Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Wolf at the Table

Everyone knows that Augusten Burroughs had an extremely f*ed up childhood. Running with Scissors was unbelievable and extremely difficult to read at times, but it was all true and you had to have compassion for this poor boy. And for some reason, we are compelled to keep reading about him. I think it's mostly because his writing style is simple, yet humorous, and we know that for the most part he is a mentally healthy adult now. Not to say that his early adulthood wasn't as messed up as his childhood (read Dry), but still.

This time Burroughs sets out to tell of his early childhood with his father – the wolf – and his desperate attempt to get attention, love and validation from this man. My heart would break as I read passage after passage of even the smallest attempts for Augusten to get his father to notice him; only to be rejected over and over again. His father was one sick ticket who didn't even deserve to have children (seems there are so many who don't deserve it, yet they're the ones procreating). John Robison was emotionless, violent and a raging alcoholic.

However, I can't say that this was a great book. This one read more as sentences of facts rather than a memoir or a novel. While I was interested in the father/son relationship, it just didn't do the best job at holding my attention as Burroughs' previous books. The humor was gone and in its place was darkness. But I believe that it is utterly necessary for Augusten to write about his life in order to continue his attempt at healing. It is amazing what this one person had to endure ...  you couldn't make this stuff up.

While A Wolf at the Table was not my favorite, I don't regret reading it. Running... is still my favorite of his books (the movie didn't even begin to do it justice). And now he's written another biography, this time of short Christmas stories that could be fun. But I'm beginning to think he needs to explore the fiction world a little further: his wit and writing style deserves to branch out and it just might be time to stop with the memoirs.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Help

Check out my top ten list to the right. It's been updated to include The Help. I'm not even sure where to begin I have so much praise for this book. It's been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 34 weeks, shortly after it was released in February 2009. Longer than any other fiction book currently on the list. This week it's #5. I've only known about The Help for a short time – about two months – but once I heard a little about it I added it to my list. I had the pleasure of listening to this one, and the audio version is one of the main reasons I am in love with this novel.

To begin with, each of the three main characters are read by different people. All three of them have that endearing southern charm and accents reminiscent of Steel Magnolias. In the first five minutes I was hooked and even laughing out loud. (It's always a good sign when I'm listening to a book sitting in my car in the garage.) Then I was listening while walking into the house from the car, then listening some more. Listening on a Saturday for five hours while I cleaned the house. I couldn't get enough, but at the same time I didn't want it to end. The end actually snuck up on me while I was cooking last Sunday evening. If I would have realized that I was so close I think I would have saved it for another day!

I could go on for several more paragraphs gushing about the characters and the outstanding plot, but that could get a bit nauseating to read. Instead I will include the Publisher's Weekly review (also for my reference when I look back on this one ten years later) and my insistence the you read this book immediately and share it with all your friends. Thank you, Kathryn Stockett, for such a lovely debut novel.

"What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it."

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tricky Business

Dave Barry reminds me of vacation. Whether it's south Florida or somewhere in Mexico, I find myself reading his column in the Miami Herald while hanging by the pool or lounging near the ocean. He's hilarious. I read Big Trouble quite a few years ago and I still laugh when I think about the frog eating the dog food. And when I saw Tricky Business sitting on the bookshelf in our "lending library" at work, I had to grab it. I was anticipating laughing out loud as much as I did the first time.

The introduction had me giggling. Barry wrote a forward to former readers warning them that this book contained "violence and the 'f' word." That readers shouldn't proceed any further if these things would possibly be offensive. I was hooked. The first chapter was about a lazy, unmotivated guy who lives with his mother, plays in a band and sleeps all day. All his mother wants to do is fix him waffles. I laugh. Then I get to chapter 2. And chapter 3. And so on. A little less than half way through the humor turned to violence. Big, bad and bloody. Really difficult to read, to the extent that I almost didn't finish. But the book was short enough that I ended up reading the last half in one evening and I was done and I don't necessarily want to think about it again. Maybe it's just me, but humor and murder don't really mix. Even though the tone was light the entire time, the subject matter became dark and nearly unbearable. There were certainly some characters that held my attention, like the drunk guy who never got his sea legs, but they weren't enough to redeem the decapitations and torture. Seriously!! This is supposed to be a comedy.

