Monday, August 31, 2009

Mailbox Monday - August 31

Only two books in the mail this week: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Randell. I'm looking forward to reading Julie and Julia immediately followed by Julia Childs' My Life In France.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Salon--Giveaway

I'm very excited this weekend to go over 50 followers. When I was at 49 the other day, I told my mom I would have a giveaway when I hit 50. Which I hit the next day. So here's the giveaway:

I have gently read (as in I read them only once and didn't tote them around in my purse!) copies of "The Story of A Marriage" by Andrew Sean Greer; "Two Years, No Rain" by Shawn Klomparens; "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri; and "The Dogs of Babel" by Carolyn Parkhurst. Contest runs through September 7th. Here are the rules:

1. Giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only
2. One entry if you leave a comment letting me know which book(s) you're interested in and a
way to contact you.
3. One entry if you are a follower or become a follower.
4. One entry if you add something about the giveaway on your blog (leave me a permalink)
5. One entry if you Twitter about the giveaway (leave me a link).
6. One entry if you Stumble the giveaway (okay,I really don't even understand Stumble; but if
you figure out how to do it let me know and I'll figure it out!)

Thanks to all of my followers! I would be having fun doing this if I were the only one reading it, but knowing that you're out there makes it so much better!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ahh--I'm Blushing!

Thanks to Natalie, from The Book Inn, for the Proximity award.
Being a recipient of this award affirms that this blog invests and believes in the Proximity – nearness in space, time and relationships.
This blog receives this great award as a further way to re iterate that it is exceedingly charming, and aims to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!
I'm sending this to:
Devourer of Books
Susan at Win A Book: West of Mars
Nadia at A Bookish Way of Life
Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books
Kim at I Smell Books

Deb, from Book Magic, was kind enough to award me the Super Comments Award. This one gets passed on to the following people who always leave such nice comments:
Jill at Rhapsody In Books
Cindy at Thoughts and Reflections
Kathy at Bermuda Onion
Mari at Bookworm With A View
Mari at MariReads

I got the Humane Award from Heather at Gofita's Pages. This award is to honor certain bloggers that are kindhearted individuals. Rule: Nominate 10 bloggers you feel deserve the Humane Award. This way is going out to:
Jo at Diggin' Around
Lori at The Coffee Girl
Sarah at Enjoy The Little Things
Sandra at Fresh Ink Books
Molly at My Cozy Book Nook
Milka at Read, Read, Read
Bonnie at Redlady's Reading Room
Thauna at Silly Fluff n Stuff
JessiKay at Tangled Up In Blue
Holly at Three Wishes
Dar at Peeking Between The Pages

And last but not least is the Beautiful Blog BINGO award, given to me by Michelle at The Book Addict. This award means that this blog is:

B: Beautiful
I: Informative
N: Neighborly
G: Gorgeous
O: Outstanding

This one is getting passed on to:
Diane at Bibliophile By The Sea
Heidenkind's Hideaway
Trish at Trish's Reading Nook
Jay at The Quickie Book ReviewKelly at The Novel Bookworm
Again, thanks to all of the bloggers who gave me the awards. It's such a wonderful community to be a part of! Please be sure to take some time to check out all of these great blogs!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
256 pages
Published November 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Reverend John Ames is 77-years-old and in ill health in 1956 when he begins writing a letter to his young son, hoping to tell his son, through the letter, all of the things he would have told him if he'd lived longer. In the letter, Ames writes about the two generations of Ames preachers before him, he talks about the death of his first wife and daughter, life in a small town, life in the Midwest and religion. While writing the letter, he is confronted with one of the biggest crises of his life when his namesake, and son of his best friend, returns home. In trying to come to an understanding of the younger man's previous actions and to find forgiveness in his heart, Ames must also face questions of his own self worth.

I am not a good reader when it comes to books that should be read slowly. If I love a book (and I loved this book), I want to devour it. Robinson will not let the reader plow through Gilead. It is simply too beautiful; there is simply too much to be absorbed. The writing is spare and thoughtful. The book has a quietness.
"I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice. There was the feeling of a weight of light--pressing the damp out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards on the porch floor and burdening even the trees a little as a late snow would do. It was the kind of light that rests on your shoulders the way a cat lies on your lap."
Ames spends a great deal of time contemplating faith but the book never reads as "preachy." Robinson raises questions but does not attempt to leave the reader with easy explanations or answers.

