Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Past Year in Reading

I started 29 books this year, finished 27 of them. This sounds really lightweight considering some of the book blogs that I have read today…where people have read anywhere from 100 to 200 books in the past year. I am feeling good about averaging over 2 books a month! In my defense, however, I do feel like I read some really BIG (long) books. I am gearing up for a great 2009 for reading. My official plan is to retire at the end of May, so let the reading begin!

Summary of 2008:

I read the last 4 Harry Potter books. I am not including them in my Top favorites list, because they are just a given!

22 of the books I read this past year were written by women, 7 by men; I find that interesting, but not surprising. However, 2 of the men made my Top lists.

My Top 5 favorites of 2008:

The River Wife-Jonis Agee

The Gravedigger’s Daughter-Joyce Carol Oates

In The Woods-Tana French

The Stand-Stephen King

Home-Marilyn Robinson

The Outlander-Gil Adamson

Sarah’s Key-Tataina De Rosnay

Ok, I couldn’t limit it to 5, so it is a Top 7 list!

And the runner-ups are:

No Country for Old Men-Cormac McCarthy

The Road-Cormac McCarthy

Those Who Save Us-Jenna Blough

Year of Fog-Michelle Richmond

The Worst Thing I’ve Done-Ursula Hegi

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox-Maggie O’Farrell

I have quite a list already of books that I would like to read in 2009. However, I am not into commitments right now, so we will just have to wait and see what I end up reading! There will never be enough time to read all that I want to read. I am over halfway finished with The Tenderness of Wolves. I am betting that it makes the Top list next year. More to come on that!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh, the Joy!

About 55 years ago, my Uncle Bill noticed a little 4, almost 5 year old, girl who knew how to read and loved books. He had a friend who owned a bookstore and so for each birthday of the little girl’s childhood, Uncle Bill had his friend send a book to the little girl. One of the early books sent was The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff.

Jump ahead 25 years and the little girl now has 3 children. When the youngest was born, he was given an elephant that became his best friend for many years (yes, even at age 28, the elephant is part of his family).

Now, go about 30 more years. That once little girl now has 4 grandchildren (yes, I am the little girl, now age 59). The youngest of the grandchildren is Lucy, who at age 4 ½, discovered The Story of Babar in Grandma’s bookshelf about a month ago. The book is inscribed “To Alex, our favorite little boy. Merry Christmas 1985.” Lucy has had Grandma read and reread the book to her. I now have it wrapped up under the tree to give to Alex this year again, so he will have it for his own children when they begin to arrive!

Here’s a sad thing, well, actually a couple of sad things. A few weeks ago I was shopping with my 2 daughters and my daughter-in-law and I mentioned that I wanted to get a copy of The Story of Babar for Lucy for Christmas. My daughter-in-law (who I might as well call my daughter she is such a wonderful addition to our family) had never heard of Babar until Alex had told her about him! I couldn’t even imagine that! Then when I went to Barnes and Noble to choose a Babar book, the only one that they had was The Story of Babar. They don’t carry any of the other books, because there is no interest in them. I was so sad! No interest in them??? Ask Lucy about that!

Last night, Lucy was at Grandma’s house, which is all decorated for Christmas now, and she discovered Babar and Father Christmas laying under the tree with the other children Christmas books. You cannot hardly imagine the feeling of that little girl calling Grandma in to read it to her in bed before going to sleep. She laid her head on my shoulder and knew all the names of the characters. It was heaven! A third, generation of Babar lovers!

By the way, if there happen to be any of you out there who don’t know about Babar, or would like to read about the history of Babar, check this out:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sarah's Key

Sarah’s Key by Tantiama De Rosnay. I found this to be an amazing story. It was very easy to read, with short chapters that alternated between the present and some true events that occurred in Paris in July of 1942.

The story begins with Sarah, who was an 10 year old French Jewess girl, living in Paris in July of 1942 when the French police gathered up the Jews (men, women and children) and sent them to the Velodrome d’Hiver stadium. As the police came to their apartment to get them, Sarah locked her 4 year old brother in a secret cabinet in their apartment, telling him that she would be back soon to get him. In the past, when people had been taken away, they returned either that day or the next day, so Sarah thought she would be returning, and took the key to the cabinet with her. However, this time was different.

The families were not provided any food or water or facilities in the stadium, and people began dying. The only positive thing was that the families remained together there. Sadly, after a couple of days, the people were loaded on cattle cars and sent to Drancy, then to Auschwitz.

Meanwhile, the book jumps forward to Paris in 2002. Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is married to Bertram Tezac, a Frenchman, and they have an 11 year old daughter, Zoe. Julia has lived in Paris for the last 25 years. She is assigned to do an article on the 60th anniversary of the round-up. As she begins researching the time, she learns of a family connection and of a little girl, Sarah. Julia becomes consumed with the story and seeks out any information that she can gather.

I don’t want to tell too much more about the story. I found myself picking up this book any spare moment that I had…it was that intriguing to me. However, I have to admit, also, that it had many interesting connections for me…I have always read a great deal about the Holocaust in general, with a special fascination with the French part of it. Julia’s research entailed a great deal of genealogy type work, which I am obsessed with. And the different family dynamics and connections, played right into my psychotherapist role! Another attraction to the book for me was the instant recognition and comfort level that Julia had with one of the characters. I am fascinated with reincarnation, and that fit well with my beliefs of people that we have known before we were born.

I also became so interested in the story that I had to do a little research of the time for myself. Here is an excerpt from one of the articles that I found:

Jewish Paris

By Toni L. Kamins, June 2001

In the 15th arrondissement, not far from the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, between Quai Branly and Quai de Grenelle is a memorial to a shameful chapter in French history – the Place des Martyrs Juifs du Vélodrome d’Hiver, dedicated in 1994. It was nearby, on the rue Nélaton, that the huge Vél d’Hiv was located. An indoor stadium used for six-day bicycle races, concerts, boxing matches and other events, it was from 1942 until its demolition in 1958, one of the most infamous places in all Paris. Early in the morning of July 16, 1942, the French police, acting under orders from the German Gestapo (headquartered at the Hotel Lutetia on the Blvd Raspail), wrenched over 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children from their beds and brought them here. Kept under horrendous conditions for days, they were shipped to the transit camp at Drancy (outside the city) and then to Auschwitz.

