Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quotations and Notes and Thoughts

I think I have mentioned this before, but I keep a Moleskine (a very specific brand of journal) close at hand at all times. I have one specifically for Haiku that I write (yes, I am a dedicated word nerd), lists that I make and, the most often used, quotations, notes and thoughts from my current read.

Following are a few of my favorites:

"Margaret was reminded of the way that very young children cry: fearlessly, shamelessly, with a total, noisy, self-centered commitment to grief that makes no apologies nor any effort whatsoever to contain the natural outflow of bodily fluids." p122 Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos.

"Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel." Cutting for Stone by A. Verghese.

On the other hand: "You can't always be looking backward or something will hit you from the front." The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

"I stared at the room full of caskets on display - their lids gaping open like hungry mouths, waiting to swallow up the newly departed. I decided I'd much rather exit this world in a crackle of flames and a swirl of smoke through my ribs than be cooped up through all eternity in a dark box surrounded by puffy white satin." Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Today people use as many words as they can and think themselves very wise for doing so. For always remember that while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many." The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.

And on that note....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lamb by Christopher Moore

The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years -- except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work "reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams" ( Philadelphia Inquirer ).

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more -- except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdala -- and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

My take: 3 looks
Christopher Moore is called an "absurdist author" and I certainly agree. This is the second book by him that I have read (the first was Fluke).

First to say, as a Christian, I had initial reservations about reading this book. However, curiosity got the better of me, and I was pleasantly surprised. It is not a commentary on the life of Jesus and I did not find it blasphemous. It was definitely irreverent, but I suspect all satirical, absurdist and dark humor is absolutely irreverent. This is fiction, and a fictional account of a boy who happens to be the Messiah with a best friend who is a boy through-and-through.

The writing here is witty and extremely clever. The greater your knowledge of the Christian Bible, the more you will chuckle. I enjoyed the back-and-forth in time where Biff is with Jesus, and where he is in modern day, writing this new gospel, under the sentry angel Raziel. I understand that there are a few character crossovers in other books and this one, making me want to read them, as well.

This is a fun book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life after false accusations landed her in prison, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret? This tender story about fresh starts will charm readers as all of Melody Carlson's Christmas offerings do. Full of redemption and true holiday spirit, Christmas at Harrington's will be readers' newest Christmas tradition.

My take: 3 looks
I read this one because I loved the cover. It's June in Alabama and 100*. When I looked at the cover, I felt cooler. A woman in a red and white coat, looking at a Christmas display of a department store while snow gently falls. It was so soothing.

Aside from the picture on the cover, the book was cute and took only about 2 hours to read. It is a bit trite, but one needs trite every now and again, and I felt myself welcoming the familiar flow, the predictability of the story and the happy ending. It focuses on a woman just released from prison, convicted of a crime for which she is innocent. Angels in human form come into her life left and right as her desire to "start over" takes one positive turn after another. After eight years in prison, she deserves it, right? It is very fairytale-like, but like I said, it was a welcome respite during this hot summer month. I will read more by this author when I need a "palate cleansing".

Thursday, June 21, 2012

...a book by its cover...

I am thick in the middle of my online book group's, Bibliophile, summer reading challenge. You may remember that I participated in the last summer challenge, skipped the winter challenge, and am back on board. The last challenge I was a part of was very fun and extremely motivating.

Here is the summer challenge this year:

Here are the rules:
1. Read 3 BOTM books from June-August and MUST participate in one of the books' discussions (could be any three books from these three months). *NOTE: If you participate in ALL of the books’ discussions, you will receive an extra raffle entry*
2. Read a book that has a summer theme in the title (For example, Barefoot in the Sand by Roxanne St. Claire).
3. Read a book that has ONE of the sundae colors on the cover: brown, yellow, and pink.
4. There are many adventures during the summer. Read a book tagged “adventure” (go to the "Books" tab on top, click on tags, and then click on "adventure" to view the books).
5. Read a book that’s a Bibliophile member’s favorite.
This equals a total of 7 books for the Summer!
*Reminder, books can only be used for one category!
The challenge begins June 1st and ends August 31st. Members that complete the challenge will be entered into a raffle to win one of three prices:
First price- $30 from Amazon
Second price- $20 gift card to Amazon
Third price- a book of your choice under $10.
*Note: the first 3-5 (depending on how many participate) people to finish the challenge will be entered for the 1st place price. The people that don't win the first price will then be entered for the 2nd place price along with the next 3-5 people. Everyone (except those that already won) will be entered for the third place price.*
In order to get credit for the books read, the participant MUST write a review under this thread and indicate which number of the challenge was read. I will keep track of everyone who participates.
Mini Challenge #1-Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover: Read a book that only got your attention because of its cover. (ends June 23rd)
Mini Challenge #2-21st Century: Read a book from the list of "100 Best Books of the 21st Century" from Avery on the Airwaves. (ends July 5th)

