Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Location, Location

Where do you do most of your reading? Do you have a favorite spot?

I can read just about anywhere: in bed, sitting/lying on the couch, in a chair, waiting for the doctor, standing in line, sitting in my car at a drive thru, riding in the car on a long trip, in the park, and the list goes one. The majority of my reading time is well divided between various parts of my house, and it's hard to pinpoint which gets more use than another. I like to stretch out on the couch on a rainy or sunny day with the blinds in the sun room opened. I like to lay in bed, lying any which way, sometimes snuggled deep under the covers. And I enjoy curling up in the home office armchair or even in the chair in front of my computer. I have even been known to pick a spot on the floor and read from there (I just have to be careful that my dog is in a napping mood or else he will want to play, which means a book won't long be in my hand).

At the office, I have a favorite armchair that I like to sit and read in during my lunch break (when I get one) that is sort of hidden behind the breakroom door. There are times when I prefer going to sit in my car to read, especially if the weather is nice or if it's raining out.

My absolute favorite reading spot is one from my childhood . . . my family used to go camping in the mountains every summer, sometimes even several times during the summer holidays. My mom, dad, and I would load up the library books and spend our days at the picnic table or lying in lounge chairs reading (my brother was more apt to be out exploring the wilderness). I loved being surrounded by forests of trees and in the fresh mountain air. On rainy days, we would all huddle in the tent and read with the thunder roaring around us. It was heaven. I sometimes think about planning a similar vacation, maybe renting a cabin in the mountains by a lake and plan to do nothing but read . . .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Once Upon a Time 2007 Challenge

I most likely will not be online for the next several months in hopes of staying on top of all these reading challenges I seem to have gotten myself involved in (who am I kidding?). As much as I should avoid joining in another one at all costs (after all, I do have a full-time job to attend to and a husband and animals that want to share my attention on occasion), I seem to have gotten myself tangled in the web of a spell--this one cast by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings. What is the expression about the eyes being bigger than the appetite?

Once Upon a Time…all the great ones begin that way, don’t they? At least in our recollection? Hearkening back to childhood, those four words represent the foundation upon which story is built. In that same way, these four types of story, Mythology, Folklore, Fairytale, and Fantasy, form the very foundation of storytelling itself. It is from the roots of these genres that our latest challenge grows.

Carl offers four quests to participants (there is the option to participate in more than one if desired):

Quest One: Read at least 5 books from any of the 4 genres.
Quest Two: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story-Mythology, Folklore, Fairytale, and Fantasy.
Quest Three: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story, and finish up the challenge with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Quest Four: Read at least one book from the four genres.

For further details about the challenge, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings.

After careful consideration and discussion with Anjin over what books fit into which categories, I decided to take on Quest Two.

Fairytale - The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey [read 06/09/2007]
Fantasy - A Wizard of the Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin [read 04/07/2007]
Folklore - Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock [read 05/04/2007]
Mythology - American Gods by Neil Gaiman [read 04/21/2007]

Let the adventure begin!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dust Covered Dreams by E.A. Graham

Dust Covered Dreams by E.A. Graham
Iomam, 2006
Fiction; 249 pgs

Started: 03/10/2007
Completed: 03/11/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: The ten o’clock curfew passed as the tired woman waited patiently for her fifteen year old son, gently wringing her worn hands.

Reason for Reading: I selected this book to review for Curled Up With a Good Book.

Comments: Do not be discouraged in reading this book based on the first sentence or even the first paragraph. While the writing leaves a little something to be desired, at times too heavy in descriptors, the story itself makes this book worth reading and those little idiosyncrasies fade away as the reader gets pulled into the story--and you will get pulled into the lives of these well drawn and complex characters. The novel is the perfect length and the story moves along at such a pace that keeps the reader engaged and interested. It is full of unexpected twists and events, keeping the reader turning pages to find out what happens next.

The novel opens as Teresa Zapata sits waiting for her 15-year-old son to come home. Gabriel is out for a night on the town with his 19-year-old friend, Jose. The two boys are on their way to a party in a well-to-do neighborhood, a much different environment than the one they come from. A set of tragic events begin to unfold when the two boys are pulled over by the police, guns drawn.

