Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 2007 Books

Wow, its been a really productive month! Here are the books I've completed (the link will take you to my review):

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler 2.5/5

Ireland by Frank Delaney 4/5

The Awakening by Kate Chopin 3/5

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James 3.25/5

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult 4/5

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson 4/5

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich 3.75/5

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy 4.25/5

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 4.5/5

Total Books: 9
Total Pages: 3136

With all of the challenges I have starting in July, hopefully I can keep trucking through those TBRs. I still, though, haven't found a book lately that I COULDN'T PUT DOWN. Please...help a girl out with some suggestions!!

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad: A Review

Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Pages: 96
Date Finished: June 30, 2007
Rating: 4.5/5

Don't let the number of pages fool you, this book is packed full--every word brimming with meaning. I don't pretend to fully understand this book, and I think that after reading it again (and again and again) I will still be able to pick up something I hadn't the first time around.

The tale begins with Marlow telling his fellow shipmates of his journey on the Congo River into well...the heart of darkness. Although this is a story about his journey, it is also a look into humankind, especially as Marlow is in search of the white trader, Kurtz, who seems to have crossed the line between civilization and savagery.

"They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity--like yours--the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar" (44).

Recommendation: I can't possibly do this book the justice it deserves. I would recommend this book to everyone. But, be prepared to pay attention. I can usually knock out 96 pages in a day, but I took three days to read this book, and still I wonder if I blew through it too quickly. The prose is so rich and beautiful, but also haunting. As Kurtz cries, "The horror, the horror." I will be revisiting this one again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy: A Review

Title: No Country for Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Date Finished: June 28, 2007
Pages: 309
Rating: 4.25/5

I'm speechless when it comes to this one. Is it possible I will write a short review (compared to my other blogs)? Don't hold your breath...we'll just have to see.

Llewellyn Moss, a pretty straight shooter (huh, guess in more ways than one...), finds a slew of dead drug dealers out in the Texas country. Not only does he find the bloody aftermath of the bad drug deal, but he also finds 2.4 million dollars, which he takes. In comes Chigurh, a human hunter who is trying to recover the drug money from Moss at no cost. Finally there is Ed Tom Bell, a sheriff, who is trying save the rest of the characters from an inevitable blood bath.

Yes, there is a tremendous amount of blood shed in this book. I am not familiar with much of the artillery used in the book, so I kept asking my husband. Finally, after I wanted to know what a "cattlegun" was, he said to me, "What the hell are you reading? A horror book?" Well, no, not really, but then again, yes, this is a horror book. Bleak, stark, horrific, McCarthy really gets down to the raw human emotions and desires in this book.

Recommendation: Hmmm, maybe we should start with who shouldn't read this book. People who like a happy ending; people who don't like blood, killing, brain matter splattering about; people who like basic grammatical conventions. As with many of his other books, McCarthy's writing is as stark as the events. No quotation marks, rare usage of commas, bare bones prose. Which I like, but it does take time to get used to after coming off of a "normal" novel. This is my second McCarthy book (and won't be my last), but truthfully, I liked The Crossing better (even though that book didn't end "happily ever after" either). *Sigh*

*picture from www.rbhs208.org

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Desperation - Booking Throuh Thursday


Today’s question is suggested by Carrie.
What’s the most desperate thing you’ve read because it was the only available reading material?
If it was longer than a cereal box or an advertisement, did it turn out to be worth your while?


I must say that this is an interesting question. I don't think I've ever been that desperate. At home I have stacks and stacks of books that I haven't read. If I go to my parents' homes, they have stacks and stacks of books I could also devour, but most of the time I travel with the book I'm reading and an extra in case I finish (and sometimes two in case my back up turns out to be a dud).

Well, I guess the other day I was visiting Mom, and while I was eating my cereal I found myself reading the Victoria's Secret catalog sitting on the kitchen table. I say read, but I do find myself reading about the products instead of just looking at the pictures. Wow, I guess I was desperate! Most days I check email or such while eating breakfast. Sometimes while in the shower I read the shampoo/soap bottles, but mostly in french (which I don't speak), because I like to see if can understand what it says. I'll stick to my books, thank you.

Happy BTT everyone!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich

Title: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Pages: 221
Date Finished: June 27, 2007
Rating: 3.75/5

I really don't want this review to turn into a rant about politics or economics or really my personal beliefs, so I'm going to try and be brief (and to the point--*try* being the operative word). I think its difficult, though, to read this book and not have some sort of emotion invoked--whether because you agree with what Ehrenreich writes or because you disagree.

