Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

Back in May, Kristin reviewed this book; I promptly added it to my wishlist, eventually managed to win the wishlist race (yay! :-)); and finally got around to reading it this month.

I have to say I agree with Kristin: I truly loved this book. It's clever, original, and brilliantly executed.

Quick plot: Ella Minnow Pea lives on the island of Nollop, where the creator of the pangram sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" is revered. Disaster strikes when letters begin falling over the monument to Nollop - the government, in a fit of bureaucracy to rival none, declares that if Nollop had wanted those letters to remain in the language, they would not have fallen from the monument. Therefore, the fallen letters will be banned from use in speech or written form, with draconian punishments meted out to those who offend - the first offence receives a warning; the second a choice or whipping or exhibiting in public stocks; the third banishment.

The first letter to fall is z; surprisingly common once it's no longer allowed, but after all, not so great a loss. However as more and more letters fall, communication - and the remaining population of the island - become more and more strained. Eventually, the High Council - forced to rename themselves through the loss of 'C' - issue a proclamation: if a new pangram, shorter in length than Nollop's infamous sentence - can be found by a given deadline, all letter-related statutes will be reversed, and life can resume it's normal flow.

It's a quirky idea; and brilliantly executed. As each letter falls, the author banishes it from his own arsenal of letters, so by the time the remaining poor citizens of Nollop are left with a mere five letters, so is Mark Dunn. It's a fun book, a quick read, and a darkly sarcastic satire on the abuses and misuses of government. I enjoyed it immensely.

Link on bookmooch is here: It's not currently available (my copy was mooched pretty quickly); but it does come up frequently. Good hunting!

Dwellings, by Linda Hogan

Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World is an interesting book, lyrical in places, full of the author's impressions of nature and the world, and the spiritual conclusions she's drawn from this. Linda Hogan is a Chickasaw poet, and her view of things is heavily influenced by native american tradition. She's travelled extensively, and very clearly loves her world and believes in the strength of her traditions.

I found this a fascinating read, and a good insight into the author's beliefs and world. Despite that, a lot of this book left me appreciating the beautiful writing and the ideas she was trying to express; but essentially unmoved. I don't think this is a fault in the book. I think this is simply because, unlike Linda Hogan, I'm not an earth person. I don't see the world in the same terms she does. She says it herself, in a chapter on the Voyager spacecraft: "There seemed to be two kinds of people; earth people and those others, the sky people, who stumbled over pebbles while they walked around with their heads in clouds. Sky people loved different worlds than I loved; they looked at nests in treetops and followed the long white snake of vapor trails." If, like me, you trip over dirt because you're too busy watching the sky - well, this is a good book, definitely worth reading, and a very good look into a beautiful world; but it's not going to resonate.

If you're an earth person, fascinated by our world and the creatures who live in it - mooch away. I don't think you'll regret it.

Book available here: Please note the condition notes - there's some (minimal) writing in this book, and a lot of marked passages; don't mooch if this will bother you.

Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow, by Dedra Johnson

This book takes place over the course of a year or so; and is a harsh, uncompromising view of growing up in New Orleans as a light-skinned black girl, not accepted by her family or her peers, harassed by men on the street, and unwanted, abused, and lied to by her mother and her mother's family. Sandrine is a bright and motivated child, but there's little she can do to please her mother or earn her love - she apparently only notices Sandrine to criticise her and put her to work, and Sandrine learns early that if she wants to remain safe on the streets of 1970's New Orleans, she has to devise ways to defend herself. Her life is anything but ideal.

Her only refuge is summers with her father's mother, Mamalita; but these are abruptly taken from her when one summer her father remarries, and instead of going to spend the summer with her father and Mamalita, she ends up slaving for her new stepmother and watching out for her younger stepsister, Yolanda. What nobody bothers to tell her, including her distant doctor father, is that Mamalita is sick, and in no shape to have her visit - although given how self-sufficient Sandrine is, if anybody had bothered to mention this to either Sandrine or her Mamalita, I suspect that would have been no barrier to visiting. We learn why Sandrine's lost her only refuge when she does - long after she's given up hope and run away back to New Orleans for the remainder of the summer - when Mamalita dies. Then to make matters worse, her new stepmother sends her new stepsister Yolanda to New Orleans on the bus; and it's obvious very quickly that Sandrine's mother prefers the far-more-disobedient Yolanda to her own daughter. Now Sandrine's left with a bleak existence; left to care for Yolanda, who despite being only a year younger is far less self-sufficient; and with no hope of a way out any more. Unsurprisingly, she starts to rebel.

