Saturday, June 30, 2007

Weather Warden series, by Rachel Caine

I've read the first three (and a half) books in this series over the past week: Ill Wind, Heat Stroke, Chill Factor; and Windfall (that's the half). Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden: one of a secret association that keeps the Earth from killing everyone on it with storms, earthquakes, fires... until she finds herself running from her own people, accused of murder, infected with a demon, and hanging out with Djinn....

The series opens into action, and it's just getting going: these are fast-paced books, they're definitely plot-driven, and they're fun; but...

They're *too* fast, I think. There's no time to engage; the characters (and the reader) are shoved from one crisis to the next, the stakes keep going up, and at the end of each book you don't get resolution: you get a cliffhanger and another upward jump in stakes. They're flashy and bright, grab your attention and entertain you; but there's no *depth* to them; nor any time for it. Jo, the good guys, the bad guys, and the ones who can't make up their mind and keep crossing over that good guy/bad guy line; they all have the potential to be far more interesting than they are - except the author keeps them locked into a repetitive loop bouncing from one dramatic denouement to the next, hit by emergency after crisis after disaster, until you seriously wonder why no one just throws up their hands and announces 'fine: solve the next one without me, guys, I'm getting some sleep.' (Or at the very least not dropping unconcsious from lack of sleep and malnutrition.)

I guess I'm mixed about this series. It's entertaining (if dark); the characters are generally well-drawn and only occasionally slip down into plot-devices; and it's a good series if you're looking for a few books you don't have to think too much about.

Just don't let the hints of depth that never materialise drive you crazy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A MUST READ for anyone who ever loved the movie!!!!! Many of the scenes in the movie are word for word with the book. While it covers everything in the movie, the book has scenes that aren't in the movie (and should have been) and goes much more in depth with the characters and their history. While there are breaks where Goldman "talks" that are a bit annoying to some, they make certain parts of the movie make more sense. Warning: If you have watched the movie as many times as I have, you'll find yourself reading with accents floating in your head from each of the characters. A wonderful find and definantly something I'll read again and again. Someone PLEASE post a copy to bookmooch!!! I had to borrow it from the library and now I'll have to hunt down my own copy. :(

What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg

This book was an easy read, with the transitions between past and present wonderfully written to make such a heavy topic easier to digest. I must admit that I sympathize with the mother though. It's not always easy living a life you never felt you were meant for. The end seems too movie like for me though. Not very realistic. One of those "oh, guess it's time to end the book" rushed endings. While I'd read it again in a bind, it's not one I'll go looking for ever again

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

This is an ambitious novel, in terms of structure, in terms of style, and in terms of scope. And for the most part, it really works.

Cloud Atlas
is a series of six interlocking stories, each set in a different time and place, and style. We open in the 19th century Chatham Islands, with a diary written by a (rather naive) american notary on a journey from Australia back home to San Francisco, and completely out of his depth.

The second section focuses on Robert Frobisher: egotistical, unstable, manipulative - but nevertheless charming as all hell. In 1931, he finds himself broke and desperate to escape creditors; and hatches a mad plan to apprentice himself to a syphillis-ridden composer in Belgium. We learn his story through letters written to a friend, wry, entertaining, and droll, and not in the least lacking in self-knowledge.

Next we move forward fifty years or so, to where Luisa Rey - daughter of a famous journalist - finds herself trapped in an elevator with an eminent physicist; and as a consequence, receives just enough information about a highly dangerous coverup at a nearby nuclear facility that she can't keep herself from digging deeper, and by doing so, endangering her own life.

The fourth section is the tale of a self-absorbed man who manages to - accidentally - sign himself into a hellish retirement home from which he can't seem to escape again...

Now we hit the future: the next section is an interview with a 'fabricant' - a genetically engineered clone, bred for slavery and engineered to be content with it.

The final story-arc is set in a post-apolcalyptic Hawaii; the style here is a little difficult to read, but once you're in the swing of it, the story beneath is just as engrossing as the remainder. This is the only story told in one complete part; all the rest progress - in the order mentioned - and then, after this arc is complete, regress; you get the second half of tale five, followed by the second half of tale four, three, two, one; and you're back where you started, threads picked up and neatly folded.

It's an interesting structure; essentially you have six separate stories, here, split across a book and interweaving. They're distinct, but not unrelated; references, themes, and characters leap from one to the other like salmon. Much of this book is pretty dark - a common theme seems to be free choice that turns out to be not so free, after all - innocence is doomed to learn wisdom - selfishness reigns in much of the worlds as described - there's betrayal and fear and lost worlds.

Yet there's also unexpected allies, and loyalty, and courage. There's an underlying lightness of spirit that shines, and a complex weaving of melody threading through the whole book.

