Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My next three

Here are my next three reads, put in order by my eldest son, Strat.

The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman
I can't remember why I chose this one, other than the fact that I own it, so I assume that I saw it at the Friends of the Library store for extremely cheap (the most I ever pay for a book there is $2 and I really have to want it to pay that steep a price - ha). Strat thought enough of the summary on the back cover to place it first on the list, though. I am about 100 pages in, and so far, so good.

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean
I saw this one online and was immediately intrigued. When I saw it at the Friends store, I was shocked and excited! Grandmother-granddaughter relationship, vintage clothing store and histories of the clothing that passes though them all. Can't wait to read this one!

Midwifes by Chris Bohjalian
I am really no fan of Oprah's Book Club because I get the feeling that all of her books should come with a razor blade. This one, however, caught my eye despite this dubious distinction. About a delivery-gone-bad and the subsequent legal actions. Midwives are not commonplace in the south, where belles like to have their babies in a sterile environment, then be served three meals by someone in scrubs while wearing a fashionable Tyvek bracelet. This will be good reading.

And what do all three of these books have in common? They are from my library shelf, all trade paperbacks, and will eventually end up on I am so glad to get rid of my physical books. Not so I can be free of them, but so I will have room for more, of course!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuscaloosa by W. Glasgow Phillips

Cover of: Tuscaloosa by W. Glasgow Phillips
On the verge of entering whatever "high society" Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has to offer a young man in 1972, Bill Mitchell falls in love with an inmate at his father's mental institution. Now Bill must either muster the courage to elope with his love or accept a prescribed--but unwelcome--role within the Southern patriarchy.

This book was not a stinker, but it was just a few notches above it. Like a well-dressed, but still white trash, woman. It was clear to me that the author grew in his prose as the book was being written. It went from fairly straight-forward dialogue to the main character developing an idiosyncratic conversational style. See my Shelfari review below for the comparison.

My review: 2 stars
A young man works for his father at a mental institution in Tuscaloosa, AL, taking care of the grounds. He falls in love with one of the patients, his mother runs off with another woman in town to form a biracial-lesbian-Thelma-and-Louise pair, there is a woman in town whom everyone assumes he will marry, and his best friend blows up building and sets police cars on fire.

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Well, I have summarized the entire book in the above paragraph. It's a weird little book, short read, with semi-clever dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, it morphs as the story progresses to sound like the narration from an episode of "My Name is Earl".

I probably won't read more by this author. While reading about him, I found that he made a film, short, or some such other media, in which he fought off ninjas with his genitals. Enough said.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A New Nook in the Family

My mom is getting a Nook for her birthday!

Actually, she already has it, but is leaving it in the box and (I guess) will wrap it for her birthday.

She finally broke down and borrowed mine, and she figured out that she was not going to delete everything off of it, or break it in two, or blow it up when she pressed a button.

I am proud of her and can't wait until she gets to use her own. haha

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Black Out by Lisa Unger

When my mother named me Ophelia, she thought she was being literary. She didn’t realize she was being tragic. On the surface, Annie Powers’s life in a wealthy Floridian suburb is happy and idyllic. Her husband, Gray, loves her fiercely; together, they dote on their beautiful young daughter, Victory. But the bubble surrounding Annie is pricked when she senses that the demons of her past have resurfaced and, to her horror, are now creeping up on her. These are demons she can’t fully recall because of a highly dissociative state that allowed her to forget the tragic and violent episodes of her earlier life as Ophelia March and to start over, under the loving and protective eye of Gray, as Annie Powers. Disturbing events—the appearance of a familiar dark figure on the beach, the mysterious murder of her psychologist—trigger strange and confusing memories for Annie, who realizes she has to quickly piece them together before her past comes to claim her future and her daughter.