Gabriel is a decent boy, dreaming of a better life for himself. He wants nothing more than to go to go to college and make something of himself. He is the youngest of four children. His oldest brother, Don, is an aspiring businessman whose feet are rooted to the ground; his brother Frank is falling from the good path after losing his dream of pursing a career in the military; and then there is Mary, an intelligent young woman with a big heart who will do anything to protect her family. Their mother, Teresa, worries about her children and their future.

The Zapata family lives on the wrong side of the tracks in the Coachella Valley, in a desert city called Indio. Poverty is a way of life; families struggle and dream for more. On the other side, in a more prominent and well-to-do part of the valley, lives the Anderson family. Judge Anderson is a powerful and influential man with political ambitions for his young son and namesake, Mark Anderson III. Mark’s mother, Sarah Anderson, is a woman going through the motions. There is Skip Anderson, Mark’s older brother, who is drowning but does not seem to know it. And then there is Mark, an ambitious attorney who seeks power and yet finds himself wondering at what cost that will come.

The two families are inexplicably linked. Their fates tied together.

Author E.A. Graham has created a powerful and haunting story about these two families, who struggle to survive each in their own way. The Zapatas want a better life for themselves. The Anderson’s seek power and to maintain what they have. Each of them dreams for something more, however right or wrong.

The novel takes readers deep into the heart of both families, touching upon moral issues, justice, and family. Dust Covered Dreams taps into issues such as racism and classism and the strength of the human spirit. It is a story of perseverance and hope. It is all these things and more. Both thought provoking and entertaining, Dust Covered Dreams is worth reading. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2007

Favorite Part: I think what most drew me to this novel in the first place, why I selected to review it for Curled Up With a Good Book, was the setting. Although I do not live in the Coachella Valley, it is at most an hour’s drive away from where I live now. It is a part of the area I am familiar with and feel attached to.

My favorite scene in the novel was Teresa’s visit to the ice cream parlor for a strawberry milkshake, as she sits and watches the strangers go by. I knew then what would come next, but that wasn’t the reason that scene stuck out for me. It was a moment of peace for a weary and worried mother.

Note about the Author: Check out the author's website.

Miscellaneous: : I had to get up early this morning despite being up late last reading and it being a weekend day because the cable person is supposed to come by. Between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Although I do not actually expect anyone to come until closer to noon, I still cannot help but be up and dressed and wide awake in case he does show up much earlier than that. My husband, of course, is still snuggled up warm in bed. I shouldn’t blame it entirely on the cable company though. Wasn’t it my adorable early bird of a cat who tried to get me out of bed at 5 this morning? Why doesn’t he ever try to wake up my husband instead? Doesn’t he deserve a turn?

We watched Mrs. Henderson Presents last night, which I thought was good overall. Anjin talked me into watching a Japanese anime series called Witch Hunter Robin, which is proving to be interesting, although a bit on the slow side.

I finished reading Monica Pradhan's novel, The Hindi-Bindi Club, which I very much enjoyed. I will post my thoughts on the book closer to the publication date in May.

Bookfool over at Bookfoolery and Babble nominated me for the Thinking Blogger Award. I was very surprised--pleasantly so! It is nice to be recognized and praised, something I think we all deserve now and then. There are so many terrific blogs out there, and several I follow regularly (thanks to Bloglines). Each one has something to offer me, whether it be a great recommendation, inspiration, a laugh, a cry or a pause for thought. I have met some wonderful people in the blogging community. I haven't quite decided who to nominate. I have never been very good at narrowing the choices down and five seems like such a tiny number when I think of how many of you are deserving of recognition for your blogs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Keeping It Short

Booking Through Thursday

Short Stories? Or full-length novels?
I am a full-length novel sort of woman. I do read short stories now and then but not very often. I find that short stories frequently leave me dissatisfied, although occasionally I find a diamond among the rough so to speak. Most often, a short story is not quite long enough for me to sink my teeth into and just when I feel like I am settling in with it, the story comes to an end. A full length novel lends itself better to character development and growth, I have found. Of course, there are always exceptions.

Sometimes all I want is something quick to fill the time without having to start a full length novel. If the short story is by a favorite author of mine, I always jump at the chance to read what they've written regardless of length.

