Sunday, November 30, 2008

194 - Island of Lost Girls; Jennifer McMahon

I was a big fan of Jennifer McMahon's earlier book: Promise Not To Tell, so for the last few months, I've been meaning to read Island of Lost Girls-- it just never happened until this weekend.

About the book....

One summer day, at a gas station in a small Vermont town, six-year-old is abducted by a person wearing a rabbit suit while her mother is buying lottery tickets. Rhonda Farr is the only witness, and she does nothing as she watches the scene unfold. The incident seemed so surreal, that she hardly realized a crime was in progress, and that the girl was being kidnapped. The little girl gets into the VW Bug with the rabbit , smiling while the rabbit even takes the time to fasten her seat belt.

The kidnapping forces Rhonda to face another disappearance, that of her best friend from childhood - Lizzy Shale who disappeared (13) years earlier. A person in a rabbit suit was around at the time of that abduction as well. Rhonda helps join in the search for the latest missing girl, partly out of guilt for her lost friend.

This book was one of those creepy, psychological thrillers, that makes some people (like me), a bit uncomfortable--squirming, and feeling a little hestitant to turn the next page. There were just 276 pages, culminating in a somewhat predictable conclusion. The book was still a worthwhile read, but in my opinion, it does not compare to Promise Not To Tell.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/30/08

Saturday, November 29, 2008

193 - A New Earth; Eckhart Tolle

I have been listening to A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, for the last two weeks each night before I fell asleep. I must admit, I was a little skeptical about this book, but I found it very soothing and relaxing at bedtime. The first chapter drew me in immediately. When I was finished, it really made me think about the concepts, and how I could immediate apply these concepts to my personal situation.

The audio book is read by the author, and is about 8-9 hours of listening time. This book was originally released in 2005, but has become an overnight sensation thanks largely to Oprah's enthusiastic endorsement. In fact, Oprah has hosted a 10-week web based course conducted by Tolle; some two million students participated.

According to the author, The key to more joy and purpose is by living in the present moment. Rather, “being” in the present moment. This is accomplished by slowly dismantling the "ego". Many authors have written about the desirability of living “in the Now,” but few have laid out such a clear method that one can understand. The chapters are as follows:

  • Chapter 1: The Flowering of Human Consciousness
  • Chapter 2: Ego: The Current State of Humanity
  • Chapter 3: The Core of Ego
  • Chapter 4: Role-playing: The Many Faces of the Ego
  • Chapter 5: The Pain-Body
  • Chapter 6: Breaking Free
  • Chapter 7: Finding Who You Truly Are
  • Chapter 8: The Discovery of Inner Space
  • Chapter 9: Your Inner Purpose
  • Chapter 10: A New Earth
Although I really enjoyed listening to this book, I did find that some of the information seemed to be repeated a lot, but perhaps that was to reinforce the message. As an audio book, some of the concepts were a bit difficult to grasp and retain, so for the serious reader who wants to absorb every detail of Tolle's message, I would suggest getting the paperback copy as well to refer to.

This book is highly recommended.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/29/08

Friday, November 28, 2008

192 - Alex and Me; Irene Pepperberg

Alex and Me, an avian memoir was such a joy to listen to. The reader was terrific. The story was poignant and funny at the same time.

About the book - POSSIBLE SPOILERS

Partly autobiographical, Irene Pepperberg's memoir reveals info about her own life, starting with her lonely, bleak childhood where her best friend was a dime-store parakeet called "No Name."

The author was an overachiever. She was just 16 when she was accepted by (M.I.T.) Massachusetts Institute of Technology with her latest pet parakeet. After graduating, she earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at Harvard. But she found herself more compelled by the field of animal communication.

She chose African Grey parrots for her research because of their intelligence and clear speech. In 1976, the baby bird she named Alex — an acronym for Avian Language Experiment — was chosen at random from a cage in a pet shop.

When Alex died on September 6, 2007, it was a shock, because African Grey parrots generally live 50 to 60 years in captivity. His passing was devastating because Alex wasn't your normal, run-of-the-mill African Grey parrot; Alex was special. For the last 30 years, Alex had been the focus of research into the cognitive abilities of African Grey parrots. The goal was to see if Alex could "think", and he could!

Although his brain was no bigger than a walnut, when Alex died, he could identify 50 different objects, had a vocabulary of about 150 words, recognized quantities up to six and distinguished between seven colors and five shapes. More importantly, he had a grasp of concepts. He could tell you which objects were bigger, smaller, the same or different and why.