And it might just be me, and how it resonates in my skull; but the final sentence - that's one of the most powerful expressions of hope I've come across.

I'd recommend this book. If you have difficulty working out what's going up after the first section ends so abruptly and you're catapulted straight into a seemingly unrelated story - stick with it. It really does tie in. And Cloud Atlas is definitely worth it.

And if anyone else has any more of David Mitchell's they wouldn't mind putting up for mooching - let me know. I'll take it :-)

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Do you like your love stories happy, sad and bitter-true? Read on. If you like them sentimental and Mills and Boon is your genre of choice then best to leave now.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Maurakami opens with a Proust like moment as the Beatles tune is played in a German plane in 1987. We are taken back to the emotional triangle of his best friend (Kizuki) and his friends’ girl-friend (Kaoko) The first of many emotional triangles that Watanbe finds himself as the calm centre over the next five years.

He goes to a 2nd rate Tokyo private university in the student driven political riots and campus takeovers of the late 60’s where he makes friends with Nagasawa a secret reader of western classics and a serious womaniser. Or with his roommate, the storm trooper. Both teach him ways of living before disappearing from his life but perhaps not for ever. As the events of his friendship unfolds he meets and falls in love with a free speaking fellow student but this is not his only love so he gradually falls apart as the story moves to its bitter-truth ending

This at one level is the most accessible of Haruki Maurakami novels and the one that sold in millions in Japan making him a superstar. He fled for five years before going back. However it’s no Japanese Love Story which was a sentimental, romantic tearjerker film based upon Erich Segal's best-selling short novel of the same name.The mood is darker but lightened with humour and tenderness so you come to admire and love Watanbe honesty and painful path to adulthood. You also feel part of the ordinary life of 60’s
Japan that lies beyond the stereotypes.

The prose has the poetry of the best Japanese writing but with the flow of the best western writing. I got to be a fan of his writing with the very different Dance Dance Dance which blurs genres, and writing conventions but I strongly recommend Norwegian Wood for anyone who like good writing for as Nagasawa says

if you only read the books that every one else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne by Terry Darlington

Terry and Monica Darlington are retired and live in the north of England. For leisure activities, they run marathons and sail their narrowboat on the English canals. Terry walks Jim, the whippet, usually to the pub where Terry has a pint or several, and Jim begs for pork scratchings and sex.

Despite the fact that narrow boats are narrow because of the narrow English canals and are not meant to be in other waters, Terry and Monica decide to sail to Carcassonne, in the south of France. Jim is a poor sailor and is agin' it, but he goes, too. The experts warn that all three of them will die on the Rhône, if they haven't sunk in the Channel, assuming they made it down the Thames. In the end, they are given their permit by the waterways authority after Monica promises to never let Terry near the radio.

They have adventures and meet strange people and try to get to grips with strange customs and walk Jim along the tow paths. Somehow, this never reads like a travelogue. It is funny and charming and, occasionally, thoughtful.

Highly recommended.

The year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

After 40 years of marriage and work along side the writer, John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion became a widow over dinner. Their daughter, whom they'd just come from visiting, lay in a coma in the hospital.

For a year, we stay with her. The dulled rhythms of the writing (if the world "dull" can ever be used in connection with Didion's prose) manage to express the flatness of her existence. The repetitive thoughts and phrases echo a mind before it is able to move on.

If the book lacks spirituality, as some have said, it is because, for Didion, there was nothing spiritual in the loss of her husband and the illness of her daughter. It was a black hole of devastation and the grinding effort that living became.

Didion turns to books for words that will lend comfort and fill the hole in her being; to make the hurt go away; to make it better. Nothing seems to do as well as Emily Post, the mistress of etiquette from another generation. There was always a reason for good manners, correct behaviour, the formalities of life and death.

And, in the end, there is hope. Not because there is redemption in suffering, but because she survived. We all survive.

Song of the Bones by M.K.Preston

This is my second read for June.

Thelma Patterson is contacted by an oil company that wants to drill on her property. She'd get good money out of the deal too, however the problem is that her husband left her 30 years ago, never to be heard from. As the properly is on both names, she either needs to find him, or declare him dead.
As soon as she asks her friend Chantalene to search for him, a miracle happens: her long lost hubby returns. She is more than suprised to see that he is back. Or is he?...

A very nice mystery, not too gory, but not cozy either. Although the story started with Thelma, the main protagonist is Chantalene, her best friend. To help her friend (who has doubts about her returning husband, is afraid and finally is kidnapped as well), Chantalene ends up in troubles as well. Not only with a killer, but also with her boyfriend and boss, the local attorney Drew, who has his problems of his own...

I am looking now for other books by this author. It was a nice beach read - and that literally, as I've actually read the book at the beach yesterday!.

