Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Reading Wrap Up

How was the month of March for you. For me, the snow has finally disappeared, but could return on Friday (April Fool's Day). For books, March was one of those months where I often had several books going at one time. I seemed to do better the first half of the month and slowed down this last week.  Here's what my month looked like: 
~~~~~ March Stats ~~~~~
  1. The Tiger's Wife; Tea Obreht - 4/5 (review copy) 
  2. A Sick Day for Amos McGee; Philip Stead - 5/5 (library)
  3. Winter's Bone; Daniel Woodrell - 4/5 (library)
  4. Marcelo in the Real World; Francisco Stork - 4/5 (eBook) 
  5. I Must Have Bobo; Eileen Rosenthal  - 5/5(library)
  6. Clara and Mr. Tiffany; Susan Vreeland - 5/5 (audiobook)
  7. Mr. Duck Means Business; Tammi Sauer - 5/5 
  8. The Weird Sisters; Eleanor Brown - 2.5/5 (audio) 
  9. Pinkalicious ; Victoria and Elizabeth Kann - 5/5 (review)
  10. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True; Pasulka - 4.5/5 (eBook)
  11. The Wishing Trees; John Shors - 4/5 (review copy) 
  12. The Love of My Youth; Mary Gordon - 4.5/5 (review copy) 
  13. Night Flight; Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor - 5/5 (review copy)
  14. Revolution; Jennifer Donnelly - 4/5 (review)
  15. Zeitoun; Dave Eggers (NF-audio) - 4/5 (library)
  • Favorite  Fiction Book - Clara and Mr. Tiffany; Susan Vreeland
  • Favorite  Childrens Book - Night Flight; Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor
  • Favorite Audio Book - Clara and Mr. Tiffany; Susan Vreeland
  • New authors - 11/15 -   YTD - 26/38
  • Review Books - 6/15 -  YTD - 14/38
  • 5 star books - 6/15 -     YTD - 12/38
  • 4 star books - 8/15 -     YTD - 23/38
  • 3 star books - 0/15 -     YTD - 2/38
  • 2 star books - 1/15 -     YTD - 1/38
~~~~~ Challenge Progress ~~~~~
  • 100+ Reading Challenge - 38/100
  • Reading From My Shelves Project - 16/50
  • Audio Book Challenge - 11/20
  • eBook Challenge - 4/20
  • Prepare to Be Shocked (Books Purchased /Cost 2011) - 14 books - $138.75

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - State of Wonder; Ann Patchett

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine.Here's my pick for this week:

State of Wonder; Ann Patchett
Harper Collins - June 1, 2011

Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award-winning books, including The Magician's Assistant and the New York Times bestselling Bel Canto. Now she raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative and ambitious novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her seventies, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina, who finds she may still be unable to live up to her teacher's expectations.

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday ~ March 28th

Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page, is currently on tour, hosted this month by  I'm Booking It. You can view the blog tour list at Mailbox Monday blog. Join the fun and see what books other bloggers found in their mailboxes. Here are my treasures from last week:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zeitoun; Dave Eggers

Title: Zeitoun
Author: Dave Eggers
Publication Year: 2009
Publisher: Recorded Books
Edition: audio book
Reader: Firdous Bamjai (very good)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 3/25/2011
Setting: New Orleans, LA
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommend: yes

Zeitoun, is a true account of one family's ordeal following hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman Zeitoun was a middle-aged , Syrian-American, father of four, and successful business owner. He is married to Kathy, who helps her husband with the customer relations end of the painting business, while caring for the children. Kathy was born and raised in the US and converted to Islam after her first marriage ended in divorce.