My review: 4 stars
Excellent mystery! I was interested in the story until the end, it was neither predictable nor boring. It was full of surprises and intrigue. A murder, a stolen identity, a past you can't escape, your protector is also your husband, a daughter named Victory with some question as to who her father is...I loved the book and will read more by this author.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

This true story about the love between a spiritual mentor and his pupil has soared to the bestseller list for many reasons. For starters: it reminds us of the affection and gratitude that many of us still feel for the significant mentors of our past. It also plays out a fantasy many of us have entertained: what would it be like to look those people up again, tell them how much they meant to us, maybe even resume the mentorship? Plus, we meet Morrie Schwartz--a one of a kind professor, whom the author describes as looking like a cross between a biblical prophet and Christmas elf. And finally we are privy to intimate moments of Morrie's final days as he lies dying from a terminal illness. Even on his deathbed, this twinkling-eyed mensch manages to teach us all about living robustly and fully.

My take:
It took me one day to read this book and it was a WOW book. While there are a few things with which is disagree regarding spiritual ideas, but core of this book, if taken to heart, could change a reader for the best.

I liked the layout of the book, first of all. I liked that there was a prologue, then the chapters were numbers based on the number of week it was in their meeting sequence. Then there were short interim parts between the chapters which were written in italics. They either told of a time in the past that would set up the next chapter, highlighted something going on at the time of the next chapter, or it reflected on the next chapter, but at a later time. I liked the writing style very much.
When I was finished with the chapter that detailed the last of Morrie's three interviews with Ted Koppel on Nightline, I decided to put the book down and look for the interviews on YouTube.

There were all three interviews on YouTube, all in one sequential file, in nine parts. It was very moving, touching, funny, sad, poignant. Morrie was so right: Once you know how to die, you know how to live. I think he was very right.

While I am sorry to see someone like Morrie die, it makes me wonder how many other Morries are out there, and what impact they are having on lives around them. On the other hand, and not so optimistic, is the question of how many Morries there are out there who are dying alone, without anyone with whom to share the lessons they have learned throughout their lives.

My review: 5 stars, and listed as a favorite
Wonderful, wonderful. So much to be learned and put into practice from a man who has lived a full life and embarks to make sure he dies a full death. Death really separates the wheat from the chaff of life, and Morrie had much of it down before his diagnosis. After his diagnosis, he simply honed his life more quickly. A great tale of friendship, redemption, life lessons and living with as few regrets as possible. This one will stay on my shelf, ready to be read again and again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winter Reading Challenge!

As most of you know, I participated in a summer reading challenge on my Bibliophile book group through Shelfari. It was very excellent and proved to be surprisingly motivating. the core challenge totaled seven books, and there were six mini-challenges, making the total thirteen books. That's a pretty good pace for three months.

And speaking of pace, I have hit my reading stride nicely, I think. I am watching much less television and really concentrating on my reading list. It is very nice to read so quickly and have the satisfaction of seeing that TBR list dwindle. Well, at least a little. I continue to add books faster than I am able to cross them off!

In reviewing the challenge page on Bibliophile today, I noticed that the leader of the challenge is planning on a winter challenge, too! I was so happy to read this!I almost think that I need to start a list of books in the order that I want to read them, but then I start feeling boxed in. And, while I love my  lists, that may be one that I don't really enjoy. I am very excited about another challenge!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Winkie by Clifford Chase

In Cliff Chase's scathingly funny and surprisingly humane debut novel, the zeitgeist assumes the form of a one-foot-tall ursine Everyman — a mild-mannered teddy bear named Winkie who finds himself on the wrong side of America's war on terror. After suffering decades of neglect from the children who've forgotten him, Winkie summons the courage to take charge of his fate, so he hops off the shelf, jumps out the window, and takes to the forest. But just as he is discovering the joys and wonders of mobility, Winkie gets trapped in the jaws of a society gone rabid with fear and paranoia.

Having come upon the cabin of the mad professor who stole his beloved, Winkie is suddenly surrounded by the FBI, who instantly conclude that he is the evil mastermind behind dozens of terrorist attacks that have been traced to the forest. Terrified and confused, Winkie is brought to trial, where the prosecution attempts to seal the little bear's fate by interviewing witnesses from the trials of Galileo, Socrates, John Scopes, and Oscar Wilde. Emotionally gripping and intellectually compelling, Winkie exposes the absurdities of our age and explores what it means to be human in an increasingly barbaric world.