Sorry to say I can't recommend this one. I need to get back to Florida and just read Barry's column on the beach instead.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The 20 Best Books of the Decade (2000-2009)

This according to Paste Magazine. I. Freaking. Love. Lists. Especially lists involving books, except that they usually make me feel like a slacker. For Paste's commentary, go here. Otherwise, you are about to be subjected to my thoughts:

klosterman.jpg20. Chuck Klosterman: Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story [Scribner] (2005)

Might add this to my list.

gladwell.jpg19. Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point [Little Brown] (2000)

Sounds very interesting.

blue.jpg18. Donald Miller: Blue Like Jazz [Thomas Nelson] (2003)

Not on my list.

carlwilson.jpg17. Carl Wilson: Let’s Talk About Love (A Journey To The End Of Taste) [Continuum] (2007)

Really?? A book about Celine Dion?? Pass.

Netherland cover.jpg16. Joseph O’Neill: Netherland [Vintage] (2008)

Haven't heard of it. Boo for me.

ffnation.jpg15. Eric Schlosser: Fast Food Nation [Houghton Mifflin] (2001)

Not yet. Might be too scared to learn too much.

potter2.jpg14. J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter [Bloomsbury] (1998-2007)

I aspire to read these little ditties someday. But the list before them is entirely too vast right now.

atonement.jpg13. Ian McEwan: Atonement [Nan A. Talese] (2002)

Had this one as an audiobook from the library. Tried to listen a few times, but kept drifting off. Then when my iPod decided to erase all my music, etc., I lost it. Will probably try again someday though.

Slavery by Another Name.jpg12. Doug Blackmon: Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II [Doubleday] (2008)

Not really the kind of book I usually read.

MeTalkPrettyOneDay-DavidSedaris.jpg11. David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day [Little, Brown and Company] (2000)

Hilarious. Loved it. Think about it all the time.

Consider The Lobster cover.jpg10. David Foster Wallace: Consider The Lobster And Other Essays [Little, Brown and Company] (2005)

I guess Last Night at the Lobster doesn't count, huh?!

everything is illuminated cover.jpg9. Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything Is Illuminated [Harper Perennial] (2002)

Don't know it.

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING cover.jpg8. Joan Didlon: The Year of Magical Thinking [Knopf] (2005)

Sounds really good. Totally my type.

blankets.jpg7. Craig Thompson: Blankets [Top Shelf Productions] (2003)

Possible future list item.

Book Thief cover.jpg6. Markus Zusak: The Book Thief [Knopf] (2005)

I've had my fill of Young Adult novels this year, thank you very much.

Middlesex cover.jpg5. Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex [Picador] (2002)

Funny, touching and fabulous!!

gilead cover.jpg4. Marilynne Robinson: Gilead [Farrar, Straus and Giroux] (2004)

Haven't heard of this one either.

The Road cover.jpg3. Cormac McCarthy: The Road [Knopf] (2006)

Faithful readers of Read My Mind! know that I am obsessed with this book. It's also the hardest I ever cried while reading a novel.

heartbreak cover.jpg2. Dave Eggers: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius [Simon & Schuster] (2000)

List. Added. You're welcome.

Kavalier & Clay cover.jpg1. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay [Random House] (2000)

Do I have to read this just because it's #1??

So there you have it. Three. Lame. But I can make myself feel slightly better because these books span all genres and subject matter. Are there any that I haven't read that I simply must? Please weigh in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Condition

I've been a very slow reader these days. I think it's just that at this time of year, all I want to do is sleep. And not wake up until spring.

I grabbed this book from the library back in September and it's now so overdue I think the RRPL might start sending me hate mail. I honestly don't mind paying late fees's still cheaper than buying your own books and it supports (or in my case, funds the new wing!) my local library.

The Condition has been on my to-read list for some time now. The description caught my attention right away: A proper family, a daughter with Turner's syndrome and the family's imminent decline. The writing, by author Jennifer Haigh, was good. Very good. Each character was both dynamic and flawed. Yet I couldn't help but feel that something was missing. I wanted more. More descriptions. More nitty-gritty into each McKotch life. The small amount of info I got wasn't good enough. I need to know more about this syndrome, more about Billy (the closeted, successful doctor) and more about the affair Scott's wife was having. Believe me, that one was a shocker and yet pretty funny at the same time. I wanted to focus on these things a little more. But maybe that was the author's intention in the first place. To leave the reader intrigued but still guessing. I know it sounds like a funny thing to say, I liked the book, just wanted it to be longer.

I'm still going to recommend reading The Condition. I'd love to hear other opinions. Maybe I missed something big and you are reading this calling me an idiot right now. I need to know!

My next read is much lighter subject matter and I'm thinking I'll fly through it. Stay tuned.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Lords of Discipline

Wow, what an abrupt change from vampires! I've now read three Pat Conroy books, and I especially loved the first two: Prince of Tides and Beach Music. The former is even in my top ten favorites. This one was rough. He is a fabulous author, but The Lords of Discipline was rough. Very difficult subject matter, and in my opinion, geared more for a male reader than me.

