Friday, July 31, 2009

July Reading in Review

July was a busy month for reading for me. I read (20) books, my biggest month so far this year. The quality of my reads was excellent: (7) books were perfect 5/5 ratings using my system. (9) books I rated a 4 or 4.5/5; (3) books were rated a 3 or 3.5/5 and (1) book was rated a 2/5. I had (1) DNF (did not finish): Into the Beautiful North; Urrea --maybe the timing just wasn't right, as I know some other bloggers did enjoy this book.

Of the (20) books I did read, (9) were review books that I committed to ( just 1 short of my goal of 10). I also read (5) non fiction books and listened to (4) audio books. 11/20 were my books and 9/20 came from the library (a bit too many still).

Here is a summary for July:

98. The Bride's Farewell; Meg Rosoff - 3.5/5 (review)
99. A Lion Called Christian; Bourke and Rendall - 5/5 - favorite non/fiction
100. My Abandonment; Peter Rock - 4/5 (audio) - favorite audio book
101. So Happy Together; McFadden - 4/5 (review)
102. The Cats of Kittyville: New Lives for Rescued Felines; Somerville - 5/5
103. Dismantled; McMahon - 4/5
104. A Happy Marriage; Yglesias - 4.5/5 (review)
105. Black Out; Lisa Unger - 3/5 (audio)
106. The Magicians; Lev Grossman - 5/5 (review)
107. The God of War; Silver - 5/5 (review)
108. Strangers; Anita Brookner - 5/5
109. Sima's Undergarments for Women; Stanger-Ross - 5/5 - favorite library book
110. When the Sun Goes Down; Breuhaus - 4/5 (review)
111. Roadside Crosses; Deaver - 4/5
112. BoneMan's Daughters; Ted Dekker - 4/5 (audio)
113. The Calligrapher's Daughter; Kim - 5/5 (review) - favorite review book
114. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven; Gilman - 2/5 (audio)
115. Benny & Shrimp; Mazetti - 4/5 (review)
116. The House on Sugar Beach; Helene Cooper - 4.5/5 (review)
117. Dry Ice; Stephen White - 4/5 (audio)

Open Challenges

  • 100+ Challenge - 117/100
  • A-Z Challenge - 22/26
  • Read Your Own Books Challenge - 60/100
  • John Steinbeck Mini Challenge - 1/2
  • War Through the Generations WWII - 2/5
  • What an Animal II Challenge - 3/6
  • (Did Not Complete Cozy Mystery Challenge)

Hope everyone had else enjoyed what they read in July.

Friday Finds

Pub Date - August 10, 2009
Little Brown and Co.

Book Description: Amigoland; Oscar Casares
In a small town on the Mexican border live two brothers, Don Fidencio and Don Celestino. Stubborn and independent, they now must face the facts: they are old, and they have let a family argument stand between them for too long. Don Celestino's good-natured housekeeper encourages him to make amends--while he still can. They secretly liberate Don Fidencio from his nursing home and travel into Mexico to solve the mystery at the heart of their dispute: the family legend of their grandfather's kidnapping. As the unlikely trio travels, the brothers learn it's never too late for a new beginning.

With winsome prose and heartfelt humor, Oscar Casares's debut novel of family lost and found radiates with generosity and grace and confirms the arrival of a uniquely talented new writer.

(This debut sounds a bit quirky, but I feel it might have a heart-warming feel as well)??

Thursday, July 30, 2009

117 - Dry Ice; Stephen White

Alan Gregory is a Colorado Psychologist with something to hide. In Dry Ice, it is not long before his past and the secrets he has been hiding gegin to surface. When one of Alan's former patients escapes from The Colorado State Mental Hospital things heat up for Alan Gregory.

At the same time, Alan's wife Lauren is a Boulder, Colorado prosecutor assigned to a high profile and sensitive grand jury investigation, where the key witness has vanished. When Alan finds the woman's Coach handbag in his yard, he becomes a suspect. All the while his wife has secrets of her own, and she is battling MS and drugs to help her cope with the pain.

This story started out a bit slow at first, but had enough twists and turns to keep my interest. The reader for the audio book, Dick Hill , was great in my opinion, and I would definitely like to listen to more audio books like this one again. A good psychological thriller where everyone seems to have something to hide.

RATING - 4/5; Completed - 7/30/09; Library

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

116 - The House on Sugar Beach; Helene Cooper

The House on Sugar Beach, is a thought provoking memoir about an African childhood in Liberia.

