Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday's at Tiffany's

Sundays at Tiffany'sSundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nothing too monumental to say on either side of the fence, but a nice and easy afternoon lounger. The characters were likeable and made the imaginary plot aspects seem like they could really happen, in that girly and romantic, guilty pleasure sort of way.

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Picture Perfect

Picture PerfectPicture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have only read a few Jodi Picoult books but they never cease to please me. This was a thrift store score that I hadn't heard of and didn't know what it was about, and it did a great job keeping me guessing.

The story centers on Cassie and Alex, an intelligent but naive anthropology professor and a Hollywood star, and their "fairy tale" love and marriage. They seem perfect and say they are "made for each other" but in reality have a troubled and abusive relationship that no one would believe if they actually did tell anyone, without actually seeing the proof.

Through the storytelling, you feel as though it's autobiographical, as it seems so knowing and insightful that you wonder how anyone could make this up. I also found myself cheering for Cassie and Alex to make it, despite him being abusive. You get to know the good in him, the damaged childhood that he truly seems like he wants to overcome, that he truly does love her, and you want to say "give him one more chance, maybe he really won't do it again..." when you know logically that you should be telling her to run for it. Picoult's imagination and formidable skills at weaving an amazing story make you feel as though if, having never been in an abusive relationship, you are given a while new insight and appreciation for the situation, and why even the strongest of woman have had difficulty leaving such situations. It is an eerie feeling - there were so many times that this novel made me incredibly uncomfortable admitting what I was feeling about what was going on but never able to stop reading. I have never hesitated for a moment to help a friend get away from an abusive situation, but also never had nearly so clear and idea of how they may have felt as I do after reading this novel. Once again, Picoult asounded, intrigued and educated me.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To say I loved this book is an understatement. I started dinner last night and then curled up on the couch to start this book while it simmered. Next thing, with my nose firmly buried in a book, I have completely forgotten dinner and it's burned to heck. Pause for a quick kitchen clean and nose back to book. Next thing I realize after that, through unstoppable sobs, is that it is now 11:45pm, completely dark and past bedtime, and I've just finished and closed the book.

This story is told by a human thinking dog named Enzo, and chronicles his life from puppyhood with Denny Swift, an aspiring race car driver, and eventually Denny's wife Eve and daughter Zoe. At times you forget that Enzo is a dog because he seems so insightful and observant but this is the very thing that snaps you back to realizing he is a dog....a person would never get away with much of the commentary he makes because people don't seem to like truth if it isn't what they want to hear, but truth is what Enzo is dishing out.

The "racing in the rain" is the backbone of the book's metaphors, beginning with Denny's excellent abilities at handling a race car on the wet track and the insights on this skill and other racing tidbits that he shares with Enzo over the years. Enzo then uses such insights as "when your eyes go, your car goes" and "that which you manifest will be" to remind us how very similar our lives are to the art of racing in the rain. The metaphors are intelligent, insightful, philisophical and simple enough to just sit and ponder without being down and insulting.

This is an amazing book, and one that I almost feel compelled to pick up and start reading over again today....but I might wait until dinner is off the stove this time....

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The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood BibleThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard many times over what a wonderful book this was and it lived up to every word and more. Told by a mother and her 4 daughters, it chronicles their time spent as missionaries in the Congo, beginning in 1959 and the subsequent courses their lives follow after the experience.

Just the idea of a baptist minister from Georgia moving his wife and 4 girls to post-colonial Africa in 1959 is enough to catch your attention and it never stops there. Each character tells parts of the story from her point of view, complete with different manners of speach, gramatical, spelling and pronunciation errors and varying degrees of thought, caring and knowledge.

The differences in the characters, and how well they develop and share their lives with us, is the key to this book. Rachel is the oldest, and the most materialistic of the bunch. Leah and Adah are twins who could not be more different: Adah is the underdog, the disabled child, who is free with her thoughts because no one acknowledges that she has them while Leah is the model child, following in her father's theological path and must learn from her experiences to be free to think. Ruth Ann is the baby, the always impressionable youngest who is smart as a whip and quite impressioning herself. Together this group of girls brings you to a world that you could never imagine, and honestly don't want to. You love some, you hate some, you are indifferent to some, but everyone you meet throughough this story is memorable enough that you can at look back and know at least how you felt about them.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I did like this book, I may have falling victim to being a little overexcited by the hype but for me it didn't live up.

The yellow flag was waiving for me as I was reading, but the red flag has shown itself now just a few days later....I have already forgotten the names of characters, even ones that I enjoyed. As the male lead, Jacob was interesting, developed and gave us a great beginning: small town kid from humble beginnings about to finish his Ivy League veteranary education when tragedy strikes. Enter the circus, every young runaway's sleepytime fantasy. It keeps up for a bit, and actually does manage to hold you in throughout the story, but the characterization and depth of story drops shortly after this, and drops like a lead weight.

Marlena as a the female lead and love interest is basically boring. I gathered from the blatant scenes and statements that Jacob has fallen in love with her, but even at the end of the book have no understanding of why. All we know about her is that she is beautiful, married, wears pink sequins when performing with the horses and that Jacob is in love with her. August, as her husband, is equally flat, and boxed into the stereotype of violence due to his mental illness. This part was almost over the top to me.

The story itself was fast paced in a way that kept you intrigued, but in retrospect I think it went too fast, as nothing is memorable at this point. I honestly cannot remember if the speak-easy or the drunken night in the stateroom came first.

I know it does not sound like it, but overall I did enjoy this book and would recommend it as a light read. My disappointment is primarily driven by the rave reviews it received and the hype surrounding it. Go into it with expectations of "I hope I like this" or "This might be a good book" and it can be a good book. Definitely never a great one in my book though.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was on my radar to read because so many people with different tastes were talking about it, which always intrigues me, but it wasn't on the priority list until a co-worker walked in with a "pass it around" copy and said "didn't you say you wanted to read this?" But of course, I'll never turn down a "pass it around" book that's anywhere on my to-read list :)

I honestly didn't even know what these books were about until I had the copy, and then was expecting it to be another of the stock crime dramas that gain a following because they have great writing or a creative draw. Boy did this one have both, but not even in the stock way that I expected.

