Monday, November 30, 2009

Seven Mini Book Reviews

I am too far behind to catch up on all my reviews of books I've read the last week. So since today is the last day of November, I'm taking the easy way out, and doing a combined post and some mini-reviews.  Here are several books I read, enjoyed, and my quick thoughts.

 I really liked all of these books - all are recommended!

179.  The Man Who Loved Books Too Much; Allison Hoover Bartlett -1999 - 2003 John Gilkey used dozens of credit card dozens of credit card numbers he obtained illegally to obtain thousands of rare books.  If you love books, stories about books and one particular book lover whose eccentric obsession landed him time in jail, this might be just the book for you.  I found it fascinating to read bout the world of book collecting. RECOMMENDED (received for review from Lydia @ Riverhead Books)

180.  Her Fearful Symmetry; Audrey Niffenegger - Elspeth and Edie are estranged identical twins. Elspeth lives in London and Edie lives in the US.  When Elspeth dies are early death from cancer, she leaves behind her lover Robert, who lived on the first floor of the flat.  Julia and Valentina are mirror-image twins who live in the US and inherit their Aunt Elspeth's flat, provided that they live in it for a year before selling it, and that their parents never set foot inside the flat.  Martin lives on the third floor above the girls in the flat. Martin suffers from severe OCD, agoraphobia. His wife has left him, he works from home and designs crossword puzzles.  Her Fearful Symmetry is a contemporary Gothic ghost story, with a marvelous sense of place, opposite Highgate Cemetery. Although I found most of the characters pretty unlikable (except for Martin), I did enjoy the story. There was an icy presence that at times chilled me to the bone, and it took a while for me to realize where the story was headed. RECOMMENDED (received for review from Simon and Schuster)

181.  The Christmas Dog; Melody Carlson - Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. Her husband passed away, her children are far away, and she has a new neighbor who seems to be making the neighbor a lot less attractive. When mangy dog appears at her doorstep, Betty thinks it belongs to her new neighbor, but what follows is a sweet story that teaches Betty what Christmas really means. RECOMMENDED. (review copy)

182. Await Your Reply; Dan Chaon - In this terrific page turner the lives of three characters converge, and identities are invented and reinvented.  Miles Cheshire is searching for his mentally ill twin brother, Hayden - a schizophreniac. His travels take him through Canada and to the Arctic Circle, following clues along the way.

Next there is Ryan who is failing miserably in. He gets a call from his uncle Jay, and he learns that his parents are not really his parents, but that Jay is his father. Ryan moves to Michigan with Jay, and gets involved in an illegal money-making scheme

Lucy is a brilliant high school senior . Her parents have died in a car crash, she's living with her older sister. Her high school history teacher, George Orson, asks her to run away with him, he promises her a great life. Lucy finds herself living in a creepy, abandoned motel with George Orson who becomes distant and secretive, but Lucy finds this hard to believe.

This was a riveting page turner. The story line is constantly shifting, but that is not a bad thing. Little by little the pieces begin to fall into place, and by the end you will find yourself thinking about this story for some time to come. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (received for review from Random House)

183.  The Christmas List; Richard Paul Evans - In this wonderful holiday books we meet James Kier. James is a miserable man. He does not care who he hurts as long as he's making money in the process. One morning he wakes up and reads his own obituary in the newspaper. He is shocked when the on-line obits by those who worked for him and knew him....told it like it was. Jim was not a man who was loved by all.  However, when he straightens out the newspaper, and when everyone realizes he is alive and well, James decides to make right all the wrongs he has done in his life: hence The Christmas List.  A touching emotionally charged story of redemption and the power of forgiveness. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (received from paperbackswap)

184.  Wishin' and Hopin; Wally Lamb - Set in the  fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, the author takes his readers on a hilarious holiday ride into St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School with a truly memorable cast of characters. From Mother Filomina, Rosalie Twerskihe, teacher Madame Frechette, and Russian student Zhenya Kabakova.  The story is narrated by fifth grader, Felix Funicello. He was perfect to tell this funny story that had me in stitches throughout. I especially loved how I could relate to 10 year old Felix, having been his age around the time period in which this story was set (1964). The story takes you back to growing up in a simpler time.  If you need a book that will make you laugh and put you in the holiday mood, don't miss this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (received for review from Harper Collins).

185.  Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary; Walter Myers - This book is intended to target 9-12 year olds, and the story divides the life of Malcolm X's into four parts: his childhood; his adolescence; his period of working under Elijah Mohammad; and his life after breaking with the Nation of Islam. Throughout, his experiences and actions are presented in a broader social context, from the beliefs of Marcus Garvey, who exerted such an influence upon Malcolm's parents, to the culture of adolescent black males in the 1930s and 1940s, to the contrasts between the Nation of Islam's views and those of Martin Luther King, Jr, with all the shadings in between.RECOMMENDED (library copy)


  1. Wow, you had a great reading week! I really enjoyed Wishin' and Hopin' too. I'm anxious to get to Await Your Reply.

  2. What a great list of books! I think the mini review idea is very good.

    By the way, I've just posted to my blog about the Books to Read Before I Die challenge. HERE!

    Thanks so much for having me!

  3. Boy do I wish I could be concise and pound out the remaining reviews I have to write! But it looks like you had a lot of really good reads this month.

  4. I completely agree about Wishin' and Hopin'. I am still deciding about Her Fearful Symmetry.

  5. The Wally Lamb book sounds delightful - not an adjective I normally think to associate with Wally Lamb! :P I'll have to check it out.

  6. I've read longer reviews on some of these. I like these mini reviews. Your reviews get to the point and are clear and concise. Thanks for your recommendations!

  7. I honestly love the mini-reviews!! They're perfect in my opinion :)

    I really enjoyed Fearful Symmetry...scared me too!

    I want to read Await Your Reply..sounds great!

    Do these more often, totally enjoyable!!!

  8. Thanks for the reviews! am especially interested in Wishin' and Hopin'

  9. You are doing much better than I am -- I STILL haven't read Her Fearful Symmetry (even though I want to).

    I also would love to read A Christmas Dog-- thanks for the positive mini review!

  10. Love the mini reviews! I'm on the list for Wally Lamb's book at the library...sure hope to read it before Christmas! Will also be reading Her Fearful Symmetry, but may wait until it's out in paperback.

  11. Love your mini reviews! I've heard so much about HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY.

  12. LOVE this mini review format! I have The Man who Loved Books Too Much on hold at the library -- I think I am number 4 in line, and I just placed the Christmas Dog on hold as well.

    Apparently I absolutely have to find Await Your Reply - as your review makes it sound like a "must" read :)

  13. I am waiting for my copy of HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY to arrive. Looking forward to it!

    Life by Candelight

  14. You know ... I enjoyed reading these mini reviews and I think I may adopt this same approach ... I just have too many reviews waiting to be written and I want to start 2010 on a clean slate. You've inspired me!

  15. I am really glad that you liked The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. I thought it was a great read as well. I think the others sound great as well, and I like the mini review too!

  16. I have Her Fearful Symmetry and hope to get to it soon. I also got Man Who Loved Books from the library but it expired on my reader before I got to it. I'll have to check it out again.


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