Monday, December 31, 2007

WRAP UP: 2007 A - Z Author Challenge

I finished all but four books which isn't too bad since I didn't start counting until July. Here was my final list.

A—The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
B—In Watermelon Sugar (Richard Brautigan)
C—Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
D—The Madonna’s of Leningrad (Debra Dean)
E—The Black Dahlia (James Ellroy)
F—Place Last Seen (McGuinn Freeman)
G—The Queen’s Fool (Philippa Gregory)
H—The Town that Forgot How to Breathe (Kenneth J. Harvey)
I—Dead Sleep (Greg Iles)
K—The Beekeepers Apprentice (Laurie R. King)
L—The Devil in the White City(Erik Larson)
M—A Dog's Life(Peter Mayle)
N—So Many Books, So Little Time (Sara Nelson)
P—Sister India (Peggy Payne)
Q—Blessings (Anna Quindlen)
R—Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)
S—Franny & Zooey (J. D. Salinger)
T—Women of the Silk (Gail Tsukiyama)
V—La Magdalena (William Valtos)
W—Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)
Y—Falling Leaves (Adeline Yen-Mah)
Z—The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

A ~ Z Reading Challenge 2008

Adding another challenge

Align the first letter of an author's last name or the first letter in the title of a book to its corresponding alphabet letter. Books may only be used once. Grand Total 52 books. I only go to 45 this year so we'll see how it goes. The fun is in getting there!

This challenge is hosted by Joy (Thoughts of Joy): A~Z Reading Challenge

Someting About Me Challenge WRAP UP

Well it did come down to the wire but I did finish the challenge! I read the following five books

  • The Gallery of Regrettable Food--James Lileks

  • Place Last Seen--Charlotte McQuinn Freeman

  • A Walk In The Woods--Bill Bryson

  • The Echo Maker--Richard Powers

  • So Many Books, So Little Time--Sara Nelson

This was the first challenge I joined when I started blogging in July and its the first one I've finished. I'm not going to finish the A-Z Author Challenge. I'll be four short.

My favorite part of the challenge was the beginning. It was difficult but eye opening trying to figure out the 5 books that represented me. It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out what books from that huge list I wanted to read. There are books I added to some challenges for next year from that huge list.

My favorite book from those 5 was The Gallery of Regrettable Food. It was just so much fun and really made me laugh during a time when that was hard to do. There were not any of the books I disliked, I would recommend all of them.

Thanks for the great challenge Lisa! I hope you come up with another good one soon!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: The Gallery of Regrettable Food

Author: James Lileks

Pages: 191

Date: 2001

Genre: Non-Fiction, Comedy, Pop Culture

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:

WARNING: This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine decent, honest American spices. Learn to heed the advice of stern, fictional nutritionists. If you see any of these dishes, please alert the authorities.

Now, the good news: laboratory tests prove that The Gallery of Regrettable Food AMUSES as well as informs. Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its GENEROUS PORTIONS OF HILARITY and ghastly pictures from RETRO COOKBOOKS. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food.

Bon appetit!

I thought this book was absolutely fantastic based mainly upon it's uniqueness. Basically Lileks makes fun of recipes he has found dating from the 50's to the 70's. It had incredible photos of the dishes, retro fonts and colors, and a cool layout. I laughed out loud several times. He shows pictures of each dish and then "talks" about that dish. Most of the dishes are just plain disgusting. There were two chapters near the end that dragged a little but besides that it was a very fast read. I plan on keeping it on my coffee table so people can grab it for a good laugh.

Ladies, serve toast--and well-groomed twins in tuxedos will want to have sex with you!

Perhaps that circle is not a cross section of a spine, but a blowhole (ahem) of sorts--of a false eye to confuse predators. Put it on the floor and watch it frighten the dog.

This looks very much like a magnified cluster of warts. Although warts don't usually come with parsely.

I don't know, and I don't want to know. I just don't. It's a cucumber fun house, perhaps: notice how they seem to be pressing against the sides of the mold as if demanding our attention. Help! We're being felt up by smelly salmon in here --let us out

James Lileks has a website "The Official Institute of Good Cheer" on which the Gallery of Regrettable Food is based.

Pressure is On!

Something About Me Challenge--One book left!!!!!!

A-Z Author Challenge--5 books left. I won't finish but I'll give it a run for it's money.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Still Adding Books to My Shelf

Have you ever had a little hole somewhere inside of you and nothing seems to fill it? Not your husband, family or pets. Not your hobbies or faith. There is just something not right and you just cant quite catch up to it Well I have one of those holes right now and buying books makes me feel a little better. I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder (but they don't know which one--I need more test). Even though I know what my "hole" is I can't make it better. Here are the books I picked out today

  • All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot)
  • I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)
  • Fall On Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  • The Confiessions of Max Tivoli (Andrew Greer)
  • Astrid & Veronika (Linda Olsson)
  • The Egyptologist (Arthur Phillips)
  • Kabul Beauty School (Deborah Rodriguez)
  • A Rip in Heaven: A Memior of Murder and Its Aftermath (Janeine Cummins)
  • Through a Window (Jane Goodall)

Oh yeah...I forgot about these from Amazon last night

  • The Masque of the Black Tulip
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
  • Heretic: The Templar Chronicles
  • Napoleon's Pyramids
  • The Book of Air and Shadows
  • Society of S
  • Judge Sewall's Apology: The Story of a Good Man and an Evil Event: TheSalem Witch Trials and the Forming of the American Conscience

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Switching up my 2007 Author Challenge Books

I'm giving up on The World According to Garp for now. I can't get past page 60. I just have too many other books to struggle through one. I do think I'm going to try it again this summer when I'll have longer periods of time to sit at one time and concentrate.