On the Friday before Katrina made landfall, Kathy and the children leave the area to stay with some of her relatives. Zeitoun, insists on staying behind, to watch over their home and business. When the storm hits on Sunday August 28, 2005, Mr. Z. hurries to do what he can to move their most valuble possessions to a higher plain, and then he sets out on a mission to help others in need. He belives he is doing God's work. Zeitoun and a buddy travel through the streets of New Orleans in a used metal canoe, rescuing some elderly folks and feeding dogs left behind by their owners. Then, in the midst of this disaster, something shocking happens. Six armed military officials show up at his home, and Zeitoun is taken away in handcuffs. While he thought they were there from FEMA to help him, they had other ideas. He is suspected of being a terrorist. For the next week, he is unable to call his wife, and his family fears that he is dead. By the time he is finally released from the horrible place he was detained, he had lost over 20lbs, and was in sad shape. His wife also suffers severe after effects from the ordeal. 

If this isn't bad enough, the book also details numerous examples which demonstrate how inept those in charge really were, and the waste and inefficiency which resulted.  I can't even imagine, the extent of the emotional pain which resulted for those who were there and somehow survived, or for others who lost loved ones.

This review is based on the audio book. The story itself was fascinating, but yet the way it was told seemed choppy. It was, howver, an eye-opening account of one man's experience during hurricane Katrina. It reinforces what most of us here in the US are already know -- the handling of Katrina was a complete disaster.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ThingsThat IRK Me !

I'm feeling a bit cranky lately, so I thought maybe if I vented about some of the things that IRK me, I'd feel better.  And, maybe if this post does not BORE you to tears or TICK you off, you'll be kind enough to tell me what you think.
  1. At the top of my list is blog tours.  Is it just me, or does anyone else get very tired of going through their "reader" and finding (20) reviews for the very same book?  I understand the reason, but there seems to be so many tours lately, and new requests all the time: when a new book is released; when it comes out again in trade softcover.  Sometimes, it makes me NOT want to read the book, and just stick to the older books on my shelves, that no one has blogged about lately. What do think?
  2. Cheap people - I understand that money can be tight at times for all of us, but some people are takers, 99.9% of the time, and that just isn't right. the people who complain that they can't afford to donate time or money to charities, yet always seem to have enough money for vacations or are involved in other activities which require a time commitment. Also, people who take without asking.
  3. Packages jammed into our mailbox - Depending on who is delivering the mail, sometimes our mail person is just too lazy to go the extra step and put packages in the separate package mailbox. So what I get is books jammed into the smaller box, that are impossible to get out without sometimes tearing the wrapper.  How about when something says "do not bend", and it's curled in half when the mailbox is stuffed.....yeah, I know, I should really complain to the PO, and not to you.
  4. Pot Holes - Now, I have your attention, at least if you live in New England.  It makes me just a little nervous to drive over a bridge each day when I see craters in the road ahead.  I refuse to drive at night unless its absolutely necessary, as if I hit one of those nasty suckers, I may be stuck there all night before someone tows my car out of the hole.
  5. Politicians: all of them lately - give me a break. Cut the education budgets, cut aid to states, cities and towns, increase local taxes because of the cuts, but make sure those pork barrel line items continue to get approved year, after year, after year. (Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier - I see little difference).

Whew....that's it for today, I feel better already!
Thanks for listening

Revolution; Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Edition: ARC
Source: publisher
Date Completed: 3/22/2011
Setting: New York and France
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

I don't read very much YA fiction, but having enjoyed Jennifer Donnelly's, A Northern Light, so much I wanted to try her most recent novel, Revolution.

Revolution weaves two girls stories into one touching tale of life, loss of life, and lasting love. When seventeen year old, Andi Alper’s younger brother, Truman died two years earlier, her family was torn apart. Andi blames herself for his death. She is depressed, and on meds as a result. Andi is a talented musician, but she is unable to focus, and she is doing terribly at the expensive prep school she attends in New York. Her father is an award winning scientist, focusing on his work in genetics. Her mother, has not been normal since Truman died.  She has seemed to checked out of the real world and instead she spends all day painting portraits of the son she lost.

As winter break approaches, Andi's dad insists that she accompany him to Paris. At the same time, Andi's mother is institutionalized. While Mr. Alpers is working in Paris, conducting genetic tests on a heart rumored to belong to Louis-Charles, Marie Antoinette's son, he tells Andi that she must settle down and write her senior thesis, a requirement for graduation.

