Sunday, August 31, 2008

130 - Quiet ,Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian; Scott Douglas

I love libraries and was really looking forward to this memoir.

In Quiet Please: Dispatches From a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas, the author was a college student who liked books and needed a job, so he became a page (shelving books) at the Anaheim Public Library. Lacking better career plans, he accepted a state grant to get a degree in library science. In this memoir, Douglas reports on the types of individuals that frequent the library. He focuses on teens, homeless people, crazy people and the elderly. His stories about what he has encountered working in the library are so funny. I thought his comments about his coworkers, and about librarians not being readers to be very humorous as well. The chapters were numbered (using the Dewey Decimal System) which I found to be very clever. My only complaint was that some of the writing seemed to be scattered; just as I was enjoying a few passages the subject matter seemed to shift completely. All in all this was as enjoyable memoir.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 8/31/08

129 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was a very different kind of book for me. I enjoyed it very much, however, I found it very difficult as well. I attribute this to the fact that I had the audio version for this Pulitzer-Prize winner. There was a lot of use of Spanglish, and for someone without a Spanish background this was tough. The story itself was wonderful.

Told through the eyes of various narrators, readers enter the frightening world of a Dominican Republic family living in New Jersey. The characters’ lives are overflowing with injustices, unrequited love, lost opportunities, physical cruelties, and as one narrator points out, an ancient Dominican curse called Fukú.

Oscar Wao, is a nice guy, who longs for love but he finds a lot of road blocks along the way: he's fat, a comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy nerd, and a loser. These undesirable characteristics diminish his chances of finding love. The love he so desperately craves, continues to elude him, and we witness the lengths Oscar is willing to endure just for the opportunity, however brief to feel love. Oscar is a poignant, painful, and lovable character who is in constant battle with his delusions. The female characters: Oscar's mother and sister, were very memorable as well. Their own brutal histories and sacrifices are heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this luminous, and humorous book, however, I would recommend the print version as opposed to the audio version, simply because of the English/Spanish difficulty I had.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 8/30/08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

128 - Eat This Not That for Kids; David Zinczenko

I really enjoyed reading the adult version of this book: Eat This Not That : Thousands of Simple Food Swaps That Can Save You 10, 20 30 or more Pounds, so even though I do not have any young children, I thought this latest version for kids might be helpful as well, as it covers lots of food choices when eating out. To my surprise I enjoyed this version as much, if not more that the other. Some of the info totally shocked me: a Baskin Robin's Health Shake (medium) can have as many as 1,420 calories, 67 grams of fat, and 162 grams of sugar. French Toast Sticks at Burger King has 680 calories, and a KFC, extra crispy chicken breast and thigh, 810 calories, 55 grams of fat and 1,820 mg of sodium. BEWARE when eating out!

The Chapters are as follows:

1. Feeding the Future; The 8 rules of kids' nutrition

2. At Their Favorite Restaurants; The best and worst meals at 40 fast-food and chain restaurants

3. The Eat This, Not That! Ultimate Menu Decoder; Strategies for eating right at any restaurant

4. At the Supermarket; The complete Eat This, Not That! For Kids! grocery list

5. At School; How to survive and thrive in the cafeteria and beyond

6. At Home; Making your home the healthiest in the neighborhood

7. A Legacy of Fitness; Shed pounds with your kids with these fun family activities

The book is so colorful and visually appealing that I could see a mom, dad or grandparent sitting with young children and using this book as a learning tool in helping children to make wise food choices. Thousands of foods are profiled, along with a complete nutrition and fitness guide for children.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 8/28/08

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

127 - The Private Lives of Pippa Lee; Rebecca Miller

When I heard this book was going to be a movie, I moved it to the top of my TBR list. The book description had me smiling and I was looking forward to getting to know Pippa Lee a little better.

