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!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Country for Old Men

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.

I didn't really like the book much while I was reading it until near the end. I may have messed it up by seeing the movie first. The movie was outstanding and I highly recommend it. If I hadn't seen the movie, I would never have picked up the book to read. Just not my kind of reading. But I enjoyed the movie so much that I wanted/longed for more information about the characters. I was trying to conceptualize the main 3 characters and the movie left me wanting more. The book didn't really deliver that, although perhaps at the end, it did offer more about the Sheriff. But I was really interested in knowing more about Anton Chirgurh (perfectly portrayed by Javier Bardem), and the book didn't deliver. For the most part, the movie and book were completely interchangeable. I didn't feel like the book gave me any more insight into the movie. I do have to admit, though, I rarely, if ever, have read a book after seeing a movie. It is usually the opposite…I read a book, and then I want to see the movie.

I finished reading the book last night, and as I have mused on it today, I realize that I did get something out of the book. The character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (again, perfectly portrayed in the movie by Tommy Lee Jones) was that of a very old, wise soul. He seemed to realize that he didn't have it in him to continue to observe and deal with the evil that seemed to be permeating his world. He was ready to retire. He had seen enough.The book is about a drug deal gone bad in Texas country. Llewelyn Moss innocently comes across a massacre when he is out hunting and as he is looking around, finds a case full of money. Apparently, he thought that he could get away with taking the case and no one would be the wiser. He hadn't dealt with a character like the psychopath, evil Chirgurh. Meanwhile, the sheriff's boys are dealing with some other murders going on, and then come across the massacre and the chase is on.

The book is somewhat difficult to read at first…the author doesn't use punctuation, but I easily adapted to that. By far, I most enjoyed the chapters that the Sheriff was narrating. That is what saved the book for me. The Sheriff is aging and reflecting on all that he has seen and done. I certainly wanted to know more about the Sheriff’s life, but that may just be the therapist in me. The ending definitely left me with many questions, and perhaps a sequel is planned. I probably would read it if that were the case, although maybe the movie would be a better bet!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Best Reads of 2004

I read 43 books in 2004. I have picked eight of them to be my selected best read books of that year. Several of them were very popular books and with good reason! I thought that all of these books were very well written and interesting stories. I know that at least one of them was an Oprah pick (Back Roads), for those of you who like to follow her choices. Anyway, here are Sue's picks:

Drowning Ruth-Christina Schwarz *****
The Seduction of Water-Carol Goodman
The DaVinci Code-Dan Brown
The Time Traveler’s Wife-Audrey Niffenegger ****
Cold Mountain-Charles Frazier ******
One Thousand White Women-Jim Fergus ***
Back Roads-Tawni O’Dell
The Shadow of the Wind-Carlos Ruiz Zafon

By far, Cold Mountain was my favorite of this list, although Drowning Ruth is a very close second. I highly recommend any of these books. I don't think that the reader would be disappointed. Anyone who follows these posts closely would notice that Drowning Ruth was also on my 2001 list. A sign of a very good book indeed!

Anyone have any comments on these choices?

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.

I liked this book. I found it in the bargain books at Barnes and Noble and it was worth the price. (It is listed on the B&N website for only $2.98-can’t beat that for a good book!) It is a very simple, quick book to read, but I enjoyed the story and there were a couple of twists at the end of the book that I really did not see coming, and they added some more dimension and meaning to the story. Actually, this might even be a book that I might re-read at some time.

The following synopsis is taken from this website:

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend's attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for over sixty years. Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face. Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But Esme’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit? Maggie O’Farrell’s intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth will haunt readers long past its final page.

Esme was a very likeable, but mysterious character. (By mysterious, I mean, that I kept trying to figure out what her diagnosis might have been that kept her in the institution all those years.) Her sister, Kitty, also was speaking through-out the book, which at first was confusing, until I figured that out. But Kitty’s narration really added to the story.

This was a quick read, as I said before, but it was also one that I couldn't put down. I found myself reading later into the night than I usually do. The author really did a good job engaging the reader. I have not read any of her other books, but I would sure be willing to give them a try. Please let me know if anyone reading this has read any of her other work.

As many of the books that I read, I notice that a reader’s guide/book club guide is also available for the book.