Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 2009 in a Nut Shell

January was a month with lots of snow and much nesting for me. I managed to read (19) books in January so I am pretty thrilled. Even better was the fact, I enjoyed most of what I read. Through the books I read, I visited places in India, Bangladesh, Tahiti, China, and Libya. I also saw some more of the United States: Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Ohio

By Title:
  1. Madness: My Bipolar Life; Hornbacher - 4/5
  2. Outliers; Gladwell - 4/5 - (audio)
  3. The Book of Bright Ideas; Kring - 5/5
  4. Frangipani; Vaite - 4/5
  5. Breadfruit; Vaite - 4/5
  6. A Golden Year; Anam - 4.5/5 (audio)
  7. Kiss; Dekker - 4.5/5
  8. Never Tell a Lie; Ephron - 4/5
  9. The Four Agreements; Ruiz - 5/5
  10. The Wednesday Wars; Schmidt - 4.5/5 (audio)
  11. Calling Mr Lonely Hearts; Benedict - 4/5
  12. Women of the Silk; Tsukiyama - 4.5/5
  13. Beat the Reaper; Josh Bazell - 4.5/5
  14. The Space Between Us; Umrigar - 4.5/5
  15. In the Country of Men; Matar - 3.5/5 (audio)
  16. Epilogue: A Memoir; Roiphe - 3/5
  17. Julius Winsome; Donovan - 5/5
  18. Carry me Home; Sandra Kring - 4/5 (audio)
  19. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; Baker - 5/5
Favorite Books in January:
Challenge Progress - 2009:
  • Total Books Read in 2009 - 19
  • 100+ Books Challenge for 2009 - 19/100
  • New Authors Challenge for 2009 - 16/50
  • A - Z Challenge for 2009 - 13/26
  • Support Your Local Library for 2009 - 10/50
  • Read Your Own Books for 2009 - 9/100
  • Winter Reading Challenge 2008/2009 - 12/13
  • Audio Book Challenge 2009 - 5/12
  • 2009 Pub Challenge - 4/9
  • In Their Shoes 2009 - 2/4
  • John Steinbeck Mini Challenge - 0/2
How did you enjoy your month?

19 - The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; Tiffany Baker

I absolutely loved The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. An amazing debut for Tiffany Baker.

The story begins when Lily Plaice was pregnant with her second child in 1953 , and covers the span of about 40 years. Everyone in her small town in Aberdeen County, New York, suspected that Lily was going to deliver a huge baby, but when delivery day arrived, no one was prepared for exactly how huge the baby girl that they named Truly would be. The baby was so big, that Lily died giving birth to her.

The father, a barber who drank beer for breakfast, was not prepared to take care of Truly and her older sister Serena. There were no birthday parties, no Christmas tree, and only hand me down clothes. He blamed Truly for his troubles and for the death of his wife.

Little Truly
continues to grow huge because of a pituitary gland deformity, and she becomes the subject of constant laughter and abuse because of her size. She must wear men's shirts as nothing fits her. Her father even tells little Truly "no wonder Lily died pushing you out. Hell, you'd block a barn door". Her teacher on her first day of school, tells five-year-old Truly "You're a Little Giant". Truly describes the differences between her appearance and her sister's appearance by saying: "The two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water".

Truly is resilient, making the best of a bad situations, and she often finds comfort at her mother's grave. When the girl's father dies unexpectedly, the girls are separated. Pretty Serena Jane is sent to be raised by a wealthy family, and Truly goes to live on a farm with a poor family.

Serena is popular, and has a lot going for her. She eventually marries Bob Bob Morgan a doctor who came from a family of doctors.
It is actually believed that during the Civil War, the first Robert Morgan married the town witch, who healed the sick, and was said to have hid her spell book before she died, but no one had been able to find it. Serena gives birth to a son Bobbie. Unhappy in her loveless marriage she disappears, and Truly is told that she her sister has died.

Doctor Bob Bob gets Truly to move in with him to cook and clean for him and her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Bob Bob is cruel and always taunting her about her size. However when Truly begins to play with various herbs and finds she has the ability to heal illness with herbs and other secrets hidden within the folds of the Morgan family magical quilt. She eventually unearths old secrets, and is determined to seek revenge on Bob Bob who tormented her.

Truly, the narrator of this story is one tough cookie. She makes a wonderful narrator who just seems to take what bad breaks life throws at her, and she finds happiness and love in unexpected places. The writing style of this book was magical, and the contrasting themes worked so well in this story for me. There were several twists in this story as well. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County was totally enjoyable and is highly recommended. I will be watching for more books by this author.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/31/09
WHERE FROM: Library



Friday, January 30, 2009

One Book Meme

Taken from Eva's Blog

One book you’re currently reading: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; Tiffany Baker
One book that changed your life: Nancy Drew - made me fall in love with books
One book you’d want on a deserted island: Pillars of the Earth; Follet (can't seem to get to that one here)
One book you’ve read more than once: Silas Marner
One book you’ve never been able to finish: War and Peace
One book that made you laugh: One For the Money; Janet Evanovich
One book that made you cry: The Kite Runner; Khaled Hosseini
One book you keep rereading: I almost never reread a book, but it might be Snow Flower and the Secret Fan; Lisa See (loved that book)
One book you’ve been meaning to read: Bel Canto; Ann Patchett
One book you believe everyone should read: A Separate Peace; John Knowles

Finally,
Grab the nearest book. Open it to page 56. Find the 5th sentence.
"Just stay there, please. I'm going to measure you".

