Friday, April 30, 2010

April Reading Wrap Up

Where did April go?  


How was your month in books?  I read (4) fewer books in April, but I was still happy with my reading overall. 
April Reading in Review

  1. The Language of Secrets; Dianne Dixon - 2/5 
  2. Read, Remember, Recommend: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers; Knight - 4/5 
  3. How To Never Look Fat Again; Krupp - 5/5 
  4. The Long Song; Andrea Levy - 4/5 
  5. Lost; Alice Lichtenstein - 3/5 
  6. The Forty Rules of Love; E. Shafak - 4.5/5 (audio)
  7. The Season of Second Chances; Diane Meier - 4.5/5 
  8. Bloodroot; Amy Greene - (audio) 4/5 
  9. Winging It; Jenny Gardiner - 4/5 
  10. The Lake Shore Limited; Sue Miller - 3.5/5 
  11. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Rebecca Skloot - 4.5/5 
  12. Caught; Harlan Coben - 4/5 (audio) 
April  Totals
  • (12 books) - (4) non fiction (3) audio) (8) fiction (7 review books)
  • Favorite Books of the Month:  - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Skloot and The Forty Rules of Love; Shafak
  • YTD - (57 Books) 
2010 Challenge Progress
I unburdened myself of (5) reading challenges as I promised myself in January I'd only join (10) and that number crept up to (15) somehow. I now feel much better. 
  1. 2010 100+ Reading Challenge - 57/100
  2. 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project - 39/75
  3. 2010 ARC Reading Challenge - 35/24 - Completed
  4. 2010 Pub Challenge - 16/10 - Completed
  5. 2010 New Authors Challenge - 34/50
  6. 2010 Support Your Local Library - 16/50
  7. 2010 Audio Book Challenge - 10/20
  8. 2010 Thriller/Suspense Challenge - 3/12
  9. 2010 Chunkster Challenge - 2/6
  10. 2010 Booker Challenge - 0/6
  11. 2010 Gothic Novel Challenge - 2/5
  12. 2010 What an Animal Challenge - 3/6
  13. Reagan Arthur Reading Challenge - 0/?
  14. 2010 Books To Read Before I Die Challenge - 2/20
  15. 2010 New York Challenge - 1/1 - Completed
 April Book Purchases
 
  1. Apr - 2010    The Girls; Lori Lansens                      $ 4.00
  2. Apr - 2010    Isabel's Daughter; Hendricks              $ 4.24
  3. Apr - 2010    Rooftops of Tehran;  Seraji                 $ 6.00
  4. Apr - 2010    Rush Home Road; Lori Lansens         $ 5.60

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.
 Here are a few finds I discovered this week. Have you read any of these?


(an autobiographical memoir)

Starred Review. In this profound and moving memoir, Small, an award-winning children's book illustrator, uses his drawings to depict the consciousness of a young boy. The story starts when the narrator is six years old and follows him into adulthood, with most of the story spent during his early adolescence. The youngest member of a silent and unhappy family, David is subjected to repeated x-rays to monitor sinus problems. When he develops cancer as a result of this procedure, he is operated on without being told what is wrong with him. The operation results in the loss of his voice, cutting him off even further from the world around him. Small's black and white pen and ink drawings are endlessly perceptive as they portray the layering of dream and imagination onto the real-life experiences of the young boy. Small's intuitive morphing of images, as with the terrible post surgery scar on the main character's throat that becomes a dark staircase climbed by his mother, provide deep emotional echoes. Some understanding is gained as family secrets are unearthed, but for the most part David fends for himself in a family that is uncommunicative to a truly ghastly degree. Small tells his story with haunting subtlety and power.



The Long Walk Home is a story about grief and hope, about love and loss, and about two people struggling with the agonizing complexities of fidelity–to a spouse, to a moral code, to each other, and to a passion neither thought would ever appear again. By turns lyrical and gripping, set amid a landscape of breathtaking beauty and unpredictable danger, this is a story you will not soon forget. 

