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Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
John Adams by David McCullough (audio)

Up Next:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Homeland by John Jakes
My big fat mass market paperbacks that I mentioned earlier I am taking on my vacation instead of buying an eReader as some have suggested would be more space- and weight-saving. But not more economical! All of these books (and Shogun) I bought used!

February Book Buying Confessions

So, I did not do much better this month in my effort to reduce my book purchasing. Here's what I bought.

for me:
True Grit by Charles Portis (B&N)
Going Bovine by Libba Bray (independent)
Pop-Cakes and a slow-cooker cookbook (these in theory are for my boyfriend since he's the cook, but it's really for me since I am the one who gets to eat without yummy food without cooking.) (B&N)
The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky (on clearance, $6 in hardcover, B&N)

for my boyfriend:
Different Seasons by Stephen King (B&N)
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner (B&N)


So far, my documenting of my purchases isn't really preventing me from purchasing. It's just increasing my guilt each time I write one of these posts. But perhaps I need more than 2 months for this to work. Also, I rejoined Audible.com. I haven't downloaded my first book yet, but I have paid for the monthly subscription.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: The Great Good Thing: A Novel by Roderick Townley

A book where the main character is the main character in a book! At first I thought this was going to turn out to be The Eyre Affair for teens, but alas no.

The book starts out very cute. Sylvie is a 12-year-old princess in a book that hasn't been read for years. But they get a new reader, and life is lively again! But Sylvie's curiousity is piqued - why the different new reader after all this time? And she breaks the biggest rule in her world - she looks up at the reader. And later, she follows the reader... off the page.

The book was really promising. It was a cute, endearing, funny piece of meta-fiction. However, the plot was kind of all over the place. Sylvie's new playmate, Claire, seems to have some problems and need Sylvie's help, but then she grows up and goes away. The book's original reader reappears as she has also grown up and died. She never gets a name which was odd and pointless. The book-within-a-book is lost in a fire, and most of the major characters escaped into Claire's dreams.

The book meanders and wanders here and there. The author had some good ideas, but needed more focus. Perhaps the second book brings all the loose ends together, but one shouldn't need to read the second book for the first to gel. Books should stand on their own, even within a series. I wanted to love it, and while it was pretty adorable, it wasn't the children's meta-fiction brilliance I was hoping for.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: Shogun

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
"The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead."

Well that's certainly an opener that will suck you in! Action, adventure, pending death, what a way to start!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

A wonderful friend, B, who works at a bookstore in NH sent me this ARC. I got it yesterday, and just now finished it, in about 24 hours. I started reading it within an hour of it arriving at my door! I have mentioned before how much I adore the Little House books, how my youngest sister is named Laura, because we were reading the books when she was born and thought that was the best name in the world. I reread the books (at least the last 4) nearly every year, last year rereading the first 4 for the first time in many years. This year, a goal of mine is to reread Farmer Boy which I don't think I've reread since I hit double-digits. I've read the biography Laura by Donald Zochert more than once, I own the Little House Cookbook, and also Little House in the Ozarks (haven't read all of it but have read a handful of selections), and The Little House Sampler. I read one of the one-off series, I think the first book in the Rose series (or possibly it was in the Caroline series, I don't remember.) I've read Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane. I thought I was pretty much a Laura Ingalls savant. I am not.

Wendy McClure is a big fan. But she's gone on beyond me! She buys a churn and makes butter! And even better, as this new memoir details, she goes to visit all the Ingalls-Wilder sites across the U.S., which is something I've been wanting to do for more than 10 years. I came within 50 miles of the Wilder farm in upstate New York but didn't visit it. I am so kicking myself (if you have any idea where on the map this is, you'll see it's highly unlikely I'll ever get that close again without a specific trip to the middle of nowhere.)

Like me, Wendy loved Laura. She identified with Laura in her explorations, her enthusiasm, her bubbly personality and her loyalty. She wanted to be friends with Laura. She wanted a brindle bulldog and a sunbonnet. After her mother dies, Ms. McClure and her boyfriend decide to start their touring. Luckily they are in Chicago, so not terribly far from most of the sites, so it's pretty reasonable. They start in Pepin, Wisconsin, in The Big Woods, and next to Mansfield, Missouri. All the locations have tours, historical markers, gift shops, and so on. Naturally there is a lot of mixture between the original novels and the 1970s TV show which went wildly off-course in my opinion. I'm not sure I've ever seen the pilot which does sound much closer to the books, but no episode I ever watched bore any resemblance to my beloved books, aside from setting and character names. But I shouldn't disparage the TV show, as it brought millions of new readers to Mrs. Wilder's beloved books.