The basic premise of this book is whether or not low-wage employees are getting by with what they earn. The simple answer is "No." In order to test her theories or ideas, Ehrenreich goes "under cover" in three different cities with a list of rules about what she can spend, what types of jobs she can take, and where she can live. She spends about a month in each city, and has about six jobs throughout the book: Maid (x2), Wal-Mart "associate," Waitress (x2), and Nursing Home Aide (I feel like I'm leaving something out).

I found Ehrenreich's narrative easy to read, partially because of her humor (although sometimes potentially offensive) but also because she really gets down to the nitty gritty about her experiences. What I found interesting, though, is that until the last chapter ("Evaluation"), all of the pertinent statistics and facts are hidden away in the footnotes. I am generally a lazy reader and sometimes glaze over footnotes (or sometimes don't read them at all if they are endnotes). I am guessing she chose to do this as to not break up her narrative, but I think a lot of what she is REALLY getting at could be lost to readers (lazy ones at least). In many ways, though, what she writes in the main narrative is scary enough--the living conditions, the managers, the physical effects, the working conditions, etc., etc. In one particular poignant moment, Ehrenreich shows how difficult it is to actually receive aid or help (in terms of housing, food, medical, etc) as she is passed from one agency to the next (all basically dead-ends). I think the book could have used a little more of this than anecdotes from her jobs (although informative and entertaining).

Recommendation: While this book was relatively enlightening for a young, middle-class, white, educated reader (yes...me--although I have had my share of "roughing it" as a Sonic car-hop, telemarketer, and retail scrub to pay my way through school), I felt let down at the end when she didn't give any calls for action. So people aren't getting paid enough--what do we do about it? Raise the wages? Well, what repercussions will that have? Will the cost of living increase causing a circular effect? I'm not an economist, so I really don't know, but I wanted to find this out. Bottom line--perhaps everyone should read this book, but I'm not sure what difference it would make.

*picture from www.greens.org.vt.edu/livingwage/ndcover.jpg

Monday, June 25, 2007

Feeding the Addiction: New Books

This time I have justification for going book shopping--up coming challenges. I went "into town" this weekend (Dallas 3 hours away), and hit Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books. It's much easier to do this while Hubby is out of town so I won't get the menacing stares coming his way (must hide all evidence of new books in the next hour!!) :)


Above you will see my new finds, plus my reading buddy, Maggie. I think she's as excited as I am--although most of these are for challenges that don't start until July (which can't get here fast enough!!).

What I found:
The World According to Garp by John Irving - for my Book Award Reading Challenge (BARC) and By the Decades Reading Challenge (BTD). I've never read anything by Irving, and I've heard this is one of his best.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - for one of my Yahoo bookclubs. I used to own this book, but my mom sold it in a garage sale several years ago. She was told (by me) afterward not to touch my books! All of my RL Stine books went in that G-Sale also. Sad...

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - because I saw on Alyson's blog that there is a movie, then I saw the preview, and then I had to buy the book--of course. I may start that one tonight since it isn't for any challenges.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx - For BARC. I saw the movie years ago and enjoyed it, but I can't remember it at all (hmmm...)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy - because it was onsale at B&N. I was looking for The Book Thief, but they were all sold out. Its not on my BARC list, but I can certainly add it on! What's one more book, right?

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - because I've heard its better than The Kite Runner, which I loved, and also for my Armchair Traveler Challenge.

Hurry July and get here so the fun can begin!

Thunderstruck - Erik Larson: A Review

Title: Thunderstruck
Author: Erik Larson
Date Finished: June 24, 2007
Pages: 401
Rating: 4/5

Erik Larson has a knack of taking two moments of history and finding their intersection in time to tell his story. While not quite as compelling as The Devil in the White City, Larson in this novel is once again successful at paralleling two seemingly unrelated events.

Thunderstuck tells the story of Marconi and his quest to send wireless transmissions first from shore to ships and finally across the Atlantic. The other half of Thunderstruck tells of Dr. Crippen, the gentle-hearted man, who brutally murdered his wife. The relation of these two events (or stories) is unclear for most of the novel, and I often found myself growing impatient with how they were going to be connected, but at the end the connection becomes evident--which at once shows the horrors of the mystery murder as well as the race for communication made available by Marconi (no, that was not an attempt on my part of make the connection clear).