Keen irony and humour amongst the cats and tomb thieves of Istanbul 

The setting is a stately residence in Istanbul built by Russian noble émigré Pavel Antipov for his wife Agripina at the end of the Tsarist reign, now sadly dilapidated, flea-infested, and home to ten families. Shafak uses the narrative structure of A Thousand and One Nights to construct a story-within-a-story narrative. Inhabitants include Ethel, a lapsed Jew in search of true love and the sad and beautiful Blue Mistress whose personal secret provides the novel with an unforgettable denouement. Add to this a strange, intensifying stench whose cause is revealed at the end of the book, and we have a metaphor for the cultural and spiritual decay in the heart of Istanbul.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

57 - Caught; Harlan Coben




















In this suspense thriller Wendy Tynes is a 30 something woman who lost her husband as a result of a drunk driver.  She is a driven woman, who has made a name for herself by catching child predators. She does this by luring these predators in internet chat rooms and then setting up a sting operation by arranging to meet them at a specific location.  Little do these individuals know that behind the scenes is a camera crew ready to film the entire scene ( imagine Dateline’s: To Catch a Predator).

Flash forward and the man who is "caught" is Dan Mercer, a social worker who works with troubled children and young adults.  Mercer claims he has a good reason for being at the location. When the Mercer case is thrown out, Wendy begins to question if her initial instincts were correct or whether Dan could have been framed.  There is also a seventeen year old girl who has mysteriously disappeared. Could there be a connection?

Without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say that although this audio book started out a bit slow for me, it quickly picked up its pace and kept me guessing along the way. The reader, Carrington MacDuffie, was very good as well.  Just when I thought I had the story figured out, out came a few curve balls and my theory was quickly debunked.

MY THOUGHTS: If you are in the mood for a good thriller, and one that drives home a moral message as well, give this book a try. Although this is the author’s 17th novel, this novel, Caught, is a stand alone, so you need not worry if this author is new to you. 
RECOMMENDED – 4/5 stars (Library audio book)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Live to Tell; Lisa Gardner


Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:


(Bantam-July 13, 2010)
Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite thriller authors, and I quickly added this book to my wish list when I read about it this week.

(amazon)......He knows everything about you—including the first place you’ll hide.

On a warm summer night in one of Boston’s working-class neighborhoods, an unthinkable crime has been committed: Four members of a family have been brutally murdered. The father—and possible suspect—now lies clinging to life in the ICU. Murder-suicide? Or something worse? Veteran police detective D. D. Warren is certain of only one thing: There’s more to this case than meets the eye.

Danielle Burton is a survivor, a dedicated nurse whose passion is to help children at a locked-down pediatric psych ward. But she remains haunted by a family tragedy that shattered her life nearly twenty-five years ago. The dark anniversary is approaching, and when D. D. Warren and her partner show up at the facility, Danielle immediately realizes: It has started again.

A devoted mother, Victoria Oliver has a hard time remembering what normalcy is like. But she will do anything to ensure that her troubled son has some semblance of a childhood. She will love him no matter what. Nurture him. Keep him safe. Protect him. Even when the threat comes from within her own house.

In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner’s most compelling work of suspense to date, the lives of these three women unfold and connect in unexpected ways, as sins from the past emerge—and stunning secrets reveal just how tightly blood ties can bind. Sometimes the most devastating crimes are the ones closest to home.

Wordless Wednesday

Berlin Free University Library


Monday, April 26, 2010

56 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Rebecca Skloot

 
(Have you read this amazing book?)

For those of you who have not heard the story of Henrietta Lacks, Henrietta was a poor young black woman who descended from slaves. She grew up in Virginia and later moved to Maryland. She was a wife and the mother of five small children, and sadly she died of cervical cancer in 1951.

Prior to her death when she was undergoing treatment at John Hopkins, doctors removed cells from her cervix, but not for biopsy. The doctors already knew that her cancer was malignant.  Her cells were removed without her knowledge for research purposes. The cells were named HeLa cells (using the first two letters of her first and last names). This book is about Henrietta, her family, and especially her daughter Deborah, who never really got to know her mother who died prematurely at the age of 31.

A research scientist named George Gey was working with other scientists on cell reproduction, when he came across Henrietta's cells which he quickly witnessed growing and growing at an amazing rate. The cells were reproduced over and over in a controlled laboratory environment. Over the years the famous HeLa cells have resulted in scientific advancements in certain types of cancers, polio, Parkinson's diseases, genetic cloning and other medical advances.  Over the years scientists have grown over 50 million metric tons of HeLa cells which have been used all over the world by scientists.