Helene Cooper was born to a wealthy, and politically powerful Liberian family. Her family were descendants of freed American slaves. Her mother's ancestor, Elija Johnson actually founded Libiera. When her ancestors were given a choice: Africa or America --they chose Africa. According to Helene, "Because of that choice, I would not grow up 150 years later as an American black girl, weighed down by racial stereotypes about welfare queens".

There were basically two classes of people in Liberia --Congo people - the newcomers who were upper middle class, buying up all the property, and then there were the Country people --Liberians--the have nots. The family moved to Sugar Beach, into a remote, twenty-two room mansion overlooking the Atlantic ocean, when she was young. There they lived a life of luxury.

Helene was just nine years old when the family took in Eunice, an eleven year old Bassa tribe girl as a playmate for Helene and her sister. It was common practice for Congo people to adopt tribe people. Eunice and Helene became very close.

In April of 1980 however, the world as the Cooper's knew it changed forever. During a coup, the President of Liberia was killed, as was the Cooper's cousin, who was a foreign minister, as well as many other government officers. When Mrs Cooper was gang raped by intruders, she and the girls were able to flee the country for America.

Helene and her sister were schooled in the US. They lived at different times with both of their parents. Helene pursued a career in journalism and worked in Rhode Island for the Providence Journal, and later secured high profile positions with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

In 2003, while on assignment in Iraq, Helene Cooper narrowly escaped death. Upon her return she was determined to return to her native Liberia to find Eunice who had been left behind.

The House on Sugar Beach was one of the best written memoirs I have read in a long time. A powerful, honest, first-person account that revealed both the class differences, and the turmoil of war in a way I've never read about previously. Such a personal story, almost perfect in every way. The only thing the story was missing was an epilogue, to let the reader know what has happened since Helene's visit to Liberia in 2003, as I felt a few questions that I had were unanswered. Other than that, this is a highly recommended memoir.

(Thank you Simon & Schuster for sending this book to me).

Rating - 4.5/5 stars; Completed 7/29/09; REVIEW

Wordless Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday: The Locust and the Bird

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY" is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story
Author: Hanan Al-Shaykh
Pub. Date: August 25, 2009

Book Description:

“One of the most daring female writers of the Middle East” (San Francisco Chronicle) gives us an extraordinary work of nonfiction: an account of her mother’s remarkable life, at the core of which is a tale of undying love. In a masterly act of literary transformation, Hanan al-Shaykh re-creates the dramatic life of her mother, Kamila, in Kamila’s own voice. We enter 1930s Beirut through the eyes of the unschooled but irrepressibly spirited nine-year-old child who arrives there from a small village in southern Lebanon. We see her drawn to the excitements of the city, to the thrill of the cinema, and, most powerfully, to Mohammed, the young man who will be the love of her life.Despite a forced marriage at the age of thirteen to a much older man, despite the two daughters she bears him (one of them the author), despite the scandal and embarrassment she brings to her family, Kamila continues to see Mohammed. Finally, after nearly a decade, her husband gives her a divorce, but she must leave her children behind.
The Locust and the Bird is both a tribute to a strong-willed and independent woman and a heartfelt critique of a mother whose decision were unorthodox and often controversial. As the narrative unfolds through the years (Kamila died in 2001) we follow this passionate, strong, demanding, and captivating woman as she survives the tragedies and celebrates the triumphs of a life lived to the very fullest.
What's your pick this week?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Man Booker Longlist Revealed

Surfing the web I just found some exciting news.

The longlist comprises:

A S Byatt; The Children's Book (Chatto)

J M Coetzee; Summertime (Harvill Secker)

Adam Foulds; The Quickening Maze (Jonathan Cape)

Sarah Hall; How to Paint a Dead Man (Faber)

Samantha Harvey; The Wilderness (Jonathan Cape)

James Lever; Me Cheeta (Fourth Estate)

Hilary Mantel; Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)

Simon Mawer; The Glass Room (Little, Brown)

Ed O'Loughlin; Not Untrue & Not Unkind (Penguin - Ireland)

James Scudamore; Heliopolis (Harvill Secker)

Colm Toibin; Brooklyn (Viking)

William Trevor; Love and Summer (Viking)

Sarah Waters; The Little Stranger (Virago)

Here's the entire article.

(The last 3 are on my list as well). Have you read any of these yet?

Tuesday Teasers

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Here is my teasers -- (p.77) "The pack fell silent. I was aware of every sound around us--the ravens squabbling over bits of meat, small prey rustling in the bushes, even the fleas jumping on old Trevegg's fur."