What I like about Larson is his ability to delve into history. I saw this more with The Devil, but he not only gives the details about the subject at hand, but he also gives other details of the times--sometimes related sometimes as a little bit of a digression. Some of the information and history he provides in his novels are fascinating. Larson also has a way of taking a piece of history and spinning it into a mystery. While I knew the outcome of the novel before beginning, there was a still an air of suspense within the writing--allowing me to keep turning the page.

On the other hand, some of the details became a little confusing, and Larson has a habit of giving a detail and saying that it will be relevant later, but the connection for me was not always made. It was too much work to flip back to see if something was a detail he had promised to reveal earlier in the book. (Does that make sense?).

Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone who likes history and mystery. This isn't my favorite by Larson, but I will definitely pick up his next book. If you haven't read anything by Larson yet, read The Devil in the White City--whether you like non-ficiton or not!

* Picture courtesy of www.npr.org

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult: A Review

Title: The Tenth Circle
Author: Jodi Picoult
Date Finished: June 22, 2007
Pages: 387
Rating: 4/5

Everything that I've read by Jodi Picoult thus far has been great (The Pact, My Sister's Keeper, 19 Minutes), but this book didn't do it for me like the others did.

As with all of her books (at least what I've read), Picoult takes a deep look into the lives of several characters. There is Trixie, a fourteen year old girl who tests the boundaries of adolescence and adulthood to find out who she is. Her father Daniel, a stay at home dad and comic book artist, who is doing everything within his power to be the strong figure Trixie needs him to be while keeping his own secrets hidden. And Laura, Trixie's mother, who is a Dante scholar wrestling with an affair she has been having with a student.

At the story's center is the night of Trixie's alleged rape by her ex-boyfriend Jason. After this night, the events spiral out of control until not even the characters themselves can tell what is true and what is not. As usual, I won't go into any more details about the plot. :)

What I like about Picoult is her ability to draw her reader into the text. She takes situations and gives all of the perspectives available until all of the lines and boundaries are completely blurred. Basically, anything could happen because every character has his hidden secrets. While The Tenth Circle did have elements of this, especially in the first half of the book, *most* of the secrets are uncovered two-thirds into the book. While I was able to keep interest in the last part of the book, it was not nearly as affecting as her other novels. By the time I got to the ending, I felt myself caring very little about what secrets were left.

Recommendation: While this was a little disappointing, I am solely basing that disappointment in comparison to her other novels. The book was still good, was still engaging, and of course, Picoult still asks those questions that don't have an easy answer.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

School's out for Summer (BTT)

Its that time again--Booking Through Thursday time!


Since school is out for the summer (in most places, at least), here’s a school-themed question for the week:


  1. Do you have any old school books? Did you keep yours from college? Old textbooks from garage sales? Old workbooks from classes gone by?

  2. How about your old notes, exams, papers? Do you save them? Or have they long since gone to the great Locker-in-the-sky?

I made some bad choices as an undergrad, mostly because I was flat broke. I sold back a lot of my books. Well, I sold all of them back except for my English books (with the exception of some of the bigger survey books). I don't regert selling back most of the books (for the GE courses), but I do regret getting rid of my upperclassmen history books (although I did keep a few). What can I say...I needed the cash. I have ALL of my books from grad school (since by then it didn't matter if I was broke or not...). My husband, however, has all of his textbooks and still buys them at Half Price Books, which I don't understand.


Old notes. This still really puts a thorn in my side. Hi, my name is Trish, and I'm a pack rat. I saved EVERYTHING from school. But then after I graduated and it was looking like I wasn't going to go back to school, my mom talked me into just throwing everything away. She said it would make me feel freer. Well, it did for about .5 seconds. :) I have ALL of my notebooks, handouts, quizzes, everything really, from my grad years (including the papers that my students wrote--not sure why I can't part with those). Pack rat I tell you. I really wish I had my old undergrad English notes at least--because I've revisted many of the works and will continue to do so.


In terms of books, I never get rid of books and I don't even like lending them out all that often because I don't get them back (don't even get me started on this!!). One day I'll probably be buried in books, but I just can't bare to part with any of them. I don't go to the library for books because I like to be able to revisit if I want to (you never know...).


Great question!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

List of Randomness

Its Wednesday--a slow Wednesday. And this is an old meme, but I just found it so its new to me.

Anyway, I found it on Kimmie's Krap who apparently got it from Stephanie , who got it from Ms. Literary Feline ,who got it from Bookfool. Like I said, this is an old one...but the rules state that if you read MY list, then you are automatically tagged. So maybe this is a new meme to you as well...?