Alex would say, "I'm sorry," if he sensed that a researcher was annoyed with him. When he would get tired of his work and the questions, he'd say, "I wanna go back" (to his cage).

Alex and his owner developed a strong emotional relationship. When Alex died in September 2007, his last words to Pepperberg the day before were: "You be good. I love you."

I LOVE LOVED this audio book. There was just one thing that I was disappointed about. When Alex died unexpectedly at the young age of 31, they mentioned that they had a necropsy performed to determine the cause of death. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the results, which to me left unfinished business for the reader. Even if they were unable to determine the cause of death, something should have been mentioned at the end about this. Despite that, if you are an animal lover, be sure to give this book a try. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/28/08

191 - A Virgin River Christmas; Robyn Carr

Although I really do not read many romance novels, every once in a while, a feel good story is just what I need. Last month I read Robyn Carr's: Virgin River (#1 in a series), and really enjoyed the story. So much so, that I purchased: book #2 - Shelter Mountain, and Book #3 - Whispering Rock. I haven't read them yet.

A Virgin River Christmas
, is Book #4 of the series, however, I don't think I missed anything reading this one out of sequence.

In this story we meet Marcie Sullivan for lost her young husband Bobby last Christmas. This Christmas she sets out for Virgin River with very little money in her pocket. She has gone to Virgin River to find Ian Buchanan, a fellow Marine of Bobbys, who saved his life by dragging his shattered body in Fallujah for years earlier. By this heroic act, Marcie was able to be with in her life Bobby for three more years.

Since then Ian has seemed to have gone missing, and Marcie's letters to him have gone unanswered. Marcie tracks Ian down in the tiny mountain town and finds an emotionally wounded man. She pushes her way into his reclusive life and finds a kind, but damaged soul beneath hiss rough exterior. And, of course, Christmas is the season of miracles, and in Virgin River, that is no exception.

The story was a predictable, but I still enjoyed the book very much.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/27/08

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

190 - Raven Stole the Moon; Garth Stein

Having absolutely loved Garth Stein's, The Art of Racing in the Rain, I wanted to read his 1998 debut novel: Raven Stole the Moon. It was good, but honestly, not my cup of tea.

About the book.....
Two years ago in a remote Alaskan village, Jenna Rosen's five-year-old son, Bobby, fell out of a boat and drowned, and Jenna was unable to save him. Unable to come to terms with her grief and sinking deeper and deeper into depression, Jenna leaves her husband in Seattle and returns to the site of the tragedy. Hoping to get some closure, once there, she encounters an assortment of sinisterly quirky characters and learns much about the Indian part of her heritage. She soon comes to a startling conclusion.

Since I have never been one to enjoy myth, legend, or fantasy, this story started to lose me when its focus involved: Tlingit Legend---that the kushtaka are shape-shifting soul stealers who inhabit a kind of twilight region between the living and the dead. To me, I would have preferred that the story stay focused, more on grieving and coming to terms with loss.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 11/24/08

Sunday, November 23, 2008

189 - Change We Can Believe In; Barack Obama

Change We Can Believe In outlines Barack Obama's vision for America.

This trade sized paperback is just 288 pages, but inside the pages you will read about specific ideas about how to fix our ailing economy and strengthen the middle class, make health care affordable for all, achieve energy independence, and keep America safe in a dangerous world. They writing is clear and succinct. I especially enjoyed reading his speeches, as it has been many months since I first heard some of them. The eloquent manner in which his speeches were spoken came to life once again as I read his words.

Change We Can Believe In asks you not just to believe in Barack Obama’s ability to bring change to Washington, it asks you to believe in yours as well. Yes We Can!

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/22/08

Saturday, November 22, 2008

188 - The Spy Who Came for Christmas; David Morrell

It’s a snowy Christmas Eve in Santa Fe, but among the revelers on Canyon Road, a decidedly unholy scene is taking place. A desperate man, dressed all in black, feverishly seeks refuge for himself and the squirming bundle he holds tightly against his breast. Agent Paul Kagan’s bundle is a baby who has the power to change the course of global events. His pursuers are his former colleagues—members of the Russian mafia who will stop at nothing to accomplish their mission. Now Kagan is a spy on the run—he must ensure this baby’s survival, even if it will cost him his own life.

Just a short distance away, Kagan will find an unexpected pair of allies—a mother and her young son, who huddle together after a horrible episode of domestic violence leaves them home alone, with no means of transportation.

And so, with the exquisitely honed skills of his profession and the help and good faith of a weary woman and a disillusioned boy, Kagan must take on forces that will stop at nothing. In the course of a wild and violent night, the unlikely trio learn lessons of generosity, courage, and selflessness, discovering within themselves the luminous strength of the true Christmas spirit.