But as always, Conroy's words are simply poetic. And from the first page I am swept in:

"The city of Charleston, in the green feathery modesty of its palms, in the certitude of its style, in the economy and stringency of its lines, and the serenity of its mansions South of Broad Street, is a feast for the human eye. But to me, Charleston is a dark city, a melancholy city, whose severe covenants and secrets are as powerful and beguiling as its elegance, whose demons dance their alley dances and compose their malign hymns to the side of the moon I cannot see."

Poetry. Anyway, the story is based in South Carolina, as are all the books I've read by Conroy. This time it's a military school. The story follows Will McLean through his four years at Carolina Military Institute in the late 60s. Will, as a senior, is charged with keeping a special eye on a freshman who is the first black student to ever attend the school. In the process Will uncovers a secret group called The Ten who make it their mission to drive out weak freshmen. The treatment of the freshman by the upperclassmen was absolutely brutal. I want to believe that this kind of hazing doesn't exist at real military schools, but I guess I can't be sure. So while it was excruciating at times to read about the torture and inhumane treatment of these kids, the story is also about a wonderful friendship between Will and his three roommates. And Will's struggle to be a good man whether or not that means being proud to be an Institute Man. Plus, the ending alone had such a fabulous twist (which I never saw coming) that it made the whole reading struggle for me worth it.

I am definitely going to read more of Conroy's books. I think the next on my list is his new one, South of Broad. And then The Great Santini, which I'm told is based on the author's father.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The "M" word

Ick. Isn't it funny how people can like a certain word and in turn cringe at the sound of another? Why does the English language have that kind of power over us?

It's no secret what the three words I dislike the most are. I even told you about them – and I rarely tell people what they are because it only encourages them to string all three into a disgusting sentence. But apparently I'm not alone here with word #1: moist. There are online articles out there! There are even Facebook groups formed in solidarity against the word that makes me swallow when I say it. Isn't there a better way to describe cake and towelettes?! And pretty much any word with the "oy" sound is kind of gross. Soil, ointment....

Anyway, this article is hilarious. I had to share. Read it, then tell me what word you absolutely hate.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breaking Dawn

by Stephenie Meyer

Mission. Accomplished. 2,560 pages. Of vampires. In less than two months. My mind is on sci-fi overload. I know of many people who read the series in a week or less, but I am not that incredible. No, seriously.

First off, I'm glad I read it. Now I understand what all the buzz is about. But thank God I am finished! Bella was seriously on my very last nerve. I am eager to get back to "normal" fiction books where there are no vampires or werewolves. Although I did come to like Jacob better than I did in Eclipse.

If you haven't read the Twilight series and plan to, STOP HERE. Many, many spoilers to follow. I made it through 3-1/2 books without having any plot twists given away only to have my friend, Joanna, say to me "Did you get to the part where Bella becomes a vampire yet?" ARGHHHHH! I really was hoping that Bella would stay human and wanted to read that for myself. But I still love ya, Joanna!

The main take-away I have from Breaking Dawn is that it was too tidy. Everything turned out so happily ever after that for me it ruined the series. Bella becomes a vampire so that she isn't killed in childbirth. As a newborn, she's supposed to be bloodthirsty, but she isn't. She has to stay away from her father because she might kill him, but she doesn't stay away or kill him. Because of this, the Cullen family doesn't have to move away from Forks. The Volturi come to kill the entire family but leave with only one vampire killed. And one we don't even care about. Alice has to leave to save her own life, but that was only a ploy, and lo and behold, she is safe and back with the family again. Renesmee (possibly the stupidest name ever) is growing so quickly they don't know what...oh wait, she will be a fully mature vampire by the age of seven. Too tidy. I think the books would have been so much more interesting if Bella would have stayed human and they had to figure out how to live as immortal/mortal husband and wife.

I was glad to get a little more intimacy between Edward and Bella though. And it did seem that once she became immortal, she stopped whining so much. And no matter what, Edward will always hold a special place in my (fiction) heart.

I guess I can see why people get so swept up in the lives of the Cullens. But I'm just not surprised that I wasn't one of them. I will at least watch the first movie, if for nothing else, than to see the meadow scene. But I'm afraid the Edward in my head is way better looking than the one on camera.