Fifty-year-old Pippa lives a contented life with her much older husband, Herb. However, everything changes when Herb announces that they are leaving Manhattan for a retirement community. Unsettled in her new home, Pippa begins sleepwalking through life—literally. She catches herself on a security camera cooking and eating while unconscious, then finds evidence that her somnambulist self has taken up smoking. In light of her erratic behavior, Pippa reconsiders the life she has built for herself and the example she is setting for her two grown children: raised by a pill-addicted mother, Pippa ran away from home at 17 and struggled with drugs, abusive relationships and her own feelings of guilt before looking for redemption in the family that she now worries is falling apart.

I really suspected that I would find myself rooting for Pippa along the way, as I felt a small part of myself in her. Unfortunately, half way through the book, I found Pippa, and the book to be annoying, and I could not wait to finish it. I did not really enjoy the writing style, and the story line makes me think this one is more suited for the big screen than for the written word.

Completed - 8/27/08 - Rating 3/5

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

126 - The Richest Season; Maryann McFadden

Sometimes you have to leave your life to find yourself again........

I enjoyed this book a lot and I was drawn to the book,
The Richest Season, by Mary McFadden, by its beautiful cover art.

Joanna Harrison is a middle aged, empty nester corporate wife, who runs away from her seemingly perfect life after she learns that once again, her husband Paul's promotion will mean yet another move to a locale where she will face loneliness in a new community. Joanna decides to leave her home in Sparta, New Jersey for a beautiful beach community she summered at when she was young. On Pawley's Island, South Carolina , Joanna begins life again. She answers an ad and takes a job caring for Grace, a dying elderly woman. We watch as Joanna becomes more independent and she and Grace find themselves becoming closer as Joanna tries to embrace her new life and Grace tries to come to terms with the end of hers. There are some peaceful, touching moments in the book, my favorite being the anticipation of the hatching of the loggerhead turtle babies on the beach (I saw this happen in was so awesome).

A third part of the story (my least favorite) involves Paul, Joanna's husband. Paul shows up at Pawley's Island after he loses his job when his company is acquired in a merger. Now it is his turn to do a little soul searching. He travels and spends time with their grown children, discovers some interests and, conveniently, becomes comfortable with who he is.

The ending was predictable, but all the many good things about this book made up for that.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 8/25/08

Saturday, August 23, 2008

125 - The Gargoyle; Andrew Davidson

---Wow...just where do I start? Honestly, I was not sure whether I was going to read this book or not. I took the book home from the library 2 weeks ago, read a few gory pages and then stopped. I then read that this debut author, Andrew Davidson, was given a $2 million dollar advance on this book, and I had to read it to see what all the hype was about. I am so glad I did.

The Gargoyle, is a story about redemption.

This book is not for the faint of heart. The story begins with a horrible car accident which burns, disfigures and cripples the narrator, whose name we never learn. The accident was caused by an alcohol and drug induced hallucination. There is graphic depiction of what goes on in a burn unit (it is stomach churning to say the least). If you can make it through the first 40-50 pages, the best is yet to come.

Before the accident, the narrator was a young, handsome porn star who spent his days seducing beautiful women, and getting high on drugs and alcohol. He did not feel anything and begins hating himself and those around him. It's only after he has lost everything that he begins to gain an understanding of beauty and compassion, and actually sees his life as better after being disfigured and starting over. While our narrator is recovering in the hospital, we are introduced to Marianne Engel (never just Marianne??). Marianne Engel is a woman with a mental disorder who is convinced she has been alive for the past 700 years and that she loved the narrator in another life. As she spins tales for him of love, he finds the possibility of redemption. The narrator must determine if his new found love is real or delusional.

The redemptive nature and the well developed characters more than make up for the queasy stomach I briefly endured. RECOMMEND.