Not exactly my typical holiday type of read, but still enjoyable. This book has a good amount of suspense, great cover art and was just over 200 pages. In addition, the story has a touching theme about family and redemption.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/21/08

Friday, November 21, 2008

187 - The Bonesetter's Daughter; Amy Tan

I will rarely reread a book because there are just so many other books out there that I really want to read. One book I really enjoyed in 2001 when I read it was Amy Tans: The Bonesetter's Daughter, and, since I needed a good audio book for a short trip, I decided to try this story one more time. I was not disappointed. The author and actress Joan Chen were co narrators of this audio book, and they did a flawless job alternating between the Chinese and American accents.

The Bonesetter's Daughter is a story about a mother and a daughter raised different cultures. Ruth is an American born Chinese woman, and her mother Luling was born and raised in China.

Ruth Young is a 40-something ghostwriter in San Francisco who periodically goes mute, a metaphorical indication of her inability to express her true feelings to the man she lives with, Art Kamen, a divorced father of two teenage daughters. Ruth's inability to talk is subtly echoed in the story of her mother LuLing's early life in China.

LuLing has always been a burden to Ruth, overbearing, accusatory, darkly pessimistic. Now, at 77, she has Alzheimer's, but she had recorded in a diary the extraordinary events of her childhood and youth in a small village in China during the years that included the discovery nearby of the bones of Peking Man, the Japanese invasion, the birth of the Republic and the rise of Communism. LuLing was raised by a nursemaid called Precious Auntie, the daughter of a famous bonesetter.

Answers to both womens' problems are revealed as the reader hears Luling's touching story of growing up in an orphanage.

One of my favorite passages:

These are the things I know are true:

My name is LuLing Liu Young. The names of my husbands were
Pan Kai Jing and Edwin Young, both of them dead and our secrets
gone with them. My daughter is Ruth Luyi Young. She was born in a
Water Dragon Year and I in a Fire Dragon Year. So we are the same
but for opposite reasons.

This was just a beautiful story, which demonstrates how we really are a product of the environment in which we were raised; how the past affects our future. I was especially touched by the mother/daughter relationship, as Ruth became involved in the care of her aging mother.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/21/08 - (REREAD)

Friday Finds: By Chance, Martin Corrick

By Chance, Martin Corrick By Chance is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, a philosophical tale that is rivetingly readable. 'The events that resulted in Bolsover's presence at the Alpha Hotel are closely related to his memories of his wife. James Watson Bolsover is an apparently normal middle-aged man, a shy yet soulful engineer turned technical writer who for many years shared a passionate marriage with his lovely wife, Katherine. Bolsover's wife and his deep interest in his work made his life perfect, but then - by chance, misfortune, bad luck - he lost Katherine and, with her, his innocence. Now he travels by sea to a remote island and checks into what seems to be an ordinary hotel; in this safe haven he hopes to understand the past and start afresh. But we quickly discover that all of the hotel's occupants, like Bolsover himself, have uncertain histories: All of them are 'someone else, seeking to leave their former lives behind. As Bolsover grows accustomed to his new surroundings and close to a new woman the truth of his life trickles out like blood from a wound. He is not quite the simple fellow he seems, but a man who has carefully shielded his own history not only from others but also from himself. Culpability, identity, morality, and luck - all these play a part in a story that echoes our own lives. Writing in terse, elegant, and irresistible prose, Martin Corrick proves himself a new British master. By Chance is an unforgettable novel that combines intelligence with emotion, and lingers in the mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

186 - The Hour I First Believed; Wally Lamb

I could not wait for The Hour I First Believed to be released on November 11th. My Amazon copy arrived on Wednesday 11-12-08, and I immediately began to read, and read, and read. This book was 752 pages, and for me (8) days of reading.

I have been a huge Wally Lamb fan after reading: She's Come Undone, and I Know This Much Is True. This new book comes after a 10 year dry spell. One of Lamb's talents has always been the ability to write so beautifully about damaged people. This new novel is no exception.

Caelum Quirk is a forty-seven-year-old high school teacher, married for the third time. His younger wife, Maureen, is a school nurse at the same school-- Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke, but Maureen stays behind. She finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost -- she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily forgotten, and further tragedy ensues.

