Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Half of December Reading

Last year around this time, I had presented three books to my book group to chose from for the December selection.  Gilead by Marilyn Robinson was one of the three books presented, but not chosen.  This year it was my turn again and I presented Gilead again and to my great pleasure, it was chosen.  This was the third time that I have read Gilead (because I just really like it!).  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

Gilead is the name of a town in Iowa where the Rev. John Ames was raised and still lives in the story.  He is writing a journal to his young son (seven years old) because Rev. Ames doesn't seem to have long to live.  He is about eighty years old and is having some heart issues.  He wants to write a journal for his son to read, hoping to tell his son all that he would have told him if he were alive.  It is a story of three generations: Rev. Ames' father and grandfather, along with his own views and opinions.  The history told in the story is fascinating.  It goes from the Civil War to the twentieth century.  The journal also spends a lot of time discussing Jack Boughton, the son of Rev. Ames' best friend (who is also a reverend in Gilead).  It is a novel that explores the relationships between sons and fathers in a very intimate, revealing way. 

Two side notes:  1) I was very disappointed to have to miss the book group the evening that they discussed Gilead.  I am hopeful that perhaps we can discuss it briefly at the next gathering. 2) Ms. Robinson's next novel, entitled Home is a continuation of Gilead and, in my opinion, even better than Gilead.  However, I would strongly recommend that the novels be read in order.

I was anxious to read Tana French's latest novel Faithful Place.  Ms. French also wrote In The Woods and The Likeness, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Faithful Place did not disappoint.  Like her first two novels, it takes place in Ireland and is a mystery story.

Frank Mackey is a detective who had grown up poor in Faithful Place, part of Dublin's inner city.  As a very young man Frank fell in love with Rosie Daly and they made plans to run off to London to marry and live together.  The night that they were to meet and head off, Rosie never showed up.  It was always assumed that she had gone off without Frank and no one ever heard from her again.  Frank waited all night for her and when morning came and Rosie had not shown up, Frank left and never returned home.  Twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase was found behind a fireplace in an old abandoned house where Frank and Rosie would sometimes go.  Frank's sister contacted him and Frank returned home to try to find out what had become of Rosie.

This was a good mystery story and I am already looking forward to Ms. French's next novel!

Lastly, I read Crow Lake by Mary Lawson.  I had recently read The Other Side of The Bridge by Ms. Lawson and enjoyed her style of writing.  Crow Lake is also a story that takes place in Canada and is a good family study.

The Morrison family consists of the parents and four children.  Education has always been highly valued by the family and when the story begins, the oldest of the four children, Luke, is getting ready to head off to college.  Before Luke can get off, his parents are killed in an accident and Luke decides to give up his opportunity in order to stay there and keep the family together.  It is a great sacrifice and he is totally unequipped to handle the two youngest children, seven year old Kate and Bo, who is still a young baby.  The second oldest child, Matt is in high school.  Luke's expectation is that Matt will go on to college.  However, things don't go as planned and Kate ends up being the one in the family who gets her college education.  Throughout the story, Kate struggles to make sense of the events that occurred when tragedy of another family intersected with their own tragedy.

Another good book!

I have to share my good fortune here...I recently had a birthday and received gift cards to my favorite bookstore!  How lucky am I???

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Real Food and The Devil's Punchbowl

I searched several different bookstores and finally found a copy of Nina Planck's book, Real Food.  I can't remember where I saw/read it being recommended, but I found it to be an interesting read.  Of course, as you can imagine, the book is the author's defense of eating "real food".  Which I totally agree, is a good way to eat, no question about it!  However, I imagine that it would be rather difficult to locate raw milk to drink and, if I am not mistaken, it seems to me that grass-fed meat is fairly expensive.  Yes, I know that the cost is probably worth it...I just don't know if I am willing to pay the cost yet.  I may try's possible that the taste would make the cost worth it.

The book is 275 pages long, with  another 55 pages of references, etc.  The main gist of the book is on page 273, where there is a paragraph of the author's recommendations for eating.  As you would guess, she recommends generous amounts of fruits and veggies, wild fish and seafood, grass-fed meat, full fat dairy (ideally raw), only traditional fats, whole grains and legumes, cultured and fermented foods, and unrefined sweeteners. 

The book makes a compelling case for eating this way and there is a lot of interesting information about each topic.  I'm glad that I read it, and I will give consideration to her suggestions.

And once again, my wonderful library had another great Greg Iles book for me to read...The Devil's Punchbowl. It is another mystery set in Natchez, Mississippi with Penn Cage as the lawyer/author hero, dealing with several issues, including dog-fighting, kidnappings, etc.  It was a great read and I am anxiously awaiting the sequel that Mr. Iles has promised.  It is supposed to be out in 2011!  I won't go on more about the book, since I have read and reviewed so many other of his books.  Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this one!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

I just finished three novels that I blindly chose from the library...that is, I had never heard of either the titles or the authors.  Turned out that I really enjoyed two of them, and the third wasn't too bad.  I will begin with my "not too bad" read:

The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck had a very interesting premise.  The novel begins in 1945 and takes place in Germany.  A young mother, Helene, leaves her seven year old son in a railway station.  This is after they have survived the "horror and deprivation of the war years."   Helene never returns for her son.  Then the story goes back into Helene's childhood beginning before WWI.  It actually was a fairly interesting story, but I wanted it to tie up with the beginning of the book in a more definitive way.  The book did win the German Book Prize and was a finalist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Next I read The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson.  I enjoyed this book very much, and will try to find her first book, Crow Lake to read.  This novel begins in the 1930's with two brothers, sons of a local farmer.  One brother, Arthur, is the responsible, hard-working son.  The other brother, Jake, is charming, undependable and good-looking.  A defining moment occurs that changes everyone and everything for the brothers and their parents. (which I don't want to give away).  Later, a beautiful girl arrives in town and both brothers are quite taken with her.  Then the story moves ahead twenty years later, and a young boy in town goes to work for Arthur on his farm, and the past begins to unravel.  A very good read!

Lastly, I read The Odd Sea by Frederick Reiken.  This was also a very capturing read.  It is the story of Philip Shumway, a thirteen year old boy whose sixteen year old brother, Ethan, who just disappears one day without a trace.  It is a story about how a family survives having a missing child and/or sibling.  Philip and his three sisters try to make sense of Ethan's life and his disappearance, while his parents struggle each in their own way to survive the loss.  I found this book to be very meaningful and not sad and depressing, as the topic would lend itself to be.  I liked it very much.


My favorite of the three?  I would chose The Other Side of the Bridge!  It is really enjoyable to find new-to-you books (that is, ones that you have never heard of before) and find that you really liked them!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Way Behind!

I am way behind in blogging about my reading, so this blog will be a synopsis of the four books that I have read lately.  I batted 50% on these...two good, two not so good.

1. I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells-This was read for one of my book groups.  I didn't realize that it was a Young Adult book, but while reading it, I complained to my husband that it read like one.  Turns out that it was!  Anyway, I pretty much enjoyed it until about the middle of the book, when it is revealed who/what the serial killer is.  Suffice to say, I'm just not into monsters and demons.