(Promise of Wolves; Dorothy Hearst)

Comment - I was not sure I'd be enjoying this book, but it is really terrific --(thanks Simon and Schuster)

115 - Benny & Shrimp; Katarina Mazetti

Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti, an international bestseller, hits the US market today (Penguin Books). I was fortunate to receive an advance copy from Caitlin Price @ FSB Associates. Thanks Caitlin
Benny & Shrimp is the story of two thirty-something misfits. Benny is a Swedish cow milk farmer who has never married. Desiree, A.K.A. Shrimp is a thirty-something, plain Jane librarian who dresses in beige and lives an organized life in her sterile apartment. She is a widow of two years.
Benny and Shrimp meet in the cemetery where they go each day to visit their dearly departed --Benny his parents, and Shrimp, her late husband, Orjan. When they first notice each other, their private thoughts about each other are less than flattering.
(Benny)...(p. 6-7)..."And then she's there. Faded, like some old color photo that's been on display for years. Dried-out blond hair, a pale face, white eyebrows and lashes, wishy-washy pastel clothes, always something vaguely blue or beige".
(Benny)...(p.35)..."Suppose I've spent too long with just cows for company.....At the cemetery gates I ran into the beige woman. I thought she'd be looking at me warily, afraid smarmy Benny might fire off his lunatic smile at her again, so I knitted my brow and gave her a curt nod as I passed her".
(Shrimp)...(p.9)..." It was a clear, cold autumn day and I took my usual walk to the grave on my lunch break. The Forest Owner was sitting there on the bench; he glowered at me, as if I were trespassing in his own private cemetery. His paws were all soily; he'd probably just got the day's gardening stint out of the way. Wonder why he's only got three fingers".
A quirky, but down-to-earth story that will make you smile and laugh, and perhaps even renew your belief in the fact that, if your eyes and heart are open, there is someone out there for most everyone.
A satisfying read with a ending that left me wondering if a sequel, might not be in the works. Give Benny & Shrimp a try. I think you will be pleased you did.
RATING - 4/5; COMPLETED 7/27/09; Review Book

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday - July 27

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page.
WARNING: It can be addictive!

  1. The Lost Chalice; Vernon Silver (thanks Harper Collins)
  2. If You Lived Here; Dana Sachs (impulsive purchase)
  3. Sweet Mary; Liz Balmaseda (thanks Atria Books)
  4. The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper; Y'Barbo (blog tour- thanks Ashley@Random House)
  5. The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love; Pattillo (blog tour-thanks Ashley@Random House)
  6. Rose House; Forkner (blog tour-Thanks Ashley@Random House)
  7. Chosen to Die; Lisa Jackson (thank you Joan Schulhafer Pub & Media)
  8. The Lieutenant; Kate Grenville (Thanks Book Browse)

What arrived at your home this week?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh No!!! More New Book Releases this Week

Who am I to doubt Confucius?

July 28 Releases:

  1. Last Bridge; Teri Coyne (Amazon) Taut, gripping, and edgy, The Last Bridge is an intense novel of family secrets, darkest impulses, and deep-seated love. (I'll be reading this one soon - Thanks Shelf Awareness)
  2. Labor Day; Joyce Maynard ---I LOVED this book - read my review here. (Thanks Tavia @ Wm Morrow Books)
  3. Benny & Shrimp; Katarina Mazetti (Two middle age misfits and a love that should not be as complicated as it seems -- (my review is coming soon); Thanks Caitlin-Penguin Publishing
  4. Chosen to Die; Lisa Jackson (Amazon) - In the desolate Montana woods, evil is lurking. And with time running out, the only way to save Regan will be to get inside a killer's twisted mind and unravel a shocking message that is being revealed, one body at a time.(Thanks Joy and Joan @Joan Schulhafer Pub & Media)

More New Fiction also available this week @ Barnes and Noble):

Dying for Mercy: A Novel of Suspense by Mary Jane Clark
Hot Pursuit: A Novel by Suzanne Brockmann
Watch the Skies by James Patterson

Saturday, July 25, 2009

114 - Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven; Susan Jane Gilman

After graduation from Brown University in 1986, Susan Gilman and Claire Van Houton (name and physical attributes have been changed), decide they want to backpack and see the world. They get this idea from a place mat at the International House of Pancakes.

These young, naive New York City and New England girls begin their journey in Communist China just days after outsiders were allowed to enter the country. First stop Hong Kong, and culture shock pretty much hits as soon as the Susie and Claire get off the plane. From communication problems to cockroaches and filth, world travels are not what the two expected.

Within six weeks of travel. it is apparent to the reader that Claire is not just acting rich, spoiled and moody, as Susie believes is the case. Susie does not seem to realize that her friend is in fact, paranoid, delusional and perhaps schizophrenic.