Look at the list of books below: * Bold the ones you’ve read * Mark in blue the ones you want to read * Cross out the ones that you wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole (or use red coloring) * Finally, italicize the ones you've never heard of. * If you are reading this (and haven't participated yet), tag, you’re it!

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible (I have read most, but not all)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)

100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

So, I've read 42/100 (about 40%). Not that that means anything since this is a totally arbitrary list. The italics part was a little difficult--if its a book, does that mean I want to read it? Eventually, right now? I guess the ones that are not in any type of special coloring or style are ones that I've heard of, but don't really care either way--don't NOT want to read them, but don't feel really compelled to add it to my list.

Maybe you can tell me otherwise??

Monday, June 18, 2007

Review: The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Henry James
Date Finished: June 18, 2007
Pages: 578
Rating: 3.25/5


After just finishing this book, I'm still not sure how to react to it. I read this as part of the Classics Reading Group, but also included it in the By the Decades challenge (for 1880s). Many hail this book as one of James's finest, but since I've only read a handful of his short stories, I can't really judge on that.

The story is about a young woman, Isabel Archer, who travels from her native America to Europe after her father dies. She claims to be an independent woman and takes every measure to prove herself to be just that. The book asks questions about how independent can a woman at this time truly be and at what does it cost to be independent (I'm not referring to monetary costs, although that subject also arises in the book).

For me the book was a little tragic--for the costs of Isabel's independence seem rather great. If you've read my review for Dinner at the Homesick Diner you know that I like to have complete little redemptive endings, and once again I did not find this here.

Recommendation: Not for the light reader. James relies heavily on character development in this book, and often times my eyes would begin to glaze over at the lengthy descriptions that often lasted pages. I guess one literally gets a great "portrait" of all of the characters once the book is through. The dialogue was enjoyable, and I grew to appreciate the descriptions, but it took a lot of patience and a lot of time to get through this one. I'm glad that its over and I can put it back on the shelf.

*picture courtesy www.bookcourt.org

Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin


Title: The Awakening
Author: Kate Chopin
Date Finished: June 17, 2007
Pages: 190
Rating: 3/5

I chose to read this book because it fulfilled my 1890s decade for the By the Decades reading challenge. Well, and it had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. Finally, I've read a few of Chopin's short stories and really enjoyed them.

This book, however, lacked much of the color that can be found in her shorter fiction. Edna, the main character, becomes bored and restless in her marriage and decides to break convention and live her own life. Much of this occurs after meeting Robert, so it is difficult to discern whether she had always been unhappy or if the emotions were sparked by the more "free" people around her.

The book follows Edna's desires and yearnings, but the question is how independent can a woman during that time period actually be? Will she be happy? I hate to ruin an ending, so I won't.

Recommendation: The book is short and very easy to read. As you can see by my rating, I thought the book just OK. I think that Chopin's short stories show much more passion and life. The Awakening seemed a little dull to me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Armchair Traveler Challenge


Lesley at A Life in Books is hosting a new challenge, that obviously I couldn't resist. These are her rules:


  • The challenge runs from July 1 through December 31 during which time you must read six books that fall under the ‘armchair traveling’ theme.

  • Fiction or non-fiction works are fine, and do not need to be specifically travel related, as long as the location is integral to the book - I’ll leave that to your discretion. Locations must be actual places that you could visit, so no Middle Earths or galaxies far, far away.

  • Books may be cross-posted to other challenges, but you cannot count any books read prior to July 1st.

  • To join, make a post outlining your six choices and link to that post below. Because I like to have a little wiggle room, you can opt to switch out books throughout the challenge.

  • And yes, there will be prizes!

So, once again, as I've done so many times in the past couple of weeks, I've re-evaluated what is on my shelf, what I want to read, what I'm going to be reading and came up with this list. The only way I can make this challenge work, though is to cross-post some of these. I may try to find a few others, though, that will work for this category. I may even try to find some more favorable locales--as I'm not sure I would want to travel to some of these places...at least not right now.


*Note: My initial list had Heart of Darkness and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I misunderstood the criterion that books couldn't be read before July 1st. I took this to mean this year, but after more consideration, I've decided to switch these two out for books that I haven't ever read.

  • Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure - Sarah Macdonald (India)

  • The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien (Vietnam)

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)

  • The City of Falling Angels - John Berendt (Venice)

  • Snow - Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)

  • Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World - Rita Golden Gelman
Alternates:
  • Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone - Mary Morris
  • Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman - Alice Steinbach
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America - William Least Heat-Moon
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia - Elizabeth Gilbert
  • In a Sunburned Country - Bill Bryson
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America - John Steinbeck

Non-Fiction Five Challenge

May 1-September 30, 2007


I'm joining into this challenge at the last minute, and I'm not sure how I'll fare, but these books have been on my TBR list for a while, so I thought...why not? Right. Challenge rules and information can be found on Thoughts of Joy.


My selections:


  • His Excellency: George Washington - Joseph J. Ellis
  • Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
  • The City of Falling Angels - John Berendt
  • Thunderstruck - Erik Larson

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Books / Old Books

I had told myself that I would put off spending money on books until I absolutely had to (I guess necessity is relative). Hubby and I went to Wal-Mart this afternoon, and since he was buying a few movies, I figured that justified my buying a couple of books:

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

*sigh*

Besides that, I finished The Awakening this evening, but I haven't made very much progress on A Portrait of a Lady. I was hoping to get through it this weekend--and I really should make a promise to myself not to start any other books without finishing it, but alas. New books + TBR books + Boring James = disaster. I WILL finish it though!! Besides that, I'm thinking about two more challenges (because apparently I'm crazy). Joy is graciously allowing me to play along with the already started "Non Fiction Five," and then I found the "Armchair Travel" challenge on Friday. We'll see.

On another note, I'm a little irked with myself. I keep a database with all of my books, but I've found recently that they are not ALL entered. I'm not sure how this happened (since they aren't new books), but it really annoys me. Then, there are the books that I own that I have no idea where they are. I've been looking for Heart of Darkness, but its not on any of my bookshelves. I'm wondering if it got boxed up with some of the other books that I've read and is stored at my mom's house. I have two copies--how could I be missing both! THEN there are the books on my list that I had no idea that I owned and have no idea where they could be. Apparently I own a copy of The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood, but I have no idea where it could possibly be or what the spine even looks like.

How did this all happen???

Friday, June 15, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things...

When the dog barks, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad...you get the point. I think this is an old meme going around--but what the hey. I found this at nyssaneala and combined it with another similar meme from The Golden Strawberry and came up with this:

A book you've read more than once: There are many books I would love to read more than once, but right now I'm just trying to get through my TBR pile. *sigh* Other than books I've read more than once for papers and essays for school or for different courses, the only one that comes to mind is The Notebook.

A book you would take on a desert island: The whole darn Harry Potter series.

A book that made you cry: The Time Traveler's Wife. I was working out at the gym when I was reading this book. I must have looked pretty silly on the bike sobbing. My Sister's Keeper also had me going pretty good.

A book that scared you: I try to stay away from scary stuff since I easily enter into nightmare-land. I used to read RL Stine as a YA, but have since given up all things scary.

A book that made you laugh out loud: Bridget Jones's Diary. I read this one mostly on the bus too and from school (college) and had a many funny stares from lookers-on.

A book that disgusted you: I guess it depends on which way. Choke was pretty physically disgusting. But I've also read some books where the characters disgusted me.

A book you loved in preschool: The Princess and the Unicorn. I still have it and still cherish it.
A book you loved in elementary school: I don't remember how I came across it, but there was this book called Say Goodnight, Gracie that I loved. I've read that one more than once.

A book you loved in middle school: I loved the Fear Street Saga's by RL Stine

A book you loved in high school: When I was a senior I had to read Wuthering Heights. I had always been a reader, but this is what got me hooked to literature.

A book you hated in high school: I think this question should read which book didn't you hate. :) There were too many books that were assigned that I only half read--so to answer this question I think I would be cheating myself. Many I re-read later and really enjoyed.

A book you loved in college: I was never assigned it, but The Handmaid's Tale was probably my favorite read while in college.

A book that challenged your identity: To be honest, I'm not really sure any books challenged my identity.

A series that you love: Harry Potter, hands down.

Your favorite horror book: As I've said before, I can't read horror books. NO thank you!

Your favorite science fiction book: Does The Time Traveler's Wife count? Not a big SF fan.

Your favorite fantasy book: Harry Potter. Like SF, I'm not a big fantasy fan either.

Your favorite mystery: Wow, I guess I limit myself a lot when reading. I've never really read a lot of mystery books.