2. The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald-I had read a very positive review of this book and was really looking forward to reading it.  Sadly, I read about 3/4 of it and just couldn't gather up enough interest to finish it.  It is four separate stories about four Jewish emigrants in the twentieth century.

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield-Now this was a good book!  I loved the combined genealogy, mystery and family relationships!  Right up my alley, so to speak!  An elderly, highly popular author, Vida Winter, hires a young biographer/bookstore worker to write Vida's biography.  Vida is ready to tell the truth about her mysterious past before she dies. I highly recommend it for a fun read!

4. The Last Child by John Hart-This was a long book, but I have to admit that I never guessed the ending as I read kept my interested and curious.  It is the story of a thirteen year old boy whose twin sister went missing a year ago.  Johnny Merriman is determined to find his sister and finds himself in some hard places as he works to find what has become of her.  Again, I highly recommend it!

I don't like that I only enjoyed two of the last four books that I have read.  I need to chose better!  Wish I knew the secret of choosing just the right book every time!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greg Iles' novels

I know that I keep writing about mystery novels by Greg Iles.  Because I keep reading them.  I just finished two more: Mortal Fear and Dead Sleep.  Somehow, someway, his novels have captured me.  Thankfully, there are still more for me to read!  One of the things that I love about his novels are that they are set in the South, usually Mississippi, and for whatever reason, I am always attracted to Southern novels (prior life?).  Anyway, if anyone is interested, here is a link to his website:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Four More Books

Yes, it is now the middle of September...I went to Orlando over Labor Day weekend specifically to visit the new Harry Potter park.  It did not disappoint!  It was great fun and I had a wonderful trip with my daughter, daughter-in-law and grandson.

While in Orlando, I began reading My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira.  I had seen quite a few reviews on it and when I saw it available at my library, I snatched it up and took it with me on my trip.  Luckily, I had brought another book, too, because Mary Sutter was a disappointment.  Admittedly, I didn't finish the book.  I read over half of it (a good try, I feel) and I just never cared about Mary or anyone else in the book.  Mary Sutter learned midwifery from her mother, but she wanted to learn more and become a doctor.  She was unable to get accepted into medical school or to apprentice with a doctor, primarily because she was a woman. When the Civil War broke out, she made her way to Washington DC to nurse wounded soldiers, still intent on becoming a doctor.  Since I didn't complete the book, I don't know if she ever realized her dream.  Nor did I care! Not a good sign for a book!

So then I began reading The Appeal by John Grisham.  This book was given to me as a retirement gift over a year ago, and I still hadn't gotten to it.  It was a small paperback, so thankfully, it fit well in my luggage and made the trip to Orlando with me.  I have read some of Grisham's other books, and none have ever grabbed me as much as A Time To Kill.  This one didn't either, but I did find this book to be very interesting.  The story centers around a case against a chemical company and is about the law, money and politics.  While I realize that the novel is fiction, my guess is that it is a pretty accurate portrayal of just how politics, law and money prevail in this country.  I was fascinated with how Grisham told the story of how a court seat could be obtained.  I suspect that the fiction is right on the truth!  Very interesting.  I was, however, quite let down by the ending, which only suggests my desire to have everything turn out right and fair!  Good book.

Back to the library for my next two books.  After The Appeal, I returned to Greg Iles and chose Turning Angel.  Another great read by Iles.  He is turning into one of my favorite mystery authors (not that I really had one).  In Turning Angel, Iles returns to Natchez, MS and to his earlier character, Penn  Cage (from The Quiet Game).  This time Penn's old friend Drew Elliot is accused of murdering his son's babysitter who Drew is having an affair with, and he asks Penn to represent him as his lawyer. This is a long book, but worth the time!

It is another of Greg Iles' books that I could not put down!  Great mystery, and I love the portrayal of Natchez.  I have never been there, but am planning a trip to New Orleans in the next year or so, and plan to go to Natchez just from reading his books!

And the last book that I have read is The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada.  It is a very small book and was a quick read.  It is typical of many Holocaust books that I have read.  That being said, it was a good story.  It is about a violin-maker in a concentration camp and his struggle to survive.  He is assigned to build a violin for his survival.  Would I recommend it?  Probably not, but only because there is nothing new or exciting about it.

I am getting ready to start The Art of Racing in the Rain which is the book chosen for my book group that meets next week.  Again, it is one of those books that has been out for awhile and I just never got to reading, so I am happy that it was chosen.  When we meet next week, it is my turn to present three books to be voted and chosen for our November meeting.  Can you guess what will be the three I will choose to present?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Quiet Game

After having read Blood Memory last week, I went on to my local library to see if they had any more books by Greg Iles.  Imagine my surprise when I saw almost a whole shelf of books by him!  I was thrilled!  I chose The Quiet Game to read and I chose a winner!  Great mystery story set in Natchez, Mississippi.

Penn Cage has returned to Natchez with his four year old daughter, Annie, to stay with his parents for awhile.  His wife, Sarah, died seven months earlier and he is a bit overwhelmed with dealing with both his feelings and Annie's emotions.  He wants Annie to have some time with his mother, and for both he and Annie to begin some healing.  However, upon his return, Penn learns that his father, a well-loved local doctor, is being blackmailed.  As Penn, a former prosecutor-turned-author, begins to investigate what is happening with his father, he comes face-to-face with an unsolved thirty year old murder, involving a black man, the FBI, local judges, etc.  The black man was killed in 1968 between the time of the killings of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  Is there a connection?

Meanwhile, there are some romantic things going on also.  A lost love from twenty years ago, and a brand new love interest.

This book has many twists and turns and kept me up reading late every night until I finished it.  I really like his writing.  As soon as I finish my next book, it will be back to the library for another of Greg Iles' books!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Cabin Reading

I am spending the week at my parent’s summer place on a lake in southern Indiana with lots of reading time available.  So far, I have read three books.  The first two books I had gotten at the Goodwill shop and had never heard of either of them.

The first book that I read was Surrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer, which came out in 1999.  I was completely under whelmed by this novel.  The funny thing is that when I checked on Amazon what year the novel was published, I noticed that it is now out-of-print and my first thought was, oh, I better hold on to this book!  On second thought, however, why?  I didn’t care that much for it.

Thirty year old Sarah is still in school, a graduate student studying Japanese history.  She is beginning to think that she might always be in school.  Her best friend is Adam, a gay playwright who has had his first major success. The story takes place as the month of   August begins, the month when Sarah and Adam, along with Maddie and Peter always rent the same beach house.  Maddie and Peter are married and have a seven month old baby, so the baby, Duncan, is new to their summer arrangement.  Also, this particular year, Adam has invited his newest boyfriend, Shawn, who is also staying at the house.  They all meet at the summer house sometime after lunch.  Sarah and Adam spend the afternoon unpacking and napping, while waiting for the others to arrive.