Ms. McClure goes into her journey with a lot of optimism and she finds that she is looking for home, for Ma. Nothing is terribly disappointing aside from the realization that she isn't Laura Ingalls, and is never going to be. Nostalgia, I'm sure, is coloring my opinion of this memoir, but I found it just marvelous. It made me terribly jealous, and even more determined to see a Ingalls site sooner rather than later. For anyone who grew up adoring the Little House books, wanting to be Laura's friend, this book will prove a must-read. I loved every minute I spent with Ms. McClure and I want a hay-stick of my very own.

I was given this book as a gift from a friend who did receive it from the publisher.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Moonwalking with Einstein


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

synopsis from the publisher:
Foer's unlikely journey from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion frames a revelatory exploration of the vast, hidden impact of memory on every aspect of our lives.

On average, people squander forty days annually compensating for things they've forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of memory training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.

Moonwalking with Einstein draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. Under the tutelage of top "mental athletes," he learns ancient techniques once employed by Cicero to memorize his speeches and by Medieval scholars to memorize entire books. Using methods that have been largely forgotten, Foer discovers that we can all dramatically improve our memories.

Immersing himself obsessively in a quirky subculture of competitive memorizers, Foer learns to apply techniques that call on imagination as much as determination-showing that memorization can be anything but rote. From the PAO system, which converts numbers into lurid images, to the memory palace, in which memories are stored in the rooms of imaginary structures, Foer's experience shows that the World Memory Championships are less a test of memory than of perseverance and creativity.

Foer takes his inquiry well beyond the arena of mental athletes-across the country and deep into his own mind. In San Diego, he meets an affable old man with one of the most severe case of amnesia on record, where he learns that memory is at once more elusive and more reliable than we might think. In Salt Lake City, he swaps secrets with a savant who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. At a high school in the South Bronx, he finds a history teacher using twenty- five-hundred-year-old memory techniques to give his students an edge in the state Regents exam.

At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer's bid to resurrect the forgotten art of remembering becomes an urgent quest. Moonwalking with Einstein brings Joshua Foer to the apex of the U.S. Memory Championship and readers to a profound appreciation of a gift we all possess but that too often slips our minds.

Publishing March 3rd 2011 by Penguin Press

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Hunger Games

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Problem With Bookcases

Once upon a time I loved loved loved a furniture store called Storehouse. And sadly, about 5 years ago, they all closed down. My bookcases are all from Storehouse. Downstairs in my living room I have 2 matching 5-shelf cherry bookcases. Upstairs in my bedroom I have a 5-shelf and a 2-shelf in white. I am getting a Happy Chair for my bedroom for reading. My bedroom is a really dark purple, so all my furniture and decor is very light - mostly white, creams, beige, etc. I want to move the 2 bookcases together into a corner, put a lamp on the little one, and make basically a library corner. But I need another bookcase.

I've got two knee-high book stacks in the living room that don't seem to be shrinking. My father has a white bookcase from Storehouse that would perfectly match mine (once I remove the optional desk attachment), but it's in Nashville. I'm in Charlotte. My car is big, but not that big! I can't figure out how to get it to me. I've tried googling Storehouse bookcases, but I don't get any listings that convince me the bookcases are really from Storehouse. I absolutely hate something that almost matches. I suppose I could rent a U-Haul pickup truck, but that seems like both a big pain (7 hour drive) not to mention a big expense for a bookcase (I'd either need to fly to Nashville, or drive twice!) I can already picture having this third white bookcase in my bedroom, and I'm bummed that I can't think of a relatively simple or inexpensive way to make this happen. Does anyone have any ideas? Or know who was the manufacturer of Storehouse's bookcases? I really want to make my library corner dreams come true!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Great Good Thing: A Novel by Roderick Townley

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
John Adams by David McCullough

Books I Still Need to Write Reviews On:
The Great Good Thing: A Novel by Roderick Townley

Up Next:
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
A Mountain of Crumbs: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova
The Laments: A Novel by George Hagen

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

How oh how did I manage to never read Anne of Green Gables when I was a child? I have a sister named Anne, and we used to watch the TV show and we liked it. But somehow I just never read it. The friend who loaned it to me warned me that people who come to Anne as an adult might not have the same love as those who read it as children, but I adored it!

Anne is such a well-rounded three-dimensional character from the minute we meet her. She's sweet, engaging, a chatterbox, and so well-intentioned, we love her from the start. What Ms. Montgomery does brilliantly, is also create very real and sympathetic characters in Matthew and Marilla, the older sister and brother who adopt her, who could come across as very flat and bland. Yet they come across as so loving and thoughtful and caring.