Your favorite biography: I think the most interesting biography I've read is Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen. Such a misunderstood man.

Your favorite classic: Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Your favorite romance book: The Time Traveler's Wife - a very different kind of love story.

Your favorite book not on this list: The Pact by Jodi Picoult. Favorite author not mentioned above is Tom Robbins. I need to read something by him soon...

What book are you currently reading: The Portrait of a Lady and The Awakening

What book have you been meaning to read: Ohhh...where to begin. I guess there are simply too many to list here.

What are YOUR favorites?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Dessert First

There are so many fun blogging things that I had no idea about! Yeah for new discoveries--and I have Stephanie to thank for introducing me to Booking Through Thursday on her blog.

Today's Meme:

  • Do you cheat and peek ahead at the end of your books? Or do you resolutely read in sequence, as the author intended?

  • And, if you don’t peek, do you ever feel tempted?

It usually takes a really great book for me to want to look ahead to find out what happens--and unfortunately its been a while since I've read a book of that kind of caliber (please give me some suggestions!!

But even if I am tempted, I read the book as the author wanted it to be read (afterall, they are not "Choose Your Own Adventure"!). There have been times that I have been so eager to find out the ending of the book that I've had to cover all of the page except what I am reading so my eyes won't wander around looking for clue words. I often find myself doing this with Jodi Picoult books--slowly moving my hand down the page until I can be rewarded with the answer to the conflict. For me, part of the thrill in the book is NOT knowing what is going to happen. I don't think I would want it to be any other way.

God I love those books! Any suggestions?

2nds Challenge

October 1-December 31, 2007
I can't help it...really I can't. I'm not sure if I'm just crazy or what, but I've found these challenges a great way to "schedule" in my TBRs. Thoughts of Joy is hosting this challenge, and basically it is just a push to read a second book by an author that we've read before and want to read more of.

My List (revised 6/17/07):

  • Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham

Alternatives:

  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (unless I read All the Pretty Horses this year)
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

At least this one doesn't start until October, so I have some time to mull things over a bit and get prepared (since none of these are cross-listed with other challenges).

I feel like such a motivated reader...when I finish a book I'm not looking at my bookshelf wondering what the heck I should devour next. I never did do too well with too many choices.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Review: Ireland by Frank Delaney


Book: Ireland
Author: Frank Delaney
Date Read: June 12, 2007
Rating: 4/5

I'm not sure why I am absolutely incapable of writing a succinct review of a book, but I'm going to try try try with this one (ya right).

Although it took a little bit for me to get into this book, I ended up really enjoying it. I think the breaker was when my husband and I took a 3 hour car trip the other day and out of boredom (his, not mine), I read several chapters to him. We both talked about the stories, laughed, and enjoyed.

The plot of the novel is pretty simplistic. A young boy, Ronan O'Mara, meets a traveling storyteller one night and is bewitched by the stories he hears. After the third night (and third story), the storyteller is banished by O'Mara's mother, but Ronan begins a longwinded search for the elusive traveller. The book ping pongs back and forth between O'Mara's search/story and random stories of Ireland told by various narrators.

Of the many stories, the reader encounters accounts such as how the harp was invented and how George Fredrick Handel came to write "The Messiah." But the nice thing about the stories is that they follow a progression of the history of Ireland--beginning with its very formation and ending with more historical accounts of invasion, hardships, battles, and struggles for freedom. Along the journey in the book, the reader also encounters some rather colorful characters (My favorite is Professor Ryle), but I rate this book a B because some of the narrators blend together--I'm not sure their voices are quite as distinct as they should be.

Listen to me rambling on. Recommendation: While the book is lengthy (my copy was 650 pages), the reading flows well and is rather quick. I would recommend this book to those who are interested in Ireland, storytelling, history, and myth. Not the best book I've read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

*photo courtesy www.wnyc.org

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: Fall On Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald


Title: Fall On Your Knees
Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald
Date Read: May 31, 2007
Rating: 4.5/5

I picked this book up several years ago at the Plano Book Sale, and I'm not sure why I let it sit on my shelf for so many years, but it did (along with all my other TBRs). In May I joined a few book clubs on Yahoo, and this was the selection for Bookworms Reading Group. I joined too late to join in any of the discussion, but I was glad it gave me the push I needed to read this book. Who knows how long it would have sat along side all the other poor TBRs before I finally went for it.