And, what's your favorite source for short stories?
Most of the short stories I read come in anthologies, either a compilation of one author's work or that of many. For a short while I subscribed to a couple of short story journals like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, however, they piled up so fast without me reading them that I ended up canceling my subscriptions.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg

Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg
Doubleday, 2005
Fiction (historical); 326 pgs

Started: 03/11/2007
Completed: 03/18/2007
Rating: * (Good)

First Sentence: On D Street there was no need for alarm clocks: the drays, ever punctual, were an army storming the gates of sleep.

Where Book Came From: My husband gave me the book as a Christmas gift in 2005.

Reason for Reading: Wickett’s Remedy is my third selection for the 2007 TBR Challenge.

From the Publisher: Wickett's Remedy is an epic but intimate novel about a young Irish-American woman facing down tragedy during the Great Flu epidemic of 1918.

Wickett's Remedy leads us back to Boston in the early part of the 20th century and into the world of Lydia, an Irish-American shop girl yearning for a grander world than the cramped confines of South Boston. She seems to be well on her way to the life she has dreamed of when she marries Henry Wickett, a shy medical student and the scion of a Boston Brahmin family. Soon after their wedding, however, Henry shocks Lydia by quitting medical school and creating a mail-order patent medicine called Wickett's Remedy. And then just as the enterprise is getting off the ground, the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 begins its deadly sweep across the world, drastically changing their lives.

In a world turned almost unrecognizable by swift and sudden tragedy, Lydia finds herself working as a nurse in an experimental ward dedicated to understanding the raging epidemic, through the use of human subjects.

Meanwhile, we follow the fate of Henry's beloved Wickett's Remedy as his one-time business partner steals the recipe and transforms it into QD Soda, a wildly popular soft drink.

Comments: In 1918 America joined the war in Europe while an epidemic of the Spanish Influenza spread throughout the United States and eventually other parts of the world. Over twenty million people worldwide are believed to have died as a result of the illness. Hospitals were overflowing and doctors and nurses were in short supply. Scientists and medical professionals were perplexed the exact cause of the illness and reasons why it was spreading so rapidly. Attempts to find the answers were made through human experiments, one of which involved testing on American war criminal volunteers on Gallups Island (now named Gallops Island). This type of testing raised all sorts of ethical questions, including for Lydia who at first did not fully understand what she was getting herself into.

Lydia’s inner strength and quiet determination followed her throughout her life. Wickett’s Remedy is her story as well as the story of the eventual fate of the title’s namesake, the actual remedy.

The author uses an interesting technique in telling the two stories: one through narration, following the life of Lydia, and the other through letters and brochures of sorts that offer a glimpse into the fate of Wickett's Remedy itself. The latter comes almost as afterthoughts at the end of each chapter. Occasionally there are entire conversations between unknown characters at the end of chapters, whose purpose becomes clearer as the story unfolds. There is also the occasional newspaper editorial about the Spanish Influenza.

Myla Goldberg finds a balance between the serious and the comedic in her novel, taking a difficult subject and making it easy for readers to digest. It took a short while before the novel really took off, and at first I was confused about the time period shifts in the two stories.

Wickett’s Remedy is quite different in style and story from the author’s first novel, Bee Season, which I read a year and a half ago. However, it is interesting to note that in reviewing my journal entry for Bee Season written so long ago, I find that my general impressions of the books are quite similar: the slow start, the pieces of the story coming together and winning me over, and the questions that remained in the end. I did enjoy Wickett’s Remedy overall.

Favorite Part: I was afraid I would skip over the margin notes (the voices of the dead), and in fact did a couple of times, however, they were perhaps among my favorite part of the story. They added personality to the book and at times comic relief.

Several scenes come to mind when I think of my favorites: Lydia volunteering at the hospital, the interview with Mr. Cory, the hallway discussion with Percy Cole, and the late night encounter on the island.

Character wise, I was quite fond of Lydia’s oldest brother, Mick, and Lydia herself, who proved to a courageous and generous woman. She wasn’t an aggressive person, however pursued what she wanted in a quiet sort of way, which somehow made her seem vulnerable and yet strong. She is someone I would not mind having as a friend if she were a real person.

