Friday, June 29, 2007

BOOK: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

It's always exciting to find a new mystery series. This was my first book in the summer mystery, new-to-you author read. I've been reading good things about this series, and it was a great summer read.
Stephanie Plum is new to the bounty hunting business, and she is on a steep learning curve trying to bring in Morelli, a cop accused of murder who has jumped bail. The novel follows Stephanie as she tries to bring in Morelli, but she goes way back with him, and you can feel the heat on every page. (I have a crush on Morelli already.) There is a lot more humor in the mystery than I expected and it means I will be looking for the next book in the series. I enjoy a mystery with humor; it balances all the blood and bombs and guns. I love how this series has catching titles: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly, ... The thirteenth book has just been released and I've been noticing reviews already.
First book of summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

BOOK: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

In the year 632 AF (after Ford) we are shown around the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. This Utopian society values technology, and has used science to perfectly create its population, Alpha, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. We are introduced to a few characters - Bernard, Hemholtz, Lenina, Henry Foster and Mustapha, and we see how sex is very casual and not used for procreation at all, how soma is the drug of everyone, used to deal with anything unpleasant, and how the children are conditioned to be perfect members of the society. Bernard and Lenina go to a Reservation and bring back a Savage, who has not been exposed to this "brave new world" but to our type of life, with marriage and love and passions and Shakespeare. The Savage becomes a novelty and has trouble fitting in.

I really enjoyed this book, although it started to drag for me near the end. I have been surprised at how some aspects of these dystopian novels have predicted the way societies have evolved. This novel focused on the consumerism, DNA manipulation, and drug use that are certainly issues today, and this was originally published in 1932. As a society, we are looking for a soma, a cure-all to prevent any bad feelings or pain. Commercials teach our children that any pain ( Extra Strength) or discomfort (Tum, Ta tum tum) needs to be eliminated and we have just the thing for you!
I liked how Shakespeare is used to represent all the emotions and feelings that have been eliminated in the Fordian world, and the explanation of how all diseases, including old age and death, have been eliminated by science. This novel will give you plenty to think about.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

BOOK: Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo was my fourth book in the Nonfiction Five Challenge. I originally planned to read one nonfiction a month, but I got crazy in June and read three. This was a children's book and a quick read, but it certainly was powerful, making me appreciate the peaceful atmosphere we live in. It's one thing to live in fear of terrorists, but to live in a war zone is quite a different matter all together.
Zlata was eleven when she began writing in her diary. Soon after, was broke out in Sarajevo. The entries in her diary change from homework, music and friends, to cities being bombed, no water or electricity, and keeping track of family and friends as they flee or are killed. Even visiting relatives across town is dangerous due to the snipers and bombing. The entries continue for two years as Sarajevo is destroyed and Zlata's life becomes smaller and smaller. Nothing to do, nothing to eat, nowhere to go.

As a book, this was OK. Written by an eleven year old, telling about her life, it was rather repetitive. However, the book is still very powerful in giving an insider and child's view of living through a war zone. Not pretty. She is compared to Anne Frank, and she herself talks about being like Anne so from the beginning there is an awareness of writing about war. About three quarters of the way through, her diary began to be published, and I found it so strange that the journalists would come to interview her, bring her some food and then leave. Zlata and her family were left to listen to the bombs and try to find food, water and heat. Eventually, Zlata's family was removed from Sarajevo and the war did eventually end. I know Canadian peace keepers spent a while in Sarajevo and I would like to read more about what happened there. The Serbs, Croats and Muslims were fighting, killing each other and this is where Slobodan Milosovic (almost convicted of war crimes) spread his good cheer. So much to learn about. This nonfiction challenge is just adding to my reading list.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

BOOK: Good Intentions by Joy Fielding

I finished Good Intentions by Joy Fielding last night. I haven't read a good paperback novel in a while and I raced through it, even though I found the men infuriating, which was probably the point. I'm not sure what genre to call this book, it is almost a chick-lit type of book - woman happy in her life, husband is an ass, she eventually wakes up to this fact. The characters were a little predictable, but I still wanted to find out what was going to happen and the plot flew along.