The group fixed a late dinner consisting of lobster and beer, and then later in the evening, they decided that they wanted ice cream from the local ice cream shop.  Adam and Sarah go out for the ice cream, and on the way home, Sarah is killed in a car accident.

All of this occurs in Chapter One.  The rest of the book is about how Sarah’s mother, Natalie, copes with her daughter’s death.  Sarah and Natalie were uncomfortably close, telling each everything (including their sexual exploits) ever since Sarah was a young girl.  Understandably, Natalie is devastated by Sarah’s death, and even refuses to allow Sarah’s friends to attend the funeral.  After the funeral, Natalie decides to go to the beach house to stay with Sarah’s friends in order to know/learn everything about Sarah’s life.

The rest of the book is about the week that Natalie is there at the beach house and how each of the people there deal with the loss and grief.  I just didn’t connect with it.  It may have been from the inappropriate, strangling relationship that Sarah and Natalie had.  I’m not sure.  I just didn’t care much for the story.

“Surrender, Dorothy” was the greeting that every phone call began with between Natalie and Sarah.  It was about their shared passion from the movie The Wizard of Oz.  I found that rather symbolic, both in terms of their relationship and in Sarah’s death.  But certainly an odd, strange way to begin every single phone conversation.

The second book that I read was Blood Memory by Greg Iles, published in 2005.  I could not put it down.  Great story!!

The first line of the book: “When does murder begin?”  That got my attention!

Dr. Catherine (“Cat”) Ferry is a forensic odontologist, which means that she specializes in bite marks.  Cat is well-respected in her field, but her private live is a mess.  She is alcoholic and has been quite sexually active over the years.  She is presently involved with a married police detective, and has learned that she is pregnant. There is a serial killer in New Orleans, where Cat lives and as she goes to each murder scene, she begins getting more disturbed with anxiety attacks, then passing out at one sight.  Cat flees to her childhood home in Natchez.    

Cat’s father was murdered when she was eight years old at the family home in Natchez.  She quit speaking for a year following his murder.  She was raised by her mother and they lived in the slave quarters of her grandfather’s home.  The grandfather is a very domineering, well-connected surgeon in Natchez.

When Cat arrives at her home, she leaves her bag of forensic chemicals in her room and the housekeeper’s great-granddaughter accidentally spills some of the chemicals on the floor.  Two bloody footprints show up on the carpet.  She begins to wonder if the footprints are related to her father’s murder decades ago.

Cat begins to have recurring nightmares, and begins to put some pieces of her past together.  Meanwhile, the investigations of the murders in New Orleans are pulling her back there, too.  Soon, it appears that the murders in New Orleans may be related to Cat’s history.

This is a book that delves into fascinating psychological issues, including disassociation and repressed memories.  I loved it.  And I couldn’t put it down!  I have to admit that it was quite evident to me early on who had killed her father and why, but that did not diminish my enjoyment of the book at all…Great read!  

And the third book that I finished is When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair by Geneen Roth.   As you may know, I read Women Food and God a few months ago (also by Ms. Roth) and loved it.  I had read some of her other books years ago, and, obviously, at the time, did not put them into practice!  Anyway, When You Eat at the Refrigerator is “50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When You Feel Anything But”.  It consist of 50 short chapters each devoted to removing obstacles that keep us from realizing who we really are and what our loves and strengths are.

I found this book to be very practical and very thought-provoking.  Randomly, some of the examples of the chapters are: Cultivate Curiosity, Act on Your Own Behalf, Carry a Chunk of Chocolate Everywhere, Wear Your Special Occasion Clothes Any Old Day, Lagniappe, When Things Begin To Fall Apart, Let Them…and so many more chapters.  You get the idea!

Whether you are focused on losing weight, or on feeling better physically or emotionally, I think that this book has much to offer.  Right now I would say that the chapter that has had the biggest impact on me is Be Fully Present for Five Minutes Every Day.  The point of that for me was to appreciate what is happening in my life right at the present moment instead of being caught up in what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future.  Just enjoy RIGHT NOW!

I found this to be a book of very relevant wisdom for happiness.  Ms. Roth is a humorous, wise writer!

So that is what I have read over the past few days.  I am still here at the cabin for at leasst another day, perhaps two.  What to read, what to read???

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Exile of Sara Stevenson

I sometimes (okay, often) wish that I were an author.  Then I would feel more like I have the right to be somewhat critical of other's writing.  But then again, I am a reader, so I guess that gives me some rights!

The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah is a "historical novel", taking place in 1814-1815.  I didn't care too much for the writing.  I stuck with the story waiting to see the promise of "boundaries between time and space unravel to forge an incredible connection between a woman and a man many years apart" (from the back cover).  That sounded pretty fascinating to me.  It ends up that it just didn't grab me.  I never found the story to be very believable.

Sara is a young women of a wealthy Scottish family who fell in love with Thomas Crichton, a common sailor.  She became pregnant with his child and they made plans to run off to be married, but the day that she is to meet up with Thomas to run away, he never comes.  Her family sent her away to an island to have the baby.  Sara continued to believe that Thomas would come and find her and take her away.  Meanwhile, upon the island is the lighthouse keeper, William Campbell.  After some time, Sara began to have interest in William.  About that time, letters began to arrive for Sara from an antiquarian from Oxford that contain some clues about Thomas.

I won't tell anymore of the story so if anyone cares to read the book, I won't spoil the ending.  Suffice to say, I was very disappointed with the ending.  I thought it was very weak.

Beatrice and Virgil

Ok, I have to confess it right here and now: I have not read Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  So I had no expectations for Beatrice and Virgil (also by Martle) when it was chosen by my book group for our August meeting.  Sad to say, that after reading Beatrice and Virgil, I am still no closer to wanting to read Life of Pi.

Beatrice and Virgil is a very interesting book, in that there is so much to ponder and discover.  I am sure that if I read it over and over, I would find more.  I think that there are many layers to the story.  My simple version of the story is that it appears to be an allegory for the Holocaust. 

from the front inside cover:
"Fate takes many forms...When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist.  As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler money-named Beatrice and Virgil-and the epic journey they undertake together."
Henry is an author who is working on a "flip book" about the Holocaust and the publishers are not interested in his book.  One day he recieved a large envelope with a copy of a short story by Gustave Flaubert, "The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitator."  Parts of the story were high-lighted.  Also in the envelope were papers clipped together that seemed to be parts of a play about Beatrice and Virgil-a donkey and a monkey.  There was also a note, asking for help.

Henry tracks down the sender of the envelope and finds an older man who has a taxidermist shop.  Thus Henry's adventures begin.

For me, the most interesting part of the book were the last few pages where "Games for Gustav" are.  I found them profound, disturbing and very moving.  I will list the first one for you.  There are 13 of them. 

Game Number One:
"Your ten-year-old son is speaking to you.  He says he has found a way of obtaining some potatoes to feed your starving family.  If he is caught, he will be killed.  Do you let him go?"
And they get harder than that as they go along. 

