Friday, February 29, 2008

New Books

I buy more books than I read...

  • In the Shadow of Man--Jane Goodall
  • Vinegar Hill--A. Manette Ansay
  • The Intelligencer--Leslie Silbert
  • The Brief History of the Dead--Kevin Brockmeier
  • From Baghdad, With Love--Kopelman, Roth

And I just got a gift card to Barnes and Nobel!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review: Gathering Blue

Author: Lois Lowry

Pages: 215

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Sci. Fi & Fantasy

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

From the back cover:

Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, lives in a world where the weak are cast aside. When she is given a task that no other community member can carry out, Kira soon realizes that she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets. No one must know of her plans to uncover the truth about her world—and to find out what exists beyond it.
Loved it! Once again, Lowry has created an “alternate” world after the destruction of our own many, many, many years earlier. This world though is one that has regressed. Sick or dying members of the community are dragged to the Field and are left there. If they have any children they are given away. Men go out for food, women stay home with the tykes. Before Kira is orphaned her mother and her just ate vegetables and fish they could catch from the stream. There was no man to hunt for meat since Kira’s dad had been killed by Beasts years earlier during a hunt. No one helps a widow and her crippled child. In their opinion that child should have been put in the Field after its birth.

The story starts with Kira sitting with her dead mother in the Field. She has been dead for four days and Kira has been doing the four days of watching (the spirit). She has no family and is all alone, she decides she will rebuild her cot (house) herself and start her life. She knows she may face opposition from the women of the village who see her as useless. They want her space/land to pen up their tykes. When she gets back to her cot, which has been burnt down to rid it of illness another women is pillaging the vegetable garden. She is nearly stoned by the women of the village but they decide to take her before the Council of Elders as is “proper procedure” when there is a conflict.

From here it is realized that Kira has a special gift in weaving and she is taken to live in the Council Edifice. Her job will be to fix the stitching on The Singer’s Robe. As you move into the Edifice with Kira you meet Thomas the Carver, learn about the Robe, the Singer and the Gathering Ceremony and discover little Jo, the tyke who will eventually become the new singer. But as the back cover says “Kira soon realizes she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets.” Not everything is as it seems.

I loved the characters. Lowry does a wonderful job developing them. I read a little of the readers guide in the back and she talks about bringing one called Mattie back in a later book (The Messenger?). I didn’t realize there was a guide so I was startled when the story stopped. A little abruptly in my opinion. I liked the abrupt ending in The Giver, but I don’t think it fits as well here. To explain more would be to give away the story so I won’t. I think most readers young and older again will find this book enjoyable. I have two more Lowry books I need to read for a challenge and I’m definatley looking forward to both of them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Review: White Oleander

Author: Janet Fitch

Pages: 480

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes -- each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned -- becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

Take 200 pages from this book and it would have been great! As it was, it went on forever. How much horror can a teenager take? Apparently 480 pages of it. Don’t get me wrong, I found the story very interesting and Fitch is a great write. Overall I liked it. I’m just still hung up on those 480 pages.

I would go into a little detail about everything that happens to this girl and her "strange" mother but really you need to read it for yourself.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I've decided to go to a three column blog. So for anyone who actually reads my stuff (I think there may be a few of you) things will be back to normal soon. Unless I really mess stuff up!

My sidebar was getting so long I thought it would be easier if i had two.

Wish me luck!!!!

UPDATE: sidebar is still really long but I like it better this way so far.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge

Its a sickness...I'll admit it...I can't stop joining challenge! I may need an intervention.

I found this one from Joy on Thoughts of Joy and its being hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog: Suspense and Thriller Reading Challenge.

Dates: January 2008 - December 2009

You need to read 6 different subsets of thrillers in 08 and 6 more different subset in 09. There is a list of subsets with great descriptions over at the site. I love thrillers.