The Columbine portion of this story reminded me of Jodi Picoult's : Nineteen Minutes, however, Lamb, chose to use the actual names of the shooters and the victims in this story. This novel, is not just a story about Columbine, although the aftermaths of the shooting follow Maureen and Caelum throughout the story. This novel is about so much more. In fact, within this book are stories which span five generations. Caelum uncovers secrets of his past, and that of his ancestors after finding old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. Piece by piece, he reconstructs the lives of those who came before him, and along the way as secrets emerge, he is better able to understand his own troubled past.

It is evident that this book was painstakinly researched, and brilliantly written. I really liked this book, but I felt that the book dragged in parts. It is almost like there was way too much going on in this book, and in my opinion, the book might have benefited from a little more editing.

I did come across this fabulous interview with Wally Lamb about the book, but BEWARE it does contain spoilers, but for those of you who have read the book, it explains so much.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/20/08

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

185 - If You Give a Cat a Cupcake; Laura Numeroff

Well I am having a little trouble focusing on Wally Lamb's new book: The Hour I First Believed, right now --I've read 580 pages in 6 days, but still have another 200 pages to go. It's not because the book isn't any good, it's just a tough subject, and since I've been dealing with some depressing issues myself, I need to take a little break some days.

So I decided to treat myself to this adorable children's book.

If you give a cat a cupcake, he’ll ask for some sprinkles to go with it. When you give him the sprinkles, he might spill some on the floor. Cleaning up will make him hot, so you’ll give him a bathing suit . . . and that’s just the beginning!

This parable teaches kids that if you give a cat a cupcake then soon after the cat expects much more. The cat just asks for sprinkles at first, but next thing you know, the cat's dragging the child to the beach, the amusement park, and the museum, forcing the child to carry all its stuff, and then making the child clean up the mess behind.

The lovable cat who first appeared in If You Give a Pig a Party now has his very own book! Written in the tradition of the bestselling If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s newest story will show everyone that Cat is where it’s at!

A must read for young and old. Fun illustrations and a cute story as well.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/17/08

Saturday, November 15, 2008

184 - Bats at the Library; Brian Lies

I'm taking a little break from a great serious read, Wally Lamb's: The Hour I First Believed -- Very good, but 750+ pages.

I found this wonderful children's book at the library: Bats at the Library, written & illustrated by Brian Lees. The book was released in September-2008. Written in rhythm and rhyme style. This batty adventure is full of silliness, but also references some classic children's literature. In the illustrations, children may recognize some characters from books they may have already read. The illustrations are terrific too. Recommended for children 4-8, as well as for young at heart adults--like me.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/15/08

Friday, November 14, 2008

183 - The Gate House; Nelson Demille

This review of The Gate House is based on the unabridged audio book by Nelson DeMille and read by Christian Rummel. This is a sequel to the earlier bestseller, The Gold Coast, which was written some 10 years earlier.

This story is set in a world still coming to terms with the effects of 9/11. It continues the story of John Sutter and his ex-wife, Susan. Susan, rich and heir to a fortune, had an affair with a mafia don, whom she later shot and killed. The Narrator, Christian Rummel does a great job with the main character, John Sutter by using a mix of sarcasm and dry humor. The narrator also does a great job with the other voices involved in the story.

In The Gate House, John Sutter moves back from England to the Gold Coast and starts to put together the shattered pieces of his relationship and all that this entails. Throw into the mix more mafia involvement, this time Anthony Bellarosa, the son of the dead don, who has a grudge and a score to settle, and the plot starts to get a little interesting, but that is short-lived.

I had such high hopes for this book; I could not wait to get my hands on it, having enjoyed The Gold Coast, and many other DeMille books so much.

This book was almost 700 pages, or in my case 19 discs and 22 hours of listening time. The reader was great, the story started out good, but soon became long and drawn out, with no plot twists -- just a bunch of sarcasm, sex scenes and jokes along the way. I skipped discs 17 and 18 to get to the end, and honestly don't think I missed a thing. Even the ending was disappointing.

If you are looking for an exciting thriller --this may not be the book for you, but if you like lots of sarcasm, repetition, and ethnic jokes, give this one a try.

RATING - 2.5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/13/08

Monday, November 10, 2008

182 - Goodnight Goon - A Petrifying Parody; Michael Rex

Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody, by Michael Rex was released in October --just in time for Halloween.

"Goodnight tomb. Goodnight goon. Goodnight Martians taking over the moon.”

Attention ...............Goodnight Moon fans, this beloved classic gets a kind-hearted send up in this utterly monsterized parody. This time there are spiders, bats, gravestones and skulls in the a cold gray tomb. The tone is still rhythm and rhyme. The illustrations are colorful and just fabulous as is the story; very cleverly done. The book was scary enough, but not too scary for a young child.