I know that this is not much of a review for the book.  I just found it too complicated and confusing to try to tell much of the story.  Do I recommend the book to readers?  No, I can't think of anyone that I would recommend this book to.  However, I am glad that I read it.  It certainly made me think.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Suspense Books!

I just finished 2 suspense/mystery books, not my usual genre, but they were both good.  To add to the pile, we also watched both versions of Cape Fear in the last week!  Maybe it is the heat that is getting to us.  We need good diversions!

I finished the trilogy with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.  It ended up being my least favorite of the three.  It was a very good story, but way too "wordy" seemed to me that the story could have been told in a 1/3 of the book size. In this story Lizabeth Salander does not play as prominent role as she did in the first two books, although, of course, the story centers around her.  The story was basically everyone trying to figure out how the government maintained such a large cover-up for so many years.  That is the incredibly simple version of my  summary of the book!

We watched the movie Shutter Island recently and I decided that I wanted to read the book to see if there was more to it.  Oddly enough, this is one of those very rare times that the movie was better than the book.  The book was ok and I kept trying to figure out if I would have liked the book better if I had not seen the movie, but I don't think so.  The story is of a Federal Marshall who goes to help find an inmate that has gone missing on Shutter Island.  The island is home to a prison for the criminally insane.  It is a really good story that has some good twists to it in the end.  If you are into psychology, etc. see the movie!  I guarantee you will enjoy it!  The book?  Again, not as good as the movie.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My new reading chair...on my new reading porch!

Check out my new reading chair!  My wonderful husband screened in the porch off of our bedroom this month and, of course, it makes for the most wonderful reading area!  So the search for the best outside reading chair began...I found just what I wanted at Target on-line!  In my favorite color!  Now if the heat would just subside, I could spend hours out there!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July's reading

I read 4 complete books in July, plus half of 2 other books.  Not as much reading as I would hope for, but I have noticed an increase in my reading the past couple of weeks.  My husband just this past week screened in the back porch that is off of our bedroom.  I envision it as a summer reading room.  I am in the process of searching for the perfect porch chair for reading.  Right now I am leaning toward a yellow Adirondack chair with foot rest.  Any other suggestions?

In July I read the following:

1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.  From Wikipedia I learned that Mr. Toole wrote the book before he committed suicide in 1969.  His mother found "a smeared carbon copy of the manuscript" and took it to Walker Percy, who read it and liked it.  It was published as a book in 1980 and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

Oddly enough, I had never read the book and owe my friend Gretchen a huge bow of gratitude for suggesting and lending the book to me.  The story takes place in New Orleans and, though I have not been there (yet!), it seems to offer great portraits of the city, especially the French Quarter.   Ignatius J. Reilly is an over-educated, single, very overweight man, who lives with his widowed mother.  Circumstances occur that cause his mother, Irene, to insist that Ignatius go out and  become employed.  The book is about the adventures that happen while Ignatius works, covering much of the "lower depths" of New Orleans.  It's hilarious!

2. Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg is a fascinating book.  I had read about it on-line somewhere related to genealogy and ordered it from  It is the story of how the author learned shortly before his mother's death, that she had not been an only child as she had always presented to family and friends. When she was almost eighty years old, she casually mentioned to her doctor that she had had a disabled sister who had been sent away when she (the sister) was two years old.  The doctor's office mentioned this to the author.  Since his mother was in such fragile health, he was not comfortable questioning her about it, and it wasn't until after her death, that he began searching for information.  What he learned was stunning for the family.

This book is an excellent example of good genealogical research.  I was enthralled with the whole story. It was even more meaningful because of some family "secrets" very similar that I have unearthed in my family research!

3. The Paperboy by Pete Dexter was our July book group read.  Another fascinating book, this one a novel.  It was published in 1995.  From the back cover of my copy:
"The sun was rising over Moat County, Florida, when Sheriff Thurmond Call was found on the highway, gutted like an alligator.  A local redneck was tried, sentenced and set to fry.
Then Ward James, hotshot investigative reporter for the Miami Times, returns to his rural hometown with a death row femme fatale who promises him the story of the decade.  She;'s armed with explosive evidence, aiming to free-and meet-her convicted 'fiance'.
With Ward's disillusioned younger brother Jack as their driver, they barrel down Florida's back roads and seamy places in search of The Story, racing flat out into a chocking head-on collision between character and fate as truth takes a back seat to headline news..."

That's the simple take on the book.  There are many things going on in this book.  The development of the characters is excellent.  The brothers seem to have some fatal flaws to deal with,  their father being one of those flaws!  After having read the book, and discussing it with my book group, I am eager to re-read it at some time.  My take on Ward was that he was an alcoholic, gay man who had not yet come out and that was the explanation for his distance from people.  Surprisingly, some in my book group felt that he had Aspberger's and that was the explanation.  That had not occurred to me. I must re-read this book!

4. Lastly, I had begun reading My Sister LIFE by Maria Flook.  This was a book that I read about a third of, and moved on to another book.  I just couldn't get into it enough to stay with it.  It is about the disappearance of the author's fourteen year old sister.  Sounded good, but...I just kept getting bogged down in it.

I am now about half-way through The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest...more on that to come!

For right now, back to searching for that perfect chair.....

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Latest Reads

I read several reviews of My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares and was very interested in reading it based on its premise.  So when I was at the bookstore and holding it in my hands, reading the cover blurb, I just had to have it.  $28 and I still had to have it.

Yes, I am a believer in reincarnation.  And, as the blurb begins: "A magical story that changes the way we understand the world and proves the power and endurance of a love that is meant to be."  And so the story begins.

Here's how the book begins:
" I have lived more than a thousand years.  I have died countless times.  I forget precisely how many times.  My memory is an extraordinary thing, but it is not perfect.  I am human.
The early lives blur a bit.  The arc of your soul follows the pattern of each of your lives.  It is macrocosmic.  There was my childhood.  There have been many childhoods.  And even in the early part of my soul I reached adulthood many times.  "These days, in every one of my infancies, the memory comes faster.  We go through the motions.  We look oddly at the world around us.  We remember."
It grabbed me immediately.  Unfortunately, it didn't last for long.

Lucy Broward is graduating from high school and desperately wants her high school crush, Daniel Gray, to really notice her.  At the last dance of the year,  Daniel does notice her, but the interaction between them leaves her confused.  Why did he call her Sophia?  Well, you can guess that...

Daniel has the "memory".  He remembers his past lives and his one true love, Sophia.  He can recognize old souls that he knew in his past.  But he and Sophia have never been able to get together and experience their true love.  Now he has found Sophia in Lucy and he was unable to play it cool with her at the dance, but came on too strong and scared her off.

The book explores some of Daniel's past lives and does give some good information about the beliefs/theories of reincarnation.  However, I just didn't care for the way that the story was written.  Because of my interest in reincarnation, I finished the book, but my heart was never really in it.

And I could have bought us dinner with the $28.