I have to admit that I was so moved by this story that I cried at the end of it. I haven’t been so touched by a story for a long time. This book will stay with me for a long time. It very accurately portrays the sadness and pain that keeping family secrets can cause. It also proves my oft-said point-that nothing is ever a secret.

For anyone interested here is the link to Tatiana de Rosnay’s blog:


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Do you want to hear about...

Do you want to hear about books that I have read that I didn't really care about?

I just finished the Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain and I feel like it wasn't even good enough to bother writing about. I did finish it, but don't know why. I kept complaining about it and my husband ekpt suggesting that I quit reading it, but I did read it all anyway. It never got better.

Anyway, I would appreciate feedback from readers if they want to hear about the books that I felt were a waste of my time.

The Outlander

The Outlander by Gil Adamson. How I wish I could write like this! Another first novel by a very gifted author. I will definitely keep my eye out for more books from her.

The Outlander is the story of a 19 year old married woman (Mary Boulton), who in 1903, had enough of her abusive husband, and shot and killed him. She knew that her two brother-in-laws would not allow the death (ok, murder) go unpunished, so she began a life of running. She heads toward the mountains to avoid capture by the brothers, who want to avenge their youngest brother’s death. Mary suffers from auditory and visual delusions, which add to her despair. She flees both from her delusions and her would-be captors.

Mary came from a fairly well off family, but married into poverty. After her baby died, her depression escalated and she retreated further into her mad mind. In the snowy mountains of Idaho and Montana she nearly dies several times. She is found by William Moreland, who is referred to as “the Ridgerunner” and they begin a tenuous relationship. He is a long-time frontiersman who lives in the mountains and exists in the wild. He left civilization long ago. As he and Mary become closer, he leaves.

She then begins her wandering again and comes to a town where she has been told to find “the Reverend”. He takes her in and is much of a father figure for her. Meanwhile, Mary’s brothers-in-law are still on her trail.

I really am not giving the story justice with this synopsis…it is an excellent story, and so well-written that I never wanted to put the book down. It is along the lines of Cold Mountain, which I loved!

I guess the highest praise that I can give it is to say that I will definitely read this book again. It was that good!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Books for Christmas

Are you buying books for gifts for others this year? (Of course, you are buying books for yourself...who could not, if you enter a book store?). so far, I have bought 3 book gifts, but have some others in the plans.

I also bought 2 October birth grandchildren books for their birthdays. I had not heard of either of the books, but one was about Pyramids for 7 year old Chris and the other was about a girl starting 3rd grade for Lexie, who just began (you guessed it) 3rd grade!

Then my daughters had birthdays in November and they each received books that I have requested to read when they have finished them!

I would be curious to know what books are you giving for gifts this year? I will share that the 3 I have bought so far are Babar, a Betty Crocker cookbook for Kids, and Jon Meacham's The Last Lion.

Who By Fire


Who By Fire by Diana Sprechler is her first novel. I can’t wait to read more of her work! The book is about a family and the tragedy of a six year old little girl missing. Bits and Ash were children when their younger sister, Alena, was kidnapped. How each member of the family dealt with the tragedy is extremely well presented in the book. It portrays the grief and desperation of a mother, and the confusion and guilt of the children. And, in its own way, tells how the father dealt with the grief issues in a healthy way. Ash has always blamed himself for the incident and grew up to grasp at Orthodox Jewish religion, breaking communication with the family and moving to Israel, playing out another disappearance to deal with for the family. Bits has gone on as a rather lost girl, becoming promiscuous at an early age, and going off with any man trying to find herself.

Thirteen years after Alena’s kidnapping, her mother calls Bits to tell her that Alena’s remains have been found and she wants Bits and Ash to return home for a memorial service. Bits sets off to find Ash.

I’m not telling anymore about the book! You really need to read it! It is about family tragedy, resilience, religion, and love. Each chapter is narrated by one of the three main characters, which makes it very easy to read.

As a side note, at the end of the book there is conversation with the author where she answers questions and discusses the writing of the novel. She mentions frequently two of her good friends in the conversation and one of the friend’s names is “Aryn”. I mentioned it to my daughter Maggie and she asked where the author went to school. I told her Montana and she said then that has to be Aryn Kyle, our friend who wrote The God of Animals! Then as I turned the book over, there on the front cover, is a quote about this novel by Aryn Kyle! Who knew that Montana had such wonderful writers!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Yes, I finally read the final book. It was sad to be done with it, but what a great series of books. If JK Rowling was a friend of mine, however, I would have requested that this last book (Year 7) actually be done in 2 books. It is a HUGE book! And since I do a lot of reading in bed at night, it got to be downright dangerous! If I accidentally would fall asleep while reading, that was a really heavy book to fall on my face! Plus it was just plain heavy to hold while reading in bed. I had just finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which was also a HUGE book. I’m lucky to have survived them both without any bruises!

Anyway, I have gone on and on about the Harry Potter series before, so you know how much I have loved the stories. I even convinced both a son-in-law and my daughter-in-law to read them! It is great fun to share great reads with others!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Amazon's Top 10 Lists

Amazon came out with their top picks of books for 2008. They have several different lists and categories, but I focused on the Editor’s Top 10 and the Customer’s Favorite Top 10 books of the year. (You can check all of it out at their web site:

Anyway, here are the Top 10 Editor Picks:

The Northern Clemency

Hurry Down Sunshine


The Forever War

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Likeness


So Brave, Young, and Handsome

The Lazarus Project

The Ten-Cent Plague

My comments: The only one that I have read is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I liked enough to agree with it being in this top 10 list. I haven’t read any of these others, but there are a couple of them that I plan to read, specifically, The Likeness by Tanya French, who wrote In the Woods, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I also really liked Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, so I am inclined to try reading his new book on this list, So Brave, Young, and Handsome.