Book is available at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bleachers by John Grisham

Fifteen years afterhis promising football career is ended by injury, All-American High School football star Neely Crenshaw returns home to Messina when he learns of the impending death of his coach Eddie Rake a man he both loved and hated with equal passion.
The story of Eddie Rake unfolds through flashbacks as some of his former players reminisce about their glory days and how their coach touched their lives even after they stopped playing football. A tough but fair man Eddie Rake inspired his players to be better ball players and often better people, but his methods were often harsh.
The only suspense in the book concerns and incident between Neely Crenshaw and his coach during the 1987 championship game and whether he will finally accept his coach's apology and lay the past to rest.
This is not Grisham's usual court drama but rather a peek at the football mania that pervades especially in small southern towns where teen boys are worshiped with a fervor that often leaves them bitter and disillusioned when their glory fades. But most of all it is the story of an inspirational leader who uses and often abuses his power to mold and change young boy's lives.

The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer

This is the true story of a young boy growing up without a father. His father abused his mother when he was a baby, so she left the father. J.R. and his mother moved in with his grandparents, his aunt, his uncle, and his six cousins, all living in a small, falling-apart home. The atmosphere was chaotic, the grandfather was verbally abusive to his wife, there was much fighting going on, and so, understandably, this young, sensitive boy needed some positive male role models in his life. He found them a couple blocks away, at the local pub.

This story takes place on Long Island, in the small town of Manhasset (where The Great Gatsby was based). J.R.'s Uncle Charlie, a bartender at the bar, introduces him to the regular patrons of the bar, and they take the poor young boy under their wings and, for the next 20 years, are there for him whenever he needs support, advice, teaching, or just an ear to listen.

Someone might think that a bar is no place for a young boy, and he certainly grew up amongst alcoholics, chronic smokers, addicted gamblers, and raunchy language. But the men in the bar, and the bar itself, were more special to him than anyone could imagine. He grew up to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, and he currently works as a writer for the Los Angeles Times.

His was a fascinating story, filled with characters who, on the outside, might have appeared one way, but on the inside, where it counts, they were a wonderful influence on a young boy.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated is different kind of love story, and it encompasses love in all it's many forms. Alex Perchov, a young Ukraniana, "a very premium person" as he describes himself, posturing as both translator and travel guide delightfully butchers the English language as he helps Jonathan Safran Foer locate Augustine, a woman whom Jonathan believes may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. In search of the village Trachimbrod, driven by Alex's grandfather and his bitch named Sammy Davis Junior, Junior we bear witness to humor, tenderness, grief, and tragedy.
Jonathan Safran Foer, the author not the protagonist navigates multiple story threads through time in a sometimes dizzying fashion, and leaves us breathless for more. We find the Jonathan Safran Foer in the book, writing about the history of Trachimbrod and the life of his great great great great great grandmother, while receiving letters from Alex in his fractured English in the present, all interspersed with the adventure to locate a woman in a photograph. While it does require close reading, it is well worth the effort.
This is a laugh out loud, belly aching book, but is also a heartbreaking story, and in a sense a coming to terms with the search for self. I adored this novel. Having also watched the movie three times I must also add that I loved that too! This should be in your TBR pile.
PS.. I've heard that his wife is Nicole Krauss my last month's choice for review aka The History of Love. I liked him better!!!

Barnes & Noble's Meet the Writer:
Harper Collins Author Interview:


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

As the winner of the Pulitzer Prize The Road by Cormac McCarthy, was surrounded with much fanfare, and lots of press, but I don't believe it lived up to its promise. It could have been more. In a bleak post apocalpytic world a boy and his father keep pressing on in a grey world of ash, daily exposed to starvation both of the flesh and the mind. The barreness of the landscape matches that of the mind of the father, as he lets go of the memory of the 'old world.' Cormac McCarthy does a wonderful job of making his characters inner life as skeletal as their frames, and only part of that statement is sarcasm. I am sure as an author he accomplished exactly what he wanted to accomplish, his bare bones characters were a stark contrast to all that misery, darkness, ash and snow that they had to slosh through on the road. But as a reader I wanted more, I wanted to know what the boy understood of his mother's death, what faith did he have in his father, when often it seemed that this child was the moral guide for the two of them, what did this boy understand of love in a world littered with roaming bands of 'bad guys' whose ultimate goals may be to have you for dinner. I do believe in survival, but not at any price, I just couldn't 'swallow' the idea that many survivors would fall into cannibalism. To me, this part of the novel felt like a cheap trick, yes I can believe that someone would kill me for a can of beans, or the shoes on my feet, but how many would cook me for dinner? While I found his stark words often beautiful and understated, this detail left me as cold as his characters in the black night.The promise of McCarthy's writing, and the beauty of his phrases are masterful, and haunting. But again, I wanted more.