The author, Rebecca Skloot learned about Henrietta's cells in a Biology class, and became obsessed with learning more.   After much resistance on the part of the family to cooperate, the author eventually gains Deborah's trust, and together the two interviewed friends, relatives, visited family homesteads and burial grounds to learn more about Henrietta's life. They even visit Johns Hopkins to see the "amazing" cells, and investigate the early death of Henrietta's daughter Elsie, who was sent to a mental hospital after her mother's death.

Henrietta's story is truly amazing, but it also brings up all sorts of legal and medical ethics issues for debate.  The author does a wonderful job leaving the reader with a deeper understanding of the issues on both sides of the fence. The book was near perfect, and it is certainly an informative and worthwhile read.
RECOMMENDED (RATING - 4.5/5 stars)
(private purchase)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia @ The Printed Page.  Join in the fun and check out what arrived in everyone's mailboxes last week by visiting Marcia's blog.


(Paperback Swap)

(Amazon Vine)


(Amazon Vine)

Sunday Salon ~ April 25, 2010

Just five more days left to the month of April --can you believe it?  I spent most of my free time this week (and there wasn't that much of it) assessing everything bookish. I withdrew from 5 of the 15 challenges that I so impulsively jumped into, and now I feel much much better.  I also looked through one bookcase and selected about (25) books to donate to the our library's May book sale (need to make room for the new ones I am sure to purchase there).  

I also decided to focus my reading, moving forward on (Beginning in May) with----"reading the best books first", because life is just too too short for so so books.  So what does this mean?  For me, reading the best books first means: award winners, books that other readers and bloggers have raved about and, favorite authors who have rarely disappointed me. It also means not always reading the newest books first --this will be a change for me as I tend to gravitate towards new releases.  I also plan to listen to more audio books as they work so well for me, especially in nice weather.  I love audio books while driving, walking, gardening, ironing, cleaning etc.  I just doesn't seem like work when you get to read at the same time.

How was your week in books? I finished, but still need to review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Skloot (excellent); Caught; Harlen Coben (audio book - good).

I am currently reading: How High the Moon; Sandra Kring very good) and listening to The Post Mistress; Sarah Blake (audio-very good).   Have you read any of these? What did you think?

I also wanted to post a photo of the cover art for Kate Morton's (Nov 2010) book. Isn't the cover fabulous?  
 The Distant Hours; Kate Morton 

I've yet to read The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden by her, but since I own them, I will be sure to read both before this book is released.

Well nothing exciting happened this week, but the 4th week of my library job was also a great one, and I feel like I really am into a routine as far as the juggling goes.  I did not enjoy having to spend yesterday morning at the hair salon, so next month it will be a weekday, after work appointment. (Weekends are too precious now). ...and with that final though....enjoy yours everyone!

BTW: Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY. Drawing next Saturday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April Giveaways

I'm giving away (2) gently read ARCs:
  • Imperfect Birds; Anne Lamott and The Long Song; Andrea Levy.

If you are interested in a chance to win either of these books, just leave a comment with your email address, letting me know your preference (you can enter twice if you are interested in both books). 
  • Open to bloggers inside and outside of the US.
  • Winners Will Be Selected Next Saturday: May 1st
 

(amazon)...It is sobering to think that Rosie Ferguson is your typical teenage girl. On one hand, she’s in the throes of her senior year in high school: concerned with body image and boyfriends, BFFs and boredom, and, of course, the daily trauma of living with parents who are so hopelessly, well, hopeless. On the other hand, she is an adept addict who’s never met a substance she wouldn’t abuse or a male she wouldn’t seduce. Juggling these two worlds demands bigger and more frequent scores, and more facile lies, while Rosie’s parents, recovering alcoholic Elizabeth and workaholic stepfather James, are reluctant to enforce even the lamest disciplinary rules for fear of losing Rosie’s love—until one night when her world comes crashing down, and Elizabeth and James have no choice but to send Rosie to a wilderness rehab program. Reprising characters from her previous novels, Rosie (1997) and Crooked Little Heart (1998), Lamott intuitively taps into the teenage drug culture to create a vivid, unsettling portrait of a family in crisis. As she eschews the cunning one-liners and wry observations that had become her signature stock-in-trade, Lamott produces her most stylistically mature and thematically circumspect novel to date




