Thursday, November 27, 2008
This can be about books, sure–authors you appreciate, books you love, an ode to your public library–but also, how about other things, too? Because in times like these, with bills piling up and disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock of the things we’re grateful for. Family. Friends. Good health (I hope). Coffee and tea. Turkey. Sunshine. Wagging tails. Curling up with a good book.
1. fleece pajamas
2. Starbucks chai
3. sudacare shower soothers
4. fur elise
5. a picture of my baby neice dressed in fairy wings, big blue eyes
7. pumpkin candles
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I didn't really like it. I think if it would be a great book for a preteen, which is the age group it was written for. I did attempt to read the second book in the series (There are four total: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras). But it still fell flat and the dialogue and character development and the author's writing style was bland. (The sentence in Pretties, "Maybe losing blood made you starving." finally made me cringe and close the book for good).
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Edward, an old man at the end of the story, thinking back to this night:
"When he thought of her, it rather amazed him, that he had let that girl with her violin go... Love and patience - if only he had had them both at once - would surely have seen them both through. And then what unborn children might have had their chances, what young girl with a headband might have become his loved familiar? This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing."
How sad to think that the course of an entire lifetime can be derailed so easily. I think Ian McEwan is very wise.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Edgar's dog, Almondine, has been with him since he was a baby. When Edgar was an infant (and he couldn't cry because of his loss of vocalization), Almondine was the only one that could hear the tiny rasping noises he made when crying. Almondine would nudge Edgar's mother and then she would know that he was hungry, or tired, or wet. Edgar calls Almondine his soulmate and they are together constantly.
Dogs play a very important part of the story and I was reminded of The Call of the Wild. I think the author may have been inspired somewhat by Jack London's story.
This is a beautifully written book. The author is a master story-teller. The characters are vivid and real and each character has a very distinct, believable personality.
I fell in love with Edgar. The poor kid has been through some disastrous things but he is still smart and determined and self-sacrificing all the way through. He deserves every good thing that the author could have put down on paper. That is why the book was so disappointing.
I can't say more without giving the ending away, just that it was a crash and burn ending and a book that held my greatest admiration for 500 pages just ended in disappointment. I know every story doesn't have to have a happy ending, but I don't understand what the point was of luring the reader into turning the pages one by one in quiet amazement, and then... that's it?? That's what happens?? Bummer.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
So you can see from the beginning that the book is largely about social conventions and the class system.
Lucy is the younger of the two women - Charlotte is her cousin, her chaperone on the trip, and kind of an old maid. During their stay in the hotel, Lucy keeps running into these two men that everyone else has ostracized. She gets to know George and they kiss. When Lucy returns back home, she gets caught up in an engagement to a man named Cecil who she doesn't have any feelings for, but she goes along with it because her family approves of the match.
Through a random twist of fate, George also ends up in England near Lucy's home and they meet again. Lucy decides she must tell George to leave her alone, but instead something else happens.
My favorite character in the book was George's father, Mr. Emerson. He always cuts to the chase and he tells Lucy exactly what she has been trying to ignore - that she has two choices. She can keep everyone in her family happy and make her own self miserable by doing what they tell her to do or she can admit that she loves George and can find a lifetime of happiness in marriage to him.
There was also some neat references in the book back to "rooms" and "views" and I think if you dig deeper you will find something meaningful. Many times a character is mentioned in the context of a room or some characters are talking about the view. I think there was some kind of comparison to liberal, forward-thinkers versus conservative thinkers. There are probably all kinds of layers and themes in this book that you can find. I think if I read it again in the future I will try to pay attention to these things and see what I can find. This book is actually a very mild book without much to recommend it at first, but if you linger over some of the themes I suspect you will find more than meets the eye.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?
If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?
This is a hard question to answer... I would rather argue the side of libraries over bookstores. But I do buy reference books that I am going to refer back to over and over. I also buy the classics... usually just the Penguin edition, but they are nice to own. And I love buying children's books because kids will read a book hundreds of times over.
But I go through books pretty fast so I'm lucky it's a free hobby, thanks to the library! I know people will say that they buy books to give back to the authors, but libraries also buy books. I have requested my library to buy several books that they didn't own, and so far they have purchased every book I've requested. When a new book becomes popular, like an Oprah endorsement or the Booker prize, they order at least 50 copies so there are plenty in circulation. And they work really hard to turn children into readers and those kids do grow up and eventually purchase books like any reader does.