As we get to know Anne, the book speeds up. The first year she's at Green Gables is over half the book, but her 15th year is covered in just one chapter. The book altogether covers her from 11-16. That was an interesting component of the writing that I wasn't expecting and yet it worked. I was so glad to see Anne grow up, to see her become more mature and less silly over the years, to still value her imagination but not let it run away with her, to finally come around to forgiving Gilbert.

I have been filling in a few gaps in my literary background, and this is the first book in the gap-filling, where I really want to keep reading. I want to read the rest of the series! I am eager to see how Anne continues to grow and become an adult. I am worried about Marilla, and intrigued by Anne's pending relationship with Gilbert. Ms. Montgomery has created such a real world that I am completely vested in it. Bring on book #2!

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Hunger Games



Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

Hm, a little risque for a YA novel, but I know this book lies on the higher-end of YA. It's a very intriguing start!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

E-Book Resistance

I am going on a trip soon (a cruise actually!) and a few of my friends who have become Ebook fanatics have been harassing me as apparently it's not enough for me to spend thousands on this trip, but it's also the perfect time for me to drop another couple hundred on an Ebook reader. They have a dozen reasons why, but the #1 reason is that books are heavy, and of course I have to bring a ton of books.

Neither point will I argue. Normally for a vacation I bring 1 book per day. However, on this vacation I expect I will get in much less reading than usual, since I will be horseback riding, hiking, snorkling, kayaking, and parasailing (as opposed to my usual: laying near water.) Nonetheless, I will have flights and sailing days and who know what could happen so I need sufficient reading materials. Instead of a Kindle or a Nook, I have an adorable little book bag from Hyperion's Voice, and I have 4 enormous mass market books (two over 1000 pages!) Why is this such a terrible problem? I won't have to turn my book off when I take off or land, I won't have to worry about being out a ton of money if it's stolen (and seriously, who's going to steal a super-beat-up used copy of an old book?) or falls in the pool, and these are books I already own and want to read, and would have to rebuy at great expense to own them electronically. Not to mention, I'd need to have the cute tote bag anyway, for my bottled water, iPod, suntan lotion, and snacks. I just don't see this as a big deal. I am very, very much looking forward to my enormous beach reads, in print. Here is the list:



Shogun: A Novel of Japan
by James Clavell
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Homeland by John Jakes

I did a similar trick over Christmas, and it worked like a charm. If they were hardcovers, then it would be a problem, I agree. But I don't have to read hardcovers, or even trade paperbacks. Even though mass market's aren't very popular these days for non-genre fiction, there are still some available, or you can always find them used like I did. Fat mass markets are not very heavy, don't take up much room, and although I'm only taking 4 books for 8 days, I'm pretty sure I'll not run out of reading. If I do, there are always gift shops. Oh, and my cruise ship has a TWO STORY LIBRARY on it. If I wasn't already sold on the cruise line and the ship, that clinched it for me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Moby-Duck

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author by Donovan Hohn

synopsis from the publisher:
A revelatory tale of science, adventure, and modern myth.

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn's accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.

Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity.

Publishing March 3rd 2011 by Viking Adult.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: John Adams by David McCullough

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

John Adams by David McCullough

"Writing again, he stressed that the events of war are always uncertain. Then, paraphrasing a favorite line from the popular play Cato by Joseph Addison - a line that General Washington, too, would often call upon - Adams told her, "We cannot insure success, but we can deserve it."

I'm not sure where this is in the book. It's hard to do Teasers for an audio book. I've pulled this from the quotes list on Goodreads.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
John Adams by David McCullough
The Great Good Thing: A Novel by Roderick Townley

Up Next:
A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it's Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen by Gary Buslik - I'm going on a cruise to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks so this seems like a good book to read beforehand
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - for book club
Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: John Adams


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

John Adams by David McCullough

"In the cold, nearly colorless light of a New England winter, two men on horseback traveled the coast road below Boston, heading north."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee


Yes, this book is long. Yes, it's about cancer. But the book is terrific.

Dr. Mukherjee is himself an oncologist. He set out first to write about his own experiences, and then to write a history of cancer, and when he discovered the scope of the history, it became all that and more. Some of the history, going back to ancient times, is astonishing. And the science, while very accessible, is occasionally dry and technical. But that doesn't happen too often and isn't too pertinent to the overall story. Anyone can read this, regardless of science background, and science interest. Personally, I loved the stories of the different people involved, not only patients, but also researchers, doctors, fundraisers, and activists. It's interesting how often we hear names, such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Center, and don't think that there was really once a Doctor Farber who was a monumental cancer researcher.