Upon finishing the above book, I began reading Joyce Carol Oates' newest book, Little Bird of Heaven.  I had some trouble initially getting into the story, but I ended up liking the book quite a bit.  I do like her style of writing!

The story is primarily told through Krista Diehl, the daughter of Eddie and Lucille of Sparta, New York. A local singer/waitress, Zoe Kruller, is found killed and Krista's father is the last person to have been with her, shattering his families world as they learn of Eddie's infidelities.  Eddie is a "person of interest" in the case, along with Zoe's estranged husband.  Neither are listed as "suspects", just "persons of interest" and for years, that is how the case remained.

Zoe had a son, Aaron, who Krista had a crush on.  Krista's brother Ben was in the same class in school as Aaron.  Through high school, Aaron terrorized Ben in retaliation for what Ben's father had done with Aaron's mother.

The story covers about 20 years following the murder and does a really nice job telling the aftereffects of tragedy on the surviving family members.

Good book!

So, two books read, one book recommended.  I hate that.  I want to love every book I read!  Is that too much to ask? (yes, I know that it really is).

On a last note: I headed to Goodwill the other day to build up my To Be Read list (I always come close to a panic without several books waiting for me in the wings) and came out of there with 8 books for under $8.  Hooray!  My catchs? I got the following:
     Love Medicine, My Last Days as Roy Rogers, Surrender Dorothy, Blood     Memory, Fault Lines, Light on Snow, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked All the Pots, and Safe Houses.

 Has anyone read any of these?  Would love to hear what your thoughts are...what should I read next?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Vacation Reading

I just returned from a week at Disney World and , believe it or not, got 2 books read.  Mostly on the airplanes or in bed at night!

I read South of Broad which is the latest of Pat Conroy's books. While I thought that it was good, after just finishing reading Beach Music by him, it didn't begin to compare.  So I was a little disappointed.  However, by the middle of the book, the story picked up and I enjoyed the book more.

It is a story of a family who suffered the tragic loss of a son to suicide.  Steve left behind his parents and his younger brother.  The book does a good job delving into the aftermath that occurs for the years following a loved ones suicide.  The story is told by the younger brother, Leopold Bloom King.  He finds a good group of friends in high school and the book is the story of the next twenty years of their lives and how the past affects the present.

As always, Pat Conroy leads the reader into the South, with this story based in Charleston, South Carolina.  The characters are well-developed in the story and I felt like I knew all of them well.  And I can't wait for his next book, although it will probably be quite a while, as I have read that he writes his books in longhand!

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway was our book club pick for June.  It is the story of when Sarajevo was at war in 1992 and twenty-two people were killed while waiting in a line for bread.  A well-known cellist decided to play Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor on his cello for twenty-two days at the site where they were killed in honor of them.  Three characters are featured in the book.  Kenan is a young man with a family who goes out into the war-torn city every four days to get water for his family and an elderly neighbor.  Dragan is an older man who works at a bakery and tries to care for his wife.  Arrow is a young woman who has become a sniper trying to get those attacking the city.  Each chapter tells about one of the three characters and how they are surviving the war each day.

For me the book was basically a testimony to the human spirit.  Each of the characters seemed to struggle with thoughts of life and death, bravery and cowardice as they maneuvered through each day.

The book is a short read, but very moving.  I recommend it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beach Music

I mistakenly got Beach Music by Pat Conroy at the library last week.  I meant to get his newest book, but forgot the name of it and got Beach Music instead.  As I began reading it, I was aware of some things sounding very vaguely familiar.  I looked and saw that it was written in 1995.  Then I realized that I even had it on my bookshelves.  I had read it 15 years ago!  I don't know how I forgot that I had read it, because it ended up being one of the best books that I have ever read.  It is a great book.  I felt like I disappeared into it for the past week.  It is so good!

As the back of the book states it is "the story of Jack McCall, an American expatriate in Rome, scarred by tragedy and betrayal.  His desperate desire to find peace after his wife's suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family's past that can heal his anguished heart."

The story is about a Southern family, South Carolina to be exact.  The McCall family consists of five brothers, their mother Lucy and their father who never stops drinking.  Jack is running from his wife's suicide, yes, but he is also running from his father, his brothers, his friends, the Holocaust and Viet Nam.  He took his young daughter, Leah, to Rome to escape all.  However, his mother, Lucy, becomes ill and Jack is called home.  And so it all begins.  The past begins to unravel.  As it must for any healing to occur.

Some of the most moving writing:

"Jordan told me he broke down when he heard those words,spoken aloud, the ones he always believed in his heart to be true.  He felt himself break open in a deep undiscovered place, one of the dark spaces he had created for himself as a boy. He had wept enough in his life to keep a small aquarium of saltwater fish alive, but the tears had been fierce and private.  In front of this small, kind doctor he felt them run down his face in hot spillings.  The tears came fast because the secret was out and this odd-shaped unassuming man had gotten his mother to admit their mutual nightmare at last."

"She didn't notice that I was weeping until my brothers grew quiet.  We stopped dancing and I sat down on the porch steps.  My child held me as the song her mother and I had loved best in the world completely undid me.  I could bear the memory, but I could not bear the music that made the memory such a killing thing."
And on and on...I was so touched by this book.  There must have been some reason that I ended up reading this book again.

Pat Conroy's writing is exquisite.  I was so totally drawn into the story.  Prince of Tides has always been one of my favorite books and I will be re-reading it this summer.  I have begun the newest book, South of Broad, that I originally set out to read.  I miss Jack McCall already.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Three Books and No Real Winner

I have read three books this past month of May and none of them really grabbed me.  I gave up on one of them.  The other two were worth reading.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is the book I quit.  I read 224 pages, over half the book and I just never got into it enough to care about the characters or the plot.  I love the cover of the book and had read some good reviews, so I bought it.  Bad decision.  Since giving up on it, I have read reviews that have agreed with me.  So I don't feel like I am losing my taste in just wasn't my "cup of tea".  For those who care, it is the story of a young girl, Flavia, who aspires to be a scientist and, it seems to me, also a detective.  She discovers a dead bird on her doorstep with a stamp stuck through it's beak.  Then, the same day, she discovers a man dying in the family's garden. Flavia sets out to learn more about the man.  I believe that this is the beginning of a series of books about Flavia (although I'm not certain of that, and don't care enough to actually find out!).

I next read Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada.  It was an interesting book, and I did finish it, but I am still on the fence about it.  What interested me the most was reading on the back cover that the author wrote the book "in a feverish twenty-four days, soon after the end of World War II and his release from a Nazi insane asylum.  He did not live to see its publication."  The book is 509 pages (and not large print by any means). 

It may be a classical type book...I guess that I just need more time to think about it.  The story is based on a true story which occurred during Nazi occupied Germany.  It basically is the story of a couple who stood up for what is right and what they believed in, after they received the news that their only child/son had been killed in the war.

I think that I would recommend this book, just with the caveat that it is a very long book.