Note about the Author: The author, Myla Goldberg, is not only a published author, but also a musician. She plays the banjo and the accordion in the band The Walking Hellos.

Miscellaneous: Anjin and I finally are all caught up with the tv show Heroes. That last episode before the break is a doozy! I hate that I have to wait until near the end of April to see what happens next.

We have three movies waiting to be watched from Netflix: Babel, Mrs. Henderson Presents and Flags of Our Fathers. I am not sure when we will get to them as neither of us seems to be in a movie watching mood these days.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Reading Through the Decades: A Century of Books

Image created by Joy from Thoughts of Joy.

Carrie K was kind enough to point out that I completely overlooked 3M's Reading Through the Decades Challenge, which spans over the course of the year. The participant choses the number of books he or she will read, and the only catch is that the books selected fall within consecutive decades. The order the books are read in is completely up to the participant. For the rules and details, visit 3M's 15 Books/15 Decades blog.

A Century of Books
1900's - The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902) [completed 07/09/2007]
1910's - The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (1919) [completed 12/22/2007]
1920's - Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayer (1923) [completed: 02/02/2007]
1930's - The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930) [completed: 02/18/2007]
1940's - In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes (1947) [completed: 12/21/2007]
1950's - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) [completed: 01/13/2007]
1960's - A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968) [completed: 04/07/2007]
1970's - Sula by Toni Morrison (1973) [completed: 06/26/2007]
1980's - Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984) [completed: 05/04/2007]
1990's - Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996) [completed: 08/25/2007]
2000's - The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005) [completed: 03/10/2007]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Reading Thing 2007

MizB from Literary Cache asked the question that I most wanted to ask regarding Katrina's Spring Reading Thing 2007. I was curious about whether or not crossover books from one challenge to another were allowed. I can only read so many books after all. And do I really need to participate in another challenge? Probably not. Will that stop me? No, but I am going to get a little creative to make this work for me.

Like MizB, I am participating in MizB's 2007 TBR Challenge. There's also Bookfool's Chunkster Challenge for which I hope to start on my final book early next month. And then there is the New York Times (NYT) Notable Book Challenge, which fortunately has such loose rules and requirements that I could read one or two books and meet that goal. I have signed up for Joy's Nonfiction Five Challenge which begins in May and am very much looking forward to that.

I saw mention of a fantasy challenge on Carl V.'s blog, Stainless Steel Droppings, which peaked my interest (I'll have to wait and see what the criteria are before making a decision about that one).

Nessie and M over at Biblio Files are hosting a challenge of their own, M & N's Summer 7 Challenge, which involves reading a complete series (of 7 books) from start to finish (visit her blog to see the choices available--and don't be afraid to ask if what you want to read is something not yet mentioned as Nessie is open to suggestions!). This is one I will be forgoing because I do not think reading seven books in the Banned and the Banished Fantasy series (James Rollins), Inspector Monk mystery (Anne Perry), Jack Reacher (ex-military policeman) series (Lee Child), or Rosato & Associates series (Lisa Scottoline) for example quite meet the requirements. All of these being among of the gazillion series I want to get to. Someday.

These reading challenges will be my downfall yet, I tell you.

The Spring Reading Thing 2007 sounds like the perfect excuse to do a little spring cleaning, setting myself a plan to not only continue on with the task of clearing off someof that TBR shelf space, but also getting to a couple of the books in the NYT Challenge that I have been considering reading but have not yet committed to. If you are curious about the Spring Reading Thing Challenge, hop on over to Callapidder Days for details. The challenge will begin March 21st and go through until June 21st with the start of summer. There is no set number of books you are required to read during the designated time frame (always a plus!).

What I have come up with so far:

1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (NYT Notable Book Challenge) [read]
2. The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason [read]
3. The Inhabited World by David Long (NYT Notable Book Challenge) [read]
4. The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern [read]

Most likely I will be reading the following during the course of the Spring Reading Thing Challenge also. I am listing these separetly because I have committed to reading them for other challenges.

5. April Witch by Majgull Axelsson (TBR Challenge) [read]
6. The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer (Nonfiction Challenge) [read]
7. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (Chunkster Challenge) [read]
8. Atonement Ian McEwan (TBR Challenge) [read]

I guess I won't have to wonder what I am going to read next for a long while!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Penguin, 2005
Fiction; 401 pgs

Started: 03/04/2007
Completed: 03/10/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: The snow started to fall several hours before her labor began.