The book is riveting. I thought about it all the time whenever I put it down. And of course cancer comes up quite a bit in everyday world, and I found myself referencing the book a lot (which I expect will continue for some time!) It gave me hope for the future of cancer treatment, and also hope overall for the science of fighting disease. Supremely well-written, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Twice he almost mentions the HeLa cells, recently made famous in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But he doesn't mention them by name or Ms. Lacks, just refers to her obliquely, I'm not sure why.

I bought this book online.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Say Her Name

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

synopsis from Goodreads:
In 2005, celebrated novelist Francisco Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in a romantic Mexican hacienda. The month before their second anniversary, during a long-awaited holiday, Aura broke her neck while body surfing. Francisco, blamed for Aura’s death by her family and blaming himself, wanted to die, too. Instead, he wrote Say Her Name, a novel chronicling his great love and unspeakable loss, tracking the stages of grief when pure love gives way to bottomless pain.

Suddenly a widower, Goldman collects everything he can about his wife, hungry to keep Aura alive with every memory. From her childhood and university days in Mexico City with her fiercely devoted mother to her studies at Columbia University, through their newlywed years in New York City and travels to Mexico and Europe—and always through the prism of her gifted writings—Goldman seeks her essence and grieves her loss. Humor leavens the pain as he lives through the madness of grief and creates a living portrait of a love as joyous as it is deep and profound.

Say Her Name is a love story, a bold inquiry into destiny and accountability, and a tribute to Aura, who she was and who she would've been.

Publishing by Grove/Atlantic March 28, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee p. 324

"Juxtaposed against Bezwoda's phenomenal results, Fox's agonizing struggle and untimely death seemed an even more egregious outcome. Convinced that the delayed transplant - not cancer - had hastened his sister's demise, Hiepler broadened his claims against Health Net and vigorously pushed for a court trial."

Nelene Fox died of cancer, after her HMO refused to pay for a bone marrow transplant. She raised the money on her own, but the procedure failed. Her brother then sued her HMO over her death, to force change and allow coverage for more aggressive treatments.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Books I gave up on:
I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley - I had been told this book of personal essays was funny, reminiscent of David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell, but instead I have found the essays boring, stereotypial (aren't New Yorkers crazy! With their small apartments and their small paychecks but it's so worth it because it's Manhattan!), and navel-gazing to the extreme. That's normally an adjective that I deplore when it comes to describing a memoir, as they are by definition navel-gazers and that's why we read them - but I'm sorry, to me Ms. Crosley isn't any more interesting than a typical 20-something New Yorker, and no, not everyone has a story to tell. At least they don't have one that everyone else needs to read. If nothing especially interesting has happened in their life, the writing had better be seriously fricking hysterical, which this was not. I listened to 1/3 of the book and I just can't bring myself to finish.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee - it's very long, but I'm over half-way through!


Up Next:
John Adams by David McCullough (audio) - I saw the HBO miniseries last week and decided to break out the audio book I have on my iPod. I tried to listen to it a couple of years ago and didn't get far. I think that's because I was trying to listen while at work, and the book needs my undivided attention, not so good for multitasking. So now I will listen while walking and driving.

Also, why are audio books on CD so impossible to rip to iTunes? This book is in 345 separate files (24 CDs averaging 15 tracks each) which all have to be sorted to be in precisely the right order ahead of time or you're screwed. And this is a big reason why I've had this for at least 2 years without even listening to it, along with the audio versions of Einstein (310) or A. Lincoln (2052 files!!) And my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain I can't listen to at all. In addition to chapter numbers, there are also files with no chapter numbers, but titles instead. How on earth am I supposed to know what order they go in? Does "As Gently As I Could" go before chapter 10? or before "After a Long Silence?" Audio book publishers need to get this straightened out. Or I'm likely to never listen to a CD again, only downloads. (My car has a tape deck, so the option of actually listening to the CDs instead of to the ripped files isn't an option.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book Review: Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce


How did I miss this book? I thought maybe it was a contemporary historic book, but nope, it was published in 1958. Young Tom is sent off to his childless aunt and uncle when his brother gets the measles. At first he's expecting the summer to really be boring and awful, but one night when the landlady's grandfather clock strikes 13, he sneaks downstairs from the apartment to the back door, and finds a magical garden. Every night after that, he sneaks out. At first he thinks no one can see or hear him, but he eventually find out the young girl in the house, Hatty, can in fact see and hear him.

Tom and Hatty climb trees, shoot bow and arrows, and just play. Tom lives for his nights when he can sneak out, and back into the Victorian era. He writes his brother long letters describing everything that happens, to tide him over in his convalescence. Eventually Tom notices that Hatty is getting much older. Time in the garden doesn't move at the same speed as in the now. And Tom starts to wonder about the magic that creates this window into the past, and its link to the mysterious grandfather clock that chimes the wrong time.

