Thursday, July 28, 2011

A new mini-challenge!

Vonnie added a new mini challenge for our summer reading challenge. Here it is:

Mini Challenge #5: Read a book that's part of Oprah's Book Club Collection.
Here's the link: http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Complete-List-of-Oprahs-Book-Club-Books
*****
Challenge must be completed and reviewed by August 16th in order to receive an extra entry to raffle at the end of the game. Good luck!

I have Night by Elie Wiesel, so I will read that. It was on Oprah's list, and I ran across this on Wikipedia:

Ruth Franklin writes that Night's "resuscitation" by Oprah Winfrey came at a difficult time for the genre of memoir, after a previous book-club author, James Frey, was found to have fabricated parts of his autobiography, A Million Little Pieces. She argues that Winfrey's endorsement of Wiesel's work was a canny move, perhaps designed to restore the book club's credibility with a book regarded as beyond criticism. She writes that Night has a useful lesson to teach about the complexities of memoir and memory, and that the story of how it came to be written reveals how many factors come into play in creating a memoir: "the obligation to remember and to testify, certainly, but also the artistic and even moral obligation to construct a credible persona and to craft a beautiful work ... truth in prose, it turns out, is not always the same thing as truth in life."

I have the book in audio form, which is acceptable for the challenges. I have listened to one hour of it, and find it extremely sad, gripping, disconcerting, moving, and emotional. The reader is excellent. I had to take a little break between the two hours of the audio, and will probably finish it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells


Summary: 

John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.

Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Dan Wells’s debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.

I love it when there is a trailer for the book! Here is the one for this book.

My take: 3 stars
What an odd book. It's fiction and reads a bit like a young adult novel, but I'm not sure I would want a teen full of angst to pick this one up. In this story, a text book sociopath 9th grader writes school themes on serial killers, dresses as famous serial killers from history and has a set of personal rules to keep him from dwelling too much on killing others. Then he meets a serial killer in the flesh. An intriguing premise, but a little unsettling. It reads a little like Dexter and the trailer reminds me of a young Dexter, but a book like this is not for the still-to-mature, in my opinion. Yikes.

Done with the Summer Reading Challenge!!



Finishing The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen brought those coveted words from the administrator of the Bibliophile Summer Reading Challenge: "you're done!!" Now just to make sure I stay on top of the mini-challenges! Yippee!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen


Summary: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

I included just a snippet of the entire summary above because I don't want to give too much away. LOVED this book! I think I loved it so much because the others that I have read by this author are so surprisingly wonderful. They make each one better. Along the same lines as "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman, but better, better, better in every way.


My review: 5 stars
I could not put this book down! So far, I have loved every book I've read by Sarah Addison Allen, and want to read all of her works. I love the realness of the characters (like when Willa hides from Colin in the sporting goods store and he finds her), the relationships (like the typical inequality of mothers between sons - Colin - and daughters - Paxton, the magical elements woven with the slightest glint throughout the story, the reference to another book's characters, the contrast in grandmothers... I loved it all - start to finish. A new favorite!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson


Summary: The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to S├Ąpo, Sweden's security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship.

WOW! This was by far the best book of this trilogy! After the intensity of the first two books, I took a break from reading the third, even though I already had it on my Nook. What a mistake! I saw a coworker of mine with the book and it sparked my interest again. A phenomenal finish to the story of Lisbeth Salander and the team of people we have grown to like and respect over the course of the novels. This was, by far, the best series of books I have read in a long, long time. What a crime thriller ought to be, beginning to end.

It is too bad that Larsson died before the publishing and subsequent wild popularity of the series. He had a heart attack after climbing seven flights of stairs to his office because the elevator was out of order. What a crappy way to go! His writing will be sorely missed. He would have become one of the greats of crime/thriller/fiction.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Completely entrenched!

I like to write close to daily on this blog because books have become such a humongous part of my life, but I have been so entrenched with the book I am reading that I have not posted. I plan to finish it today and will post the review soon. You'll have to wait to see what has me completely captivated!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Summary: In the wake of a disastrous affair with her older, married archeology professor at Stanford, brilliant Wilhelmina Cooper arrives back at the doorstep of her hippie mother-turned born-again-Christian's house in Templeton, NY, a storybook town her ancestors founded that sits on the shores of Lake Glimmerglass. Upon her arrival, a prehistoric monster surfaces in the lake bringing a feeding frenzy to the quiet town, and Willie learns she has a mystery father her mother kept secret Willie's entire life. The beautiful, broody Willie is told that the key to her biological father's identity lies somewhere in her family's history, so she buries herself in the research of her twisted family tree and finds more than she bargained for as a chorus of voices from the town's past- some sinister, all fascinating- rise up around her to tell their side of the story. In the end, dark secrets come to light, past and present day are blurred, and old mysteries are finally put to rest. A fresh, virtuoso performance that will surely place Groff among the best young writers of today.

My take: 3 stars
I think it would be fair to say that this book is as busy as its cover. It was an easy book to read, with a nice writing style, fully developed characters and a nice, tight ending.