Where Book Came From: My TBR collection (where it’s sat since 10/2006)

Reason for Reading: I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, but other books always seemed to take priority. The upcoming discussion at On the Porch Swing seemed like the perfect excuse to fit this fine novel in.

Comments: Kim Edwards has written a masterpiece. The author sweeps the reader into the story immediately as a blizzard rages outside and Norah Henry goes into labor. It is winter in 1964, and Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own baby. He could not be more proud to discover he has a healthy baby boy. He was not prepared for what came next: the birth of his daughter, who showed signs of having Downs Syndrome. David makes the momentous decision to turn his daughter over to his nurse, Caroline Gill, instructing her to take the baby to a nearby institution, where he believes she will receive the best care. Caroline follows David’s instructions only to decide at the last minute to keep the baby and raise her on her own. What follows is the story of these two families and how their lives are impacted by that one decision. It is a heart wrenching story, and yet also one of hope.

Each of the characters found a place in my heart. Their struggles became my own each time I lost myself in the pages of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I could see the bad decisions before they were made, felt the disappointment and loss, and shared in the hope or improvement and change: Norah in her grief, Paul in his need for approval, Caroline in her struggle to do what is right, Phoebe for her innocence, and even David, with his guilt and heavy burden of maintaining a secret heavier than he could bear. To some degree, each character felt disconnected from each other and at times themselves. As much as I disapproved of David’s decision, Kim Edwards was still able to craft his character in such a way to make him sympathetic.

This novel reminded me of the value of open communication and honesty in a relationship. Dark secrets drive wedges between people, keeping them a part and slowly eroding the family. Although the biggest secret came with the birth of Paul and Phoebe, David’s character was always secretive, not wanting to share too much of a past he was ashamed of. His secrecy created a natural barrier between him and others, making it impossible for anyone to get too close to him.

The topic of developmental delay and retardation, specifically Downs Syndrome, was a major point in Kim Edward’s book. The author deftly wove the details into the story without being heavy handed. The prejudice and recommended care options of the time period being less than sympathetic. Institutionalization was perceived to be one of the best options for children and adults with these conditions. Education and career options were extremely limited. It took parent activism to spearhead the movement in correcting those harmful views. While things are better today than they were back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, they are not completely resolved.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter deserves the high praise it has received. Kim Edwards carefully spins her tale, dropping a stone in the pond and following the ripples to where ever they lead. The novel is beautifully written and the characters well developed. I liked the pace of the story, the breakdown and shifting of the time, which moved to story along and captured the feel and important details of the story. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a thought-provoking novel that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Favorite Part: Two scenes most stand out in my mind: Norah’s tackling of the wasps’ nest, which was comical while at the same time a very telling and life-changing moment in the story; and the meeting with the Board of Education when Caroline stands up to the board, arguing why Phoebe deserves an education like every other child.

I liked the character of Al, the truck driver, who seemed a stable force throughout the book. He was not perfect, of course, but his loyalty and supportiveness touched me.

Note about the Author: Kim Edwards got the idea for this novel from her pastor. She dismissed the idea at first, but as the years passed found herself coming back to it. Thank goodness for that!

Upcoming novels: The author is working on her next novel called The Dream Master. I definitely will plan on checking it out when it is released.

Read what others had to say about The Memory Keeper's Daughter:
Puss Reboots
Melody's Reading Corner

Friday, March 09, 2007

Finalists for Joy's Nonfiction Challenge

My final selection for Joy's Nonfiction Five Challenge are . . .

Death's Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson [read]
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer [read]
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld [read]
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer [read]
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach [read]

Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Bilbioholism by Tom Raabe
The Bookseller of Kabul by ├ůsne Seierstad

I purposefully selected books that have been lounging in my TBR room for awhile now, waiting patiently for their turn. I tried to pick a variety, although I am not sure how successful my attempt at that was. As you can see, I have too many alternates. I enlisted my husband's help in selecting my final five, and the four alternates repeatedly found their among the finals at one point or another. While I would love to read them during the challenge months and will make some sort of effort to do so, only time will tell.