While I did enjoy parts of this audio book, I found Susie and Claire unlikeable, the story full of cliches, and I couldn't get beyond the fact the author, an Ivy League grad (who read the audio book) mispronounced several words in her reading. If you are looking for a travelogue, I would recommend looking elsewhere, or if you feel you must read this book, borrow it from the library like I did.

RATING - 2/5; COMPLETED - 7/24/09; Library Book

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Finds

By: Louise Dean

When a cluster of expatriate families converges on Provence, it seems as if sunshine, good wine, and an endless round of parties will make for a better life. Then Richard, a pharmaceutical salesman married to sexy Valérie, lands a plum assignment: introducing antidepressants into Africa, virgin territory for the drug industry and for the womanizing he has honed to a science. And idealistic Rachel finds herself Africa-bound too, in search of a little brother or sister for her daughter, Maud, and following some deeper longing she can?t seem to quell.

For both Richard and Rachel, the excursions will lead them into their own private heart of darkness, and will bring shock waves home to their little Eden, unsettling the very idea of love.

(While this isn't the type of book I would normally read, but the cover was so great, and the story line just seems like a fun read to me.)

By: William Trevor

The inimitable William Trevor returns with a story of suspicion, guilt, forbidden love and the possibility of starting over. It’s summer, and nothing much is happening in Rathmoye. So it doesn’t go unnoticed when a dark-haired stranger begins photographing the mourners at Mrs. Connulty’s funeral. Florian Kilderry couldn’t know that the Connultys were said to own half the town. But Miss Connulty resolves to keep an eye on Florian … and she becomes a witness to the ensuing events. In a characteristically masterful way, Trevor evokes the passions and frustrations in an Irish town during one long summer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

113 - The Calligrapher's Daughter; Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher's Daughter is a beautiful story inspired by the life of the author's mother. The story is meticulously researched, and so very touching. I thought the cover was so lovely too.

Najin Han is born in the early 20th century to a very strict Korean family. Her father Han, is a proud man. He is an artist: "calligrapher" and an activist as well. Japan occupies Korea at the time of Najin's birth, and the political climate only worsens. Najin's father wants her to marry into an aristocratic family at age 14, but her mother wants more for her.

Najin is sent off by her mother to serve in the king's court. There she becomes more refined, Continuing her education, she later becomes a teacher, and marries. When she cannot get a visa, her new husband of only one day, goes to America without her. The two are separated for over 10 years.

Najin narrates the story which spans some 30 years. A coming of age story, a riches to rags story, an unforgetable family saga with characters that will stick with you long after the final page has been turned. Even though a work of fiction, I feel that I have developed much more of an appreciation for what these people have been through. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

RATING - 5/5; Completed 7/22/09; Review Book

112 - BoneMan's Daughters; Ted Dekker

BoneMan's Daughters, is my second Ted Dekker book. The first one was Kiss, which I read earlier in the year and enjoyed. This review is based on the audio book version.

Ryan Evans was a Navy Intelligence Officer stationed in Iraq. While he was there, he was captured and held prisoner. He was forced to watch torture methods used to kill children which involved a long painful death by breaking their bones.

When Ryan is released and returns home, his home life as he knew it -- is no more. His wife wants a divorce, and his beautiful young daughter Bethany, is distant and angry towards him.

Before long, Bethany goes missing, and all clues point to a serial killer called: BoneMan. Boneman's victims are young girls, who he is trying to make into a "perfect daughter". When they disappoint him, the torture begins. Coincidentally, BoneMan uses the same torture methods on his victims that Ryan was taught while he was held prisoner. BoneMan breaks the bones but not the skin of his victims. Ryan soon becomes a suspect, while he is trying desperately to find his missing daughter.

The story was very good, perhaps a bit too slow at the beginning. It was peppered with biblical references, but I did not find it preachy in any way. It was not overly graphic, but it was very suspenseful. With central themes being the emotional pain of abandonment and rejection.


RATING - 4/5; Completed - 7/22/09; Library Audio Book

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - July 22

Waiting on Wednesday: The Day the Falls Stood Still


Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan
Pub. Date: August 25, 2009 ReviewBook Description

Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating--and harboring a secret.
The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him--against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.
What's your W.O.W. pick this week?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

111 - Roadside Crosses; Jeffrey Deaver

Most of us have probably seen at least a few "roadside crosses" along some highway, memorializing the individual who died at that spot in of a car accident. In Jeffrey Deaver's latest book: Roadside Crosses, home made crosses start appearing along a California highway with no name on them, but with a date in to the future, as a killer announces his intention to kill. Even more disturbing is the fact that the killer seems to be using personal information obtained through blog posts, and other social networking sites.

