Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

It's been a bleak reading week -- sometimes life just happens.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova (4 out of 5 stars -- one of my favorites to read this year)

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis (lovely, but took more patience than I had available)

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland (one of my Women Unbound challenge selections).
The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. (Josephine Bonaparte, #1)
Summary from Goodreads:
Young Josephine Bonaparte shines at the center of a new, sweeping, romantic work of historical fiction by Sandra Gulland: detailed and exhaustively researched, compelling and powerful, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is the first in a trilogy of fictional novels tracing the actual rise of a young European noblewoman who would one day stand next to Napoleon. From the heartbreak of lost loves to the horror of revolution to the hope of new days, it's an intimate epic any romance lover will love.

Not sure how much reading I will get done in the next few weeks -- I will be gone for the Labor Day weekend, so no Monday post from me next week. But stay tuned -- I have a big reading announcement planned for Wednesday, September 8th! Get your Cowboy boots ready!

What are you reading?

Book Review -- Still Alice

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice Howland knows something is wrong when she is standing in the middle of Harvard Commons and doesn't know how to get home. As a psychology professor at Harvard, her intellect is revered, her research prized and her speaking skills sought after. But after a series of incidents -- a missing Blackberry, disorientation in familiar settings, not recognizing an individual she met just 30 minutes earlier - she seeks medical advice, only to be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Lisa Genova's Still Alice reads much like a crime novel -- the anticipation and angst one feels when you know something bad is going to happen -- but in this case -- the "bad" isn't someone, but something -- and even though you already know the outcome -- it is with a feeling of dread and anxiety as you wait for the finale.

The author's background -- she is a neuroscientist by training -- lends amazing authenticity to the story -- as if it were autobiographical. And the story she creates around Alice -- her husband John, her kids -- Tom, Anne and Lydia -- are equally well done. You intimately felt Alice’s digression with each page – and the torment it wrecked on her family – especially her husband John. But as devastating as this illness is, Alice never loses her dignity, nor do those around her lose their love for her.

This was an amazing novel – and one of my favorites to read this year.

For more from the author, please check out the related video:

View all my reviews

Friday, August 27, 2010

Did Not Finish -- The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis

The Invisible MountainThe Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

I made it thru 100+ pages of beautiful, if not over written, narrative. The prose was so lengthy, I lost track of the story, characters and dialogue. Then, when I hit a part of the story line that had an 11 year old girl sexually assaulted by a friend of her father's I just had to call it quits. I was really struggling with this book from the get go -- but because the theme was the relationships between many generations of Uruguayan women, I was willing to persevere. I wanted to see if I could find a rhythm and a connection. But once the molestation occurred, I was done.

This book required patience that I didn't have.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.


One Day by David Nicholls (2 out of 5 stars -- really disappointing)

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart (3 out of 5 stars - Quaint and nostalgic)

FINISHED (not yet reviewed):

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Still Alice

(Wow -- fascinating and terrifying, especially since I almost put the milk in the cabinets instead of the refrigerator!  Will definitely read more by this author -- I loved it, I'm adding it to the "staff picks" on the library shelf).


The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

The Invisible Mountain

Busy week ahead -- I start back to work at the library tomorrow, I have to take dinner to a family on Tuesday, I have dental appointments for 2/3rds of my children on Wednesday -- and I have my FIRST PTA meeting on Thursday! I am terrified! I'm trying to remember my Robert's Rules of Order! "I need a motion, is there a 2nd? "All in favor say AYE -- the motion passes!" I wish it was that easy.

I hope I get to read a little bit this week.

Have a great week -- what are you reading?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review -- Summer at Tiffany

Summer at TiffanySummer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marjorie Jacobsen and her best friend Marty (Martha) set out from the University of Iowa in the summer of 1945 to embrace life in the Big Apple – New York City. Convinced that getting a job at any one of the many department stores was effortless, they were surprised to learn that securing employment for the summer was much more difficult than they imagined. Surprisingly, they were lucky enough to find jobs as “pages” for Tiffany & Co – where they sported beautiful aqua silk jersey “uniforms” and helped the sales staff on the various floors. During their summer they encountered celebrities, millionaires, gangsters and the celebration on Times Square when President Truman announced that the Japanese had surrendered, thus ending WWII. It was, as Marjorie details, the best summer of her life.