Lynn is getting her life together after her husband had left her and their two children. Renee (rhymes with Beanie) is her lawyer, with her handsome, rich psychiatrist husband. Both are about to have a disturbing summer. Lynn gets a phone call from Marc, the ex-husband of the wife her husband left her for. She finds herself attracted to him which of course could get messy. Renee's manipulative teenage step-daughter is arriving for the summer, as is her suicidal sister. Both women are successful in their careers, and yet put up with domineering, bully husbands. Renee's was especially annoying to me, but I was pretty sure the outcome, so I kept reading.

This was a great, fast read. Nothing too deep; it would be a perfect beach read, and it is set in Florida, so the heat of the sun at the beach would be make you feel you were right there, watching the show.
There was a great Canadian reference to Wayne and Shuster and their famous Julius Caesar skit. We were just talking about that at work last week:" I said, Julie, don't go."

MEME: Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
Since school is out for the summer (in most places, at least), here’s a school-themed question for the week:
Do you have any old school books? Did you keep yours from college? Old textbooks from garage sales? Old workbooks from classes gone by?
How about your old notes, exams, papers? Do you save them? Or have they long since gone to the great Locker-in-the-sky?

I sure do have some old textbooks, down in the basement, in a box, that hasn't been opened in years, but has been dutifully moved several times. I even have a box of my brother-in-law's old accounting textbooks. He's supposed to come get them. huh?
The best part of the box of textbooks, is that my husband and I were both chemistry majors, so we have TWO of every book. Organic, inorganic, phys chem, biochem, everything. We keep meaning to get rid of all these books.
I do, however, use my old calculus book, as I now teach it in high school and it was an excellent reference. I keep mine at home and took my husband's to school. We also still have our Norton Anthologies, and we took different courses, so we have two different anthologies, which is actually excellent.

I believe I kept a few exemplar examples of old assignments, and on the occasions I clean, I find them, remember them longingly, and repack them for the next trip down memory lane. Of course I've started saving some of my kids stuff. But there are three of them, and the junk work they generate is mountainous.
[I am actually, at this minute, cleaning out my classroom, and hopefully, throwing out mountains of paper, when I am not distracted by this shiny computer and plans for lunch]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CHALLENGE: 2nds Challenge

Joy can't get enough of hosting these challenges. As soon as the Nonfiction Five ends, she is planning a 2nds challenge . For everyone discovering new authors and wanting to read another one, this is the challenge for you. The challenge is to pick three books, to be read from October through December, of an author you have read one book previously. This is so easy for me. I went to examine my stack of books beside my bed and immediately found three books that fit this challenge. There are many more I can think of, so I'm copying Jill, and making an alternate list as well. From my shelf:
  • The Plague by Albert Camus ( I read The Stranger and really enjoyed it)
  • Monkfish Moon by Romesh Gunesekera ( I read The Reef)
  • In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant ( I loved The Birth of Venus)

    My alternate list includes, but not limited by:

    • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I read Half of a Yellow Sun)
    • The Boleyn Inheritance by Philipa Gregory ( Loved The Other Boleyn Girl)
    • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry * a Something About Me choice (I read The Giver)
    • something by Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper)
    • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep)
    • Miss Julia Takes Over by Ann B Ross (Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind)
    • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera ( I read Ignorance)
    • another book by Orhan Pamuk ( I read Istanbul )
    I could keep going. Other than the Sarah Dunant novel, all these are from this year. I've discovered so many great authors this year!

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    BOOK: The Translator by Leila Aboulela

    The Translator is a simple love story, about finding faith and about the life of an exile. Sammar is a Sudanese widow living and translating in Scotland. She begins coming out of a four year mourning period due to the attention of Rae, an expert on Islam and the Middle East. Sammar has been, I hesitate to say living, but going through the motions in Scotland while her aunt/mother-in-law raises her son in Sudan. Rae begins to bring her back to life and Sammar begins to come alive. Her faith in Islam is a stumbling block and the book details her awakening as she returns to Sudan, but she doesn't fit in there either.