I have no interest in reading anything about Richard Nixon, so unless someone convinces me that I would really like Nixonland, no thanks! The Forever War is about the war in Iraq and Afganistan and with having a son who served in the US Marines and went over with the first wave when the war in Iraq began, that war is still just too close to me to be able to read about it and enjoy the book.

I am also interested in reading The Lazarus Project after reading what Amazon reviewers wrote:

“In The Lazarus Project, his most ambitious and imaginative work yet, Hemon brings to life an epic narrative born from a historical event: the 1908 killing of Lazarus Averbuch, a 19-year-old Jewish immigrant who was shot dead by George Shippy, the chief of Chicago police, after being admitted into his home to deliver an important letter. The mystery of what really happened that day remains unsolved (Shippy claimed Averbuch was an anarchist with ill intent) and from this opening set piece Hemon springs a century ahead to tell the story of Vladimir Brik, a Bosnian-American writer living in Chicago who gets funding to travel to Eastern Europe and unearth what really happened. The Lazarus Project deftly weaves the two stories together, cross-cutting the aftermath of Lazarus's death with Brik's journey and the tales from his traveling partner, Rora, a Bosnian war photographer.”

Now compare the Editor Picks with the Top 10 Customer Favorites:

Breaking Dawn

The Last Lecture


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Appeal

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

In Defense of Food

The Revolution

The Host

From this list, I have also read In Defense of Food, which I recommended that readers borrow from their local library, not buy! (See past review on this blog).

My comments on this list: I would like to read The Last Lecture, but other than that, none of the other books appeal to me. However, if anyone has read any of them and can convince me to try them, I am game! I would guess that The Appeal by John Grisham is good, as always.

I would enjoy any comments on these lists. If you are interested, go to the Amazon site. They have the top 100 available, so you don’t have to be limited to just the Top 10!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Going out on a limb here.....

A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. It was awarded Time Magazine Best Book of the Year, and was the winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and one of the Ten Best Books of the Year from the New York Times Book Review.

The author lives in Oslo, Norway and the book is set in Norway. It is told by a 67 year old man, Trond Sander, who, after his wife has died, moves to a remote cabin in the place where his father used to take him as a child. One evening he sees a man outside and realizes it is someone from his childhood and that begins to bring up many memories and questions for him.

I liked the book, but when I began reading other reviews of it, I got pretty confused. Was this the same book that I read? My impression of the book was that Trond's father was working for the Resistance during WWII, when he disappeared. Was that not correct? Did I miss something in the book? Others wrote about the others in that area being Nazi's, etc. Really? How did I miss that?

I guess at some point I will reread this book. It was a good story, so I am not opposed to reading it again. I hate to think that I read a whole book and missed the whole point.

Please, someone else read this book and tell me your thoughts!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Plain Sense of Things

The Plain Sense of Things by Pamela Carter Joern

The Plain Sense of Things is a series of 17 stories about the same family. I was hesitant to pick up this book, because I don’t usually like reading short stories, but since the stories were supposed to be all related to each other, I decided to give it a try. I think that was a mistake on my part. I had a lot of trouble remembering the characters. It seemed to me that none of the characters ever got developed enough to make them memorable for just the couple of days that it took me to read the book. I couldn’t keep them straight. That’s pretty bad. And I don’t think that it was me!

This is a story that covers about 50 years. In the beginning of the stories, the family is struggling living on the prairie in Nebraska. It seems that whichever family was being written about in any particular story continued to struggle through-out the 50 years. But I never really cared about any of them or their struggles, because one, I couldn’t figure out who was who, and two, the author never let me get to know any of them well enough to care.

Luckily, it was a quick read, and there may have been some good “lessons” or something in there, but I sure missed the point.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I read 43 books in 2005 and have selected 8 as my favorites of the 43 I read. As you can probably tell right away, I was on a Jodi Picoult reading marathon when I first discovered her work. Excellent stories and writer! There is always a good twist to her stories.

And, if you keep up with reading my blog, you already know that Gilead is one of my all-time favorite books. (Only beaten by To Kill A Mockingbird). However, after having read her next book recently (Home), it may have taken over second place, moving Gilead to third. I will have to re-read Gilead again!

Gilead-Marilynne Robinson *****

Strange Fits of Passion-Anita Shreve

Cavedweller-Dorothy Allison

Blackbird House-Alice Hoffman

Shoot The Moon-Billie Letts

Vanishing Acts-Jodi Picoult

My Sister’s Keeper-Jodi Picoult ***

Mercy-Jodi Picoult

I almost always like books by Anita Shrive and am a big fan of Dorothy Allison’s writing. I am kind of hit and miss with Alice Hoffman, but I like her work enough that I will always try her newest books. I really liked Blackbird House.

So there you are. I have noticed from other blog about books that I follow that many of the blog authors have reading 100 books a year as their goal. Do this people work? Have a home? Have a life? I may aim for that goal in retirement, but for right now, just not going to happen! Wouldn’t you love to be able to have the time to do that??

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Memory by Philippe Grimbert

Memory is an interesting book. It apparently is the fictionalized true story of the author (a psychoanalyst) who was born in post WWII France and raised by his parents there. The parents had a small shop and in the same building was their good friend Louise, who was like a close aunt to the boy. The first line of the novel is “Although I was an only child, for many years I had a brother.” And so begins the story.

The author’s family history was hidden from him for many years until at age 15, he learned the truth from Louise, who could no longer keep it from him. While reading the book, I kept thinking of collective memory and how at some level this boy knew that there had been another child. When he was young, he had been in their attic with his mother and found an old stuffed toy that he would carry around with him. He must have gotten pretty clear messages from his parents not to ask questions about the past. He invented an older brother while he was young and established quite an imaginary life for the brother, who was all that he was not. And when the truth was revealed, none of the imaginary life was imaginary…it was real.