The Washington Post says: "one feels touched with grace just to read it." The New York Times called it "demanding, grave and lucid."

I had started reading this book when Amy, of My Friend Amy, asked for bloggers to review the fifty books that Newsweek had declared "Books of Our Time." Each of us was to decide if we felt the book we had read was a book of our time. Gilead is not only a book of our time, but I felt that it really is a book for the ages. To see reviews of all of the books, check them out here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
288 pages
Published June 2004 by Little, Brown and Company

I read this book as part of The Literate Housewife's Dog Days of Summer.

The book opens with the death of Lexy Iverson. She's fallen from a tree in her backyard while her husband, Paul, is at work, with only their dog, Lorelei, as a witness. Paul is devastated but can't help but wonder if the police pronouncement that the death was an accident is correct. Did Lexy commit suicide? Paul notices a few things in the next couple of days to make him believe that maybe she did. Only Lorelei knows and she's not talking. But Paul, who happens to be a professor of linguistics, wonders if maybe she can't be taught to talk so that he can get some answers. He's heard some stories previously that leads him to believe it might be possible so he takes a sabbatical and begins trying to teach Lorelei to speak. At the same time, Paul looks back on his relationship with Lexy.

Two pages in, this book had already grabbed my attention. Then I got to the talking dog business. And I began to wonder exactly what it was that originally convinced me to pick this book up some months ago. "Is this supposed to be a black comedy?" I wondered. Nope, it's completely serious and more than once I almost put the book down. But the book alternates chapters between the look back at Paul and Lexy's relationship and the teaching-dog-to-talk chapters. And I was enjoying the relationship chapters so I stuck it out. Then Paul became involved with some "Very Bad People" who do surgery on dogs to try to make them talk. Yes, you read that right; there is a whole organization of people doing this. And it did get a little tense during some of those parts. But it was still strange. As was Paul's fascination with a television psychic. And the part where Lexy was making masks for the families of dead people. Yep, the more I write about it, the more bizarre this book sounds.

Yet, I can't say that I didn't like it. I did find the relationship between Paul and Lexy interesting. I understood a love so deep that Paul would do anything to try to find some answers. And Parkhurst deals with Lexy's mental illness beautifully. But I can't think of a single person to whom I would recommend this book. Seriously, how would I sell it? "Hey, you wanna read a book about teaching dogs to talk?"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Miller - Guest Review

River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Miller
432 pgs
Published October 2005 by Knopf Doubleday

This guest review is from my mom, a fearless reader who is just as likely to pick up an historical biography as the newest Dean Koontz.

Whenever I had cause to think about Theodore Roosevelt, I always came away with a feeling of awe and amazement at this larger-than-life man–with his ever-present monicle and his large toothy grin and his seemingly unstoppable manner of living. After reading THE ROOSEVELTS by Peter Collier (Simon and Schuster), I was even more impressed with this marvelous family that had given us two presidents, both seeming larger than life. It seemed that nothing could stop or humble this family. And then I read RIVER OF DOUBT by Candice Millard; and I saw Teddy Roosevelt become just another man fighting for survival, no longer a giant, but a man who was nearly defeated by his own aims and goals and by his daring life-style. It was quite a revelation. RIVER OF DOUBT is the story of Teddy Roosevelt's exploration of rivers in South America in the early 1900s and of all the challenges they faced and met with varying degrees of success. His perils were closely related to that of his son Kermit and we got to know both father and son not as invincible but as men facing the challenges that were nearly too much for any man to survive. The book is full of interesting details of the flora and fauna of this amazing region that we know today as the Amazon. Much was unknown then which caused this exploration to be fraught with all kinds of emergencies brought on by both man and nature. We became well acquainted with Rondon (a native Brazilian) who along with his loyal followers were well-versed in much of the life of the Amazon. Even they could not have predicted the choices by the untamed tribes of Indians or that Father Zahn’s lack of preparations would be nearly fatal to the expedition. We saw the conflicts between the goals of the two men–Roosevelt and Rondon-- and we lived the terror that they went through. It is not an easy book to read, but it is a fascinating book that teaches you well of the times and diverse regions of our earth. It is not a book for the faint-of-heart; it is one that you will be grateful you have read when you are finished. And you will meet a new face of the mighty Teddy Roosevelt.