Isn't that fun?! The Mini Challenge #1 was such a cute idea, I thought! Unfortunately, judging a book by its cover is the MAIN way I buy books with which I am unfamiliar. I judge the title, the font, the picture (if there is one), the length and the description on the back (I am almost exclusive to trade paperbacks).

So, for the challenge's host, Vonnie, to instruct me to read a book I chose for its cover ... well, that is practically my whole library! haha I missed seeing the challenge until today, giving me only a few days to
read, so I agonized a bit over which book to choose. As I was perusing my collection, I ran across "Christmas at Harrington's", whose cover shows a woman in a red and white coat window shopping as snow falls. <sigh> Because it is the dead of summer here, I felt so refreshed just looking at the cover. That is the book I am reading!

I'll keep you updated on which books I have read for the challenge in my next few posts!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

"Moving, touching, wonderfully written, inspiring to read."-Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain At a festive, intimate dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them: to celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, each of them will also do the one thing they always swore they'd never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventure, from getting a tattoo to learning to bake bread to reconciling with a former friend. Shimmering with warmth, wit, and insight, Joy for Beginners is a celebration of life: unexpected, lyrical, and deeply satisfying.

My take: 4 looks
This is the second book I have read by Bauermeister, and I must say that she is one of my favorites. Her writing absolutely transports me. One of the few authors who is able to make me feel a part of the story and not simply reading a story.

With that said, I really enjoyed the characters in this book. I loved the premise of the story: a cancer survivor handing out individual tasks to complete within a year to those friends who supported her through her illness. She has an uncanny knack for assigning extremely personal, poignant and life changing tasks to each woman.

I loved that each chapter was devoted to an individual woman. There was no one main character. Each chapter gave insight, background and reasoning into the woman. When a chapter was complete, you knew this person. However, each character popped in and out of all of the chapters, serving to make each character full and well-rounded. With the end of each chapter, I was sad to see that person go, and sure that I would not relate as fully with the next one; only to be proven wrong. By the end of the book, I loved all of these women, and their husbands, kids, boyfriends and mothers.

What keeps me from giving this one 5 looks? I'm not sure. It wasn't awe-inspiring, ground-breaking, life-changing or envelope-pushing. It is just great storytelling, and writing that really speaks to me. Maybe it IS a five. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo

Immortals from the time of Moses roam the earth on a quest for justice . . . and heaven.

One man stands in their way.

In 1476 BC, the Israelites turned their backs on the One True God by worshipping a golden calf. For their transgression, forty were cursed to walk the earth forever. Banished from their people, they formed their own tribe, The 13th Tribe.

Now, three and a half millennia later, the remnant of this Tribe continues to seek redemption through vigilante justice-goaded by dark forces in the spiritual realm. They are planning a bold strike modeled on the Israelites' conquest of Canaan: the complete destruction of a major city-only now, they possess the horrific technology of modern weapons to ensure their success.

Jagger Baird is a husband and father…and security guard of an archaeological dig at the base of Mount Siani. Jagger suddenly finds himself in a fight for the future as he discovers the Tribe's plans. But to win this fight, he must overcome his own struggles with faith and self-worth - as well as his anger at God for a past tragedy.

This taut thriller by acclaimed novelist Robert Liparulo fuses tomorrow's technology with faith and non-stop action for a supernatural suspense novel unlike any other.