(amazon).....A distinctive narrative voice and a beguiling plot distinguish Levy's fifth novel (after Orange Prize–winning Small Island). A British writer of Jamaican descent, Levy draws upon history to recall the island's slave rebellion of 1832. The unreliable narrator pretends to be telling the story of a woman called July, born as the result of a rape of a field slave, but it soon becomes obvious that the narrator is July herself. Taken as a house slave when she's eight years old, July is later seduced by the pretentiously moralistic English overseer after he marries the plantation's mistress; his clergyman father has assured him that a married man might do as he pleases. Related in July's lilting patois, the narrative encompasses scenes of shocking brutality and mass carnage, but also humor, sometimes verging on farce. Levy's satiric eye registers the venomous racism of the white characters and is equally candid in relating the degrees of social snobbery around skin color among the blacks themselves, July included. Slavery destroys the humanity of everyone is Levy's subtext, while the cliffhanger ending suggests (one hopes) a sequel.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.
 Here are a few new finds I discovered this week (on my TBR shelf). Have you read any of these? 
 
(amazon)....In the illustrious history of the theatrical Fishers, there are two Georges. One is a peculiar but endearing 11-year-old, raised in the seedy world of `70s boarding houses and backstages, now packed off to school for the first time; the other, a garrulous ventriloquist's dummy who belonged to George's grandfather, a favorite traveling act of the British troops in World War II. The two Georges know nothing of each other--until events conspire to unite them in a search to uncover the family's deepest secrets.

Weaving the boy's tale and the puppet's "memoirs," BY GEORGE unveils the fascinating Fisher family--its weak men, its dominant women, its disgruntled boys, and its shocking and dramatic secrets. At once bitingly funny and exquisitely tender, Stace's novel is the unforgettable journey of two young boys separated by years but driven by the same desires: to find a voice, and to be loved.

 (amazon)....Asked to write a series of articles on Southern Homes and Gardens for a New York Magazine, Strekfus Beltzenschmidt (the main character in The Bark of the Dogwood) chooses not only some of the plantations and historic residences the South is known for, but places of his youth, including the home he grew up in and those of his relatives that he visited as a child. The intended articles become in essence, short stories, which then grow into the main character’s memoirs about his turbulent and sometimes humorous childhood. The result is not only an ongoing battle with his boss over the magazine’s content and direction, but a painful journey into remembering the people and places of his past. The opening statement of his first story, "When I was six years old I became locked inside the home of Helen Keller," is a clue into this insightful book’s revelations about how we are all in some way, deaf, dumb, or blind, if not literally, then at least spiritually or emotionally. The stories serve as chapters themselves in the novel, expertly intertwined with the modern day world of publishing in New York--each chapter commenting on the other and linked in ways that only become obvious as the reader digs deeper into the novel.

The Bark of the Dogwood is a dazzling display of virtuosity, combining rollicking humor and insights into human nature with a tale of horror and family secrets surpassing even the most Gothic Southern novel. The end result is a massive undertaking that works on several levels—so many, that it is up to the reader to decide just how deep he wants to delve into the colorful cast of characters whose lives are inextricably intertwined.
 

(amazon).... Plunked down in the shabby Alpha Hotel on an unidentified island somewhere off the English coast with a deceptively ordinary group of misfits, James Watson Bolsover is provided the opportunity to reflect on the odd twists and turns that have brought him there. A quietly unremarkable middle-aged man, Bolsover realizes that the motivation for the few exceptional things he has done in his life are clear only in hindsight. Following his parents’ deaths, for starters, Bolsover was saved from bland obscurity by Kitty, a fragile, ethereal beauty who astonished everyone—not least of all Bolsover himself—by falling in love with him. Her death at an early age, however, set into motion a string of transformative events that culminated in an accident that earned Bolsover the bloodthirsty attention of a vengeful mobster. Both spirited and restrained, Corrick’s exquisitely nuanced portrait of a man who must learn to make peace with the most essential aspects of his character is an enchanting and quixotic performance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bye Bye Reading Challenges

 My name is Diane and I am a Challenge-o-holic who Has Fallen off the Wagon, but I recognize my slippage and have decided to do something about it.