This book uses a lot of typical middle reader tropes - magic, time-travel, a secret friend - and yet they feel fresh and exciting. I was riveted to the story and couldn't wait to find out the secrets myself. The story is magical and atypical. The aunt and uncle aren't horrible. The big nightmare about staying with them is a little boredom, and rich foods. Hatty is a little bit of a tomboy but not overly so. Ms. Pearce didn't take the easy way out by going to extremes and jumping on stereotypes. All the characters are three-dimensional and fully-drawn. With a boy as the main character, and a girl as the major secondary character, it would appeal equally to both genders. A lovely and captivating story, I wish I'd discovered it when I was a child.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: In Office Hours

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway
from the publisher:
In Office Hours is the story of Stella and Bella, two intelligent working women who each fall for impossible lovers--at work. Kellaway's keen observations on the way in which affairs move from state to state are a sort of masterclass in office love, bringing to life both the excitement of illicit romance and the ridiculousness of business behavior and language with a sharp sense of humor.

In Office Hours is intelligent, funny, moving and agonizing, but it's also so painfully reconizable to any woman who has ever worked in an office or ever been in love. Kellaway hits a real nerve with her depictions of how people come to get into the emotional messes that we do and then how very difficult it is to get out again.

February 7th 2011 by Grand Central Publishing

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious


Wow! This book was everything I'd been led to believe and more! I know it was "America's most controversial novel" (according to the back copy of my 1957 edition), but I worried that in the intervening 55 years that what was considered scandalous in the 1950s would nowadays be unintentionally cute and even humorous. I was wrong! Illegitimacy, adultery, drunkenness, violence, rape, murder, incest, dismemberment, illegal abortions, and the list goes on! On top of that, the writing is first rate.

Ms. Metalious uses an interesting narrative technique - while the book is entirely in 3rd person, each chapter is focused on a single townsperson. Occasionally we circle back and see the same characters repeatedly - by this method we learn the main characters, Allison and Connie MacKenzie, and Selena Cross. It really reveals the inner workings of the town of Peyton Place, the depth of the dark secrets, and the truly good people of the town when you're able to hear the innermost thoughts of dozens of them. And never are you confused despite a very large character base. She frequently reintroduces characters, but not in a way that feels repetitive or pedantic. She writes with an evocative style and a reader can smell the sharp Indian summer dryness, or feel the cold slipperiness of the local pond. Normally a salacious read such as this doesn't have the literary quality of Peyton Place. I have spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire and New England, and this book really rings true.

Peyton Place reminds me a lot of "Mad Men". It takes place only 10 years earlier, and peels the mask off the very shiny, plastic, Stepford Wives veneer of the era, showing the depression, lust, mistakes, and honest thoughts that lie beneath. Certain things are still very true. At the end of the book, Clayton Frazier notes to an out-of-town reporter that the townspeople who scream the loudest about issues are always the ones who later ironically prove to have been most guilty of precisely what they were raving about! He was interested to see who would scream loudest after the trial, and the parallels to the protest of various New Hampshire towns (naturally, the author's hometown protesting most) after the publication of the book, are duly noted.

I dragged this out on purpose. It was easy to get into, easy to love, and the characters were easy to remember even after a couple of days gap. Don't let its length put you off! (Although I was surprised by that myself. It is physically half the width of my copy of Clan of the Cave Bear, and so I was shocked to flip to the end and see the page count was nearly the same!) A wonderful distraction, be sure to throw a copy in your beach bag this summer!

I have no idea when or where I acquired this book. It's an old (original paperback) edition that I obviously got used somewhere. Garage sale? Street vendor in New York? Used bookstore? I have no idea, but it certainly didn't come from the publisher or a new bookstore.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Emperor of All Maladies

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee p. 24

"In 1899, when Roswell Park, a well-known Buffalo surgeon, had argued that cancer would someday overtake smallpox, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis to become the leading cause of death in the nation, his remarks had been perceived as a rather 'startling prophecy,' the hyperbolic speculations of a man who, after all, spent his days and nights operating on cancer. But by the end of decade, Park's remarks were becoming less and less startling, and more and more prophetic by the day."

In fact as you can probably guess, it took far less than 100 years for his prophecy to come true. In only 25 years, cancer was the #2 killer, behind only heart failure. Partly this was due to a reduction of deaths due to the three previous winners, which were beaten by good hygiene, clean water, and vaccines. But the rise in cancer deaths was astronomical in the same time period.