One day Andi discovers the 200 year old diary of a young girl named Alexandrine Paradis hidden inside of an old guitar case. As she reads the diary, she learns that the girl was a nanny to the last dauphin of Paris, Louis-Charles. She learns about the royal family, the French Revolution, and soon she becomes obsessed about finding out more. What she learns reminds her of the brother she lost, and finds that Louis-Charles even looked liked her brother. Andi and Alexandrine (Alex), girls who lived two centuries apart, from totally different backgrounds yet bound by a shared grief. Add, a young man by the name of Virgil, a talented hip hop musician who seems drawn to Andi even more because of her sadness, and the story becomes even more addictive.

Revolution is a page turning read, rich in detail and full of emotion. Donnelly's extensive research shines through and through. Donnelly is one author who write well about emotional pain, and about the struggles of the human heart. Fans of YA historical novels are certainly in for a treat.

Night Flight; Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor

Title: Night Flight
Author: Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: Hardcover
Source: sent by Publisher
Date Completed: 3/22/2011
Setting: n/a
Rating: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

Night Flight is a wonderful biographical picture book which details Amelia Earhart's solo transatlantic flight in May of 1932.  The flight began in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland on a red Vega plane.  The story of this courageous woman, and her love of trying new things will be etched in the reader's mind.  Whether it was roller skating, riding roller coasters, or horses barebacked, Amelia wasn't afraid to try new things.

In vivid detail, the author descibes the "shimmering clouds", "mountains like wrinkles in the earth" and cities which appeared like "toy blocks" while she flew high in the sky.  Her flight was not an easy one as she found herself caught in a raging storm, and the engine of her plane grew "slugglish".  Some may ask, why would a woman in the early 1930's do what Ameila Earhart did? "Because, women must try to do things as men have tried".

The story is well-written and educational, and one that should stay with the reader. The illustrator, Wendell Minor has won numerous awards for dozens of picture books. The vivid blue sky, red Vega plane and billowy clouds will stay with me.  This book should be a part of school and public library collections everywhere.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - The Homecoming of Samuel Lake; Jenny Wingfield

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine.Here's my pick for this week:

(July 12, 2011 - Random House)

There was not much information to be found about this book, but based on what I did find, I think it sounds wonderful ---

"Jenny Wingfield has given us a spectacular novel with The Homecoming of Samuel Lake.  This ensemble of unforgettable characters will make you laugh out loud one minute, hold your breath in the next and weep when you least expect it.  I didn’t just love this book; I adored it."
--Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author of Lowcountry Summer

“Jenny Wingfield’s richly detailed account of good and evil in 1950s Arkansas will captivate anyone who treasures the values of faith and honesty that are a part of America’s rural past. Wingfield’s sense of people and place is uncanny. After reading The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, you too, will believe in miracles.”
-- Sandra Dallas, New York Times best-selling author of Prayers for Sale and Whiter Than Snow

Wordless Wednesday (or not)

  Illustration by Maggie Starbard/NPR
(a coworker shared this amazing story with me yesterday)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Love of My Youth; Mary Gordon

Title: The Love of My Youth
Author: Mary Gordon
Publication Year: 2011 (April)
Publisher: Random House
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 3/21/2011
Setting: Rome (mostly)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

Have you ever wondered about that old flame you had in high school or college? The person, who at least at that time, you imagined you'd build a life with.  We all know that sometimes, even the best plans don't turn out the way we hoped.  Such was the case for Miranda and Adam, first loves from high school.

In The Love of My Youth, Miranda and Adam experienced the highs of first love which continued throughout college. Adam was a gifted musician (pianist) and Miranda committed to political activism and social awareness.  After college, their passion and optimism took the couple to Rome where they set up housekeeping briefly, but soon after, their relationship ended on a bad note, on June 23, 1971.  Each of them eventually moved on, and they married other people,  raised families, and had careers.