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Friday, July 17, 2009


by Lynne Cox

When Lynne was 17-years old and swimming off the coast of northern California, she had such an amazing experience that 30 years later she wrote a memoir. Just as she was finishing a grueling swim in 55° water, she noticed that a lost baby gray whale was following her. For her to swim ashore would certainly kill the whale. Very quickly her and Grayson (she named him) developed a rapport that would seen inconceivable between animal and human. She stayed in the chilly water for another three hours until finally she was able to reunite the baby with his mother.

The story was fascinating and almost unbelievable at times, but still enchanting. Cox has a wonderful, descriptive writing style that kept me interested throughout the short, ten-chapter book. I actually had the audio version of this one and it's a good thing the story was so unique. The author herself read it and I can honestly say it was one of the worst narrations I have ever heard. Absolutely no tonal change in her low, breathy, droning voice. She even took the excitement out of a story that was nothing but. I would highly recommend that whoever is in charge rerecord the book with a different reader. I only hung on because it was really short and I had to hear that Grayson survived. But now that you know that, save yourself and read the 176 pages instead of listening to them.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009


by Stephenie Meyer

I'm definitely on vampire overload. These books have been consuming my days like no others. And for me, it's not even like they are that good, but I still can't help but be intrigued as to what comes next. For the love of God, will someone please change Bella already?!?!

It's at this point where Bella is on my last nerve. Although she is obviously not real, has there EVER been a bigger martyr than her?? Seriously, she needs to get over herself. All the woe-is-me that every single thing that happens is her fault is making me want to punch her. Wow, it's a little crazy that I feel this strongly over a freaking vampire book!

I just think that maybe these books are getting a little long and Meyer may be milking every word for the benefit of her teenage readers. Because I personally think that Jacob is a whiny brat and have no idea why Bella even loves him in the first place. And I really wish that these books were written on a more adult level. I want good, juicy love scenes. I think we deserve it after three books! But alas, we get nothing.

But again, I still find a need to keep going and see what happens next. And seriously, who doesn't freaking l-o-v-e Edward?? I have a picture of him in my mind, but I still want to see him in person. And I want to feel this marble skin that Bella is always talking about. Obsessive, I know. It's what holds my interest.

Lastly, I really like how Meyer works the title of the book into each story. And this one really hit me and made me appreciate the poignancy of the characters' relationships:

"'He's like a drug for you, Bella.' His voice was still and gentle, not at all critical ... 'But I would have been healthier for you. Not a drug; I would have been the air, the sun.' (Jacob)

... 'I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.' (Bella)

He sighed. 'The clouds I can handle. But I can't fight with an eclipse.'

Oooh, I love that! Edward is my eclipse. And I'm not too proud to say it.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

by Gregory Maguire

Wicked the novel: Take two (and a half). I received the book as a gift about seven years ago and was instantly in love with the concept. Who doesn't love The Wizard of Oz? To find out the back story was such a cool idea. I was surprised to learn that Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West was first published in 1995 and I had never heard of it.

So I jumped in immediately. And almost immediately, I hated it. I mean, really hated it. I had such a difficult time with the writing style and I didn't like the political nature of the story at all. Some of the descriptions of the witch were so harsh and offensive to me. Overall, it was such a 180 from the movie that I couldn't wrap my head around it. Not that it had to be all happy and colorful with cute little Munchkins, but I certainly wasn't expecting a dark and complicated story. But I continued to read it. I was determined to finish. I was really forcing myself because I thought at some point I would start to like it because I just had to. I think it took me about six months to finish. And when I was finally done, it was like a huge weight was lifted. My obligation was complete, but I hated the book.

Then a few years ago Wicked the musical came gloriously into my life. I got the soundtrack from a friend of mine before I saw the show and instantly fell in love with the music. I've talked about this before, so fast forward to now, and I am completely obsessed with the musical. I've seen it three times with plans to go again December. I would really like to check it out in Chicago at some point too. I even own the Grimmerie. So how can I love the musical so much and hate the book to the same degree? A few close friends who have read the book loved it. What was wrong with me?

This time I was determined. I thought that if I could get through it on CD, I'd be all set. So I can finally say I got did and I definitely got more out of it on audio. I enjoyed the humorous parts that I completely missed the first time. I understood the political and religious meaning so much better. I came to understand Elphaba's flaws and strengths more. But it took me a while. Even on CD, it took me over two months to finish. I'm pretty sure I owe the library a small fortune in late fees.

I can't say I loved it, but I can say I'm glad I gave it another shot. I now might even be eager to read the next in the series: Son of a Witch. As an audiobook though, of course.

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New Moon

by Stephenie Meyer

Definitely in deep. Even though I didn't like New Moon as much as Twilight. I'm fully committed...or should I say I should be committed??