I promised myself that I would not participate in any more than (10) challenges in 2010, so that I would still be able to read for pleasure and not feel pressured.

Low and behold somehow, ever so gradually, that number increased to (15) challenges, and we are only (4) months into 2010. What to do, what to do??

No self-control obviously, so I'm dropping (5) challenges AS OF TODAY:
  • The Complete Booker Challenge
  • The Reagan Arthur Challenge
  • The Chunkster Challenge
  • Support Your Local Library Challenge (this kinds conflicts with Reading From My Shelves Project...no? LOL
  • The Thriller and Suspense Challenge
I vow to look the other way as new temptations challenges present themselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - You Lost Me There; Rosecrans Baldwin

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.  What book are you waiting for to be released?

My pick is:
You Lost Me There; Rosecrans Baldwin
(Riverhead Books- 8/12/2010)
(amazon)
By turns funny, charming, and tragic, Rosecrans Baldwin's debut novel takes us inside the heart and mind of Dr. Victor Aaron, a leading Alzheimer's researcher at the Soborg Institute on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Victor spends his days alternating between long hours in the sterile lab and running through memories of his late wife, Sara. He has preserved their marriage as a sort of perfect, if tumultuous, duet between two opposite but precisely compatible souls.

But one day, in the midst of organizing his already hyperorganized life, Victor discovers a series of index cards covered in Sara's handwriting. They chronicle the major "changes in direction" of their marriage, written as part of a brief fling with couples counseling. Sara's version of their great love story is markedly different from his own, which, for the eminent memory specialist, is a startling revelation. Victor is forced to reevaluate and relive each moment of their marriage, never knowing is the revisions will hurt or hearten. Meanwhile, as Victor's faith in memory itself unravels, so too does his precisely balanced support network, a group of strong women-from his lab assistant to Aunt Betsy, doddering doyenne of the island-that had, so far, allowed him to avoid grieving.

Rosecrans Baldwin shows himself here to be a young writer bursting with talent and imagination who deftly handles this aching love story with sensitivity and unexpected maturity. You Lost Me There is a treasure of a book filled with beautiful, intelligent prose, a book that wears its smarts lightly and probes its emotions deeply.

Wordless Wednesday - Calling all Cat Lovers

This is too funny in case you have not seen this short
Super Cats VIDEO!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

55 - The Lake Shore Limited; Sue Miller















I've enjoyed Sue Miller's novels in the past, but the style of this novel is different.  In this story, four individuals, each carrying their own personal baggage, are brought together by a two act play called, The Lake Shore Limited.  The play takes place at a small theater in Boston.  The play hits home on many levels. The main character, Rafe, learns that there has been a terrorist bombing on the train that his wife was a passenger on in Chicago's Union Station. To make matters worst, he was planning on leaving her for another woman prior to the bombing.

The playwright, Wilhelmina (Billy) Gertz, experienced a similar event. She was living with Gus, and she was planning to end their relationship when he was killed on one of the 9/11 planes, years earlier. The other two individuals are Leslie, sister of the late Gus, and, Sam, who was once in love with Leslie.  Each of the four individuals are struggling with some heavy issues: the terminal illness of a spouse, a grieving widow without a sense of loss, a grieving sister who can't let go, and a lonely man who raised three children after his wife passed from cancer.

The novel begs the reader to ask themselves, if there is a proper way to feel and act when life throws us a curve ball. The story is a rich character study, about individuals trying to come to terms with events of the past and present; that I liked, as their issues seemed realistic. I think the story was just way to slow moving for me for a short novel. In the end when I weighed it all, I felt a bit underwhelmed. I will be looking forward to more novels by Sue Miller. This is one of those novels that you need to read for yourself and decided. (Rating - 3.5/5 stars)

(Review Copy Received from the Publisher)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

OMG...


NO BOOKS for me at all for me last week, but I am still squealing with delight! An early Mother's Day gift from my husband!
I looked like this cat when I opened the surprise box!

So what do I think of the new iPad? 