Rating - 4.5/5 - Completed - 8/23/08

124 - Foreign Body; Robin Cook

I've always enjoyed medical thrillers, and have read several of Robin Cooks books. Coma, some 30 years ago, being my absolute favorite. In Cooks latest medical thriller: Foreign Body, Cook's subject is medical tourism, the trend in which U.S. citizens seek to save costs on expensive surgery through treatment overseas. At the center of the drama is Jennifer Hernandez, a fourth-year medical student at UCLA, whose grandmother has died in a New Delhi hospital following hip replacement surgery. Suspicious about the circumstances, Hernandez immediately flies to India to investigate. There she not only discovers a number of similar deaths of U.S. citizens but also runs into a desperate Indian medical industry struggling to block all publicity about the deaths and a huge American HMO that wants nothing more than the widest exposure of the apparent medical missteps in the Third World.

Implausible plot twists, (CNN learns of the patients deaths before the family does) unconvincing villains, silly dialogue and a convenient,quickly wrapped up ending make this book a less than perfect read. I still enjoyed the book , but it was just average in my opinion.

Rating - 3/5 - Completed - 8/21/08

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

123 - The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid; Bill Bryson

My son has been raving about Bill Bryson's books for some time now, but I was not sure that they would appeal to me. After hearing others rave about his memoir: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I thought I would try him out, and that this might be a fun audio book. I am sorry I waited so long to try Bryson's work.

This memoir was terrific. It leaves you with a feeling of appreciation for the simple things in life. Bill Bryson and I were born a year apart, and as baby boomers growing up in the 50's and 60's, I found this memoir to be a trip down memory lane. He talks about his mom's bad cooking, his strange relatives, going to the store for penny candy (candy cigarettes), playing outdoors until dark, first crushes, Saturday at the movies, loss of innocence etc. He could be describing a whole lot of baby boomers in this memoir. This book is hysterical, and there were many times I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. The audio version is highly recommended.

Rating - 5/5 - Completed - 8/18/08

Sunday, August 17, 2008

122 - The Grift; Debra Ginsberg

I was in the mood for a psychological thriller when I saw The Grift, by Debra Ginsberg in the NEW Books section of my library. I decided to give it a try.

In this newly released book with a cleaver premise, the author mixes the supernatural along with some mystery.

Marina Marks is an emotionally damaged young woman who has worked as a psychic since she was a young child. As a child, she used her ability to help support her junkie mother, and now as an adult, to support herself. Initially Marina does not believe that psychic abilities even exist. Instead, she uses intuition and her keen sense of observation to trick her clients into thinking she is psychic. The reader is introduced to an interesting group of misfits/clients, each with their own set of issues. As the story develops you learn more about each of the clients.

About half way through the book, Marina's abilities become too real, and she starts receiving eerie visions in the form of dreams. At this point the story becomes more of a mystery, and, although I kept turning the pages to see how it all ends, I did start to lose interest. Marina, in my opinion, was just more interesting as a "grifter".

Rating - 3.5/5 - Completed 8/16/08

Thursday, August 14, 2008

121 - The Red Leather Diary; Lily Koppel

As a teenager (1929 - 1934), Florence Wolfson kept a diary. She began writing (4) lines a day on her fourteenth birthday, and for (5) years she did not miss a single day. For more than a century, the red leather diary sat in a trunk, its worn cover crumbling. The diary was rescued from a dumpster on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, by a young writer, Lily Koppel from the NY Times. The discarded diary brings to life the glamorous, forgotten world of an extraordinary young woman of privilege. A woman of tremendous energy, imagination and intelligence. She was sexually adventurous, loving both men and women.

The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal was structured with the introduction and ending written in the author's voice, where she explains finding the diary and then the writer, Florence Wolfson, in 2006. Florence Wolfson is still living and is now 93 years old. The middle section is meat of the book which contains the entries in italics, and also background and photos of Florence and friends.

I loved the first half of the book, however, I soon found I could no longer relate to the life of Florence, and the book lost it's punch with me.

Rating - 4/5 - Completed - 8/13/08

Cozy Mystery Challenge in September

Kris is hosting a Cozy Mystery Challenge during the month of September.