Kathryn Dance is in charge of this case, along with Deputy O'Neill. As a subplot, Dances mother is arrested for her role in a mercy killing.

The entire book takes place over a period of just four days, and addresses many hot topics: right to live versus right to die, internet addictions, blogger's rights and a few more controversial topics. There were some great twists and turns to keep me reading at a fast pace, but I actually would have preferred if the story was just a bit shorter and focused just on the "Roadside Cross" aspect.

All in all this was a good thriller. I did not read the first book in this series: The Sleeping Doll, but it really did not seem necessary.

RATING - 4/5; COMPLETED 7/21/09; Library Book

Tuesday Teasers

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) sentences from that page.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

My teaser (p200) Roadside Crosses; Jeffrey Deaver.....
...The blogger's eyes were sweeping the floor of the emergency room, green-and-white tile, mopped clean but scuffed by years of anxious heels and soles. "But Lyndon posted in the desalination thread, not 'Roadside Crosses'. No, Travis wouldn't have any complaint with him. It's somebody else. Lyndon'd made a lot of people upset. He was a plaintiff's lawyer and was always taking on controversial causes."

(I'm liking this suspenseful page turner). What's your teaser today?

Monday, July 20, 2009

110 - When the Sun Goes Down; Betty Breuhaus

When I was asked to read and review this book, my response was "sure--cool cover". While some people might shy away from books about planning your own funeral, I thought hey if we made out our wills, why not read this book. I've already accepted the fact I'm not living forever.

In When the Sun Goes Down, the author offers thought provoking suggestions in planning the celebration of your life. From traditions services to some creative, unique events which I never thought about, the options out there are too many too mention in this review.

The book is only 160 pages (12 chapters), however, almost every page contains helpful information on this subject people don't seem to openly discuss. The topics covered are:
  1. Benefits of a Funeral
  2. Funeral Homes
  3. Disposition of the Body
  4. Cemeteries
  5. Type of Service
  6. Fundamentals
  7. Service Basics
  8. Service Enhancements
  9. Service Accessories
  10. After Party
  11. Obituaries
  12. Ethical Wills
Also included are references and a Personal Funeral Planner. A serious topic, but not too dark, the book also includes some illustrations and epitaphs of the monuments of some well known people.
Certainly, not a book everyone will move to the top of their wish list, but a well done reference guide that will help people who enjoy taking control, to have a say in their final celebration.
RATING - 4/5; COMPLETED - 7/20/09; My Stacks (Review Book)

Mailbox Monday - July 20

  1. The Lacemakers of Glenmara; Barbieri (Thanks Harper Collins)
  2. The Brutal Telling; Penny (Thanks Shelf Awareness & Minotaur Books)
  3. The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos; Mascarrenhas (Thank you Claire at Kiss a Cloud)
  4. Cafe Tempest; Bonfigli (Thanks Tell Me Press)
  5. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind; Kamkwamba (Thanks Shelf Awareness & Wm Morrow Publishing)
  6. The Year of the Flood; Atwood (Thanks Nan Talese and Shelf Awareness)
  7. The Hope of Refuge; Woodsmall (Thanks Liz, Waterbrook Press)
  8. Benny & Shrimp; Mazetti (Thanks Penguin Pub)
  9. The Widow Season; Brodie (Thanks Berkley Trade)

Do your mail delivery people find you annoying too?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

109 - Sima's Undergarments for Women; Ilana Stanger-Ross

In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima Goldner is a 65 year old woman, who runs a lingerie shop out of the basement of her Brooklyn home, which she shares with her husband, Lev of 46 years.

(Chapter 1- first paragraph......

"SIMA SURPRISED HERSELF BY BLUSHING AT THE ROUND perfection of the young woman's breasts. For thirty-five years, after all, breasts had been her business: she knew the slight curve of the preteen breast, its nipple rigid when unveiled in the cool air of her basement shop; the aching breasts of pregnant women, skin shiny and striped from stretch; the parchment breasts of the elderly, liver-spotted, soft with down; she knew breasts with pink nipples, olive nipples, brown nipples; nipples pushed in and pulled out, tiny as dimes, large as the ringed stain of a coffee cup; she knew heavy breasts on thin women and thin breasts on heavy women; breasts 28A, 52K, and breasts with a cup size between them. She even and of course knew the knotted red scar of the breast that was no longer there, the twisting keloid marker of what science had stolen away".

