Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Orchard

“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:

The Orchard: A Memoir by Theresa Weir

synopsis from GoodReads:
The Orchard is the story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected.

Rejected by her husband's family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, even as she falls more deeply in love with her husband, a man she at first hardly knew and the land that has been in his family for generations. She becomes a reluctant player in their attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard, but she and Adrian eventually come to know that their efforts will not only fail but will ultimately take an irreparable toll.

Publishing September 21st 2011 by Grand Central Publishing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: The Women by T. C. Boyle

I wanted to like this book. I had heard great things when it first came out. I read and loved Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. I had watched a PBS special about Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns. So I had high hopes. And they were dashed.

For some reason, the author has written the book as if it were written in 1979 by a Japanese man who was one of Wright's assistants in the late 1930s, and then translated by his son in law. He has purportedly done research about all the wives previous to Olgivanna, Wright's wife when our "author" lived and worked at Taliesen, although it is written not as if it were researched by a third party, but from the points-of-view of various people in the story. So chapters are written from the point of view of Kitty, the first wife, Mameh, the first mistress, Miriam, the second wife, Olgivanna, and a few other people. Our "author" writes an introduction to each of the 3 sections of the book which is about himself. There is no author's note giving us readers a clue about whether or not Tadashi is also based on a real person.

So there is this very awkward and elaborate framing done, which intrudes throughout with footnotes from Tadashi, and in the end I found I was still at a loss as to what this frame was supposed to bring to the book, aside from demonstrating Boyle's clever writing skills. Also, the three sections each jumps back in time, which also was jarring and didn't seem to serve much purpose. The only reason for it was to end with the most dramatic event in Wright's life, which does not happen at the end of his life. So that seemed a little like a cop-out. And my other issue was regarding Miriam. She starts out the book. The whole first section which is supposed to be about Olgivanna, is dominated by Miriam (who won't give Frank a divorce so he can marry her.) Then naturally the second section, Miriam's section, is also all about Miriam. But the last 25% of the book, she just vanishes. She's dragged back in the last page as a way to try to balance it out, but one page can't make up for her having just disappeared for more than 100 pages. Finally, I found Boyle's writing long-winded (many sentences go on for paragraphs).

The material is interesting. Wright is a pompous ass and a ladies man, and he desperately wanted to be famous and yet hated journalists, so his life was inevitably going to be interesting. But the book felt very show-offy. I kept getting pulled out of the story by Boyle's many tricks for him to show me another one, when I didn't really care if there was a rabbit in his hat or if he would pick my card out of the deck - I wanted him to leave me alone so I could find out what happened. Good material, poor execution. If this book interests you, please read Loving Frank. I didn't hate it, but it did an excellent job of annoying me throughout.

I do not remember where I got this book, as I have had it for over two years. It is possible the publisher sent it to me, although not for a review as I did not have a blog at that point.

Teaser Tuesdays: Immoveable Feast

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!

Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter p. 39

"But if living in Europe had taught me anything, it was the pointlessness of straining to attain someone else's standards. It was not only our right but our duty to take pleasure gratefully when and wherever it was offered."

I think that's a good motto to live by, don't you?

Monday, August 29, 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 Women by T.C. Boyle
...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin by Norah Vincent

Up next:
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich
Getting In: A Novel by Karen Stabiner

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tough Customer: Books for a 12-year-old Boy

My BF is tutoring a 12-year-old boy, and one of the goals is getting him to read more. "No problem!" I said. So this summer we went to the bookstore with his summer reading list. He had to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond which I was pretty sure he wouldn't like even though it was awesome (I was right. He hated it, but it was required reading.) And then I was looking through the list of supplemental books, where he had to choose one. I got to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and I said, that's it. I hadn't ever even read the book but I knew it was very popular with boys and was about living outdoors or something. He loved it!