  1. Decide on a number of cozy mysteries to read in September. (This can be from 1 up to, well, whatever you think you can squeeze in!)
  2. Create a post on your blog with the number you plan to read for this challenge and possible title selections, please create a link back to this post so others can easily find the challenge home if they wish to join.
I'm committing to (5) since I have many other books I want to read in September as well.

I'm planning on reading some of Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse books which I have been wanting to read for some time. I completed book #1 last year and others on my shelf. I'd also like to read (1) by a new author.

#1 - Through the Grinder - 3/5
#2 - Latte Trouble- 3/5

#3 - Murder Most Frothy
#4 - Decaffeinated Corpse
#5 - Murder is Binding - Lorna Barrett - 4/5

The COZY MYSTERY CHALLENGE ended on September 30th and I committed to reading (5) COZY books, but I only read (3). I just realized that I do not enjoy cozies as much as contemporary lit, I still wanted to thank Kris for hosting this challenge. I had fun.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

120 - I Am the Messenger; Markus Zusak

After falling in love with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I looked forward to another read by this author --I am sorry I waited so long. The audio version of I Am the Messenger, was fabulous and was narrated with hilarity, sincerity and caring.

Ed Kennedy's life is mediocre, he lives in a shack with his smelly dog named Doorman, and he drives a taxi. Ed's mother can swear with the best of them, and his father died from alcohol complications.
After Ed stops a bank robbery, he begins receiving anonymous messages marked in code on playing cards in the mail, and almost immediately his life begins to swerve off its beaten-down path. Usually the messages instruct him to be at a certain address at a certain time. So with nothing to lose, Ed embarks on a series of random missions.

This book tells the story of a young man transcending his belief in himself, who learns to value what he has achieved. It captures the reader from the very start (you'll want to cheer Ed on all the way), and the ending will amaze you.

Rating - 5/5 - Completed - 8/12/08

119 - Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer

Book 3 - Twilight Series - In this sequel to Twilight and New Moon, High school graduation looms for Bella, and conventional worries over college applications vie with her plans for immortality and marriage to a vampire classmate, Edward Cullen. Although I enjoyed this book, it did not seem to have as much intensity as the other two books; it began much too slow. The author has created a love triangle, and it will be interesting to see how she resolves Bella's love for Edward & Jacob in the next book. As a reader you also also get a deeper look into the life of werewolves with legends and tales passed down through generations on how this supernatural way of life came to be. I enjoyed the symbolism of Edward being the moon --cold and hard, and Jacob being the sun --warm and comforting. If you enjoy the intense feelings Bella has for Edward, and her desire to dwell with him eternally, and, can also appreciate her strange need to connect with Jacob, then you should not be disappointed with this novel. I look forward to reading --Breaking Dawn soon. 

 Rating - 4/5 - Completed - 8/11/08

Sunday, August 10, 2008

118 - The Spiritualist; Megan Chance

I do not read many historical novels, but a few years ago a friend raved about An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance. I read the book and just loved it! Soon after I read Susannah Morrow, also by Megan Chance, (Salem Witchcraft) and was also pleased. Her latest book The Spiritualist was released in May 2008, and it was excellent. Set in 1857 in New York City, I could not put it down. From the paranormal fun of séances, spiritualists, murders, and dangerous secrets galore, this was a great read. Megan Chance has successfully recreated the time and feel of old New York by accurately depicting the societal norms and beliefs, and the desperation of the living to maintain contact with loved ones who have passed. This novel has many twists and turns to keep readers enthralled to the very surprising and satisfying end. Rating - 5/5 - Completed - 8/10/08

117 - The Mistress's Daughter; A M Home

I enjoy reading memoirs so I though I would give this book a shot.

The audio version was PAINFUL (as in oh, my can I possibly listen to yet another disc) --the voice so dry and monotone with long pauses between words in some instances. The reader almost sounded like she was in a deep deep state of depression and could not go on a minute more. It took me 2 months to finish. I kept thinking it would get better but it never did. Fortunately, I did not pay good money for this so all I was out was for my wasted time.

