Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Reading in Review

I can't believe there are only (3) months left in 2010.  There was so much I wanted to accomplish (in books) when 2010 rolled in, and although I've had a good year, I still feel disappointed a bit as my reading has decreased by about (4) books a month, since I went back to work full time (6) months ago.  Why wasn't I born rich, and working was an option? LOL

September was a great month quality-wise. I read (12) books (some were started in August):

  1. You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know; Heather Sellers - 4/5  (ARC)
  2. Pillars of the Earth; Ken Follett - 5/5 (audio)
  3. The Lady Matador's Hotel; Cristina Garcia - 4/5 (ARC))
  4. Resurrection in May; Lisa Samson - 3/5 (ARC)
  5. I Love My Dad; Anna Walker - 4.5/5
  6. Fall of Giants; Ken Follett - 5/5 (ARC)
  7. The Heights; Peter Hedges - 2/5 (audio and ARC)
  8. Lost in Translation; Jean Kwok - 4.5/5 (audio and ARC)
  9. The Bells; Richard Harvell - 5/5 -( favorite book for September) (ARC)
  10. We Have Always Lived in a Castle; Shirley Jackson - 5/5
  11. Ape House; Sara Gruen - 4/5 (audio and ARC)
  12. The Sun Also Rises; Ernest Hemingway - 5/5
September Stats
  • (5) books were perfect reads - 5/5 stars
  • (4) audio books
  • (1) non fiction
  • (8) review books

2010 Stats
  • Books Read in 2010 - (123)
  • Completed 2010 Challenges - 8 of 11 (still working on the last 3)

  • Books Purchased in 2010 - (77) - mostly at library book sales
  • $$ spent on books in 2010 - $311.27
 October Hopefuls
So how was your month in books? Are you pleased with your 2010 reading progress ?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Left Neglected; Lisa Genova

Hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. Here's your opportunity to share what "coming soon book" you are anxious to get your hands on.  Here is my pick, how about you?

Left Neglected; Lisa Genova
January 4, 2011

I loved Still Alice by this author, so I was thrilled to read about this one recently.

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son's teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it's a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

123 - The Sun Also Rises; Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises is a fascinating novel. I can't believe I hadn't read it years earlier. The protagonist, Jake Barnes, is a tragic hero of sorts. He was wounded in WW1 and his injuries rendered him impotent.  His injury deeply affected his psyche, and he is insecure about his masculinity as a result. The love of Jake's life is the beautiful Lady Brett Ashley, who cared for him during the war when he was wounded. She is a shallow woman, who cares for Jake, but will not commit to him because sex is very important to her. Instead Lady Brett spends her time with a variety of men. Jake, on the other hand, spends much of his time in Paris with his buddies, each drinking in cafes and wasting their lives.

The activities that Jake and his buddies engaged in were really quite sad.  They seemed like they never grew up, but instead their behavior was reflective of their wish to forget the horrors of the war.  They wandered rather aimlessly, a highlight being the fiesta and bullfights in Pamplona,  where the group engages in more drinking, dancing and debauchery.

This book was originally published in 1926, and its strength is definitely the style in which it was written. Hemingway's writing is sharp and insightful, and you feel every detail: the sight, sounds, the place. The characters, although flawed were sympathetic. I loved how he got into the psyche of the characters, helping the reader feel what their life was like, and why they made some of the decisions they did.  I thought it was rather ironic that the title, "The Sun Also Rises", which to me symbolizes a new dawn, a new day, really had no significance for Jake and the other characters in this novel. Rather they never moved on with their lives, stuck in time, as a result of the past. Hemingway seemed to truly understand the struggles and challenges that life handed his characters, and for that matter -- each of us. Some individuals are made stronger by adversity, but others are not. In the end though,  we rarely get everything we want in life  -- do we?