My wishlist

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Asne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist/war correspondent, describes the life of a middle class family she lived with in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. She follows the family of 'Sultan Khan' in their daily lives and what we see is often unsettling. She describes the tension when Khan takes a second wife shortly after Sharifa, his first wife, turns 50. The view we have of the women in this home is unfathomable. The head of this family likes the idea of equal rights for women, and would like to see women in positions of power in his government, but obviously not in his home.
The cultural difference that we read about are often distressing. This is a middle class, literate family yet their home is bullet ridden and they have no furniture except for Khan's locked bookcase, no electricity, and very rarely running water. Marriages are arranged, women are slaves, first in their own families and then in their marriages. Women can only go out with a male escort and a son's education is often paid for by the arranged marriage of a daughter. I would have thought that education would be a priority in this literate household, but even Khan's sons are removed from school to work long hours in his shops. We follow Masur's (Sultan's oldest teenage son) on pilgimage to a holy shrine and are left wondering what it really meant to him.
Shah Mohammed Rais, the real Kabul book seller that Seierstad depicted in her book eventually filed lawsuit to block its publication, believing that the book libeled him.
While this book was very interesting, it lacked power. I found it unstructured and plotless. The last chapters felt like an afterthought, not really a gathering together of her points nor a summation of their lives, I was disappointed. Actually it read like a news article which is not suprising given Asne Seierstad's history. I recommend reading it but don't expect to be wowed.

My bio

Children of God : a novel by Mary Doria Russell

In this sequel to The Sparrow, which won the Arthur C. Clarke prize in Britain, we find that Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit who barely survived his trip to Rakhat where he watched the remains of his expedition massacred by the Jana'ata, and was physically brutalized by Hlavin Kitheri, has lost his faith. Russell uses not only the schism between the Runa and the Ja'anata in this Rakhatian society to explore existential questions of life, but adds more fuel to the fire as we feel Sandoz' internal war with his god. As in the Sparrow we meet new characters that are complex but not quite as memorable as in her first work. While I think this is a great sequel, I personally preferred his first work. The depth and range of the issues that Russell addresses are astonishing, including slavery, abuse, faith, meaning, friendship, and duty, and it didn't hurt that the Jesuits were known to utter a few curses. I enjoyed it and look forward to her next work.
I love her writing, all of her characters and her ideas are well developed. She is a great read! Highly recommended!

Here are a couple of interesting links about the author:
Literati.Net About the Author
Mary Doria Russell Web Site:

aka 'tobiejonzarelli!
My bio

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Step On A Crack by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Christmas is coming, the former first lady has just been murdered and now hi-jackers have taken the A-List celebrities at her funeral hostage. With 10 adopted children and a wife dying of cancer the last thing NYPD Homicide detective Mike Bennett needs is to be made lead negotiator in charge of this tense situation, adding to his already unbearable stress level.

The story alternates between bittersweet and tender scenes between Bennett and his family and his dying wife and the gritty tension of dealing with the ruthless hostage-takers demands and trying to negotiate a peaceful conclusion. The story moves at breakneck speed, twisting and turning to a shattering finish that comes as a complete surprise.

This book is impossible to put down. I found myself still reading long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Soiled Doves by Anne Seagraves

Please, if anyone else gets a hold of another of her books, I want them all!! The book is on a topic that is often either preached as "sin" or flaunted in a raunchy way. Seagraves does neither. While very matter of fact and to the point, she manages to add just enough real life and love to the stories to prevent them from being a history lesson. The women in this book (all prostitutes or Madams in the early west) are made to feel like "real people". The pictures of many of the people help bring it to home. From the highest class to the lowest, she tells the story including the usual "who, what, when, where" but also including the so important "why" that a lot of non-fiction leave out. Her books are short enough to read in an afternoon and leave you wanting to look farther into the subject. Anyone interested in women's history in the old west should look into reading this author!

My Mother's Wedding Dress by Justine Picardie

Perhaps it would have been better had I understood all the English stores and such. To me it was just one woman's ramblings and excuses. I understand clothes "make the man" to an extent but she made it seem that they were more important than the blood flowing through the body. I kept reading because every so often an interesting thought would pop up. Mostly it made me feel that she could really use some therapy.