Addiction is a crazy thing. Even if it's to something as silly as a Young Adult series of novels. I find myself going to bed at a ridiculously early hour just to read (and read and read) until it's way later than it should be on a school night. Losing sleep over vampires and werewolves is not cool. But it's a fact.

Edward disappears for most of this book and Jacob is center stage in Bella's life now. Although I think he was more just a whiny, 16-year old boy. Can't say I liked Jacob very much. I missed Edward terribly. After all, that's what I am reading these books for! Gimme juicy, sparkly love.

But in the last 150 pages or so, it got interesting. So much so that I was actually reading while I was walking through the airport. Dork. I just needed to find out immediately how it ended.

There isn't much else to say that hasn't already been said by however many million people. But it's at this point that I am sure I want to rent the movie. ASAP. Oh, and I will also be going to bed early tonight to tackle Eclipse.

* * * * *


by Stephenie Meyer

Yep. I too was sucked in. I feel slightly guilty being dragged into the pop culture phenomenon, but I've talked about pressure before, and I admit I always succumb.

I wasn't super jacked to read the series, mainly because I'm not a sci-fi fan (pronounced "skiffy" by my dad and me), but everyone kept telling me it was more about the love story than anything else. I ignored several recommendations until I finally gave in when a coworker read all 4 books in less than a week.

I obviously don't need to include a synopsis here. I don't think there's a person on earth who doesn't know what Twilight is about. But crazily enough, I liked it. The chemistry between Edward and Bella made my heart pound. It was almost tangible and, as my friend described it, it's the constant anticipation of your first kiss. Being written at about the fourth grade level was also a bonus for me; averaging around 100 pages a day. I've never read a book that quickly!

One other comment I have: I really enjoyed Bella's overall independence, but she's also a total goody-goody. Really, at 17, making dinner and doing chores without being asked?? No teenager does that.

So it's for sure. I'm reading the next three without stopping. Stay tuned. And don't judge me.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Crying Tree

by Naseem Rakha

Lately I feel like I just don't enough time to read. Work and sleep get in the way! I could literally sit on a beach for an entire day (every day) and read until my heart's content. But alas, I need to make money.

Books like this one take me by surprise and make me want to read cover-to-cover in one sitting. I nearly did read The Crying Tree in one sitting; at least for me, 3 days is a short amount of time!
I was up way too late on a school night because I couldn't wait one more day to learn how the book ended.

The Stanley family live in rural Illinois just like the generations before them. One day Nate, the patriarch, announces that the family is moving to Oregon where he will become deputy sheriff of a small town. Irene, his wife, vehemently opposes this idea while their teenage children aren't so keen on the idea either. The family finally relents and they leave their family, home and friends. Not long after the move, the Stanley house is robbed and Shep, the son, who is unfortunately in the house, is murdered. It doesn't take long to find the suspect, who gets put on trial and receives the death penalty. For 19 years the family struggles to move on without their son. When Irene realizes that she can't harbor the hatred she has for the murderer, she feels she has no other choice but to forgive him. She and Daniel Robbin form a strange bond that seems to comfort Irene. Finally, Robbin's execution is scheduled and the Stanley family must decide if they want to be witnesses.

I won't give any more of the plot away, but be assured that the story takes a few very interesting turns. It's a really quick read, well-written and poignant story.

(This book isn't scheduled to release until July 2009, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on an Advanced Reader Copy.)

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Heart and Soul

by Maeve Binchy

Sometimes I just need to read a sweet, "nice" book. One that doesn't require a lot of soul-searching, deep thinking or emotional commitment. That's how I feel about all of Binchy's books. They are lovely reads, warmly written and make me smile. That doesn't mean that they are fluff by any account, because her books have good character development and can expertly weave an insightful story.

I really like how characters from previous books get intertwined into each new novel. They aren't continuations, but each time an old character is interestingly brought into the new tale. The success of this is that each book takes place in the same area in Ireland. And as you read, you almost develop an Irish accent because of the tone in which they are written. I've both read and listened to Binchy's books and most of the time I can't decide which way I prefer.

Heart and Soul
is about Clara Casey and the heart clinic she has been tasked to run. The story weaves through her life as well as her patient's, family and friend's and the struggle between the new and the old ways of Ireland. To describe it in one word would be enchanting.

A few years ago I had heard that Maeve Binchy was to retire as the author of these great novels. I'm not sure why she hasn't, or if that information was false, but I'm glad she continues to write.

