Monday, December 28, 2009

The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine

From the author's website: This a novel about living and falling in love on one block in New York City. It’s a kind of love letter to New York City, the New York that I know, which has neighborhoods and seasons and the rhythms, sometimes, of a small town. In The New Yorkers, neighbors fall in and out of love, and it is their dogs– a dignified old white pit-bull named Beatrice, a puppy named Howdy discovered in the closet of a dead man, a boisterous Rottweiler named Kaiya, and Jolly, a vicious little mutt– who act as cupids.

I listened to this one on audiobook and it took me two tries to get going. I put the first disc in while driving to Greenville, NC with the Nurse from my office for a training. After disc one, I looked at her and said, "I can't take six more hours of this." and out it came. (Replaced by White Oleander.)

A few months went by and I tried again and this time, it clicked. I started to care about the characters both human and canine. It was still on the slow side, a contrast to the way New York actually feels to me - fast, fast, fast, but I stuck it out and enjoyed it. There were several storylines going at once but because nothing was moving too quickly, I was able to keep it all straight. It was all about relationships and that's my favorite kind of story.

My regret on this one is that I really considered saving it for the Literate Housewife's "The Dog Days of Summer" that will be coming back around again this summer but couldn't make myself wait. I'm in an audiobook dry spell - haven't come across any great ones at the local shops and haven't made the trek to Barnes and Noble over on Hilton Head so there was no postponing this book, I'm out of alternatives. Desperate times and'll understand how true that is when I post my reveiw of the "Dr. Phil" book I am listening to now!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg

From the author's website: Her Last Death begins as the phone rings early one morning in the Montana house where Susanna Sonnenberg lives with her husband and two young sons. Her aunt is calling to tellSusanna her mother is in a coma after a car accident. She might not live. Any daughter would rush the thousands of miles to her mother's bedside. But Susanna cannot bring herself to go. Her courageous memoir explains why.

Fascinating story in a "watch the train wreck" kind of way. It's hard to imagine a mother who gifts her daughter cocaine for her 16th birthday and celebrates the loss of her virginity but Susanna brings her to life. Along the way she describes travel and money that have some appeal until they disintegrate into drugs and sex. She is a vivid writer with intimate details of every sexual milestone but at the same time, she says that others, "may remember shared experiences differently" - hmmm.....a little James Frey maybe? I read somewhere that her father, Ben Sonnenberg, had also written a memoir and I wonder if I should know who he is but I don't. I listened to this on audio and it was several CD's long. The author read it and I really didn't like her voice at first. But I got used to it and determined I can't decide the voice doesn't sound right becuase she is the real voice, she's right no matter what!

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I'm adding the extras as I finish them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

I love David Sedaris and this book was no exception. This collection of essays was sharp and funny. The essay on David's experience playing an elf in Santa's Village at the mall was a treat - the insider's look at something mysterious, and then, of course, David's witty take on all of it.

This is one of my books for the Holiday Reading Challenge hosted by all about n. Click on the button to check my progress.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Humility...a virtue

God sent me a humbling message this past week. I went to the hairdresser to get my regular six week cut. He sat me in the chair, made a little small talk, and then he said, "I saw you out in town recently, you were getting out of your car." "Oh really," I said. "Yes," he said, "And when I saw you, I thought to myself, we have got to do something about her hair."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

From the Amazon product description: Tom Langdon, a weary and cash-strapped journalist, is banned from flying when a particularly thorough airport security search causes him to lose his cool. Now, he must take the train if he has any chance of arriving in Los Angeles in time for Christmas with his girlfriend. To finance the trip, he sells a story about a train ride taken during the Christmas season. Thereupon begins one of the most hilarious-and heartwarming-journeys ever told. Along the way, Tom encounters a ridiculous cast of characters, unexpected romance, and an avalanche that changes everyone's Christmas plans. As the mighty Southwest Chief chugs along, Tom learns what really makes the holiday special in a remarkable novel that will charm all who read it.