From Amazon:

Product Description
Twenty years after his mother and father jumped to their deaths from a balcony, Philippe Grimbert has written a gripping novel about the hidden memories that dominated their lives. A colossal bestseller in Europe, Memory is the story of a family haunted by the secret of their past: an illicit love affair, a lost child, and a devastating betrayal dating back to the Second World War.

The day after my fifteenth birthday, I finally learned what I had always known...Growing up in postwar Paris as the sickly only child of glamorous athletic parents, the narrator invents for himself a make-believe older brother, stronger and more brilliant than he can ever be. It is only when the boy begins talking to an old family friend that he comes to realize that his imaginary sibling had a real predecessor: a half brother whose death in the concentration camps is part of a buried family secret that he was intended never to uncover.

A spare, erotic, and ultimately cathartic narrative, Memory is a mesmerizing tale of coming to terms with one's shameful past through the unraveling of a series of dark desires.

--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.

The book only took a couple of hours to read. It is a very small book, but quite intriguing. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Home by Marilyn Robinson

This book almost broke my heart. It is a very simple and complex story. I know that sounds contradictory, but it isn’t in the book. The story is set in the town of Gilead and concerns the Boughton family. Marilyn Robinson’s last book, Gilead, was about the Rev. John Ames family. (It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005). Home is about Rev.Robert Boughton’s family. Rev. Boughton and Rev. Ames are life-long friends. Rev. Boughton is retired, and physically not well. His wife had died sometime before and none of his children had settled in Gilead. His daughter, Glory, is single and comes home to care for him, as he begins to settle into old age. Soon, messages come announcing that his son, Jack, is coming home. Jack had not had contact with the family for the past 20 years. Even when his mother died, no one heard from him. No one knew what had become of him. He had always been a mystery to the family, kept to himself, etc. Yet there was something about Jack that everyone loved, cherished and missed terribly when he was gone.

Jack finally shows up and is reluctant to make himself part of their little family. He still tends to keep to himself and carries around the feeling that he is not worthy of these people. It appears that Jack’s drinking is the scourge that Jack carries around, but I think that the real scourge is his feeling of never fitting in with the family. At one point he makes a comment about remembering when he was young watching the others (his siblings) going in the back door like they belonged there and how envious he was of that feeling. As soon as he arrived at home in Gilead, he talked about when he would be gone again, leaving no doubt in Glory’s mind that he would not be staying for long.

Meanwhile, the book is also examining the Rev. Boughton’s struggle with dying and his struggle with forgiveness for his most beloved son. At one point, Glory tells her father that it was hard for Jack to come back to them and he should be kinder to him. Her father responds: “Kinder to him! I thanked God for him every day of his life, no matter how much grief, how much sorrow-and at the end of it all there is only more grief, more sorrow, and his life will go on that way, no help for it now. You see something beautiful in a child, and you almost live for it, you feel as though you would die for it, but it isn’t yours to keep or to protect. And if the child becomes a man who has no respect for himself, it’s just destroyed till you can hardly remember what it was-. It’s like watching a child die in your arms.”. A little later, Rev. Boughton is talking about seeing Jack’s mother in heaven and says “I was hoping I would be able to tell her that Jack had come home.” , to which Jack whispers, “I hope you will give her my love.” Heartbreaking.

Another theme running through the book is watching Glory struggle with the awakening knowledge that this has become her life. She will never have the husband and children that she dreamed of, but will live the rest of her life in Gilead in the home where she was raised. Probably always waiting for Jack to reappear.

This is a book of great sadnesses. Yet, it also a book about great love.
And I loved the book.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Night Without A Good Book.....

you might as well shoot me. After I finished The Stand (outstanding book), I was left with that awful dilemma of needing a really good book to read. It is so difficult to find a really good book when you just finished one. I started reading Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart a couple of nights ago. Just hasn't grabbed me.

So, back to the bookstore today and, of course, in my panic for a really good book, I bought 3 new books:

Out Stealing Horses
The Plain Sense of Things

Never mind that I have 6 non-fiction books sitting by my bed waiting to be read, and 3 non-fiction books that I am in the midst of.

If you are a reader (and why else would you be reading this blog? for the outstanding pleasure of my prose?), then you will understand that I have to have a good novel to be reading at all times. And by that, I mean, that I am never without a novel of some sort that I am reading. I'm afraid that I would lie awake in bed all night if I didn't read first.

Anyway, I am very eager to start a new novel tonight. Which will I choose? Easy, I will be reading Home by Marilyn Robinson. She wrote my second favorite book, Gilead, so I have great expectations for this book!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Stand

THE STAND by Stephen King

I know that you must think that I had either dropped off the face of the earth or had quit reading altogether, but it’s not so. As stated in an earlier blog, I decided to read The Stand by Stephen King in 1978. SO?, you say. Well, for starters, I picked up the complete and uncut edition (of course, what great reader would choose a digested version?) and guess how many pages the uncut edition is? Yep, 1141 pages of the smallest print probably possible! I mean, we are talking a BIG book.

Was it worth it? Did I complete it? Oh, my goodness, what a good book! Yes, it was worth it and I did complete it. Now, I am kind of eager to watch the video version just to see how well (or not) they cover the book.

It is an amazing book. I have always thought that Stephen King was a master of character development (although that is based on just the couple of his books that I have read), and he really came through with it in this book.

The premise of the book is that an accident occurs in a government facility in California and a “superflu” is released. Everyone at the facility dies of it, except for one man who was able to escape the facility before it was locked down. He grabbed his family and headed east. By the time he reached Texas, he and his family had already infected others and the original source family died in Texas. But the superflu is well on it’s way to destruction. About 99% of the country ends up dying of it.

However, 1% of the population appears to be immune to it. Those people began having dreams. They dream of an old, old lady called Mother Abigail living in Nebraska who seems to be calling them to her. They also dream of a “Dark Man” whose face can’t be seen, but he seems to be an evil force.