* * * * *

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Shack

by William P Young

I know this book has gotten TONS of publicity and acclaim. And I know that when that happens I feel pressure to not only read it, but enjoy it too. I wish I could say I liked it, even a little bit. But unfortunately, I never got involved from the second I picked it up until I forced myself to finish it. I read a lot, so I shouldn't feel loyalty to a book just because of its exposure. But my dear friend gave it to me for my birthday and I hate to have to tell her what I thought of it. When a friend recommends a books to me, I am disappointed with myself when I don't like it the way she did.

In reading some reviews, I see that people call The Shack a "well-written page turner." For me that couldn't be further from the truth. At points I was actually laughing at how poorly written pieces were. And while I love my religion and wish I were better at it, this book was screamingly sacrilegious for me. I know that others were comforted by its message, but I have a really hard time reading a fiction novel about a man who gets invited to a shack by God. And that this God turns out to be a woman. I also felt that the description of Missy getting kidnapped was excruciating. Again, this is fiction, and I do not need to read such graphic detail of a child being abducted and finding her remains. Save that for real life; there's plenty of that on the news.

I don't feel that I really need to give a synopsis of the book here. Most people already know what it's about. And if it touched you, I am glad. I'm sorry that it didn't have an affect on me they way it did on my wonderful friend. Maybe a discussion with her will help me appreciate it a little more. As you can see, I really struggle when I dislike something so much.

* * * *

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Lucky One

by Nicholas Sparks

I think I am one of a very few people who thought that The Notebook was the stupidest, sappiest, load of crap movie I ever saw (right after City of Angels). I have never been a fan of sap, so Sparks has never been an author I would even consider reading. He practically invented mushy love stories! They showed Nights in Rodanthe on my flight a few months ago and I was practically nauseous just watching the screen. Oh yeah, and I figured the whole thing out in about 5 minutes of lip-reading. Blech. Anyway...

But again, thanks to my mom's Christmas gifts, she was pushing an unexpected one my way. I had heard from someone that this wasn't one of those typical N.S. novels, and it was relatively short, so I figured I'd give it a try. I seem to read faster in the winter anyway.

Logan Thibault is a marine, recently home from Iraq, who decides to walk from Colorado to North Carolina to meet a woman he knows only from a photograph. He found the picture half-buried in the dirt in Baghdad, and once it was in his possession, he seemed to have found a good luck charm. People were getting hurt or dying all around him, yet he remained safe. His closest friend, Victor, told him that he owed it to the woman in the photo to find her and figure out the meaning behind this good fortune.

Once he finds Beth (a little too easily if you ask me, but I think that's part of Sparks' m.o.) it doesn't take Logan long to fall in love with her. It wasn't long after that she returned his feelings. Yet he never told her about the picture.

I was giving frequent updates to my friend who also isn't a big fan of romantic goo. I told her that it was a very easy read and I couldn't help but be intrigued. I was eager to find out where the story was going to go. But I did warn her that if it turned sappy, I was going to immediately throw the book against the wall. As I neared the end I began to warm up my pitching arm.

Then lo and behold, it was only about 5% sappy at the end. I can handle that! I can't say it's the best book I ever read, or even a great book, but it was a decent story that held my interest for 336 pages.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

I've had this one on my radar since it was first released at the end of 2007. Mainly because the memoir is by the brother of Augusten Burroughs, an author who I truly admire. Augusten's memoir, Running With Scissors, is one of those books that I think about often and still marvel at the fact that it's a true story. These poor kids had such a screwed up childhood it's unbelievable that they even survived.

John Elder Robison has Asperger's syndrome, and was born in a time before this autistic syndrome was even recognized. His family just thought he was odd and ill-behaved. He had very few friends because his social skills were pitiful. He was very lonely. But John's brain was so high-functioning that he was a genius with mechanics and electronics. So much so that when he dropped out of high school (even with a huge IQ) he toured with KISS, creating special effects and guitars for the band. In his early 20s John realized he needed to get a "real" job and got pretty lucky considering he had no degree. Once the corporate world got the best of him, he began his own exotic automobile repair business, in which he is still highly successful. It wasn't until John was 40 that he was diagnosed with Asperger's.

I read this book in two days. Granted, I was in the desert basking in the sunshine, but nevertheless it was a quick read. I have a whole new understanding for people who may seem "weird" on the surface, but who are really struggling socially and physically.

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The Friday Night Knitting Club

I honestly had no intentions of reading this book. I really had no interest at all, even though I like to knit. Something about it screamed "chick lit" to me, and I've said before that I'm pretty much over that genre.

But my mom got The Friday Night Knitting Club for Christmas and I needed an easy beach read for Girls Lunch in Fort Lauderdale last month (oops, I'm behind on my posting!).