If you are thinking about Christmas shopping and you have kids on your list, buy books!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Claire Waverly comes from a long line of Waverly women who are each blessed with individual gifts. Claire spends her time in the garden gathering herbs that have all kinds of magical side effects - Honeysuckle allows you to see in the dark, Lemon Balm brings you back to your childhood, Angelica calms hyper children (I would love that one!) She has her own succesful catering business and a happy, quiet life until her younger sister shows up, needing a place to live. Of course, there's lots of romance and an interesting storyline and all that, but the best part is that this is a Southern Fictional story operating under a few new guidelines.
The apple tree in the story is a character in itself, causing all kinds of mischief behind people's backs. There's lots of tidbits to make a humdrum fictional story into something as delicious as one of those apples - men who are in love trailed by a hazy, violet light, an old women who walks around town giving people just what they need - a men's shirt, a ball of yarn, two quarters, a mango slicer. I loved that not only the Waverly's have a magical gift, but every family in the story has something that stands out about them.
I think she has done the same thing with The Sugar Queen, can't wait to read it!
They gave the kitten a grand name - Dewey Readmore Books - and a very important job - professional greeter and permanent tenant of the library.
Dewey made the library his home and snoozed on top of the warm copy machine, skirted ladders and ceiling lights, curled up in any willing patron's lap - or right on top of the open book or newspaper they happened to be reading!
All of the information about libraries and how they are run was almost as fascinating to me as Dewey's story. Books and cats - they just go together, don't they?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
A 13-yr-old girl boards a ship alone to travel to her family in the Americas. She gets caught up in all the violence onboard between the sailors and the captain and she becomes a shipmate herself.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The author's style is to write a story around a painting. A young girl goes to work as a maid in the painter Vermeer's house and he ends up painting her, causing all kinds of disruptions and outrage in the household. I also enjoyed The Lady and the Unicorn by the same author.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
A young adult book about a princess who is sent to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom. Her lady-in-waiting and the guards who are escorting her try to kill her so the lady-in-waiting can pose as the new queen. The princess disguises herself as a goose girl and lives among the peasants until she can reveal her true identity.
The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
A woman loses her husband to cancer and leaves behind her home in Chicago to start a new life. She buys a house on a whim, opens her own business, and reconnects with some old friends.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Jonas' world is orderly and safe. Every person's actions are carefully monitored and controlled to ensure the wellbeing of the community.
Jonas has been chosen by his community to be an apprentice to The Giver. As The Receiver, Jonas is to receive from this elderly man all the memories the world has ever contained.
When The Giver lays his hand on Jonas to transfer memories, Jonas is stunned. The apple his friend tosses to him is suddenly red. There used to be something that fluttered softly from the sky, it was cold and stinging, and it was called snow. There were once large, sorrowful animals that roamed the earth and they were called elephants. There was something else beyond comprehension that was called love.
After undergoing a year of these sessions, Jonas plots with The Giver to release all the memories back to all the people and then to flee the community. In the dark of night, Jonas sets off by bicycle into a world that he only knows through others' memories.
If you didn't read this in sixth grade (as my husband did), then you missed out (as I did) and you should read it now.
Madame Wu, the head of the family, decides that after she reaches her 40th birthday, she has fulfilled her duties as a wife and mother and will retire to pursue her own interests. She remembers her father-in-law sharing the family's library with her and forbidding her to read certain books that were intended only for men. She decides that she would like to spend the remaining half of her life reading those books in the library. She finds a small wife for her husband and then moves into her own separate rooms.
Madame Wu finds a priest, a foreign man from Venice, to tutor her in a little bit of English and they also talk of philosophical things. Madame Wu is blown away by his way of looking at the world, a way of respecting the individual's right to follow his dreams. She introduces these concepts to her family, and slowly the family untangles itself from one another and each person begins to follow their own path. A few of them work together towards a vision of building schools and hospitals in their poor community, others just grow fat and lazy, and one of them is struck by tragedy.
It's been awhile since I read The Good Earth, but I think I enjoyed this book better. It's very easy to read, each character in the book is unique and vividly drawn, and the overall message is a good one.
This is my 100th book of the year (#100 completely by accident, but at least it was a book I thoroughly enjoyed)!
Friday, October 31, 2008
One young woman, Eleanor, jumps at the chance to have an adventure and leave the confines of her sister's house. She drives slowly to Hill House, drinking in all the new scenery and imagining herself living a carefree life.
I loved the banter back and forth between the houseguests and their reactions to the stoic housekeeper who only seems to be able to say three things, "I clear the table at 10." "I will not come if you scream in the night." "That's not what I was hired to do."