My take: 2 stars
The summary above is overly generous. "Scathingly funny": Not even close. More like "Nails-on-a-blackboard irritating". This part is true: "trapped in the jaws of a society gone rabid with fear and paranoia." The only piece I wrote down from this book was when the prosecutor was interviewing an army general on the witness stand:

"...they are nothing less than an army of supercombatants, trained to maim and kill." The general revealed his next chart. "And created, we believe, by a scientific process we don't yet understand, but which might well involve the use of stolen children, combined with DNA from a local animal, such as a snake or rodent or, just as likely, a drug-resistant micro-organism, such as smallpox or anthrax."

So, this is a fine statement on the way things are quickly becoming, with all reason going out the window when the media gets hold of the next big threat. Take swine flu, for example. Swine flu is no worse than the regular flu, which kills immuno-compromised people each year. However, there was a HUGE media campaign to the point of hysteria about it. Totally uncalled for.

While I appreciate the author's over-the-top examples of societal maladies, they were a bit tooooo over-the-top for me. I wanted to slap silly the defense attorney, then shake him by the shoulders until his head rolled off onto the floor. I wanted to put the prosecutor through a tree shredder. I wanted to take the judge and ram that gavel right up his robed rectum.

In short, I hated everyone. Winkie was okay, but let's face it: he's a teddy bear. Who can hate a teddy bear?
I am glad this one is over and I plan to never read another by this author.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards’ stunning family drama evokes the spirit of Sue Miller and Alice Sebold, articulating every mother’s silent fear: what would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? In 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins, he immediately recognizes that one of them has Down Syndrome and makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and to keep her birth a secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is an astonishing tale of redemptive love.

My review: 3 stars
This was a bit heart-wrenching in that it probably really happened in the 1960s and before. Children with Downs Syndrome were often just thrown away, whereas now they are simply aborted. It is a strong statement in the book that, in our desire to create perfect lives, we so very often rid ourselves of the things that would make them that way. The struggles in the family that gave up the child, as well as the struggles of the family that raised her, were very real. However, there was a bit of, what I felt was, contrived struggle (like the affairs) and some things that were just ridiculous (like a 25 year old having gray hair). Other than those very few things, it was a fairly good book.

From Wikipedia: A made-for-television movie premiered on Lifetime Television on April 12, 2008. The film's cast includes Dermot Mulroney as David, Gretchen Mol as Norah, and Emily Watson as Caroline. The adolescent and adult Phoebe is played by Krystal Hope Nausbaum, an actress with Down syndrome. The movie dispenses with characters Doro and her father Leo as well as Rosemary and her son Jack.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Books used in old Hanes stockings ads


The copy says, "You can read about women who are unforgettable, disarming and a not-so-quiet sensation, or become one by wearing new MYSTRECE. If you dipped your legs in liquid chiffon you'd get the fit, the look, the utter cling of MYSTRECE. And for pennies more you get that Hanes exclusive: No run can grow past the nude heel and demo toe.

I love this angle in the advertising! I wonder how many pairs of hosiery it sold!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burrows

When I went to see the new Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie, I saw a trailer for a future movie titled John Carter. What an odd title for a movie, especially since it's not based on a historical character like Rob Roy, Ali, Ray, Che, or Bobby. This made me wonder: who IS John Carter?

File:John carter of mars burroughs cover.jpg
As it turns out, it's a sci-fi series written by Edgar Rice Burrows. Does that name sound familiar? It should! He is the author who developed Tarzan.

John Carter is a series based on what Burrow called "Barsoom", his vision of a dying Mars.

A tidy summary from Wikipedia:
A Princess of Mars, the first novel in the Barsoom series, is a stand alone piece. However it connects with the following two novels, The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars, to form a trilogy (although there is a ten-year gap between the first and second). The trilogy focuses on Earthman John Carter and Martian princess, Dejah Thoris, with Green Martian Tars Tarkas making frequent appearances. John Carter and Dejah Thoris's son, Carthoris is also introduced as a minor character in The Gods of Mars, as is Thuvia.