Well it was certainly easy to read. As I started out, I found that the book was "cute." Nothing too deep, nice characters, and the knitting portion woven in in just the right amount. Georgia Walker is the owner of Walker & Daughter, a yarn/knitting shop in New York City. Her Daughter, Dakota is twelve and a wonderful baker. Georgia is a single mom; James is her ex-love with whom she had Dakota. Georgia is successful with her business, but she is quite bitter and honestly pretty unlikable for a little more than half the book. The Knitting Club is an eclectic group of women who meet at the shop every Friday night to knit and mostly gossip. Kate Jacobs does a good job of introducing each of the characters with enough detail to keep it interesting.

And so I'm going along quickly and still thinking that this is a "cute" book. Georgia's friends are all great people in their own ways, James and she get back together, the company is successful, and then WHAM. Not such a "cute" book anymore. No longer a nice, surface read.

The ending was really quite poignant. I was actually sobbing and had to keep putting the book down to wipe my face. Damn this "cute" story! I have said before that I like when books don't have a tidy ending, but this one was completely unexpected. For this reason, I'm not sure I can recommend this one to just anybody. It was quite a shocker. Be warned.

And now there's a ton of talk about the second book in the series, Knit Two. I honestly can't say that I am in a hurry to pick it up. Maybe I won't ever end up reading it. Unless my mom gets it for Christmas.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Love the One You're With

Another audiobook. Took me forever to listen to it, and I think I owe the library a pretty penny in late fees.

Love the One You're With started out well. The reader's voice was very easy to listen to, and the subject matter was somewhat intriguing. Ellen is a photographer and is very happily married to Andy, a lawyer, who is also her college roommate's brother. She happens to run into an old college flame and begins to wonder what could have been. For me, both men were worth a chance. Ellen resists Leo (the flame) initially, and rightly so, but then begins to have her doubts about her marriage.

And then the book gets totally wishy-washy. Truly, I began to find Ellen completely spineless and weak. Nearing the end of the book, I realized that I didn't even care how it turned out. But since I got the abridged version and it was only four CDs, I pushed through. When Ellen finally makes her decision I literally said out loud while driving, "Oh, gimme a break."

I don't understand why authors always feel the need to tie up the ending in a neat little bow. For me, Emily Giffin landed right into that trap. This one really had the potential to take a cool twist and instead it landed flat.

...or maybe I'm just OVER chick lit...

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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Reader

So, am I the only one who had no idea what this book/movie was about? I was only tempted to read it because I never go to the movies, but I really love Kate Winslet. And when I picked up the book from our little borrowing library at work, it was only 218 pages. Even though short, I read The Reader in a record (for me at least) three day's time.

The beginning of the book was a little slow, but I told myself it was short and to push through. Then it got good. The Reader is about a 15-year old boy in Germany (where the book originated and is translated from) who happens to meet a much older woman and begins an affair. Theirs is a sensual, ritualistic relationship. And I thought I was smart to figure out that she was illiterate before the boy did! So I'm enjoying the plot as is, then BOOM. They break up and many years later he runs into her in a courtroom where she is under trial for being a concentration camp guard. I don't want to give away any more than that just in case there are a few other people out there that are unfamiliar with the plot written by Bernhard Schlink.

I actually liked the shortness of this book because there wasn't a whole lot of extra descriptions and it was very to-the-point. I think this was an intentional style to keep the reader uneasy throughout. And now I think I want to see the movie to learn how Kate earned the best actress Oscar.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

She's Come Undone

Just finished for the fourth time what I can easily say is the best book I ever read. Each time I read it, I love She's Come Undone more and more. Each time I discover something else that I missed or glossed over, and I appreciate the writing even more. Everyone knows what a bold statement "best book ever" is, and some people are too non-committal to even try, but I can say it with confidence.

I was in the mood to pick it up again after I finished the newest Wally Lamb novel. I find his writing to be addicting. And it still amazes me that he wrote such an amazing, poignant book from a woman's point of view! I probably don't need to go into too much detail about the plot since She's Come Undone was released nearly 13 years ago. It's told by Dolores Price, an extremely troubled girl, who has nearly nothing good ever happen in her life. The story follows her from ages four to 40, where she finally begins to heal, if only a little bit.

When I am not reading this book, I am thinking about it. I have never read anything else that affected me like this: I always think about Dolores. Probably the best way for me to give a synopsis is to point out the important imagery that is always running through my head long after I put the book down.

1. Roast Beef
2. Jukebox
3. Whales
4. Feet
5. Painting
6. TV
7. Dante
8. Rape
9. Etch-a-Sketch
10. Toll Booth

Is that tempting enough? Do yourself a favor and read it NOW. I'm sure I will pick it up again in a few years.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Read my mind! brought to you by the letter C

A meme with a twist! Found this on Joanna's blog and asked her to HIT ME. If you wanna play, reply to me and I'll assign you a letter.