    I felt so much sympathy for Sammar as she tries to fit in everywhere - she never fit in to Scotland, and her return to Sudan is rough as they see her as an outsider. The writing was lovely and the two countries are wonderfully described. This is a gentle story, more of a character study, but the settings are important too. I prefer a little more story, less lyrical writing, but I enjoyed the book each time I picked it up, and I really enjoyed Sammar and would have liked to know her. She was a strong woman, but her life is so different from mine, in so many respects. I would like to read more about Islam and I enjoyed how her faith guided all her decisions.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    BOOK: Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White

    Simple little story, not much happens. It was what I would call, with my limited experience, a typical southern story. Quirky characters, full of setting and not much really happened. I enjoyed reading about Roger and his extended ex-family, and some of the neighbours during a year in their southern Georgian town. Thankfully there was a list of characters and I relied heavily on it for the first few chapters, trying to keep everyone straight. White's writing was wonderful and "heartbreakingly tender, often hilarious". Reading this book reminds me of other southern experiences and characters, like The Golden Girls, and Junebug (movie starring Ben McKenzie.) I don't often identify with the characters, but they are unusual and interesting to read. Is there a crazy person in every small southern town? They seem to be tolerantly amused by their neighbours, not judged. Themes of nature and change and tolerance; gentle read.
    Here's a better review than mine, which sums up the book excellently: a review

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    BOOK: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

    The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America is really two stories in one: the mass murderer, Dr H Holmes and the World Fair of Chicago in 1893. Both happened in the same place and at the same time, so their overlap makes for a fascinating read. Larson, interestingly, mentions Capote's In Cold Blood as a book he read to see how Capote set the tone and mood of a mass murderer's story. I just read that last month.

    The World Fair of 1893 changed so much in America. Larson does an amazing job of connecting many the people and events, and I felt the same way I did after reading In Cold Blood: the details! Buffalo Bill Cody, Shredded Wheat, Ferris Wheels, the Titanic, AC electricity, even Disneyland can be connected to this huge world event. At the same time, the Holmes story of a serial killer was chilling. I really enjoyed this well written nonfiction book and learned a lot. I want to go to Chicago now, and see some of the landmarks mentioned. I had to read this quickly as I needed to return it to a student, so I felt more pressure to get this done, but still enjoyed the diversion. There was mention of the McKinley assassination, which now connects all three books I've read for the Nonfiction Challenge: In Cold Blood, Assassination Vacation and The Devil in the White City.

    also reviewed by Laura at reading reflections

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    UPDATE: Spring Reading Thing Challenge

    Katrina has asked that everyone write a wrap-up post about the Spring Reading Thing. I finished this up a while ago, but she even gave some homework questions to complete! Sometimes school work can be fun however. Here's my list, including links to each review:
    1. Reef by Romesh Gunesekera (completed March 24, 2007)
    2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (completed March 25, 2007)
    3. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (completed March 29,2007)

    4. History of the World in 10.5 Chapters by Julian Barnes (completed April 6, 2007)
    5. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides (completed April 13, 2007)
    6. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
    book 1 The Golden Compass (completed April 26, 2007)
    book 2 The Subtle Knife (completed April 29, 2007)
    book 3 The Amber Spyglass (completed May 22, 2007)

    What was the best book you read this spring? I can't pick, because the books were so different, and each have different assets. Mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, . . .
    What book could you have done without? The Virgin Suicides didn't do it for me, partly because I loved Middlesex and it wasn't nearly as captivating.
    Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again? Ironically, the only author I had read before was Eugenides. I plan to read another of Gunesekara, Adams, Barnes, and Chandler. I even have the books for each of these picked out.
    If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it? I debated not finishing The Amber Spyglass, but I'm so glad I did because the ending was fantastic. Also, how could I not finish the third book in a trilogy?
    Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones? I'm sure I did, but I can't remember where I got them or from whom. I've been making such a big list of books to read, I think I'm in denial from where they came from.
    What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share! I learned I only like to commit to one book per month for a challenge, and I wouldn't pick a trilogy again, because what if you don't like it?
    What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing? the pretty button!!
    Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall? oh probably!
    Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments. Thanks a lot Katrina, you were a great hostess

    MEME: Booking Through Thursday

    Booking Through Thursday
    Do you cheat and peek ahead at the end of your books? Or do you resolutely read in sequence, as the author intended?
    And, if you don’t peek, do you ever feel tempted?