While John Carter appears in many of the Barsoom series, he does not make it to all eleven of the books.

All-in-all, I don't think I would be interested in seeing the movie, which stars no one with whom I am familiar except Willem Defoe and Thomas Haden Church. This movie summarizes the first book, the stand-alone novel Princess of Mars. However, I will probably read it. The fact that it was published in 1912 makes it all the more intriguing.

As a side-note, Princess of Mars was made into a movie in 2009, starring Antonia Sebato Jr. as John Carter and (of all people) Traci Lords as Princess Dejah Thoris. I suspect this new one (can I call it a remake if only two years have passed?) will be quite a bit lower key, with the absence of a notorious porn star.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Left on her own when her family dies in a terrible disaster, fifteen-year-old Green is haunted by loss and by the past. Struggling to survive physically and emotionally in a place where nothing seems to grow and ashes are everywhere, Green retreats into the ruined realm of her garden. But in destroying her feelings, she also begins to destroy herself, erasing the girl she'd once been as she inks darkness into her skin. It is only through a series of mysterious encounters that Green can relearn the lessons of love and begin to heal enough to tell her story.

My review: 3 stars
Really fast little book to read. It was surprisingly enchanting for me. I liked the symbolism and the external show of internal emotion. I liked the metaphor of loss of oneself in the midst of great grief. I liked the communion of person with nature and animal. There was so much symbolism in this book that is worth a deeper look. On the surface, the coming to grips of a young girl with overwhelming anguish and grief to find her place and rediscover herself was story enough to love.

Movie: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Here is yet another book I have read this month that I find is being tossed around for the big screen. From a 2010 article in The Huffington Post:
Oprah Winfrey is joining with Alan Ball to produce an HBO film based on the nonfiction best-seller "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

The network said Wednesday that Ball, creator and executive producer of HBO's drama series "True Blood," will develop the project with Winfrey and her Harpo Films studio.

From Oprah's site:
Harpo Films topper Kate Forte also began chasing the rights in January after reading the book. Once Ball and Forte realized they were going after the same property and had a similar vision for turning it into an HBO movie, it was a no-brainer to join forces.

"Once Alan came aboard, it gave Rebecca the comfort of knowing that she'd found the perfect combination of producers and the perfect home for her story," Forte said.

Now that HBO's deal to option the book is closed, the partners are about to begin recruiting a screenwriter. Winfrey, Forte, Ball and Macoissi will exec produce for Ball's Your Face Goes Here banner and Harpo Films.

Ball and Forte were effusive about how Skloot's book easily lends itself to a screen adaptation. "It's an incredibly visually exciting story," Forte said. "The science of it all is told in an amazing way."

Forte noted that Winfrey read the book in one sitting. "She couldn't put it down," she said.

Ball couldn't say enough about how excited he is to work with Winfrey and Forte on such a significant project. Immortal Life is high on HBO Films' priority list, given the auspices.

"This is going to be a journey that we'll all remember for the rest of our lives," Ball predicted.

Is it just me, or are people STILL making money from Ms. Lacks cells? Maybe they are paying the family this time. It reminds me of a quote I wrote from "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand":

"We are all small-minded people, creeping about the earth grubbing for our own advantage and making the very mistakes for which we want to humiliate our neighbors." Major Pettigrew, pg 249

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Written with a delightfully dry sense of humour and the wisdom of a born storyteller, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand explores the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of family obligation and tradition. When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?

My take: 4 stars
Very nice! The story of a stalwart Brit and a proud Indian falling in love later in life. What a wonderful story! Nice character development, pulling me into loving or despising them. However, the joy for me in this book was the writing. Wonderful descriptions without being verbose. Nice use of metaphors without being cliche. A pleasure to read, with a heartwarming story only adding to the experience. I will definitely read more by this author.