My take: 4 looks
Again I say, I am not a fan of Christian fiction, but this one had me riveted from the first page! I loved the back story from deep in the Old Testament, along with fictional accounts of the people who were at the bottom of Mt. Sinai when Moses was on the mountain obtaining the ten commandments from God; their fear, rebellion and ultimate punishment. I loved the depth of the characters. We knew what made them tick, what their passions had grown to be, and could very easily picture them from the detailed writing. Good and bad were merged in a way that made you compassionate for the "bad" guys while still wanting justice. I can't wait to read the next in this series!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Forever Odd by Dean Koontz

Every so often a character so captures the hearts and imaginations of readers that he seems to take on a life of his own long after the final page is turned. For such a character, one book is not enough—readers must know what happens next. Now Dean Koontz returns with the novel his fans have been demanding. With the emotional power and sheer storytelling artistry that are his trademarks, Koontz takes up once more the story of a unique young hero and an eccentric little town in a tale that is equal parts suspense and terror, adventure and mystery—and altogether irresistibly odd. We’re all a little odd beneath the surface. He’s the most unlikely hero you’ll ever meet—an ordinary guy with a modest job you might never look at twice. But there’s so much more to any of us than meets the eye—and that goes triple for Odd Thomas. For Odd lives always between two worlds in the small desert town of Pico Mundo, where the heroic and the harrowing are everyday events. Odd never asked to communicate with the dead—it’s something that just happened. But as the unofficial goodwill ambassador between our world and theirs, he’s got a duty to do the right thing. That’s the way Odd sees it and that’s why he’s won hearts on both sides of the divide between life and death. A childhood friend of Odd’s has disappeared. The worst is feared. But as Odd applies his unique talents to the task of finding the missing person, he discovers something worse than a dead body, encounters an enemy of exceptional cunning, and spirals into a vortex of terror. Once again Odd will stand against our worst fears. Around him will gather new allies and old, some living and some not. For in the battle to come, there can be no innocent bystanders, and every sacrifice can tip the balance between despair and hope. Whether you’re meeting Odd Thomas for the first time or he’s already an old friend, you’ll be led on an unforgettable journey through a world of terror, wonder and delight—to a revelation that can change your life. And you can have no better guide than Odd Thomas.

My take: 4 looks
I love this series. As with any series, you should read the first one first; but, after that ... well, I read them out of order and didn't feel that the individual stories suffered in the least. This one continues to build on the relationships between the main character and his ramshackle, makeshift "family". I love the character of Ozzie and his literary genius, the Porters in their role of surrogate parents to Odd, Terri and her Elvis obsession...and of course Odd, who is the most well-mannered fry cook who sees the undead that you will ever meet. This is a compelling series: full of mystery, intrigue, on-going plot lines from book to book, and the always satisfying tying of loose ends of current dilemmas. I highly recommend this enter series.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Book of Hours by T. Davis Bunn

Castle Priory is a crumbling Oxfordshire mansion, one Brian Blackstone's wife considered a place of extraordinary enchantment. But for Brian there is no enchantment, only the burden of trying to honor Sarah's dying wish that he hold onto the property. With the local doctor, Cecilia Keeble, Brian begins to explore the mysteries of the old estate. In the process he discovers a medieval secret which offers a key to renew his spirit and heal his broken heart. The power of prayer reaches through the centuries in a surprising and mysterious way…

My take: 3 looks
Gripping from the beginning, this was a very nice Christian fiction book. It was not in the least heavy handed, as Christian fiction so very often is, but was more concerned with the story telling than the proselytizing.

I found many spiritual truths in the book, and the characters were real and flawed. I am looking forward to reading my next Davis Bunn book.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What celebrities read

Some are interested in what a celebrity wears, or a new hairstyle, or their homes. Me? I want to know what they are reading.

I was disappointed but not shocked to find a lack of pics online of celebs caught reading. Mind you, I don't want the posed pics. I want them to actually be CAUGHT reading. When they think no one is looking, like Britney Spears, here, reading C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". I hope she read it to her boys, too.

Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine used to publish a yearly list of what celebs were reading, but they retired the list in 2008. Here is one reason: "We loved doing it, but it was getting harder and harder to have celebrities respond to our requests." Anne Davis, Director of Library and Info Svcs.

Actors are "artsy" by nature and I think that instills a love for books and the art of writing. It's good to see Snoop reading.

Don't these people realize what a statement it makes to be seen reading? Even if you don't care for their work, you have to admit that your opinion is probably raised a bit when you see them reading. I can't ever remember feeling that way when I hear what a celeb's favorite television show it.

Maybe it's because I love books. I want every one to love them. I don't love television. I like music, but I don't care what they are listening to. Why is that? Because I love books. I want to read what others are reading and discuss it with them. I want to see what the hubbub is about with a popular book or series.