FIrst, the Swedish setting drew me in because it was something different, with the different cultural areas and ways of doing things. Next, the characters were well created without being overdone, and the spacing and foreshadowing of their stories, both past and present, throughout the book were very well done. I felt as I was reading like I was actually getting to know Mikael and Lisbeth as I went, rather than getting a rundown on them to start and then straight into the story.

My only complaint is with the ending, as it was a bit too simple for all of the build up. It also seemed, contradictory to the, without giving a spoiler, "we looked everywhere" statement that was so elemental to the storyline and mystery itself.

Overall though, a great read and one that kept me tied to the couch for a few late evenings and a rainy Saturday!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Modern Library List - How Much Shall I Ashame Myself Today?

Before even looking over this list, I had the creeping feeling that I just may be ashamed at how few of them I had actually read. Well, with a grand total of 9, yes I am. These are ones I've crossed out....

On top of it, I honestly didn't even love all 9 of them! Catch-22 just didn't "catch" me, Slaughterhouse Five was a bit too much, and I never have been able to get into really anything Kerouac.

The most shameful, and unexpected, fact of all though? I can honestly say that I have never even heard of 43 of these books. Really? Am I that sheltered? Do I really know soooooo much less about the world of literature than I thought? Oi vay!

And no, I don't feel like telling which 43 I haven't heard of....I've shamed myself enough for the day.

#1 ULYSSES (1922) by James Joyce
#2 THE GREAT GATSBY (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
#4 LOLITA (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov
#5 BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932) by Aldous Huxley
#6 THE SOUND AND THE FURY (1929) by William Faulkner
#7 CATCH-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller
#8 DARKNESS AT NOON (1940, 1941 in English) by Arthur Koestler
#9 SONS AND LOVERS (1913) by D.H. Lawrence
#10 THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1939) by John Steinbeck
#11 UNDER THE VOLCANO (1947) by Malcolm Lowry
#12 THE WAY OF ALL FLESH (1903) by Samuel Butler
#13 1984 (1949) by George Orwell
#14 I, CLAUDIUS (1934) by Robert Graves
#15 TO THE LIGHTHOUSE (1927) by Virginia Woolf
#16 AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY (1925) by Theodore Dreiser
#17 THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1940) by Carson McCullers
#18 SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut
#19 INVISIBLE MAN (1952) by Ralph Ellison
#20 NATIVE SON (1940) by Richard Wright
#21 HENDERSON THE RAIN KING (1959) by Saul Bellow
#22 APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA (1934) by John O'Hara
#23 U.S.A. (trilogy) (1930, 1932, 1936) by John Dos Passos
#24 WINESBURG, OHIO (1919) by Sherwood Anderson
#25 A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1924) by E.M. Forster
#26 THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1902) by Henry James
#27 THE AMBASSADORS (1903) by Henry James
#28 TENDER IS THE NIGHT (1934) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
#29 THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY (1932, 1934, 1935) by James T. Farrell
#30 THE GOOD SOLDIER (1915) by Ford Madox Ford
#31 ANIMAL FARM (1945) by George Orwell
#32 THE GOLDEN BOWL (1904) by Henry James
#33 SISTER CARRIE (1900) by Theodore Dreiser
#34 A HANDFUL OF DUST (1934) by Evelyn Waugh
#35 AS I LAY DYING (1930) by William Faulkner
#36 ALL THE KING'S MEN (1946) by Robert Penn Warren
#37 THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY (1927) by Thornton Wilder
#38 HOWARDS END (1910) by E.M. Forster
#39 GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN (1953) by James Baldwin
#40 THE HEART OF THE MATTER (1948) by Graham Greene
#41 LORD OF THE FLIES (1954) by William Golding
#42 DELIVERANCE (1970) by James Dickey
#43 A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) (1951-1975) by Anthony Powell
#44 POINT COUNTER POINT (1928) by Aldous Huxley
#45 THE SUN ALSO RISES (1926) by Ernest Hemingway
#46 THE SECRET AGENT (1907) by Joseph Conrad
#47 NOSTROMO (1904) by Joseph Conrad
#48 THE RAINBOW (1915) by D.H. Lawrence
#49 WOMEN IN LOVE (1920: sequel to #48) by D.H. Lawrence
#50 TROPIC OF CANCER (1934) by Henry Miller
#51 THE NAKED AND THE DEAD (1948) by Norman Mailer
#52 PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT (1969) by Philip Roth
#53 PALE FIRE (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov
#54 LIGHT IN AUGUST (1932) by William Faulkner
#55 ON THE ROAD (1957) by Jack Kerouac
#56 THE MALTESE FALCON (1930) by Dashiell Hammett
#57 PARADE'S END (1924, 1925, 1926, 1928) by Ford Madox Ford
#58 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1920) by Edith Wharton
#59 ZULEIKA DOBSON (1911) by Max Beerbohm
#60 THE MOVIEGOER (1961) by Walker Percy
#61 DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP (1927) by Willa Cather
#62 FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1951) by James Jones
#63 THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES (1957) by John Cheever
#64 THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (1951) by J.D. Salinger
#65 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1962) by Anthony Burgess
#66 OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham
#67 HEART OF DARKNESS (1902) by Joseph Conrad
#68 MAIN STREET (1920) by Sinclair Lewis
#69 THE HOUSE OF MIRTH (1905) by Edith Wharton
#70 THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET (1957, 1958, 1958, 1960) by Lawrence Durell
#71 A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA (1929) by Richard Hughes
#72 A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS (1961) by V.S. Naipaul
#73 THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (1939) by Nathanael West
#74 A FAREWELL TO ARMS (1929) by Ernest Hemingway
#75 SCOOP (1938) by Evelyn Waugh
#76 THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1961) by Muriel Spark
#77 FINNEGANS WAKE (1939) by James Joyce
#78 KIM (1901) by Rudyard Kipling
#79 A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1908) by E.M. Forster
#80 BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (1945) by Evelyn Waugh
#81 THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH (1953) by Saul Bellow
#82 ANGLE OF REPOSE (1971) by Wallace Stegner
#83 A BEND IN THE RIVER (1979) by V.S. Naipaul
#84 THE DEATH OF THE HEART (1938) by Elizabeth Bowen
#85 LORD JIM (1900) by Joseph Conrad
#86 RAGTIME (1975) by E.L. Doctorow
#87 THE OLD WIVES' TALE (1908) by Arnold Bennett
#88 THE CALL OF THE WILD (1903) by Jack London
#89 LOVING (1945) by Henry Green
#90 MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN (1981) by Salman Rushdie
#91 TOBACCO ROAD (1932) by Erskine Caldwell
#92 IRONWEED (1983) by William Kennedy
#93 THE MAGUS (1966) by John Fowles
#94 WIDE SARGASSO SEA (1966) by Jean Rhys
#95 UNDER THE NET (1954) by Iris Murdoch
#96 SOPHIE'S CHOICE (1979) by William Styron
#97 THE SHELTERING SKY (1949) by Paul Bowles
#98 THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1934) by James M. Cain
#99 THE GINGER MAN (1955) by J.P. Donleavy
#100 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1918) by Booth Tarkington