So then we thought we'd try to get him to read more, and naturally Brian's Winter had to come next, another success. And then last week his mother told us that he took The River by Paulsen, said he was going to read for "just 15 minutes" and then 2 1/2 hours later had finished the entire book which was "awesome." She told us to buy him a dozen or so books - she trusts our (my!) suggestions, yay! So we went to another Borders going out of business sale (now 50-70% off) and while of course they didn't have all the books I had in mind, they did have a couple, which I supplemented with other books they had that either hadn't come to mind initially, or I just hadn't ever heard of at all. While we're thrilled he liked Gary Paulsen so much, we don't want him to get so stuck on one author that he's unwilling to try others. Here's what we got:

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Newbery Winner
The Omnivore's Dilemma (Young Reader's Edition) by Michael Pollan
That Was Then, This is Now by S. E. Hinton
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Newbery Honor)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newbery Winner)
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Newbery Winner)
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (Newbery Honor)
Peak by Roland Smith
Redwall by Brian Jacques

I think it's a good mix. One nonfiction, 3 modern classics, 5 Newbery Winners/Honors, 2 post-apocalyptic novels, 2 set in Asia, 2 historicals, 1 action/adventure, 1 fantasy, 1/2 by women (although I'll bet he doesn't figure out that S. E. Hinton is a woman.)

Because the BF (and me) want to read most of these before we give them to him, were going to dole them out. But because we want to see which ones appeal to him most and which he would pick, we're going to let him select the order. We're entering them into his GoodReads account, so he can read about them and pick.

Any suggestions for the next batch of books after these? Do you think I picked a good list? I do hope he likes these. This is exactly when boys often stop reading, and I think if we can get him through the next couple of years with pre-selected books specifically chosen with him in mind, we can maybe make him a lifelong reader.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne goes to college! And this is treated as fairly normal (although of course there are girls, such as Anne's best friend Diana still get married right after high school) which impresses me for a book 100 years old! Now the girls who do take this course are referred to as "B.A.s" which I find pretty funny. Some people who call them that do mean to be demeaning by it, as they think that much education is just silly and unnecessary, but most of the people in Anne's life understand her thirst for knowledge and for more than can be found on Prince Edward Island alone, as much as she adores it.

So she heads off to Redmond College with Priscilla, and Gilbert is going there too. They meet up with a vivacious girl named Philippa, and have loads of fun, while also getting good grades. Anne meets a tall, dark, handsome stranger, Roy, who is soon sending her flowers and poetry. Is he the one?

This book is less a collection of sequential short stories than the previous two books. And while it took me a while to figure out what it was, there's certainly an overarching theme to the book: what is love? Anne, a lover of literature, has learned about love solely through romantic books, and she thinks it must be mysterious and magical, with poems and flowers and flights of fancy. When Gilbert actually proposes, she tells him (to everyone's surprise I believe) that she doesn't love him! She thinks of him only as a friend. As you and I, dear reader, perhaps already know, friendship of course is another form of love, and perhaps an even stronger one. Will Anne keep Gilbert as a friend while marrying Roy? Will Gilbert, hurt by her rejection, leave Anne's life forever? Will sense win out in the end over superficial fripperies? It's very funny to see Anne (an English major, by the way), learning that perhaps lessons learned in books need to be tempered with real-life lessons.

I am really looking forward to book 4! I think I liked this book best of the first three. As sweet a character as Anne was as a young girl, she was also a bit exhausting which I don't find her anymore. I also prefer the overarching storyline, as opposed to multiple short stories. I hope they continue to improve with each book!

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, August 26, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Women

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 Women by T.C. Boyle

"I didn't know much about automobiles at the time - still don't for that matter - but it was an automobile that took me to Taliesin in the fall of 1932, through a country alternatively fortified with trees and rolled out like a carpet to the back wall of its barns, hayricks and farmhouses, through towns with names like Black Earth, Mazomanie and Coon Rock, where no one in living memory had ever seen a Japanese face."

