Sunday, May 31, 2009

BOOK: The Children of Men by PD James

The Children of Men by PD James, 241 pages

It's the End of the World challenge

Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five ears, two months and twelve days. This first line drew me into the story immediately. How on earth do they know who the last person born on earth is? It turns out that all of a sudden one year, all the men on Earth became infertile. The first half of the book sets up the situation that exists on Earth. Imagine knowing that there were no more children to be born? The second half of the book is a much more suspenseful tale and more action, involving an attempted coup and a band of rebels on the run.

I've read other reviews that state that the movie is very good as well, but different. I imagine that the movie would be very good. There wasn't as much intrigue in the book as I had hoped. That may have been due to the main character who was rather cold and not that likable. That's a cliche in some ways, but he wasn't someone I was rooting for. The story in the novel was okay, but the situation had so much potential. I still liked the book, but I would love to see the movie and see the way this world would look.

This book completes my It's the End of the World challenge, reading 4 books that are apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. I read:

Specials by Scott Westerfield April 2
The People of Spark by Jeane Duprau Mar18
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Apr 23
The Children of Men by PD James May 31

I still want to read the next book in the People of the Spark series, and the next book after The Hunger Games is being released in the fall, but I won't leave it that close. The best read was The Hunger Games, a great suspenseful read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BOOK: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, 280 pages

Nonfiction Five; Dewey Decimal Challenge: 300s

How do ideas take off? Did you know another man left the same night as Paul Revere to warn of the British, but why did his message not take? How did Hush Puppies become trendy in the 1990s?

Gladwell takes his pop sociology and plain language to look at epidemics and the factors that cause/help/start/continue them. He brings in lots of academic studies to support his thesis and parses them down into the relevant information. We meet the type of people that spread trends, and that know a lot of people. We see how shows like Sesame Street and Blue's Clues had a 'sticky' message.

I read a succinct review at library thing that sums it up pretty well: Some interesting ideas, and a good enough read.
Yep, that about sums it up. I'll have to look for his other book, Outliers, to complete the 'trilogy' along with Blink.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BOOK: Survivor by Mark Burnett

Survivor by Mark Burnett, 228 pages

Nonfiction Five Challenge; Dewey Decimal Challenge: 700s

A couple of weeks ago I found a website that listed somebody's top 115 Funniest Moments in Survivor history. And since I don't have enough time suckers to amuse me on my computer, I read them. All of them. And it brought back some great memories, as I have watched Survivor from the first episode, calling out to my husband that he had to come watch this show, it was awesome! Somewhere in the midst of the Boston Rob and Rob C and Rudy and Rich references, there was a mention of a book written by Mark Burnett about the first season. Whee! My library had it and I put in my request.

Very soon after, season 1 was shown as a marathon on Victoria Day Monday here in Canada. I watched it all day and then as late as I could, and was impressed with how great it was all over again. So reading this book just puts the topper on my recent Survivor trifecta. I really enjoyed the book - producer Burnett wrote it as the show was being filmed on the island. It covers the timeline of the episodes, and the characters, and provides some insight into the production and the motivations of the castaways. Recommended for Survivor fans.

GAME: Bookword Game

The results are in! After taking numerous suggestions, and then voting for a week, we have a word for a books you read because you think you should, in order to be well-read.

With 50% of the vote, our new word is Oblibook, suggested by Jan. (I couldn't find a link to Jan)
Congratulations Jan, and thanks to everyone who voted. We appreciate everyone who participates and encourage anyone to play along with the next game.

Next in the queue, we need a word for a book you buy that you forgot you already read/own. This hasn't happened to me yet, but I imagine it could happen. So, suggestions? Leave an idea in the comments. All suggestions are requested, and don't worry if it's not perfect. Ideas become brainstorms, and one idea can lead to another. Who will come up with a great idea?

Suggestions will stay open for a week, and then Suey will have the poll next week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BOOK: The Rebels by Sandor Marai

The Rebels by Sandor Marai, 278 pages
translated from Hungarian

Orbis Terrarum: Hungary

The Author:
Sandor Marai is better known for his novel Embers, published in English in 2001. His other books have been gradually been translated from Hungarian, including The Rebels in 2007, originally published in 1930. He left Hungary after the communist takeover and died in San Diego in 1989.