So the question of the day is, how do you compare? I'd be very curious to see where anyone falls on this one...unless of course you know of all 100 and have read 99 of them. That might make me sad.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday UnDay - Angry Birds!

In short, and in the name of being prudent, the last few weeks have been tough. And worse, tough in a manner that is not necessarily appropriate or wise to be sharing on the wonderful world of the interwebs. So, to suffice in my venting, I shall share a bit of how I have relieved my pain, in a few entertaining(to me, at least!) ways that seem to blend together pretty well.

First off, is March Madness. I LOVE college football but could honestly give a hoot about college basketball, or any basketball for that matter. That is, however, until March Madness rolls around, as it makes for an entertaining day at the office. I have one boss who is a die-hard Syracuse fan(hockey season started today, lol!) and another who is Penn State all the way. Me? I'm always torn between my personal loyalty to Oregon(Quack, Quack, Quack!!) and my family loyalty to Ohio State. The only time it's ever really an issue is when they play each other....Rose Bowl last year was quite painful in that regard, Dad wouldn't watch the game with me. So, being a fan of the nearly BCS Champion team(while Penn floundered....) and being a fan of OSU(who pummeled Penn in both sports this year, and Mr. Syracuse just doesn't love because he's out and they're number 1....) gives me much pleasure. So...even if Ducks aren't birds, they're still having a good ole time making people angry :o)

When not at work, which unfortunately is when much of the latest stress has been, I have succumbed to video games. Yes, it is horribly sad. I have never been the gamer type, but upon the not-so-sad demise of my dreadful crackberry last week, I had to give in a get myself an iPhone(which has gotten me equally hooked on iBooks, already.) which led to the inevitable spiel in the office about how everyone was hooked on a game called Angry Birds. I thought nothing of this, it's just a game. Until, that is, you decided to download the free app just for kicks. It's free, and you can delete it if you don't love it, right? Wrong! Well, not wrong that you can delete, you just don't want to! I am ashamed to admit that I honestly and truly sacrificed almost 2 hours of good reading time on Saturday night, because I was pretty much incapable of putting it down.

What has become of me? Someone please take the iPhone away from me! Oh, but can you please leave the iBooks behind? I kinda like that part.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no idea why, must have been a typo, but I had this on my "Read" shelf...but good thing I realized that, which made me think to read it!

The back cover described it as one of, if not the best, "comedies of manners of Regency England" and I must agree wholeheartedly. I guess I had always had an inclination(though where founded I have no idea), that I wouldn't like this book because of it's age and language. That, however, may be what I loved most about it. In the week or so since I picked it up and began reading, I have found myself actually thinking in a more "proper" and "old english" manner....just thinking, mind you, haven't quite caught myself speaking 19th century England just yet :o)

This is a book that many, many people have preconceived notions about(my boyfriend said "didn't your read that in junior high?" and another friend had the same old language apprehensions that I had) but it truly defied all of them. I did not dislike Mr. Darcy in the slightest. I did not have any problems with the language, in fact it read more easily than many historical fiction novels I have read lately. Austen's writing style is much more fluid and articulate than I expected, and I breezed right through. My only complaint is that it was not near long enough....

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Challenge Update

So, I'm making better progress on some challenges than others....let's start with the positives, just to keep me motivated :o)


I've read 13 towards my 2011 goal of 50 Books ->
The Color of Water by James McBride
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Standing at the Crossroads by Charles Davis
Out of Range by CJ Box
Nowhere to Run by CJ Box
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Marked by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Betrayed by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Chosen by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Untamed by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Hunted by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Decent progress, though I think I should only be giving myself credit for 8 or 9....the House of Night series is not exactly well written or challenging material.....oh well, gotta have the guilty pleasures once in awhile!

Not doing terrible at this one, but still need to up the ante a bit...I think I've had at least one week of only posting reviews...shame on me! I have, however, spent entirely too much time working on layouts and looks, so I should funnel some of that energy towards writing :o)

Though not exactly making as much progress as I should on the goal projects(though I have made some), I successfully won the battle to let the yarn and needle basket stay in the living room. That's where it gets used, so why on earth should it be anywhere else?!

Getting Out!:
Though not much distance involved(but a ton of really fun mud!) the nice weather has helped with this, via my first fishing day of the season this past weekend. No fish caught, but plenty of knotted line and some great pictures of a beautiful bighorn ram.

Everything else is still a work in progress......

Monday, March 14, 2011

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary RoadRevolutionary Road by Richard Yates

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved this book for the writing, as it was skillful, beautiful and intriguing. I didn't, however, love the book itself. I did enjoy it, but don't share the sentiments of it's "ironic beauty" and "straightforward poignancy" quoted by critics and friends alike.