So for my "I" author I'm now using Greg Iles--Dead Sleep. I read 24 Hours and liked it so hopefully this will go a little smoother. I'm also switching my "U" author to John Updike--Terrorist and my "O" to Tim O'Brien--The Things They Carried. I'll read We Were the Mulvaney's for the 2008 challenge instead.

My hubby is going to be in Thailand for the next two weeks so I'll probably get a lot of reading done. I actually have to take him to the airport in an hour or so.

Books that SANTA left for me this year

I don't know where to start reading

  • The BLACK SWAN: The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • go ask ogre: Letters from a Deathrock Cutter by Jolene Siana
  • Evolutionary Wars: A Three Billion Year Arms Race by Charles Levy
  • The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
  • I Love Everybody (and other Atrocious Lies) by Laurie Notaro
  • Peony in Love by Lisa See

I'll give a little synopsis of each when i have a quick minute

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


It is about that time to decide what was great and what wasn't so great that I read this year.


  • The Book Thief by Mark Zukas
  • Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Marley and Me by John Grogran
  • Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
  • Poison Study byMaria Snyder

  • Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (boring)
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (the only book I didn't finish and I really wanted to like it! I'm a biology teacher)
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King (it seemed to dribble on and on)
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass (it just wasn't there for me)

  • Sister India by Peggy Payne. I read it for a challenge for authors with double lettered names and it turned out to be pretty interesting
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I just don't feel it lived up to all the hype. How many of us can drop our entire lives to move to India and live in an Ashram to find inner peace?

Overall, a good year of reading. Its hard for me to find a book I really dislike. I'm still trying to finish my 2007 author challenge so this list might change.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nineteenth Century Women Writers Challenge

This challenge is being hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews.

The rules are pretty broad--women writers who wrote or were published in the 19th century (1800-1900). All genres count and she has several sites with recommendations on her blog if you need suggestions.

She recommends six books, but since I'm not as fast as all these other amazing ladies I'm aiming for 4.

  1. Kate Chopin--The Awakening and Other Short Stories

  2. Charlotte Bronte--Jane Eyre

  3. Emily Bronte--Wuthering Heights

  4. Louisa May Alcott--The Inheritance

I know it's pretty hard to believe I have not read some of these books yet but now is the chance!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Author: William Valtos

Pages: 397

Date: 2002

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

From the back cover:

Private Investigator Theo Nikonos is back. Having been acquitted of a double murder charge, the paranormal detective has left New York and is spending time in Spain, recuperating from his harrowing experience--and recovering from the loss of the woman he loved.

A chance encounter with a mysterious young nun, known only as La Magdalena, turns Theo's vacation into an investigation that unearths the little-known and mysterious world of early Christianity. A conversation with a priest, who tells a story that is stunning in its scope and heretical in its context, turns deadly. Theo realizes that there is someone who will do anything to prevent the revelation of who La Magdalena really is. And who she is will shatter the foundation of the Christian world.

Since The Da Vinci code I’ve been interested in reading books that tie history and religion together into fictional stories. This one had several people waiting for it on the paperbackswap wishlist so I added myself. I was also hooked by a quote on the back cover

“They have confiscated my notes and correspondence, and forbidden me from any
further contact with La Magdalena.” Padre Serrano tilted his head and looked at
me with renewed curiosity…
“Perhaps you were sent to succeed where I have failed.”
“Succeed: I asked?” “Succeed in what?”
“In bringing her story to light. It is an astounding account, on which challenges them most cherished Christian beliefs.”
He paused.
“If it is true.”
He paused again.
“And if you live to write about it.”

Theo Nikonos has to decide (scientifically) if La Magdalena is Mary Magdalena reincarnated. He comes across evidence that would be impossible to fake. Of course there are many other players in the game who are after La Magdalena and you don’t know for sure who is on the side of good and who is one the side of evil until the end.

From the tone of the book Valtos seems to think the Vatican/Catholic church knows a lot more than what it lets on and often acts in its own best interest as opposed to the interested of the people. However, they will say they are acting in the interested of the people.

The story is predictable in some aspects…forbidden lover, chase through cities, escape from seemingly impossible situations. But it has more interesting aspects that allow you to over looks those parts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Can't Stop Buying Books...

At least this time I did buy some as gifts for other people!

Relic (Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child)
The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
Red Prophet (Orson Scott Card)
Prentice Alvin (Orson Scott Card)
Alvin Journeyman (Orson Scott Card)
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
The Twentieth Wife (Indu Sundaresan)
The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
House of Sand and Fog (Ander Dubus III)
My Blue Notebooks (Liane de Pougy)
The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

For others...
Before You Know Kindness (Chris Bohjalian)
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)
Falling Angels (Tracy Chevalier)
me times three (Alex Witchel)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Author: Adeline Yen Mah

Pages: 274

Genre: Memoir

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States to become a physician and writer.