Feel free to play along.

Library Loot for January 30th, 2009

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by A Striped Armchair and Out of the Blue that encourages Bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

This weeks haul:
  1. Little Giant of Aderdeen County; Tiffany Baker (40 pages to go---excellent)
  2. The Sweet In Between; Sheri Reynolds
  3. The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard; Erin McGraw
  4. Thank You for All Things; Sandra Kring
  5. If Today Be Sweet; Thrity Umrigar
  6. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing; Fogarty
  7. Pavilion of Women; Pearl Buck
#1 - I'm loving it and will finish it tonight.
#2 - Love books about dysfunction people/families
#3 - Just sounded great and has good reviews
#4 - Read 2 books by this author this month and both were excellent.
#5 - Read one book this month by this author and loved writing style.
#6 - Always feel I need help here; this book is amazing!
#7 - Time for a good classic; this one may fit the bill.

How was your week?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

18 - Carry Me Home; Sandra Kring

I fell in love with my #3 Book for 2009 : Sandra Kring's, The Book of Bright Ideas, so I decided to give her debut novel, Carry Me Home a try. I was not disappointed in the story, however, the reader of this audio book was not that good, especially when it came to the female voices.

The story takes place in the 1940's in Rural Wisconsin. Earl Gunderman (AKA Earwig) is sixteen years old and mentally challenged as a result of a high fever when he was younger. What he lacks in intelligence, is compensated for by his acute insight to the world around him. He is closely protected by his older brother Jimmy. He watches his brother fall in love with a beautiful girl, and then enlist in the military and soon afterwards he sees Jimmy go off to war.

Earl/Earwig gets a job at the local bowling alley, and tries to understand all that is happening around him. When Jimmy returns from the war, he is not the same. Earl now feels it is his job to watch out for his older brother.

This was a wonderful story, and hard to believe it was a debut novel. The characters : Earwig, Jimmy, Floyd and Eva Leigh were extremely well developed. It was a great story about the love of family and friends, and the painful aftermath of war.

I plan to read a third Sandra Kring book very soon. I hope you will read this book. I recommend that you avoid the audio version. I think the print version would have even been more memorable for me.

RATING - 4/5 COMPLETED - 1/29/09
Where From: Library

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - The Housekeeper and the Professor



This book looks really good to me. It will be released on February 3, 2009.

The Housekeeper and the Professor
By: Yoko Ogawa


About the Book (from Amazon)

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

What book are you waiting for that will be released soon?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Teasers - January 27, 2009

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading.




TEASER TUESDAYS
asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
My teasers are from - The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker - which I started this morning.

"Technically speaking, I guess you could say I killed Robert Morgan, but I did it only because he insisted on it, and because death had clearly already gotten its mealy hands on him, and because I knew the very act of asking must have made him madder than hell."

"Look at me, " he'd cackle from the foul nest of covers on his bed, "and then take a look at you."

17 - Julius Winsome; Gerard Donovan

I picked up the book Julius Winsome, by Gerard Donovan at the library quite by accident. The picture of the woods on the outside, made me curious. The book is set in the cold woods of Maine where Julius Winsome, a lonely man lives with his dog Hobbs in an isolated log cabin which was left to him by his father. He is surrounded by over 3,000 books formerly belonging to his father, many of which are rare first editions (doesn't this sound wonderful?).

....."Except for my dog I lived on my own, for I had never married, though I think I came near once, and so even the silences were mine. It was a place built around silences."

It was this woman(whom he almost married) who prior to her departure for good, helped Julius to find a new companion--- his beloved terrier-mix Hobbes. Julius is happy living alone drinking tea and reading Shakespeare, with his loyal companion by his side. Where the weather is warm he works part time to earn a little money. Except for the sounds of occasional gun fire from hunters in the woods abutting his property, everything is peaceful, just the way Julius likes it.

One day all that changes when Julius finds his dog dying from a shotgun blast. The veterinarian tells Julius that whoever shot Hobbes did it up close and probably even patted the dog before firing the fatal shot. But who would do this, and why? As he tries to cope with the loss of Hobbes, he soon becomes obsessed with seeking revenge on whoever shot his dog.

..."What I wanted to say to the man was that I didn't have feeling where I should and too much where I shouldn't. You keep away from men like me and you'll be alright in life".

This is a beautifully written, poignant little novel (just over 200 pages) about the dangers of too much isolation and too little love. This book is highly recommended.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/27/09
WHERE FROM: Library

Monday, January 26, 2009

16 - Epilogue: A Memoir; Anne Roiphe

This memoir is the story of Anne Roiphe, a novelist, who at 69 years of age, lost her husband of almost 40 years rather unexpectedly. She was unprepared for life on her own, and she found it difficult to piece together the basics for a new life, as her grief at times seemed unbearable.