This was a quaint tale – full of nostalgic reminiscing from days gone by. Marjorie and Marty manage to live on $20 a week, eat lunch for 15 cents, meet midshipman, and attend all the “in” clubs and bars in NYC at the time.

While this was a charming memoir, it read more to me like something a Grandmother would write to her grandchildren – not to a major reading audience. I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it in one sitting (an entirely manageable goal), because there wasn’t anything in the book that kept me wanting to continue the story. Each time I put it down, I had a hard time finding a reason to pick it up again.

But one thing I appreciated about the book was how the author makes one reflect on those “special times” in one’s life – and made me think, what was the best summer of my life?

Do you have a “best summer” experience?

Book source: Public library

In her own words, Marjorie Jacobsen Hart’s thoughts on Summer at Tiffany:

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No book club, so bedtime stories instead

I missed book club tonight.  One of those rare occasions when the needs of my children took precedent over my personal need to chat about books, enjoy the friendship of my book groupies, and eat yummy food.  My husband (who works in professional theatre) had the audacity to have a show tonight!  How dare he!  And it corresponded with the being the first day of school -- so, instead of getting a babysitter -- I knew I needed to be home to make sure the kiddos were fed, read and in bed at a descent hour.

Since I haven't worked at the library for the past week, we delved into the stacks of picture books for our bedtime stories tonight -- and we picked out the family favorites:

Dirty Joe -- The Pirate, by Bill Harley illustrations by Jack E. Davis

Summary from B&N
The dreaded Dirty Joe and his piratical crew sail in search of the smelliest treasure ever: dirty socks! The rogues cheerfully pillage their way across the seven seas, until the day they run across another band of pirates-one led by the notorious Stinky Annie. Has Dirty Joe finally met his match?

This tale of pirate plunder will have your children giggling at the sight of dirty socks and pilfered underwear hanging from the masts!  It's especially important in our house because it features characters with the names of two of my children!  They hoot and howl when we mention them!

The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke

Summary from B&N
Violet is a young princess who wishes she could show the world that she is just as brave and strong as her brothers. But her strict father insists that she get married, and her brothers only mock her when she wants to be included in their fun. So Violet decides to use her intelligence and bravery to show everyone--once and for all--what she's made of. Disguising herself as a boy, Violet takes part in a knights' jousting tournament. When she wins the contest, she reveals her true identity--and wins the prize of freedom!

Oh, how I love a Princess story with a feminist twist!  This is my daughter's favorite.

Princess Pigsty, by Cornelia Funke

Summary from B&N
One morning Princess Isabella throws her crown out the window--it's BORING being a princess, she declares. When she steadfastly refuses to fetch her crown from the fishpond, her father, the king, puts his royal foot down. "Off to the pigsty with you!" he commands--and Isabella couldn't be happier about her punishment! Because while plain old princesses spend all their time primping and smiling and stifling yawns--yuckety-yuk!-- REAL girls get to peel onions, pick blackberries, and sometimes even sleep outside with the pigs.

Another great tale about an independent, original princess!

Finally, for the boys:

The Wildest Brother by Cornelia Funke

Summary from B&N
Brave as a lion, strong as an elephant, Ben is a fearless young boy. When it comes to protecting his big sister, Anna, nothing can stand in his way! Gallantly he spends his day battling moldy green ghosts, slime-belching monsters, and all sorts of ferocious beasts. But when the day is over and darkness falls, Ben suddenly doesn't feel quite so brave. Sometimes, he realizes, it's the big sister who does the protecting. Featuring Meyer's witty, whimsical artwork and Funke's deft balance of humor, emotion, and truth, this is the perfect bedtime read for rambunctious brothers and sisters.

Most brothers and sisters won't admit they are willing to take care of each other (at least in our house) but in this book, they do!

I've never read any juvenile fiction by Cornelia Funke, but if they are like her picture books, I'm sure I would love them!