The Plot:
It's the story of four boys on the verge of adulthood, during the first world war. They are left in the town to finish school, without the men, all off at war, and are alienated, and rebelling against the establishment before they head off to the front. There is some betrayal amongst the friends.

Things I liked:
The alienation of the young well to do boys has been around for a while, and this book didn't feel like it was written in 1930. The antics of the boys could have been from today, just they rebelled in different ways. But apparently, rich entitled kids have been getting up to no good and always feeling like they are the first invent their particular unhappiness and rebellion.
I liked the feel and atmosphere of the book in Hungary during the first war.

Things I didn't like:
That literature feel, where I wasn't always sure what was going on, in particular, the ending. Huh? Lots of testosterone and overtones of homosexuality, and no real female characters, except of dying mother of one of the boys.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am in Hungary during World War I with a group of boys on the verge of adulthood, rebelling against their fathers and adulthood. (The Rebels by Sandor Marai) Also, still investigating what has to happen to an idea to reach the tipping point and become an epidemic. (The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell)

Don't forget to come by and vote on our latest Bookword Game - books you read because you think you should, in order to be well-read. Do you read any books like that? I'll have a new word on Wednesday and take suggestions.

Where is reading taking you? leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Friday, May 22, 2009

BOOK: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson, 211 pages

Booking Around the States: Ohio

Morris Bird III is nine years old in 1944 living in Cleveland, Ohio. He decides to skip school and walk across town to visit his friend who moved. What an adventure Morris Bird III has. It turns out that the same day he decided to walk across town, Cleveland had a huge natural gas explosion. The gas explosion was real but Morris Bird III was not.

In order to be brave, you have to be brave all the way. You have to understand that you must take the consequences for an Unexcused Absence.

It's a story about bravery and doing your best, and being determined. One of the reasons Morris Bird III makes his trek is to make allowances for his past misdeeds. One of these was imagining that he had a speedometer in his stomach that turned every year on his birthday. Also, he has a little sister.

There they went every morning, and oh my wasn't it ever sweet, dear little Morris Bird III leading his dear little snot of a sister by her dear little hand as they went, tra la la, hippity hop, off to school.
Oh what a picture. Ugh.
Hand in hand.
Ah, the world was gray and bleak, and no one suffered the way Morris Bird III suffered.

Stephen King described Robertson as one of the three writers who influenced him as a young man who was trying to "become" a novelist. (wikipedia) I can definitely see the influence. The repetition of words, the sounds, the run-on descriptions, and the overall great writing are all here and I could easily have believed that King might have written this. It's the folksy style but packed with a punch, and the repetition. Other people in Cleveland were affected by the explosion (over 200 were killed) and their stories are told as well, rather urgently in very long paragraphs, jumping from one person to another. It was a little confusing, but it all came together in the end.

Morris Bird III is a character that makes quite an impression. As the first sentence in the book states: The legless man was wise enough to understand that heroes can be found in the damnedest places. Which was why he didn't hesitate when he called the boy the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GAME: Bookword Game

The question:
books you read because you think you should, in order to be well-read

The suggestions:
oblibook by Jan
MustIread by Kaelesa
have-to-read by Carrie
need-to-read by bybee
BrainBook by joy
RoundedRead by joy
Makes-Me-Smarter book by raidergirl3

The Poll:

come by my blog and vote

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

We enjoyed a Victoria Day long weekend, so today is like Monday here in Canada. The weather on the east coast was lovely on Friday and Saturday and then rainy Sunday and Monday. We were outside on Saturday around the yard enjoying the sun and then luckily we had planned a trip for the last two days to Crystal Palace in Moncton, an indoor amusement park. Lovely weekend all around.

In reading, I am in Cleveland, Ohio with Morris Bird III. Heartland America during the 1944. (The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson)
I am also learning about the Tipping Point in culture. As a child who was the first generation to grow up with Sesame Street, I am looking forward to that chapter. (TheTipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, May 18, 2009

BOOK: Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw

Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw, 342 pages

Published in '09; Orbis Terrarum: Malaysia/Indonesia

I don't know enough about the history in Indonesia to comment on what all happened in this book, but this book made me want to look up and read some other books about Indonesia in the 1960s. I know there was a movie called The Year of Living Dangerously, but I didn't realize it was based on a book based on a speech by the president and I wasn't aware that the Dutch 'owned' Indonesia before their independence. Indonesia in this tumultuous period is the setting for this novel, providing a backdrop for some broken lives.