While this is the story of Frank Lloyd Wright and three of his women (two eventually became wives), it is narrated by a Japanese intern from later in Wright's career, and I honestly don't really understand why Boyle uses this conceit even though I'm 2/3 of the way through the book.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Fiction Ruined My Family

“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:

Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

synopsis from the publisher:
Jeanne Darst was born the youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated family long past its glory days. For the early part of her life, the family survived on the memory of past generations’ grandeur, and the romantic belief that Jeanne’s father would restore that greatness with his destined career as a novelist. Within a few years, though, it was abundantly clear to everyone but her father that despite the many years enslaved to the writer’s craft and lifestyle, he was never going to sell a book. By her adolescence, the family was broke, and her mother was consoling herself with nightly boozefueled weep-a-thons, yet her father was still too possessed by the dream to stop and get a job.

Later Jeanne realizes she has inherited both the gene for alcoholism and the gene for wanting to write, and she isn’t sure which is more devastating. Does her need to write, to tell stories, mean that she’s doomed to repeat the mistakes of her father, or can she find a way to move beyond her family’s curse, and not have fiction ruin her life?

Now sober and a productive writer, she looks back on all those years with warmth, affection, and a moving degree of understanding—as well as wicked, deadpan humor.

Publishing October 2011 by Riverhead.

Monday, August 22, 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:
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Women by T.C. Boyle
Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin by Norah Vincent (audio)

Up next:
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides
Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

When this book first came out in hardcover, it was recommended to me very strongly by someone whose opinion I trusted. I read the first 20 pages, and got so depressed I wanted to kill myself! I put it down and swore never to read it. Even when my best friend forced a copy of it on me 10 years ago. But several years ago, I listened to Teacher Man on audio, and it was great. So I thought that might be the solution for me with Angela's Ashes. Teacher Man was so funny - and I could tell that a large part of that was the way Frank McCourt read the book. He has a terrific voice for these, really expressive and emphatic.

I am so glad I finally listened to this! I just downloaded the audio of 'Tis, so finish off the trilogy. Frank's story is very sad, but with the audio version, I could see the humor in his tale. The pathos of growing up terribly, terribly poor mostly in Ireland, would be too much to take without the humor. Frank starts off his story by saying that his parents should have stayed in New York, and not gone back to Ireland, however I think they would have been just as bad off in New York, if not worse because there they wouldn't have had even the meager amount of familial assistance that they got, mostly from Angela's family. I must say I was actually pretty impressed with Frank's father, aside from the drinking. Now, if you take away the drinking here's very little left, but in those times he was great. He was never abusive, always supportive and caring. But in the end, he was the reason for the family's downfall.

But what makes the book is Mr. McCourt's writing. There are thousands of memoirs, but this is the pinnacle of the genre, and it's not because anything particularly unique or interesting happens. It's because Mr. McCourt is a fantastic writer. He really conveys the feeling of living in these hovels in Limerick, but without bogging down the story with a lot of details. At the same time, he has remembered a huge amount of details from when he was a very young child. The story is at times tragic, mostly horrible, and occasionally interspersed with moments of light and hope. I loved it, and listened to it every chance I got. I am really looking forward to 'Tis, even knowing how things work out since I read the last book first! I am so glad I didn't give up on this book, and instead found a way to read it that worked for me.

I bought this book from Audible.

Book Review: The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese

Like everyone else, I read Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone a couple of years ago when it was the hottest thing since sliced bread. So when I saw the author had another book (two in fact) and they were memoirs, I of course wanted to read them. The Tennis Partner is his second memoir (I guess I'm reading his books in reverse.)

Abraham has just moved to El Paso, Texas, where he stands out like a sore thumb, an Indian raised in Africa. He is a doctor at the teaching hospital which he loves, he has two little boys that he adores, and his wife wants a divorce. He is new to town, has few friends, feels unmoored, and is grateful when he meets David, an older medical student (therefore nearly Abraham's age) who he can play tennis with. David had briefly been a professional tennis player, a fact which awes Abe, as that was his childhood dream. But soon his bubble is burst when he discovers why David is a few years behind his peers: he has just returned from a forced hiatus from school, during which time he went to an extended in-patient rehab program and then completed one year of sober living, due to his cocaine addiction.