Several groups of people from the East coast set out seaparetely to go to Mother Abigail and thus, the journey begins. The people aligned with Mother Abigail end up in Boulder, CO and begin remaking society. Meanwhile, there are also groups of people who decide to join forces with the Dark Man in Las Vegas NV. It is classic good and evil.

What I found to be “scary” about the book was the actual possibility of 1) a superflu actually existing and 2) being exposed to the superflu. The first couple of weeks that I was reading the book, everytime I was out in public and someone coughed or sneezed, I froze for the briefest moment. It became that real to me!

I definetely recommend this book, but again, it is really long! Well worth it, but long!

Note: It was interesting to read this after reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy earlier this year. Very similar themes about survivial after the country's holocaust occurs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rush Home Road

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

Rush Home Road is another first novel book. I am SO amazed at the number of really good first authors out there. Gives me great hope for wonderful reading in my retirement!

Rush Home Road is the story of a five year old little girl, Sharla Cody, who is dumped off at Addie Shadd’s small trailer in Chatham, Ontario Canada by her mother. Addie is about seventy years older than Sharla and is fearful that she cannot keep the young girl for long. When Sharla comes to live with her, Addie begins to enter the stage of reliving her life in her mind often, including talking out loud to some of the people in her life who have passed on. Although she has not returned to her home town of Rusholme since she was herself a child, she remembers all that happened to her there and why she thought that she could never return. The author, Lori Lansens is from Chatham and reported in her Reading Group Guide that the southern part of Ontario was a terminus on the Underground Railroad. In the book, Rusholme is a town settled by fugitive slaves from the US seeking freedom.

There are a lot of different themes in this story, and the author tied them all together well. It is basically a book about love and forgiveness, but there are also significant themes of “lost children”, racial attitudes, and death, as Addie tells her story. It is a good story and a book worth reading. I did feel like the end tied up a little too neatly and quickly, but overall, I recommend the book for light reading.

Monday, July 14, 2008

World's Oldest Blogger and AOL's Top 10 Books

A couple interesting items that I saw today and just thought that I would share.

First of all, the World's Oldest Blogger died at age 108 today. Here’s the story from Reuters:

updated 11:06 a.m. CT, Mon., July. 14, 2008
CANBERRA, Australia - An Australian woman renowned as the world's oldest blogger has died at the age of 108, with her last posting talking about her ailing health but also how she still sings a happy song every day.
Olive Riley, of Woy Woy about 50 miles north of Sydney, began blogging in February last year, sharing stories from her life during the two world wars, raising three children on her own, and working as a station cook in the outback.
The physically frail but mentally alert Riley won an international audience with her blog, The Life of Riley (, and series of videos posted on YouTube with her talking and singing.
‘It kept her mind fresh’
Riley was said to be the world's oldest blogger as she was 12 years older than the previous titleholder, Spain's Maria Amelia. She was born in 1899 and would have turned 109 in October.
"She enjoyed the notoriety -- it kept her mind fresh," her great-grandson Darren Stone of Brisbane told local newspapers.
"She had people communicating with her from as far away as Russia and America on a continual basis, not just once in a while."
Riley had posted more than 70 entries on her blog -- or "her blob" as she jokingly called it -- since February last year. She set up the site with the help of a friend who entered her posts for her.
In her last and 74th post ( on June 26 she spoke of moving into a nursing home and of her ill health, saying: "I still feel weak and can't shake off that bad cough."
She spoke about singing "a happy song" with a visitor to the home as she did every day and said she had "read a whole swag of email messages and comments from my internet friends today, and I was so pleased to hear from you. Thank you, one and all."
She died in the nursing home on Saturday.

So now that means that I have to continue this blog for over 50 more years to beat the record and become the world’s oldest blogger. I accept the challenge!

On an unrelated note, today AOL listed the Top 10 Books to Read Before You Die. I have no idea who actually thought up the list, but I sure question some of their choices. See what you think:

Gone with The Wind-of course, a good book, but in the Top 10 to read before you die? Come on!

Lord of the Rings-I have not read any of this series; someone, what have I been missing? Right now, I am still not convinced that I need to read them.

Harry Potter-being in the Top 10? goes without saying. They are destined to be classics.

The Stand-I haven't read it, but it may be my next read. The books that I have read by Stephen King (not many) have been outstanding writing, so I may have to give this one a try.

The DaVinci Code-again, a good book, but Top 10?

To Kill A Mockingbird-My All-Time Favorite Book. It should be required reading for everyone beginning at age 12 and every couple years thereafter.

Angels and Demons-that’s a crazy choice. I did think that it was better than the DaVinci Code, but still….

Atlas Shrugged-may be my 2nd All-Time Favorite Book. Good choice!

Catcher In The Rye-never read it…have I missed anything with this one?

The Holy Bible-a good read.

So, that’s the list that AOL came up with. I can’t even imagine figuring out my top 10 list, but maybe after I am retired I will work on that. It will be hard! I am not sure that I could ever limit my list to 10.

Monday, July 7, 2008

In The Woods

In The Woods by Tana French

In The Woods had me up at night, reading while eating, considering calling in sick to work so I could read, etc. I could hardly stand to put it down! It was just that good. What seems really odd to me is that, once again, this is a first novel for the author. There are some REALLY good new authors out there! Makes me look even more forward to retirement! Good books to read and the time to read them...Heaven!

Anyway, this is a mystery novel...about 20 years earlier in Ireland, 3 children go out to play in the woods, but they don't return home. The police are called and one of the boys (Adam Ryan) is found gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing his blood-filled sneakers. He is unable to remember anything that has happened and his 2 friends are never found. Now enter present time, and that little boy had changed his first name to Rob, kept his past a secret, and went on to become a police detective. A 12 year old girl is found murdered in the same woods, and he and his partner, Cassie Maddox are assigned the case, which has some significant similarities to the case from 20 years ago.