Thanks Mom! I'm looking forward to being able to post more reviews from both of my parents. See, didn't I tell you they were both really smart?!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mailbox Monday and Library Loot - August 24

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. Very excited to be joining in on this for the first time. Last week I received in the mail for review: "Night of Flames: A Novel of World War Two" by Douglas W. Jacobson and "Circle of Souls" by Preetham Grandhi. Also in the mail was "Home Front" by Kristen J. Tsetsi which I won from Heather at Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books.
I also hit up the library this week (after paying off a fine that would have bought me a hardcover novel!). I brought home on CD "Death In A Village: A Hamish MacBeth Mystery" by M. C. Beaton, "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill, "The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett, and "Bridge of Sighs" by Richard Russo. And I'm very excited to have found "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

As if all of that weren't enough reading to do, I also bought this week: "The Wednesday Sisters" by Meg Waite Clayton and "My Life In France" by Julia Child with Alex Prud'Homme.

What did you pick up to add to your nighstand?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Salon - Judging A Book By Its Cover

Please excuse me for a minute while I step up on my soapbox and begin the lecture. The lesson this week? It's that golden oldie: Don't judge a book by it's cover.

This is my daughter's best friend. To say that some people find her look off-putting would be to put it mildly. In addition to the heavy eyeliner, this friend wears tremendously oversized black clothing, her hair hangs in her face, and she's frequently sporting skulls on her clothing. But this young lady is one of the best friends a teenage girl could possibly have. She's never anything other than polite and is more than willing to talk to my husband and me when she is over. There is never a time when this young lady is not welcome in my home--which is more than I can say for some of the young people my children have befriended.

Recently I came across a blog post that had a picture of some books the blogger had received and all of them had identical grey covers. Nothing on them at all. And I very nearly skimmed right over the post because my brain automatically assumed that dull covers = dull books. Which would logically lead to the assumption that beautiful covers = beautiful books. Likewise, if a book has a dessert or a beach scene on the cover, the assumption is that the book is chick lit and that it's a light read. My copy of "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson has a very simple, plain cover. And, in some ways, it is a very simple book. But it is not plain; it is a beautifully written book. Without word-of-mouth, I'm not sure I would ever have picked it up. That would have been a real lose. Are there any books you've picked up because of the cover that have disappointed you? Any that were a real surprise?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

Netherland By Joseph O'Neill
272 pages
Published May 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group

Hans van den Broek is a Dutchman who has immigrated to the U.S., by way of London, with his English wife and small son. In the aftermath of 9/11, his wife decides that she must return to England, taking Hans' son with her. Left on his own, Hans' stumbles into the world of cricket where he meets a Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon. Hans has money and Chuck has a plan--he wants to build a cricket stadium in New York. The two men bond over a love of cricket and a shared immigrant experience. But it turns out there is more to Chuck than originally meets the eye.

This book is an enormous critical success. The New York Times called it "stunning" and "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell." Which makes me feel a little stupid. Because I just didn't get "stunning" from this book. It is an interesting read, it is a unique plot. I listened to it on CD (and it was really well read) and that may have effected how I felt about it. Sometimes I think it's harder to really get into books that I'm listening to.

This book has very little action. It's mostly a journey down memory lane. And you know how sometimes, when you're thinking, you wonder how you got to a certain point from where you started? This book is like that. Hans will start reminiscing about an affair he had after his wife left which leads him to his wife which leads him to his mother. You have soon forgotten where he started or even which point of time you are supposed to be in. Because this book jumps around a lot in time. So much so that I think if you don't read it quickly, you will completely lose track of what's going on. It is a great examination of the immigrant experience in this country--particularly for someone who lives in the insular world in which I live.

So, even as I write this, I still haven't decided exactly how I feel about this book. I liked it, but I keep wondering why I didn't like it was much as the critics did.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Favorite

About now you're probably starting to wonder if I read any books that aren't made into movies because, once again, my Friday Favorite has been made into a movie, Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm. Although I'll bet most of you haven't heard of the movie. The movie, released in 1996, stars Kate Beckinsale, Rufus Sewell, and Ian McKellan. I love this movie so I was excited to see that it was originally a book. Then I was nervous. What if I hated the book and it ruined the movie? Hurray! The book had every bit of the charm, wit and whimsy of the movie--or, more accurately, the movie had every bit of the book's charm, wit and whimsy since the book was originally published in 1932.