    Once upon a time, I would have said "never". But I've gotten older, and I must confess that I can not say never. It is not often, but the reasons are varied. NEVER in a mystery. But if I'm feeling really icky about a character and their chance to survive, I might peek to see if I can see their name in a glance at the end. I guess I've never read the end, just taken quick glances to see if I can see a name and that they will survive until the end.
    The only book I read the last few pages of, actually read, was On the Road by Jack Kerouac because I couldn' t stand it. I wanted to see if anything actually happened, but alas, still the same boring stuff. So I stopped reading it. Both things were very hard to do: read the end, and stop reading.
    I'm not morally opposed to peeking, I would certainly eat my cookies before supper, but I don't do it often.

    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    BOOK: So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

    I declare that today was the perfect summer day. I don't expect to have such a wonderful day again all summer. We had nothing that had to be done, no where we had to go. The weather was absolutely ideal - mid 20s, slight breeze, sunny. I mean, it was perfect. The kids were around, in and out, sprinkers going, balls thrown, neighbour kids around, climbing trees, teasing brothers, the works. Barbeque steak, baked potatoes with sour cream and green onions (we never have those on hand that are not expired) for supper. We walked up to Tim Horton's after supper to get some donuts for dessert. And my school work is left until tomorrow, mercifully guilt free.

    And since the kids are getting older, they can play somewhat unsupervised. I was able to swing on the deck swing, and read So Many Books, So Little Time all day. It was the perfect book for today - I could read a bit, turn on the sprinkler. Read a bit, turn off the sprinkler. Read a bit, get cold drinks for everyone (Corona for me!) And I read the whole, wonderful book today. Nelson herself would say that reading is all about timing! timing! timing! and location! location! location! See, I had both today. Nelson chronicles her year of reading, and how she responds to the books, and how fluid the process of picking and reading books is. Of course, I identified as a reader to many of her statements and feelings about books. That feeling of: it's not just me.

    She covers the same type of areas as Nick Hornby did in The Polysyllabic Spree, another book I completely enjoyed. This book was recommended several times in our Something About Me Challenge - sally,, and vasilly. I can see why, and I would put I book like this on my list too. I can't believe I didn't add Hornby's. Nothing profound or startling, just nice.
    Wonderful book, wonderful day. le sigh

    BOOK: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    So many reasons to read this book: booklogged sent it to me, it is on the banned book reading list, katrina just read it, and I picked it for the Summer Reading Challenge Round 2. And it was a great read. I heard it was a tearjerker, and I usually cry quite easily in books so I was surprised that nary a tear fell. Still an excellent read and well worth the story.

    Charley is a mentally retarded aldult chosen for experimental surgery to make him a genius. Previously only experimented on animals, Algernon the mouse was the most successful trial. Against the ethics of science today, the surgery is done on Charley without seeing how Algernon ends up, or what the long term effects of the operation are. Charley becomes smarter, intellectually very quickly and the book is about how he has to grow emotionally as well. As he deals with his past life, the reader is left to wonder how much better off he was after the surgery. Algernon begins to fail and Charley is left to see his future.

    So many issues are brought up I can see why this is a high school novel. I read it very quickly and would recommend it. As Charley begins to see his life with his increased intelligence, your heart just breaks for him. Banned, I imagine, due to Charley's increased sexual awareness and the references to his affairs.

    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    QUIZ: Which Green Gables character are you?

    Surprise, surprise. (I think everyone gets Anne. )

    Which Anne of Green Gables character are you?

    You are most like Anne Shirley. You love to day dream, read romance novels, and TALK! Yet, you are starving for love and attention, that is, till you come to Green Gables and meet Matthew, Marilla, and Mrs. Lynde.
    Take this quiz!

    MEME: Booking Through Thursday

    Booking Through Thursday
    Almost everyone can name at least one author that you would love just ONE more book from. Either because they’re dead, not being published any more, not writing more, not producing new work for whatever reason . . . or they’ve aged and aren’t writing to their old standards any more . . . For whatever reason, there just hasn’t been anything new (or worth reading) of theirs and isn’t likely to be.
    If you could have just ONE more book from an author you love . . . a book that would be as good any of their best (while we’re dreaming) . . . something that would round out a series, or finish their last work, or just be something NEW . . . Who would the author be, and why? Jane Austen? Shakespeare? Laurie Colwin? Kurt Vonnegut?