Several months after her husband's death, her daughters placed a personal ad in the New York Review of Books. They described their mother as a writer, and an attractive woman who loved the ocean and books. What follows are several detailed meetings with new acquaintances, often humorous to some degree, but none of these lead to a new satisfying relationship.
I expected that this book would be a story about a widow who made a new life for herself after the death of her spouse, but although parts of this memoir were very good, I did find a good portion of the book to be one big pity-party. I realize that there are various stages of grief that one must pass through, before moving on to another stage in life, however, Ms. Roiphe was just so dependent on her former husband that I got annoyed by that: she never unlocked her door before, because he always did it; she never hailed a cab alone in NYC, because he did it. It all just seemed a bit much. Despite these criticisms, I do see how this book might comfort someone who has experienced a recent loss.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 1/26/09
Where From: Library


Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I was tagged on Facebook with this and decided to post it on my blog as I saw Michelle, was tagged as well. Don't worry, I am not going to tag 25 of my favorite book Bloggers LOL.
However, I hope some of you feel free to tell us 25 random things about yourself.

25 RANDOM THINGS (I've been tagged by Sharon from one of my book groups)

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.

1. I have 2 wonderful adult children, and a pretty great husband as well.
2. I've been married 3 times.
3. I have had a great life thus far.
4. I've become a homebody since I hit middle age. My home is my castle.
5. I am an introvert who needs private time.
6. I love libraries.
7. I've been to Aruba 10 times.
8. Nature and the ocean bring me comfort
9. I've visited half of our 50 states on business.
10. I had a sad childhood, but happy adulthood.
11. I'm thankful for good health.
12. I love cats.
13. Loud people, and rude people annoy me.
14. Scented candles and hot baths are a favorite way to relax.
15. I'm obsessed with pens, pretty journals and books.
16. I'm a control freak (ok I admitted it) :)
17. I've never been afraid to take chances in life. My motto "Just do it".
18. I can be very critical.
19. I love coffee and tea.
20. I dream a lot and usually remember the details.
21. I'm always organizing my closets and bookshelves.
22. I consider myself lucky! Prizes, casino jackpots etc.
23. I see the glass as half full.
24. I am more spiritual than religious.
25. The internet has changed my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

15 - In the Country of Men; Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men takes place in Libya, in the 1970's; a place that I know very little about. The narrator is nine-year-old Suleiman, describing the summer when his father's rejection of ruling government brings his family much pain. Suleiman understands very little of what is going on, and the author seemed to keep the story within what a nine-year-old would be able to grasp, yet allowing enough hints to give the reader a better understanding.

Young Suleiman struggles to decipher the complicated and unspoken rules of the adult world, a struggle that mirrors that of Libyans in the late 70s as they were being spied on and repressed by the government.

The hardest part about reading this book was watching the young boy struggle to understand what was going on. The book gets a bit repetitive: mothers alcoholism, the boy's dream of rescuing his mother, and sometimes the boy seemed wise beyond his years. I also did not care for the way the story jumped from a nine year old protagonist to a 24 year old at he end of the book. However, if you are looking for a decent book about Libya in the 70's, give this one a try and judge for yourself. This review is based on the audio version of this book.

RATING - 3.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/24/09
WHERE FROM: My Sacks

14 - The Space Between Us; Thrity Umrigar

The Space Between Us: A Novel (P.S.)is an intimate portrait of a distant yet familiar world. Set in modern-day Bombay, India, it is the story of two women. Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. A home where she has separate dishes and utensils; a place where she eats on the floor alone.

Despite the weight of the themes: race, class, gender, sexuality and culture, the parallels of Bhima and Sera's life are subtly dealt with. Bhima is the center of the story, and it is through her eyes we see what it is like to be poor woman in Bombay: the sights and smells of the slum where she lives with her granddaughter, the thin mattress where she sleeps on the dirt floor can be visualized.

There is much much more that Bhima must endure throughout this novel, that will remain unsaid. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who wants to read it. I will just say that The Space Between Us: A Novel (P.S.) is powerful, the writing is beautiful, and in the end I did feel somewhat hopeful for Bhima. I look forward to reading more by this "new to me" author.


from the book.....

The thin women in the green sari stood on the slippery rock and gazed at the dark water around her. The warm wind loosened strands of her scanty hair. Other than the crabs, she was all alone. She looked to the sky again, searching for an answer. But the only thing she could hear was the habitual beating of her own dutiful heart.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/22/09
WHERE FROM: My stacks

This Week in Books

Well this has been an exciting week. I received my first award (Lemonade Award) from Lori, at She Treads Softly. Thanks again Lori.

In addition I managed to read several books which I enjoyed:
Then I added several new books to my collection:
Hope everyone out there in reading land had a good week too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

13 - Beat the Reaper; Josh Bazell

I have to admit, Beat the Reaper: A Novel, is not the type of book I would typically choose. I was, however, curious about this recent release as I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio is hoping to star in a movie based on Bazell's debut book.

The author, Josh Bazell has a BA in English literature and writing from Brown University and an MD from Columbia. Currently a resident at the University of California, San Francisco, he wrote Beat the Reaper: A Novel while completing his internship at a hospital not at all like the one described in this book.

Pietro Brwna, abandoned by his parents when he was young was raised by his grandparents. One day he discovers his grandparents murdered, and himself alone. Pietro (later known as Peter Brown) becomes friends with the son of a MOB Lawyer, and the family takes him in. Peter is bent on revenge against the people who murdered his grandparents, and he soon starts working for the MOB as a hit man.

Later, after making a break from his past and entering the Federal Protection Witness Program, he becomes a doctor at one of the worst hospitals in
Manhattan. While making rounds one day, Peter notices a familiar face from his hit man days. The patient is Nicholas LoBrutto, AKA... Eddy Squillante. Nicolas / Squillante has stomach cancer and does not have long to live He is threatening to blow Peter´s cover if Peter does not save his life. Will Peter be able to "Beat the Reaper"?