Action--often feature a race against the clock, contains lots of violence, and an obvious antagonist. Treasure hunt, search for a lost archeological site, the world's lost meteorite, a mystery lost to time--action-adventure brings back our childhood fantasies of being the adventurer. Examples are Sahara by Clive Cussler, Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston

* The Third Twin--Ken Follett

Crime--offers a suspenseful account of a successful or failed crime or crimes. This subgenre often focuses on the criminal(s) rather than a policeman. Crime thrillers usually emphasize action over psychological aspects. Central topics of these films include murders, robberies, chases, shootouts, and double-crosses are central ingredients. I think the Dexter series would work well here.

Eco--is where the protagonist must avert or rectify an environmental or biological calamity - often in addition to dealing with the usual types of enemies or obstacles present in other thriller genres. This environmental component often forms a central message or theme of the story. Examples include Nicholas Evans's The Loop, C. George Muller's Echoes in the Blue, and Wilbur Smith's Elephant Song, all of which highlight real-life environmental issues. Futuristic Eco-thrillers are of the Science Fiction genre that proposes ideas that will or may occur and include such works as Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy and Ian Irvine's Human Rites Trilogy.

* The Alienist--Caleb Carr

* Rosemary's Baby--Ira Levin
* Society of S--Susan Hubbard
* Relic--Douglas Preston
* Dracula--Bram Stoker (audio book)

* Fifth Angel--Tim Green
* Cold Hit--Linda Fairstein
* Unbidden Truth--Kate Wilhelm

* The Syndrome--John Case

Political--where the hero/heroine must ensure the stability of the government that employs him. Good examples are Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn, Presidential Games by Alvin E. Hargis, and Happy Holidays: A Political Thriller by J.D. Smith.

* The Wasp Factory--Iain Banks
* Flesh & Blood--Jonathan Kellerman

* The Reckoning--Thomas Monteleone (2.8.08)

* Deep Storm--Lincoln Child

* Chill Factor--Sandra Brown

Spy--also a subgenre of spy fiction) are where the hero is generally a government agent who must take violent action against agents of a rival government or (in recent years) terrorists. Examples include From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, and television series such as Mission: Impossible and 24 (the latter demonstrating a break from the norm by Robert Ludlum, as it is as much a psychological thriller as a spy thriller.)

* Pig Island--Mo Hayder

Techno--are work that usually focuses upon military action, in which technology (usually military technology) is described in detail and made essential to the reader's/viewer's understanding of the plot. Tom Clancy defined and popularized the genre with his The Hunt for Red October, and is considered to be the "Father of the Technothriller."

True Crime--The most famous book in this nonfiction genre is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966). The author spent months in the Midwest painstakingly retracing the steps of two young rural killers -- and then wrote about it chillingly. Another excellent and more recent true-crime book is Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule (2004), the true story of the notorious Green River serial killer who terrorized the Seattle area for decades.

*Faithless--Karin Slaughter
*Trace--Patricia Cornwell
* Cruel & Unusual--Patrical Cornwell (3.16.08)

Locked Room--mystery in which the crime is apparently committed under impossible circumstances (but eventually elicits a rational explanation).

Hard Boiled--is tougher and grittier than soft- or medium-boiled stories. They often incorporate violence, no-holds-barred descriptions of crime scenes, and sexual encounters. They usually feature a lone-wolf private detective who is cynical yet quixotic. Think Sara Paretsky, Ian Rankin, Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly, James Elroy, Clyde Ford (The Long Mile).

Private Detective--Focused on the independent snoop-for-hire, these have evolved from tough-guy "hard-boiled" detectives to the more professional operators of today.

Book Review: Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood

Author: Richard E. Kim

Pages: 198

Genre: Fiction/Historical

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

In this classic tale, Richard Kim paints seven vivid scenes from a boyhood and early adolescence in Korea at the height of the Japanese occupation, 1932 to 1945. Taking its title from the grim fact that the occupiers forced the Koreans to renounce their own names and adopt Japanese names instead, the book follows one Korean family through the Japanese occupation to the surrender of the Japanese empire. Lost Names is at once a loving memory of family and a vivid portrayal of life in a time of anguish.