This book is a keeper!

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/10/08

181 - Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter; Elizabeth Hess

Lost and Found is an eye opening and heart-felt book that looks at the inner world of an animal shelter.

For years Elizabeth Hess volunteered at an extremely humane animal shelter in New York. In this book she describes in detail, the inner workings, the day to day operations of the animal shelter. Many of the people that work in shelters, do so strictly for the love and welfare of the animals. This shelter, like many others is short on money and staff, but long on abandoned and surrendered animals. She describes in detail the many myths and misconceptions people have about shelter pets --they are not animals with behavior problems; a good percentage are purebreds.

More than 20 million animals end up in US Animal Shelters each year. Many of the cats and dogs (and some rabbits, ferrets, birds etc) came to the shelter from loving homes, mostly because their owners were no longer able to keep or care for them. As the author put it, "when a crazy dog arrives at the shelter, there is usually a crazy owner at the end of the leash".

I had volunteered at our local no-kill shelter for several years, and found most of what the author says to be true about the staff, animals , and the individuals who adopt and surrender animals. In my opinion, shelter animals often make the best pets. Every cat we ever adopted from the shelter was so grateful to be with us, and showed their love and affection daily, in return for a second chance at life.

My recommendation -- read this book and --think about adopting a shelter pet, and saving a life at the same time. You will be glad you did.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/9/08

Sunday, November 9, 2008

180 - Songs for the Missing; Stewart O'Nan

What would do if your teen aged daughter disappeared without a trace? When—if ever—do you stop looking for her?

This is exactly what happens to Kim Larsen, age 18, popular, a small town Ohio girl just weeks before she is to leave for college. She spends an afternoon at the lake with her friends then never shows up for work that evening and is never seen again. It is not until the next morning that her parents, and 15 year old sister, realize Kim is missing.

The book starts out like a mystery, but it soon becomes very much a character study about how people act when a family is in crisis. When one person keeps themselves busy and involved every minute of the day, others may turn inward and shut the world out. What if normal grieving? Is there such a thing? Do remaining family members grow closer or more distant in times of crisis such as this. These are the questions I found myself thinking about as I read this book.

I expected that this book would be more of a mystery. So initially I was a bit disappointed, but it still was very very well written, and I am not sorry that I read it.

O'Nan is a really good author, and even when his books are not necessarily what you might have expected, I have always found them enjoyable.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/8/08

Friday, November 7, 2008

179 - I See You Everywhere; Julia Glass

I See You Everywhere, is a story of two sisters which spans 25 years ( 1980-2005). The story of their lives is told by the sisters, often versions of the same events. These two well bred sisters could not be more different. Growing up, the sisters seem to also be competing against one another all the time.

Louisa is smart, practical and a bit neurotic; she is also jealous of her free spirited younger sister. Clem, the favored child is a rebel, one who jumps from one relationship to another.

At the beginning of the book, Clem, just out of college, moves to Vermont to be near her 98 year old aunt Lucy. She does this to please her father. I liked the aunt, she enjoys lavish shopping sprees, evidently believing she'll be around forever, and also shares some juicy family secrets. As the story unfolds, in addition to the family secrets, there are a few real life crises, and a shocking conclusion.

This is my second Julia Glass novel. I have not read Three Junes, but I have read, The Whole World Over, which I did not love, but did enjoy.

My major complaint with this book was the writing style.........I did not enjoy the way the story (over 25 years) unfolded. I did not feel invested in the characters or the story. I asked myself if the reason I did not care for this book was because I never had a sister (only brothers)? But, in the end, I don't think that was the reason. For me, it really was the writing style I disliked. I did LOVE the cover art that was selected for this book and for The Whole World Over ---stunning.

The reviews seem to be mixed for this book, so my recommendation is to try it for yourself and --you be the judge.
RATING - 2/5 -- COMPLETED -- 11/7/08

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

178 - A Walk in the Woods; Bill Bryson

Having fell in love with the audio version of Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I decided to give A Walk in the Woods a try. This audio is also read by the author.

Bill Bryson moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, and soon after realizes the the Appalachian Trail, at least part of it, is close by. After doing some reading about the trail, he thought it would be pretty cool to hike the trail which runs from Georgia to Maine. He solicits friends and family to join him, and even puts notes in his holiday cards inviting people to hike "the trail".