You know I love David Baldacci, I've said that here and here! But this one was kind of a stinker. He broke out of his crime/suspense mode and made this more light-hearted Christmas story. It did not "charm" me as the description above promises. It was slow and not very interesting. There was a little bit of a mystery but not much, a little suspense but not much. There was a twist at the end but I was beyond really caring at that point, I just wanted it over. The characters were very caricature - the lead African-American character was portrayed in such a stereotyped way that I am hesitant to pass this on to my office mate for fear she will be offended. The one way this book succeeded was that it really made me want to get on a train and go. I've ridden a train a few times and it is a great way to travel.

This book is on my list for the Holiday Reading Challenge. Click on the button to see my progress.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Progressive Dinner Party - time for a drink!

Welcome, if you have arrived for the party, I hope you enjoyed your last stop at The Amethyst Princess for Jalapeno Poppers!

Here at The Round File house, we like martinis, and this is a special one for Christmas called Santa's Little Helper. I think the recipe originally came from Southern Living or Paula Deen about four years ago but when I did an Internet search to give credit to the original source, I couldn't find it anymore. If you come across it, please come back and let me know!

Santa's Little Helper

Prepare glasses by chilling them in the freezer and then sugaring the rim by rubbing the edge of the rim with a cut lemon and dipping it into sugar.

Put ice. and equal parts vodka and lemonade into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and pour into the prepared glasses, straining the ice out as you pour. Add a splash of pomegranate juice and a few seeds as a garnish. Because of the laws of physics (which we don't care about unless we're drinking)the pomegranate juice will sink to the bottom making a red bottom with a white top that looks like a stocking- hence the name, Santa's Little Helper.

Enjoy your drink and then your off to Notes from the North for Glogg- Swedish Mulled Wine.

Be sure to visit the Book Blog Social Club where we will be collecting all of the recipes, courses, and posts throughout the week.

Happy dinner party from all the hosts of appetizers and drinks!

Dana's Scrap Therapy - Cheese Dip
Book Club Girl - - Stilton Watercress Spread
epiBloguer - - Creamy Artichoke Dip
Angel's Kisses - - Cinnamon Apples with Red Hot Candies and Sugar
eclectic / eccentric - - Green Bean Bundles
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves - - Parmesan Star Puff & Heavyset Cheese Ball
Joyfully Retired - - Shrimp Dip
Galleysmith - - Gingerbread Martinis
The Amethyst Princess - - Jalapeno Poppers
My Round File - - Santa's Little Helper (Martini Drink)
Notes from the North - - Glogg- Swedish Mulled Wine

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

There is a plot summary and such on the author's website but in a nutshell, it's Langdon again from Brown's other popular books, The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. He's doing the same thing, using symbols to crack a conspiracy, but this time the setting is Washington, D.C. Langdon getting embroiled in these mysteries has become the Dan Brown formula and this time around it's just not as good. It lacks the fresh feeling of his earlier works but also, D.C. even with the awe-inspiring monuments just didn't hold my interest like Italy and the art did. I thought because I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his other books that a "not as good" Dan Brown would still be great compared to other books but it really wasn't - it was just OK.

This is one of the books on my list for Fall Into Reading 2009. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

From the author's website: In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family’s past and remake history.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family—all with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

I think Michelle Moran did a great job bringing this story to life. It is the first book about this time period that I can remember reading and yet I was able to follow the story with little difficulty. The history needed to make the story work was included in such a way that it didn't seem heavy-handed. She made Nefertari an interesting, sympathetic character. I was rooting for her and so proud when she matured and won the people's respect through her hard work. The shenanigans at the Egyptian palace were as manipulative and self-serving as any Tudor court - I guess some things never change!

This was the November 2009 selection for the Facebook Historical Fiction book club led by Jennifer over at The Literate Housewife.

This is one of the books on my list for Fall Into Reading 2009. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Reading Challenge

I LOVE THIS BUTTON! Is that a good enough reason to join a challenge? I think so! But, just in case, I aleady have three holiday books in my TBR pile that I can use for this challenge so it's a win-win situation!