I am in heaven I think! All of my Kindle books are now on the iPad.  Finally a back-lit ereader (the lack of this feature was a disappointment for me with the Kindle, despite using the Kandle Book light). Books look gorgeous on the iPad, as the cover graphics and illustrations are displayed in rich color. The book pages have a paper like tone, and you turn the pages by tapping or sliding your finger (awesome). Page turns happen so fast, so you can quickly flip both forward and back through pages. It also has an easy one touch dictionary, and the high quality color screen makes me drool. There is great light without straining my eyes with the way the screen is back lit for in bed reading, and it automatically adjusts, accordingly,  to in added light in the rooms.
 

My model is the 16gb WiFi (not 3g) model....$499+tax.  Some owners have complained that they keep losing their connection, but that has not happened to me at all. It works at home, on my deck, at work and the coffee shop perfectly. The keyboard is a dream, and all of the Apps available are awesome and, many of the Apps are free or inexpensive. The gaming capabilities are amazing as well.  Apple say the battery lasts for 10 hours on a charge, but I must tell you,  I have kept track of my usage. (6) hours since it arrived this week and there is still 60% battery life on that initial charge, and this to me, is a HUGE plus.

What do I plan to use the iPad for mostly? ebooks, email, movies, photos, various Apps, and some games.  Instead of buying a sleeve to protect it for $40.00, I found that it fits perfectly in the secure central compartment of my Vera Bradley Hipster bag, and there are still (2) more separate pockets one on the front and one on the back for (keys, wallet etc). So the quilted purse now serves multiple purposes and protects my new toy in the process.

Sunday Salon ~ April 18, 2010

The cold is gone (thank goodness) and I am feeling good as new.  Once again the week just flew by.  Just finished week #3 at my new job and I am loving it (even the thought of Monday mornings).  The job is even turning out to have wellness benefits. Everyday from (10:30 to 11:00) I walk with (2) coworkers.  Without in real changes in diet (other than less snacking), I've lost 3lbs in 3 weeks.  I'm sure that will taper off, but none the less it's an added bonus.  I'm definitely making better us of my time management skills now, and have been able to read about (3) books a week.  I listen to audio books while driving and in bed at night, and read for an hour at lunch and on weekends and about an hour most evenings.  I only find time to write reviews on the weekend it seems, but that may change as well.


Thursday evening was my gathering with (3) other good friends from high school.  I must say, we were not at a loss for words. We each had (2) children, so we bragged a little about the successes of our off spring. We also fondly recalled our high school trip to France and Switzerland, which included discussion about the cockroaches in the French hotel bathtubs, $3.00 Coca Cola (that was 1971 too), and our first time skiing that took place on a Swiss Alps....we were nuts back then.  We did pretty well Thursday evening too over Cosmopolitans and other spirits.  I MUST admit, we 50++ ladies still look pretty darn good, and we all admit that we feel much younger as well.  Next get-together, June 8th.....on yes, we are back for the long haul, and commitment to finding senior living like the "Golden Girls" arrangement when the time comes. (2) of us still have husbands (I'm not trading mine in yet either).

BOOKS - This week I finished Winging It; Jenny Gardiner; Lake Shore Limited; Sue Miller (just okay) and I am almost done with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Skloot (amazing story).  Today's read will be: Dead End Gene Pool; Wendy Burden, and not sure what else.

How did your week go? Any plans for today?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

54 - Winging It; Jenny Gardiner
















Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me; Jenny Gardiner
 
About the same time the author and her husband were beginning a family, Graycie, arrived from Zaire. It was the 80's and the African Gray parrot was a gift to the family from the author's brother-in-law.  Little did the couple know, that although Grays are known to be great talkers, not ALL are friendly birds, and many of them outlive their owners.  The author shares, in her brutally honest memoir, the many many hazards of parrot ownership.  From constantly cleaning up sticky bird poop with feathers attached, while trying to avoid getting pecked on by a bird with a killer beak, owning a bird like Graycie will make you think twice about acquiring such a pet.

Seriously, this book was not only a brutally, honest story about Graycie, the African gray parrot, it was a  laugh-out- loud funny and touching memoir as well. Graycie can imitate the smoke detector, sing, yell at the family dog, sneeze and burp like humans and perform a wide variety of other, welcome and not-so-welcomed behaviors. (You have to read the book to believe them). 