Lastly, I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I had heard and read so much about this book that I had great expectations for it, and the book just didn't meet my expectations.  I had avoided reading it for quite some time, but one day it just appealed to me and I read it. 

The story is about 50 year old Alice, a psychology professor at Harvard, who begins to be aware of memory problems.  She is diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer's.  The book tells of the struggles of Alice, her husband John and their three grown children as they deal with the diagnosis and the in-their-face reality of Alzheimer's affecting their wife/mother.

For some reason, I had thought that the story was a true story and that the husband narrated it.  I was totally wrong.  It is a novel and told by Alice herself.  I found the writing to be rather simplistic and never felt like I really knew the characters.  It was an easy read and there is a lot of information about Alzheimer's in the book.  Again, I guess that I would recommend it, also.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Appetites-On The Search For True Nourishment

Appetites seems to be a less-known work of Geneen Roth's.  After reading Women Food and God, I began to work on the concepts of being kind to myself and listening to my body and taking care of it.  I happened across this book and I am glad that I found it.  There is much wisdom in this book.  It is not quite like her other is not directly about eating, food, etc.  It really struck me as a book about finding your true self.  It is primarily Geneen's story of her journey in learning who she was.

It is a very easy book to read.  It really held my attention and I found it very insightful. An example:
"Despite my valiant efforts to the contrary, I know that the purpose of life is not to be safe.  It is to be open.  To be dedicated to the truth, to the joy as it streams through your life.  Because if you are not, then no matter what you have, you will always want more, you will be forever hungry.  And if you are, then no matter what happens, you will one day discover that you are who you have been hungering for.  It has been you, not the food you eat, the clothes you buy, the people you love, the money you make.  For lifetimes, for eons, for as long as it takes for a mountain to become a mountain, it has always been you. You are the feast. You."

I really love the way she writes.  Her words speak to me.   Geneen tells of her struggles, especially when she was ill for several years and questioned who she was without hair! She tells of many different examples of others struggling with issues of "who am I now" after hearing and/or suffering various debilitating problems.  Perceptions and perspectives.  Geneen's writing seems to put the words that we are looking for in our searches.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

House Rules

House Rules is the newest book out by Jodi Picoult.  It is about an eighteen year old boy with Asperger Syndrome who is accused of murder when his social skills tutor is found dead and all clues lead to him.  

Jacob Hunt lives with his divorced mother and his fifteen year old brother, Theo.  Live is difficult living with Jacob.  He is both the sweetest boy in the world, and very difficult if anything in his life is changed or disrupted.  Only certain color foods and clothes are allowed each day of the week (ie. Thursday is brown day-he will only wear brown, and dinner is steak, baked potatoes, gravy and brownies.  Friday is a little more difficult-that is blue day!).

Jacob is fixated on crime scene/forensics.  He is an expert on the subjects.  He figures that the police could learn a lot from him if they would listen.

The story is told from several points of view.  Each chapter is told by either Jacob, his mother Emma, his brother Theo, or by his attorney Oliver.

Ms. Picoult appears to have done an excellent job researching Asperger's and autism.  There was a lot of good information about these disorders in the book, so if you are curious about Asperger's, this book, although it is fiction, would be quite educational.  I thought that the ending of the book was a little weak, but all in all, an interesting book.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave came out in 2008 and I have heard different people talk about it, but no one ever seemed real crazy about the book.  I finally picked it up, and I have to agree with popular opinion (among my friends).  I think.

There are definitely parts of the story that are very thought-provoking and I have a feeling that Little Bee may stay with me for quite awhile.

Little Bee is from Nigeria and the story starts with Little Bee's voice talking from a detention center in England.  She has been there for the past two years.  The story begins with:

"Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.  Everyone would be pleased to see me coming." 

And that's pretty much how the story goes.  It is the story of Little Bee, who met (although I use the word 'met' reluctantly given the circumstances) Sarah and Andrew, a couple from England on vacation, on a beach in Africa a couple of years earlier.  Two years later, after Little Bee leaves the detention center, she goes to find Sarah and Andrew.  The book is both the story of initially meeting them and of the present after she leaves the detention center.

The book is narrated by both Little Bee and Sarah in alternating chapters.  Sarah and Andrew have a four year old son, who is having a Batman phase.  Little Bee connects with him in  a special way, that I thought really added to the story.

I don't want to tell more about the story in case you, the reader, decide to read the book.  It is a story of hope, but also has some pretty horrifying events.  I think that it is a good story of resilience and, ultimately, hope despite everything.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Skinny Bitch

A no-nonsense tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!

That's the sub-title for the book, Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.  I had never read any of their books, but this title intrigued me, so I picked it up.  It was a quick read, and there is a lot of good and very interesting information in the book.

However, as a warning, if you haven't read any of their books before, the language is surprising and somewhat harsh, especially when you aren't expecting it.  It was quite a shock after having just read Women Food and God (by Geneen Roth), which is a very gentle, kind, nurturing book.  Skinny Bitch is a right-in-your-face kind of book.  Yet, has pretty much the same message as anything else you might read about eating/dieting, etc.

Including "You are what you eat."  I was really glad that I didn't have bacon for my breakfast this morning.

In terms of good sense, the book tells you (in no uncertain terms) to give up soda, dairy, meats, sugar, etc.  The premise is become vegan.  And, honestly, after reading what they described about the slaughterhouses, I gave it serious thought.  But I am not there at this point, as I settled in with a great hamburger for dinner tonight!  There really is a lot of good, and important information in the book and I am considering to begin to put some of what I read into practice.  I have already cut down to one diet soda a day (usually) and I am thinking that I may let go of that.

It is an entertaining book.  And I did learn quite a lot from it!

The Great Gatsby

Yes, you read the title right.  I recently read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It was the April choice for my book group.  I had read it about 35 years ago and remembered nothing from it, so it was really like reading it for the first time!

My impression?  Good book!  I liked it a lot.  I especially enjoyed having it be discussed by my book
group...amazing what others might see in a book that you have missed or wondered about!  Great discussion on why is this book considered a classic? and on the various characters in the book and who liked what character and didn't like what character.

For those who may have not ever read The Great Gatsby, it is a story based in the 1920's on Long Island, NY.  It is told by Nick, a newly moved-in neighbor to Gatsby.  Jay Gatsby is pretty much a mystery to everyone, but very generous with his wealth.  He has lavious parties each weekend, with the alcohol freely flowing.  But no one knows where he came from and how he got his money.

Soon Nick meets his neighbor and is pulled into his life.  Turns out that Nick has a cousin, Daisy, who lives across the water from Gatsby.  Daisy is married to Tom Buchanon.  Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson.  Nick learns that Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for years, having met her in KY (where she is from) before he left to serve in WWI.  When he returned from the war, Daisy had married.  And Gatsby had never gotten over her.

I won't share the ending, but suffice to say, it is thought-provoking.

After about the first third of the book, I was wondering what the big deal was.  I wasn't especially interested in finishing the book.  However, after that, I thought that the story got much better and, as I said, I ended up really liking it.  I was very glad that I had reread it and may even go on to read more Fitzgerald!