My husband walked into the bedroom and said “I think you’ll like this book.” I asked him if he had read it and he said yes. He doesn’t read fiction so I decided to read it immediately. We are both high school teachers. He teaches social studies, I teach biology. We have both been to China, he has been to Korea and Thailand. As part of his grant to go to Korea he needed to read this book. He enjoyed it. This says a lot since he tends not to like fiction. His idea of a good time is watching 20/20 or Meet the Press.

After my trip to China I became interested in trying to experience other cultures. If you cannot visit the country sometimes the best way to do it is through a book. This story is not continuous. It follows a boy through seven timeframes of his life while Japan is occupying Korea. It describes how the children were no longer allowed to speak Korean (their own language). They needed to learn Japanese starting in third grade and then as the war progressed starting in first grade. It becomes painfully clear that the people have no way of knowing what is truly going on during the war. Only what the Japanese tell them. They learn about Germany surrendering 4 month earlier, they thought they were still fighting with the Japanese. All able bodied children are forced to build an airstrip that the Japanese know will never be used all to the keep the Korean people oppressed and under their control.

One of the most touching or painful parts of the story is when all the Korean people are forced to give up their own names and take Japanese names. When they are done registering they go to the cemeteries of their ancestors to mourn and ask forgiveness for their shameful behavior of losing their names.

I normally would not have picked up this book but I’m glad my husband suggested it. I normally tend to be attracted to stories from a female perspective so it was a nice change to experience it from a male perspective.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

After the Honeymoon (BTT)

I had a post ready for today, but I liked this suggestion from Chris even better, so … thanks, Chris!

Here’s something for Valentine’s Day.

Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

Since I don't really have any "favorite" authors I would have to say that Stephen King and I have just drifted apart. The Stand is one of my top 10 books. I'll read his books again. There are just others I would prefer to read now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recent Book Additions

Half Price Books does it to me everytime...

  • Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel)
  • Queen Bees & Wannabes (Rosalind Wiseman)
  • Sula (Toni Morrison)
  • The Blood of Flowers (Anita Amirrezvani)
  • Quieter Than Sleep (Joanne Dobson)
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (David Eggers)
  • Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  • The Burning Times: A Novel of Medieval France (Jeanne Kalogridis)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book Review: The Reckoning (Blood of the Lamb)

Author: Thomas Monteleone

Pages: 419

Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

From the back cover:

Reeling from the sudden death of the Pope during an international celebration, the Archbishophs of the Roman Catholic Church unanimously elect Peter Carenza, a charismatic young priest from the United States, to be the next Pontiff. Carenza has revitalized the Church in America, attracting new worshippers in droves to his scandal-free, countrywide congregation.

Carenza remakes the Church in his new image, allowing priests to marry, giving power to women, and preaching of the power of God in man - which Carenza himself seems to wield. He can heal the sick, summon lightning from a clear sky, even raise the dead.

Is Peter Carenza the long prayed-for Second Coming?
Or do his powers come from a darker Master?

As you read through the book you come to learn the Peter Carenza has been cloned from blood taken from the Shroud of Turin. He was implanted into a virgin nun who plays an important role as the story unfolds. High ranking officials in the Vatican have been trying to play God and now they are unsure whether Peter is falling to the side of good or evil.

Peter’s mother (the virgin nun), his “fiancé”, and a few dissident officials, flee the Vatican in an attempt to literally save the world. Apparently there are seven “righteous” people, and as long as one of those people lives, the world can never end. However, to show God that the human race wants to continue they, the 7 righteous, must open a set of seals that are in 7 locations all over the world. Peter has set out to destroy them.