A compelling, painful, and ultimately triumphant story of a girl's journey into adulthood, Adeline's story is a testament to the most basic of human needs: acceptance, love, and understanding. With a powerful voice that speaks of the harsh realities of growing up female in a family and society that kept girls in emotional chains, Falling Leaves is a work of heartfelt intimacy and a rare authentic portrait of twentieth-century China

I wanted to read this memoir since I’ve become interested in the Chinese culture surrounding women. I’ve read a few other books that I’ve enjoyed (Women of the Silk, Snow Flower & the Secret Fan) and I was hoping to enjoy a memoir in addition to fiction.

I was amazed or I should say I couldn’t believe how poorly and unfairly she was treated by her family…for her entire life. I felt bad because she just wanted to be loved and was continually trying to impress them or do what they wanted in hopes of pleasing them and winning their affection. It never happened. Her stepmother is one of the cruelest people I’ve ever heard about.

Adeline does find happiness in America with a husband, family and job. I feel that her happiness was always overshadowed by her perceived failure of being loved and betrayed by her family.

The royalties from Falling Leaves have been donated by Adeline Yen Mah to a foundation to enable students to study at universities in Beijing and Shangai.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2008 Author Challenge

Time to begin making my list for 2008 authors.

A--The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
B--A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
C--The Silver Rose (Susan Carroll)
D--The Theives of Heaven (Richard Doetsch)
E--Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Echo)
F--Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)
G--American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
H--The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
I--A Widow for One Year (John Irving)
J--The Phantom Tollboth (Norton Juster)
K--Lost Names (Richard Kim)
L--The Giver (Lois Lowry)
M--Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Chistopher Moore)
N--The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
O--The Things They Carried (Tim Obrien)
P--The Shipping News (Annie Proulx)
R--The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
S--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
T--The Accidental Tourist (Ann Tyler)
V--The Rasputin Relic (William Valtos)
W--The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Z--The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Bought Books Today

Like I need more books. My husband looks at me like I'm crazy. I love having books. I love the way they look, how they feel, the sound they make when you flip the pages. Weird? Hubby also keeps asking why I keep buying more and more books. Besides getting get ideas from blogs here with great reviews I think I like the hunt. Going into a store and finding something that has been on my paperbackswap wishlist for months. Finding a book someone blogged about and I normally would never have picked up. Getting a good deal! (5 of my books today were each a buck)

Heres what I ended up with
  • Empire of the Ants (Bernard Werber)
  • Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco)
  • the wasp factory (Iain Banks)
  • The Greatest Game Ever Played (Mark Frost)
  • Lucky (Alice Sebold)
  • The Rasputin Relic (Valtos)
  • I, Mona Lisa (Jeanne Kalogridis)
  • The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
  • the 6th Lamentation (William Brodrick)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson)
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory (Danticat)
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Not a bad haul for one store!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Author: Sara Nelson

Pages: 232

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

In early 2002, Sara Nelson-editor, reporter, reviewer, mother, daughter, wife, and compulsive reader-set out to chronicle a year's worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the real world. She had a system all set up: fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books . . . and it all fell apart the first week. That's when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for: In reading, as in life, even if you know what you're doing, you really kind of don't.

I have to admit I did not think I would enjoy this book at all. Reading about someone else reading? It sounded boring to me. I also thought it started slowly and I almost put it down (Nelson actually talks about knowing you’re a grown up when you can put down a book unfinished because you don’t like it). Nelson really doesn’t summarize the plots of the books. She talks more about how they impacted her life or the impression they made or what they reminded her of. It was also interesting to hear her views about other people as readers.

What I Liked: Nelson reminded me of the memories books trigger in you. Where you were, a certain person, what you were doing at that point in your life. Some books you keep going back to like an old friend. She wasn’t afraid to be honest about the good and bad aspects of her life. There is an appendix that lists the books she was planning to read and the books she did actually read. I added several books to my to be read pile

What I Did Not Like: Nelson is a book snob. She seems like she wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere reading a Stephen King novel. She actually picked her books to take on a vacation based on how she thought she would look to the other women on the trip. She wanted to impress them. She considered (or did) ending friendships over bad book recommendations because of what they said about the person who recommended them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Decades Challenge 2008

Read 8 books from 8 consecutive decades. Hosted by 3M: Decades Challenge

1990--The Giver: Lois Lowry
1980--A Prayer for Owen Meany: John Irving
1970--Sophie's Choice: William Styron
1960--A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess
1950--Flowers for Algernon: Daniel Keyes
1940--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Betty Smith
1930--Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie
1920--Whose Body? Dorothy Sayers

I feel like I'm cheating since several of these are cross-listed with other challenges. Once I get going if I have more time I'll switch them out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Young Adult Challenge

I'll have to narrow this down to 12 but it was based mainly by what I have on my TBR pile. So many good choices...

Any recommendations?