Rob now finds himself back in that part of Ireland that he left years ago and brief memories of long-buried incidents return to him. Through-out the book, Rob is struggling with dealing with memories and/or lack of memories. It is interesting to follow the struggles he has as they begin to affect all areas of his life...personal relationships, work relationships and self-relationship (I just made that word up...but you know what I mean, don't you?).

The writing in this novel is great. Her writing style grabbed me right from the beginning. The end is somewhat different and that has upset some readers. I found the ending to be quite realistic and real-life-ish (another made-up word--no wonder I'm not an author). Some things were resolved and some weren't. There is speculation that the ending was left for a sequel, but I am not sure that will be the case.

Whether there is a sequel to this novel or not, I am definitely looking forward to her next book!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Year of Fog

The Year of Fog is Michelle Richmond’s third novel, but the first one that I have read. The story is about Abby, a photographer who is engaged to a man who has a six year old child, Emma. They live in San Francisco. Abby took Emma to the beach one day while she was shooting photographs. It was a foggy day at the beach and while Abby was photographing a dead baby seal on the beach, Emma ran up ahead and then disappeared.

While this is a mystery novel that involves Abby never giving up searching for Emma, it is also a very interesting study of memory. I found this to be a quite captivating take on the story. Emma studies all that she can find about memory, convinced that there is something that she saw that she needs to remember in order to find Emma.

This is a good novel, with several themes going on, including the nightmarish tragedy of a child missing, the study of memory and the impact on relationships that such tragedies impose. I also thoroughly enjoyed all of the San Francisco background and history in the book…so far my most favorite city that I have visited.

What I also found interesting is that the novel is based upon a happenstance incident that occurred to the author. She wrote about it in the San Franciscan Gate. I include the article below.

One more side-note: I was reading a magazine review of a book the other day that sounded very good and I decided to write down the name of it in order to remember that I want to read it…it is by the same author! (The book is called No One You Know.)
The original article can be found on here:
Sunday, April 29, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
The Stories We Tell
Michelle Richmond
Emma Balfour walked into my life in the summer of 2003. Our paths collided
on Ocean Beach, the 3-mile stretch of gray sand and graffiti-spattered
seawall marking the western edge of the city.
It was a cold day and the beach was buried in dense fog, the kind of fog
that makes you feel as if you are lost in some strange dream. It was in
this bleak landscape that the child appeared, wearing a red sweatshirt,
blue jeans rolled up to her calves, no shoes. She was carrying a small
yellow bucket. Although she was only 6 or 7 years old, she appeared to be
alone. She had long black hair, blue eyes, dimples.
She bent down, picked something out of the sand and laid it gently in the
"Hi," I said.
"Hi." Her voice was sweet and raspy, completely unguarded.
"What are you collecting?"
"Sand dollars," she said seriously, holding out the bucket for me to
examine. At the bottom lay a single, perfect sand dollar.
I reached down and touched it admiringly. "Lovely."
"I know!" she said, returning to her search.
I continued walking slowly, turning around every few steps to glance at
her. I kept waiting for an adult to appear. None did.
Then something caught my eye -- a shape in the sand, a dark crescent
several feet away. I went to examine it. It was a dead seal pup, partially
covered by sand.
A minute or two later, I turned back toward where the girl had been, but
she wasn't there. She had disappeared into the fog. If I had not talked
with her and heard her raspy voice, if I had not felt the rough sand
dollar with my own fingers, I might have believed I had dreamt her up.
I never saw her again. But something had happened; this stranger had
walked into my imagination, and she would not go away. For the next few
weeks, I thought of her several times a day. Finally, having nowhere else
to go, she stepped into a novel. I had not planned to write this novel. In
fact, having recently completed my first, I was rather determined not to
write another one. But there she was, the mysterious girl on the beach,
demanding my attention.
Three years and almost 400 pages later, I had figured her out. I knew what
she was doing at Ocean Beach, why she vanished and what happened to her
afterward. I had given her a name, Emma Balfour, and I had uncovered her
secret history. In the process, I had uncovered secrets about San
Francisco as well -- the mass grave beneath the swank Lincoln Park Golf
Course, for example, and the broken tombstones that make up parts of the
gutter at Buena Vista Park. I had come to understand my neighborhood, the
Outer Richmond, and its previous life as the Outside Lands, once home to
sand dunes and bordellos. I discovered that the windmill at the
northwestern edge of Golden Gate Park, where I often take my toddler son
to play, once pumped the water that turned the desolate sand dunes into
lush greenery.
By the end of my fictional journey, I had also learned a thing or two
about myself, for the places we love are a key to our own inner workings.
My husband grew up in the Bay Area, left for seven years and returned. I
am one of the many who grew up somewhere else, arrived and immediately
recognized San Francisco as home. But I never really knew my adopted city
until I began seeing it through the eyes of my characters. Its hills and
hideaways, its woods and water, lend to it a magic and mystery that is
missing from the flat Gulf Coast landscape of my childhood. And while the
balmy waters and gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico beckon swimmers, the
wild Pacific in these northwesterly climes does just the opposite. It is a
place for rugged surfers armed with wetsuits and surfboards, not
swimsuit-clad children with floatees. The beach itself is strewn with
glass and garbage and the ashes of illegal bonfires. Not long ago, a
homeless man was found dead on Ocean Beach, suffocated by the shifting
sand. When I take my son there to play, I always have an eye out for
potential dangers.
Which is perhaps why the girl stayed with me: She was a version of myself
from nearly three decades before, but in a drastically altered context. On
one hand, I felt a bit jealous. How different my life would have been had
my parents chosen to stay in the Bay Area, where my father's naval ship
was stationed during Vietnam, instead of returning home to Alabama. On the
other hand, she called to mind buried fears about raising a child in the
It is possible that Emma -- not the actual girl on the beach but the one
she became, in my novel and in my imagination -- was a product of my own
deepest fears, as so many of our stories are. A child vanishes into the
fog -- truly, a parent's worst nightmare. Like a Wes Craven flick or an
amusement park house of horrors, the stories we read, and the stories we
tell, serve as a repository for the unthinkable. By way of story, we
relegate the terrible to the realm of the imagination. And then we rely on
the flimsiest of things -- vigilance and good luck -- to keep it there.
Michelle Richmond's novel set in contemporary San Francisco, "The Year of
Fog," is just out from Delacorte and has been optioned by Newmarket Films. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