Sima teaches women to appreciate their bodies, even though her own body has disappinted her. Childless, Sima is saddened by the fact that she was never able to have a child. One day Timna, a beautiful Israeli woman wanders into Sima's shop in the Jewish Orthodox neighborhood. Sima becomes fascinated with this lovely woman. Timna is just out of the Army, and here without a visa, while waiting for her boyfriend to get out of the Army. When Timna learns that Sima is looking to hire a seamstress for the shop, she convinces Sima to hire her. Timna is like a breath of fresh air; she brings new life to the shop.

Sima quickly seems to become obsessed with the young, beautiful Timna, and through her she is forced to think about the regrets she's faced in her own life. A non-observant Jewish woman, who feels shame about her own infertility, she reassesses her life, her marriage and how to spend the remaining years she has left.

(p310)..."How many others like her, she thought, how many others lonely within their walls? And then one day realizing that every room has a door, and opening it".

A beautiful story, filled with colorful and sometimes flawed characters, it is much more than a story about an underwear shop. It is a story about love, loss, regrets and finally acceptance. I'm so glad I decided to read this endearing story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING - 5/5; COMPLETED - 7/18/09; Library Book

Friday, July 17, 2009

108 - Strangers; Anita Brookner

In Strangers, Anita Brookner's 24th novel, the uncertainties of old age and loneliness are explored.

Paul Sturgeis is a 72 year old introspective, bachelor. A retired bank manager, who lives a solitary life in his London flat: Crescent Mansion. When he ventures out, he prepares in advance for mundane conversation, should it arise, with the people he meets along the way. His only contacts seem to be his hairdresser and "strangers" he sees when he goes out. A lover of books, Paul had always been a great reader, someone who found consolation in books. Although he had two women in his life (great loves as he called them), he never married. Paul believes that "niceness was a condition which had earned him few favours".

Paul spends time on Sunday visiting his only relative, Helena, a widow of his cousin who is about the same age as Paul. Helena is equally uncomfortable around people, and Paul is her only relative as well. To avoid being invited by Helena to spend Christmas with her, he decides to take a trip in Venice.
In Venice Paul meet Vicky, and the two meet for coffee, lunch etc while in Venice. She too is from England, and once each have returned to England she stays in touch with Paul.
(p.81) "What he wanted from her was not so very different: not an audience--never that--but some sort of acknowledgement that he too had a life and a history, even if it was of no interest to her. He would have liked to be gently questioned, without in any way being judged".

When Paul receives a call from the Royal Free Hospital, to say that Helena had passed away, as her only relative, he is faced with making her final arrangements. This causes him to focus more on his own mortality, and his solitary life, and wonder who will take care of his final arrangements, or be there for him if he is sick. .... "her death somehow cancelled the past, so that only the future remained".

Paul runs into Sarah, one of the women from his past. She is a widow, and sickly. Both Sarah and Vicky help to transform Paul's ways, and to help him sort out what he wants to do with the time he has left.

Strangers is a beautifully written novel, about aging, loneliness, and the choices one makes in life. I did not find this story depressing in any way, but it did make me take stock of my own life, and the choices that have brought me to where I am now. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

I also enjoyed Hotel du Lac by this author.

RATING - 5/5 ; COMPLETED - 7/16/09; Library Book

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

107 - The God of War; Marisa Silver

Okay first off, I can't hold back any longer: I LOVED this book!!! I was not sure I would, when I looked at the cover and read the title but, "don't judge a book by its cover"---trust me on this one, and the story is not about war either.
The God of War, by Marisa Silver is actually a coming of age story. It is one of those rare gems that I did not want to put down once I started it, and, when I turned the final page (just 271), I had wished it was longer.
The story takes place in 1978, and is narrated by twelve (almost 13) year old Ares (God of War - Greek Mythology), Ramirez. Ares, lives with his unconventional mother Laurel in a run down trailer in a remote desert community near San Diego. Laurel loves the Salton Sea (actually a polluted lake near San Diego). She tells her twelve year old son she wants to be buried there and her ashes spread into the sea. Laurel does not trust: government, corporations or schools, and she has even warned her son, Ares about religion. The boys are pretty much free to do as they please while their mother works or spends time with the latest man in her life. Still there is no doubt Laurel loves her sons.
Ares is a sensitive but conflicted boy who feels responsible for his brother Malcolm. Ares had dropped his brother Malcolm when he was just one year old. For six years he has lived with guilt as a result of that accident.
Malcolm is almost seven year old now and appears mentally disabled: he cannot speak, reacts inappropriately, acts out in school, and cannot read or write. When Malcolm bites his teacher, it seems to be the final straw for him in a regular classroom. However, Mrs Poole, the school librarian agrees to work with Malcolm at her home on a weekly basis.
Ares visits Mrs. Poole's home while she is working with his brother, and seems to enjoy being there. The stability of a seemingly normal home appeals to Ares, but The Pooles have problems of their own -- Kevin is a troubled foster son who has been in and out of residential treatment facilities. Ares and Kevin begin to spend time together when tragedy strikes.
The God of War is an intense story with memorable but flawed characters that most readers will not easily forget. One of the best coming of age stories that I've read in years. I look forward to reading more books by this talented author. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you Simon & Schuster for sending this wonderful book my way!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Invisible Mountain

is hosted by Jill from
Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Invisible Mountain