This book is an extremely fast paced thriller. The book has several quirky characters which were really well developed. Another thing I loved about this book, was that there were footnotes peppered throughout the book which added lots of humor.

for example on page 165 ..."I use a random patient ID number to open up a fluids cabinet and take out a bottle of water with 5 percent dextrose." *


(footnote) * Most bottled water in hospitals has 5 percent dextrose. This is to prevent the phrase "Liter of plain

F_ _ _ ING water: $35 " from appearing on your bill.


This book is darkly comical and pretty wacky to say the least, but strangely, I was not able to put the book down. There is an awful lot of profanity in the book, so if that bothers you, you might want to pass on this book, otherwise, Beat the Reaper: A Novel is recommended if you are interested in a walk on the wild side.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/20/09

WHERE FROM: Library

Tuesday Teasers - January 20, 2009

Tuesday Teasers is hosted by Should Be Reading.




TEASER TUESDAYS
asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
My teasers are from - Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazell - which I finished this morning
Teaser # 1 - Barry adopted me to keep Child Protective Services off my back, but it was easy to convince him to let me stay in my grandparent's house. At fouteen I was physically enormous and had the mannerisms of an elderly Polish Jewish doctor.


Teaser # 2 - "The anesthesiologist gives Squillante an opening salvo through one of his IVs. A mix of painkiller, paralytic, and amnestic. The amnestic is in case the paralytic works but the painkiller doesn', and Squillante spends the whole operation conscious but unable to move. At least he won't be able to sue."

Monday, January 19, 2009

12 - Women of the Silk; Gail Tsukiyama

Women of the Silk, was the debut novel written by Gail Tsukiyama, and first published in 1991. Ms. Tsukiyama is a new to me author.

Pei is one of the several Chinese daughters born to a poverty stricken fish farm family, dominated by the father. She is the outgoing and curious child, and according to the fortune teller that her father takes her to, she is the “non marrying” type. When another girl is born to the family (who dies soon after), Pei's father decides her fate. He arranges to sell her to a motherly sort of woman called Auntie Yee who runs a home for silk workers. By doing this Pei's family will get paid for her work in the factory.

Initially Pei is hysterical when she realizes that she has been left at this strange place by her father. Before long she adjusts to her new life and actually begins to thrive. Pei finds that she is treated with kindness, and she forms a special bond with another girl named Lin. Pei and the other girls live together, work together, earning money for their families, and they form strong bonds accepting the fact that they will never marry, but instead will retire to spinsterhood at the age of 40.

The effects of war with Japan eventually touch the lives of everyone, and there are some tragedies which occur as this book covers a 20 year time span.

The author does a wonderful job with this coming of age story. The character of Pei was extremely well developed. I could feel the bond between the girls, as well as the emotional pain suffered by Pei. It was also interesting to learn about the silk process, and about China between 1919 and 1938. I plan to read more books by this author.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/19/09

WHERE FROM: My Stacks


Mail Box Monday - January 19, 2009

Mail Box Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Although I have not participated in Mail Box Monday before, this week some great books arrived so I thought I would share them with you, and ask my fellow book lovers what you thought.

  • The Post Office Girl; Stefan Zweig
  • Product Description
    The post-office girl is Christine, who looks after her ailing mother and toils in a provincial Austrian post office in the years just after the Great War. One afternoon, as she is dozing among the official forms and stamps, a telegraph arrives addressed to her. It is from her rich aunt, who lives in America and writes requesting that Christine join her and her husband in a Swiss Alpine resort. After a dizzying train ride, Christine finds herself at the top of the world, enjoying a life of privilege that she had never imagined.

    But Christine’s aunt drops her as abruptly as she picked her up, and soon the young woman is back at the provincial post office, consumed with disappointment and bitterness. Then she meets Ferdinand, a wounded but eloquent war veteran who is able to give voice to the disaffection of his generation. Christine’s and Ferdinand’s lives spiral downward, before Ferdinand comes up with a plan which will be either their salvation or their doom.
  • Shelter Me; Juliet Fay
  • Product Description

    In the tradition of Marisa de los Santos and Anne Tyler comes a moving debut about a young mother's year of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness...and help that arrives from unexpected sources

    Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.

    As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

    As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

  • Brazzaville Beach; William Boyd
  • From Library Journal
    Hope Clearwater lives alone in a beach house in an unnamed African country, trying to patch together her shattered life. An ecologist, she had come to Africa to participate in primate research and to heal the deep wounds of her marriage to a brilliant English mathematician; but she soon found herself plunged into another crisis, one that threatened not only her career but also her life. In a book packed with scientific and mathematical metaphors, Boyd explores how people create, defend, ignore, or subvert the belief systems that govern their lives. If on one level this is an intellectual thriller, on another it is very much an exciting and riveting adventure story, and on yet another a subtle examination of the power grid of personal relationships. Highly recommended.
  • The House at Riverton; Kate Morton
  • From Publishers Weekly
    Starred Review. This debut page-turner from Australian Morton recounts the crumbling of a prominent British family as seen through the eyes of one of its servants. At 14, Grace Reeves leaves home to work for her mother's former employers at Riverton House. She is the same age as Hannah, the headstrong middle child who visits her uncle, Lord Ashbury, at Riverton House with her siblings Emmeline and David. Fascinated, Grace observes their comings and goings and, as an invisible maid, is privy to the secrets she will spend a lifetime pretending to forget. But when a filmmaker working on a movie about the family contacts a 98-year-old Grace to fact-check particulars, the memories come swirling back. The plot largely revolves around sisters Hannah and Emmeline, who were present when a family friend, the young poet R.S. Hunter, allegedly committed suicide at Riverton. Grace hints throughout the narrative that no one knows the real story, and as she chronicles Hannah's schemes to have her own life and the curdling of younger Emmeline's jealousy, the truth about the poet's death is revealed. Morton triumphs with a riveting plot, a touching but tense love story and a haunting ending.
I'd love to hear your thoughts if anyone has read these.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