This is an amazing book and one that I will definitely return to in order to read it again. It was written in It is the story of a father and son walking through a burned out America. They push or drag a cart with the little that they own, including any scavenged food that they can find, as they try to walk to the coast. They have a pistol to defend themselves when they come across “the bad guys” who try to steal whatever goods they might find on others. The story never tells what has happened to destroy the country, for that is not what the story is about at all. It is about love and survival. It is amazing. I highly recommend this book!

This book was published in 2006 and won the 2007 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction.

Taken from the back of the book:

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, ‘each the other’s world entire’ are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, The Road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.”

If you have read my other posts, you will know that I did a review on No Country for Old Men, also by Cormac McCarthy. His themes in these two books are very basic and touching. I found this short biography on him at the Barnes and Noble website:

Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island. He attended the University of Tennessee in the early 1950s, and joined the U.S. Air Force, serving four years, two of them stationed in Alaska. McCarthy then returned to the university, where he published in the student literary magazine and won the Ingram-Merrill Award for creative writing in 1959 and 1960. McCarthy next went to Chicago, where he worked as an auto mechanic while writing his first novel, The Orchard Keeper.
The Orchard Keeper was published by Random House in 1965; McCarthy's editor there was Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's long-time editor. Before publication, McCarthy received a traveling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he used to travel to Ireland. In 1966 he also received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, with which he continued to tour Europe, settling on the island of Ibiza. Here, McCarthy completed revisions of his next novel, Outer Dark.
In 1967, McCarthy returned to the United States, moving to Tennessee. Outer Dark was published by Random House in 1968, and McCarthy received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing in 1969. His next novel, Child of God, was published in 1973. From 1974 to 1975, McCarthy worked on the screenplay for a PBS film called The Gardener's Son, which premiered in 1977. A revised version of the screenplay was later published by Ecco Press.
In the late 1970s, McCarthy moved to Texas, and in 1979 published his fourth novel, Suttree, a book that had occupied his writing life on and off for twenty years. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981, and published his fifth novel, Blood Meridian, in 1985.
After the retirement of Albert Erskine, McCarthy moved from Random House to Alfred A. Knopf. All the Pretty Horses, the first volume of The Border Trilogy, was published by Knopf in 1992. It won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was later turned into a feature film. The Stonemason, a play that McCarthy had written in the mid-1970s and subsequently revised, was published by Ecco Press in 1994. Soon thereafter, Knopf released the second volume of The Border Trilogy, The Crossing; the third volume, Cities of the Plain, was published in 1998. McCarthy's next novel, No Country for Old Men was published in 2005. This was followed in 2006 by a novel in dramatic form, The Sunset Limited, originally performed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago and published in paperback by Vintage Books. McCarthy's most recent novel, The Road, was also published by Knopf in 2006.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Have You Heard This One?

Never Argue With A Woman

One morning, the husband returns the boat to their lakeside cottage after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, puts her feet up, and begins to read her book.

The peace and solitude are magnificent. Along comes a Fish and Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, 'Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?' 'Reading a book,' she replies, (thinking, 'Isn't that obvious?'). 'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her. 'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.' 'Yes, but I see you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman. 'But I haven't even touched you,' says the Game Warden. 'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.' 'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

2008 Summer Reading?

Looking for some summer reading? Below are the recommendations from Barnes and Noble. There are a couple listed here that sound interesting that I may read. However, out of the 17 listed, I only found 4 that interest me. I would be curious to hear from others if they have read any of these. The ones that I think sound good are ***.

Summer 2008 Selections (from Barnes and Noble):

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Hardcover) ***
In this haunting debut, one musician's act of courage serves as a catalyst in the midst of a war-torn city.
The Outcast by Sadie Jones (Hardcover)
Upon his release from prison in 1950s London, young Lewis Aldridge confronts both familial and societal hurdles.
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff (Hardcover)
In this heartrending memoir, a father struggles to help his teenage son overcome an addiction to meth.
Tell Me Where It Hurts by Nick Trout (Hardcover)
A day in the life of a veterinary surgeon -- full of humor, heartbreak, and astonishing technological advances.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Hardcover) ***
This firestorm of a first novel employs numerous voices to depict a tale of southern history, tragedy, and romance.
The Well and the Mine by Ginny Phillips (Paperback) ***
The ripple effect of a baby thrown into a well reveals the racial and class divisions in a southern coal-mining town.
The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace (Hardcover)
The relationship between wine collectors, hubris, deceit, and folly is exquisitely decanted in this illuminating work.
God's Middle Finger by Richard Grant (Paperback)
A travel writer succumbs to the dangerous allure of the Sierra Madre in this harrowing yet often humorous book.
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (Hardcover)
A historical painter's redemptive career is revealed in the pages of this mesmerizing debut novel.
Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan (Paperback)
Marriages -- both Arranged and Love -- are explored in this unforgettable novel of family history.
Bitter Sea by Charles N. Li (Hardcover)
In an unforgettable trip through Chinese history, Li details his youth as the son of a political prisoner.
Enders Hotel by Brandon R. Schrand (Paperback)
Schrand's memoir of his youth in a decrepit Idaho hotel serves as a counterpoint to Eloise's life in the glorious Plaza.
Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey (Hardcover)
Dovey's brief yet bold novel explores the bonds of loyalty between a deposed dictator and his faithful servants.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Hardcover)
This rollicking political satire skewers Middle Eastern politics, American intervention, and religious hypocrisy.
Bicycling Beyond the Divide by Daryl Farmer (Hardcover)
Farmer's two treks across the western states -- 20 years apart -- offer a unique view of progress on several fronts.
The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen (Hardcover)
A self-confessed sweets fanatic takes readers on an adventurous journey through the world of taste and imagination.
The Outlander by Gil Adamson (Hardcover) ***
A recently widowed young woman flees west to escape her vengeful in-laws in this poetic historical novel. (Note: of course this sounds good...the author has the same name as my maiden name!)