I found this pic depicting one reader's vision of the Major and Mrs. Ali. I can see it so
clearly in my mind in much the same way that I wanted to post the picture.

While the book started a little slowly for me, the more I read, the more I wanted to read. I was so drawn into the story that I cheered when the Major wanted to slap his son, but refrained from doing so. I laughed when Mrs. Ali was so bold with the Major in the end (you'll seen what I mean when you read it). I was so glad of what finally became of the Churchills.

This story speaks of materialism, love, greed, career-building, bigotry, family, tradition, grief, religion ... you can see that there is something for everyone here. And, by the way, a movie is also in the works for this book.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Miss Peregrine: The Movie?

Twentieth Century Fox has acquired the movie rights to Ransom Riggs' book, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." Riggs, the author, is not writing the screenplay, so who knows how true to the book it will be. When asked who should play Miss Peregrine, he thought Tilda Swinton would be a good choice. He said that she is "elegant and birdlike".

You remember Ms. Swinton as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia movies. She had a main role in the first one, with cameos in the next two. She is also scheduled to star in the film adaptation of the book "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver.

I'm also glad to report that Riggs indicated that he is currently working on a sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home. Excellent news since so much was left unanswered and there are so many more adventures to be had!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

My review: 3 stars
Good, forthright romance novel. The mystery takes a bit of a backstage here, I think. The parallels between old flames and current was a little grating, as was the stubborn pride of the character Esther. So much could have been avoided and mended if she had just taken a deep breath and listened on more than one occasion. It was a nice summer book and fast read. I will probably read another by this author, and if it goes down the same path, will cross her off my list. That is what keeps me from giving more stars to this one.

Last 10 Books on Amazon's Book Club List

So far, I have not been disappointed in myself for not having more of these books on my TBR list - most of them don't appeal to me. Here are the last 10 from the list.

21. A Visit From the Good Squad - This one is already on my list. The ridiculously simple plot: an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and the passionate, troubled young woman he employs.

22. Zeitoun - The title alone is almost enough for me to add it to my TBR list. Plot: true account of lives altered after Hurricane Katrina. No thanks.

23. The Elegant Universe - "Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions..." HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHHAAHHAHA

24. American Wife - I read this loosely-based-on-George and Laura Bush-novel a while back. Didn't like it much.

25. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - British mystery series starring an 11-year-old girl. I read it last year and it was just okay. Not good enough for me to read any more in the series. I have noticed that this is one of those books that people either love or don't like too much. Go figure.

26. Unaccustomed Earth - "Eight stories—longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written—that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers." This one intrigues me for some reason. I think I will add it.

27. Cloud Atlas - The summary is unclear as to what the book may be about, but all of the reviews are positive, which is very unusual. I think I will add this one for that reason alone.

28. The Lost City of Z - What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z? This one sounds pretty good. Good enough to add!

29. Bloodroot - Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a stunning fiction debut about the legacies—of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss—that haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today. YES! Right up my alley!

30. Country Driving - The subtitle says it all: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory. Not for me.

So there you have it! The last 10 books on the 30-book list. Summary:
  • 2 Already Read
  • 1 Already on List
  • 4 Added
  • 3 Not interested

This last one was a pretty good list!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men
Tragic tale of a retarded man and the friend who loves and tries to protect him.

My review: 3 stars
Why have I never read this before? It is on the required reading for so many high schools...Well, it was a good read. Short and to the point. Not rambling or loquacious. I enjoyed it in that is was probably real-life. Euthenasia, killing, etc. Heady topics for the time of publication, but pales in comparison today. I probably read it too much on the surface, not caring that George was trying to protect Lennie, who was the real danger; that the characters has dreams that were never realized; that Lennie killed everything he wanted to protect. There's a lot of symbolism in this one. Probably too much. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children , an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

My review: 4 stars
I had such high expecations from this book, and was a little disappointed. I hope there are more books, and will definitely read them, to find out more of the story of Jacob's mom and dad (and how their marriage fairs), what happens with The Bird, the loops around the world (and especially this one), other wights and hollows and their fates...there is much more to write, Mr. Riggs! If this is a standalone book, not good. If this is the first of several - BRAVO!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amazon Book List: Books 11-20

So, you'll remember that I was shocked that I had read, or even added to my TBR list, so few of the Amazon Book Club books. There were very few of the first 10 books that I was even remotely interested in. Let's see how the next 10 books on the list fare.