A Brilliant novel - Don't Miss It! - 5/5 stars -personal copy)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mailbox Monday on Sunday

 My mailbox was pretty bare this week considering past acquisitions. 
Zoo Story; Thomas French

 (Hardly worth snapping a photo for...LOL)
(paperbackswap acquisition)

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by Kathy / Bermuda Onion.
Hope you had a good week for new books!

Sunday Salon

It is fall right? It is hard to tell as the last few days have been 80+ degree days here in New England. Today all that has changed as the temp has dropped about 10 degrees, so that means time to ramp up the fall wardrobe.  My summer flowers are very confused by the weather, but I am enjoying them, as the frost will soon put an end to all the pretty blossoms.

I read (3) books this past week (all good too), and reviews have been posted for (2) of them: Ape House and We Have Always Lived in a Castle.  I still need to work on a review for The Sun Also Rises; Hemingway, which I really liked a lot.  My current read is: House at Riverton; Kate Morton (audio and print editions). Hoping to start Carol Casselea's Healer this week as well, as I loved her last book Oxygen -- have you read that one?

But for today, it's all about fall shopping.....

shoes, sneakers, sweaters and pants are on my must get list. My SIL and I are headed out to the Outlet Malls, while the hub enjoys a peaceful afternoon of football.

I doubt I will get much reading done today, but one never knows, I could come home with a burst of energy.  Speaking of energy, I do have more lately as this exercise awareness has helped. My new pedometer has me between 8,000-10,000 steps most days, so for me that is good.  I also lost about 5 lbs. so far.

What's on your agenda for today? Whatever it is enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

122 - Ape House; Sara Gruen

Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants was a favorite book of mine, so when I heard about her new book, Ape House, I couldn't wait to read it. The's good, but not as good as Water for Elephants.

In this story Isabel Duncan is a scientist who has been working with Bonobo apes at at The Great Ape Language Lab in Kansas for many years. The apes: Bonzi, Sam, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani and Makena are language masters in the art of signing, and they also understand when humans speak to them. In addition to being intelligent creatures, they are compassionate feeling creatures, and this shows through over and over with their interactions with each other. Bonobos and humans even share 98.7% of their DNA. They are very playful, affectionate, and yes,  fond of sex.

John Thigpen is a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, sent to cover a story about the apes, but when the language lab is bombed by a group of extremists bent on setting the apes free, all hell breaks loose --so to speak.  Isabelis severely injured in the bombing, but recovers, and John stays involved trying to recover the apes that have been set free, and to get to the bottom of the incident. Now this is where the story gets weird: the apes end up on a reality television show called Ape House in a remote area of New Mexico. A variety of subplots and a motley crew of characters are introduced to the reader: a pornography kingpin, Russian strippers, meth-lab members and their pit bull "Booger",  John's depressed wife Amanda, computer hackers, and more.

Despite all of the quirky characters Gruen introduces into this story, I never lost interest. As far out as the plot may sound, it all comes back to the sensitive, intelligent apes, and poignant moments written into the novel about them, that makes reading this novel all worthwhile.  Prospective readers should be aware that there are some disturbing parts regarding the endangered bonobo apes. However, the author's love for animals, in this well researched story, shines through over and over again. RECOMMENDED

Rating - 4/5 Stars
(review copy and Library audio book)

Saturday Pet Blogger Hop

Where Buddy thinks to himself, "Get Off My Case - I folded the laundry, can't I rest for a while" ?

121 - We Have Always Lived in a Castle; Shirley Jackson

I think I am just about the only person out there who had not read Shirley Jackson's, We Have Always Lived in a Castle. Well, now I have, and this 146 page book left me feeling a bit unsettled.  Creepy, atmospheric and beyond clever, this is one book that will leave some of you scratching your head when you get to the end.
In brief, Merrikat, as she prefers to be called, begins narrating this story in this way:
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, and I have had to be content with what I had.   I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phallaides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."
From the opening paragraph, I thought something is very strange about Merricat. She is eighteen and acts like a child. She is extremely superstitious, believing in signs and burying items in the ground to secure the property. She is also very protective of her sister.  She lives with her sister and Uncle Julius, who on the surface appears to have some sort of dementia. The three of them live in a secluded mansion, and never leave the house, except for Merricat who ventures into town for necessities about twice a week. It is clear that the townspeople fear and dislike the remaining family members. The Blackwoods avoid the neighbors, preferring the security of seclusion. They even avoid the few who are friendly.