The only person to respond to his invitation was an old college buddy, that he never got along with too well...Steven Katz. The two of them are like the "odd couple". Bryson is very prepared, having shopped for all the essentials for the trip, and packed very well. Katz, is like Oscar with his duffle bag well packed with Snickers Bars and Little Debbie cakes, all the essentials he felt he'd need. When Katz' bag gets a little too heavy, he tosses the water bottle...who needs water on a hike in the South right?. Their hike began in Georgia, and last about 6 weeks or 500 miles.

The book was very amusing. In addition there is a bit of history about the Appalachian Trail, as well as environmental and ecological issues neatly laced into the story. Great travel Memoir.

RATING - 4/5 - STARTED 10/08 - COMPLETED - 11/08

Monday, November 3, 2008

177 - The Cellist of Sarajevo; Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway is a work of fiction that was inspired by an actual event that occurred in Sarajevo in 1992.

In the actual story a musician, by the name of Vedran Smailovic, witnessed 22 friends and family members die from mortar fire while they were waiting to buy bread. As a memorial to these individuals he sat at the site where those 22 people had died and played his cello for 22 days honoring these people.

This story itself involves four characters: the cellist who witnesses the bombing that kills 22 people; a female sniper named Arrow whose job is to protect the cellist, but soon begins to question what her job involves; a man named Dragan, a lonely man who has sent his family away so that they would be safe, and then there is Kenan, who travels regularily on dangerous terrain to gather water for his family and neighbor.

Although the cellist plays a small role in the story, people living there begin to bond together. They meet on street corners, food stands or water gathering locations to talk, to tell others that the cellist has survived one more day without being shot.

I must admit I knew very little about the actual details that occurred in Bosnia, before reading this book. It was sad to see the shattered lives of the people, and how they tried to maintain a little piece of dignity in the face of overwhelming despair.

I would have rated this book higher, however, I found some parts seemed to drag a bit, despite the fact that there were only 256 pages to the book. Still, this book is a worthwhile read.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 11/3/08

Sunday, November 2, 2008

176 - An Abundance of Katherines; John Green

This audio book was actually one from October that I forgot to post. I listened to it on my IPOD, so I didn't have the actual book around to remind this aging brain to blog about it LOL. It is a YA title that was recommended by a cyber-buddy. It was really a fun read.

About the book: Green's eccentric narrative follows the exploits of Colin Singleton, a fading prodigy whose hobbies include making anagrams, dating girls whose names are Katherine, and coming up with mathematical equations that explain why said Katherines have dumped him. After "Katherine the Nineteenth" breaks his heart, Colin and his best friend go on a road trip that lands them in Gutshot, Tennessee. Jeff Woodman delivers a solid narrative voice brimming with enthusiasm and energy. He embodies Colin by vocalizing his frustration and aimlessness while also executing great personalities and accents for the various characters Colin encounters. Woodman's smooth, animated tone produces an engaging atmosphere for this amusing novel.

This book, although a fun read, would be far more enjoyable to teens I am sure. Great narrative, memorable characters, but just not much of a story. It did make walking fun though, and any book that does that for me, can't be a bad book.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - Mid October-08

November Stack

Picked out my November stack yesterday. Funny how some of these same titles have appeared a few months in a row now.
  • The Meaning of Night; Michael Cox - book group read Dec
  • Pocketful of Names; Joe Coomer - love this author
  • A Recipe for Bees; Dargatz
  • The 19th Wife; Ebershoff - cuz I heard it was good
  • The Gate House; DeMille (audio) - sequel to The Gold Coast - love this author- 2.5/5
  • A Walk in the Woods; Bill Bryson (audio) - 4/5
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo; Galloway - 4/5
  • The Childrens Blizzard; Larson
  • Lost and Found:Dogs, Cats and Everyday Heroes at Our Country Animal Shelter; Hess
  • I See You Everywhere; Julia Glass - 2/5
  • The Tenderness of Wolves; Penney
  • Telex from Cuba; Kurshner
  • We are Eternal; Brown (NF)
  • Death With Interruptions; Saramago - left over from last month
  • A View From Garden City; Baugh
  • Black Swan Green; Mitchell - left over from last 2 months :)
  • Certain Poor Shepherds; Thomas
  • The Hour I First Believed; Wally Lamb - to be released on 11/11/08 - 4/5

Saturday, November 1, 2008

175 - The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane; Kate DiCamillo

I was captivated by this gem of a book as I browsed the bookstore. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, is of course intended for children ages 4-8, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just over 225 pages, with large type and plenty of blank space on the pages, the story, and gorgeous illustrations are not to be missed.