The author encourages prospective parrot owners to do their homework first. If you are still convinced an African Grey is the pet for you, then consider adopting one from a parrot rescue organizations in this country. There are many parrots desperate for loving homes, and many are friendlier than Graycie as well.

In my opinion, this memoir should have been called: What you Need to Know Before You Buy An African Gray Parrot on Impulse.

You can take a look at Graycie  HERE and listen to the author a bit as well. RECOMMENDED - 4/5 stars
(Book was received free of charge for review)

53 - Bloodroot; Amy Greene

 



"Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison".  

A multi generational debut novel that takes place deep in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee. The audio version is read by a full cast of readers, whose voices tell a haunting, yet realistic, tale of the Lamb and Odom clan. Their story chronicles the history of these individuals and the life long effects of poverty, alcoholism  and violence.  For generations, magic has played an important role in the real lives of these families, and it was believed that a curse on this family would be lifted when a baby was born with deep blue eyes.

Myra, daughter of Clio,  lives on Bloodroot Mountain with her grandmother, Byrdie who adores her. Byrdie has taken care of her since her mother and father were killed in a train wreck. Myra grows up to be a beauty, with deep blue eyes and black hair, but she is a wild spirit. There is also Doug Cotter, a shy boy who is attracted to Myra. However, it is an attractive man named John Odom who wins her heart, and her life is forever changed. Later there are Myra’s twins, Johnny and Laura, whose lives suffer are affected by the acts of others.
 
MY THOUGHTS - Without giving away anything significant, I'll just add that Bloodroot is a rich character study steeped in suspense -- almost like a Southern Gothic tale.  It is a story which demonstrates just how closely our lives are entwined and how the choices and actions of one generation carry over to the next generation as well.  The writing is vivid, the story memorable and the author is one who I hope see more from in the future.
RECOMMENDED - 4/5 stars (Library -  audio book)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.
 Here are a few new finds I discovered this week. Have you read any of these?
(Book List *Starred Review* )

This is one scary book. Using a variety of test methods, the authors determined individual “body burdens,” or the toxic chemical load we carry. The innocuous rubber duck, for example, offers a poison soup of phthalates that “permeate the environment and humans.” From other products and food, we also have a collection of chemicals shorthanded as PFCs, PFOAs, PSOSs, and PCBs. None of them are good, and they are everywhere, thanks to Teflon (which drew the largest administrative penalty against a company ever obtained by the EPA), Stainmaster, nonflammable pajamas, tuna (hello, mercury), and, would you believe, antibacterial products. The legacy of our chemically addicted society is not just all around us but also inside us, and it is killing us, as the Teflon case proved. (Workers in West Virginia believed that “having a high-paying job often meant getting sick,” and many were reluctant to sue and possibly scare DuPont away.) Poised between chirpy green-living manuals and dense academic papers, Smith and Bruce Lourie have crafted a true guide for the thinking consumer. If readers don’t change their ways after reading this one, then they never will.

Perfect Reader; Maggie Pouncey
(amazon)
n this enchanting debut novel, Maggie Pouncey brings to life the unforgettable Flora Dempsey, the headstrong and quick-witted only child of Lewis Dempsey, a beloved former college president and famous literary critic in the league of Harold Bloom.

At the news of her father’s death, Flora quits her big-city magazine job and returns to Darwin, the quaint New England town where she grew up, to retreat into the house he has left her, filled as it is with reminders of him. Even weightier is her appointment as her father’s literary executor. It seems he was secretly writing poems at the end of his life—love poems to a girlfriend Flora didn’t know he had. Flora soon discovers that this woman has her own claims on Lewis’s poetry and his memory, and in the righteousness of her loss and bafflement at her father’s secrets—his life so richly separate from her own in ways she never guessed—Flora is highly suspicious of her. Meanwhile, Flora is besieged by well-wishers and literary bloggers alike as she tries to figure out how to navigate it all: the fate of the poems, the girlfriend who wants a place in her life, her memories of her parents’ divorce, and her own uncertain future.