Author: Carolina De Robertis

Pub. Date: August 25, 2009 Review
Book Description

From the verdant hills of Rio de Janeiro to Evita Perón’s glittering Buenos Aires, from the haven of a corner butcher shop to the halls of the United States Embassy in Montevideo, this gripping novel—at once expansive and lush with detail—examines the intertwined fates of a continent and a family in upheaval. The Invisible Mountain is a deeply intimate exploration of the search for love and authenticity in the lives of three women, and a penetrating portrait of the small, tenacious nation of Uruguay, shaken by the gales of the twentieth century.

On the first day of the year 1900, a small town deep in the Uruguayan countryside gathers to witness a miracle—the mysterious reappearance of a lost infant, Pajarita—and unravel its portents for the century. Later, as a young woman in the capital city—Montevideo, brimming with growth and promise—Pajarita begins a lineage of fiercely independent women with her enamored husband, Ignazio, a young immigrant from Italy and the inheritor of both a talent for boat making and a latent, more sinister family trait. Their daughter, Eva, a fragile yet ferociously stubborn beauty intent on becoming a poet, overcomes an early, shattering betrayal to embark on a most unconventional path toward personal and artistic fulfillment. And Eva’s daughter, Salomé, awakening to both her sensuality and political convictions amid the violent turmoil of the late 1960s, finds herself dangerously attracted to a cadre of urban guerrilla rebels, despite the terrible consequences of such principled fearlessness.

Provocative, heartbreaking and ultimately life-affirming, The Invisible Mountain is a poignant celebration of the potency of familial love, the will to survive in the most hopeless of circumstances, and, above all, the fierce, fortifying connection between mother and daughter.

Doesn't this sound great? Don't forget to post your link for me please.

Wordless Wednesday - July 15

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Teasers

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) sentences from that page.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Here is my teasers -- (p. 85) "All the way home, I replayed her chastisement, feeling freshly humiliated with each passing mile. But by the time we had arrived at the trailer, I realized I was holding on to the moment because like a good dream, or a heroic fantasy, I did not want to let it and Mrs. Poole go".

The God of War; Marisa Silver; Simon and Schuster
(this book is excellent)

New Books this Week

Sacred Hearts; Sarah Dunant

Random House; July 14, 2009 (thank you for my review copy Random House and S/A)
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Dunant (The Birth of Venus) revisits 16th-century Italy, where the convents are filled with the daughters of noblemen who are unable or unwilling to pay a dowry to marry them off. The Santa Caterina convent's newest novice, Serafina, is miserable, having been shunted off by her father to separate her from a forbidden romance. She also has a singing voice that will be the glory of the convent and—more importantly to some—a substantial bonus for the convent's coffers. The convent's apothecary, Suora Zuana, strikes up a friendship with Serafina, enlisting her as an assistant in the convent dispensary and herb garden, but despite Zuana's attempts to help the girl adjust, Serafina remains focused on escaping. Serafina's constant struggle and her faith (of a type different from that common to convents) challenge Zuana's worldview and the political structure of Santa Caterina. A cast of complex characters breathe new life into the classic star-crossed lovers trope while affording readers a look at a facet of Renaissance life beyond the far more common viscounts and courtesans. Dunant's an accomplished storyteller, and this is a rich and rewarding novel.
In the Heart of the Canyon; Elisabeth Hyde
Knopf; July 14, 2009
(thank you Knopf and S/A) ReviewBook DescriptionFrom the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter, a gripping new novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board.
Meet Peter, twenty-seven, single, and looking for a quick hookup; Evelyn, a fifty-year-old Harvard professor; and Ruth and Lloyd, river veterans in their seventies. There’s Mitchell, an overeager history buff with no qualms about unstaging the guides with his knowledge. There’s Jill from Salt Lake City, wanting desperately to spark some sense of adventure in her staid Mormon family; and seventeen-year-old Amy, so woefully overweight that she can barely fit into a pup tent, let alone into a life jacket.
Guiding them all is JT Maroney, who loves the river with all his heart and who, having made 124 previous trips down the Colorado, thinks he has seen everything. But on their first night, a stray dog wanders into their campsite, upsetting the tentative equilibrium of this makeshift family. Over the next thirteen days, as various decisions are second-guessed and sometimes regretted, both passengers and guides find that sometimes the most daunting adventures on a Colorado River trip have nothing to do with white-water rapids, and everything to do with reconfiguring the rocky canyons of the heart.