I'm not sure where I am going with this other than I want celebrities to read more in public. I think that it would encourage more common folk like me to read, and I know it would put a book in the hand of more than one teen who looks up to a celeb. I'll care what they read later. After all, baby steps.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Launched in November, Dell's Kurt Vonnegut reissue program continues with one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

My take: 4 looks
How I made it to my 46th year without reading this book, I do not know. It is listed as the 18th greatest English language novel of the 20th century by Modern Library. At the very least, I should have had to read this in high school or my ENG 101 in college.

It is touted, as seen above, as one of the world's great anti-war books. I would have to heartily disagree. I would say that "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien is far superior to this book, and can only assume that the Modern Library's list was created prior to its publication in 1990 (although I seriously doubt it).

Slaughterhouse-Five is a satire and, with the intent of pointing out vice or folly, certainly serves that end. However, the delusions of the main character became, for me, more of a caricature rather than a statement on the far-reaching effects of war on the soldier's psyche. While the Tralfamadore aliens were probably the Germans, the zoo's geodome posed as the slaughterhouse and Montana Wildhack a juxtaposition to Valencia, I thought it too exaggerated and comical to be taken seriously.

Although, is that Vonnegut's point? War is, at its heart, so ridiculous that the only thing we can do is present it as such? After all, this seems to be nothing short of an autobiographical novel, since Vonnegut himself was a prisoner of war, surviving in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker and being one of a very few survivors of the bombing of Dresden. His personal experience was the batting for this book's odd quilt of a story.

With that said, Vonnegut can write what he wants, as he had certainly earned the right. He can portray the war, and any war for that matter, as the fodder of fools masked as aliens. He can convey, in his broken, psychotic and delusional way, the total annihilation of city and soldier, regardless of whether the legs still stand. What did I walk away with? No one ever wins a war.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

100 Best First Lines from Novels

I came across this list today from American Book Review. I have included the top 10, but if you'd like to see the rest, click on the link here.

1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Banned Books

This pretty much puts an end to any and all banned books:

 The U.S. Supreme Court considered the First Amendment implications of the removal of the book, among others, from public school libraries in the case of Island Trees School District v. Pico, [457 U.S. 853 (1982)], and concluded that "local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to 'prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.'"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

From the American Library Association, these are the top ten.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

I'm not quite sure why I am on a "banned books" tirade at the moment, but I suspect it's the rebellious spirit in me making me want to read what others try to take off the shelves. If you'd like the see the entire list, click the link here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever..

My take: 3 looks
What a fun YA book! Unlike the other popular books which focus on dystopian societies (Ender's Game, Matched, Hunger Games), this book has an excellent underlying message about beauty's ideal, sway and ultimate price. It moves along at a nice pace, has plenty of adventure, and is completely believable. I gave a start at the end of the one, and will most certainly read the next in this series.

Ray Bradbury: 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury was, without question or supposition, one of my favorite authors.

His The Illustrated Man changed me, in that this is the first book I read, put down, thought of, remembered, recollected, and picked up again and again to read. "The Veldt", in particular...I could smell those smells, feel the humidity of the air and prickle at the arid wind on the land. Finally, I smelled the copper-penny smell of blood. It amazes me even now, years later, that the story is still so much with me.

That is master storytelling.

Bringing science fiction to the general public was quite a feat, and introduced unsuspecting readers like me to a wider range of authors such as Arthur C. Clark, Philip H. Dick and H. G. Wells.

My pick for a Pennsylvania book club one month was Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. I didn't know at the the time that it was semi-autobiographical and was pleasantly surprised that the story was not at all like the others of his I had read. I loved the book. The rest of the club hated it. ha!

Fond memories of this author.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski

Meet June Parker. She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds. But June’s life is about to change. After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe, and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written, “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.” Even though they barely knew eachother, June is compelled by both guilt and a desire to set things right and finish the list for Marissa. The tasks before her range from inspiring (Run a 5K), to daring (Go braless), to near-impossible (Change someone’s life), and as June races to achieve each goal before the deadline, she learns more about her own life than she ever bargained for.

My take: 3 looks
The perfect beach book, this one is a very quick and easy read. Which may be exactly why I am giving it three looks. There is nothing notable, ground-breaking or revealing. You know she will finish the list. 1/2 way through you foresee the guy she will eventually choose, and you know things with DeeDee will probably not turn out as expected. What I did like about the end of the book is how she finally crossed off #3: Change Someone's Life. That was worth reading alone.