Now, some (36) years later, October 7, 2007, Miranda and Adam, have the opportunity to meet once again in Rome. Both are there for different reasons, and they are invited by an old college friend to dinner. Uncomfortable about the situation, yet curious as well, they accept the dinner invitation, and for the next (24) days the Miranda and Adam spend time together each day. They meet for daily walks, talks, lunches, visit gardens, museums and other sites where the couple had been decades before.  Each day more a bit more is revealed about their lives, and each of them reflects privately on their past relationship, and about each other.  On day number (3) of their time together, Miranda and Adam reflect about the time spent together,
"The day before had been a disappointment to the both of them; each had found the other wanting; both telephoned their spouses, flush with the pleasure of being able to speak critically, yet truthfully: to make the point that really, there was no danger. 'I'd forgotten what a pedant he could be,' she told her husband. 'What did we do in the days before we could invoke the term 'politically correct'? he asked his wife."
Throughout the next (21) days, each time they meet the explore their past together, their past apart, and they examine what it all means. It is through this examination of their past, their dreams and disappointments, where they've been and who they've become, that each is able to find peace.

Although the majority of this novel is about Miranda and Adam in October of 2007, there are a few flashbacks to their time together in the late 1960s and early 1970s, that enable the reader to see the differences in background and ideologies, that young lovers might well gloss over.

I really enjoyed this novel, and thought the author did an amazing job developing the characters, and of creating a memorable story. This is one novel that should especially appeal to the baby boomer generation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday - March 21st

Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page, is currently on tour, hosted this month by  I'm Booking It. You can view the blog tour list at Mailbox Monday blog. Join the fun and see what books other bloggers found in their mailboxes. Here are my treasures from last week:

Hope that you had a great week for new books too!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Wishing Trees; John Shors

Title: The Wishing Trees
Author: John Shors
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: New American Library (Penguin Group)
Edition: trade softcover 
Source: author 
Date Completed: 3/19/2011
Setting: Asia
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

The Wishing Trees tells a story of  love, loss, grieving and moving on.  Ian and his young, ten year-old daughter Mattie, are mourning the loss of Kate, Ian's wife and Mattie's mother.  In the months preceding her death, Kate wrote letters which she hoped would bring comfort to Ian and Mattie after she had passed.  As Ian's birthday approaches, he discovers a box of film canisters letters, and letters.  In the letter that she has instructed him to open first, Kate sends her love to Ian, she tells him what he meant to her, and how much she loved both he and Mattie. She urges him to take their daughter on a trip to Asia, retracing the places where the two of them traveled some fifteen years earlier; the places where they fell in love.

Ian and Mattie do what Kate requested, and the two journey to various Asian countries:  Japan,  Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand, India, and Egypt.  On their journey, they follow a Japanese tradition of leaving paper "wishes" hanging from  trees. The "wishes" come in the form of notes, poems and drawings, and serve as a way, from them to connect with Kate.

Along their journey, Ian and Mattie connect with many many people who share their wisdom and help them deal with their grief and aid in the healing process.  Their journey is not only a way to remember Kate, but it serves it helps them to create their own new memories in the process.

I loved the way the locales throughout Asia were so vividly described. I felt like I visited the Taj Mahal myself. The novel read in some ways like a travelogue, yet the reader easily sees what Kate's intentions really were. She helps the two people who she loved the most to deal with their loss, and to begin the healing process, by creating new memories to treasure.

I liked this novel, because the writing was wonderful, and I enjoy stories that help others to deal with their grief.  In this story, I occasionally felt like it was overly sentimental, and while I did like the novel, I wished I gotten to know a few of the people who helped Ian and Mattie along their journey a bit better. Despite this it is still a worthwhile read.

As with his previous novel, Dragon House, the author has designated that a portion of the proceeds from each novel sold will go a worthwhile charity. Mr. Shors has chosen the "Arbor Day Foundation", as his charity of choice for The Wishing Trees.