Flora Poste is a young society lady who suddenly finds herself an orphan. She most definitely does not want to get a job so decides she will need to live off her relatives. But which ones? After rejecting a number of offers, Flora chooses to move to Cold Comfort Farm, home of the Starkadders because she feels that they will provide her with a project. To say that the people on Cold Comfort Farm are a bunch of country bumpkins is an understatement. But Flora immediately sets to work to make their lives "better," although her motives are not altruistic.

The book is a wonderful satire of the melodramas of D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy and a parody of the rural novels so popular at the time it was written. Okay--that sounds boring doesn't it? Pretend like you didn't just read the names Lawrence and Hardy because you don't have to have been depressed by them to enjoy this book. The characters in this book are wonderful--a recluse aunt, a hellfire preacher, and an oversexed cousin obsessed with the "talkies" (who also happens to be in charge of the farm's bull). Even the names will make you laugh: Ada Doom, Elfin, Urk and the cows are Feckless, Pointless, Aimless and Graceless while the bull is Big Business. This book is just great fun! It's a shame that Gibbon's other works are no longer in print.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Zombie Chicken Award

Thanks to Al at Publish or Perish for bestowing me with the Zombie Chicken Award! Al is an aspiring author and and Aussie--what's not to love about that?!

The Details:
The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

I definitely do not want to risk the wrath of the zombie chickens so I'm passing this award along to:

Heather at Age 30+...A Lifetime of Books

Book Psmith at Book Psmith

Care at Care's Online Book Club

Mandy at Literary Life

Rebecca at Lost In Books

And may the tao be with you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife By Robert Goolrick
304 pages
Published April 2009 by Algonquin Press

Ralph Truitt has lead a hard life with a father who is more interested in raising an heir to his fortune than a son and a mother is a religious zealot who makes it clear that she does not love him. Nothing since then has served to make him a happier person. So, as this story begins, he is waiting for the arrive of a woman who has answered his ad for a reliable wife. He has long since given up on finding love in his life, but he needs a wife to help him bring his estranged son home. Catherine Land, who is responding to his ad, is a devious woman, motivated by greed and with a dark past. She is coming to Wisconsin to marry Ralph, slowly poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. But Ralph is a more compassionate man than Catherine was expecting and Catherine begins to bring out feelings in Ralph that he had thought he was incapable of having any longer.

The story is unique, Goolrick's writing terse but descriptive. As Ralph is waiting for Catherine's train, I could feel the cold wind stinging his cheeks. It's easy to envision the people of Truitt, WI, Catherine's clothing, Truitt's homes.

After reading several books recently that I didn't enjoy, in part because I didn't like any of the characters, Goolrick reminded me here that liking the characters is not a requisite for liking the book. Goolrick gives his characters fully fleshed out backgrounds that help the reader to understand their actions even as you are appalled by them. Because of this, the reader is able to hold onto a hope for the characters to become better people, to make better lives for themselves.

Despite the bitter winter setting, this is a story of lust and passions. As such, there is a great deal of description of the fulfillment of these passions that some readers may find uncomfortable to read. I wasn't uncomfortable with it, but I did feel like there was too much of it. Likewise, Goolrick could become repetitive and often ran on too long in his descriptions of motives, feelings and thoughts. All of that I was able to overlook because thought the story was wonderful. There were twists and turns I didn't see coming and I had no idea how this book was going to end until the final paragraph. I read this book as part of a book club and, honestly, was not sure that I would like it. Having lower expectations made my enjoyment of the book a very pleasant surprise.

For the book club's discussion of this book and an interview with Robert Goolrick, click here. You can read a review from Mari, from Bookworm With A View, as well as more answers from Goolrick here. Gayle, of Everyday I Write the Book, posted her review here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Salon

So much to talk about today--I keep seeing more and more things this week that I want to share. Good thing Sunday is finally here.

I live in Nebraska. I'll pause here to let you all laugh for a bit...there now, have you gotten it out of your systems? Let me just say that living in Nebraska is not as bad as you all may think--it is not all flat, we have some of the greatest sunsets, and, for the most part, people here are great. I did not really choose to live here. Nebraska was the choice of my great-grandparents. My choice was to live near family. I know some of you move away from your families as soon as you have that high school diploma in hand. I know some of you have awful in-laws. And I know I'm very, very fortunate when it comes to family. My husband and I long ago decided that we would stay near our families so that our children would always have family near by. And there is rarely a day that I regret it. This week I was reminded, once again, why I am so happy to be here. My niece was having a bad week, a really bad week. My daughter suggested they hang out last night. I suggested that we make it a girls night and include the moms. She agreed to it but primarily she wanted to be with my daughter because they "get each other." And they do; despite some very big differences, they are great friends, not just cousins. So the four of us went out to dinner. Where, I am happy to say, I was able to make my niece laugh so hard that she snorted. Afterward, the four of us went to see "Julie and Julia." The girls spent the entire car ride home doing the hand thing that Julia and her sister did in the movie.