I imagine the subject matter was quite controversial considering the time of it's publication, and can potentially see myself having a different take were I from a different time, or in a different time. Now though, I can respect it, but don't feel an attachment to it. The most difficult part for me was it's anti-thesis of much of what I believe in. We are in charge of our own happiness. Life isn't about what you do, it's how you do it. The Golden Rule(my vision of this: give what you take, take only what you give, don't owe or allow yourself to be owed). The Wheeler's were against all of the above. They wallowed and only half-heartedly did anything remotely realistic to make their own happiness. They worried more about what they did than living a good life and doing it well and happily. They looked as others as though they were beneath them, and put their children anything but first.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike them. They were human, and a beautiful part of this book is that the writing and presentation is exactly that: beautiful, human, flawed. The problem for me is actually that I didn't dislike them, because I never could find it in myself to like them either. With no feeling of like or dislike for them, I found it hard to care too much about what happened to them. I feel like the ending should have had me either in tears of sorrow, or saying "see? That's what you get. Shoulda listened to your karma a bit". But I felt neither.

I definitely recommend this book for wonderful composition and bravery in subject matter(if you can appreciate this from the perspective of the setting and time it was published), but probably won't hold a place in the heart of my bookshelf....

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Friday, March 11, 2011

The Future of Books

Apparently I'm on a good anti-technology, pro-paper kick these here's the latest(sent via fob before Gadgets Created from Recycled Cardboardone of Beth Pratt's wonderful 'round the office Daily Green Tips...thanks Beth!)
The Future of Books, by Kyle Bean is,  while a book in the traditional sense of having covers, bindings and pages of written word, is actually a statement design piece meant to demonstrate 21st century searches and sources of information. The book itself is an old hardback book(no idea what book...) that Kyle has turned into this:

 From the outside, it's a nice, unassuming hardback book. The inside, on the other hand, has been modified into a book/laptop hybrid. It's not a functioning laptop, but contains a battery pack to light the screen.

While definitely inspiring a common understanding between myself and Kyle's statement, it also made me think about my personal place in the evolution of books and written materials into basically articles of technology. I believe I would be incredibly lost if you sat me down and asked my write a bibliography, something I could have come close to doing correctly from memory 10 years ago, because I honestly have no idea how it would work today. I can reference books, periodicals, journals, encyclopedias etc....but if I were writing something requiring references, I have to wonder how many of those items I would physically hold and reference, rather than searching and reading them on my bright little screen. And the can of worms of "magazine A page 12, referenced via page such-and-such of website B, found via search term X on search engine Y" just doesn't sound like a whole lot of'd find me spending just as much time referencing how to write my bibliography as researching the actual document! Please tell me they at least still teach how to a write a bibliography referencing "actual" materials, right??

I guess it's not something to sweat about until my next urge towards more education(they swing through every few years...), so I guess so long as we still have things that look like books, I imagine I'll be ok....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday UnDay

There must always be a time for a detour from even the most wonderful things like books and, it shall be Monday, the UnBook day.

Today's random thoughts? Mud Season! Hence, we meet one of my favorite dogs out there, Arthur. The Arthur is a chow/lab/rot and the happy companion of my best friend Jayne. More importantly, he's not to be confused with his step-brother, the deer-dog Artie. Yes, my best friend and her husband have Arthur and Artie, adopted from the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter within a week of each other, gave them nearly matching names, and all of this about a month before Jayne and Alex met. Awwww, so cute and meant to be, right? Yeah, pretty much. In addition to the serendipitous(and crazy!) pups, they now have Reesa, their adorable 17-month old daughter.

This time of year always makes me think of my best friend and her family because Jayne is always cold. In the dead of winter, she wears more layers than should be humanly possible, with not a care in world about whether they match. Proof? I made her a camo bacalava for Christmas a few years back, which she happily showed off along with the 12 other colors she was currently wearing to ski(it's very hard to find that many coordinating layers....). The best part? I don't think I've ever heard her complain about being cold....she just says "it's cold!" with a very sweet smile and distinctive laugh, then proceeds to put on the next layer. That's just how she is. Positive, sweet, caring, and honest to goodness GOOD(yes, there are still some of them left out there, and no, you can't have her for your best friend! :o)

That's why I get sappy this time of year....things are melting, grass is showing, she can shed some layers and actually be able to move her arms enough to throw a stick at the dogs(I say at in a good way....Artie is blind as a bat and usually runs himself right into something instead of catching it), and she has real, live smile. She gets bubbly and excited that it will be WARM soon. We play outside. We walk around town. We play yard games. We relish the fact that "Look!! I have a yard!! I almost forgot after it disappeared for 6 months!!". We ride our bikes...until the dogs knock us over.

I love springtime because it makes me think of my friends, and the way everyone lights up with the sunshine lights up. It's a fleeting moment in the mountains, where summer is 3 months and winter feels like 11. But, it's almost here!!

Til then....time to play in the mud! 

Miss ya JRock and the Art-pups, it's your turn to visit! :o)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

American Wife

American WifeAmerican Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this was a great read...well-written, emotional and thoughtful, drawing you in and holding you(almost) to the end. It was just a short, fleeting bit into the book that I was forming attachments to the characters(particularly Grandma Emilie, early on. Loved her!), feeling a vested interest in their personal journeys and anxious to see what was ahead.

Though the main character, Alice Lindgren Blackwell, and her story are openly acknowledged as being "inspired by" and "loosely based on" the life of Laura Bush, the term "loosely" is offered a bit too generously. Yes, a good portion of this novel is product of the author's imagination; the items that are not, however, play such a dominate role in the story line and the realization of the characters, that you have to set a periodic mental alert to pop in and remind you that it is not a biography.