I imagine everyone else has already heard about this challenge because it started November 20th - EEK - I'm so late! So I won't give too many details but it is hosted by all about n and if you click on the gorgeous button above, it shoud take you to the sign-up post - hooray!

Here's what I plan to read...
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yes, it's been quiet...

I have a leadership role in our little Catholic schools largest fundraiser. It's taking up more time than I imagined! It's worth every minute as all proceeds go to the scholarship fund so that families with financial difficulties who want their child to have a Catholic education can still do so. And with the economy still slow - that includes a lot of my friends who are in businesses like real estate or sales. blogging! (I also hosted Tween's 13th birthday party last weekend - that's a post all it's own! Boys, girls, dancing, Silly String...CHAOS!)

I read a great LOL book...The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Party - or some combination of those words - I'll verify the title before I write my review! And today, David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice came in the mail - woo hoo - or Ho ho ho! That's one I plan to read for the Christmas Reading Challenge if I ever get time to put a post up and join! I have also finished our Facebook Historical fiction selection for this month - The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran - a good one too. The selection next month is A Christmas Carol - that would work for the Christmas Reading Challenge too if...oh, never mind!

Tomorrow we pack our car and travel 8+ hours up to Northern Virginia for my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday. 90 is still pretty impressive to me despite the fact that I am over halfway there! Another impressive fact about the 90 year old Granny is that she had 13 children - different times! Since it's such a long trip, we are just skipping school next week and staying through Thanksgiving! So...the blogging drought will continue.

If over the Thanksgiving holiday, you're traveling on 95 too - wave!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg

From the author's website: Nan has just turned fifty, and is dealing with how it feels to be an aging woman in this culture. She is very much focused on all she is losing. She decides to take off on a driving trip, and the novel alternates between entries she makes in a journal and letters to her husband, Martin. By the end of the book, she has switched her focus from all she's losing to all she has.

I am still on the fence about Elizabeth Berg. How strange is it that I can't decide if I like this author or not? (Open House, The Year of Pleasures)The main character in this novel, Nan, had such appeal for me. She examines her body in the mirror and wonders at the changes that growing old has brought. She questions how much she yielded her own life and desires to those of her husband. It's a coming of age story for the menopausal set. But once again, it moved just a bit too slowly for my taste. Her journey was mildly interesting in a voyeuristic "intimate look" kind of way; it kept me turning pages. The negative is that there wasn't any successful dramatic tension. If I ever felt like Nan actually might DO something, it would have generated some excitement for me. The positive is that Elizabeth Berg writes some beautiful stuff, descriptions that are lovely, and all of it is easy to read so it's a "no stress" page turner that goes quickly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's In A Name Challenge -2

I didn't actually sign up for this challenge but I saw a wrap up post over at Beth Fish Reads and thought it looked like fun. So I am crashing the party a bit and just posting my list; you know (for me) making the lists is the most fun part of challenges! The real participants have their postings here at the blog dedicated to the challenge.

A book with a profession in the title: Lifeguard by James Patterson

A book with a time of day in the title: Night by Elie Wiesel

A book with a relative in the title:The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth

A book with a body part in the title: Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

A book with a building in the title: Open House by Elizabeth Berg

A book with a medical condition in the title: Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass

From the Amazon product description: Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man's battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it's up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state's mechanical examiners, Jess Carter.

Just as they're on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton's career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he's helped to convict.

Ahhh... creepy. That is the only word that can describe the concept of The Body Farm. The body farm is a research facility that uses corpses to simulate crime scenes and studies the way they decompose in order to determine things like time of death. There's lots of boiling bones, cutting up body parts, and checking rotting flesh. This book certainly captured my attention and held it throughout. That was despite the fact that the narrator was maybe a little bit flat. He did a nice job with the variety of characters that he needed to give voices to but the main character was a very low-key, quiet scientific type so it could have gotten dull quickly if the story itself wasn't good.

As is my habit, I have started a series with the second book. (I am failing the 1st in a Series challenge and now am tempted to start a "2nd in a Series" challenge because I think I would have that one wrapped up!) Starting in the middle didn't hinder my enjoyment of this book. There is some history between a few of the main characters that we don't know the details of but enough background is given to keep this story on track.