As far as book club, I was supposed to read, Same Kind of Different as Me, by  Ron Hall and Denver Moore -- but once I knew I couldn't attend -- my copy got passed to another book club member, and it never made it back around. I know the buzz in our group that it was a GREAT book -- I hope I get a chance to read it sometime. 

Our next book club selection is:

The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson

Summary from B&N
In his debut novel, Todd Johnson explores the lives of five Southern women who are unexpectedly connected to each other. While most of the action takes place in a nursing home, their stories never fall short of livelihood. Think of it as Steel Magnolias meets The Golden Girls.
I haven't heard much about this novel -- anyone out there read it?

Well, off to clean the kitchen, then to bed -- for it's a school day tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review -- One Day

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dex and Em. Em and Dex. So seems to be their world in One Day by David Nicholls.

Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley meet at University on July 15th – and for the next 19 years (and chapters) we are given a snap shot of their relationship and the evolution of their lives on the same date. There were many times during this reading that I thought I was enduring 50 years of their relationship. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This novel has already been optioned as a movie starting Anne Hathaway and a British actor, Jim Sturgess…so the buzz for this book as been lofty. I had high expectations of clever romantic comedy and romance; sexual banter and wit; a happy ending. Bullocks! And I don’t even know what that means?!

From the first page I realized I was behind the 8 ball because this is ultimately a British book. With British humor (or humour) and British slang. None of which I understand. Words like knackers and shagger and summat. Oh, and the aforementioned Bullocks. I needed either Hugh Grant or Austin Powers to translate for me. If there was any rhythm or repartee – it was lost on me, because I didn’t understand the context. So shoot me.

Also, the characters – Em and Dex or Dex and Em – whichever you prefer – were just not the least bit appealing.

Dex is ultimately a drunk. He spends the majority of the book wallowing in his own filth and vomit. At one point, he is taking care of his 7 month old daughter in a drunken stupor and his actions, in any other “REAL” situation, would have gotten him arrested. All the while the author was trying to make it FUNNY. Not so much. And his treatment of Emma is not very endearing either. Why she would want to spend one minute with this oaf is beyond me.

Emma is only slightly better. She at least is sober – but we endure her dead end job at a terrible Tex-Mex restaurant in London (Tex Mex in London? Really?); a long term, but loveless, relationship with Ian, and a fling with a school headmaster, which is icky. Eventually though, Emma gets her act together and develops her love of writing, which leads to a book deal. Things are looking up for Emma—and then Dex reappears.

I was hoping for the best at the end – hoping that I would like that these two found each other and, really, deserved each other. But it doesn't happen. Or at least how I wanted it. Boo.

If you are an Anglophile with a deep love of all things British, then you would probably enjoy this novel. It just wasn’t for me.

Mari of Bookworm with a View also reviewed One Day.

Book source: personal copy

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

Books I REVIEWED last week:
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (3.5 out of 5 stars)

I FINISHED one book this past week:
One Day by David Nicholls (not yet reviewed -- the character Dexter Mayhew was annoying, distasteful and down right icky -- can't wait to see who plays him in the movie.)

One Day


Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Summer at Tiffany

Summary (from Goodreads):
SUMMER AT TIFFANY is a memoir of the summer of 1945, when Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend Marty travelled from the Kappa House at the University of Iowa to New York City, hoping to land sales jobs at Lord and Taylor or Sak's Fifth Avenue. Turned away from the top department stores, they made their way to 57th Street where refusing to be deterred, Marty lead Marjorie into the legendary Tiffany store, and somehow these best friends talked their way into positions as pages–the first women to ever work on the sales floor.

I have a confession.  I lied.

Two weeks ago I made this statement:

Because of my commitments, I have hearby given myself a personal ultimatum of no longer putting books on HOLD at the library. My current read, and this book are the LAST books that I have requested from the library. Once I am done reading these, I can start to make a dent in my own books. I have FROZEN all my other requests. It's like library book purgatory!

Well, I came home with THREE books this week.  None of them were on hold -- they were ALL impulse check outs.  Books are my "crack."  At least I can't be arrested or subpoenaed.