11. How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe - Some reviews called this one unique, but most said it was bizarre, odd and hard to understand. Not adding this one.

12. Home Cooking - "Equal parts cookbook and memoir"...may interest me at some point, but not adding this one just yet. Not interested now.

13. Murder on the Orient Express - I am sorry to say that I have read only one Agatha Christie book, And Then There Were None, with was very good. I am going to add this one.

14. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - The cover of this one looks so familiar that I thought I had added it, but Shelfari statuses don't lie. After reading the summary, a story of two magicians who start as teacher/pupil, move to friends, and find themselves on opposite ends of good/evil. I think I've had my fill of stories on magic for now. Will pass on this one.

15. Atonement - While this one is set during WWII, it is on my reading list because of the compelling summary of the story.

16. The Invisible Bridge - "A grand love story and an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are torn apart by war." Again with the war? I supposed war provides a rich backdrop for a novel, but good grief! Not adding this one.

17. The Help - Read it and loved it. Saw the movie and liked it, too.

18. Patron Saint of Liars - Story of an unwed mother in the 1960s. This one is already on my list.

19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson - Story of two people in the same city named Will Grayson. This one is on my list already. Strat tried to read it earlier this year and proclaimed it too weird to finish. I will keep it on my list, but not be in a huge hurry about reading it.

20. Reading Like a Writer - No thanks. I'd rather read like a reader.

And there you have it! The second 10 books on the Amazon Book List. Summary:
  • Read 1
  • Already had 3 on my list
  • Added 1 to my list
  • Not interested in 5 of them

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.
Then after graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.

My take:
2 stars
I must say that I am glad this one is over, and have no plans to read more by this author. I thought it was a shameless rip off of Harry Potter, Narnia and the Chrestomanci series. I was so very happy not to see a vampire, but I would not have been the least surprised. Grossman seemed to be giving a nod when making sly references to uniforms and Quidditch, but I found it to be less a wink-and-a-nod than a subtle flipping off of the middle finger.

Some unbelievable praise:

Lev Grossman's novel The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I've read this century.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
Answer: Poor Cory. Go to the library more often.

The Magicians is the best urban fantasy in years.”
The Onion AV Club
Answer: The Onion is a satirical site, after all.

“Sly and lyrical ... The Magicians is an homage to both J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, as well as an exploration of what might happen if troubled kids were let loose in the supernatural realms they grew up reading about. Grossman captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond.”
—Jeff Giles, Entertainment Weekly
Answer: I must have read a different book.

New (and last) mini challenge on Summer Reading Challenge

We received another mini challenge, this one is number six and the last, and it is the BEST! Here it is:

Mini Challenge #6: Read a book that has been banned.
Here's a website with a list of books that have been banned:


If your book is not on these lists but you know that it is banned, you can still read and review it as long as you are able to prove that the book is banned!
All reviews must be submitted by August 29th in order to receive credit and the chance to get an extra entry to the raffle once the main challenge is completed.


I am going to read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. This book was banned in 2001 for this reason:
Banned for using offensive language, racism, violence, and being unsuited to age group. Banned in 2001! Can you even believe it? In America!

It was challenged as late as 2008:

Challenged at the Newton (IA) High School because of concerns about profanity and the portrayal of Jesus Christ. Newton High School has required students to read the book since at least the early 1980's. Retained in the Olathe (KS) 9th-grade curriculum despite a parent calling the novel a "worthless, profanity-riddled book" which is "derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled."

Here are the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009-2010:
  1. TTYL Series by Lauren Myracle
  2. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
  6. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Be alert, America! There are those amoung us who wish we were all the same, just like them, and wish to take away our individualities. Even if you don't agree with it, you need to allow the display. It is what makes us FREE.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Night by Elie Wiesel

Summary: In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.