Fall On Your Knees is the story of the Piper family. The beginning of the novel gives the reader snapshots (almost literally) of the Piper family mentioning that they are all dead now. What a beginning! James Piper falls in love with the younger Materia Mahmoud; they fall in love, elope, and she is disowned by her Lebanese father. The book follows three generations of Pipers, unraveling the secrets of their sordid pasts. Because of the complex nature of the novel, it is difficult for me to write this review and not give away any details. So, perhaps I'll just outline some of the themes.

Themes prevalent throughout the novel: The novel deals with an number of themes including religion (specifically catholic), teenage prostitution, miscegenation, alcoholism, child abuse--wow, what a downer. Despite the very heavy themes of the novel, MacDonald has a way of showing the love the family possesses and the redemption that can be claimed as the novel comes full circle at the end.

Recommendation: Hmm, I'm not sure who I would recommend this book to. It's not light reading, and the themes are rather depressing, but I thought it was very well-written. MacDonald plays around with perspective as she constantly (and almost fluidly) switches from third person to first person with all of the characters. She also gives pieces to the puzzle throughout the novel in different forms such as diary entries, articles, letters, and even sometimes poetry. If you're looking for something different, try this one out.

Review: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Date Read: April 24, 2007
Rating: 4.75/5

The Blind Assassin is my second Atwood novel (other is The Handmaid's Tale), and after a second helping, I will certainly be holding my plate out for more, and more, and more.

Most of the novel centers around Iris Chase as she recalls the events of her past (she is an older woman at the time of her recollection). Intertwined into Iris's memoirs is also the posthumously published "The Blind Assassin" novel written by her sister Laura Chase who died in a mysterious car accident. While the story within a story motif was a little difficult to handle at first (science fiction meets literature noir), I found myself wrapped up in the story as the novel progresses. On a third level is newspaper clippings of pertinent events in the lives of the Chase family. All three parts work together a beautiful, yet sad, story.

The book itself was a little difficult for me to start, but once I was sucked into the story of the Chase girls (Laura and Iris)--well, I guess I've already said it--I was sucked in. Atwood's writing is beautiful as she tells a story of loss, submission, secrecy, and denial. The plot twists and turns as the reader tries to make the connections between the Chase girls through Iris's account, the newspaper articles, and the nameless characters of the posthumous novel.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to people who like a mystery a little out of the ordinary (although Atwood gives enough clues throughout the text to make the ending a little predictable--but still enjoyable). Certainly a book for Atwood fans. Not for the beach book reader, but I think its a book that can be enjoyed by a large number of different readers.

Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Date Read: May 2007
Rating: 3.5/5

I would have to say that this was my first attempt at "literary" reading after graduating in December--now after reading this book I feel fearless again. If not for Booksamonth book club, I probably would have left this one sitting on the shelf just a little bit longer.

The book follows seven generations of the Buenedia family in a mythical South Ameircan town (much of the events are based on Colombian history). The book chronicles the rise and fall of Maconda--through revolutions, invasions, love affairs, incest, modernization, colonialism, and much more. Garcia Marquez uses magical realism throughout the novel--a device used by many South American authors (Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits comes to mind). While some readers get a little annoyed by this device, I felt it brought a sort of charm to the novel. For example, one of the characters simply floats off into the air and is never seen again.

Recommendation: This book is definitely for the patient reader. I would recommend going to wikipedia and printing off the family tree and keeping it very very close while reading. Many of the characters share the same names, which can become confusing--especially through seven generations. I gave this book a 3.5 rating with a little hesitation, but mostly because of the accessibility of the novel (or lack thereof). The story itself was enjoyable, but it took some work.

Review: Night - Elie Wiesel

*Image from papercuts.tscpl.org
Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Date Read: January 2007
Rating: 4.25/5

I'm not sure what happened between the years that I was in high school and when my sisters went, but I wasn't assigned this book. So, like usual, I took my sisters' handmedown for this one (pretty sure they probably haven't read any of those books I "borrowed").

What a powerful little book. I read Night in a few hours (although maybe stretched over two days...?). Wiesel's memoir begins in a sleepy town in Transylvania--seemingly far away from the dangers of the Nazi's. It comes to pass however, that the SS does invade the town and Wiesel's family is sent first to Auschwitz where he is separated from his mother and sisters, but sticks by his father's side. The rest of the novel recounts the horrid details of the Holocaust and Wiesel's own fight to survive. The details he
offers are sobering--it is a tough look into humanity at its worst.