Eleanor slowly loses her mind during her stay in the house and the story gets creepier every time you turn the page.
Oh, and now my future daughter must have a cup of stars to drink her milk in. There's just no other way.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
That's the best part about reading library books - they already come equipped with the torn pages, chocolate smudges, bent corners, and frayed spines. If the book is new, then I have a lot of work to do! The only thing I won't do to a book is write anything in it - notes in the margins, underlining words, correcting grammatical errors, and even *cringe* highlighting stuff. It's the author's story, not mine! What they said is what they said and you shouldn't add to it or take away from it. That kind of annoys me while I'm reading and takes away my concentration from the book. Especially when the passages that they are underlining are mild parts that there is no reason to be underlining.
I read a book once where the person wrote questions to themselves all throughout the book - "What is the author saying? What does this word mean?" Translating words into another language and crossing out grammatical errors. And underlining passages that were so puzzling to me - why in the world did that person underline that when the next passage is so much more interesting? The actual story of the book faded into the background while I was dwelling on the person's inane comments. It was almost like reading two books at once.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I thought it was pretty good. Not as great as I was expecting. The imagery from times past was very nice - churning butter and swishing skirts and all that kind of stuff.
My favorite part: Tom and his father are working in the fields and the boy looks out on the endless fields he has plowed and the endless fields still before him. He quietly walks back to the house and lays down on his bed. His father goes to him and sits on the bed beside him. He tells his son that he knows what he is thinking and that he needs to think of a reason for living, something to make all that toil worth it. His wife is his reason for getting up and finding the strength every day to keep going. He asks his son to find a reason for living and the answer the boy gives makes the whole book worth it.
How they could tell if someone was a witch: Throw them in the water and if they drown, they are innocent. If they float, they are guilty and must be executed. Uhhhh... did people back then not have a logical bone in their bodies?
Also, I hate Cotton Mather after reading this book. At least his father, Increase Mather ("It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned"), worked to stop all of the witch trial hysteria. Although to be fair, I looked up Cotton Mather on Wikipedia and some people believe he actually worked to stop the Salem witch trials from happening, so who knows what the truth is. Just shows how easily people can be whipped up into hysteria and can be led to go along with almost anything.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Uhhhh.... okay... I don't really know what to think. I read to the middle of the book where Robert is in trouble and turned the page figuring he'd get out of it somehow. The next chapter was a story about a guy playing carnival games and the next chapter was about a guy planning his wife's funeral and the next chapter... wait a minute, what happened to Robert? Is that it? I flipped the book over and it says
I AM LEGEND
The complete novel, plus several more unforgettable tales.
Sooo...I think this is the only instance where I've ever thought that the movie was better than the book.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Peril the Second: Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
What most stands out in this story is the beautiful imagery and the relationship between the brothers. Norman is looking at the foam from the waterfall and thinking that "the speckled foam was eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on it." But then Norman says the giant fish frolicking around in that foam was a "lucky son of a bitch" that Norman was the one fishing and not the more talented Paul. There's enough of this guy-speak in the story to remind you that this is a story about brothers and not Walden Pond.
... "One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful." (p. 47)
And later... Norman and Paul go fishing together and they have to drag along Norman's brother-in-law, Neal, who brings a girl with him. The two brothers bury their beers in the bed of the icy cold river and then stand in the hot sun all day fishing. Parched with thirst at the end of the day, they go to retrieve their beers, but the bottles are missing. They walk back to the direction of the car in search of their beers and spot Neal and his girl passed out drunk face down in the sand, completely naked, their skin bright red from sunburn. The girl has a tattoo on her tush : (LO/VE)
And on his last day fishing, Paul is about the catch a whopper when his Presbyterian minister of a father lugs a giant stone into the water, scaring all the fish away. Paul smirks and goes to the other side to try again.
It's a novella and there are two other stories in the book. The second one is about Norman's experiences as a lumberjack and I skipped the third. This title caught my eye because I vaguely remember my parents watching the movie when I was a kid.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
His only clothing is a sheet that he wraps around himself and he lives off of energy bars, canned meat, and the occasional fish.
The world Snowman grew up in was taken over by scientists who biologically-engineered or modified everything they could get their hands on - food, animals, babies.
Eventually, one scientist created a whole new race of humans who had all of the undesirable human behavior programmed out of them. These new humans, called the Children of Crake, are pretty naive about the dangers in the world and it is Snowman's job to protect them. Snowman is also one of few surviving humans left in the world.
