December 21st, 2009

Guy Reading

Books #113-118

113) Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron (Memoirs, 277 pages)
At first glance, this is a book about a cat -- but it's more than that. This is a book about a small town in the mid-West, and about a a woman and her family, and how the cat impacted both.

I really liked this book. It was an easy read, and Myron mixed Dewey stories with stories from her own history, and that of Spencer, Iowa. It wasn't a lifechanging book. It wasn't a book about extraordinary events. It was a book about an ordinary cat who lived an ordinary life in an ordinary town, but managed to touch the world in an extraordinary way. It says something about Dewey's story that this book was even published, and even more so that it became a bestseller. 4/5

114) Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson (Memoirs, 352 pages)
The follow-up to Three Cups of Tea was just as amazing. There are no words I could say to possibly put to justice just how awe-inspiring Greg Mortenson and his team are. 5/5

115) The Heroines by Eileen Favorite (Fiction, 256 pages)
Anne-Marie's mother runs a bed and breakfast where literary heroines come take a break from their plotlines. Should have been quirky and fantastic. Instead, this book was a disappointment. It needed to be about 100 pages longer to fully flesh out the narrative, character development, back story, and even the main plotline. It felt like a half-finished book. The ending was a HUGE cop-out. Which really is a shame. It's such an original idea with so much potential, and the book just fell flat with me. Too many things going on, too many story lines, and not enough pages to do them all justice. 2/5

116) Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs (Mystery, 544 pages)
Warning for Bones fans: this is nothing like the TV show. I'm actually a bit confused how they got to the TV show premise from such a dark, gritty book series.
I don't normally read murder mysteries, so was unsure what to expect. Overall, I really liked it, even though it scared the crap out of me and I had to put it down around 1 AM (my overactive imagination at work yet again). However, I sat down and finished it the next day and was glad I did. It was interesting, compelling, and thoroughly engrossing. It was nice to see some of the more procedural and sciency side of the investigation. 4/5

117) Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Romance, 448 pages)
This was not a traditional romance, though I put that as the genre because that's what Phillips is known for. It would probably be better categorized as "women's fiction". This one started off a bit slow, but I quickly got into the story. This was a book that showcased Phillips' ability for character development. This was one of her earlier books so the plotting and writing wasn't as polished as it could be, but still very good storytelling. One thing that I do like about Phillips is her focus on inter-generational stories. While Belinda was not the most likable of characters, she was sympathetic (at times), and I liked seeing the back story to how she got to where she was. Fleur's story was riveting. A lovely coming-of-age story of a girl who becomes a woman by coming to terms with her past, and figuring out what she wants of her life, and getting out from the controlling clutches of her parents. 4/5

118) Safe Sex in the Gardens and Other Propositions for an Allergy Free World by Thomas Leo Ogren (Non-fiction/Environment, 193 pages)
Really helpful information here about how to make our gardens healthier in general, and how to reduce allergies in our own gardens more specifically. A very quick read. Recommended for all gardeners. I would have probably gotten more out of it if I did have a garden myself and did more than just dabble. 3/5
did you know you could fly?

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Book #92 -- Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, 326 pages.

I've had this one on my list for ages, and I finally got around to it. It's *wonderful* and I love the fact that the two authors wrote it without truly knowing where the other was going - spontaneous fiction is wonderful! I can't wait for the two sequels, which I must admit I ordered immediately :)

Progress toward goals: 355/365 = 97.3%

Books: 92/100 = 92.0%

Pages: 23138/25000 = 92.6%

2009 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
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Book 35: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Title: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Author: Rhoda Janzen
Genre: Memoir

Plot: Rhoda Janzen looks back on her life after suffering several difficulties find her at once. She has major surgery (with big complications), is in a significant car accident, and her husband leaves her for a guy he met on gay.com. With all these trials coming so close together, Rhoda returns to her family and her roots. The book alternates between telling stories of her Mennonite youth (bug bombs set off in mini vans) to tales of her family once she returns to the fold as an adult (as she is now single, Rhoda's mother encourages Rhoda to consider Wally, Rhoda's first cousin, as an excellent marriage prospect).