Tentative list of books

  1. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
  6. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes)
  7. The Girls (Lori Lansens)
  8. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
  9. Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin)
  10. Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)
  11. ?
  12. ?
  14. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
  15. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  16. The Kiterunner (Khaled Hosseini)
  17. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
  18. The Rule of Four (Caldwell and Thomason)
  19. The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)
  20. The Dive from Clausen's Pier (Ann Packer)
  21. Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris)
  22. In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)
  23. The Kitchen Boy (Robert Alexander)
  24. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmael Beah)
  25. Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet)
  26. The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)


1. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
2. The Girls (Lori Lansens) completed 1.5.08
3. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith) completed 3.23.08
4. The Giver (Lois Lowry) completed 1.27.08
5. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) completed 3.8.08
6. Uglies (Scott Westerfeld) completed 5.15.08

7. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
9. Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin) completed 3.17.08
10. Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien) completed 6.7.08
11. The Boy in Striped Pajamas (John Boyne) completed 3.20.08
12. Gathering Blue (Lois Lowry) completed 2.27.08

Messenger (Lois Lowry)completed 4.6.08
Holes (Lois Sachar)
Dicey's Song (Cyntia Voight)
The Curse of the Romanovs (Staton Rabin)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J. K. Rowling) completed 6.8.08
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry) completed 6.19.08

This challenge is being hosted by Joy: Young Adult Challenge

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What's In a Name Reading Challenge

Just signed up for this today. You need to choose six books that fall into the following categories

A book with a color in its title.
White Oleander
The Blackstone Chronicle

A book with an animal in its title.
Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)
Snakebite Survivor's Club: Travel Among Serpents (Jeremy Seal)

A book with a first name in its title.
Sophie's Choice
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christopher Moore)
Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin)

A book with a place in its title.
A Parisian from Kansas (Philippe Tapon)
Dreams of My Russian Summer (Makine)

A book with a weather event in its title.
House of Sand and Fog
Snow Falling on Cedars
Shadow of the Wind

A book with a plant in its title.
Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)

This challenge is being hosted by Annie: What's In A Name Reading Challenge

Here is what I actually ended up reading:

A book with a color in its title
White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

A book with an animal in its title
Pig Island (Mo Hayder)

A book with a first name in its title
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christopher Moore)

A book with a place in its title
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

A book with a weather event in its title
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)

A book with a plant in its title
Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book Review: The ECHO MAKER

The Echo Maker

Author: Richard Powers

Pages: 451

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman--who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister--is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition. In The Echo Maker, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our boldest and most entertaining novelists.

If you can get through the first 100 pages of this book it is well worth reading. This is one of the more intricate novels I’ve read in awhile. There is a lot going on that is cleverly intertwined…neurology, biology, ecology, relationships…there are four or five main characters whose lives layer over each other in an amazing and sometimes sad way.

At times it was confusing. Not because it was poorly written, I just had a hard time following on occasions. For the most part I just kept reading to see what the human mind was capable of.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Time To Catch Up

We are finally getting settled in our new house. However, not much reading has been getting done. I've either been too busy to read or too tired. I'm trying to get back into the habit of reading each night before I fall asleep.

I just finished taking inventory on my challenges and checking out new challenges for 2008. Hopefully I can finish at least one that I tried. I'm pretty sure if we wouldn't not have suddenly bought a house I would have come much closer. I still a little under two months until the challenges end so we'll see how it goes.

It would be nice if I could find time to write up reviews for the few books I did read. I guess I'll just have to keep them even shorter than I normally do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The Bookseller of Kabul

Author: Asne Seierstad

Pages: 288

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

From the back cover:

This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details-a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.

Seierstad gave me a glimpse into a world I would never have a chance to see, the world of an Afghani family today. Sisters, mothers, brothers, sons, grandparents, and cousins all living together under one roof. The house has been damaged by various attacks…Americans, Taliban, Russians, various Afghani tribes. It is continually covered with dust that one poor girl Leila is forced to clean daily. She is the first one up and the last one to bed, but that is just the way it is, she is the youngest daughter and not worth much.

This book often left me feeling frustrated at how women are treated so poorly in other countries and it is culturally accepted by them. Seierstad gives vivid descriptions of what it is like to wear a burka from the way it feels and smells to how women recognize each other by their shoes since they really can’t see much else. In certain areas of Afghanistan women cannot be seen by men outside of their family. They could be killed if they are.

Seierstad comments on life from all people in the family including Sultan (the bookseller and oldest son), his sons, sisters and brothers, his two wives and other various family members. You get a true glimpse of the different aspects of their daily activities, aspirations and problems. Seierstad really does touch on so many different areas that it is hard to summarize them.

I believe this a must read considering we invaded this nation and they live so differently then us, yet still strive for the same things we do.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Pup Helping Me Read

Here I am plodding through The Omnivore's Dilemma. My buddy Otis is alway keeping me company. I never did finish this book. I'm not sure why. I teach biology and find the idea behind the book fascinating. Maybe it was Pollan's writing style of just the time of the summer. I'll try it again some time but not for awhile. Did anyone else have trouble with this book?