Edward Tulane is a vain, self-absorbed three-foot-tall china rabbit from France who appears to have all he could want: fabulous clothes, a tiny gold pocket watch and a little girl, Abilene, who loves him. Then it all vanishes. When the family goes off on an ocean voyage trouble begins. He too falls from grace and ends up in the water. He experiences his first emotion fear.

His emotional journey through life encompasses several transformations as several owners adopt him. When a fisherman saves him from the sea, his wife calls him Susanna and puts a dress on him. But their nasty grown daughter tosses him in the trash. A hobo, retrieves Edward from the garbage dump and names him Malone. Then he loses him. A crabby old woman uses him as a scarecrow in her cornfield until Bryce, an abused boy, rescues Edward for his poor little sister, Sarah Ruth. She christens him Jangles, and Bryce strings up the toy like a marionette to dance for money. Finally in a doll shop sitting on a shelf for over a year, Edward is unexpectedly discovered by someone who has always loved him.

This story was so satisfying and does have a happy ending, however, parents of very young children should be aware that there are some sensitive issues addressed in this book: poverty, homelessness, even death.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 11/1/08

2009 Pub Challenge

Michele at One More Chapter is hosting this 2009 Pub Challenge

Here are the 2009 rules:

1)Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2009, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2008, and then published in the USA in 2009, it counts (if you live in the USA). Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2009. Any questions on what qualifies? Just leave a comment here, and I’ll respond with the answer.
2)No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
3)At least 5 titles must be fiction.
4)Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
5)You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.