Unshapely Things by Mark del Franco

Unshapely Things takes place in an alternate Boston in which the world of Faerie and our world had a Convergence in 1900.  Various races of the Fey became stranded in the human world.  The Boston neighbourhood, where members of the Fey who live on the edges of society mingle, is called the Weird.  Conner Grey is a Druid who lives and works in the Weird. Formally he worked as an investigator for the Guild: the organization that polices the Fey races. He was injured during a case and can no longer access most of his abilities.  He now works as a consultant for the Boston police.
Conner is called in to help in the investigation of a series of murders of Fairy prostitutes. His police department contact is Murdock, an Irish cop from a family of Irish cops. They soon discover there is more at stake than the fate of the denizens of the Weird.
Del Franco’s alternate world is inhabited by interesting characters. The different Fey races and how they interact with each other and the humans is fully realized. Particularly interesting is how Del Franco intertwines the history of the Twentieth Century with his alternate world (many of the Elves were Nazi sympathizers, for example). His descriptions of how the Fey’s magical abilities work are interesting but not intrusive in the story.
This book is basically a hard-boiled detective story set in an alternate universe where the Fey live among us. Fans of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files or Simon R. Green's Tales of the Nightside will enjoy this book.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"A Great & Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray

The story begins in 1895 in India, where Gemma has lived since she was a small child. On her 16th birthday, Gemma has a vision. A terrible vision that she finds is true, her mother has died by her own hand. As the days progress, Gemma begins to have more visions. Visions that haunt her. Visions that make her seek a truth for what she see. She returns with her family to England where she enters an all girls finishing school. She is warned by a handsome gypsy boy to fight her visions. To fight the pull to seek out the answers to her questions. She is slowly drawn into a mysterious world of light and beauty. She takes with her three girls she has befriended. The more they visit this beautiful word and the more they try to use it's power, the further they get drawn into it's web. Soon they must escape before it's power consumes them, but it will not come without great sacrifice. This is one of the very best books I have read in a long time. It is an awesome story that makes you feel the power of the magic's great and terrible beauty. The author has written two more books in this series and I cannot wait to read them both.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

This sci-fi classic, first published in 1951, takes place in the "future" (actually one source says 1999) when books are outlawed and burned. In this frightening and violent society, those who try to hide books have their entire homes burned down by firemen, whose jobs are no longer to put out fires, but to start them. (Book paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, hence the title.)

The main character is one of these firemen, who becomes very curious about books. Turns out there is a subculture of people who want to preserve whole books in their memories so they are not lost. But I won't give away any more!

It is always interesting to read how people from the past imagined the future to be. Obviously, in the 1950's Bradbury had no inkling of the internet, and his money-related examples are way off (a fireman's yearly salary is $6,000). But he does incorporate big-screen TVs taking up entire walls in people's homes and, as one blogger wrote on another site, "A mindless virtual reality, much like TV today, took care of everyone’s needs and killed their curiosity. Also, an intense athletics and action-based culture made sure no one had the leisure to think or examine life." Independent thinking is quashed because it's "dangerous."

Reading this as an adult is so much different from reading it as a high school assignment. I have a completely different viewpoint of it now, a much richer understanding of its meanings and implications.

It's not a long book, and I didn't feel it was a GREAT book, but I did enjoy it. There was also a movie and a play based on the book, but with differences.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

"Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina - a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna." - From the back cover of the novel.

Everywhere I went while reading this book people would stop to tell me how wonderful it is. This sort of thing usually makes me susupicious but this time I generally agreed. The Secret Life of Bees is narrated by Lily Owens, a young girl searching for the story of her mother who ends up discovering - in a rather unlikely place - what family really means. The storyline is sometimes obvious and conflicts tend to be resolved neatly, but throughout the story remains thoughtful and touching. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the second half of the book which is focused on Lily's life in Tiburon, South Carolina living with three black, eccentric beekeeping sisters.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for an easy to read, thoughtful summer novel.

Beyond Recall

Beyond Recall By; Stephen Klye-Reveiwed By;Deanna
Artemis is Goddess of the hunt, Protector of children..
and a hideous disease that suddenly strikes three continents,causing fever, convulsions, unstoppable bleeding, anhd 100 percent fatality in hours. A jungle nightmare like Marburg or Ebola, except for two things: Artemis isn't natural, it's an ungodly bioweapon aimed at America. And it kills only women.
But Artemis was created by a woman, Nobel Prize winning Dr.Rachel Lesage, for the one reason that the U.S. government can't understand. To save humanity.
Because another global catastrophe is looming, one the superpowers have ingnored. Now, with implacable logic, Rachel Lesage is about to stop Armageddon-by unleashing the Apocalypse.
The story is fictional but, with a storyline of truth behind it.Our world is heading into all kinds of problems for the furture.People only see yesterday,today,and one day ahead.Not many people think about what can happen is 20 years or 30 years.Instaed of trying to fix a small problem .They will wait until it is a huge problem then try and fix-it.Could it be to late.In the story the government will not render to terrorist threat.Which I could understand because then they will let terrorist make the rules.All the terrorist wanted was a couple of million to Educate three world countries and other countries about overpopulation and birth control.The government was right about not given into the terrorist threat.But they spent millions on finding and taking down the terrorists.If they had the money to use on terrorist threat Why could they not spend some money on an educational program for birth control.All they care about was who had control.If we are the richest country why cann't we spend some money on the problems when they arise before,they are huge problem?This book made me think about the problems that are ahead of us and furture generations.
Maybe I put to must throught into the book?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

18 Seconds by George D. Shuman

Sherry Moore is blind, beautiful and has a gift. She can see the deceased's last 18 seconds by touching their hand. And she uses this gift to help police solve various crimes...