Small Wars by Sadie Jones

Small Wars

Summary (from Goodreads):
A passionate and beautifully written tale of personal loss in the midst of war in late 1950s Cyprus, Small Wars raises important questions that are just as relevant today.

Women Food and God by Geneen Roth

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

Summary (from Goodreads):
Roth began exploring emotional eating in her bestseller When Food Is Love. Now, two decades later, here is her masterwork: WOMEN FOOD AND GOD.

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis

The Invisible Mountain

Summary (from Goodreads):
A gripping and lyrical story—at once expansive and lush with detail—this debut novel is a deeply intimate exploration of the search for love and authenticity, power and redemption, in the lives of three women, and a penetrating portrait of a small, tenacious nation, Uruguay, shaken in the gales of the twentieth century.

Kids go back to school on Thursday -- maybe I will celebrate by staying in my pajamas and reading all day!

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review -- Every Last One

Every Last OneEvery Last One by Anna Quindlen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Mary Beth and Glen Latham have the typical middle class life – he a successful optometrist, she a landscape designer; 3 children: 17 yr old Ruby, who is a brilliant writer and on the cusp of college and 14 yr old fraternal twins, Max and Alex –wildly opposite and in constant conflict. Life’s trials seem overwhelming – Ruby is ready to dump an clingy boyfriend, but the family is reluctant to let him go because he has become a family friend; the discord between the boys seems to grow exponentially the more Alex succeeds on the soccer field, throwing Max into deeper depression and jealousy. Then IT happens – the unimaginable that makes all the other difficulties seem like Christmas presents.

Anna Quindlen’s novel, Every Last One, is the proverbial family drama – life has its predictable ups and downs and then WHAM something completely unexpected rocks your world.

Her writing is brilliant and emotional. I was even caught teary eyed through several of the chapters.

I loved the relationships she created within this family – all very authentic and grounded. The Lathams are a family you would like as neighbors and friends. And their children would be ones you would welcome into your home and glad that they had become friends to your own children. She created beautiful family traditions – a Halloween party that was visited by all, family sledding at the first major snowfall. All of this lends itself to the horrible “punch in the gut” you get later.

However, the arc of this novel was fairly predictable – I knew nothing of this novel going into it – but soon after starting it I thought, “Oh, something big is going to happen, I’m just not sure what.” And sure enough – it does. Not quite how I predicted, but fairly close. Following “IT”, the downward arc is equally predictable, but in a satisfying way.

Every Last One is a novel full of heart ache and tragedy. But it also is a story of love and survival.

Book source: public library

To hear more from the author about her book, check out the related video -- I think she does a good job of describing the book without offering "spoilers!"

View all my reviews >>

Monday, August 9, 2010

Daisy Daughter Guest Book Review -- The Mother Daughter Book Club

The Mother-Daughter Book Club (The Mother-Daughter Book Club, #1)

The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

Hi, I am Daisy Daughter.

I read The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. It is about four girls in a book club who are reading Little Women with their mothers.

The girls are Megan, Emma, Jess and Cassidy. Megan loves fashion but her mother doesn’t approve. Cassidy loves hockey and her Mom used to be a famous super model – hard to believe they are related?! Emma wants to be a writer and her Mom is a librarian. Jess really wants to be a poet and her Mom is on a T. V. show in New York City.

I really liked this book. I think whoever reads it will like it. Megan was my favorite character because she was the most like me.

There are three additional books in this series…Much Ado About Anne (Anne of Green Gables), Dear Pen Pal, and the soon to be released Pies and Prejudice. I want to read them all.

This is our mother/daughter book club choice for September. I am way ahead!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

One thing I learned this week -- PTA responsibilities and reading do not co-exist. I wasn't able to read a single page until Sunday afternoon. I tried earlier this week, but once I was done with school registration and I climbed into bed at night, my eyelids were too heavy to open the cover of a book. 

But, with my last minute cramming...I was able to FINISH:

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (not yet reviewed)
Every Last One
Holy smokes -- an amazing novel, but I am exhausted and despondent.   Not to mention, extremely protective of my children.

I haven't worked at the library in over a week -- so all my HOLDS are still there.  I have Red Hook Road waiting for me, but from what I know of the plot, I think I will need to push this back until I have some time to process the above.