Adam's foster father Karl, has been taken into custody as a part of a repatriation program, and Adam hasn't seen his brother since they were separated at the orphanage ten years earlier. He goes to Margaret, an American who has lived in Indonesia for most of her life and has a connection to Karl from her teenage years, for help in finding Karl. Margaret and her American contacts are in a bad spot as the climate between US and Indonesia are not good. Adam ends up meeting some students from Margaret's university and gets caught up some revolutionary activities.

It sounds a bit complicated, but it is not. The book looks at the growing pains in Indonesia in 1960s through the lives a small number of people. Some interesting questions of what makes a person a citizen of a country - by birth or by choice, as well as families made by birth or by choice are raised. Margaret is white but has Indonesia in her heart and really understands the land, but is considered an outsider. Karl is Dutch by heritage, but has lived a quiet life on an outer island and not part of any ruling class except by his heritage. Adam is Indonesian but doesn't feel like he belongs anywhere. His real brother, living a privileged life in Malaysia, is the biggest outsider within his adopted family.

All in all a good read. The setting and history in Indonesia were very good, and the main character of Margaret was independent and strong. Adam was a smaller character even though it is his life that is the center of the book. With the immigration of people all around the world, it is a good idea to think about what makes a person a citizen of a town or country, and it isn't just being born there. It must get very complicated in countries that were colonies of the European nations, with generations that have lived in and grown up there, but are still considered outsiders.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

BOOK: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, 180 pages
translated by Stephen Snyder

herding cats; What's in a Name? profession; Orbis Terrarum: Japan; published in 2009

A never named housekeeper comes to work for a never named math professor. The professor had a head injury in a car accident many years before and only has eighty minutes of short term memory. The housekeeper and her son, nicknamed Root for his flat headed resemblance to the square root sign, form a little family with the professor.

This was a delightful little novel about families and what makes them, about being educated and life long learning, and a bit about math and baseball. I'm sure not everyone finds math a selling point as a topic, but I loved it. The professor falls back on math when he doesn't know what to do or say as it is the one area of his life that he knows, that he has some control over. Plus, we learn a little bit about prime numbers and perfect numbers and solving problems.

Librarything predicted I would love it, and it was bang on. Keep an eye out, I bought it at Costco, so it must have been mass published recently.

also reviewed by thoughts of joy, 3M at onemorecchapter,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BOOK: Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, 385 pages

TBR Lite 2009

We really enjoyed this book, but we haven't read many (any?) books written in the first person plural, and it was surprisingly effective. It epitomized the group think that develops in an office, the culture of a staff.

Our business was advertising and details were important. If the third number after the second hyphen in a client's toll-free number was a six instead of an eight, and if it went to print like that, and showed up in Time magazine, no one reading the ad could call now and order today. No matter they could go to the website, we still had to eat the price of the ad. Is this boring you yet? It bored us every day. (page 3)

I knew I'd like this book after I encountered this line on the first page and I ha!ed out loud. It just tickled my funny bone, all the way through. Then the email that got sent by Marcia to "all" instead of just Genevieve, "It's really irritating to work with irritating people," which went around the office faster than the flu and led people to comment to Marcia continuously about it. You know, if you have worked with anyone at all, how those type of things never die.

In the beginning, it just seemed like stories and situations, and I wasn't sure how much I would read of these, albeit funny stories, but no apparent plot. Close to the middle though, a plot emerged, and the book really took off, as the tone changed a bit. Breast cancer can do that. Ferris was able to continue with the funny even with a much more depressing topic. Ferris is a very talented writer.

If you've worked in a cubicle, or an ad agency, or with other people nearby, if you enjoy quirky humor, if you like reading about the interactions of groups, this book is for you. If you love your work, or hate your job, you'll find something to relate to.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am in an office, in a cubicle, working at an ad agency in Chicago. That sounds boring, and it is, but people do what they can to make a boring job bearable, and this is a pretty funny look at group think and group speak. (Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris)

Don't forget the Bookword Game this week - we are voting at Suey's for a word to describe a book you read after you've seen the movie. It's fun to vote, so go on over and then come back to Suey's tomorrow and give suggestions for the next Bookword. The more that play the better.