Very good debut novel by George Shuman. Several stories are intertwined here, nicely coming together at the end. The characters are all well out fleshed, not two dimensional as one sees in a lot of mysteries. You can really feel for Sherry, the blind woman who has ability to see the last 18 seconds of a person by holding their hand once they are deceased. She has this gift, is famous, helping the police solve several cased, but she has her own demons to live with. You can also not stop liking detective Kelly O'Shaughnessy, who tries to solve the cases of the missing women. And you also get glimpses of the killer's mind, understand what makes him tick, and not like it or him at all.

I found the book to be a roller-coaster and read it during the weekend. It was one of those books that you don't want to put down, but if you have to, you can't wait to pick up again to see what's going to happen next.

Available at

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Don't you find that books are like lovers? Some you can’t bear to be parted from, wanting to spend every spare moment in each others arms, share intimate secrets as the relationship deepens so you are changed but heartbroken when the relationship has to end and you both go your separate ways. Yet with others, after the initial excitement of the first date and the promise of the pages to come, it fades, you find excuses not to read, when you do its for less and less time, you get distracted by other books and even start to two-time by skimming them, trying to convince yourself its only a fun no strings fling.

Sadly this is happening with The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It had all the signs of the great read; political satire, Gothic appearances and interventions by the Devil, suppressed by the Soviets, but... but I have faded starting dalliances with other books such as The life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.Why the fading relationship? Well the usual thing is to say its me not you, I am not ready for commitment, let’s be friends rather then face the pain of saying you are not lovable by me. The killer, as in all relationships, is the minor fault that reveals deeper flaws. For me this is the idiom and speech patterns feeling false. I find it difficult to suspend believe and become part of the world so it remains intellectually satisfying but an emotional famine.

The book was written over the 20's and 30's at the height of the worse excesses of Stalin and would have cost the writer his life had it been found at the time. It’s a period of history I have had a great deal of interest in so it’s even more disappointing that the book feels flat. Its very urban based and concerned with the cultural politics of the intelligentsia but the great disasters of the period, the destruction of the rural classes, wiping out of the party, the show trails, mass imprisonments are barely touched on Perhaps the problem is past relations with other Russians such as Solzhenitsyn who deal with similar themes but with greater distinction. Perhaps because I looking for something that the novel does not have, I am missing what it does offer. Friends of the novel say

Ultimately, the novel deals with the interplay of good and evil, innocence and guilt, courage and cowardice, exploring such issues as the responsibility towards truth when authority would deny it, and the freedom of the spirit in an unfree world. Love and sensuality are also dominant themes in the novel. The novel is a riot of sensual impressions, but the emptiness of sensual gratification without love is emphatically illustrated in the satirical passages

For now, I have decided to not spend more time with my family and stop at Book 2. So am I on a break or is this the end for us? Only time will tell but always more books in the library that I can cherish and love... And dear reader, my spurned lover could be the passion of your life so make a date and enjoy the bitch about the failures of ex’s if the relationship works out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Welcome to the small county of Holt. Don't blink or you will miss it! Pull up your comfy reading chair and get a hot cup of tea you won't want to put this book down.

We follow the lives of the local High School history Teacher, Guthrie and his boys Ike and Bobby, a local teen Victoria Roubideaux and local cattle farmers the McPheron Brothers as their lives interweave together into a rich complex quilt of small town life.

I found this book to be a bit slow at first but as it warmed it up it suckered me right into the daily lives of the characters. I was on the edge of my seat turning the pages to see what new joys and pains the characters would go through. The story doesn't describe the characteristics of the the characters but centers on the development of interaction between them--the human relationships. You don't really get to know the characters or how they will react to stuff... you get to peep through the window for a short time and see how it affected them and how they viewed it. And somehow even though you do not get to know them intimately... you find your self oddly attached to family.

For those who want a lot of character development this isn't a book for you. For those who like to peep through the windows of human life.. a must read. Two thumbs up here :)

Reviewed by Tesse aka blissful2beme

Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse

A feel for the culture and times surrounding His crucifixion...