This is the last full week before school starts, so my children and I will be camped at the pool.  I definitely need a "beach read" -- not sure if this qualifies, but I'm pulling it from my stack:


One Day by David Nicholls
One Day

Synopsis from B&N
It's 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. They both know that the next day, after college graduation, they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. As the years go by, Dex and Em begin to lead separate lives lives very different from the people they once dreamed they'd become. And yet, unable to let go of that special something that grabbed onto them that first night, an extraordinary relationship develops between the two. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day July 15th of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

I hope to get more read this week, but I better take one book at a time...

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

My "real" life -- that of mother and PTA president, will soon become more of a priority the closer I get to school starting (less than 3 weeks!!) -- so my love of reading will start taking a back seat in the next few weeks.  I hope you will bare with me -- I will read as much as I can, but I also need to feed and enjoy my kids, as well as keep new school parents pacified and plan my first PTA meeting! (Do you hear the terror in my voice?!)

With that disclaimer, I only FINISHED one book last week:

A Thousand Sisters by Lisa Shannon (3.5 out of 5 stars)
This was an amazing journey.  Kudos to Lisa for doing what most of us don't.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
Every Last One
Synopsis from B&N:
In this breathtaking and beautiful novel, the #1 New York Times bestselling author Anna Quindlen creates an unforgettable portrait of a mother, a father, a family, and the explosive, violent consequences of what seem like inconsequential actions.

Red Hood Road by Ayelet Waldman
Red Hook Road
Synopsis by B&N
Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

Because of my commitments, I have hearby given myself a personal ultimatum of no longer putting books on HOLD at the library.  My current read, and this book are the LAST books that I have requested from the library.  Once I am done reading these, I can start to make a dent in my own books.  I have FROZEN all my other requests.  It's like library book purgatory!

What are you reading this week?

Book Review -- A Thousand Sisters

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a WomanA Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa Shannon

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Lisa Shannon actually does more than the feigned attempt most of us give to a crisis, “oh, how I wish we could help!” is often the refrain. After watching an episode devoted to the crisis in the Congo on Oprah (leave it to Oprah!), Lisa is determined to make a difference in the lives of women who have been tortured, beaten, raped, mutilated, by the hands of invaders as well and their own countrymen. She runs marathons, she raises money, and she travels to the Congo in hopes that she alone can make a life better. And for the most part she does - -she brings gifts, she brings light, and I think she brings hope. She doesn’t bring peace or the end to their suffering – but nothing buy a higher power could possibly attain that result.

A Thousand Sisters is an emotional, upsetting, and grueling personal account of Lisa’s attempt to make change. She spends 5 weeks in the Congo befriending and listening to the horror stories of women, who have survived. Her storytelling is wrought with pain and suffering. But whether or not she accomplishes anything is of little consequence, because at least, ladies, she tried.

I thought this was an amazing story. However, I wasn’t sure if this story was for Lisa or if this story was for the women of Congo. I suppose any memoir, by nature, is self centered, so I can’t necessarily fault the author on that basis. But many times her narrative sure seemed to slide toward the, “Wow – look at what I am doing to save the World!” attitude, which was distasteful. Also, I will never get used to what author Bernice McFadden calls writing from “white privilege” this notion of white people writing as advocates for blackness. Even though she is referring to fiction, I had this overriding feeling of “white-man going in to save the savages” with this book. I’m sure that wasn’t the author’s intent and it was my own hang up, but it tripped me up on occasion. Also, there was a typo – my biggest pet peeve ever – she used STATIONARY when referring to writing paper instead of STATIONERY. Ugh! I wish I could remember the page, but trust me, it’s there.

This was absolutely a worthy account to bring focus on the tragedy of the Congo – but for a book, Left to Tell is infinitely better in telling a survivor’s story from the point of view of the survivor (and directly related to the Congo, by telling the story of the Rwandan genocide).

Here is a brief video about Lisa Shannon and her Run for Congo Women project:

Although not one of my original selections, A Thousand Sisters qualifies for my Women Unbound Challenge.

Book source: public library