This book is not a literary masterpiece but it was a page turner and interesting to watch the interaction of the inherently good and the inherently evil. I also enjoyed see how the Bible and different cultures were incorporated. Although the ending was predictable (to a certain degree) there were definitely surprises on the way to it!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Orange Prize Project

This reading challenge is a long-term project in which the participants will read all books that have won or been short listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction AND the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers. There is no time limit.

Since there was no time limit I joined. I've been wanted to read more books by female authors so this project is a perfect start. Now I need to decide what to start with!

Orange Prize Project

My list is posted HERE

Book Review: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Pages: 179

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult

Personal Rating: 5/5


From the back cover:

Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community.

When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

After my disappointment with my last book, I was hesitant about reading The Giver. I had once again heard very good things about this book and I didn’t want to be disappointed again. I wasn’t. This book was brilliant, for a young adult or adult. As I was reading this book my husband asked me “Are you going to put that book down tonight?” Of course the answer was no. I read it in one sitting (it is pretty short).

Jonas lives in a very structured community/world where one has very few choice and no choices about anything important, such as who you will marry, who will be your child, your job, when you will die…etc. Every year there is a special ceremony and each age group of children “advances” in the community. One year they get jackets with pockets (they can now be trusted to take care of their own things), one year they get bicycles, and at year 12 they are assigned the job they will have for their entire lives. The years leading up to they year 12 ceremony they are observed by Elders who always choose the correct job that “fits” the child. Some will be labors, others doctors, birthmothers, or lawyers.

At the year 12 ceremony it is announced the Jonas has been SELECTED to be the Receiver of Memory, a very great honor but that requires great courage since he will feel physical pain, something no one else will ever do. Jonas was selected by the current Receiver of Memory who is old and must pass on all the memories to Jonas. He asks Jonas to call him The Giver. The Giver literally has all the memories leading up to the current community (going back hundreds of years?) when people actually had choices & free will. If there is not one person to “hold” the memories they would be released back into the community and cause great suffering and pain to everyone.

What I’ve mentioned has just skimmed what this book is about. There isn’t much text, but the book says a lot (does that make sense?). Unfortunately, it ends up on banned and challenged book listed for some of the situations that occur in the book (euthanasia for example). In my opinion this book should be read because of those situations. They can open up doors for discussions about the freedoms and choices we have and what were to happen if we didn’t.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Book Review: Middlesex

Author: Jeffrey Eugenide

Pages: 529

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 2.5/5

Awards: Pulitzer Prize

From the back cover:

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

I’m sorry to say I was disappointed and unimpressed with this book. It just didn’t do it for me. Calliope has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. So even though she is an XY male, she looks and therefore was raised as a female. It wasn’t until she was 14 that it was discovered she was not a girl. As a biology teacher and psychology major I was very excited to read this book to watch how the bio and psych interacted with each other. Perhaps I expected too much.

The majority of the book is devoted to Calliope’s ancestors and parents. While they play a pivotal role in her situation I didn’t feel it was necessary to devote so much time to them. I found it boring. I wanted to learn about Calliope. It seemed that just when you were finally starting to get to know Calliope the book was over.

There were fantastic parts of the book. The first two paragraphs for example; they hooked me in and I was ready to go. I wish I still had the book here so I could type them out. The writing is very good, but to describe the book as thrilling??? Umm…I’m not sure where that would be.

Many people loved this book and of course it won a Pulitzer so I’m in the minority here. From other reviews I’ve read people have seemed to either loved it or hated it. I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. I thought Virgin Suicides was better.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A - Z Reading Challenge Title List

Figured I would need this eventually once I filled up my list and wanted to get if off the side bar.


B--The Burn Journals (Brent Runyon)
C--Cruel & Unusual (Patricia Cornwell)

G--The Girls (Lori Lansens)
M--Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenide)
R--The Reckoning (Thomas Monteleone)
S--Seventh Son: Tales of the Alvin Maker (Orson Scott Card)
W --White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
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