When Abe learns this he is concerned and worried for his friend, but David seems on the right track. He is complying with all the requirements for his return, mostly cheerfully, he seems accepting of his situation, understanding of his addiction, and dedicated to medicine. His friendship is a crucial bit of normalcy in Abe's life, which has become quite discombobulated. Abe helps David get on a research project, and eventually pulls some strings to get David a residency in his department. But David is not doing as well as Abe had thought. And things start to go downhill, quickly.

It was fascinating to read an addiction memoir that isn't from the addict's point of view (Let's Take the Long Way Home doesn't count because even though it is written by the friend of Caroline, the author herself is also an addict, plus Caroline stopped drinking before the book began.) Abe doesn't know any more about addiction that I do, and he's a doctor. He is alternately hopeful and scared, angry and hurt, wanting to help but afraid of being an enabler. Addiction isn't any easier on Abe or David, just because they're in the medical field.

In fact, addicts in medicine are a particularly tough bunch to treat. They have incredible access to drugs (most doctor addicts are anesthesiologists), are unwilling to admit anything is wrong, and need to keep their patients' trust. It's an important topic rarely discussed, although it is briefly touched on in Atul Gawane's Complications.

But I digress. In The Tennis Partner, initially it is David who is helping Abe to settle in, have a friend, feel normal despite the chaos of divorce. At the end it is David who desperately needs help from Abe. I'll admit I got choked up at the end. Things do go very wrong, but not exactly in the way I expected.

Dr. Verghese is very good at explaining medical terms for lay people, and even better at explaining his passion for people, and his fascination with puzzling out tricky diagnoses. The tennis terminology is more likely to throw off lay people, and the tennis names are very dated (the book was published in 1999 but takes place in the early 90s, and he often talks of tennis greats from his childhood, in the 70s.) But you really don't need to understand that in order to fully appreciate the book. It is a tragic story, and a powerful one. Even doctors don't have the answers when it comes to addiction.

I got this book at the Friends of the Library sale.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

“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:

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

Description from GoodReads:
November 1958 the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was one of the most prestigious sporting events in the country. In the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition, hotheaded thoroughbreds piloted by seasoned professionals awaited their turn to take on the course of towering hurdles. Into the ring trotted the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry's modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. The even-tempered nag was wonderful with Harry's children and made a quiet lesson mount. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit—so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.

But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry's barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.

Based on the insight and recollections of “the Flying Dutchman” himself, Elizabeth Letts tells the dramatic and powerful true story of this unlikely duo's rise to stardom—from the de Layer family's farm in Harry's native Holland, through the horrors of the Nazi occupation, to his hope of a new life in America, where Harry's spirit and drive were matched by those of the plow horse he saved from the killer van. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. As Letts writes, “The message is simple--never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.”

Publishing August 23 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Women

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 Women by T.C. Boyle

"She heard Alice cry out 'Stop!' in a breathless gasp and then there were more footsteps and a man's voice was repeating the injunction even as the door of the room across from hers was flung open and a woman entered her line of vision, all skirts and hat and angry flailing shoulders. A thought darted in and out of her head - should she try to hide the baby, tuck her in under the bedclothes, the pillows, slip her down on the floor beneath the bed? - and then the door flew back and and there she was, Miriam, her face bloated and red, her eyes set close as an animal's, Miriam in the flesh, her mouth twisting round the only word she could summon: 'You!' she shouted. 'You!'"

Wow, I didn't realize how long Boyle's sentence were until I tried to pick out two for the teaser. This is the very first time that Frank Lloyd's wife #2 (Miriam) meets wife #3-to-be (Olgivanna).

Monday, August 15, 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 Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Women by T.C. Boyle

Up next:
Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
Tis by Frank McCourt

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: Angela's Ashes

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.

Angela's Ashes : A Memoir by Frank McCourt

"My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. "

Honestly, I don't know that things would have been any better in America. I think Frank's father would have drank no matter where they were, and although their family wasn't enormously helpful, they were a little bit, and that help wouldn't have been there for them in New York.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Girls in White Dresses

“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:

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

description from GoodReads:
Wry, hilarious, and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three young women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love—all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are going to be bridesmaids in Kristi’s wedding. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, eat tiny sandwiches, and drink mimosas. They’re all happy for Kristi, but they do have the ups and downs of their own lives to cope with. Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, where she’s extremely successful, and wildly unhappy. Mary is in love with a man who may never love any woman as much as he loves his mother. And Lauren, a waitress at a midtown bar, finds herself drawn to a man she’s pretty sure she hates.