This is a beautifully written book, but emotionally draining. The setting is a very bleak one; her one friend suffers a fate that could easily have been Sandrine's own, but effectively abandons Sandrine to her own devices in the process. Sandrine however maintains a core of courage and strength through a litany of horrible situations and dawning revelations about herself, her mother, and her life, peaking when she realises that, if she wants to get out of her situation and of New Orleans, then she's just going to have to do it herself.

Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow is enthralling, and despite the horrific events, manages to impart some good lessons: decide for yourself what you are worth; rely on yourself, but don't lock yourself away from trusting other people; the world can be what you make of it.

It's also one of the most disturbingly racist books I've read in years. Many of Sandrine's problems stem from the fact that she is black, but could 'pass' for white if she chose to - and that everyone (including her mother) then assumes she chooses to, when in fact all she wants is to be allowed to be who and what she is and not be ostracised for it. This part is explicit in the text. More subtle, and therefore more disturbing, is an underlying 'white people are bad' theme, which Sandrine herself - despite mentioning that all she knows of white people is what she's seen on a television she's rarely allowed to watch - subscribes to. One wonders how, with such an attitude so prevalent and unnoticed, our world will ever cease to judge people by the colour of their skin.

Book is available for mooch here: Note it's an uncorrected proof edition.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This Body: A Novel of Reincarnation by Laurel Doud

A 39-year-old mother of two teenagers dies of a heart attack and wakes up a year later in the body of a 22-year-old drug- and alcohol-addicted girl. This story had me totally hooked, and I read it voraciously until it started to get less gripping (in my opinion) in the second half. I would still recommend it, though, especially if you’re a middle-aged woman with children (as I am), because I found myself relating to the heroine and imagining what I would do in that situation. It’s about family relationships, addictions, the choices we are faced with, the courage to make changes in our lives, and the acceptance of things we cannot change. One thing I found kind of annoying, though, is that this woman finds herself in this family of Shakespeare nuts, who frequently speak only in lines penned by the Bard.

I'm Not the New Me by Wendy McClure

Wendy McClure found, in a box in her mother’s basement, a collection of Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 1970s. The foods pictured on these cards are unbelievably unappetizing, and Wendy’s commentary on the food and the settings in each picture is laugh-out-loud funny. She features some of the photos on her website at, and writes a blog on her other website, ("pound" was already taken). In this book, “I’m Not the New Me,” she tells some of her story. It’s about being overweight, about dating, and about relationships with family and friends. Wendy has a great wry sense of humor, and women (especially those who have struggled with their weight) will enjoy this book.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Round-Heeled Woman by Jane Juska

Six months before her 67th birthday, Jane Juska, a semi-retired English teacher, placed a personal ad in the New York Review. It read:

Before I turn 67 -- next March -- I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. NYR Box 10307.

Round-Heeled Woman
is Juska's account of the men she met (and slept with). It is also a memoir of growing up in a small Ohio town, marrying, having a child, divorcing, moving to San Francisco and being a mother and a teacher.

Having placed her ad, she sorted the replies into Yes, No and Possible, and set out to have an adventure. And sex. And so she did. Except for an initial disaster, the men were intelligent, educated and interesting (as you would expect from readers of the New York Review), and happy to meet an intelligent, educated, interesting woman, and jump into bed with her. But they did talk, even about Trollope. Juska discovered New York and fell in love with the city, its libraries, museums and music -- and the man she went to meet. It was not mutual. She was saddened, but moved on to the next on the list.

This is not a sexy book. Juska is not shy about the details of what went on in the various beds she jumped into, but does not dwell on them. Still, the sex binge seemed to me sad and unfulfilling. Real passion can't limit itself to one-night stands; she ended up asking herself, "Once you've had a lot of sex with a man you like, how can you stop wanting him?" The answer appears to be, "You can't". When someone shares your interests, is kind and funny, and gives you what you want in bed, women generally fall in love. Juska fell in love with one soul-mate after another, but her ad had dictated terms that did not encourage a lasting relationship.

It is only in the last few pages that she identifies the true impulse behind her ad. There is the obvious: one big fling before age and infirmity rule. But more, she needed an outlet for the passion she had poured into teaching. And it is when she describes teaching -- her high school English classes, the writing courses she teaches at San Quentin, and her students -- that her book sings. Love, enthusiasm, and her gift for her vocation pour off the pages. What I wouldn't have given for such a teacher!