The book is divided into four sections, aptly named for the address of Alice's home at that time in her life, and is composed through a balance of moving plot and insightful narrative. This moves the most quickly in the early sections, as we see Alice as a sweet, naive Wisconsin teenager, mostly concerned with boys and books, who finds herself learning very adult lessons at the age of 17 after killing a classmate(whom she also had potential for a romantic future with) in a car accident of which she was at fault. We see the first hint that this tragic event will play a factor in her future, but don't know yet to what extent. It then moves seamlessly through college and her years as an elementary school teacher and librarian, on to her first meeting with Charlie Blackwell, the youngest son of a former governor and her future husband. At this point, her perspective changes as we move with her from middle-class, small town, banker's daughter and librarian, to a wealthy, respected member of a prominent family. THroughout it all, even when we start to lose Alice a bit and see more focus on what's around her, she remains calm, steadfast, and in the background to loud, boisterous husband - while he constantly worries about his "legacy", she ponders to herself that your legacy should not be about what accomplish, rather how live your life. The story seems to almost fall off when you reach the last section, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After an engaging, endearing and quick moving 430 pages, it almost seems as thought Sittenfeld took a step back, realized she hadn't even begun to cover their life in the White House, and had to get it over with without doubling the size of the book. This section contains much shorter sections of present-tense plot, and much longer sections of narrative, primarily Alice's internal analysis of how she has lived, how she wants to live, questioning her decisions and her path. While there are some elegant and thought provoking moments here, this last 130 pages probably took me longer to read than the entire rest of the book...I was just not held into it in the same way.

Overall, not a must-read, but most definitely a worthwhile one.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

The What If List - The Unbelieveable World of Banned and Challenged Books

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."- Ray Bradbury

It was with my first reading of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, that I first took a good long think about the concept of censorship, a concept that makes my soul sad every time I think about it. To me, the censorship subject is not just about the infringement on 1st Amendment rights, but goes much deeper to thought of what me, and my world, would be like if just one of the books I hold near and dear to me were taken away.

According to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, of the Radcliffe Publishing 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, the books below are those from that list that have been banned or challenged at one point or another(hence the missing numbers on the list, as all 100 have not been banned/challenged):

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Reasons for bans/challenges include(but not limited to) things such as sexual content, race relations, religion, and violence, though some were as small as use of language someone didn't like - "Damn", "whore lady" and "nigger" in To Kill a Mockingbird   and "nigger" in Gone With the Wind. While it's understandable that these could be offensive, particularly in the time they were written, a little perspective is needed as well. Yes, the term "nigger" is derogatory, offensive and inappropriate....out of context. But putting it into context, such as an epic novel set during the American Civil War and at the peak of slavery in the US, it's almost necessary. Can you imagine reading a story with this setting that completely avoided an extremely common term for that time? Instead of being a portrayal of a troubled time, it would be a sugar-coated ode that didn't seem all too realistic.

According the ALA, the most common reason noted is sexual content, and the most common initiators of challenges(by a ridiculous landslide, no less) are parents. Really? Are you kidding me?

Ok, so I'm not actually surprised by the parent statistic, but it does remind me once again that parenting has some very skewed perceptions at times. I would love to ask some of these parents a few questions:
  • Did YOU ever read these books? If you so, was it detrimental to you?
  • If you didn't, what DID you read?
  • Do your children play video games? Watch television? (ok, this doesn't apply to the older bans/challenges, but still)
  • What DO you consider appropriate?
Now, I don't want this to sound as though I am trashing these parents, as I know they ultimately have(or think they have, so general principle is still there) their children's best interest and protection in mind. This fact, however, in no way lessens my desire to know what they are thinking, and to ask them to open their minds a bit. Or better yet, just tell them to monitor what their children read - if YOU don't want YOUR children reading something, it's not the world's responsibility to protect them from it by taking it away from everyone else, particularly considering that everyone may not share your views. Whoa. Crazy thought. Parental Accountability.

On a positive note, the number of challenges each year(per the ALA again) has decreased overall in the past 15 years. A few ups and downs, but overall much better than past years. That doesn't mean though, that there aren't still an awful lot of challenges made against great books. Below is the list of most challenged books of 2000-2009...

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Interesting how many bestsellers and new pop culture classics are floating around in there, and that so many classics are still showing up.

And a little ironic that one of the most iconic books about censorship is on the list of books to censor....

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

*2011 Challenge Update*

With great sadness and frustration, I must add a new item to my 2011 Challenge List:

- Learn HTML

Frankly, I'm just sick of searching for an acceptable generator whenever I want to do something. And, when I do find one to do what I want, I can't actually get the HTML for it, just a link to where they've hosted it and included their ad(not that I have anything against taking credit for your work, I just don't want to have to look at it all the time!)

So, tomorrow the confusion begins....

The Attack of the EBook Reader!

Ok, so it's not really an attack, because I would like one(hint, hint honey!). But....

I ran across this poll from Joy on Goodreads - Book Haven yesterday, and it made me think, cringe, squirm and any other way of feeling unhappy that can possibly exist.

As for me, I'm am an unwavering loyalist to real, live, in-my-hands reading material. Stiff bindings, cracked bindings, crisp new pages, dog eared pages, pages discolored from age, marked from previous owners, wiggly from my Nalgene leaking in the backpack on a camping trip. EBook readers will never be able to give me any of these things(in fact, the Nalgene on the camping trip may just kill it!), and I would be lost if these things were gone.

While books are the most important to me, it doesn't stop there. I worked in advertising sales at a newspaper for a brief stint a few years back, primarily working on the internet advertising side. Looking back, I think my love of paper had a good bit to do with it being a brief stint, as I never was able to buy into it enough to sell it effectively. Not to say that I don't love the internet(because I do!) and appreciate shopping and advertising available to me. But, when it comes to local things such as restaurant specials, music, events, sales etc, reading them with the distinctive feel of newsprint in my hands while I read just goes so much further.

For the love of yummy reads.....what do you think?

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Hunted (House of Night, #5)Hunted by P.C. Cast

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This series is becoming quite a conundrum for me...I'm completely sucked into the storyline, even though each book is increasingly annoying.

The story line has always been easy to read, you care about the characters, and I love the elements of Cherokee history and mythology mixed in with the vampyre's pagan culture.

That said, their are many elements of the both the storyline and the writing. First, I am increasingly put off in each subsequent book by the constant retelling of earlier parts of the story. This is a series. Theoretically, most of your readers will have read the earlier books, and don't need a reminder on every other page of what has happened to Zoey with this person or that person, or that she can command the elements, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I realize that some people may randomly pick up a book in the middle of the series, but since a majority will not in a series like this, you need to write to your readers and not go so overboard with the replays. A few here and there, ok. The same details repeated several times in each book, too much.