Grade: A
Review: It is refreshing to read such a hilarious, entertaining memoir. I find that many memoirs of very religious childhoods are either condescending and snide or overly adulating. This book (like another recent memoir, "I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing") avoided those two pitfalls. While some other reviewers have found her uncharitable toward her parents, I disagree. Sure, she is at times exasperated (as I would guess most of us are with our parents at some point), but I never found it to be without a strong undercurrent of love. Her parents are painted as extremely frugal (reusing toothpicks! Saving fifty cents by purchasing a sandwich you dislike over a sandwich you like!), but also very kind. They are equally accepting of their daughters, who have ventured out greatly into the world, as of their sons, who have largely stayed within the Mennonite world. Her mother tells Rhoda that faith is less about rules followed than relationships nurtured.

My only complaint about this book is that at the beginning and then the end it has a couple of these annoying short questions with blanks like fake questionnaire's in a magazine. These just interrupt the flow of the story and add nothing. If they were part of the shtick and used throughout the book, that would at least be consistency, but as is they're just random and strange because there's only a couple. However, these are ditched fairly quickly (a good choice!) and you can just concentrate on a good story.
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Books #45 and #46

#45 - The Writing Class by Jincy Willett (2008, 326 pages)
The Writing Class
includes a cast of familiar characters - the jock, the know-it-all, the kiss up, the murderer. Yup, that's write err, right, I mean.

Jincy Willett presents a quirky tale in which a writing class is harassed by "The Sniper," and even though things turn deadly, the class breaks from typical mystery convention, wanting to keep meeting, regardless of the danger in their midst. The mystery is well told, and I was happily surprised by the identity of "The Sniper."

I enjoyed this book, not only for its originality, but also because it offers a lot of writing ideas. Anyone who wants to learn how to write well or improve upon his/her craft can read this, not just for the plot, but also to get some great pointers. I recommend this fun book, giving it a pretty darn good four out of five red herrings.



#46 - Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered smart-ass, or why you should never carry a Prada bag to the unemployment office by Jen Lancaster (2006, 400 pages)

I had previously read Jen Lancaster's second book - Bright Lights, Big Ass - which alluded to Bitter is the New Black, and based upon how much I absolutely loved Bright Lights, I knew that I would have to read Bitter, along with her other books.

This memoir focuses on how Lancaster went from being at the top of the world, making more money than she knew what to do with, to the unemployment line following 9/11. She is brutally honest about her attitude and her situation at the time, and even though I know she manages to rise from the ashes of her former career and self, I cannot help but feel for her on her fall.

Adding to my enjoyment of this book is Lancaster's self-admitted smart-assedness. She's sarcastic, and that only makes her more endearing to me. I absolutely cannot get enough of her writing, which of course, is why this book gets a very strong five out of five trips to Saks.

Total Books Read: 46 / 50 (92 percent)
Total Pages Read:
13,369 / 15,000 (89 percent)
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54. Find Me by Carol O'Connell


Title: Find Me
Author: Carol O'Connell
Year: 2006
# of pages: 507
Date read: 11/3/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good



Description:

"The arm of a dead body points down Chicago's Adams Street, also known as Route 66. Along this road of many names, a silent caravan of cars drives. They are parents of missing children, all brought together by word that children's grave sites are being discovered along the road. And they are being shepherded by Detective Kathy Mallory of the NYPD. But the child Mallory seeks is not like the others. It is herself -- the feral child adopted off the streets, her father a blank, her mother dead and full of mysteries.

During the next few extraordinary days, Mallory will find herself hunting down a killer like non she has ever known -- and will discover more about herself than ever before . . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

While O'Connell could have focused on either the hunt for a serial killer or Mallory's journeys following both Route 66 and her father's letters, she nicely balanced both stories. I liked Mallory's interactions with the people she meets along the way and I liked how Butler and Riker supported her in their own way.
The Man Who Broke the Bank at MonteCarlo
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Books 30-43

No comments on the books, just a listing of the title and author.

30. Wonderous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould by Kevin Bazzana

31. Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase by Marion Meade

32. Chaplin by Stephen Weissman, M.D.

33. The Circus Parade by Jim Tully

34. 33 1/3: The Velvet Underground and Nico by Joe Harvard

35. John McGraw by Charles Alexander

36. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (re-read)

37. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (re-read)

38. After Many a Summer: The Passing of the Giants and the Dodgers and a Golden Age in New York Baseball by Robert E. Murphy

39. Sperm Wars by Robin Baker

40. xxxHolic Volume One by Clamp

41. xxxHolic Volume Two by Clamp

42. xxxHolic Volume Three by Clamp

43. Cobb by Al Stump