My review: 5 stars
I don't really know what to say about this book. It was so sobering. So gritty and real. So horrendous and angry.

We must NEVER forget.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who knew Amazon had a Book List?! I am behind the curve.

I have only SEVEN of Amazon's Book Club Picks on my shelf!

Breathe. Breathe.

Here are the first 10 books on the list:

  1. The Imperfectionists - This is a novel about the newspaper industry and sounds like a yawner.
  2. A Big Little Life - This is the memoir of a dog written by thriller author Dean Koontz, but this one is non-fiction. And the dog dies in the end. No thanks.
  3. French Lessons - Three Americans in a single day in Paris. I'm adding this one.
  4. Citizens of London - This one is about WWII, and is another non-fiction. Not for me.
  5. To the End of the Land - The power of family life and the cost of war. What is with these war books?
  6. One Day - On my list already
  7. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - Young boy in an impoverished African village during a famine who dreams of building a windmill while everyone calls him crazy. Not interested.
  8. The Hangman's Daughter - Children are murdered and witchcraft is blamed. Not really interested, but I will wait and read a few reviews from my groups and see what they thought. Not ruling this one out just yet.
  9. The Lake Shore Limited - Called "a power love story" and even uses the description of " incandescent lovemaking". That cracks me up enough to not take this book seriously and leave it off of my list.
  10. The Glass Room - Loving couple in Germany coming against the Nazi Regime. Again I say: why all the war?

So far, I'd say I made pretty good decisions. There are so many books out there that are entertaining, I just don't have the desire to read about war and real-life sadness. Nonfiction is just not my bag, baby, and war novels are too close to the truth for me.

The next 10 books soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's s-l-o-w going...

It has been FIVE days since I finished my last book, and I am still not even on page 100 of the book I am currently reading.

I am reading "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman, and while I don't want to review it before I even finish it, or get to page 100 for that matter, let's just suffice it to say that it is EASY to put down.

It's a book-of-the-month for my Shelfari Bibliophile group, or I may not finish it at all, but I want to participate in the discussion so I can see if everyone else felt the same way I do while reading.

Stay tuned!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The summary that caused me to add this book to my reading list:
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. 
She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.
And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away. 

How can you not be intrigued by this??

This is my review: 3 stars
Paul Auster said fo this book, "Highly original, infinitely charming, and ever so touching." I think that is a perfect description of this week. Heavy with mathematical formulae as it relates to perfection, life, simplicity and infinity, it was a bit cumbersome at times, but full of the story of a housekeeper and her son, making it interesting and personal. The man for whom they cared was a intriguing character. I enjoyed this fast and easy read, and will list it among the most interesting premises.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Who, you might ask, is Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) and why is she the subject of a book? On the surface, this short-lived African American Virginian seems an unlikely candidate for immortality. The most remarkable thing about her, some might argue, is that she had ten children during her thirty-one years on earth. Actually, we all owe Ms. Lacks a great debt and some of us owe her our lives. As Rebecca Skloot tells us in this riveting human story, Henrietta was the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumors that have been cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These so-called HeLa cells have not only generated billions of dollars for the medical industry; they have helped uncover secrets of cancers, viruses, fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping.

As usual, I love the OFFICIAL TRAILER sites for these books! Brilliant!! Watch it!

My review: 3 stars
Very interesting. I had no idea that this kind of thing happened in the scientific community, but why would I not consider it? Of course, scientists have to get their research media from some where. I don't have a problem with the lack of consent - no one was asked in that day (there was no racism here). The author showed a very definite slant toward the Lackses, however was as objective as possible when displaying her data and all sides of the story. The fact that she felt an affinity for this family in no way hindered her research or caused her to cover any uncomfortable truths that made these people human. I found some of the scientific data to be a bit too much, but it was appropriate to add meat to the matter and substantive fact to the human side of the story. This was non-fiction written for the fiction-lover. Easy to read and easy to understand.