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I'm adding the extras as I finish them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Third time is the charm?

I am about to try and watch Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. It's my third try...I fell asleep the first two times. If it doesn't hold my interest this time, I am D-O-N-E.

I am watching this movie as part of the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This past week I hit a local thrift store that supports our Child Abuse Preventions Association. Someone with similar taste to mine must have brought some books by because I found several to bring home - score! Take a look.......

At the bottom is The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. I am a little intimidated by the size, this is one big book! But I loved She's Come Undone so I have want to try this one. I read She's Come Undone before I began blogging so there's no link to a review but I remember being amazed that this man captured the girl's voice so well and created such a memorable character. Anyone who's read it, I'm sure, has the scene where she meets the roommate forever etched in their mind!

Next is Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips this is one I've seen reviewed but I can't remember which blog.

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled by Dorothy Gilman as I said here, if it drops in my lap, I'll read it. And this one has just dropped in my lap!

Just A Guy by Bill Engvall. When the Navy bought me my new government car last Spring, it came with free XM satellite radio and that included the Blue Collar Comedy channel - talk about your guilty pleasure. I can do without the coarse humor of some of the guys but Bill Engvall keeps it clean and still manages to be very funny. But, alas, much to my dismay, the free trial period expired and XM was gone! So this book will give me the Bill fix I'm jonesing for; I'm looking forward to reading and laughing. And if it makes you as sad as it makes me to think of me driving around without XM, feel free to write your congressman. I bet if all of America just added a penny or two to their taxes, I could have XM back in my government car.

And at the top of the stack is a Ted Dekker book - ever heard of him? I hadn't until I started reading book blogs and his name was everywhere. So I found this one, kiss, and I am going to see what all the fuss is about!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Naked by David Sedaris

From Amazon's product description: Welcome to the hilarious, strange, elegiac, outrageous world of David Sedaris. In Naked, Sedaris turns the mania for memoir on its ear, mining the exceedingly rich terrain of his life, his family, and his unique worldview-a sensibility at once take-no-prisoners sharp and deeply charitable. A tart-tongued mother does dead-on imitations of her young son's nervous tics, to the great amusement of his teachers; a stint of Kerouackian wandering is undertaken (of course!) with a quadriplegic companion; a family gathers for a wedding in the face of imminent death. Through it all is Sedaris's unmistakable voice, without doubt one of the freshest in American writing.

David Sedaris does it again - great laugh out loud stories. I enjoyed this book more than the last one I read, Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, it seems like this one had more of his family in it and they are one of the strangest/funniest groups you've ever met. This one had an extra long story or two in the second half; I find that those longer ones drag a bit for me - I like it short and snappy! Although, one of the longer stories was a pages long essay on David's excursion to a nudist park for a week's vacation that kept me entertained all the way through! (I have to venture a guess that is where the title came from.) I can relate to so many of David's childhood memories - reading racy books while babysitting - somewhat fearful that the people would come home and catch you, dreaming that perhaps you are really royalty that has been placed in the wrong family by mistake, and the chapter on David's tics made me think of Tween who has displayed tics in the past although not to the "light switch licking" extent that Sedaris does. David's twisted take on his suburban chidlhood is a delightful read.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

King of Torts by John Grisham

From the author's website: The office of the public defender is not known as a training ground for bright young litigators. Clay Carter has been there too long and, like most of his colleagues, dreams of a better job in a real firm. When he reluctantly takes the case of a young man charged with a random street killing, he assumes it is just another of the many senseless murders that hit D.C. every week.

As he digs into the background of his client, Clay stumbles on a conspiracy too horrible to believe. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of a complex case against one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, looking at the kind of enormous settlement that would totally change his life—that would make him, almost overnight, the legal profession’s newest king of torts…

It's been a lot of years since I read a Grisham book and my memory said, "You really like this guy." so I was excited when I stumbled across the audiobook for King of Torts in a local second hand store. I did like the story, up to a point, unfortunately, at that point, the book just ended. I felt cheated out of a climatic scene and a solid conclusion. Where was the courtroom drama? Where was the redemption for mistakes made or, perhaps, even punishment? The music that signals 'end of story' started playing and I started checking for another disc, thinking, "Really? It's going to just end there?" And it did - but the first part was great....