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, May 11, 2009

CHALLENGE: Book Awards Challenge 3

Rules: from

  1. Read 5 books from 5 different awards during July 1, 2009 through December 1, 2009.

  2. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.

  3. Choices don't have to be posted right away, and lists may be changed at any time.

  4. 'Award winners' is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs.

  5. SIGN UP using Mr. Linky below -- please use a SPECIFIC post link.

  6. If you'd like to be a contributor on this blog, email me at 3m.michelle at gmail and reference your blog address if you have one. (I must have your email address, so comments to this post won't work.)

  7. Have fun reading!

Of course I'll join in. The actual books to be determined later, starting with some possibilities:

the ones I read:
Commonwealth - The Slap
Orange Prize (New Author) - The Lizard Cage
Pulitzer Prize - A Death in the Family
Giller Prize - Clara Callen
Printz - How I Live Now

maybe next time:
  • Newbery Award -The Wheel on the School, The Graveyard Book
  • IMPAC Dublin - Man Gone Down
  • Orange Prize - Small Islands,
  • Pulitzer Prize - Lonesome Dove
  • Booker Prize - How Late it Was, How Late; Vernon God Little
  • Giller Prize - The Time in Between

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BOOK: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, 455 pages

celebrate the author

Good compelling story about a school shooting. So it's yucky in many ways. At the staff meeting yesterday, we were reminded to get the tape on the floor of our classrooms to mark off the safe area in case of a lock down. In some ways, this was a difficult read. What can I do? What's happened to that kid in his/her life before I've met them? Scary stuff to be thinking about.

The story itself? Well done, very suspenseful as Picoult writes in two simultaneous stories - the before and after the shooting. I liked this back and forth in time, seeing what happened to lead to this point. We see Peter, the shooter and his battles to fit in and deal with the bullying; Josie, his childhood friend, who breaks the barrier and becomes part of the popular crowd; Alex, Josie's mom, a judge and distant mother. We see the other students and Peter's parents - a midwife and an economics professor. Sometimes Picoult seems to be trying to cover too much stuff - bullying, gun control, social strata in schools, the economics of happiness, homosexuality, family dynamics, the trial, an abusive boyfriend. Maybe this is to put the shooting in some context, as it doesn't appear out of nowhere.

I wasn't a fan of Alex and Josie and thought they were much more dysfunctional than Peter and his family. So why did Peter and not Josie react the way he did? I thought the behaviour of the 'cool crowd' was over the top for a high school. The story was good, but predictable, and provides a balanced look into many aspects and issues that could be involved in a school shooting. I prefer the other two books I've read on this subject, but I would include it as a trilogy on this topic:

1. Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland B.R. ( before reviewing, but it was one of my favorite books in 2007)
2, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shiver
3. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (here's a review by caribousmom)

This book is my read for May to celebrate the author, as Jodi Picoult has a birthday May 19, 1966.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BOOK: Nocturnes by Kazou Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazou Ishiguro, 220 pages

Published in '09, released May 5, 2009

Five stories of Music and Nightfall

The subtitle was my first clue that nocturne might have more than one meaning. I knew it meant 'night', but it also means 'a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night.' Thanks wikipedia. The five stories are all of a similar theme, and round back on themselves with characters or settings, all connected to music.

Ishiguro wrote these five short stories as a set, meant to go together but not one complete novel. (I learned from this Guardian article) They are all different, told from a first person narrator, but there are some similarities. Most have musicians that have not achieved success, yet. (and it's never their fault)

I liked the stories set in Venice, because they reminded me of my visit there and was easily transported to San Marco square. "Crooner" and "Cellists" show musicians at the beginning of their careers meeting seasoned performers who aren't exactly what they seem."Malvern Hills" has an out of work musician taking refuge in the hills with his sister who expects him to work for his room and board, and who defines the concept of an idealized musician who won't sacrifice his musical integrity for anything.