Update on other Challenges:
Last month I finished my second chunkster book for the Chunkster Challenge, and I hope to be starting my final selection the beginning of next month. If I can manage it, I may even read one or two of my bonus chunksters as well!

I'm right on schedule for the 2007 TBR Challenge, having read two books so far. I am still trying to decide which book to read for March of my remaining 10. So many choices!

Two books arrived in the mail from the editor at Curled Up With a Good Book for my review. I was in the mood for something different when I selected the titles and am looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

With the arrival of those two review books, my plans to start on my first New York Notable Fiction Challenge book after I finish reading my current novel flew out the window. The guilt started to creep in a little as everyone in the challenge began posting their progress, while I have made absolutely none; however, I soon quashed that. I will get to that wonderful list of books when I can and no sooner. I have enough stress in my life to let the fun stuff start giving me a headache too after all.

Off Topic (Shameless Plug):
My loving and supportive (he rarely moans about my ever growing TBR collection) husband, Anjin, began a new blog recently called Bullet Points, devoted to his interest in gaming and comic books. Even though I may not always have the faintest clue what he's talking about, I do love his sense of humor.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Lending Library

Booking Through Thursday

  • Do you lend your books to other people? If so, any restrictions?

  • Although I do not go out of my way to offer the loan of a book in most instances, I do like to share them with interested individuals. My parents and in-laws are my most frequent borrowers. Whether it's by the bag or box or just a few here and there, it's almost a tradition between us to swap, trade and borrow/loan books between each other. There are a couple of other people I sometimes loan books to as well. While it is my hope that the book will come back (when it's a loaner, I try to make that clear to the borrower), I do not expect it. And so, I have a tendency to loan my favorites out only to a handful of people I know will return them. If my not so favorites (good books and ones I'm not ready to part with that are not among my favorites) do not find their way back to me, it is not something I get excited about.

    I do expect the books I lend out to come back in a similar condition to that which I loaned them out. I expect a little wear and tear, but not so much that the book looks like it was splattered with coffee or pizza sauce, pages were ripped out, the cover torn, etc. Only once has someone returned a book to me in that awful condition with no apologies or excuses and that was the last time I loaned that person any of my books.

  • Do you borrow books from other people? (Friends or family—I'm not talking about the public library)?

  • I do borrow from other people, mostly family and sometimes a friend or two. I am terrible about holding onto books loaned to me for long periods of time. While with my family I can argue distance, the truth is that I do not always make it a priority to read the books. If the mood does not strike me to read a particular book, it can sit on my shelf for quite a while. This happens more so with family loans. With friends who live close by, I tend to be quicker about the turn around, and will either return the books unread or read them within a decent amount of time. Sad to say, they often get returned unread. I finally gave up bookrings and bookrays through BookCrossing because I find myself passing the books along unread more often than not these days.

    My disclaimer to anyone who offers to loan me books is that I am slow about returning them, but I will return them. I have even refused loans of books I really want to read because I know I will not be returning them in a decent amount of time.

  • And, most importantly—do the books you lend/borrow get returned to their rightful owners??

  • On occasion I have loaned a book to someone, and it hasn't found its way home. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is still out there, for example. It's been a couple of years now. In an e-mail recently, my friend told me she still has the book, something I was sure she must have forgotten about by now.

    As for me, I do return books to their rightful owners. Do unto others and all that. My mom knows to tell me which books she wants back and which I can send on to my mother-in-law. I keep a list of the books loaned and who the lender is just to make doubly sure I do not forget. So, while you can be assured I will return your book, my biggest flaw is the length of time it takes me to return it.

      What about you?

      Monday, March 05, 2007

      The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

      The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
      Mariner Books, 2003
      Fiction; 291 pgs

      Started: 02/27/2007
      Completed: 03/04/2007
      Rating: * (Good)

      First Sentence: On a sticky August evening two weeks before her due date, Ashima Ganguli stands in the kitchen of a Central Square apartment, combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl.

      Reason For Reading: I came across The Namesake while browsing through Borders one morning. A movie based on the book is coming out in theaters shortly, and so I decided this would be a good time to give this one a try.

      From the Publisher: The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

      An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.