Any suggestions?  What is/was your favorite Fitzgerald novel?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day After Night

Anita Diamant's newest book, Day After Night, kind of let me down.  I just didn't think that it was nearly as well written as The Red Tent, although I have to admit that it has been quite a while since I read The Red Tent.  But I was very impressed with it and it stuck with me for a long time.  I don't think that Day After Night will, but since I just finished it last night, I don't know that for sure.

The premise of the book is a story of four women who meet at Atlit, a detention camp for European Jews coming to Israel after the war (WWII).  Apparently, those coming into Israel after the war were placed there for however long it took to find a kibbutz for their home.  I had never heard of such a camp, so that was quite interesting.  The women make the point of discussing how they were put into these camps surrounded by barbwire fences, just like the death camps that most of them had survived.  Naturally, many of those entering the detainment camps became very upset and frightened when they saw the barbwire fences.  They had great difficulty understanding that now they were safe in such a place.

Each of the four women have different stories on how they survived the war years.  They try to find ways to spend their time in the camp while waiting for their home assignment.  They become friends and make plans for their futures together. 

I didn't feel like the characters were very well-developed.  I don't feel like I know who each of the women were, before and after the war.

I did like the way the book ended, however.  The Epilogue was good.

All in all, I would rate the book as fair.  Not great, but an ok read.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another new bookcase!

I forgot to post a picture of the new cabinet/bookcase that my husband made for me!  He, as usual, designed it himself and I think that it is incredible.   And the best part is, I need to buy more books to fill it up!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

If you have read The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson, RUN, don't walk, but RUN, to get The Girl Who Played With Fire!!!  And if you haven't read The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, what are you waiting for???  Get you to the nearest library, bookstore, reader friend, etc. and read it!!!  Because after you read it, you must then read The Girl Who Played With Fire!!   It is that good!

Can you tell that I really liked this book?  It is a great psychological mystery. I loved the way the author developed the characters and the story.  It kept me wanting to read more and more later and later into the night!

The same main characters are present as main characters in both books.  Mikael Blomkvist company Millenium is planning to publish a book exposing sex trafficking in Sweden.  His magazine is going to run an article about it the same time the book comes out.  Before that happens, the two authors of the book are murdered.  The same evening, Lisbeth Salander's guardian is murdered.  Lisbeth is connected by evidence to all the murders and she goes underground.  Mikael is trying to solve the murders and to find Lisbeth.  To do both, Mikael and Lisbeth both need to dig into Lisbeth's past.

Great book!!! 

The third of this trilogy is now out called The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.  It is a continuation of the first two books. 
From the website

Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish writer and journalist.
Prior to his sudden death of a heart attack in November 2004 he finished three detective novels in his trilogy "The Millenium-series" which were published posthumously; "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest". Altogether, his trilogy has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide (summer of 2009), and he was the second bestselling author in the world 2008.
design image
STIEG LARSSON, 1954-2004
Before his career as a writer, Stieg Larsson was mostly known for his struggle against racism and right-wing extremism. Starting in the late 1970's, he combined his work as a graphic designer with holding lectures on right-wing extremism for the Scotland Yard. During the following years he became an expert on the subject and has held many lectures as well as written many novels on the subject. In 1995, when 8 persons were killed by neo-Nazis I Sweden, he was the main force behind the founding of the Expo-foundation, a group intended on exposing neo-Nazi activity in Sweden. From 1999 and on, he was appointed chief editor of the magazine Expo.
During the last 15 years of his life, he and his life companion Eva Gabrielsson lived under constant threat from right-wing violence.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Women Food and God

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth is quite simply, an amazing book! And, in a way, a very simple book. And, in a way, a very complicated book. I guess it just depends on how you want to look at it!

Ms. Roth has written several books in the past about eating. I think that perhaps this latest one may be a sum of all her books...the wisdom is incredible. While reading it, I often had to stop and just contemplate on a sentence.

She writes regularly for Good Housekeeping magazine and I love her column in there. However, when I read the article featuring her and Women Food and God in last month's Oprah magazine, I began to cry. It was eeery. Her words just totally spoke to me and I knew that I had to get the book!

The premise is (at least for me) basically to stop dieting and pay attention to what I am feeling. As I said, a simple concept on the outset, but when you start to try to practice it...not so simple! One of the main things recommended to do is to eat without any distractions and pay attention to what you are eating. I have been amazed at how difficult that is for me. I live for distraction apparently. To just sit at the table with me and my food is torture! But I am slowly starting to be able to do it. And what I am finding when I do it, is that I don't need to eat nearly as much food as I usually eat.

That's enough about me...this is about the book! Just letting yourself sit and identify and feel feelings is not a new idea, but one that needs to be constantly brought to us. Allowing yourself to feel your feelings is freeing in so many ways and the book has lots of examples of this.

My book is underlined and marked up all over the place. An example (from page 32): "Women turn to food when they are not hungry because they are hungry for something they can't name: a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life.". And another (page 80): "When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself, more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as it it were your only chance at not falling apart." And these are just the beginning of the wisdom that is in this book!

What I took most from the book is KINDNESS. I need to practice being kind to myself until I become kindness itself.

This is a wonderful to the store!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Lost Hours

The Lost Hours is by Karen White, who also wrote The Memory of Water. I enjoyed The Lost Hours very much! It was a book that kept me up late reading! A sure sign of a good book!

Piper Mills lost her parents in a car accident when she was about six years old, leaving her with a childish belief that nothing bad would ever happen to her again since the worst thing that could happen to one had already happened to her. She was raised by her grandparents and they taught her to ride horses. She became quite good and was an Olympian hopeful, when tragedy again struck Piper's live and she was almost killed by a fall from her horse. She was left with serious injuries and would not ride again. She had spent the last few years doing genealogy for other people. When her grandfather died,she returned to Savannah and the home that her grandparents had left her to recover and heal.

The home that was left to Piper was the home where she was raised. Her grandmother was still alive in a nursing home but with Alzheimer's disease. After Piper moved to the house, she met with the attorney, who gave Piper a gift that her grandmother had left with him for safe keeping. It was a small gold charm, with nothing else, no chain, no note. Soon Piper remembered when she was 12 years old that she and her grandfather had buried a small box of her grandmother's in the backyard.

The following day Piper begins going through the house and looks in an old trunk where her grandmother kept her knitting materials. In there Piper finds a very small baby blue sweater. Later that day, another attorney brings over an envelope for Piper. Inside is a letter written to someone named Lillian and a key. When Piper goes to visit her grandmother, she takes the sweater and tries to ask her about it. Then she returns home to find the buried box. It contains torn scrapbook pages, a photo and a newspaper article.

After all of this, Piper then discovers a hidden room in the attic. All of this leads her to wanting to learn more about her grandmother's life.

The premise of the book is:

"Every woman should have a daughter to tell her stories to. Otherwise, the lessons learned are as useless as spare buttons from a discarded shirt. And all that is left is a fading name and the shape of a nose or the color of hair. The men who write the history books will tell you the stories of battles and conquests. But the women will tell you the stories of people's hearts."