In brief before A.M. Homes was born, she was put up for adoption. Her birth mother was a twenty-two- year-old single woman who was having an affair with a much older married man with children of his own. The Mistress's Daughter is the story of what happened when, thirty years later, her birth parents came looking for her. It's a sad look at adoption in my opinion.

Rating - 1/5 (just awful) - Completed - 8/8/2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

116 - Picture Perfect; Jodi Picoult

I have read every one of Jodi's books except MERCY. I enjoyed all of her books except this one and Songs of the Humpback Whale. Both of these were her earliest novels, and her writing and stories have come a long way over the years.

This book is confusing & disappointing. The central character, Cassie, is amnesic, yet she does remember some things. It is never clear how the amnesia occurred or how she comes to recover from it. I felt that there was far too much going on in the story: Hollywood life, Indian Mythology, anthropology and then add to that the domestic violence theme. The story goes back and forth between the present, the past, the memories, and leaves readers l(at least me) lost in the middle.

Rating 3/5 - Completed - 8/6/08

115 - Obedience; Will Lavender

This book got mixed reviews, but I wanted to see for myself. I was lucky to find the audio version at the library and I am so happy I chose this version: the reader was terrific.

Loving books in a school setting, I was excited about this book: students in a Logic & Reasoning are asked to solve a hypothetical Kidnapping before a murder occurs. There are hints of a similar case nearby which ended in murder years ago. There are lots of twists and turns while the reader tries to figure out what is real and what is not. Be prepared for a climactic ending.

I found the book a little confusing (characters) perhaps because it was an audio, and I was left disappointed at the end. Still happy I listened to this audio.

Rating - 3/5 - Completed - 8/5/08

114 - Staging Your Comeback: Beauty Revival for Women

Staging Your Comeback: Beauty Revival for Women Over 45; Christopher Hopkins.

thought this book was very well done, and had some great before and after pictures for all body types (could have been better with more photos). The women featured looked wonderful after the makeovers, but the clothing selections could have been improved. Great tips on choosing the right clothing styles, hair styles, makeup etc.

If as a 45++ woman, looking your best is important to you, I would recommend this book.

Rating 4/5 - Completed - 8/2/08

Saturday, August 2, 2008



July is through and so is the July Book Blowout. My personal goal was to read (12) specific books in July, and although I read (19) books, I only read (10) from my list. Mrs. S has asked us to complete her survey regarding the challenge. Here are my answers:

  1. How many books did you challenge yourself to read? 12
  2. How many books did you actually read? 10
  3. Did taking part in the challenge get you to read more? No, but it did get me to read the books that I really wanted to read for some time.
  4. Did you take part in the mini-challenges? No.
  5. Would you like to take part in another book blowout? Yes.
  6. What was your favorite book read during the challenge? I had two perfect reads: Molola'i; Brennert and Oxygen; Cassella.
  7. Did you discover a new author? I discovered 8 new authors (so great to me).
  8. Where was the most unusual place you found yourself reading?Nothing unusual here: my deck, my bed, my favorite chair.
  9. If you won the Amazon voucher, what would you spend it on? Depending on the amount, so many many things: books, more books, a wireless printer.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Publish Post----
1. Moloka'i' Alan Brennert - 5/5
2. Nice To Come Home To; Flowers- 4.5/5
3. Lace Reader; Barry- 4/5
4. Beach House; Jane Green - 4/5
5. December; Winthrop - 4/5
6. Spend Till the End; Kotlikoff - 3/5
7. Traveling Light; Kittle
8. Apologizing To Dogs; Coomer - 4/5
9. Wednesday Sisters; Clayton
10. Oxygen; Casella 5/5
11. The Condition; Haigh 4.5/5
12. Last Beach Bungalow; Nash 4/5