I can't wait to read both of these soon; they look wonderful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

106 - The Magicians; Lev Grossman

In Lev Grossman's The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater is a high school senior, a genius with his whole future ahead of him. Quentin is also a bit of a nerd. He enjoys fantasy novels, especially the Christopher Plover series which is set in the magical place called Fillroy. By escaping into fantasy, Quentin finds that it helps to ease his real world disappointments: boredom and Julia not loving him.
On his way to an interview for admittance to Princeton, Quention finds the interviewer dead, and himself with an envelope bearing his name. Inside the envelope is a manuscript titled: The Magicians; Book Six; Fillroy and Further, but there are only five books in the series. He is also led to a mysterious place, and soon finds that he has been admitted to Brakebills College for Magic Pedagogy in upstate New York. At Brakebills he finds he excels and he quickly advances through the ranks. At Barkebills he also experiences the extracurricular activities that most college students do: alcohol, drugs, sex and love. He even becomes a "certified sorcerer genius".
After graduation, in Manhattan, Quentin finds that magic has not brought him the happiness he thought it would. Not even a "magically augmented investing plan that yields a regular allowance for all newly minted magicians who need it". But soon, Quentin and his friends learn that Fillroy is real, but not the magical place he read about. Instead, it turns out to be a dangerous place where power seems to come at a terrible price.
The Magicians was a great story, and the writing style was fabulous. I am not someone who gravitates to the fantasy genre, so since I enjoyed this story as much as I did, I believe fantasy fans should really love this book. It felt like an adult version of Narnia. Don't Miss It!
RATING - 5/5 ; Completed - 7/13/09; Review Copy

Mailbox Monday - July 13

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Here's this week's loot:

  1. Drawing in the Dust; Zoe Klein (thank you Simon and Schuster); pub date 7/2009
  2. Vigil; Ceceile Samartin (thank you Simon and Schuster); pub date 7/21/09
  3. South of Broad; Pat Conroy (thank you S/A and Random House) pub date 9/15/2009
  4. When the Sun Goes Down; Breuhaus (thank you Kelly & Hall Book Publicity) 7/2008
  5. Baking Cakes in Kigali; Parkin (thank you S/Awareness) - pub date 8/18/09
6.The Rapture; Liz Jensen (thank you S/Awareness) - pub date - 8/11/09

All of these sound so very good to me, it will be hard to decide which to read first.
What was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

105 - Black Out; Lisa Unger

Black Out, by Lisa Unger

I started out listening to the audio book and was enjoying the reader a lot, but the story became a little confusing to listen to, so about half way through I got the printed version from the library. This is Lisa Unger's third book out four published. I've read them all and sadly enjoyed this one the least. Here's the plot line:

Annie Powers seems to have the perfect life: wealth, a loving husband and a beautiful daughter, but all is not as it appears.

In reality Annie is a damaged woman who was known as Ophelia March as a child. "When my mother named me Ophelia, she thought she was being literary. She didn't realize, she was being tragic". Ophelia was born to a couple who had no clue how to raise a child. Her father was a tattoo artist who left early on in her life. Her mother, always distant, was too busy searching for love instead of nurturing a child. Ophelia's mother hooks up with a serial killer named Frank Geary who is on death row. Her mother attempts to get him a new trial and prove him innocent, all the while Ophelia is being ignored.

If this isn't bad enough, she lets Frank's son Marlowe move in with her and Ophelia. His is a manipulator who begins to take advantage of mother and child, and things go from bad to worse.
In an attempt to get away Ophelia fakes her death, and resurfaces as Annie Powers.

But you cannot escape ones past. She is haunted by her past, and is unsure of what is real and what is imagined, and she is soon believing that her past is not dead at all.

The plot method for telling this story was extremely confusing as the author jumped around too much, in my opinion. Given the fact that the story is a combination of real and imagined events, this only added to my confusion.

Don't get me wrong, Lisa Unger writes some amazing thrillers. I suggest anyone who has not read her starts out by reading Beautiful Lies; it was very very good.

RATING - 3/5; COMPLETED - 7/10/09; Library Book