Great book!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog and more

Have you read this? It was first published in France in 2006, and published in English in 2008. I checked on the author, Muriel Barbery, on Wikipedia and learned that she has degree in philosophy. That certainly explains the direction of the book!

I found The Elegance of the Hedgehog very philosophical. And lest you are looking for a plot in the book, that is the plot.

I struggled somewhat with the first half of the book. Lots of words, not much else going on.

The story is told by two females, Paloma, a quite intelligent, but lonely 12 year old girl, and the other a 54 year old widow named Renee. Renee is the concierge for the building where Paloma lives. Paloma considers herself highly intelligent, much more than anyone else in her family, despite the fact that her mother has a PhD in literature and her sister is attaining her advanced degree in philosophy. She describes her family as rich. In contrast, Renee considers herself poor, but very intelligent. She works hard at keeping her knowledge of anything a secret from all, but her one friend, Manuela.

Both Renee and Paloma are very lonely. They have spent their lives keeping themselves separate from others, thinking that no one else could understand them. Paloma has plans to set her apartment on fire (when no one is present), then go off and quietly die by taking pills. She has the date planned. It seemed to me that the whole plan was based on teaching her family "something". Both Renee and Paloma think that others don't understand them and in reality, it seemed to me, that it was they who do not understand others. They seemed to have closed themselves off from others an don't give others any chance of getting to know who they really are.

Thankfully, by the middle of the book, a new tenant moves into the building and becomes the binding between Renee and Paloma. Kakuro Ozu has moved to France from Japan and it seems instantly recognizes both Renee and Paloma for who they are.

For me, once Kakuro entered the book, things began to get interesting and, in a sense, more real.

I liked the way the book was laid out, with each chapter told only by either Renee or Paloma. Different font was used for each of them, which helped the reader identify who was narrating. The other interesting thing was that the title of each chapters. Renee's chapters were titled appropriately with whatever thoughts/events that were being discussed. Paloma's chapters were titled as "Profound Thought" going from "Profound Thought #1" to "One Last Profound Thought".

My last Profound Thought? Interesting book.

Another book that I have just devoured is a cookbook called yummy Potatoes. Need I add, that I love potatoes? I would like to say that I am going to do a Julie/Julia and try every recipe, but I know myself and that really is probably doubtful...a nice goal, but I don't want to hold myself to it, then be let down! I will let you know if, in actuality, it really happens! It's a gorgeous book and the recipes sound divine (did I mention that I love potatoes?).

Well, if you read my last post, you will know that I have been wondering about names of book groups. I asked my group last night if the group had a name. It doesn't. And no one seemed interested in naming the group. Which is fine with me, because I kind of feel like, what do you do with a name? Maybe it helps unite groups or something, but I really don't think that the group that I am with needs uniting! I am still curious about other groups names, however. I just think that it is interesting to see what groups have chosen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Names for book groups

Does your book group have a name? Ours doesn't, or at least no one has told me if it does! I am going to start a poll right here, right now:


Meanwhile, my book group meets tonight so I am going to bring it up. I am sure that they will appreciate the new person's curiosity! Actually, I am no longer the newest person in the group, so I don't have that dubious honor anymore.

So, send in your names, please. I promise that we (well, at least my group) will not steal any names from other groups! This should be an interesting poll!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Two Books to finish up February

I did well with my reading this past month of February. I finished 7 books this month! I finished up the month with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and Without A Backward Glance by Kate Veitch.

I have felt quite left behind in not reading A Thousand Splendid Suns before this. I know a good number of people who have read it and really liked it. I know why I resisted. I don't usually care to read books about other countries. I know this says something about me, but I'm not sure what! However, witha lot of countries, I know that I get very confused with foreign (to me) names (proper names and city names) and that is a big part of why I avoid "foreign" books. I will admit, though, that I really enjoyed reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, and felt as if I really learned from it about some of the country of Afganistan.

The book came out in 2007, and I feel as if I was the last person on earth to have gotten around to reading it. (As an aside, I have a number of "old" books that I want to read, and came to the conclusion the other day, that is what retirement is catch up on all the books that I haven't been able to get to!). Anyway, if you haven't read the book, it is the story of 2 women, who end up married to Rasheed, a very abusive man. The older woman, Mariam, married him when she was young and was not able to have children. About 20 years later, he marries a young woman, Laila, who marries him in order to have a father for her unborn child. She pretends that the child (a girl) is his, believing that the real father is dead. She later becomes pregnant by Rasheed and has a son.

The story was somewhat upsetting to me, just because of all of the abuse that was portrayed. It is also a story of great love, especially when either Mariam or Laila attempt to protect each other from Rasheed. In the end, Mariam sacrifices everything for Laila and her children.

It was a very good book and I do recommend it. And I thank my daughter for recommending it and loaning it to me to read!

The other book that I just finished was Without a Backward Glance. It was a simple read, yet I really enjoyed the story and have thought about it often since finishing it. The story takes place in Australia and it is the story of 4 children whose mother left them on Christmas Eve one year, when they were all quite young. She disappeared and was never heard from again. Their father, Alex, struggled to raise them and the oldest daughter, Deborah, was put into the role of taking care of the children and the house.

Now it is many years later, and Alex is struggling with the beginnings of dementia. One night at a dinner party, James, one of the now-grown children, relates the story of his mother leaving and is aware of one of the dinner guests appearing rather upset by the story.

I don't want to tell too much of the story, but James finds their mother and all of the years of pain, suffering, questions, etc. come to surface for the 4 children.

It was really quite a good book, and portrayed family relationships very well.

This was a book that I got in a sale bin at a bookstore.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Spark

Wrapped up reading another book today that I have been reading off and on for a few weeks. The Spark is by Chris Downie, found and CEO of The book is touted as "The 28 day breakthrough plan for losing weight, getting fit, and transforming your life."

What I especially like about the book is that it is motivational, rather than dictating what you can and can't do or eat. It is divided into 2 parts with Part I being The Fuel for Improvement System and Part II is The SparkDiet.

Part I starts with The Fuel for Improvement System. Part I is 5 chapters, each building upon themselves. It tells some of Chris Downie's own story and how he got to where he is now. Very impressive and down-to-earth. The 5 chapters are: The Fuel for Improvement System, Focus, Fitness, Fire, Positive Force.

Part II begins with The SparkDiet. Again, 5 chapters, which are: The SparkDiet, Fast Break, Healthy Diet Habits, Lifestyle Change and Spread the Spark.

As I said, the book doesn't tell you what to eat or not eat. It encourages you to set goals, small and large and work toward them. Their concept is positive and motivational and makes good sense.

It's a book that I will pick up now and again when I am in need of motivation. I use their web-site daily so I am very familiar with The Spark (go to : and very impressed with the whole concept. I like the positive motivational attitude that prevails through-out the site.

Lord knows, we all need some positive motivation going on!