The book seems to go nowhere at first, with the backstory unfolding slowly as Snowman hallucinates, ruminates, and dreams up in his tree. He finally decides that he needs to go take a walk back into town to stock up on another energy bar or two. He makes it back alive just in time to discover that the Crakers have encountered other humans. Annoyed, Snowman goes off with his spray gun to take care of them.
This book was just interesting enough for me to read it through to the end. Mostly, it was depressing and crude and I was glad when it was over, even though the ending was weak.
The Children of Crake are on the same path that the humans before them went down.
So what was the point?
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Stephen takes his 3-yr-old daughter to the supermarket and when he turns around after paying, she is gone. The aftermath of how he and his wife grieve and eventually heal is heartbreaking, but there is a happy ending. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author. His writing style is beautiful and seamless and I lingered over many of the passages. A lot of his insights into human nature are so simply worded and spot-on. Wow. I really loved this book.
But why is there a picture of a teddy bear on the book when Kate carries around a stuffed donkey, not a bear?
Here are my favorites from these past couple of months:
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A meteor hits the moon, knocking it off its orbit and the moon moves closer to the Earth, becoming gargantuan in size. Panic ensues, the world goes to chaos, climate goes haywire, and pandemic and shortage of food and clean water leaves many people dead. Miranda and her mother and brothers struggle to survive.
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Someone lent this one to me earlier this year and I just now picked it up to read it. It is a psychological thriller that starts off with an event that will get your heart pumping. You read the book believing one thing but there is a twist at the end where you discover that nothing in the story is as it appeared. I was expecting some kind of twist so I figured it out in the middle, but it was still a good read. The book is about a social worker who is researching a box of photographs. In the beginning of the story, she is attacked while bicycling and that ties into the events that come later. Hard to describe. It's one of those books where you're turning the pages backward almost as much as you're turning them forward.
Silas Marner by George Eliot
This was such a gentle story and very easy to read. I liked it. The story is about a weaver who has to start a new life somewhere else after he was set up for a crime he didn't do. In the new town, Marner doesn't socialize with anyone and he becomes a hermit. He accumulates a lot of wealth from working long hours and his gold is his only friend. He is robbed one night and feels like all is lost. Then, a baby girl whose mother died in a snowstorm toddles into his house and he adopts her. He finds new joy in raising his daughter and even feels like his gold was restored to him through her golden hair.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
This is a war account and not very entertaining or riveting, but the comradeship between the soldiers held me until each character left the story through their own personal tragedy. The writing is also very beautiful and there are many quotes I went back to over and over. I was surprised to see that it's translated from German -it flows together so well.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
A story set in the future where society is strictly controlled and people are arranged by hierarchy. The story is told by a Handmaid, whose role is to bear children for the childless Wives. A frightening story.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The premise sounds kind of ridiculous - flesh eating plants taking over the world. Still, I don't read much science fiction but I really enjoyed this.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Take any old local legend of a haunted house still occupied by two ghostly women and make it true. The two occupants of the house happily tidy up the rooms, preserve jams, bake, and make clothes out of odd materials all while the local townspeople wonder whether or not people really do live in that house.
I hope everyone who is participating in the challenge has a great time!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I am staying at my uncle's house and he is pressuring me to marry some jerk just because he is rich. I am secretly in love with my cousin but he just treats me like a child. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)
I just married my third husband Tea Cake. We have fun harvesting beans and he only beat me that one time. (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Maggie's Uncle Morris is like the Cheshire cat, appearing unexpectedly and saying the oddest things that only confuse and annoy the poor girl. Maggie seems to be the only sane creature in the book, even though she is the one hearing voices in the walls and chatting pleasantly with haunted china dolls.
This was a cute book and reminded me of another book I read when I was a kid. It was also about a girl finding a haunted dollhouse in an attic. I think it was called The Dollhouse Murders, but I'm not sure.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
"The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance makes heaven drowsy with the harmony..."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I really struggled to get through this book. I finally put it down and just read it in bits and pieces in between reading other books. I was really hoping he would get something out of the experiment at the end. Maybe he would convert to Christianity or embrace his Judaic roots. I figured there would have to be some kind of spiritual payoff after going through all this trouble. Instead, he had a very nice moment at a Willy Wonka bar mitzvah where he just felt happy and loved everyone. Then, he cut off his beard and returned the Bible he had been using. And that's that.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Here are my top 10 favorites so far this year:
- The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev
- The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
- The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
- The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
- Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice
- The Coffee Trader by David Liss
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel