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 for....to 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.