Our family read this book together during our read aloud times, my husband, my daughter (4), infant daughter and myself. Since completing it, my daughter has often expressed a desire to re-read the book, and asks me when we will be reading it again!

A beautiful interpretation of the history and culture surrounding Christ's sacrificial death, as a new Christian, and not knowing much about the culture and history of the time period, I found this an easy introduction to learning more about the cultural and political climate at the time.

There were some interpretations of scripture that I did not agree with, such as presenting Jesus deliverance of Mary Magdalene from the 7 spirits, as being something along the lines of: Mary had so many afflictions it were 'as though' she had seven spirits afflicting her. Rather than literally, she was inhabited by 7 spirits. When we read Mark we can see quite literally that there are real evil spirits that Jesus is dealing with, not just health issues that 'seem' to be like an evil spirit.

The main character of the story, Vinegar Boy, exhibits a wonderful servant-heart, and continually puts others before himself throughout the story, displaying many characteristics of the Christian life, and serving as an excellent example for children and youth who will read this story.

There is also a deeply touching story that mirrors some of the truths of the new-birth experience of a Christian, such as the themes of love and adoption.

Definitely recommended reading for any family.

Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to review in May from the good folks at Harper Collins Canada.

Here is my review:

Whether you are a food novice, or a 'foodie'...
This book has been a long time coming, the perfect introduction to those interested in the vital issues at hand in our present food production system. As a food producer myself, I was delighted to see such a wide variety of topics covered, from heritage seeds to heritage livestock (we raise heritage cattle). The author is clearly passionate about food and conservation, yet doesn't come across as preachy and didactic, but rather leads readers into a delightful adventure as her family discovers all that the local foodscape has to offer. Even for experienced food lovers, involved in local foods, supporting family farms and other food-centric activities, there are treasures to be found. Delightful recipes (which may not all be applicable depending upon your bio-region), first hand encounters with the exotic morel (hard to come by here), and all the charms of reading about another family producing some of their own food.

I do have one warning - Christian readers will likely be slightly offended at the off-hand and at times disrespectful attitude towards God our creator, and the looking down the nose attitude towards those who believe in creation rather than the religion of evolution.

Kingsolver writes in a brisk, readable style, full of laugh out loud moments, never having read her before I was delighted with her writing voice, witty and entertaining.

This book is a must read for those interested in any aspect of food production and farming in our current cultural climate, while written from a U.S. perspective, Canada faces nearly all of the same issues, some perhaps to a greater extent (our food still travels from Mexico, but heads farther North, our farmers also work full time jobs to subsidize low prices on food crops). This will likely be an eye opener for many who still have pictures of idyllic family farms in mind when thinking of food production, while they still exist, this is far from the norm.

Unfortunately, I won't be adding this b ook to my inventory, I have family members lined up to read it :).

Jennifer Bogart

Harper Lee - To kill a mockingbird

Review by:

What is the story about (copied from wikipedia) :

The novel is a coming of age story about a sister and a brother named Jean Louise "Scout" Finch and Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch respectively, who are growing up in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the Deep South of America in the 1930s. The story takes place over a period of three years and is told through the recollections of the younger sister, Jean Louise Finch or "Scout", as she is commonly referred to by friends. During the story the children's father, attorney Atticus Finch, is appointed to defend a black man (Tom Robinson) who has been accused of raping a white girl (Mayella Ewell).


On the back cover of the book was nothing about the storyline. I only knew that it was someone's favourite book and an important book for American literature. People in American high schools probably have to read it... I don't know.
I enjoyed reading the book. It was told in a kind of 'relaxing' writing style. Since it was told from the viewpoint of a young girl, she sometimes understands things differently from adults. She also mainly focuses on the things that are most important to her life at certain moments. For example, at the beginning of the book she goes to elementary school for the first time. She talks about the classes, about her brother's experiences in elementary school, etc, but later on school is hardly mentioned anymore. Then she focuses more on her father and his work.
Sometimes it also feels a person is randomly introduced - you come across a name you haven't seen before, it's briefly explained who that person is, and for the rest of the book they don't get mentioned anymore OR they get a larger role.
I found the last part of the book (the trial) the least interesting [I'm not that interested in court cases], but it was still described in a 'relaxing' way thus easy to read through. There was also a little bit of a 'mystery' in it so that gave a bit of food for thought as well and made the trial part a bit more interesting than it would otherwise have been.
The English used is easy to follow, though most characters speak with an accent and that is written down as well. You get used quite soon to that, though.

The ending is rather open, but closed at the same time as well. After finishing it, I felt like starting again at the beginning. It is a book I'd re-read.

