Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More This and That!

On Christmas Eve we give a hand-made gift to whomevers name was chosen earlier. It is a 50 year old tradition in my family, only for adults. This past Christmas (2009) my husband had our son-in-law Kelly's name. His gift to Kelly was a promise of helping him build new built-in bookcases in their home. As you can see, after 3 long weekends at their house, the bookcases turned out great. Kelly was left to stain and varnish them! I love new bookcases! The best thing to come out of this project was that it got my husband busy working on new built-in cabinet/bookcases for our house! I can't wait to have those finished and be able to put up a picture of them!!

I went to Barnes and Noble today while I was in town and came out with 3 books to read! The first, I have already started: The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. It is about "the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade". I also picked up: The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor and My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates.
All 3 books just looked really good to me! I love having good reading await me!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This was a good book! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford was recommended to me by my daughter and she lent me her copy. It was a book that her book group had read.

The story is about a young boy (Henry)of Chinese parents who begins a relationship with a young girl (Keiko) of Japanese parents. Both of the children were born in the United States after their parents immigrated. The story takes place in Seattle during WWII.

Henry's parents insisted that he only speak English, even though they did not understand or speak English. He was not allowed to speak Chinese to them. So he grew up feeling quite isolated in his home. He was their only child and had no one at home that he could talk to. His father was very anti-Japanese and spent his time focused on what the Japanese armies were doing. Henry kept his friendship with Keiko from his parents as long as he could.

Soon Keiko and her family were evacuated to internment camps and eventually over time, Henry lost touch with Keiko.

Jump to 1986. Henry's wife had recently died and his son was away at college. One day, Henry heard that the new owner of the Panama Hotel in Seattle had discovered boxes, suitcases, etc. in the basement of the hotel left there by Japanese families who had been evacuated during the war. There is a possiblity that Keiko's family's belongings are there and thus sets the stage for the story.

There are several things going on in this story. I had never really read anything about the internment camps that were developed and used during the war, so that was intriguing to me. But along with the sweet story of young love, there was a very strong theme of how families communicate with each other, and how that can have such a powerful impact on the family members. Clearly, the lack of communication in Henry's family would have an obvious effect on him. It played out in his relationship with his own son. Very interesting!

This book was quite interesting and a quick read. I recommend it for when you are in-between books and need something light to read!

Early Predictions Announced for 2010 Pulitzer Prize

Yep, the early predictions are in, folks, and I am feeling rather left out since I haven't read any of them! Thank goodness I already had plans to head into town this morning to Barnes and Noble with my gift card! Although, I have to admit, at times I have not been impressed with some of the Pulitzer winners. Of course, then at other times, they have chosen books that I love.

Anyway, here is a part of the announcement along with the list:

We plan to release an adjusted list in late February or early March, and then a final list several weeks before the actual award is announced. The final prediction model will be based upon analysis that ultimately incorporates over 30 independent or predictor variables such as newspaper notable and best book lists; other awards and award nominations for 2009; and authors previously nominated for the Pulitzer and other awards.

Those caveats aside, the top 16 books written in 2009 that we predict to win in 2010 according to this early model are (in order of probability):

1. My Father's Tears: And Other Stories by John Updike
2. Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
3. Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
4. The Humbling by Philip Roth
5. The Maple Stories by John Updike
6. American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
7. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
8. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
9. The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich
10. Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
11. A Good Fall by Ha Jin
12. Dear Husband by Joyce Carol Oates
13. Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
14. Spooner by Pete Dexter
15. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
16. Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers

You can read the whole article at:

If you have read any of these, I would love to hear comments! I will let you know what I read from the list!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Piano Teacher

I just finished The Piano Teacher and was terribly disappointed in it. I have heard lots of raves about it and I just didn't find it all that good. Actually, until I was about 2/3 through the book, I was pretty bored with it. It did get better at the end.

The story takes place in Hong Kong and jumps back and forth to before World War II and after the war. Will Truesdale comes to Hong Kong in about 1942, right before the Japanese invasion of China. He falls in love with Trudy, who is half Chinese, and quite a social entity in the area. During the occupation, Trudy disappeared.

Ten years later Claire comes to Hong Kong with her husband for his business. Claire becomes a piano teacher for a young girl and is somewhat befriended by the family. The wife in the family was a cousin to Trudy. Claire becomes involved with Will and begins to learn some of what all had happened during the Japanese occupation.

For me the novel was really about the choices and decisions that one makes in life and how those can affect your future. Somehow, the writing just didn't touch me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Books

I read the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by mark haddon last week. It was good, and quite interesting. It was also a quick read. Basically about a 15 year old autistic boy, struggling with life in general, his parents separation in particular. And, of course, solving the mystery of who killed his neighbor's dog.
Good book.

I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I really enjoyed it and I hate to say this, but reading it kept making me think of when I was reading A Million Pieces by James Frey. I kept wondering if all of this was really true...these poor kids lived through such neglect and poverty.

The book is a memoir of a young girl growing up in an incredibly dysfunctional family. Being the therapist that I am, I couldn't help but continue to diagonose the characters, especially the parents, through-out the book. Sad thing is, I have had many clients who have lived these kind of lives. As the book shows, people are very resilient.

There were three girls and one boy in the family. Lori was the oldest, followed by Jeannette, then Brian, then Maureen. Jeanette was always her dad's favorite, primarily because she would always agree with him and go along with whatever he was saying or doing.

The book begins with Jeannette's earliest memory...of being on fire. She was three years old, boiling hot dogs on the stove for herself, while her mother was in the other room singing, working on one of her paintings. Jeannette spent six weeks in the hospital, having skin grafts, etc. and after six weeks, her father decided that she was ready to leave and took her home.

"A few days after Mom and Dad brought me home, I cooked myself some hot dogs, I was hungry, Mom was at work on a painting, and no one else was there to fix them for me.
'Good for you,' Mom said when she saw me cooking. 'You've got to get right back in the saddle. You can't live in fear of something as basic as fire.'"

And that was just the beginning...

Very interesting book and another quick read. I recommend it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Odds and Ends

I have finished 2 books since I last posted. I read The Gifts of War by Mackensie Ford, and The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison. Was not especially impressed with either.

Gifts of War is about WWI, a Christmas Eve truce in the trenches, and a promise made and broken. It begins with a promise in the trenches during a one night truce to a German soldier (Wilhelm) to take his picture back to his girlfriend in England. Of course, when Henry goes to find the girl, named Sam, he falls in love with her. Unbeknownst to Wilhelm, Sam has had his baby, a son named Will. Henry meets Sam and pursues her, even though she tells him about Wilhelm and how she is waiting for his return. Henry never tells her that he knows/met Wilhelm. And so the story goes...

I thought that the story had great potential, but it pretty much let me down.

The Bluest Eyes was ok, but I just loved Beloved and Song of Solomon so much, that I found this book to be disappointing. I think that I must like when Ms. Morrison goes into the "spirit" world somewhat.

On a different note, I actually signed up for the Read 100 books in 2010 Challenge! I don't know what possessed me although I have been feeling as if I have been letting myself down with my lack of reading. I used to read like a fiend and I miss it. Now that I have retired, I thought I would get back to it, but it seems like I am always doing something else, often involving the computer! So I am pushing the envelope and going for the challenge. If you are interested in joining, go to this site:


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Review of 2009

Well, I only read 50 books last year. Doesn't that sound lame? It gives me incentive to read more this year! Anyway, below are the books that I read last year that I rated "Excellent". 20 out of 50 isn't too bad! That would be 40% of what I read! I believe that only 10 of the 20 came out in the past year and that the other 10 were "older" books.

Anyway, I am really looking forward to more reading in 2010. Please send suggestions if you have read a really good book!

My favorite reads of 2009:

The Tenderness of Wolves-Stef Penney

Two Rivers-t.greenwood

Song of Names-Norman Lebrecht

The Likeness-Tana French

Song Yet Sung-James McBride

Olive Kitteredge-Elizabeth Strout

On The Black Hill-Bruce Catwin

Loving Frank-Nancy Horan

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo-Stieg Larsson

Eat Pray Love-Elizabeth Gilbert

Bright Shiny Morning-James Frey

Prodigal Summer-Barbara Kingsolver

The Help-Kathryn Stockett

Poisonwood Bible: Barbara Kingsolver

She’s Come Undone-Wally Lamb

Wolf Whistle

The Hour I First Believed-Wally Lamb

Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison

The Stolen Child-Keith Donahue

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-Shaffer

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I finally settled on my goal for 2010 after great thought! My goal for 2010 in all areas of my life is:


No more making myself crazy trying to reach certain goals or objectives...just do the best I can and be happy! I don't need to commit to reading a given number of books this year. Just read and enjoy! Read what I choose to read! Doesn't that sound fun?

Of course, I choose to be a member of my book group and commit to reading whatever book is chosen each month...because it is my choice to do so! I also joined one book challenge for 2010...my first ever. I like the idea of broadening my reading choices...again, because I choose to do so!


I love it!!!