However, it was busy. I fully relied on drawings of the family tree interspersed throughout the chapters to remember who-was-who. I thought some of the solutions to problems were a bit too tidy. On the other hand, I loved the characters, their development, relationships, surprises, complexities...almost enough for me to give this 4 stars. I am giving it 3.5 stars, and will add more by this author to my reading list.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Added some new books

I added a few new books to my TBR pile today. Let me know what you think:

Winkie by Clifford Chase: This book is about a mild-mannered teddy bear named Winkie who comes to life and finds himself on the wrong side of America’s war on terror.

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris: This completes the Food Trilogy series by Harris, of which I have read none. Never mind that, though. This one concentrates on the relationship between mothers and daughters, so it's right up my alley. Plus, you gotta love a series of books about food!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: I saw the cover of this book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble when my best girl Deanne and I were there last week (was that just last week?!). From the inside flap: In this spooky debut novel from filmmaker and travel writer Riggs ... that was as far as I got and I knew I had to read this one! Plus, I loved the cover.

The Meowmorphosis by Coleridge Cook: The first sentence on this one: “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.” Again, between the cover of the book and this start, I was smitten! There is even a BOOK TRAILER for this one!!

I can't wait to get started on these!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin


Summary:
Sixteen individuals who are mysteriously chosen to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan come together to hear the will of the self-made millionaire, Samuel W. Westing. The will takes the form of a puzzle, dividing the sixteen heirs into eight pairs, giving each pair a different set of clues, and challenging them to solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing. As an incentive, each heir is given $10,000 to play the game. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit Sam Westing's 200 million dollar fortune.

This book won the Newbery Medal in 1979 (the Honor book being The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson), which is awarded for American literature for Children. I am constantly surprised by award winners, in that they are not books that I would have thought to be above-and-beyond. Maybe that's why I am not a judge...

This was an enjoyable book, obviously written for a younger audience. I found it to be a little cumbersome at the end, trying to tie up loose ends. I had to read a few parts several times to let them sink in, as so much was happening and being solved at once. The five-year-update of characters at the end was a nice thought and very touching, making the book worth the read until the very last paragraph.

While it is written on a very easy-to-read level (Accelerated Reader puts the reading level at 5th grade, three months), the plot intricacies demand a more seasoned young adult reader. This is the way young adult books were written before it was fashionable to include expletives to make them seem edgier and more grown-up. This is a young adult book worth reading and (thankfully) stands the test of time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I love my Moleskine


I love my Moleskine.

I have lots of them.

In several colors.



In various sizes.

All with lined paper.



They are a bit pricey, so I also have other journals/notebooks that are much like the Moleskine. I like them, too. But I like to say, "Moleskine."
History says that Ernest Hemingway made the Moleskine famous, but I suspect that is more a romantic fable than truth. Truth is, these little books were readily available in Paris and were used by a number of people, both famous and not. The writers and artists loved them in particular because the paper was good quality and the size was right for travel.

The more popular they became, the more the small Parisian company could not keep up with demand. As it goes so often, the small Paris shop stopped making the Moleskine. Ten years later,
an Italian company brought them back to life. Most are now "Made in China", so the romance is lost for me.

However, the love affair continues. There are hundreds of photos of people's Moleskine pages on the internet. I have posted several of them here. They are proud of their musings, drawings, reflections, quotes, stories, scribblings, poems. You can find almost every conceivable physical manifestation of thought and imagination. I, too have taken photos of a couple of my pages, to show to you, of course.

What do I keep in mine?

I keep one with me when I am reading. I like to copy quotes from books that speak to me, as well as words that are new to me, along with the sentence in which they are used, and the definition from my trusty unabridged edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language.

Example: A quote from Ender's Game by Orson Scot Card, "He could see Bonzo's anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender's anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo's was not, and so it used him." p62

I have another smaller book for a daily Haiku that I write.

Example:
Why do I write these?
I like drumming my fingers
To make sure it's right.

I have another containing Life Lessons According to Carmen.

Example: #2 Never use the bathroom stall with the plunger in it. 12-16-07

I misplaced the Haiku notebook and, in looking for it, I found more Moleskine books scattered throughout the house: one with grocery lists, one with books to find on my next visit to the library, one with a list of books that I want to read and why I want to read them, a list of food that I ate when I was tracking my calories/fat/protein...

All-in-all, they fill some sort of need that I have. A need to put pen to paper. A need to make lists, draw pictures, see my thoughts rather than just feel them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New book from paperback swap site

So, I belong to an online group that swaps books. I list books that I am willing to send and when someone requests a book, I send it. When that person receives it, they mark it as received and I get a point. I can then use that point to order a book from someone. The books are free, the shipper pays postage. There are thousands of people in this group, and each has a list of books, so you can imagine the volume of books being sent and received daily.