Cousin Charles arrives on  the scene, interested in money that may have been left behind, and although he is an unlikable character, he is the only one who seems to be somewhat normal. How the other family members died is revealed as you read on.

So where is this story going? Well, before long it is very clear that Merricat is emotionally disturbed and not a reliable narrator, and that everything is not as it may have appeared early on. For a 142 page book, this one took me several days to complete as it was creepy, really kept my brain engaged searching for clues, and in the end left me wondering about Shirley Jackson, and what her life was like. I know that I will be interested in reading more by this fascinating author. Don't Miss This One!
RATING - 5/5 
(personal copy)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday Finds and Stuff

Has anyone read American Music by Jane Mendelsohn? It sounds really good but have not seen anyone blog about it (that I can recall).

About the Book---
From the author of I Was Amelia Earhart, a luminous love story that winds through several generations—told in Jane Mendelsohn’s distinctive mesmerizing style.

At its center are Milo, a severely wounded veteran of the Iraq War confined to a rehabilitation hospital, and Honor, his physical therapist, a former dancer. When Honor touches Milo’s destroyed back, mysterious images from the past appear to each of them, puzzling her and shaking him to the core.

As Milo’s treatment progresses, the images begin to weave together into an intricate, mysterious tapestry of stories. There are Joe and Pearl, a husband and wife in the 1930s whose marriage is tested by Pearl’s bewitching artistic cousin, Vivian. There is the heartrending story of a woman photographer in the 1960s and the shocking theft of her life’s work. The picaresque life of a woman who has a child too young and finds herself always on the move from job to job and man to man. And the story of a man and a woman in seventeenth-century Turkey—a eunuch and a sultan’s concubine—whose forbidden love is captured in music. The stories converge in a symphonic crescendo that reveals the far-flung origins of America’s endlessly romantic soul and exposes the source of Honor and Milo’s own love.

A beautiful mystery and a meditation on love—its power and its limitations—American Music is a brilliantly original novel. 

 Then this one just caught me eye, after I was discussing Shutter Island with a coworker.

Medical historian Porter authoritatively traces how Western culture has explained and treated insanity. Holes bored in 7,000-year-old skulls indicate the earliest assessment of madness as spirit-possession. The ancient Greeks and medieval and Renaissance philosophers influenced by them replaced possession with irrationality as the cause of madness and exorcists with physicians as its curers. The Enlightenment stressed folly as the mark of madness; romanticism reacted by considering genius akin to madness. Asylums arose to secure the insane for their own good, and newly emergent psychiatry developed several ostensibly successful asylum strategies. As asylums became overloaded with incurables, however, disillusionment induced underfunding. Freud and his spawn came to psychiatry's rescue, but madness persists despite a century of psychoanalysis and of listening increasingly to what the insane say about their conditions. New drugs quash symptoms but have undesirable side effects, including dependency. Meanwhile, the medical profession is divided about the legitimacy of psychiatry.

I've finished (3) books since last weekend, but no reviews yet ---don't you hate that part sometimes? To me, sometimes it even takes the fun out of enjoying the book. Here's what I read and enjoyed  (each very different from one another).
Hopefully, this weekend, I'll catch up a bit as I do have some rough drafts.  Hope you are having a good week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

(I'm finishing up Sara Gruen's new book Ape House , where Bonobo Monkeys are significant, so I thought this Wordless Wednesday photo was appropriate. These animals are amazing)!