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I'm adding the extras as I finish them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Women Unbound Reading Challenge

This month a new challenge started, Women Unbound. Click to read the details but here is a short blurb from the dedicated website, "The challenge runs from November 1, 2009-November 30, 2010, but you may join in the fun whenever you wish! Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’"

***UPDATE***I'll post what I have actually read here but leave my list of good intentions below.
1. Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
1. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The thing I love about these challenges is perusing my stacks of TBR's and finding the perfect fit. It's the same optimistic feeling I have when I come across books on my wish list and purchase them despite knowing I have more books than I will probably read in my LIFETIME already in my house.

As I looked through my stacks, I was fairly confident making my non-fiction selections. The fiction is a little shakier. I am basing my potential reads just on the back cover blurb; I think I'll have to read at least a bit before I know if it is truly a good fit for this challenge. Here's what I have come up with.....

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen
The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Sunday, November 1, 2009

No Wonder They Call Him Savior by Max Lucado

From the author's website: Max Lucado takes you through the drama of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—bringing to life Peter’s denial, Pilate’s hesitancy, and John’s loyalty. Relive the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, from the foggy garden of Gethsemane to the incandescent room of the resurrection.

I read this one during my adoration hour. I think it took me four Sundays - so four hours. And, while I felt like I enjoyed it as I read, I really can't think of any particular message that leaped out at me. It was a series of essays about the crucifixion but there wasn't a distinct order to the book that gave me some framework for understanding what Lucado's message was - nothing seemed especially meaningful or inspiring. To clarify - Jesus's story is both meaningful and inspiring - I'm just not sure what Max Lucado brought to the table to make it more so. But I have enjoyed Max Lucado's books in the past - at least his ones for children, so I will try another.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

From the Amazon product description: The fabulous foursome readers embraced as The Mysterious Benedict Society is back with a new mission, significantly closer to home. After reuniting for a celebratory scavenger hunt, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are forced to go on an unexpected search--a search to find Mr. Benedict. It seems that while he was preparing the kids' adventure, he stepped right into a trap orchestrated by his evil twin Mr. Curtain.

The kids are back and I'm so glad. Somehow this one got by me. I bought it for Youngest ages ago and thought (I don't know why) that I had already read it. But I hadn't and he knew that so he wrapped it up for me and gave it to me a few weeks ago on my birthday. That and the homemade coupon book for chores are why he's got my heart in his hands - he's just the sweetest, most thoughtful kid! He would make a great addition to the Benedict Society. The children that have been selected to be a part of the Mysterious Benedict Society (the selection process happens in the first book) have all sorts of great qualities. Each one's unique talent contributes to the group and they are amazingly forgiving of each other's flaws. Nothing is going to match the initial wonder and amazement at reading the first book in this series but Perilous Journey is a solid sequel and was a pleasure to read. The kids are in and out of impossible predicaments and they do it all using brains and talent. Now I have to see if the third book is out in paperback yet so I can get that for Youngest for Christmas.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shelf Discovery Challenge

I am completely failing several challenges and, yet, I feel compelled to join this one too. What's the definition of insanity? Never mind. This challenge just calls to me by dangling my childhood favorites in front of me. The books that I devoured as a girl are all fair game in this one and I have to take the bait!
Here's what the challenge is all about lifted directly from Booking Mama's post...

The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 - April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a "book report" to share your thoughts with others!

The titles I picked are mostly books that I "remember" that I LOVED but I am kind of sketchy on the details since it has been 30+ years since I actually read them! I wonder if I will still love them now. (The exception is A Little Princess which I have on my nightstand at all times and reread fairly often, at least the good parts.)

Here's my list...with the covers of my youth - when I could find them!

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Harriet the Spy

Are you There, God? It's Me, Margaret

A Little Princess


Flowers in the Attic

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

From Amazon's product description: Standing on the fringes of life...