Today I got a link from someone I follow on Twitter about a school in Toronto that has removed "To Kill A Mockingbird" from it's 10-grade English classes. Because one parent complained. One. Parent. Is there some reason that person's child could not have done an independent project during while the other students read "Mockingbird?" Is it ever right for schools to cave in to parental pressure? I personally think that high school-aged students are old enough to deal with almost any subject you throw at them; treat them like adults and that is likely to be what you'll get back.

The L.A. Times reviewed Lizzie Skurnick's "Shelf Discovery" this week. This book is getting a lot of great P.R. in the blogosphere. I've got the book and I thought I might be the only person on the planet that didn't love it. Until I saw this review. I feel so much better now.

Another great link I found through twitter is this post showing great libraries of the world. How great are these? Now I know why libarians have a reputation for insisting on quiet. Can you imagine how much these places echo??

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday Favorites

John Irving has recently released a new book which made me think of my all-time favorite Irving book, The World According To Garp. I know most of you would pick Owen Meany, but for me, Garp was king of the Irving works.

 This is the story of T. S. Garp, bastard son of nurse Jennie Fields. The story is as much about Jennie, really, as it is about Garp. Garp lives something of a traditional life--he marries, he becomes a loving father, and he pursues a career as an author. Jennie, on the other hand, becomes a feminist leader, after writing a book about her own life. This pulls Garp into an interesting new world.

Irving creates the most unusual and eccentric characters and conjures up worlds that are both fantastic and very real. In "Garp" Irving brilliantly blends humor and tragedy. In a key scene, there is a terrible accident that results in severe injuries, death and almost ends Garp's marriage. But the accident itself will make the reader laugh with the absurdity of it. As the reader will continue to do throughout the book, despite the heaviness of the situations. It's what Irving does best; it's what keeps us reading his books.

In 1982, the book was made into a movie starring Robin Williams, Glenn Close and John Lithgow. If you don't have the inclination to read the book, see the movie. It really captures the story wonderfully.

Thursday, August 13, 2009 And American Literature

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Today, when I was looking for something to listen to while I was working, I went to my tried and true, which I've previously mentioned. 

I've been listening to a lot of Mark Twain lately there. When I went to find something new of his to listen to, I discovered that I could find not one, not two but six of the books on the How Well Read Are You-American Literature Edition list that I posted the other day. So if you're looking for an easy way to knock a few of those pesky classics off the list, head on over there. 

I'm quite enjoying Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." I had no idea the old gal was such a wit. And I knew that the book was something of a treatise against slavery, but this is biting social commentary at it's best.

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens
384 pages
Published June 2009 by Dell Publishing

Andy Dunne is a weatherman in San Diego County where it hasn't rained in nearly two years. His career has stalled, his cheating wife is divorcing him and he has a secret love. When the satellite weather service he's been working for let's him go, he tries out for an wins a job doing voice over work for a children's program on a fledgling television station. But then things start changing fast. But Andy soon finds himself the star of the show with a big salary and a quickly growing fan base. Soon Andy is struggling to deal with his newfound stardom, a niece that moves in with him, and a relationship with a married woman (Hillary) that is becoming more intense.

This book has been called "guy-lit" and "dude-lit" and that seems to be an apt description. But this is not strictly a book for dudes. Klomparens does a terrific job of drawing the reader into Andy's life and relationships. Andy is a guy that just is letting life take him along until a medical condition and his new job force him to start looking more closely at what he wants his life to be. The book built up nicely and I was really looking forward to seeing how Klomparens would wrap things up. And that's where it started to fall apart for me. Andy had a twin brother who died and the book makes much about how his feelings about this have really held Andy back. But I felt like this was solved much too easily and it didnt' seem to me to be Andy's biggest problem. Hillary and Andy's relationship was interesting in the beginning but I came to like her less and less and the explanation for the major event in their relationship didn't ring true for me. Andy has a drinking problem that's not fully addressed. A coworker that plays a part in the early part of the book just disappears and a problem with Andy's brother-in-law is never addressed after it is brought into the story.