Round-Heeled Woman is a funny, witty and somewhat sad memoir. Did I say that Juska is a fine writer? I'm looking forward to the sequel.

The Color of Water by James McBride

This is the book I expected Vikram Seth's Two Lives to be: a joining of alien cultures. Two Lives, in fact, recounted the story of two ordinary people moving through extraordinary events. The Color of Water is an extraordinary story.

Orthodox, Southern, Jewish girl marries Black man in 1942. Her parents say the prayer for the dead for her. Her husband is a good man and religious. Ruth converts to Christianity, not because of her husband, unless indirectly, but because she's drawn to Jesus. They live in one room in Harlem and have 4 children. This is probably the most prosperous period of her life until her kids are grown.

They move to the projects and have 3 more children. He becomes a minister and they start a church (still existent). When she's carrying their 8th child, he dies from cancer. She has nothing, but somehow keeps going, although the kids are always hungry.

Eventually, she meets another man, a city worker, also Black, and they get married. They have 4 more children. He has a stroke and dies. She's alone, has 12 children, refuses anything like welfare. She has the church, a menial job and a small pension from the city worker. Here's how her kids turned out:

  • Andrew Dennis McBridge, BA, Lindon University; MD, University of Pennsylvania Medical School; MA, Public Health, Yale University, Director of Health Department, City of Stamford, Connecticut
  • Rosetta McBride, BA, Howard University, MSW Social Work, Hunter College; Staff Psychologist, New York City Board of Education
  • William McBride, BA, Lincoln University, MD, Yale University School of Medicine; MBA, Emory University, School of Business; Medical Director Southeast Region, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Merck and Co., Inc.
  • David McBride, BA Denison University, MA History, Columbia University, PhD, History, Columbia University, Chairman of Afro-American History Department, Pennsylvania State University
  • Helen McBride-Richter, RN, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, GONP, Emory University School of Medicine, Graduate Student in Nuse Midwifery, Emory University School of Nursing
  • Richrd McBride, US Army veteran, BA Cheney University, Chemistry, MS Drexel University; Associate Professor of Chemistry, Cheney State, Chemistry Research Associate, AT&T
  • Dorothy McBride-Wesley, A. A. Pierce Junior College, BA La Salle University, medical practice office manager, Atlanta, Georgia
  • James McBride, BA Oberlin College, MSJ Journalism, Columbia University; writer, composter, saxaphonist
  • Kathy Jordan, BA Syracuse University, MS Education, Long Island University, special education teacher, Ewing High School, Ewing, New Jersey
  • Judy Jordan, BA Adelphi University; MA, Columbia University Teachers College; teacher, JHS 268, Manhattan.
  • Hunter Jordan, BS, Computer Engineering, Syracuse University; computer consultant, US Trust Corporation, Ann Taylor.
  • Henry Jordan, junior at North Carolina A&T University; customer service and purchasing, Neal Manufacturing, Inc.,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Creepers By David Morrell

From Back Cover:
On a chilly October night, five people gather in a run-down motel on the Jersey shore and begin preparations to break into an abandoned hotel nearby. Built during the glory days of Asbury Park by a reclusive millionaire, the magnificent structure, which foreshadowed the beauties of Art Deco architecture, is now a decrepit, boarded up edifice marked for demolition. The five are "creepers", the slang term for urban explorers - city archaeologists of sorts who go into abandoned buildings to uncover their secrets. And, on this evening they are joined by a reporter who wants to profile them - anonymously, as this is highly illegal activity - for a New York Times piece. Balenger, the sandy-haired, broad-shouldered reporter with a decided air of mystery about him, isn't looking for just a story, however. And, soon after the group sets forth into the rat-infested tunnel leading to the building, it is clear that he will get even more than he bargained for. Danger, terror and death are awaiting the creepers in a place ravaged by time and redolent of evil.

My Thoughts on the Story:
All I have to say is really "WOW" what a story! My first instinct when I got through the first few chapters was that I was reading a ordinary "haunted building kills everyone in a bloody mess" story but boy was I wrong. Instead I got this amazing roller coaster ride that kept me turning page after page long after I should have gone to bed. I can't go into why the story kept me on the edge with out spilling the beans and giving away tons of spoilers needless to say... you must read this if you like on the edge of your seat thrillers. I started reading this book at lunch, continued after dinner and finished long after I should have been in bed. I simply can not imagine anyone being disappointed with the action in this story. Mind you there are a few unanswered question to the story that I feel if were answered would have made the story even better. There is a book two out to this series but I have not read it yet. It is on my mooching list for bookmooch. It is called Scavenger.