Next, I've had just about enough of the overdone teenage girl-teenage boy drama. I've heard so many people say that these books are a "more realistic portrayal" of teenage life than the Twilight series(for a paranormal genre, of course), but this part of the storyline couldn't be further from realistic. How about I imprint with one, kiss another, have sex with yet another, and then kiss the fourth another. But who's girlfriend am I? And who do I love? The guy I've known for 2 months, or the guy I've known for an hour? Hmmmm...decisions, decisions. This part of the story, for lack of a better description, needs to get a grip. This whole story line is too outlandish even for this type of story.

But of course I'll be reading the next book within a few days....I just wish these were written better, because I would actually love them, and I'd feel a little less pathetic not being able to put them down!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White MotherThe Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was enthralling and wonderful. I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book(a Thrift Store Score!), but was drawn into it from the moment I started reading it.

James McBride is a mixed-race American, with an African-American father and Polish-Jewish mother, known by those in her adult life as Ruth, and Mommy to her children. His father died unexpectedly before he was born, and he spent his entire childhood and much of his early adulthood knowing nothing of his mother's past. This book is the result of his undying curiosity and his mother's eventual willingness, in her later years, to re-open what she had locked away many years ago.

McBride tries, and mostly succeeds, at not sugar coating the terrible childhood his mother endured and ran from, as well as the effects it had on him and his 11 siblings growing up in the Brooklyn projects. The story is told with alternating chapters of Ruth's harsh upbringing and McBride's childhood chronology and search for "self", with cross-references tying his mother's experiences with why his childhood was the way it was. He makes no illusions to it being easy, but he paints a vivid picture of a strong woman making tough decisions, standing her ground, and in the end, coming out on top. The story is well built, and the frequent change from past to present makes it easier to see the parallels in the lives of mother and child.

This book was well written, inspiring, and deeply moving. I highly recommend it.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Standing at the Crossroads

Standing at the CrossroadsStanding at the Crossroads by Charles Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a Goodread's First Read from Permanent Press. Thank you!

First and foremost, this book was superbly written, in such a way that I felt as though I was reading a freely flowing poem rather than an novel. The narrator, an African man known only as The Barefoot Librarian, tells us early on that people have often told him "that I speak too formally, my language dated like the writers to whom it has been modeled", which is an excellent segue into the following text, doted with references to classic literature and life built around stories and the truths in fiction.

The main protagonists of this story are The Barefoot Librarian, and a white academic woman named Kate, both with different ideals and views of the world. The Barefoot Librarian chooses to see the world through the vast realm of stories he has read and collected over the years, while Kate seeks justice and pure truth. The differences that come about between these two, as they trek across dusty and war torn African lands, constantly walking the fine line between safety and the violent Warriors of God, were described in a way that made you feel like you were walking right behind them. It seems wrong to describe this story as beautiful, as it is not a hopeful and positive one, yet beautiful is the description that instinctively comes to mind.

This is a short read, and though a tiny bit slow due to the classically styled prose, it is a wonderful read.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Most Recent Attempt at my "Favorite Books" List

I have always had a hard time with answering the "What is your favorite....?" question. Whether it's books, movies, songs, bands etc, I get instantly overwhelmed with ideas at the mere mention of this question. I attribute this to two factors. One, the general concept that the moment I finish something, my mind goes instantly to the next thing(book, movie, concert...) that I am excited to start, so I don't think I give things time to firmly cement in my memory. Two, I have just read so many darn books, seen so many movies and heard so much music that I love, that it all blends together and inspires the knee-jerk and, to be completely honest - cop-out, answer of "I don't think I can choose just ONE...". After being asked my favorite books about 12.7 times in the past few weeks, I've finally decided to man up and actually think about it. So, without further ado(because I know how much this matters to the world, I feel terrible about withholding it for so long), I present the Most Recent Attempt at my Favorite Books list:

In no particular order....

Gone With the Wind

I think this a book that you either love or hate. I know many people who consider it bigoted and racist(despite being set in an era quite possibly best known for bigotry and racism being not just legal, but accepted and commonplace...), while others praise it's unguarded portrayal of that time. Still others think of it in the category of 20th century American classics, while others have called it the first "trashy romance novel". I, for one, could care less where it's categorized...I fell in love with it the first time I read it(somewhere around 7th or 8th grade) and it will always be a favorite.

Beneath a Marble Sky
After a few years of honestly not reading enough(quite frankly, not very much at all), this book renewed my love for and interest in historical fiction. It is about a time period that I really know nothing about, and I was sucked right in. I'm pretty sure I read this in one night!

The Red Tent
This is another one that was quite debated and I think either loved or hated. Like the previous title, it is a time period that I know very little about so I loved the way I could use my imagination. Plus, I know very little(and care even less) about the Biblical accuracy of it, so I think I was able to enjoy it more than many.

Harry Potter Boxset
I started reading these when I was volunteering at an environmental education camp in Portland, Oregon, after hearing endless chatter from 6th graders. Little did I know that I would devour the first 4 books in about as many weeks. Major kudos to J.K. Rowling for not only creating a world that would get kids reading, but one that crossed age boundaries from elementary school kids all the way to their grandparents!

The Kite Runner
The more I think about this, the more I'm sensing a theme of enjoying things about places and times I know little about...could be a sign! Anyway, I read this book a few years ago and ended up skipping 2 classes one day because I had found a sunny spot on the school lawn to read for a few minutes, and before I knew it was halfway into the book and had missed the whole afternoon of classes. It was also the first book that had made me cry in a long time....

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
This is my most recent addition to the list, having just finished it a few weeks ago. I had owned it for quite a while, because I had heard great things about it, but for some reason never seemed drawn to it. Boy was I wrong. This story had me wanting to drive to Bozeman the morning after I finished it and beg for a job(not too big of a stretch, I only live 75 miles from Bozeman...)

I'm sure I'll think of more...I guess there'll have to be a "Favorite Books, Vol. 2".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

'Tis The Season For Some Readin - 2011 Challenges!