At once comic and profound, Perfect Reader is a heady, uplifting story of loneliness and of the spur to growth that grief can be. Brimming with energy and with the elbow-patchy wisdom of her still-vivid father, Flora’s story will set her free to be the “perfect reader” not just of her father’s life but of her own as well. 
(amazon)
They may watch The Bold and the Beautiful, but for many Islamic families in Cairo, it is not romance but arranged marriage that determines their lives. Told through the intimate stories of six Egyptian women across class, age, and four generations, this stirring first novel is about the power of tradition, including the horror of female circumcision, as the narrator, a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, gets to know mothers and daughters and becomes aware of their surprising strength under oppression. What gives the novel depth is the fact that men are not all demonized: there is the father who refuses to allow his daughter to be circumcised, always anguished that his wife could feel no sexual pleasure. Then there is the husband as lonely in an arranged marriage as his wife. The female characters also move well beyond the usual stereotypes: the mother-in-law is a bully, but her heartbreaking love story is unforgettable. Baugh gets behind the veil by surprising us with her plot, characters, and sense of place.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

52 - The Season of Second Chances; Diane Meier

 
 Joy Harkness is a smart 40+ something woman who lead an insulated life working at Columbia University in New York. In NYC she had lovely "apartment with a great view", and a  life that was comfortable, but she also had a past and the emotional baggage that goes along with it.

An opportunity presents itself for Joy to leave the big city behind, for a start up project at Amherst College in the quaint college town of Amherst, Massachusetts.  Joy quickly packs up the things she can't live without and leaves NYC for Amherst, MA. With her emotional baggage intact, she impulsively buys a huge, run down old Victorian home.

"If you've ever moved, you understand that people will stay in the most deplorable environments simply to avoid considering things that belonged to the people they no longer are.  This is not just a job of hauling heavy belongings; this task confronts memories too painful to life."

"There is the picture of your mother looking beautiful and fragile in a Norell dress, taken the day she told you that she would have been happier without children."

In NYC, Joy was happy with her solitary life. She spent a lot of time alone and no one ever pressured her to do otherwise. In Amherst, her life is very different. She finds herself busier than ever living in a small town.  As the other professors and people she meets press her to go out and get involved, she has a hard time saying no.  Her contractor Teddy, also plays an important role in Joy's transformation of sorts.  As the home renovation progresses, and she actively gets involved in all the decorating details, Joy begins to see her new place as something more than just a house.

MY THOUGHTS -- The Season of Second Chances was a terrific debut novel. It was one of those wonderful stories that drew me in from the very first page and held my interest along the way.  One of the things that I liked best about this book was that I love the setting Amherst, MA.  It is a quaint college town where I've spent a lot of time, and many of the places mentioned are real, so that was a nice bonus. The story has likable characters, an appealing writing style, and it left me happy that I read this book. If you are looking for a lighter, feel good read, give this book a try. The title is perfect too.  RECOMMENDED - (4.5/5 stars)
                       (Review copy received from Publicist)

Waiting on Wednesday - Twelve Rooms With a View; Theresa Rebeck

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.  What book are you waiting for to be released?

My pick is:
 Twelve Rooms With a View; Theresa Rebeck
(May 4, 2010 - Shaye Areheart Books)

I am not sure where I found out about this book, but somehow it got on my wish list.  If it was one of my blogger buddies that put it on my radar -- thank you; it looks fun to me!

(amazon. com)

Playwright and novelist Rebeck (Three Girls and Their Brother) takes a lighthearted look at the often dark world of New York City real estate. Spunky 32-year-old narrator Tina Finn is at her mother's funeral when she learns of her possible inheritance of an $11-million Central Park West palace. While she's been slogging it out as a trailer-dwelling cleaning lady, her somewhat estranged mother has gone from blue collar to living in eccentric splendor with her new husband, Bill. Tina's unbelievably unpleasant sisters push her into moving into the apartment before their mother's cold in the ground. Enter Bill's sons, who want possession of the apartment, which is, after all where they grew up. Soon, a full-on real estate war erupts, and the building's quirky residents take sides. Throw in a possible ghost and romantic interludes, and the plot jogs along, if slowed by the occasional drawn-out scene. This should find a nice slot on the cozier end of the Manhattan real estate fiction canon.

Wordless Wednesday






Monday, April 12, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme where bloggers reveal the books that arrived at their house (by mail) over the past week. Thanks to Marcia of The Printed Page.


This week's books:
What books moved in with you this week?