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Once I started this one I could not put it down. Chbosky took me right back to high school - the feelings of being left out, doing stupid things to fit in, having good friends but the relationships still being somewhat volatile. Egad, I wouldn't go through that again for a million dollars but for the afternoon and evening that I spent on the couch reading Charlie's letters, I was right there. He nailed it - even Rocky Horror Picture Show - I think I could recite every line by my senior year.

Charlie was both socially challenged and academically gifted which made me wonder about his mental health or perhaps an Asperger's type diagnosis, when the truth came out in the end, it all made sense. I knew the character at the heart of that conflict was going to be important in some way but I didn't guess why in advance. Apparently I was as blind as all the other people in Charlie's life.

Some of the friends Charlie makes are too good to be true. I know we're supposed to feel like Charlie found acceptance despite the odds against him but I think the oddds are even worse - I found it hard to believe he lucked into these healthy, healing relationships. My glass is half empty.

I can see why a parent might not want their tween to read this book but I think most high school students are surrounded by the characters of this story and will simply feel affirmed that everyone has their moments of insecurity. I'll have to send out a thank you to the parent who got this book banned from their child's high school - it brought the book to my attention and I loved it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

From the author's website: Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades — from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

What a wonderful book! Pat Conroy lives just a few islands over from me here in the Carolina Lowcountry and he captures the feel of this place better than anyone else. He does it especially well in this one - gorgeous prose as he describes the scenes. This is my favorite kind of Pat Conroy book - rooted in the Lowcountry and the relationships that are formed here by birth, by race, by class - he explores them all. There are discussions all around town about who each character might be in real life but because Conroy always manages to root out each character's worst flaws, I'm not sure anyone wants to own up to being included. All I know is that one of my husband's extended family members is an ex-nun who was an educator and married to a teacher...hmmmm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand October 2009

This monthly feature is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month. Click on the logo to go and check out all the participants.

From last month's post, I read and reviewed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Revolutionary Road; the latter completed the A-Z Reading Challenge for me. I didn't get to all the others - got sidetracked by football, soccer, tennis, and dance - all the things my kids do in the fall that require me to drive them around town!

John Adams is still there but VERY close to getting finished just a mere nine ten months after I started it! Next is The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown; I've loved all his other books so I am anticipating enjoying this one too. Twelve Ordinary Men I am going to take to church and read during adoration. I've signed up for the Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge but haven't read my Betsy-Tacy book yet - I know it will go fast once I get started! Above that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for the Everything Austen Challenge although I still have two movies I wanted to watch for that first so it may not get done (again!) this month - we'll see, I think the challenge is open until December so I will have time. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran is the November selection for the Facebook Historical Fiction book club. And, on top, is The Perks of Being a Wallflower which I am reading at the suggestion of Jennifer at The Literate Housewife, it was banned at a high school near her so she decided to read it as a protest against banning books. Next she spread the word on her blog and started a Facebook Book Club for us to discuss it - very fun!

A Fine Dark Line by Joe Lansdale

From the Amazon product description: For young Stanley Mitchell, Jr., 1958 is quickly becoming a year of newfound joys and thrilling adventure. Beginning with the discovery of hidden love letters, Stanley learns about blues music, Sherlock Holmes, racism, and lost dreams. Through the natural course of growing up, he discovers the true nature of his father's heart; learns about love from his mother, sister, and house servant, Rosy; and becomes involved in a forbidden world that exists beneath Dewmont, Texas, like dirt swept under a beautiful carpet. But when Stanley enters a forbidden world of secrets filled with death and darkness, jealous lovers, and ghostly occurrences, he finds the real murderer of the young girl who wrote the once-secret love letters...and becomes the next target.