      Comments: At one point in the novel, Gogol comments, “’There’s no such thing as a perfect name. I think that human beings should be allowed to name themselves when they turn eighteen,’ he adds. ‘Until then, pronouns.’” [pg 245] How many of us wished at some point in our lives we had been given different names? Or at least disliked our own so much that we wished it had been different? Growing up, I always wanted a name that inspired a nickname (Victoria, Elizabeth, Jessica, or something like that). My real name sounds like a nickname, I used to complain.

      Gogol was no different. He hated his name. He did not like that it was so unusual, so different. I think in some respects it went deeper than that for him. It was not just the name he wanted to spurn, but the traditions and practices of his Indian culture as well. Jhumpa Lahiri does a good job of providing insight into the lives of her characters, allowing readers to get to know and care for the many characters. Ashima and Ashoke are the first generation immigrants who must adjust to a new culture and still hold onto their own traditions and beliefs, although sometimes making accommodations as their children struggled to fit in. That in and of itself would be a very difficult thing to do. Their children face different obstacles, trying to blend both worlds, sometimes forsaking one for the other in the process of finding a balance.

      This is also a story about family, the relationship between a father and a son, a husband and a wife. Even for someone like me who may not have experienced the same types of difficulties that the Ganguli family did, much of this story is universal, something many of us can relate to.

      The Namesake was not quite what I expected—it is a story simply told, the author creating a time line that moves readers quickly through the life of the family from before Gogol’s birth right up into his thirties. In a sense, The Namesake is a coming of age story, one that will resonant with readers everywhere.

      Favorite Part: The novel held many defining moments for the characters, and perhaps one of my favorite scenes, although heartbreaking, was when Gogol’s father presents him with a special gift on his birthday. The gift has personal meaning for Gogol’s father, a meaning lost to the teenage son who isn’t quite able to grasp the importance of it.

      Of all the characters, I liked Ashima best. Ashoke comes in a close second. They were the most well defined characters, the two I came to care about and admire the most throughout the story.

      Other Works by Author I Want to Read: Interpreter of Maladies (short stories about first and second generation Indian immigrants)

      Saturday, March 03, 2007

      Trouble by Jesse Kellerman

      Trouble by Jesse Kellerman
      Putnam, 2007
      Suspense/Thriller; 352 pgs

      Started: 02/11/2007
      Completed: 02/17/2007
      Rating: * (Fair)

      First Sentence: Jonah Stem heard a scream.

      Where Book Came From: This book was one of the books I chose to review for Curled Up With a Good Book.

      Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading both Jonathan and Faye Kellerman books and was curious to see how their son would fair as a writer (think he’s tired of the comparisons being made yet?). When I saw this book offered up for review at Curled Up With a Good Book, I decided this was the opportunity to find out.

      Comments: If you are looking for a fast paced psychological thriller, Jesse Kellerman has written one that will likely make your blood go cold and to make sure all the doors and windows are locked. Trouble is an intense and suspenseful novel that will have readers quickly turning the pages to find out what happens next.

      Living and working in New York City, third year medical student, Jonah Stem, is hoping to survive the year. The hours are long and the duties are arduous. One night after an exceedingly long shift at the hospital, Jonah goes in search of new shoes only to come across an injured woman begging for help. Without much thought, Jonah steps in, killing the attacker. Suddenly Jonah finds he is a hero, nicknamed “Superdoc,” and while the police and District Attorney’s office consider whether to press charges against him, Jonah becomes the defendant in a civil lawsuit brought on by the family of the dead man.

      The woman, Eve Gones, whose life Jonah saved seeks him out to thank him and the two soon become embroiled in a heated affair. They make an instant connection and their passion burns fiercely. Eve is beautiful and intelligent, however, there is something not quite right about her and her story as Jonah soon discovers. Suddenly Jonah must look over his shoulder at every turn as his fear mounts for his life and that of his friends and family. Can he maintain his own sanity?

      Jonah’s character was softened by his care and attention to his former girlfriend Hannah, who suffered from mental illness to help and relieve Hannah’s father. Author Jesse Kellerman captured the strain and stress of the events in the novel on Jonah in his treatment of both Hannah’s father, George, and his own family.