Books in the Mail

Is there anything better than getting books in the mail? How about when one is a surprise? Today four books showed up. I was waiting for three but the fourth was a complete surprise! I'm not sure how many of you are members at paperbackswap but I visit the game forum there often and play in the swaps. You "put up" one book (usually secretly) and then people take turns revealing and stealing books until everyone has one. I've had a chance to get some interesting books this way I never would have read otherwise. You can also sign up for secret buddy swaps where you agree to send someone a book secretly and know you will get at least 1 book in return. Well, I've gotten three this time! People have been very generous. As soon as I'm settled into my new house I'm going to repay these "surprise" books to someone who isn't expecting it.

So what has shown up this week?

How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown

The Butterfly House by Marcia Preston

gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

The Thieves of Heaven by Richard Doetsch

Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

If I had more time, or when I have more time, I'll include a little description for each one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Poison Study

Author: Maria Snyder

Pages: 361

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:

Choose: A quick death or slow poison. About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals; have rooms in the palace- and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust- and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear.

I CANNOT wait until the next two books come out—Magic Study and Fire Study. I may actually buy Fire Study in hardback when it comes out in March of 08.

Go Get This Book!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


The Place Last Seen

Author: Charlotte Freeman

Pages: 292

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

During an idyllic autumn-day hike in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas, the Baker family is hurled into a nightmare. Playing hide-and-seek with her older brother, Luke, six-year-old Maggie runs away-and she cannot be found. Her father, Richard, and mother, Anne, search desperately before racing down the mountain to call in a Search and Rescue team. The team arrives with experienced trackers, volunteers, dogs, and topographic maps and begins a thorough search from the place where Maggie was last seen. But the search is complicated by an unpredictable factor: willful and energetic, Maggie baker is also a Down Syndrome child, and there is no telling how she will move as she wanders in the wilderness. Richard, Anne, and Luke can only wait and hope that she will leave a clue, a trail that will lead them to her.

The story is told from two viewpoints, the family and the search and rescue team as they look for Maggie. You never get a chance to personally “meet” Maggie as she is already lost when you begin the story but you get to know her from the emotions and descriptions from her family members. The story covers only a few days and not much happens (they look for Maggie). The focus is on the emotional nightmare that all the people involved face and how it comes at different people from different angles. I really disliked the mother and felt so sorry for the “big” brother (10 years old?). At times I wanted to strangle the mother myself and wondered how do search and rescue teams actually deal with people like her?

I also wondered how people can endure such stressful and terrible situations. How would I react if I was in that situation? I think until you’re there you will never truly know.

The 3/5 rating was given because it was a little slow and boring at times but still a very good read that I would recommend.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

USA Today Fall Books Preview

Check it out: LINK


The Almost Moon
By Alice Sebold (Little, Brown, $24.99)

What it's about:
A divorced woman kills her elderly mother, who has dementia.

Why it's big:
It's been five years since Sebold's last novel, The Lovely Bones, the surprising smash hit narrated by a murdered girl. Booksellers hope Moon will rise to the same heights, but Sebold really pushes boundaries with this one. Mixed early reviews indicate it will be a tougher sell.

On sale: Oct. 16


Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (Doubleday, $21.95, Sept. 24). A third-string NFL quarterback scores when he's hired by a team in Italy.

Run by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins, $25. 95, Sept. 25). A drama about a mixed-race family, set in Boston.

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin, $26, Oct. 1). The final Nathan Zuckerman novel.

The Abstinence Teacher by TomPerrotta (St. Martin's, $24.95, Oct. 16). The culture wars hit the suburbs, from the author of Little Children.

There are also sections for non-fiction, celebrity, history, debut, sequel, classics, self-help, young adult, childrens, graphic, mystery, memoir, and biographies.

What Have You Read?

Look at the list of books below: *Bold the ones you’ve read* Italicize the ones you want to read* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18 The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44.The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58.The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96.The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Series Challenge

Kathrin at Crazy Cozy Murders is hosting a series challenge. Click here for the Mr. Linky.

She says:

"Well, I've been thinking about all those series I've started, but not finished at various points in my life. Be it series with the same characters, the same topic, by the same author... There are just so many of which I read maybe the first few books and then left off because of other series I wanted to give a try. And by no means did I "leave" those series because I didn't like what I read!"
The basic rules would be:

1. There is no set number of books you have to read, you just have to read the books in order to be all up-to-date with the series.
2. Post your review of the books on your blog, no matter how long.
3. Post a comment here when you have finished a series and when you have finished all the series you wanted to finish for the challenge.
4. Always remember this is for fun!

Time Frame: December 1 2007 - May 31 2008 (possible/probable 6 month extension)

Harry Potter
Tales of the Alvin Maker--Orson Scott Card (crossover with cardathon challenge)


Sister India

Author: Peggy Payne

Pages: 275

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the inside cover:

The lonely Planet guidebook recommends the Saraswati Guest House in Varanasi and meeting its proprietor Madame Natraja, ' a one-woman blend of East and West', as a worthwhile side trip for the adventurous traveler in India. Over the course of one weekend, several guests turn up at the Saraswati, shocked to encounter a nearly four-hundred-pound surly white woman in a sari. Jill Thornton, thirtyish and single, has come only to rest and see the sights before home from a business trip to New Delhi. T J Clayton, a swaggering southern bureaucrat, has arrived in India on a grant to study the pollution-plagued River Ganges. And Marie Jasper, nearly eighty years old, has ventured to Varanasi alone, after the death of her husband, to find peace by the holy river.