I've been filling out notes like crazy on Facebook, so of course I was intrigued by this one too. So here it is, 10 things that I love, all beginning with the letter C.

1. Coffee : To drink, as ice cream...pretty much anything with that flavor. And the smell of the beans is glorious.

2. Chocolate : Especially if it has nuts and/or caramel.

3. Cake : All kinds. Pan. Cup. Coffee. The band.

4. Children : A child's laugh is one of the best sounds. And my niece is pretty much the cutest, smartest, funniest kid on earth (I know, I'm biased, what of it?)

5. Chicago – the musical : And the movie. I saw the stage production from the front row. I'm pretty sure the performers thought I was a total dork because I had a huge grin and sang all the songs from the edge of my seat for the whole show.

6. CHEESE : I'm sensing way too many food loves. Is there a 12-step program for all things cheese?

7. College : So far, the best time of my life. I often joke that I want to go back, but just for the social aspect of it. I don't want to have to study! And I love visiting other college campuses when I travel. The atmosphere makes me happy. Fear the ROO!

8. Cha-cha : I'm cheating, but I had to somehow squeeze in my love for dancing...

9. Chaturanga Dandasana : But pretty much all things yoga.

10. Cleveland : I have to give props to the city where I live. Great people, restaurants, museums. Sucky weather, but then I wouldn't appreciate vacation as much, right?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Still Summer

One of my favorite authors has done it again. Jacquelyn Mitchard never disappoints me, and Still Summer is no exception. I grabbed this one on CD, and I actually would find myself sitting in the car in my garage because I couldn't wait to find out what came next. Her novels are so unique and so different from each other.

Still Summer
is about a group of women who have been best friends since high school. Olivia, a wealthy widow, is moving back to the U.S. from Italy where her late husband owned a vineyard. She's a royal pain in the ass. And even as the book continued, I began to like her even less. But her friends stand by her and they have all agreed to take Olivia on a sailing vacation to welcome her home. Holly, Tracy and Janice are the other three, but when Janice's husband falls ill, Tracy decides to bring her 19-year old daughter, Camille, in Janice's place. A vacation that is meant to be all about relaxation and old friendships turns tragic in an instant. Now these four women have to fight for survival and pray to be rescued. I can't tell you any more than that. Just read it! For me this book contained suspense, emotion and overall great storytelling. I highly recommend it.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

Finally! After ten long, hopeful years, Wally Lamb releases another gem. I adored his first two books so much that I eagerly waited (and waited) for his next novel. It seemed it would never come. But now I can say it was worth the wait.

Thanks once again go to Joanna for delivering another fabulous birthday present with yet another signed first edition. Yay!

At around 723 pages, The Hour I First Believed took me about two months to read. I'm slow, but that certainly doesn't mean it wasn't a great read. Plus, I felt I had to savor it – who knows when Mr. Lamb will write another novel?! It's going to be hard to summarize all that happened without giving too much away, but a little teaser will be all you need to run out and snatch this one from the closest bookstore (I'd say library, but certain books I just know I'd rather keep in my collection).

Caelum Quirk is flawed. In so many ways and on so many levels. As the reader, it was very hard for me to even find him likable. On his third marriage, he seems to be failing once again as he and his wife Maureen, a school nurse, have already needed marriage counseling because of Maureen's affair. Starting over, they relocate to Colorado. When Caelum's Aunt Lolly, who practically raised him, falls ill, he must return to Three Rivers, CT to care for her. While he is there, Lolly dies and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold go on a shooting spree in the school where Caelum and his wife are employed. Unable to get a hold of Maureen, Caelum flies home and misses his aunt's funeral. Maureen survived the shootings by hiding in a cabinet praying for her life and scrawling a message to her husband in the chance that she did not survive.

With Maureen safe, but so mentally damaged, The Quirks flee Littleton and move back to Three Rivers to the family farm where Caelum grew up. While Maureen struggles with her own sanity and subsequent drug addiction, Caelum discovers diaries, letters and newspaper clippings from his family's past. He learns of the five generations of his ancestors, dating back to the Civil War. Some of the truths he uncovers are nearly unbearable, but as he continues to make new discoveries, he evolves into a better man than he ever was.

The cast of characters is too long to get into without giving away too much of the book. But each one lends a unique voice and a deeper understanding to who Caelum Quirk really is. By the end, I learned to respect and really like this man.

Now I wait patiently for the next great work...

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