Happy reading.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Enchanted Forest Chronicles

By Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

About the Series:
Journey into a world where fairy tales are a fact of life and life sometimes is just plain boring. Follow the adventures of Cimorene, an unconventional princess as she discovers what it means to follow your own path and not the one set out by others.

Book 1: Dealing with Dragons: Meet Princess Cimorene the youngest daughter of The King of Linderwall. Cimorene is a princess who wants to do un-princess like things like sword fighting, magic and even cooking! Each attempt to learn a new skill is put to a halt by her parents. Finally in desperation to escape the drudgery of being a princess she takes the advice of a magic frog and soon discovers herself belonging to a dragon. Between caring for the dragon's needs and chasing away knights and wizards Cimorene discovers the life she always wanted to lead.

Book 2: Searching for Dragons: Kazul is missing and it is up to Cimorene to find her but she can't do it alone. Along with Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted forest she embarks on a hilarious expedition to discover what is killing the forest and who has stolen her dragon.

Book 3: Calling on Dragons: The Enchanted Forest is dying and the King's sword has gone missing. It is up to Cimorene to join forces with a hedge witch, a magician, a dragon and a rabbit called Killer in order to discover the scoundrels behind the plot to destroy her new home.

Book 4: Talking to Dragons: Skip ahead a generation. Daystar is a young man who lives outside the enchanted forest with his mother. When he turns 16, a wizard shows up to his house to his surprise his mom melts him. Then wanders into the forest, returning with a magic sword she hands him then tells him to get out and don't come back till he discovers what he is supposed to do with it. Confused Daystar stumbles into the Enchanted forest to discover his fate. Luckily for him he stumbles upon a few friends that join in as he discovers his path.

My Thoughts on the Series:
This is a good series. Wrede writes quite well had her story is chalked full of humor. Her twists on the age old fairy tales is enjoyable and she does an amazing job of satirizing them. Even though they are geared toward Young Adults they are quite appropriate for us "old" Adults and didn't drag at all. With each book you discover more strange and unique characters that help the story grow and flourish into an excellent series.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Stephen Coonts : Saucer: The Conquest

About the Book:
Charley and Rip are back once again in a high flying UFO thriller. In this sequel to Stephen Coonts's Saucer, Rip and Charley have gone their separate ways. Charley leaves to join a expedition to the moon and Rip is left at home to work on refining the technology they recovered from the Saucer's computer banks. What they don't know is that Charley's new boss, Artois has a master plan for taking over the world using the Moon base as a weapon. Along the way it is up to Charley and Rip to save their family and the world from the malevolent madman.

My Thoughts on the Book:
This story smacked of a "James Bond" movie genre. I absolutely loved this book as much as I did the first, though I did find the first half to drag out too long. It felt like they were trying to fill up page space with details on the space trip. But once the action started the book took off in a flying leap in which I did not want to put it down. Coonts is a master at writing great action stories with a lot of humor splashed through out to keep you smiling.


Book One: Saucer

Book Two: Saucer the Conquest

Happy Reading :)
Tesse aka blissful2beme

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill

I'm not normally inclined to compare a book to the film, but it's hard to believe that everyone in the world hasn't seen the film. For those who haven't, this is the true story of how more than 600 men in a German POW camped worked together to achieve an extraordinary break-out.

I have to say this is the first book I've even seen made into a movie where Hollywood didn't screw it up. Granted, they invented characters, but the situations and events are the true story. The book, naturally, gives more detail on the mechanics of digging, providing clothes and documents, tools and food for the escape, which I found fascinating. You also get more sense of the grimness and hunger which can't be provided by well-fed actors.

Highly recommended and already mooched.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

This book made me feel so good. Obama always makes me feel good. He is positive and optimistic without being unrealistic. He can explain the great divide in American politics and how it came to be, and make you understand that it's not just meanness of spirit that has brought us to this pass. He talks about values without making you feel that there are quote marks around the word. He discusses the constitution with love and intelligence as might be expected from a professor of constitutional law. He talks of race and religion without making you feel threatened by either. There are chapters on Family, Politics, The World. He identifies problems without malice and lays out ideas for solving them; ideas that are down to earth, practicable and appeal to the common sense of most Americans.