But as happens so often in India, Natraja's guests find more than what they came for. When a series of Hindu-Muslim murders rocks the peace of this sacred place, the entire city is placed under curfew indefinitely - no one may leave his home. Natraja's guests unwittingly become her captives, and the guardians of her secrets. So begins a period of days blending into nights, as Natraja and her Indian cook become entangled in the web of religious violence. And their guests each fall slowly under the spell of Varanasi - both enthralled and repelled by its wandering holy men, public funeral pyres, and pilgrims bathing in the Ganges at dawn. They feel the rumble of their own inner revolutions as they are drawn further and further into the folds of their captive city.

I decided to read this book based on my travel to China a few years ago. Since then I’ve been interested in reading books set in different countries, especially those in Asia. I’m hoping to travel again someday soon hoping to “experience” the different cultures like I did in China. I’ve been enjoying books where the experience of being there is as important as the story. I felt like I was in Varanasi when I read Sister India. It made we want to travel there.

Trying to “pick out” the plotline is difficult because the story wanders back and forth between the past and present and the various people in the guest house. Yes, they are all under curfew but there is no one “goal” everyone is working towards or a unifying idea happening. It’s more each person’s individual experience tied together by the curfew. I think this is fine but it isn’t for everyone.

I gave Sister India 3/5 stars because even though it gave you the experience of being in India it had the potential to be one of those books that LOTS of people would read and enjoy. If it had focused on fewer events in more detail and had better character development I think it could have been a fantastic book. As is it is a “good” book.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Book Around the World Challenge

I'm addicted to challenges. Since this one did not have an end date I figured I would add it to the list. As I've been reading through blogs and reviews I've found myself becoming interested in books set in different countries. This challenge seems perfect since I already have a few of these books around and I was planning on buying a few in in the future.

The Bookseller of Kabul


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Women of the Silk*


The Book Thief
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas*


Sister India*


Memiors of a Geisha *

Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood *


The Madonnas of Leningrad


Books I have but haven't read yet...
The Alchemist (Spain)
Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris (France)
Anil's Ghost (Sri Lanka)
Astrid and Veronika (Sweden)
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (China)
Bel Canto (South America)
Beneath a Marble Sky (India)
The Birth of Venus (Italy)
The Blind Assassin (Canada)
The Blood of Flowers (Iran)
The Bonesetter's Daughter (China)
Borderliners (Denmark)
Breath, Eyes, Memory (Haiti)
Brick Lane (Bangladesh)
The Brief History of the Dead (Antarctica)
The Burning Times (France)
Chocolat (France)
The Crimson Petal and the White (Great Britain)
Crocodile on the Sandbank (Egypt)
Damascus Gate (Israel)
The Devil's Arithmetic (Poland)
Dreams of My Russian Summer (Russia)
The Dress Lodger (England)
The Egyptologist (Egypt)
Exodus (Palestine)
Fall on Your Knees (Nova Scotia)
Fieldwork (Thailand)
The Fig Eater (Hungary)
From Baghdad with Love (Iraq)
The God of Small Things (India)
Harem (Iran)
Holder of the World (India)
The House of the Spirits (Chile)
I, Mona Lisa (Italy)
The Intelligencer (Great Britain)
Kabul Beauty School (Afghanistan)
The Kite Runner (Afghanistan)
Koko (Vietnam)
Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico)
A Long Way Gone: Memiors of a Boy Soldier: (Sierra Leone)
The Looking Glass (France)
Love in the Time of Cholera (Colombia)
Madame Bovary (France)
Map of Bones (Germany)
The Map of Love (Egypt)
The Masque of the Black Tulip (England)
Napoleon's Pyramids (Egypt)
Peony in Love (China)
Pig Island (Scotland)
The Poisonwood Bible (Belgian Congo)
Pompeii (Italy)
The Reader (Germany)
River God (Egypt)
The Robber Bride (Canada)
The Samurai's Garden (China)
The Shadow of the Wind (Spain)
Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl's Journey from Hitler's Hate to War-Torn China
The Shipping News (Newfoundland)
The Sixteen Pleasures (Italy)
Slammerkin (London)
Soul Mountain (China)
Star of the Sea (Ireland)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afghanistan)
The Twentieth Wife (India)
Waiting (China)
Wide Sargasso Sea (West Indies)

Book Around the World

* = didn't make "the list" but I'm still including it anyway

Friday, August 31, 2007

Cardathon Challenge

Challenge starts January 1st 2008 (but can really begin anytime)

To qualify for the Cardathon Challenge a book needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) a book written by Orson Scott Card
2) a book edited/compiled by Orson Scott Card
3) a book with an introduction by Orson Scott Card
4) a book reviewed by Orson Scott Card on his official website.

No requirement on the number of books. Six to twelve are recommended.

Becky at Becky's Book Reviews has set up the challenge. The blog is Cardathon Challenge


Magic Mirror
Invasive Procedures
Seventh Son (Alvin Maker)
Red Prophet (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 2)
Rachel & Leah
Cruel Miracles
The Folk of the Fringe
Homecoming: Harmony
The Worthing Saga

I needed to linked them because I kept forgetting what each one was about.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Themed Reading Challenge

January 1st 2008 - June 30 2008

Choose at least 4 books that share a theme. Write a review about each book you complete and a final wrap up at the end of the challenge.