11 - Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts; Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is a new to me author. Her new book titled: Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts sounded intriguing, so I decided to get it from the library. From the title alone, I had no idea this book would be as creepy as it was.............YIKES!

About the book

After summoning a lover through a ritual part witchcraft, three 13-year-old Lolitas—Roxanne, Del and Alice—believe that their new teacher at Cincinnati's Our Lady of the Hills school, is the angel sent to deflower them. Roxanne successfully schemes to seduce Cuban-born Father Romero, who suffers terrible guilt as a result. When Alice and
Del each falsely accuse Romero of acting inappropriately toward them, Romero is defrocked and loses his job. Seventeen years later, Romero returns to town with Varick, a demon disguised as a man, to punish the now adult schoolgirls. The three find themselves at the mercy of the devil and no one around them is safe.

Varick, the devil disguised as an attractive man, was introduced fairly early in the book to work on the women. It is through his character that the narrative became somewhat erotic, but mostly chilling and disturbing. I would have passed on this book had I read some reviews on it beforehand, however, I can see how this book would appeal to people who enjoy books about with an element of horror. Reader Beware!

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 1/17/09

WHERE FROM: Library



Friday, January 16, 2009

10 - The Wednesday Wars; Gary D. Schmidt

I felt like I needed a lighter read, so I chose the audio version of The Wednesday Wars after hearing some good feedback on the 2007 Newberry Honor book.

The year is 1967 and the Vietnam War is in the news. Lyndon Johnson is President and Holling Hoodhood is in the seventh grade, learning about Shakespeare.


Holling Hoodhood is the only Presbyterian in his grade, so he has to stay in the classroom with his teacher Mrs. Baker on Wednesday afternoons while his classmates attend Hebrew school or Catechism classes. Holling is pretty sure Mrs. Baker hates his guts, but as he begins to spend more time with her, he begins to see that teachers are not all that bad. How many teachers arrange for you to meet the New York Yankees, and also helps to save your dad's architectural firm?

This story had a lot of laugh out loud moments. Holling's relationships with his classmates and his older sister were great. I was disappointed in his parents, who just seemed oblivious when it came to parenting skills. But Mrs. Baker comes through with a powerful message: "Learn everything you can--- everything. And then use all that you have learned to be a wise and good man." RECOMMENDED

RATING - 4.5/5 Stars - COMPLETED - 01/16/09
WHERE FROM: Library

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

9 - The Four Agreements; Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements, based on ancient Toltec wisdom, is a powerful little book aimed at self-improvement and self-discovery. Don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering.

These agreements are pretty simplistic:

  • Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Don't Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.
  • Don't Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  • Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
I thought the book was very good; it gives the reader a lot to think about. I was left with a clear message: by ridding ourselves of negative thoughts and influences, we will find more peace and happiness in our lives.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 01/13/09
WHERE FROM - My Stacks

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

8 - Never Tell a Lie; Hallie Ephron

Never Tell a Lie, by Hallie Ephron, a "new to me author", is a must read for anyone who enjoys a fast paced thriller. I read half of the book last night (hated to stop for sleep), and then I woke up early today to finish it. I could not wait to see how this one ended.

Ivy and David Rose are a young couple expecting the first baby is just a few weeks. The live in a charming old Victorian home in (fictional) Brush Hills, MA. Amy convinces her husband to have a yard sale to clean out a bunch of junk that was left in the house by the former owner. An old high school classmate of Ivy and David shows up at the sale. Melinda White who was a plain-Jane, and a bit of an odd-ball in school, has now improved her appearance and, she also appears to be about as pregnant as Ivy. Melinda tells the couple she use to play in their house when she was a child, and that she would love to look inside. David takes Melinda inside. Several days later they learn that Melinda has disappeared and no one can remember seeing her leave the sale. The evidence uncovered makes the couple prime suspects; has Melinda been murdered?

Before long Ivy has uncovered a twisted web of deceit, betrayal, and lies. Just when I thought that I had the story figured out it took another twist. I loved the fast pace appeal that made you want to continue turning the pages, but I was just slightly disappointed by the final outcome.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 1/13/09
WHERE FROM: Library

Monday, January 12, 2009

7 - Kiss; Ted Dekker and Erin Healy

Excerpt

Let me tell you all I know for sure. My name. Shauna.
I woke up in a hospital bed missing six months of my memory. In the room was my loving boyfriend-how could I have forgotten him?-my uncle and my abusive stepmother. Everyone blames me for the tragic car accident that left me near death and my dear brother brain damaged. But what they say can’t be true-can it?

