewis commented on. but I have to say that his insight into how the human mind works is so astute that it is, at times, quite terrifying. The language the book is written in may be a little difficult for some to understand - but is well worth the effort.

You are left with the uncomfortable feeling that maybe, just maybe, there is an element of real truth in these letters.

So many Books, So little Time by Sara Nelson

Original Review here

I had this as one of the books on my list for people to select from - I picked it because it described how I felt after I discovered blogging - and challenges :) My first reading challenge was to read 52 books from my TBR pile during the year - trouble is - as I read from the pile - more get added to it. So...I have so many books and so little time :)

Then I realised that I had to select from other people's list - to learn about them. Fortunately - other people thought this book described them as well - so I was able to add to my reading list for this challenge!

My review: Sara Nelson decides one sleepless night to journal all the books she read for a year - in fact she adds a further challenge for herself - she will read one book a week.

She then made a list of books she'd been meaning to read but never got to, or finished, for various reasons. She kept the initial list shortish so that she could include the occasional impulse purchase or recommendation.

This is not so much a book of one review after another - it is more about the thought processes behind reading - how moods affect what you read - it IS ok to not finish a book, good books don't necessarily make good movies, and the location of the read affects your opinion of a book. This is the reason why it is ok to read "Beach Reads" in the summer - light, fluffy and entertaining is more suited to a holiday than an in-depth tome.

It is an easy read - the sort of book you can dip into for a while then put down and do something else. it is a bit like reading a blog - but you get to do it in the comfort of your bed - not sitting in front of a screen - so is more warm and fuzzy :)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

Two days.

Suppers were late, a child was neglected for the two days that I lived this book. The first couple of chapters were so-so but once the story within the story started I was hooked and couldn't put it down. This description of Margaret and her father reading about covers it:

"In the background is the hiss of the gas heater; we hear the sound without hearing it for, side by side, together and miles apart, we are deep in our books.

'Shall I make tea?' I ask, surfacing.

No answer.

I make tea all the same, and put the cup next to him on the desk.

An hour later the untouched tea is cold. I make a fresh pot and put another steaming cup beside him on the desk. He is oblivious to my every movement."

There isn't much I can say about this book without giving away all the juicy little bits that make it so worth reading. What I can tell you is that the narrator, Margaret, is invited to write the biography of a popular but reclusive novelist. Her story is an unbelievable tale of a bizarre family in England. It reminded me a lot of Wuthering Heights because of the insanity and the passions of the people involved.

About half way through, I had a nagging little voice whispering, "There is a huge hole in the plot here. I swear I can see the living room wall through it." But the story had me and it wasn't letting go. Then, toward the end, TA-DAH! it all came together and made perfect sense. It was one of those moments as a reader that I live for. Brilliant. All I can tell you is Jane Eyre is the key, but I can't say how. It comes up everywhere and I love when my favorite books turn up in my reading.
This was Kristin choice. What good taste she has! I loved this book. It's probably the best I've read so far this year. Kristin loved it as well. I think she could relate to it as an obsessive reader. I know I could. There were several references to coming out of a book blurry eyed. I've felt that way often.

Another review of The Giver by Lois Lowry

So I said that for this challenge I'd read Number the Stars or The Giver by Lois Lowry. I already read Number the Stars and reviewed it for this blog. So I was moving on. But then Valentina reviewed The Giver the other day. And I was sick and in bed. And it happened to be sitting on my nightstand.

Wow. I agree with everyone here. This is a very chilling read which all flaming liberals such as myself would surely love - haha! But seriously, it brings up disturbing issues about trying to control people's behavior, and what we might be willing to give up in terms of freedoms in order to make society a more orderly place. Surely it would be nice to have no crime, no war. But what would be the cost?

This book took me only a few hours to read. Everyone should read this at least once.