The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight by Marc Weingarten

I suspect this book will only be of interest to those familiar with the work of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Gay Talese and other writers who first appeared as part of the New Journalism. The book follows the rise of these and other NJ stars and the magazines that recognised and fostered them: Esquire, New York, Harper's and Rolling Stone.

Early practitioners of the art didn't necessarily adhere to today's standards of verifiable truth (although many did). Thus, I discovered, Michael Herr's Dispatches, the book about Vietnam, contained composite characters and, worse, invented ones. So a passage about a dying soldier telling Herr to "Be careful, Mister. Please be careful," instead of making me weep makes me think, "Oh, come off it, Herr!"

Gail Sheehy spent months investigating the world of prostitutes in Manhattan and then rolled them all into a dramatic blend for a five-part series in New York. That used to be called "fiction.".

But while I was losing respect for Herr and Sheehy, I was gaining it for Norman Mailer, Thompson and . . . well, it's not possible for me to think more highly of Wolfe.

Today we have John Berendt rearranging events and timelines and conflating characters in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. an entertaining read, but once you know part of it is made up, how can you trust any of it? Defended by its practitioners as striving for a "higher truth," true journalists call it "making stuff up." And when you're busted, you get fired from the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Honest descendants of the New Journalism, inheritors of the story form variously called "narrative journalism," "literary journalism" or "creative journalism" insist upon verifiable fact. When they wander into speculative territory, they have footnotes to explain how they got there and back. Think of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, John Krakauer's Into Thin Air or Wolfe's The Right Stuff as well as Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and War Hospital by Sheri Fink, MD.

The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight reads as though Weingarten was learning the history as he wrote. Observations he made in the beginning of the book about the legitimacy of the form as reportage had me grinding me teeth, but by the end I felt he had it right.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan

Don't Try This At Home.

This is the philosophy of "a tired dog is a good dog" taken to the ultimate. Cesar Milan has written an account of his journey from impoverished boyhood in Mexico to fame, fortune and television in the United States, all of it imbued with his love and affinity for dogs. He explains how dogs see the world, what they need to be happy and secure in it, and more to the point, how fulfilling those needs will give you a better pet. Cesar deals with problem dogs; dogs that already are a danger to themselves and to others. If some of his measures seem extreme, it must be borne in mind that an extreme cure is better than death for the dog. For those of us with the average pet, there is a lot that Cesar can teach us to make sure we don't turn our dogs into problems.

Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy For You & Your Dog by Carina Beth MacDonald

If you're curious about a raw diet for your dog or confused by the all the conflicting advice and myriad "raw diets," this is the place to start. Carina has distilled the literature into a concise and amusing guide to feeding your dog a fresh diet. All the basics are here to get you started and keep you going. There is an excellent Resources section to further reading, suppliers and internet support. (Note that the Yahoo group, formerly known as BARF-Lite, is now RAW-Lite.)

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Gift of More by Pamela Yates

This is a non-fiction account of the struggles and triumphs of a family that faces a traumatic event in their lives.

A couple who seem to have everything going for them...a loving relationship, great children, a thriving business...a couple to be envied. With one phone call, their charmed lives take a dramatic change in directions.

"Mom, they say I have cancer!" With this one short sentence, a horrible challenge comes into the lives of this family. How can they face this crisis? What will get them through the devastating reality of the death of a child?

This story is a heart-wrenching account of how this family faces the loss of a beloved member; a live cut too short.

You will cheer, cry, and be angry as this mother recounts the events that would forever change her life and the lives of those she loves.

A great book. I am listing it on Mooch so someone else can experience this book too.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Original Minds by Eleanor Wachtel

Eleanor Wachtel is a journalist on C.B.C. radio. At the turn of the millennium she set out to interview some of the most inspiring men and women of our time in a radio series called “Original Minds”. Some of the people she interviewed include Bernardo Bertolucci, Umberto Eco, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, Desmond Tutu and Jane Goodall. This book is a record of these interviews.
Reading this book is like watching the movie “My Dinner with Andre” or evesdropping on a really interesting dinner conversation. Wachtel’s questions are insightful and informed with her extension background knowledge of each of the interviewees. The participants speak spontaneously about their childhoods, their education, their philosophies and beliefs.
All of these people seemed to have unique educational experiences in one way or another. All of them spoke of their love of reading and books from an early age. Many of these thinkers are older and speak about their experiences of the twentieth century in their own interesting perspectives. They convey their hopes and concerns for the next millennium in deeply moving ways.
Some of the interviews that I found the most interesting were those from the people whose work was across disciplines. Jonathan Miller, George Steiner, Harold Bloom, Jared Diamond and Umberto Eco in particular and known for their educational background and work in more than one field. I’ve always found the ideas of people who work across disciplines to be the most enlightening.
I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good intellectual discussion and some interesting insights on where we have been and where we are going.