Wow - all I could think about as I read this was that the main character, Stanley, is right smack dab in the middle of my two boys age-wise. My boys are 10 and 12 and Stanley is supposed to be 11. I can't imagine having the conversations with my boys that occur with Stanley over the course of this summer story. School may be out but Stanley gets quite an education - racism, masochism, sadism, homosexuality, domestic abuse, goes on and on. I really thought when I picked it up, it would be a sweet coming of age tale with a little murder mystery on the side; boy, was I surprised. It was a wonderful surprise though, because although I like the sweetness of Mitford or Zebra Drive, I really do prefer stories with a bite to them and this one had some sharp teeth. I enjoyed hearing it - it was the kind of book that made me sit in my car and listen a little longer even after I had arrived at my destination. What a nice surprise!

I've finished up the audio book challenge but I'm adding the extras as I finish them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

A few weeks ago it was the Catholic Church bazaar, this week it is the Methodist Church bazaar. I have a small stack of "new to me" books from their book sale!

First is Away by Amy Bloom. I have seen some reviews of Amy Bloom's books around the blogosphere. I can't remember where, I can't remember if this was one of them, I can't remember if they were good or bad, but when I saw it for fifty cents, I though, "why not?". If nothing else, it has a really pretty cover.

Next is Anne Rice's Christ the Lord;Out of Egypt. Awhile ago I bought the trade paperback for the second book in the series, Christ the Lord; Out of Cana, but I set it aside because I wanted to read the series in order. So I was delighted to find this one, I'm always tickled to find a book that is on my mental wish list.

Finally, is another No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency mystery, Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith. It's the third in the series and somehow I skipped over it. I've read 1, 2, and 4 and I have another that I found at the Catholic bazaar in my TBR pile, maybe 6 or 7. These are good rainy afternoon lay on the couch books so they can just sit around in my TBR pile until that day comes around!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Product description from Amazon: Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This was an intersting book. The premise and format were creative with all the trivia and footnotes interjected seeming to capture a sense of autism. I say "seem" because at least one reviewer on Amazon claimed to be on the ASD and did not agree with that. Working with families impacted by autism, I was sad to see that the parents marriage did not stand up to the difficulties of caring for their son. Divorce is a very common occurence in families of children with special needs and speaks to the need for support systems to help parents cope before the marriage dissolves.

Back to the mystery..when the mystery was finally solved - it was very fun to go back and reread the first part of the story and see the clues that were missed! Because Christpher doesn't spend any time reflecting on other's motivations, it's not until you know the truth that you can go back and have those "aha" moments. It was easy to go back and reread because this book was a very quick read to start with - made for a fun afternoon curled on the couch!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

From the inside flap: An invitation for every woman who feels she isn't godly enough...isn't loving enough...isn't doing enough

The life of a woman today isn't really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord's feet...but the daily demands of a busy world just won't leave you alone. Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him...yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.

Then comes Jesus, right into the midst of your busy Mary/Martha life-and he extends the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters of Bethany. Tenderly he invites you to choose "the better part"-a joyful life of "living-room" intimacy with him that flows naturally into "kitchen service" for him.

How can you make that choice? With her fresh approach to the familiar Bible story and its creative, practical strategies, Joanna shows how all of us-Marys and Marthas alike-can draw closer to our Lord, deepening our devotion, strengthening our service, and doing both with less stress and greater joy.

This one didn't really grab me. It sounds like something I would like, need, be in tune with - but it didn't end up being any of those things for me. However, I took away from it one important message. A message about the lack of value in worry. On my bad days, I'm a worrier - I carry around the bills, and the notices, and the papers in a a folder or a Ziploc bag or just mashed in between the pages of my calendar and I don't DO anything with them except worry. On my good days, I am active, I handle each piece of paper, I log online and get the bills paid, I just do it. So these words about worry need to become my mantra!

"Fretting magnifies the problem, prayer magnifies God."

And then she goes on to quote one of my favorite authors, Corrie Ten Boom, "any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden'. I'll never forget Corrie and her sister in the Nazi concentration camp giving thanks to God for the fleas. Now Corrie via Joanna Weaver has given me another nugget of gold to carry me though life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Dog, Stay by Anna Quindlen

From Amazon: “The life of a good dog is like the life of a good person, only shorter and more compressed,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen about her beloved black Labrador retriever, Beau. With her trademark wisdom and humor, Quindlen reflects on how her life has unfolded in tandem with Beau’s, and on the lessons she’s learned by watching him: to roll with the punches, to take things as they come, to measure herself not in terms of the past or the future but of the present, to raise her nose in the air from time to time and, at least metaphorically, holler, “I smell bacon!”