I believe the medicine is doing strange things to my memory. I’m unsure who I can trust and who I should run from. And I’m starting to remember things I’ve never known. Things not about me. I think I’m going crazy.

And even worse, I think they want to kill me.

But who? And for what? Is dying for the truth really better than living with a lie?

This story has a lot of twists and turns that will have you guessing until the end, and asking yourself: What really happened to Shauna, and who is on her side???

Ted Dekker is a "new to me author". He is known for writing Christian Fiction, which I generally do not read, but this novel was a psychological thriller so I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed. I read this book in one day; a page turner about redemption and good versus evil.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/11/09

WHERE FROM : Library


Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 - New Authors Challenge


I found yet another new reading challenge for 2009, that seemed like a good one for me (this makes #11 for 2009).
COMPLETED 50 on 6/1/09
NEW AUTHORS, hosted by LiteraryEscapism.

Here are the guidelines:
  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
  2. Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels, but anthologies are also a great way to try someone new.
  3. An easy challenge, so you state how many new authors you want to try this year and then that’s your challenge. For me, I’m trying another 50 new authors. You can set any number you want. Why not try for either 25 or 50.
My New Authors
  1. Marya Hornbacher - Madness - 4/5
  2. Sandra Kring - The Book of Bright Ideas - 5/5
  3. Celestine Vaite - Frangipani and Breadfruit - 4/5
  4. Tahmima Anan - A Golden Age - 4.5/5
  5. Ted Dekker and Erin Healy - Kiss - 4.5/5
  6. Hallie Ephron - Never Tell a Lie -4/5
  7. Don Miguel Ruiz - The Four Agreements - 5/5
  8. Gary Schmidt - The Wednesday Wars - 4.5/5
  9. Laura Benedict - Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts - 4/5
  10. Gail Tsukiyama - Women of the Silk - 4.5/5
  11. Josh Bazell - Beat the Reaper - 4.5/5
  12. The Space Between Us; Umrigar - 4.5/5
  13. In the Country of Men; Matar - 3.5/5
  14. Epilogue: A Memoir; Riophe - 3/5
  15. Julius Winsome; Donovan - 5/5
  16. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; Tiffany Baker - 5/5
  17. The Secret; Byrne - 1/5
  18. The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard; McGraw - 4/5
  19. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing; Fogarty - 5/5
  20. Food Matters; Bittman - 4/5
  21. The Story of Forgetting; Block - 4.5/5
  22. The Spare Room; Garner - 4/5
  23. Wesley the Owl; O'Brien - 3.5/5
  24. Still Alice; Lisa Genova - 5/5
  25. The Ghost in Love; Jonathan Carroll - 3/5
  26. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; 4.5/5
  27. Little Bee; Chris Cleave - 5/5
  28. The Housekeeper and the Professor; Yoko Ogawa - 5/5
  29. The Help; Kathryn Stockett - 5/5
  30. Tallgrass; Dallas - 4.5/5
  31. The Mercy Papers; Romm - 3.5/5
  32. The Piano Teacher; Lee - 4/5
  33. The Emperor of Ocean Park; Carter - 4/5
  34. Finding Your Own North Star; Beck - 4/5
  35. The White Tiger; Adiga - 3/5
  36. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas; Boyne - 5/5
  37. In Hovering Flight; Hinnefeld - 4/5
  38. The Distance Between Us; Bart Yates - 4.5/5
  39. Dog On It; Quinn - 4/5 (review)
  40. The Cradle; Somerville - 3/5 (review)
  41. The Daily Coyote; Stockton (audio) - 4/5
  42. Almost Home; Pam Jenoff - 4/5 (review copy)
  43. The Simplest of Acts; Haney - 4/5 (review)
  44. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome; Hoopmann - 5/5
  45. Happy for No Reason; Smirnoff - 4/5 (audio)
  46. Gringos in Paradise; Golson - 4/5
  47. The Visibles; Sara Shepard - 4/5 (review copy)
  48. Life Without Summer; Lynne Griffin - 5/5
  49. The Blue Notebook; James Levine - 5/5 (review)
  50. Who Do You Think You Are?; Alyse Myers - 4.5/5
  51. The Black Girl Next Door; Baszile - 4/5 (review)
  52. Burnt Shadows; Shamsie - 3.5/5 (review)
  53. Water, Stone, Heart; Will North - 4/5
  54. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Alan Bradley - 5/5 (review)
  55. The Chosen One; Lynch-Williams (audio/review) - 4.5/5
  56. Broken; Lisa Jones - 4/5 (review)
  57. Beach Chair Diaries; Janet Spurr - 4/5
  58. A Disobedient Girl; Ru Freeman - 3.5/5 (review)
  59. Perfection; Julie Metz - 4/5 (review)
  60. The House at Sugar Beach; Cooper - 4.5/5 (review)
  61. After Dark; Haruki Murakami - 4/5 (audio)
  62. Dry Ice; White - 4/5 (audio)
  63. Loving Frank; Horan - 4/5 (audio)
  64. Song of Renewal; Harvey - 4/5 (review)
  65. Life Sentences; Lippmann (audio)
  66. Harmless; Reinhardt - 4/5 (audio)
  67. The Idea of Love; Louise Dean - 3/5 (audio)
  68. The Day the Falls Stood Still; Cathy Buchanan - 4.5/5 (review)
  69. Daddy's Girl; Lisa Scottoline - 3.5/5 (audio)
  70. Heroic Measures; Jill Ciment - 4.5/5
  71. Sheer Abandon; Penny Vincenzi - 4/5
  72. Julie and Julia; Powell - 5/5
  73. Heroic Measure; Ciment - 4.5/5
  74. Homer's Odyssey; Cooper - 4.5/5 (review)
  75. After You; Buxbaum - 4/5 (review)
  76. Revolutionary Road; Yates - 4.5/5
  77. Bird in Hand; Kline - 3.5/5 (review)
  78. Homer & Langley; Doctorow - 3/5
  79. Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD; Maloney - 4/5 (review)
  80. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind; Kamkwamba and Mealy - 4.5/5 (review/nf)
  81. I Was Told There'd Be Cake; Crosley - 3/5 (audio)
  82. Yes, My Darling Daughter; Margaret Leroy - 4/5
  83. A Brutal Telling; Louise Penny - 4/5 (review)
  84. Mathilda Savitch; Lodato - 4/5 (review)
  85. Baking Cakes in Kigali; Parkin (review)
  86. Solace; Temes (review)
  87. A Duty to the Dead; Todd (review
  88. A Gift from the Sea; Lindbergh
  89. Zen and the Art of Happiness; Prentiss - 4/5
  90. Miss Smith and the Haunted Library; Garland
  91. Sworn to Silence; Castillo - 4/5 (audio)
  92. Haunted Island; Nadler - 3/5
  93. Cutting for Stone; Verghese - 5/5
  94. The Time of My Life; Swayze and Neimi - 5/5
  95. The Recipe Club; Israel and Garfinkle - 4/5 (review)
  96. The Christmas Cookie Club; Pearlman - 3/5 (review)
  97. The Haunting of Hill House; Jackson - 4/5
  98. Picking Bones from Ash; Marie Mockett - 4/5 (review)
  99. Physick Book of Deliverance Dane; Howe - 4/5 (review)
  100. Away; Amy Bloom - 4/5
  101. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much; Bartlett - 4.5/5 (review)
  102. The Christmas Dog; Carlson - 4.5/5
  103. Her Fearful Symmetry; Niffinegger - 4/5
  104. Malcolm X; Myers - 4/5
  105. Water's Lovely; Rendell - 4/5 (audio)
  106. Fancy Nancy's Splendiferous Christmas; O'Conner - 5/5
  107. Amen, Amen, Amen; Abby Sher - 4/5 (review)
  108. New World Monkeys; Nancy Mauro - 3/5 (review)
  109. Nubs; Dennis, Larson and Nethery - 5/5
  110. The Lovers; John Connolly - 4/5 (audio)
  111. Alice I Have Been; Melanie Benjamin - 4.5/5 (review)
  112. Monster of Florence; Preston and Spezi - 4/5 (Audio)
  113. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt; Hoffman - 5/5 (review)
  114. Mean Mothers; Streep - 4/5
  115. American Rebel: Life of Clint Eastwood; Marc Eliot - 4/5
  116. Frommer's Costa Rica - 2010 - 4.5/5