I don't think summarizing the stories helps much in a short story review. Overall, the stories were readable and the more I think about them, the more connections I can make between the plots and characters. Is it a coincidence that a sonata is divided into five sections - introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation, coda? With well defined rules of repetition and spiraling of themes? I don't think so, Ishiguro is too good for that to be a coincidence. And that's where it ends, because I like his writing, he takes me right into the tale, with his unreliable narrators that make you look at what they say with a jaundiced eye, so that as the reader, I am sceptical of the characters and their tales of woe. I like reading his stories because they make me think.

BLOGGING: It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

It's Tuesday and time to share where reading is taking us in our travels around the world. I wish I was down south enjoying the southern hospitality but I'll have to settle for the Southern Reading Challenge which gets started May 15th and runs til August 15th, through the dog days of summer. It's the third year Maggie has hosted this challenge, and I haven't begun to run out of books; on the contrary, every year I find new authors and old southern classics I want to read.

Don't forget to add your suggestions to the latest Bookwords Game. We are looking for a word for a book you read after you see the movie. Don't be shy, come on by!

In reading, I am in Sterling, New Hampshire before and after a school shooting. Pretty harrowing, and the town is simply devastated. (Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult)

Where is reading taking you today? Leave a comment, write a post, spread the word.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MEME: first lines

from the book memes community at LiveJournal

1. Pick 10 of your favorite books. (not necessarily my favorite, as I don't keep a lot of books around and I read a lot from the library but these I books I would easily recommend)
2. Post the first sentence of each book. (If one sentence seems too short, post two or three!)
3. Let everyone try to guess the titles and authors of your books! (I'll take guesses in the comments)

eta: I bolded the ones that have been identified, and the answers are hidden after the quote, so just highlight the area to see the book. A few are still now determined yet, keep trying!

1. If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valency Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different. Blue Castle

2. Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.
the perks of being a wallflower

3. My great-grandmother Morrison fixed a book rest to her spinning wheel so that she could read while she was spinning, or so the story goes.

4. No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Northanger Abby

5. OK. Don't panic. Don't panic. It's only a VISA bill. Confessions of a Shop-a-Holic

6. This happened in 1932, when the state penitentiary was still at Cold Mountain.
The Green Mile

7. The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the small river.

8. The gunman is useless. I Am the Messenger

9. Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

10. It was 7 minutes after midnight. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Sunday, May 3, 2009

CHALLENGE: Southern Reading Challenge

May 15 - August 15, 2009

three months, three books, win!
Southern Reading Challenge Three
haikus, pecans, win!

Before I joined Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge in 2007, I didn't even realize that southern books were a genre. And they may not be a real genre, but I get them now. We were watching Because of Winn-Dixie, based on the book by Kate diCamillo and it just reeks, reeks in a good way, of southern characters and settings. It was set in Florida which is southern, but it also had the feel that I've come to enjoy and recognize in southern literature. So Yay! to Maggie for hosting again. Last year I read the following:

Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B Ross
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Mississippi)
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina)
Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

I wrote a haiku for The Secret Life of Bees - which was fab, and then won and read an autographed copy of Mudbound, also fab. Maybe this year I'll join in one of the other contests during the challenge. And keep an eye out for dead mules, apparently they appear in a lot of southern fiction.

This summer I hope to read from the following list:
Miss Julia Meets Her Match by Ann B Ross (continuing series)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (on
Beach Music by Pat Conroy (South Carolina)
Big Stone Gap by Adrianna Trigiani
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
2. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
A Death in the Family by James Agee

Saturday, May 2, 2009

BOOK: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, 270 pages

Pulitzer Winner 2009

I really liked Olive, warts and all.
I liked how the book was a view of a small town in Maine, with many characters.
I liked how we see Olive through her chapters, and how the other people in the town see her and know her.
I liked the idea of a character study from so many angles.
I like how Olive was pretty cranky and self-centered but also could be compassionate.
I liked Olive's husband, Henry and his pleasant, easy-going manner.
I liked that Olive was a math teacher.
I liked the writing.
I like short story collections with overlapping characters, but this isn't really a short story collection - it is a form to develop Olive's character from different character's viewpoints.
I liked the other characters we got to know and their stories, also giving a new perspective on Olive.
I liked seeing Olive's life, and the lives that she touched or had an effect on.
I liked the theme of perspective and how we never know what is going on inside people's houses, marriages, heads.
I really liked Olive, and Olive Kitteridge.