I liked the book...I just didn't love it. I did like Klomparen's writing style, very straight forward and the dialogue rings true. I'll definitely pick up his other book, "Jessica Z."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Face To Face Book Club Hits The Blog Waves

Sheila, from One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books, has turned the spotlight on the face-to-face book club to which I belong. Sheila has posted an interview with Mari, from Bookwork With a View, who not only holds our club together but also leads an online book club for Manic Mommies and has co-hosted an on-line summer reading series. Mari's always got giveaway's going on so be sure to check out her blog! And if that's not enough, Mari's also been interviewed this week at Mrs. Magoo Reads. It's Mari that got me interested in the blogging community and who's been an invaluable source of help and cheerleading! That's me in the orange sweater and Mari behind me in the blue sweater.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Well Read Are You--American Literature Edition

Thanks to Laura, at Laura's Reviews, for this great idea! Laura wanted to see how well read she was in American Literature so she combined a few top 100 lists of books pulling out the American authors. How well read do you think you are?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (X)
2. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (X)
3. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (x)
4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (-)
5. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (X)
6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (X)
7. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (-)
8. Dune by Frank Herbert (-)
9. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (-)
10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (x)
11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (-)
12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (x)
13. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (-)
14. O Pioneers! By Willa Cather (X)
15. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (-)
16. My Antonia by Willa Cather (X)
17. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (x)
18. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (-)
19. Little House on the Praire by Laura Ingalls Wilder (X)
20. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (x)
21. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (-)
22. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (X)
23. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (-)
24. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (-)
25. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (-)
26. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (X)
27. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (x)
28. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (X)
29. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (-)
30. The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (-)
31. Roots by Alex Haley (X)
32. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (X)
33. Katherine by Anya Seton (-)
34. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (X)
35. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (X)
37. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (-)
38. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (X)
39. The Collected Stories of Katherine Ann Porter (-)
40. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (X)
41. The Stand by Stephen King (X)
42. Carrie by Stephen King (X)
43. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (-)
44. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (-)
45. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (X)
46. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (-)
47. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (-)
48. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (-)
49. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (X)
50. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (-)
51. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (X)
52. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (X)
53. Mystic River by Denis Lehane (-)
54. American Pastoral by Philip Roth (-)
55. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (X)
56. Rabbit Run by John Updike (-)
57. Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates (-)
58. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty (-)
59. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (X)
60. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (-)
61. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (X)
62. Sandman by Neil Gaiman (-)
63. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (-)
64. World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow (-)
65. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (X)
66. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (-)
67. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (X)
68. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (-)
69. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (-)
70. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (-)
71. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (-)
72. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (X)
73. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (-)
74. Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Mitchard (X)
75. John Adams by David McCullough (-)
76. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (-)
77. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult (-)
78. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (-)
79. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (-)
80. Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut (-)
81. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (-)
82. Native Son by Richard Wright (-)
83. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos (-)
84. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (-)
85. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (-)
86. The Bridge of the San Luis Ray by Thornton Wilder (-)
87. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (X)
88. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (-)
89. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (X)
90. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (-)
91. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (-)
92. Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (-)
93. Beloved by Toni Morrison (X)
94. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (-)
95. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (-)
96. So Big by Edna Ferber (-)
97. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (-)
98. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (X)
99. The Ponder Heart by Eudora Welty (-)
100. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner (-)

Almost as embarrassing as the paltry number of these books that I've read is the fact that I haven't even heard of some of them! If you choose to do this on your blog, I hope you'll post your link back here so I can see how much better read the rest of you are!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday Salon

Wow--it seems like I just did this. Wait...I did just do this since I was running so far behind last week! Things are finally getting settled here. Still working on getting the eldest settled back in; things are going remarkably smoothly. When he left, he was 20; now he's 21. It was strange to have him walk in the house tonight with beer under his arm. But at least he's not getting into ours!

Couple of things for you to check out this week. First is Backlist Book Of The Day. There they feature a book a day that was published over one year ago. It may be selected based on news, a holiday or on a whim. It's a Harper Collins-sponsored site, but features books from other publishers as well. Their theory is that if you haven't read it yet, it's new to you.