Saturday, January 10, 2009

6 - A Golden Age; Tahmima Anam

Born in Bangladesh in 1975, the author, Tahmima Anam, grew up mostly in the West. It is through family stories of her native land, and stories about the Bangladesh independence war, that her debut novel: A Golden Age has come about.

The story begins with Rehana Haque, a young mother who is forced by the courts to allow her brother-in-law to take her children after the untimely death of her husband.

The plot then shifts and we meet her several years later. She has been re-united with her children, remains faithful to the memory of her late husband and she has established a life for herself in East Pakistan.
After she gets her children back, she vows never to lose them again. However, her children are almost grown now, and they are beginning to make decisions for themselves. As the Bangladesh War of Independence rears its ugly head Rehana and her children are forced to take stock of their lives and decide how they want to live and act. Rehana sees that she cannot insulate her family from the war's impact, as her children become involved in the rebellion.

The audio book is excellent. Madhur Jaffrey narrates this story beautifully, drawing readers into Rehana's life and the complexities of the war. The characters are memorable as the reader uses subtle shifts in tone and accent . The only complaint that I had was that there were a lot of foreign words peppered throughout this book that made parts of the story a bit difficult to follow. I also obtained the print version of the book from the library, but even that version did not contain a glossary of these words :(


RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 1/10/09
WHERE FROM: MY STACKS

Friday, January 9, 2009

5 - Breadfruit; Celestine Vaite

In Breadfruit, a sequel to Frangipani, we find Materena Mahi planning for a fabulous wedding, after receiving a wedding proposal from a drunken Pito--who may have forgotten his original proposal the morning after. Although the couple, and their three children have been together for fourteen years, this is the first time she is planning a wedding. As she visits with various friends and family members, we get a feel for what rural life in Tahiti is like, while she is busy gathering helpful advice from her friends and family about planning for her wedding.

The story is full of quirky characters, told in short chapters about the exploits of Materena and her family and friends. It is filled with lots of funny tales that will have you chuckling out loud.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 1/8/09
Where From - My Stacks

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

4 - Frangipani; Celestine Vaite

Frangipani, was recommended by a few of my book group friends, and it has sat on my shelf for a few years. I am very happy that I finally decided to read it.