* Set in Asian countries
* Cozy (never read before)
* Softball or baseball
* Involve genetics

I ended up going with none of the above! My theme is...
Books by Lois Lowry

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry (completed 1.27.08)
2. Gathering Blue
3. The Messenger
4. Number the Stars

Link to the blog here: themed reading challenge hosted by caribousmom

Monday, August 27, 2007

Just4thehelluvit Reading Challenge

No time limit, no lists. The only rule is your books cannot cross over to any other challenges. You read a book or books just for the helluvit.

Here is the link to the blog: just4thehelluvit

Books I've Read for the Challenge:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In Their Shoes Reading Challenge

This challenge is being hosted by Vasilly over at 1330V

The rules are real simple: you pick the number of books that you want to read. You also pick the books you read. They just have to be either a memoir, autobiography, or biography. It runs from Jan. 1 2008 - Dec. 31 2008.

Here is the blog In Their Shoes.

I finally decided on a list.

1. The Burn Journals (Brent Runyon) 3.12.08
2. The $64 Tomato (William Alexander) 6.12.08
3. Lucky (Alice Seibold)
4. A Million Little Pieces (James Frey)
5. Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood. (Julie Gregory)
6. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmael Beah) 7.22.08

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls) completed 2.3.08
Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil (Deborah Rodriquez) completed 4.5.08
A Piece of Cake (Cupcake Brown) completed 6.28.08

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Book Review: The Ruins

Author: Scott Smith

Pages: 336

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

From the back cover:

The Ruins follows two American couples, just out of college, enjoying a pleasant, lazy beach holiday together in Mexico as, on an impulse, they go off with newfound friends in search of one of their group—the young German, who, in pursuit of a girl, has headed for the remote Mayan ruins, site of a fabled archeological dig. This is what happens from the moment the searchers—moving into the wild interior—begin to suspect that there is an insidious, horrific “other” among them . . .

I picked up this book by chance from Goodwill when I saw it was published in 2006. I thought I could get a credit for it on paperback swap. I wasn’t expecting much. At home I saw that Stephen King called it “the best suspense novel of the year” and I decided to give it a try.

Four annoying, recently graduated college students follow a newly met friend into the jungle. They are looking for the new friend’s brother, who has been missing for a week. They are searching for Mayan ruins, the last place the brother said he was going. They end up being trapped on top of a hill by vines and group of native villagers. Most of the story revolves around what happens as they are trapped on the hill.

I hated three of the four main characters. I wanted to strangle them. I almost stopped reading the book I found the girls to be so stupid and irritating. The third male character was almost as aggravating. I think Scott did a nice of job of showing how a stressful situation can bring out the worst flaws in some people. The book also has no chapters. It goes on and on, just like their ordeal.

Would I call this book the best suspense novel of the year? No. I would call it good suspense/horror novel that had some interesting aspects and ideas. I think Smith could come up with some real horrifying stories in the future, I see potential.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Awards Reading Challenge

Yes, another challenge. I’m still narrowing down my list. The books I’ve put in italics are still tentative.

8 / 12

Booker Prize
1997 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
2000 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Gold Dagger Award
1993 Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

National Book Award
1990 Sophie's Choice by William Styron
2003 Three Junes by Julia Glass completed 8.5.07
2006 The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

Pulitzer Prize
2003 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

PEN/Faulkner Award
2002 Bel Canto by Patchett

1988 The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Newbery Award
1994 The Giver by Lois Lowry

Bram Stoker Award
1992 The Blood of the Lamb by Thomas F. Monteleone

World Fantasy Award
1989 Koko by Peter Straub

British Children's Book of the Year
2007 The Boy in the Striped Pajams (John Boyne) completed 3.20.08

  • 3 Irish Book Awards: the Novel of the Year, the People's Choice Book of the Year, and the Children's Book of the Year. It won 2 awards
Nebula Award
1966 Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) completed 3.8.08

Panorama Literario Award: Chile
1983 The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende)
  • Best Novel of the Year, Chile 1983

Alternates on my Bookshelf

  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Plague’s Progress by Arno Karlen
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lamb
  • Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • The Throat by Peter Straub
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson


    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Book Review: Women of the Silk

    Author—Gail Tsukiyama

    Pages: 278

    Personal Rating: 5/5

    From the back cover:

    In Women of the Silk, a West Coast bestseller in its hardcover publication, Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn until dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of miraculous courage and strength.

    I decided to read Women of the Silk with the hope that I would like it as much as Snow Flower & the Secret Fan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Although distinctly different from them, it still gave me a glimpse into the Chinese culture that I have begun to enjoy.

    Women of the Silk revolves around a young girl Pei, who is sent to work in the silk factory to earn money for her family. Her father tells her they are taking a trip and then leaves her as she is taking a “tour” of the building that will become her home. The story follows Pei through the next 20 years of her life. As the events in Pei’s life unfold, it becomes harder and harder to put the book down.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Book Review: Stiff--The Curious Life of Human Cadvers

    Author—Mary Roach

    Pages: 303

    Personal Rating: 4/5

    From the back cover:

    Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

    The first three quarters of this book were much more interesting than the last quarter which I ended up skimming. Roach examines the many ways cadavers are used today. Each chapter is devoted to a different use. Some examples; Chapter 1—A Head Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, Chapter 4—Dead Man Driving, Chapter 5—Beyond The Black Box. She has a dry sense of humor that is present throughout the book. You will alternate between laughing and being grossed out. Roach also addresses how much resistance the people who work with cadavers encounter from the public and government.