Then I found the list on the summer debut novels of 2007, last summer. I have read none of them, and have only ever heard of 2 of them. Am I that out of touch? Because I have read some really good books over the past year. Anyway, I think that I will keep these 2 lists and perhaps keep my eyes open to finding at least some of them to read. I will keep you posted! Please leave a comment if you have ready any of the books on this blog post. So far, I am 0 for 27.

The Early Word on Summer’s Debut Novels (2007):

The Précis: Vanity Fair deputy editor’s novel about a Brazilian shoe-shiner to downtown businessmen who stumbles on an insider-trading scheme.
THE HEADMASTER RITUAL By Taylor Antrim (Houghton Mifflin; July 9)
The Précis: Hypereducated (Stanford, Oxford) freelancer’s novel about a tony boarding school with a sinister headmaster.
THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES By Stef Penney (Simon & Schuster; July 10)
The Précis: The 38-year-old’s Jack London–style tale is set in nineteenth-century northern Canada—a highbrow, atmospheric murder mystery.
THE SAVIOR By Eugene Drucker (Simon & Schuster; July 17)
The Précis: A lead violinist from the Emerson String Quartet writes about a young violinist forced to play for dying concentration-camp inmates.
THE SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ By Dalia Sofer (Ecco; August 1)
The Précis: Jewish-Iranian immigrant’s fictionalization of the fate of Jews in the early days of the Iranian Revolution.
LOTTERY By Patricia Wood (Putnam; August 2)
The Précis: Ph.D. candidate who lives on a sailboat in Hawaii wrote Lottery on the advice of mentor Paul Theroux. A retarded man wins the Washington State lottery.
LOVING FRANK By Nancy Horan (Ballantine; August 7)
The Précis: Former resident of Frank Lloyd Wright territory (Oak Park, Illinois) fictionalizes the architect’s scandalous affair with the wife of a client.
THE CHICAGO WAY By Michael Harvey (Knopf; August 21)
The Précis: The executive producer of A&E’s Cold Case Files tries his hand at a Chicago-based thriller about—what else?—a cold case that turns red-hot.
GIFTED By Nikita Lalwani (Random House; September 11)
The Précis: An Indian-Welsh former BBC director invents a genius child whose overbearing immigrant parents try to get her into Oxford at age 14.
MAYNARD AND JENNICA By Rudolph Delson (Houghton Mifflin; September 18)
The Précis: A former lawyer writes a sort of fictional oral history— with a huge cast of narrators—about a meet-cute love affair set in post-9/11 New York.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

This is the author’s first novel, and it will be very interesting to see if she can live up to the standard of writing that she delivered in Those Who Save Us. From the little bit of research that I did, I found that Ms. Blum is of German descent and is half Jewish. She worked for the Shoah Foundation for four years, interviewing Holocaust survivors. It is quite interesting to know this background after having read the book.

The story alternates between war-torn Nazi Germany and the present. For the past 50 years, Trudy’s mother, Anna has refused to talk about her life in Germany during the war. Trudy was three years old when she and Anna were liberated by an American soldier, who married Anna and took Anna and Trudy to Minnesota to live. Trudy’s only link to her past is a family portrait she found in Anna’s possessions of Anna, herself and a Nazi officer.

A good synopsis of the story from Publishers Weekly:
“The narrative alternates between the present-day story of Trudy, a history professor at a Minneapolis university collecting oral histories of WWII survivors (both German and Jewish), and that of her aged but once beautiful German mother, Anna, who left her country when she married an American soldier. Interspersed with Trudy's interviews with German immigrants, many of whom reveal unabashed anti-Semitism, Anna's story flashes back to her hometown of Weimar. As Nazi anti-Jewish edicts intensify in the 1930s, Anna hides her love affair with a Jewish doctor, Max Stern. When Max is interned at nearby Buchenwald and Anna's father dies, Anna, carrying Max's child, goes to live with a baker who smuggles bread to prisoners at the camp. Anna assists with the smuggling after Trudy's birth until the baker is caught and executed. Then Anna catches the eye of the Obersturmf hrer, a high-ranking Nazi officer at Buchenwald, who suspects her of also supplying the inmates with bread. He coerces her into a torrid, abusive affair, in which she remains complicit to ensure her survival and that of her baby daughter. “

The book is similar to Sophie’s Choice in the sense that Anna has to make life-decisions that are the kind of choices that no woman ever wants to be forced into making. It is about choices women have to make to save their children. The book begs the questions of what happens when a women has to ignore her own sense of right in order to save herself and her child? What are the future implications of such choices? Can a woman live with those choices? Can those choices ever be understood by others?

It is never really clear how Anna felt about her choices. Obviously, she was always and forever unwilling to discuss the past that she had. But it is not clear exactly why. I would suspect that she felt guilt for being with the Nazi officer, and I also think that at times she may have cared for him and felt guilt over that. After all, she kept the photo of the family all those years.
The book leaves one wondering: What would I have done to save my child? And how would I have lived with the choices?

I found the book especially intriguing as it involved seeking the past, which is my second (only to reading) addiction. Genealogy is seeking the past. Some say the past history of one’s family is not their business. Yet we are formed by our family’s past and how can we understand who we really are without knowing the past? This book is a good example of that. Once Trudy uncovered the real truth of her past, it would completely alter her conceptualization of who she is and what her life would become.

I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down, which is the comment that runs through all of the reviews I have seen of the book. I read it during dinner, instead of watching TV, late into the night, etc. It is really that good!