    Isn't there a prequel that's been written for Anne of Green Gables? Of Anne's life before she came to PEI? If that had been written by LM Montgomery that would be so excellent.

    My first thought was Montgomery, and then I thought of Maeve Binchy, because I really love her books; similar in many ways to Montgomery, not surprisingly. Now that I've covered my bases, and answered several authors, I'll change my mind and pick Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a great book, it's too bad she never wrote anymore. She's still alive, but never published another book. The literary world is at a loss for that.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    BOOK: Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B Ross

    How perfect, that as I began reading the first book for the Southern Reading Challenge, the weather here turned steamy. Well, as steamy as PEI can get, which means humid and a little windy. We are finally able to wear shorts. Miss Julia is a delightful little read, not too heavy and just the right amount of humor. I knew I was hooked into the story and characters when I realized I was wondering what would happen between Julia and Sam, her lawyer, and how she would finally solve some of her problems.
    Julia Springer is a recent widow, and she discovers her late husband's infidelity when his mistress drops off his son at her door and asks her to take care of Little Lloyd. Poor Julia has to deal with this shocking revelation in her small southern town, with its standards and 'southernness', which I am getting a feel for even after just one book. Complicating the situation is the minister across the street who feels he/his church should have the money Miss Julia inherited. Miss Julia led a sheltered, simple life before her husband died, and she learns to think for herself, act herself, and look after herself and the assorted characters in her life. She grows up a lot in this book, even though she is in her sixties, and while everything gets resolved, Julia still has a way to go. I will look for the next book in this series, especially when I need a nice, light, enjoyable, nothing to get worked up about, book.

    Sunday, June 3, 2007

    BOOK: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

    I'm not sure what I thought this book would be about. I'd seen Vowell on The Daily Show and found her humorous. When I signed up for the Nonfiction Five reading challenge, I added this to my library list, figuring it would be funny. And it was.

    Vowell is somewhat obsessed with presidential assassinations and she focuses here on Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley and their assassins. She literally goes on assassination vacations. She goes on daytrips, finds plaques all over America and through some very interesting observations and droll commentary, I learned more about American history and some old guy presidents than I ever knew. And she did a great job of writing a history book full of facts and connections - for example, Richard Todd Lincoln was present at, or near, all three of those assassinations- without losing my interest. She doesn't explain things linearly and it makes for a very chatty, enjoyable read. I imagine if you were American and knew even a little about these characters, you would enjoy the book even more.

    Vowell makes some interesting connections to current events and presidents, since the more things change, the more they stay the same. History repeats itself. There was mention of the Chicago World Fair, the subject of another book Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen which is making me want to read that as a book for this challenge. I borrowed the book from a student and the fact that the Chaicago World Fair was mentioned so often in this books means it is fate (McKinley was shot at the world fair in Buffalo) that I read it.

    Friday, June 1, 2007

    UPDATE: May Books

    I just get finished a few challenges and then I sign up for a whole bunch more. As long as this is fun, I'll keep playing. A good month of reading; it seems that the books I pick for challenges, because they are ones I've heard about from other readers, have been excellent quality. My standards of a good book are going up.

    Total Books Read: 9
    Books Read for Once Upon a Time Challenge: 4, and completed!
    Books Read for Banned Book Challenge: 1
    Books Read for Spring Reading Thing: 1, and completed!
    Books Read for Reading Across Borders: 2
    Books Read for the Dystopian Challenge: 0
    Books Read for Chunkster Challenge: 2, and completed!
    Books Read for top 50_books challenge: 2.5
    Books Read for Something About Me Challenge that hasn't really started yet: 1
    Books Read for NonFiction Five: 1

    New Authors that I want to read again: Capote, Adichie, Picoult
    Best books: Half a Yellow Sun, Good Omens, My Sister's Keeper
    Best Scary Book: Coraline
    Funniest Book: Good Omens

    The List:
    My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
    Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
    The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
    The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    The Swallows of Kabul - Yasmina Khadra
    In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
    A Man Without a Country - Kurt Vonnegut
    Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Coraline - Neil Gaiman