    Even though I did not enjoy the last few chapters of this book I’m rating it a 4 out of 5 for its original idea, sense of humor and disgusting descriptions.

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    Book Review: The Virgin Suicides

    Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

    Pages: 249

    Personal Rating: 4/5

    From the back cover:

    Juxtaposing the most common and most gothic, the humorous and the tragic, Eugenides creates a vivid and compelling portrait of youth and lost innocence. He takes us back to the elm-lined streets of suburbia in the seventies, and introduces us to the men whose lives have forever been changed by their fierce, awkward obsession with five doomed sisters: brainy Therese, fastidious Mary, ascetic Bonnie, libertine Lux, and pale, saintly Cecilia, whose spectacular
    demise inaugurates 'the year of the suicides.'This is the debut novel that caused a sensation and won immediate acclaim from the critics-a tender, wickedly funny take of love and terror, sex and suicide, memory and imagination.
    Virgin Suicides left me with an unsettled feeling in my stomach but I did enjoy it. However much you can enjoy a novel about five teenage girls committing suicide. Eugenide’s descriptions during the novel were compared to the strangest objects and events. The smell of their house was like drilled teeth. The imagery he created was outstanding.

    The story is narrated by a man/men. I was never able to determine exactly who it was. I don’t think you were supposed to. It also goes back and forth between the present and the past, sometimes being difficult to tell when it is. Once again, I don’t think you’re supposed to. I did a lot of wondering while I read this book. How could anyone endure as much suffering as those girls? How did their father look the other way? What in the hell was wrong with their mother? It also reminded me of being an teenager and the obsessions and love we so easily develop.

    Even though the topic is unpleasant it was a fascinating read.

    * I never saw the movie so I have no idea how the two compare.

    Friday, July 6, 2007

    Saturday Review of Books Reading Challenge

    I’m going to try another challenge. For me this will make three. Not a lot for others, but a start for me. I’ve never done a challenge before! For this challenge you need to read six of the books that have been linked to reviews at the Saturday Review of Books in the past year. Review them in your blog. Ending date is December 31, 2007.


    Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
    Dai Silje

    Eat, Pray, Love
    Elizabeth Gilbert (completed 10.9.07)

    The Echomaker
    Richard Powers (completed 11.26.07)

    The Book Thief
    Markus Zusak (completed 7. 28.07)

    Ella Minnow Pea: a Novel in Letters
    Mark Dunn

    The Madonna’s of Leningrad
    Debra Dean (completed 8.6.07)

    The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    Michael Pollan (shelved 8.25.07--finished half)

    Three Junes
    Julia Glass (completed 8.5.07)

    Hosted by Sherry at Saturday Review of Books Reading Challenge

    Something About Me Reading Challenge

    I came across this challenge while browsing book blogs and thought it would be great to try. You are asked to list five books that say something about you. Starting August 1st you will pick books that other people have posted to learn something about them. This is such an intriguing idea.

    It was difficult choosing the five books. There are so many possibilities and ways to represent yourself. I also don’t remember a lot of what I’ve read. I finally decided to list these five books to say something about me.

    Island of the Blue Dolphin—Scott O’Dell. When I would play alone outside I would always pretend that I was alone on an island surviving with what skills I had. I would act out scenes from the book over and over. I also checked this book out from the library over and over.

    The Talisman—Steven King & Peter Straub. I dreamed about this book several times. The idea of having parallel worlds and being able to “flip” between the two fascinated me. His journey fascinated me. I’ve never dreamed about a books before or since.

    Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters—Matt Ridley. As a biology teacher I obviously love science. This book is organized into 23 chapters just like our chromosome are organized in 23 pairs. It puts science into your life in a way a person without a science background can understand. This is something I strive to do everyday with my students.

    Snow Flower & the Secret Fan—Lisa See. In 2004 I traveled to China for several weeks. My husband & I tried to spend a lot of our time off the beaten trail. Here we were able to interact with people in ways most vacationers never will. I learned to appreciate the Chinese culture with all its differences and was surprised to learn how curious they were about foreigners (especially Americans). Snow Flower gave me another glimpse into their culture.

    A Wrinkle In Time—Madeleine L’Engle. Who wouldn’t want to travel through time & space as child? This book sparked my curiosity at a young age. Were tesseracts real? Could this happen? This book reminds me of enjoying “science” at an early age. It also brings back memories like my dad waking me up to watch lunar eclipses.

    I’ve decided to read the following books.

    • The Gallery of Regrettable Food—James Lileks
    • Place Last Seen—Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
    • A Walk in the Woods—Bill Bryson
    • The Echo Maker—Richard Powers
    • So Many Books, So Little Time—Sara Nelson
    Hosted by Lisa at Something About Me Reading Challenge (Breaking the Fourth Wall)
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