Set on the beautiful island of Tahiti, it is a lovely story which begins with Materena Mahi’s husband, Pito, leaving her and their infant son, over an argument. (Materena picked up Pito’s paycheck to ensure she had enough money for food and other essentials, since Pinto had a habit of spending the money on his buddies.) In Materena's own words:

"When a woman doesn't collect her man's pay she gets zero francs because her man goes to the bar with his colleagues to celebrate the end of the week and you know how it is, eh? A drink for Les copains. Then he comes home with empty pockets.......Well, Materena is fiu of all this!"

Pito does not know she’s pregnant before he leaves. Materena keeps herself busy moving furniture, fixing the house the way she wants it, and she even gets a job as a professional cleaner so she doesn’t need to worry about money. When her daughter, Leilani, is born the story becomes more about
the bonds between mother and daughter.

Leilani is an exceptionally bright little girl with a curious mind which constantly challenges Materena’s knowledge and taxes her patience. It is difficult for Materena to impart traditional ways to a young woman who clearly has her own agenda. Materena has a lifetime of Tahitian wisdom to pass on if only Leilani could see its importance.
Materena eventually realizes that her daughter is grown and that she has become her own person; a person a mother can be proud of.

The story has French sayings sprinkled throughout, and a lot of interesting cultural beliefs as well.
  • "To get rid of unwanted guests without hurting their feelings, broom around their feet."
  • "Never visit a woman who's just given birth looking your best."
Although the book dragged a bit in parts, I still really enjoyed the story and especially learning about the culture of the island. There are (2) other books in this series which I hope to read this year as well: Breadfruit and Tiare in Bloom.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 1/6/09
Where From - My Stacks

Monday, January 5, 2009

In Their Shoes Reading Challenge - 2009



I think I'm getting a little carried away with 2009 reading challenges, but I found another that appeals to me. (this is # 10)
January 1, 2009 - December 31, 2009

Announcing one more reading challenge through OnThePorchSwing online book group. It's a challenge for memoirs which is defined by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary as : a narrative composed from personal experience.

Read 4 MEMOIRS in 2009 and you have met the challenge! (completed 3/14/09)

As always, good luck!!

My tentative list:
  1. Madness: A Bipolar Life; Hornbacher - 4/5
  2. Wesley the Owl; Stacey O'Brien - 3.5/5
  3. Epilogue; Roiphe - 3/5
  4. The Mercy Papers: a memoir in three weeks; Romm - 3.5/5

Sunday, January 4, 2009

3 - The Book of Bright Ideas; Sandra Kring

This book came highly recommended, and I must say I loved every minute of it. It was also a very quick read.

The story takes place in 1961 in Wisconsin where we meet nine year old Evelyn “Button” Peters , the narrator of the story. Button's summer is about to change her life forever when the Malone sisters show up in town. Freeda 25, is beautiful, headstrong, and uninhibited, her 10-year-old sister Winnalee, is bold, inquisitive and she walks around shoeless, carrying an urn holding her mother’s ashes, along with a notebook she called her "Book of Bright Ideas". It is in this book that Winnalee records everything she learns: her answers to the mysteries of life.

Bright Idea #1: If you take an ugly girl and you dress her up in a pretty pink dress, lacy anklets, and plunk a homemade bow on her head, you're not going to get a pretty girl. All you're going to get is an ugly girl in a pretty dress, lacy anklets, with a bow plunked on her head.

The two girls become like sisters. I could feel the utter sense of happiness when Winnalee told Button that she was her best friend, and I also felt Button's pain when she is forced to keep a dark secret from her friend.

This book is a wonderful coming of age story which reminds us to appreciate the little things in life, and to view the world through the eyes of a child now and then. This is a story of life, love, friendship and pain. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED -
1/4/09

Where From - My Stacks


Saturday, January 3, 2009

2 - Outliers: The Story of Success; Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is book about how culture and community appear to be greater determinants of individual success than talent or even will. It's about how successful people, "are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. . . . It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't."

Outliers begins with a look at why certain five-year-old boys enjoy an advantage in ice hockey, simply because they are born in the first 3 months of the year, and because of that advantage, they are generally bigger than their peers who were born at the end of the year. It explains how these advantages accumulate over time. We learn what Bill Gates, the Beatles and Mozart had in common: along with talent and ambition, each enjoyed an unusual opportunity to intensively cultivate a skill that allowed them to rise above their peers.

The author even compares 2 geniuses to show that middle and upper-class children have more opportunities to succeed. He compares the lives of two geniuses -- Christopher Langan, a man with an IQ of 195 who was virtually shut out of higher education: he grew up in poverty and says he was beaten by his stepfather from when he was almost six to when he was about fourteen. The other individual was Robert Oppenheimer, who grew up with every advantage, tried to poison his mentor at Cambridge University and was still allowed to continue his studies. The author dismisses the notion that the "gifted child" who scores at the top of intelligence tests has advantages. He states that some smarts are necessary for success, beyond a certain level they don't give any addition advantages. He also tells us that since life is so unpredictable, "luck" to a certain extent plays a role in determining someones success, in addition to being born at the right time, to the right social class, or being in the right place at the right time.

I enjoyed this book, however, I thought it was a bit strange that all of his examples were male-based. He either chose not to address the topic of successful women, or maybe successful women do not fit into this model? I guess I'll just have to continue to wonder about that one!

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 1/3/09 (audio book)
Where From - LIBRARY