Vote for who you want, but read this book. You can feel good, too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

Arielle Montero never knew her mother. She disappeared shortly after Ari was born and never returned to the house in New York. Ari is home schooled and rarely ever is allowed to leave her house. Shortly after she makes friends with the housekeepers daughter, she begins to notice how different she is from others and how different is her household. Her face is always blurred in pictures and in one taken of her father, he doesn't show up at all. She begins to suspect her father is a vampire. After her best friend, Kathleen, is savagely murdered, she demands that her father tell her why they are different and where is her mother. He doesn't know where her mother is and yes, he is a vampire. Is Ari a vampire also? What happens when a mortal and a vampire have a child together?

This is an amazing book. I did not expect to be this good!

Star Guards by Andre Norton

From Back Cover:
They were Terrans, considered by Central Control to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy. Divided into "Hordes" and "Legions," the former serving on primitive worlds with hand weapons, the latter indulging in technical warfare on more advanced planets. These men of death followed orders perfectly -- until rumors of whole unit annihilations began to spread. . .
Kana Karr was just a Swordsman of an extraordinary planet to quail a common rebellion. A simple assignment -- until Kana discovered teh awesome truth behind the inter galactic rumors and realized that not only his life but the fate of the whole human race was irrevocably entwined with the outcome.

My Thoughts on the Story:
This book sat in my TBR pile for almost a year, I would pick it up then put it back never really moving to read it till today. I find that I am glad I did pick it up and finally read it. The narrative starts out this an informative preface that sets the mood for a story along piquing your curiosity about what the main character did to set the galaxy on it's ear. I found the main character Kana, to be a believable character and one who grew as the story did. The interaction between the different alien races were interesting and kept you guessing as to what was going to happen. I found the ending to be satisfying and made me instantly want to see if there was a sequel to it. I would recommend reading this book to others. Since this is a 2 book series you may want to start with book one . Star Rangers first.

Star Rangers
Star Guards

Happy reading.


Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This story is set in Birmingham, AL. The story centers on Chance, a 23 yr old paleontologist, who is dealing with the grief and guilt of loosing her friend and family; Deke, Chance's ex-boy friend who has psychic powers, which gives him the ability to see the past from touching items and Dancy, a pale albino runaway who can see monsters and is the catalyst in the story. Dancy tells Chance and Deke about the monsters that are tied to Chance's family and the fossils they are researching...from there it becomes a tell of intrigue and horror as they discover how futile it can be to struggle against something that has no answers to an ending that can only be called ..."what just happened?"

I personally should have put this book down when I hit about mid way. The style of this writer is annoying and disjointed. I had trouble following the story because it was so mashed together with quick bursts of visions/dreams/character thoughts in the head, I was never sure what was actually happening or what was being imagined by the characters. There is no clearly defined reason for the creatures to be assaulting the family or if they were defined I missed in the disjointed dreamy prose the writer used. And the ending was very unbelievable, anti climatic and a jump to making me say " What the hell?" I personally will not read another book by this author, I found it annoying to the very end.

BM Link:

Review by Blissful2beme

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

A young man is missing and an old friend of Gabriel Blackstone calls in a favor. “Frankie” Whittington asks Gabriel to help her husband find his missing son, Robbie. Gabriel has a talent few others have, remote vision. He can enter someone’s mind, see what they see, hear what they hear, and experience what they experience. Using his talent, he discovers that the young man is dead and has most likely been killed by one of two very extraordinary sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk. Hacking into their computer, he reads a diary. He also discovers that one of the sisters has his same ability, only she is much stronger. He falls in love with the writer of the diary. He fears the sister with remote vision. Which sister is which?

This was a really good book. I was almost not able to put it down once I started reading it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Whole Truth by Nancy Pickard

The book opens on a courtroom scene. The defendent Raymond Raintree is about to be convicted of killing 6 year old Natalie Mae McCullen. In the courtroom watching the proceedings is Marie Lightfoot who is writing a true crime book about the case. After the verdict is read a scuffle ensues and the now convicted killer escapes.
Little is known about the defendent and this is especially troubling to Marie Lightfoot who needs more information about Ray Raintree's past and motives to finish her book.When media attention is focused on the manhunt for the escaped killer, information about his background comes from an unexpected source. As Marie delves deeper into Ray's past it also brings up issues with her own past which disappointingly are not resolved. A setup for a sequel perhaps?
The author swiches back and forth between live action sequences and chapters from Ms. Lightfoot's "book". This works well to propel the story forward while providing background information about the case and the main characters. she ties everything together nicely with a nice twist at the end.