I plan to read:
  1. Never Tell a Lie; Hallie Ephron - 4/5
  2. True Colors; Kristin Hannah - 2.5/5 (audio)
  3. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts; Benedict - 4/5
  4. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - 4.5/5
  5. The Seance; Harwood - 4/5
  6. Beat the Reaper; Josh Bazell - 4.5/5
  7. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; Baker - 5/5
  8. The Spare Room; Garner - 4/5
  9. The Help; Stockett - 5/5
  10. While My Sister Sleeps; Delinsky - 4.5/5
  11. The Piano Teacher; Lee - 4/5
  12. Handle With Care; Picoult - 5/5
  13. Honolulu; Brennert - 4/5
  14. Still Life; Fielding - 4/5
  15. The Weight of Heaven; Umrigar - 5/5
  16. In Hovering Flight; Hinnefield - 4/5
  17. Dog On It; Quinn - 4/5
  18. The Cradle; Somerville - 3/5
  19. The Pursuit; Robards - 4/5
  20. The Daily Coyote; Stockett 4/5
  21. Almost Home; Jenoff - 4/5
  22. The Simplest Acts and Other Stories; Haney - 4/5
  23. Apologize, Apoligize; Kelly - 2/5
  24. Shanghai Girls; See - 4.5/5
  25. Happy for No Reason; Shimoff - 4/5
  26. Prayers for Sale; Dallas - 4.5/5
  27. The Visibles; Shepard - 4/5
  28. Life Without Summer; Griffin - 5/5
  29. Dark Places; Flynn - 4/5
  30. Home Safe; Berg - 2/5
  31. Blue Notebook; Levine - 5/5
  32. Who Do You Think You Are; Myers - 4.5/5
  33. Black Girl Next Door; Bazisle - 4/5
  34. Burnt Shadows; Shamsie - 3.5/5
  35. Water, Stone, Heart; North - 4/5
  36. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; Bradley - 5/5
  37. The Chosen One; Williams - 4.5/5
  38. Broken; Jones - 4/5
  39. Disobedient Girl; Freeman - 3.5/5
  40. Perfection; Metz - 4/5
  41. Die For You; Unger - 4/5
  42. A Short History of Women; Walbert - 4/5
  43. Labor Day; Maynard - 5/5
  44. The Bride's Farewell; Roseoff - 3.5/5
  45. My Abandonment; Rock - 4/5
  46. So Happy Together; McFadden - 4/5
  47. Dismantled; McMahon - 4/5
  48. A Happy Marriage; Ygelasis - 4.5/5
  49. The Magicians; Grossman - 5/5
  50. God of War; Silver - 5/5
  51. Strangers; Brookner - 5/5
  52. Sima's Undergarments for Women; Stager Ross - 5/5
  53. When the Sun Goes Down - 4/5
  54. The Boneman's Daughter; Dekker - 4/5
  55. The Calligrapher's Daughter; Kim - 5/5
  56. Benny and Shrimp; Mazetti - 4/5
  57. The House on Sugar Beach; Cooper - 4.5/5
  58. The Promise of Wolves; Hearst - 4.5/5
  59. The Song of Renewal; Harvey - 4/5
  60. The Idea of Love; Dean - 4/5
  61. The Day the Falls Stood Still; Buchanan - 4.5/5
  62. That Old Cape Magic; Russo - 5/5
  63. Heroic Measures; Ciment - 4.5/5
  64. Homer's Odyssey; Cooper - 4.5/5
  65. After You; Buxtbaum - 4/5
  66. The Woodstock Story; Levine - 4.5/5
  67. The Neighbor; Gardner - 4.5/5
  68. Dragon House; Shors - 4/5
  69. The Shimmer; Morrell - 3/5
  70. The Hidden Life of Deer; 3/5
  71. Brooklyn; Toibin - 4/5
  72. Bird in Hard; Kline - 4/5
  73. Homer and Langley; Doctorow - 3/5
  74. Saving Sammy; Mahoney - 4/5
  75. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - 4.5/5
  76. Day After Night; Diamant - 4/5
  77. Yes My Darling Daughter; Leroy - 4/5
  78. The Sari Shop Widow; Bantwal - 4/5
  79. The Broken Window; Deaver - 4/5
  80. A Change of Altitude; Shreve - 3/5
  81. No Time to Wave Goodbye; Mitchard - 4/5
  82. A Brutal Telling; Penny - 4.5/5
  83. The Magician's Elephant; DiCamillio - 5/5
  84. Evil at Heart; Cain - 4.5/5
  85. Mathilda Savitch; Lodato - 4/5
  86. Baking Cakes in Kigali; Parkin - 4/5
  87. Solace; Temes - 4/5
  88. A Duty to the Dead; Todd - 4.5/5
  89. Runaway Mummy; Rex - 4.5/5
  90. Miss Smith and the Haunted Library; Gaylord - 4.5/5
  91. Sworn to Silence; Castillo - 4/5
  92. Cutting for Stone; Verghese - 5/5
  93. The Time of My Life; Swayze and Neimi - 5/5
  94. The Recipe Club; Israel and Garfinkel - 4/5;
  95. The Christmas Cookie Club ; Pearlman - 3/5
  96. Picking Bones From Ash; Mockett - 4.5/5
  97. Physick Book of Deliverance Dane; Howe - 4/5
  98. Traveling With Pmegranates; Kidd Monk - 1/5
  99. Have a Little Faith; Albom - 4.5/5
  100. The Humbling; Roth - 3/5
  101. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much; Bartlett - 4.5/5
  102. The Christmas Dog; Carlson - 4.5/5
  103. Her Fearful Symmetry; Niffinegger - 4/5
  104. Await Your Reply; Chaon - 4.5/5
  105. The Christmas List; Evans - 5/5
  106. Wishin and Hopin; Lamb - 4.5/5
  107. Half Broke Horses; Walls - 5/5
  108. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas - 4.5/5
  109. Holiday Grind; Coyle - 4/5
  110. The Girl on Legare Street; White - 4/5
  111. Finding Grace; VanLiere - 4/5
  112. Amen, Amen, Amen; Sher - 4/5
  113. New World Monkeys; Mauro - 3/5
  114. Nubs; Dennis and Nethery - 5/5
  115. The Lovers; Connolly - 4/5
  116. Rainwater; Sandra Brown - 5/5
  117. Alice I Have Been; M Benjamin - 4.5/5
  118. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt; Hoffman - 5/5
  119. Mean Mother; P. Streep - 4/5
  120. American Rebel: Life of Clint Eastwood; Eliot - 4/5
  121. Frommer's Costa Rica 2010; Greenspan - 4.5/5
completed - 3/2009

Winter Holiday Reading Challenge - Nov. 1 - Jan 31, 2009

Completed - December - 2008

The Winter Holiday Reading Challenge is being hosted by Book in Hand, and it will last from November 1, 2008 to January 31, 2009.

The theme for this challenge is Winter Holidays. The books that you choose to read must have a storyline that includes celebrating a winter holiday, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, etc. (However, the holidays are not limited to just these examples.)

You choose the number of books you wish to read.

I hope to read (5). My list consists of:
  1. The Christmas Sweater; Beck - 5/5
  2. A Cedar Cove Christmas; Macomber - 2/5
  3. A Virgin River Christmas; Robyn Carr - 4/5
  4. A Dog Named Christmas; Kincaid - 4/5
  5. The Spy Who Came for Christmas; Morrell - 4/5
  6. The Paper Bag Christmas; Milne
  7. Santa Clawed; Brown

I've already read : Grace; Evans - loved it and Holidays on Ice; Sedaris - very funny