For those who don't know me, I have a slight touch of ADD(my little brother was also blessed with the H, but fortunately I'm just scattered, not scattered AND hyperactive!). A large part of how this affects me is that I have a tough time following through, hopping from task to task, project to project, interest to interest. Hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with my sporadic blog posting?

Reading is something that I have loved since the day I came home from Kindergarten telling my dad that there was a boy a school who knew how to read, so naturally I must learn how to read as well. Unfortunately, books and reading are like everything else, and must share their precious time with my other scatterings. One great thing about living in a very small town with very long, cold, dark winters is that I usually tend to read much more during this season. This year though, I am taking the initiative to keep up with not just reading, but my other interests for....deep breath...all year. So, I have challenged myself with a few goals for the year:

Reading Goals

- 50 Books for 2011, complete with counter to keep me motivated and excited to see the numbers go up!
- Write a review for at least half of my books read in 2011
- Give away at least 10 books that I've enjoyed to friends/colleagues, to hopefully get some folks around me able to have some great book conversations!


- Post at least two blog posts per week
- Only one post per week can be a review...must be creative and stretch the brain muscles a bit more


- Complete both scarves that I have started so far this year!
- Finish my best friend's daughter's baby blanket...before her 2nd birthday in October.
- Learn how to knit something that is not just some variation of a square(aka - no scarves, coasters, dish towels, blankets, etc)
- Crochet a hat that actually fits my head :o)

New Things I've Been Planning to Do

- Finish my guitar instruction book and DVD, and be able to play at least 3 songs from memory
- Actually take the pottery class I talk about every year!

Gettin Out!
- Go to at least 3 places on my local "To Visit" list
- Take vacation to somewhere that neither Bryan nor I have been
- Hike! I'm going to keep track of what I do from May-September, and the goal is to average 5 miles per week for the summer
- Try a new outdoor activity(I have a sneaking feeling this will end up being hunting with the boys, but still undecided on that one!)

Whew, I've got quite the 10 1/2 months ahead of me...wish me luck!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a TimeThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first instincts are that this book is beyond description to me, so I'll have to settle for "amazing", "awe-inspiring" and "phenomenal". And settling is putting in mildly. Aside from in being a well written and captivating book, the subject matter got to me at a deep and personal level that I don't even know how to describe. I live just 75 miles from Bozeman, MT, where the Central Asia Institute is located, and I quickly lost count of the number of times this book made me want to get in the car and drive to "town", begging on hands a knees for a job within this amazing organization.

Books, not Bombs. Education for girls in a society so commonly stereotyped as being anti-female. An American man having tea with the Taliban and becoming a most trusted adviser, ally and colleague within Islamic nations that so many have been led to believe are driven by terrorism and hatred, and proving to all who will listen that that stereotypes are just that...stereotypes taught and accepted by those who are either uneducated, unwilling to listen or unwilling to open their minds. Through this amazing story of humanitarianism, courage, loyalty, passion and strong will, Greg Mortenson has crossed borders and boundaries that so many have tried and failed at. The difference seems to fall entirely within the truth of his heart and convictions to do the right thing by the people he has grown to respect and love, rather than the desire to promote his own beliefs.

I could go on and on, but right now it's time for may be an early morning if I don't talk myself out of skipping work and driving to Bozeman in the morning. I'll be proud and honored to send pictures of myself groveling on the sidewalk :o)

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Marked (House of Night, #1)Marked by P.C. Cast

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I borrowed this book after a friend spoke over and over again about how she found it "far superior" to the Twilight Series, in terms of it's depiction of modern teenagers.

I did enjoy this book, but it definitely falls into my "Guilty Pleasures" category...books that do not require much thought, rather the ability to let go of thinking in the name of juvenile imagination for a few hours(and a few hours is all you need for this short, very easy read). The best way I can describe this read is that the author's had some great ideas and approaches(new spin on vampires/vampyres, first person of a teenager that is written in part by a teenager etc) but they went too far with most of them.

The biggest of these for me were being bombarded by "totally's", "like's" and OMG's, the overkill of pop culture references, and the way religion/spiritualty was approached. I can handle some of the airhead and text speak, knowing that it is often the case with teenagers, but a little restraint would have gone a long way in creating a little more depth and respect for characters. The repeated pop culture references came across to me as though they were trying way too hard to make their alternative version of the world seem like reality but without being very creative about it...Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks are all vampyres? Come on. If you're going to use pop culture references such as that, use some restraint. Yes, more restraint. You don't need to randomly drop names of very well known stars to get your point across, rather the point coming across to me is a lack of creativity. And, while I appreciate that they attempted to bring the elements of spirituality into the vampyre story, it came out as judgmental and convuluted often times(Zoey constantly degrades the fanatical "People of Faith" but they way she speaks about what she thinks of as "slut" behavior reminds me of the way I'd imagine a good church girl would, based on her own description of the church folk...). I did enjoy though, the mixture of the pagan, Wiccan and Cherokee traditions. kind of seems as though I didn't like this book! In reality, I don't think it's a book of superior quality in any way, but as I said before....if you're like me and need some "guilty pleasures" once in a while, this fits right in.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run (Joe Pickett #10)Nowhere to Run by C.J. Box

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a Good Reads giveaway nearly a year ago, but it got misplaced in a move so I'm a little behind the 8-ball on this one :o)

I have only read one other novel in the Joe Pickett series, following the harrowing adventures of a Wyoming game warden, but I was grabbed quickly by both. Knowing first hand much of the story's settings, Box does a great job of capturing and bringing to life the rugged landscapes and putting you right there with Pickett.

This story, set in the remote southern portion of Wyoming, captures the danger and adventure of the wilderness, the trials of being away from family(and the strength of the family to perservere) along with politics and moral dilemas often posed between the citizens and government of the United States. Through a constantly moving plot, quick dialogue and well described locales, I felt more like I was watching a suspenseful movie rather than turning pages. I opened it this morning and before I knew it I had traveled hundreds of miles south, trekked through rugged backcountry, pondered moral dilemas and wound up back in my living room without batting an eye.