While the book in many ways is important for our understanding of the things that happened, things that are too horrible for me sometimes to even comprehend (I would also recommend "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom and Primo Levi's accounts for different perspectives), don't expect to feel uplifted at the end of the novel.

"I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The Look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me" (109).

By the Decade Reading Challenge

January 1-December 31, 2007

Well, apparently I am a sucker for challenges, since this is my second one in two weeks. Like the Book Awards Reading Challenge, 3M is hosting the By the Decade Challenge. Although the challenge started in January, I've been able to list some of the books I've already read this year taking care of the later part of the 20th century. Some of the books I'm able to cross link with the BARC--and the best news is that except for the 70s decade I own all the books. Yeah! I love productivity.

Here is my preliminary list. I've stopped at the 1880s, but I may try to squeeze in a few more since I'll be reading Vanity Fair (1840s) next month for Bookworm Reading Group. Note to self--stop trying to be overzealous!

1880 – The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881)
1890 – The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)
1900 – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1902)
1910 – Howard’s End by E.M. Forster (1910)
1920 – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)
1930 – As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930)
1940 – All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
1950 – Night by Elie Wiesel (1958)
1960 – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967)
1970 – The World According to Garp by John Irving (1978)
1980 – Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (1982)
1990 – Fall on your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (1996)
2000 – The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)

Hmm, I wonder what other troubles I can get into...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Review: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler

Title: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Author: Anne Tyler
Date read: June 4, 2007
Rating: 2.5/5

What can I say about this book that so many others seem to love? Well, there are books about dysfunctional families that have some sort of redemptive ending, and then there are books that are just about dysfunctional families. This book falls into the latter category for me.

I read this book for my Booksamonth reading group on yahoo and had heard such great things about the book. I wanted to like it, I really really did.

But I didn't. The book is about Pearl Tull and her children Cody, Ezra, and Jenny. Pearl's husband leaves one day for a business trip and doesn't come back (Cody, the eldest is 14). The remainder of the book tells the story of their lives from that point forward. One of the more qualititive parts of the novel is that it switches between the points of view of the different characters. So, not only does the reader get to see Pearl's opinion, but we also get to experience the events through Cody, Ezra, and Jenny--all three children shed a very different light on their lives.

Perspective aside, I found the book incredibly depressing and I couldn't believe the ending. While part of the event at the end (no spoilers) was expected, I was very disappointed in how the characters reacted. I wanted a book about a family who grew stronger after a horrible incident, but the book is more about four separate and distinct individuals who act as individuals instead of parts to a whole.

Recommendations: While the book was very easy and fast to read, I'm at a loss of who I would recommend the book to. Sorry for all of you Anne Tyler fans. This is my first Anne Tyler book, and probably my last.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Book Awards Reading Challenge

July 1 2007- June 20, 2008



The other day, in my copious spare time of course, I came across this book awards reading challenge hosted by 3M. The challenge starts July 1st and ends June 30, 2008 and asks the readers to select 12 books that have won various book awards.

I thought to myself, "What the heck--what else do I have to do?" Ha!

After looking through the selections of books, I have come up with this preliminary list:


1. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (National Book Award 1993, also Pulitzer)
2. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (National Book Award 1992, also NBCC)
3. Sophie's Choice by William Styron (National Book Award 1980)
4. The World According to Garp by John Irving (National Book Award 1980)
5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Booker Prize 1989)
6. Atonement by Ian McEwan (National Book Critics’ Circle Award 2002)
7. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Nebula Award 1969)
8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize 2003)
9. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (Pulitzer Prize 1947)
10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (Pulitzer Prize 1921)
11. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (Nobel Prize winner 1949)
12. Snow by Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize winner 2006)


Alternates:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer 2007)
The Book Thief By Marcus Zusak (Book Sense 2007)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Booker 1997)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newbery 1994)
March - Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer 2006)

Many of these books are already on my TBR list, so I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone.

Some of these have been collecting dust on my bookshelf for a few years now, so hopefully this will give me the boost I need to get them read!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

First things first

Recently I joined a few book clubs on Yahoo and noticed that several of the other members kept a blog of their readings. I used to do this in a notebook, but as school became more arduous (and I was reading 2-3 books at a time each week), I was unable to keep up with my notekeepings.

The purpose of this blog is two-fold. First, I would like to keep a personal record of my readings, but second I want to be able to share my love with others.

What am currently reading:

A Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
Ireland - Frank DeLaney

Hopefully as I delve further into the blogging world, I will figure out how to add pictures and links and more advanced features. But alas...
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