I received a book today from Paperback Swap: The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay. This particular book came to me from Raleigh, NC. I can tell from the site that this particular book originated in Hoover, AL and was sent in April 2009 to the Raleigh member. It's called the book's passport. When I am finished reading it, I will repost it and it will be available to another person, anywhere in the US. So far, the most "stamps" on a book passport that I have received is three: Coal Valley IL to Montgomery TX to Longview WA to Arab AL. That book has traveled 4,696 miles!

It's a very cool site, and I have really benefited from being part of it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Woods by Harlan Coban

Summary:
Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six- year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor’s family are threatened. Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.

Here is the review from my Shelfari: I really enjoyed this book! It was a good mystery, had some serious and surprising twists, was clean (no sex, language, drug use) and had a very satisfying ending. I had the large print edition, and read its 635 pages in three days. I would highly recommend this book, and I plan to read more by its author.

I have to say it again: I really enjoyed this book! I ordered it from PaperbackSwap.com on a lark because I was getting another book from the owner. Turns out that this book was not only hardback, but large print. I don't love large print, but I must admit that I feel like I am reading more because I am turning pages more quickly. ha

I started the book on a Friday night, not expecting to finish it because I was headed to the library first thing Saturday morning. I still went to the library, but this book grabbed me, hooked me and had me at the first page! There was no way I was putting it down until the last word was read.

It was such a good story, so well-written and nicely intricate without being confusing. I highly recommend this one for your TBR pile!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

New Books!

I discovered the Arab Public Library Friends Bookstore today! I had seen it time and time again, but had never gone in. I finally had to leave when I got teary-eyed from finding so many books on my list!

Here are the books I bought, all for $5:

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom I bought this one because Five People You Meet in Heaven is one of my favorites. I remember reading it while Jim was installing flooring in the foyer, and I was just sitting there with tears running down my cheeks. I have high expectations from this one.

My Life as a Dog by Reidar Jonsson I bought this one because my fabulous high school friend Ronnie talked to me about the movie, based on the book. He said that it isn't for everyone, but it obviously made an impression on him, and I love him so that I want to honor our friendship by reading this book.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian This one sounds very intriguing. Set in 1981, it highlights the issues of and prejudices against midwifery. This one moved back and forth in time surrounding a very difficult and devastating decision during the throes of childbirth. Sounds exciting!

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean Another on the top of my reading list, this one deals with a woman with zero fashion sense suddenly called to take over her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The dresses take on lives of their own as stories are shared and passed on from seller to buyer. What a great premise!

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby I have another of his books on my reading list, About a Boy. However, I will probably read this one first. It is about a very tall building which has a reputation for jumpers. On New Year's Eve, 15 people go to this building to end their lives, thinking they will be the only one there. The books deals with how they cope with the arrival of one another.

Tuscaloosa by W. Glasgow Phillips I had to get this one, just because of the title! I didn't even care what it's about. However, it centers around a psychiatric hospital, so that sealed the deal.

By the Time You Read This by Lola Jaye This will be a tear-jerker. It's about a father who discovers he has only a short time to live. He writes to his infant daughter, to be given to her on her 12th birthday. What else do I need to say? It will be wonderful.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver I expect this to be another "wow" book. It deals with the mother and father of a boy who kills seven students and a teacher at his high school. It tracks his childhood, crime, and the mother's (the book is written from her viewpoint) struggle to cope with this path their lives have taken. Interestingly, this book is told in a series of letters from the mother to the (probably estranged) father. I am looking forward to this one for the style alone.

And there you have it! My windfall of wonderful books. It will take me probably a week to read them all. haha!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Off Keck Road: A Novella by Mona Simpson


Summary:
Set in Green Bay, Wis., where Simpson grew up, "Off Keck Road" moves between the last few decades, telling of characters who are emotionally and often physically paralyzed, frozen in place and standing apart, destined, in some cases, to miss out on even the most ordinary chances for happiness.

That's all I will tell you about the summary, and jump right into my review.

I give it 2 1/2 stars. Not two stars because I didn't dislike it, but not three stars because I also did not like it. I found it to be lackluster and shallow. While the characters had some serious flaws, both emotional and physical, I was never invested in them. I continued to have to go back and read about characters and their relationships to one another, and I was still confused.

For example, Shelley's grandmother was called Gram Umberhum. George and June were her kids. Shelley helped George build a pool in his backyard (when he was an adult) and they started a sexual relationship, even though she was young enough to be his daughter (maybe younger).

My confusion is this: I never remember reading Shelley's last name, but if her grandmother's last name is Umberhum, couldn't we assume that Shelley and George are related in some way? I could never figure it out, but didn't try very hard because I was at the point that I just didn't care. It was creepy either way.

I did find out that Keck Road was more or less on the lesser desirable end of the real estate spectrum, residents didn't have large homes and often didn't keep them up. June lived on Keck Road and was embarrassed by it. Other than that, I'm not sure what foreshadowing the title was supposed to impart.

So it went with this book. If it had been a bit longer, I probably would have put it down, but at 167 pages, it was worth it just to add to my "Books I have Read" list.

Can't recommend this one.