Also, NPR has published their audience's picks for 100 Best Beach Books Ever. Definitely some things on this list I would not necessarily consider "beach" reads but certainly a lot of great books. I've read 32 of them and see that there are 16 more that I already had on my to-be-read list. There are several more I know I should read someday but I'm not sure when "someday" will finally arrive. And there are even a few that I know I will never pick up, no matter how many lists they appear on. "Dune" by Frank Herbert is among those. I've seen the movie and it was four hours of my life I wish I had back. I sure don't want to waste that many more hours reading the book. How many of these have you read? How many are on your TBR list? Any that you won't ever read?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge #5 and #6

I'm really loving Librivox, which is allowing me to listen to great works of literature while I'm working including "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice."

"Emma" was really well read by a Brit whose only flaw was a major emphasis on the "t's" at the ends of words and even a greater emphasis if, heaven help us, there were two t's together. I love the story of Emma Woodhouse and the cast of eccentric characters that surround her. Having children nearly the same ages as Emma and Harriet Smith, I'm surprised to find that not much as changed, since Austen's time, in the way young people view their world. Twenty-year-olds are never as bright as they think they are. Girls still try to hook their friends up with the "right" guy. And young people still think they are more worldly than their elders.

"Pride and Prejudice" on Librivox was something of a disappointment. The reader did a fine job, better as the book went on, but there was a sense that she was reading it in a closet and a bit of a background hum throughout the reading. Fortunately, I love this book and was more than willing to live with this if it meant getting to listen to the story while I was working. The sparring between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy always brings a smile to my face. And, let's face it, Mr. Darcy is pretty much too good to be true. He's rich, admits when he's wrong, and has no parents, thus no in-law problems for his wife.

Technically, I could now call this challenge completed since the goal was to complete six Austen-related things. But I have yet to crack a book and I'd feel as if I cheated if I didn't read anything. Besides, I have three books lined up to read and I'm always game to reread any of Austen's six completed novels. So, I'm calling this the half way mark.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Favorite

My favorite read this week is Alice Walker's "The Color Purple." This is primarily the story of Celie, a poor Southern black woman, struggling to escape degradation and abuse at the hands of the men in her life. The story is told through letters: Celie's letters to God, her letters to her sister Nettie, and, ultimately, Nettie's letters to Celie. Celie's trouble's really begin when she is raped, repeatedly, by her stepfather who then sells off the children Celie bears. Nettie runs away to avoid the abuse. The stepfather then marries Celie off to Albert, who Celie refers to simply as "Mister." 

Celie is helped along the road to salvation by two strong women: Sophie, who refuses to be taken advantage of by any man (including Celie's stepson) and Shug, an independent singer, who Albert loves and Celie soon comes to love. When Shug discovers that Mister has been hiding Nettie's letters to Celie for years, it unleashes a fury in Celie that leads her to finally declare her independence. The story has an authentic folk tale feel while also being intensely emotional and poignant.

The book was quite controversial, when it was published, because of it's portrayal of black men. The book also deals with racism and touches on homosexuality. Despite the controversy, the book won the Pulitzer Prize.
In 1985, Steven Speilberg turned the book into a movie starring Whoopie Goldberg as Celie, Oprah Winfrey as Sophia, and Danny Glover as Albert. The casting created a stir of it's own, but both Winfrey and Goldberg delivered splendid performances.

Whoopie Goldberg as Celie in the movie adaptation of The Color Purple

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heartfelt Award

Thanks to Mari at Bookworm With A View for my first ever award, the Heartfelt Award.

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when your relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside.

The Rules for the Heartfelt Award are:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

I'm passing this award on to:
1. A Comfy Chair and A Good Book
2. A Reader's Respite
3. At Home With Books
4. Gypsy Tree
5.Laura's Reviews
6. Book Chatter and Other Stuff

My Chicks would get the rest of the spaces (and then some!) because their blogs always brighten my day. But I'm keeping them to myself since they are largely personal blogs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris

The Girl With No Shadow By Joanne Harris
464 pages
Published April 2008 Harper Collins Publishing

This is the sequel to Harris' Chocolat which was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. It picks up the tale of Vianne and Anouk Rocherseveral years after they have moved on from the village of Lansquenet. They are now settled in to Paris, along with Rosette, the daughter Vianne was pregnant with at the end of Chocolat. Because of some previous misfortune, Vianne has given up on the magic she had previously used so effectively. Through a series of events, Vianne has opened a chocolaterie and is involved with the landlord of the shop's building. Business is not good, however, until Zozie comes into their lives. Zozie adds a brightness to their lives and soon has Anouk deeply under her influence. A delightful cast of characters begins to frequent the shop. But Zozie is not what she seems to be. Roux, the father of Rosette, makes an appearance again in this book.