      Lance DePauw, Jonah’s roommate, provided comic relief throughout the novel. He had an enthusiasm for new projects that eventually would be left incomplete and a penchant for using hidden cameras.

      Jesse Kellerman shows promise with his second novel, Trouble. He pulls the reader into the story immediately with his edgy, bordering on humorous writing style. The medical slang and nuances of being a medical student were well positioned throughout. The first part of the book moves at a rapid pace, setting up the story and taking readers on an intense ride. The second portion of the book, however, slowed down a bit as if the author was dragging out the inevitable climax, which had yet to come. The novel came to an end suddenly without warning and seemed anticlimactic. Despite that, Trouble has all the makings of an entertaining psychological thriller. It certainly offers a new twist to the idea of being a Good Samaritan for better or worse. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2007

      Least favorite part: I would like to have seen more character development and background about the main character, Eve. It would have provided a more full perspective about the events that took place in the novel.

      Also, the book got off to a good start, but fizzled out with the beginning of the second part. The intensity was lost somehow and the ending proved to be anticlimactic. Thank goodness for the epilogue which offered some sort of resolution.

      Favorite Part: I liked the edginess of the writing. My favorite character in the book was the carefree roommate who seemed clueless at times. While he wasn’t the most well rounded character, he was an interesting one.

      Miscellaneous: Looks like I will be going to San Francisco for a conference in May. It's been a while since I last set foot in the City by the Bay. I wish I could drag Anjin along. Ho hum.

      Thursday, March 01, 2007

      Have you Read Any of These Books?

      Peer pressure has won out again. I have never tried one of these list memes before. Thanks goes to Bookfool, who followed Belladoza's example and decided that if you read it, you are automatically tagged.

      Look at the list of books below:
      * Bold the ones you’ve read
      * Italicize the ones you want to read
      * Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in. (I interpreted this in my own way--books that haven't yet said to me, "Read me! Read me!" It's possible that one day I will develop an interest in some of them. Others, maybe never.)
      * If you are reading this (and haven't participated yet), tag, you’re it!
      **If there are any books on this list that I didn't italicize and you think I should read, let me know in comments!

      Like Bookfool, I've gone ahead and highlighted the books I have never heard of. Or if I have, I've forgotten (which is probably very likely). The amount of books highlighted is kind of embarrassing, but then, I suppose, with all the books out there is it really possible for me to have heard of or remember every book?

      1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
      2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
      3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

      4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
      5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
      6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
      7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
      8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
      9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
      10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
      11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
      12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
      13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

      14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
      15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
      16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

      17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
      18. The Stand (Stephen King)
      19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
      20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
      21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
      22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

      23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
      24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
      25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
      26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
      27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
      28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
      29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
      30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
      31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
      32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
      33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
      34. 1984 (Orwell)
      35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
      36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

      37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
      38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
      39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
      40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
      41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
      42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
      43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
      44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)

      45. The Bible
      46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
      47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
      48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
      49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
      50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
      51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
      52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

      53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
      54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
      55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
      56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
      57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
      58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
      59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
      60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
      61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
      62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
      63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
      64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
      65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
      66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
      67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
      68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
      69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
      70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
      71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
      72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
      73. Shogun (James Clavell)
      74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
      75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
      76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
      77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
      78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
      79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
      80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
      81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
      82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
      83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
      84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)

      85. Emma (Jane Austen)
      86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
      87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
      88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
      89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
      90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
      91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
      92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
      93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
      94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
      95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
      96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
      97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

      98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
      99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
      100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

      Booking Through Thursday: But, Whose Counting?

      Booking Through Thursday

      1. How many books would you say you read in an average month?
      2. In a year?
      3. Over the last five years?
      4. The last 10?

      Last year was a fluke for me reading-wise. I never dreamed I would be reading as much as I was able to. This year I seem to be falling back into my old pattern, which is to read 5 to 6 books on average per month. Last year I read 115 books total. That won't happen again this year. I say that not because I am aiming lower, but simply because it is not realistic for me. Since I began keeping track of the books I read in November of 2003, I have read 308 books. I could not even begin to tell you how many I have read in 10 years. My total each year fluctuates, and so I'm not even sure multiplying any of my yearly totals by 10 would necessarily come out right. Give me another few years and I'll have a better sample to draw from.