While the writing in both books I've read of this series is a bit simple, it is still smart and engaging enough for me to want to read more. Definitely a series, like my fun chick lit, to add to my list of guilty pleasures...perfect for a day on the couch, filled with thoughtless imagination.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Last Templar

The Last TemplarThe Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a bit up and down for me, though in the end I have to say I did enjoy it.

I do typically enjoy books of the church/Templar/Illuminati story line, definitely some I enjoy more so than others, this one probably falls just about in the middle.

While it fit the seemingly stock storyline(big mystery to solve, handsome cop with emotional baggage, hot/smart chick to help out, jet setting after clues) the story was fast paced and had enough turns to keep me interested most of the time. I also enjoyed the mostly modern setting with the flashbacks to the 13th and 14th centuries. Regardless of the proof or speculation surrounding the centuries old Templar lore, it is engaging to read about and thought provoking nonetheless. I did feel a drag in the middle, though I can't pinpoint what in the story really caused it, but once it picked up as they headed to Europe, it seems as though the end of the book arrived in no time.

My one big qualm with this book was the writing. While I don't mean to even hint that I would have done better, I found myself going "really?" on many occasions. We have Sean Reilly, a seemingly intelligent FBI agent and Tess Chaykin, an archeologist turned desk-jockey with a well admired archeologist father, yet they speak at times as though they didn't make it past even the grammar part of grammar school. Now, I understand the concept of needing to write for your audience and I don't expect a novel full of jargon, but come on folks. Can I at least have basic grammar?

Overall though, I'd say it fits nicely into the category of "good weekend reads"(and by weekend reads I mean, stuff I don't exactly have to think about ;o)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Lost Continent: Travels In Small Town America

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town AmericaThe Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were definitely parts of this book that rubbed me the wrong way, and it was not my favorite of Bryson's books, but overall I really did enjoy it.

Yes, Bryson have be a bit over the top in his negativity, and can be quite a jerk. However, he easily admits this throughout, and mocks not just those around him, but himself as well. While his mockings and generalizations do sometimes show a bit more personal stereotype than I'm sure he even realizes, he does not single out any one group; rather, he shoots his negativity at everything he touches in a quite humorous way.

And frankly, I would probably be just as negative in a such a circumstance. Many would not like to accept that many of the negative experiences and places he recalled are the way they are, or that so many of them have gone downhill in past decades. The sad truth, though, is that many areas in the U.S. have given in to the very things he complains about, and lost much of the charm that a road-tripping family would have experienced in the 1950s and 60s.

Yes, a bit harsh at times. Yes, maybe a few to many generalizations. Overall though, a good read(especially if you live somewhere he found favorable, as I do :o)

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The Crimson Rooms

The Crimson RoomsThe Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this in a pre-release giveaway from GP Putnam's, and I am so glad that I did!

The introduction to this story was very quick and abrupt; a major life event happening to the characters before we even knew their names. This bothered me at first, but as I got further into the story it came around and I don't think it would have worked any other way.

This story follows Evelyn, one of the first female lawyers in London, post-WWI. While dealing with the loss of her brother to war, her entire family lives a life that is very sheltered and mournful, even 6 years later. A serious of huge events such as the appearance of her brother's son and his mother as well as a major murder trial, force her to re-evaluate many facets of her life.

Thrown in is a great murder trial mystery, that intertwines the characters even more. I myself am not one to try to figure out mysteries, as I'm typically to engrossed in the story to really see anything deeper right away. After knowing the outcome of this though, I realized some great clues, moments of foreshadowing etc that could have led another reader to a conclusion that I just wasn't seeking, while not being so obvious to just give the story away.

Overall I think this book was very well written and engaging. Katharine McMahon painted a vivid picture of early 20th century London, as well as the trials and tribulations of a woman entering a new field. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction!

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BarefootBarefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a few things. I would have improved about this book, overall I really liked it.

The three main characters, Vicki, Brenda and Melanie, were great women to get to know in this story. The 3 drastically different worlds they were coming from made for an intriguing dynamic, espcially when you read about the close quarters of the Nantucket cottage they share for the summer. It was heart wrenching to read about Vicki's battle with cancer, exciting to learn about Brenda's fiascos, and saddening to hear about Melanie's recent ordeals, and heartwarming to see their situations change and have happy endings.

That said, I did feel a little lost at times from the jumping around between each woman's internal dialogue, and the abruptness of some of the story lines. Vicki's story is the only one that seems fully realized; Brenda spends the summer going back and forth, and then, just like that, her story seems resolved. Melanie, after coming across early on as a bit whiny and "junior high" ish, seems happy for the first time in what comes across as years and then abruptly takes what I think is the "easy" way in the end. I would have loved to see a more rounded story in the end, rather than what seemed to me was a hurried wrap-up to a story that began with more thought and inspiration.

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The Complusion

I have this a bit of a shop-a-holic tendency, though fortunately it is not a very expensive one....thrift store book shelves. I'm pretty sure the seeds of this compulsion were planted the first time my dad took me into Powell's City of Books in my hometown of Portland, OR, and it hasn't stopped since.

While there are never-ending possiblities of things to do around my little town of Gardiner, MT, which happens to be adjacent to Yellowstone, the very short winter days lend to a lot of time relaxing in the house. For someone like me who loved to read since before I even realized what reading was, this is a great thing. So are the shelves upon shelves of used books to be found for often as little as 25 cents, thus inspiring me to carry home yet another box of treasures just about every time I set foot into a local thrift store.

The constant collecting of random books, combined with my already random taste, makes for a quite eclectic reading list, as you will certainly see after a few entries into this blog. There will be Historical Fiction and Knitting Fiction, Chick Lit and Fishing Guides, Biographies and Church Mythology. It won't be for everyone(I'm sure by dad has no interest in Eat, Pray Love...and I'm pretty sure my mom could give a hoot about The Last Templar), so pick and choose, enjoy, ponder and by all means disagree....that's the fun part right?

Tonight will have a few posts, since I've done a few recent "reviews" on Good Reads. Then, I guess I'll have to get to reading!

Happy 2011!