Harris is brilliant at interweaving story lines and creating unique and charming periphery characters.
The reader begins to get to the truth of Zozie long before it is revealed to Vianne and Harris builds the tension as Zozie begins to wreak havoc and Vianne realizes that hiding is no longer possible. The story is told from the perspective of Anouk, Vianne, and Zozie, a tool that really helped move the story along. I felt that Harris had made some minor changes from the original story to appease readers that may have only seen the movie and not read Chocolat. I also felt that Vianne's current beau was something of a stereotype. Overall, I found the book well-written and a satisfying read.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunday Salon

I know, I know--it's Tuesday, not Sunday. That just goes to show you what the past few days have been like. I took a couple of days off of work for a much needed vacation. I took three books for a two day trip figuring I'd get a lot of reading done, especially when we were driving. No such luck--my husband wanted to chat the whole trip. Then we were off to an amusement park. I don't do rides but figured I'd get three or four hours of reading in. Again, no such luck. My daughter suddenly decided she didn't want to do any of the rides the guys were doing so I ended up entertaining her the whole time.

After four months out on his own, my oldest moved back home this weekend. I was not happy when he left home; I thought he was making a bad decision and it turns out I was right. I could be chanting "I told you so" right now but it's wrong in so many ways. I've got mixed feelings about having him back. I've liked him again since he's been gone and I want to keep liking him. And there's all of this stuff that has to find a home again. It's everywhere two days after landing back at my house and it's making me a little crazy. And it's really cutting into my reading time!

With so little reading time, I'm not making much progress on the challenges. I do have four of six things done for the Everything Austen Challenge but have yet to pick up a book for either the Random Reading Challenge or the Whitcoull's Challenge. The kids head back to school next week and once they're doing homework again, I'll be able to get back to it. At my kids' ages, that's one of the few things to look forward to with the return of the school year. That and football.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
343 pages
Published 1948 by St. Martin's Press

The story of 17-year-old Cassandra and her family who live in a ramshackle English castle in a deep state of poverty. Cassandra chronicles her family's life in three journals as she hones her writing skills. Here she writes about her encounter's with the estates new, young and handsome American landlords, her sister Rose's marital ambitions, her father's writer's block, and her own dealings with first love.

This book has never been out of print in England and, when unavailable in American stores, it was one of the most requested books in used book stores. Clearly it is beloved. I picked it up because it came so highly recommended by members of Goodreads.

 It is charming, it is often witty, and I did enjoy Cassandra's voice. But I'm sorry to say that I just didn't enjoy this one as much as I expected to, as much as I wanted to. I just found it so annoying that no one in Cassandra's family seemed to want to do anything to alleviate their financial straits. Even more annoying that they were willing to live off the wages of a "hired" boy who they weren't even paying then had working for another man. And they were all more than willing to accept the largesse of their new landlords. I didn't really connect to any of the characters, either because I liked or disliked them, and that made it hard for me to care what happened in the end. That said, the end did surprise me and I was happy with the way that Smith ended the book. I thought, as I was reading this book, that I might be the only person on the planet that wouldn't have rated this 5/5 stars. So I was excited this week to see that Book Psmith felt much the same way.

I Capture The Castle was Smith's first novel and marked her crossover from playwright and was an immediate success. It's often hard to top such a successful freshman effort but twelve years later Smith followed it up with "The Hundred and One Dalmations" which certainly eclipsed the fame of "I Capture The Castle" once Disney decided to base two movies on it.

Everything Austen Challenge #4

The television was once again my aide in the Everything Austen Challenge, hosted by Stephanie of Stephanie's Written Word. I got lucky and caught "Emma, " starring Gwyneth Paltrow, just as it was beginning. I really quite like this movie version of the book, although it is not my favorite adaptation.

Both Paltrow and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley are terrific. Alan Cumming as Mr. Elliott is also quite good as the character is written for the movie, but his character is very different from the character in the book. Toni Collete, a fine Australian actress, is completely miscast as Harriet Smith. For one thing, she doesn't remotely pass as a 17-year-old. On the other hand, Sophie Thompson, as Miss Bates, is brilliant.

This is one of those movies I will watch any time it's on t.v. Although there are some alterations to the story, they don't distract from the tale. All in all, a beautiful rendition of Austen's story of young Emma Woodhouse's misguided matchmaking attempts and ultimate personal growth.