My not being happy with this book was my own fault - I knew going in that it was not what I liked from Anna Quindlen but I bought it anyway. The good - it was a very loving portrait of her dog. The pictures of her dog were touching. The bad - it was like a Hallmark book, one you buy at the drugstore when you don't have a gift for someone at the last minute, and the random pics of other dogs were just overly cute.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

From the amazon product description: As a boy, Will Klein had a hero: his older brother, Ken. Then, on a warm suburban night in the Klein's affluent New Jersey neighborhood, a young woman--a girl Will had once loved--was found raped and murdered in her family's basement.

The prime suspect: Ken Klein. With the evidence against him overwhelming, Ken simply vanished, spending the next decade as the elusive subject of rumors, speculation, and an international manhunt. When his shattered family never heard from Ken again, they were sure he was gone for good.

This is my second Harlan Coben, the first was Long Lost, and I enjoyed them both. I didn't figure out all the twists until very close to the end. I can't say I "liked" all the characters, there some truly ugly people in this story!, but I did find them imaginatively brought to life. Again there is "the friend who can do everything", in this case, Squares, I just think that is such a cop out move by Coben. final verdict - I was completely entertained!

You can read an excerpt here at the author's website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

White Oleander by Janet fitch

From the author's website: Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery--but their idyll is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison.

White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become.

White Oleander was an Oprah book and I chose to listen to the audiobook which was read by...Oprah! It was a typical Oprah book in that every thing bad that could possibly happen to this poor girl happened. Whenever a new character was introduced, I was just waiting to see how they would further destroy this child and I was rarely let down. Oprah did a beautiful job reading the story and donated her proceeds to charity to help children in these dire circumstances. I may roll my eyes a bit at the stereotype of an Oprah book but I love an emotional read and this was no exception. Maybe I'll see about renting the movie.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

From the book website: January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

What a delightful book. I am not the only one enchanted by the folk of the Channel Islands; I had two different friends pass this book on to me and it has been all over the blogs. the site that is linked above has all sorts of good stuff to explore if you are interested.

This period of history, World War II, has fascinated me since I was about eleven or twelve and read both The Diary of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place. But as I get older, I realise that there is still more for me to discover about the time period. I didn't know about the part the Channel Islands played in the war. The residents evacuation of their children, the occupation by the Germans, and their near starvation as a result were all new information. The story is balanced by the romance and friendships of the main character Juliet so that it is both sad and joyful at times. The humor throughout was delightful. I loved the people and was sad to have the book end.

This is one of the books on my list for Fall Into Reading 2009. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I ordered a few books from Amazon and they came in the mail. Two of them were the result of reading this blog...The Literate I am considering sending Jennifer a copy of my Visa bill thank you note. The third is a David Sedaris - just because I love him and I needed to get my order up a few dollars to get the "free" super saver shipping. So here they are...

The Heretic Queen is the Facebook Historical Fiction Book Club selection for November 2009. We read another book by Michelle Moran, Nefertiti, in August 2009 and it got great reviews from the group - unfortunately - I procrastinated and didn't get it done.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower came on my radar when Jennifer posted an article about it being taken off the shelves of a high school because a parent had complained about the content. A couple folks expressed an interest in reading it, myself included, so she opened up a group for the discussion. My teenage daughter Bookworm recognized it and said it has been a popular book at her school.

And, Naked was my "I need a few more dollars to get super saver shipping" book. It's been on my wish list for awhile. When I went to search for "Naked Sedaris" my search engine sternly admonished me not to click through to see the images and after a pause for me to conjure up an image of a fully clothed Sedaris and then imagine him naked, I decided to take Bing's advice. Luckily this picture was on Wikipedia; it is a little out of proportion to the other covers - we all just have to live with it.