With blind dates and ski vacations, boozy lunches and family holidays, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

Publishing August 16 by Knopf.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Tennis Partner

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 Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese p. 62

"David looked at me strangely and shuffled his feet. As if he was bothered instead of intrigued by this bit of medical trivia."

David's discomfort discussing people who shoot up Ritalin is our first hint that something might be amiss in this medical student.

Book Binge: A Confession

Earlier this year I decided to try to track my book purchases in an effort to minimize them. I'd needed to economize, plus I have more than 300 books in my house that I haven't read yet, so it seems like not buying more should be a simple thing to do. It's been insanely hard, though.

Two months ago I was doing great. But then, two weeks ago I unexpectedly got a small (but large enough) windfall. And then I got notice about the discounts at Borders.

So the BF and I went to the Borders nearer to us (the closest one went OOB about 6 months ago in the first round of closings.) I was wandering around with my GoodReads app pulled up on my phone, determined to only buy books already on my TBR list and nothing else. But I found one book not on the list that was a YA so it was lower-priced than a similar adult book and I decided it was okay. And then another. And yet, I was still trying to be good.

I was thinking, "well, I'll only get paperbacks. They're not too pricey even though it's only 20% off. I'll wait until next week to get the hardcovers." But in the back of my mind I thought, this is silly. The difference between getting those books this week and next is only 10%, not 30%. Plus, by next week who knows what they'll still have. And even if they still have books I want, I won't be able to find them. (Why do customers think it's okay to trash a store just because it's going out of business? All these poor employees have just been told they're fired in a month, and so it's okay to make their last month extra-hard? Where is the logic in that?)

So I had my little stack of books and I went to the fiction department. And I decided, screw it. I'm getting them. All. All the books that I want. I've got a big check, and decent discounts, when will that ever happen again? I got a basket.

I did stick to my list. Of the books I got only one was a true impulse buy that I hadn't even heard of before (Getting In by Karen Stabiner). The rest, if they weren't on my list, were books I had considered adding (and a couple I once had on the list but had culled) and books by authors I liked, along with one classic that I figured I should tackle one day (War and Peace). And between my BF and I we completely filled the basket to overflowing. I decided to get his books too (after all, how often do you find a BF who loves to read? That wonderful and rare trait should be rewarded. And 2/3 of the books were mine.)

I got home, stacked them up, gleefully added them to GoodReads, stuffed them into the bookcase, pondered which one I should read first, and yet, something wasn't quite right... Despite having spent more on books in 1 transaction than I ever have, not counting college textbooks, I hadn't been able to make as much of a dent in my Need To Buy list as I'd wanted. Some of those books now seemed to be taunting me. How could they not have any copies of Unbroken? Or In the Garden of Beasts? I know, they obviously sold out of these bestsellers and aren't getting more, but I felt a little defeated by my list. (Meanwhile, the cat very much enjoyed all the shopping bags.)

A few days later, I got an email from Borders. More discounting. And really, it's like offering crack to an addict. I herded the BF into the car and we went to the other Borders on the opposite side of town. Surely they had to have a different selection. And they did! I got the Hillenbrand (although not the Larson). I was a little better in this store at sticking to my list. This store was not quite as picked-over. Another 20 books!

And yet when I got home, the list continued to taunt me. Not to mention, guilt had started to rear its ugly head. What was I doing, staunch supporter of independent bookstores, giving many hundreds of dollars to a zombie chain store? Yes, it will go to the publishers who are owed oodles of dollars, and I certainly want to support them. But my local indie pays their publisher bills on time. So I decided a third excursion was in order.

Here I only got 6 books (after all they were full price and nearly all hardcover). But I also ordered 4 more. (The BF, completely book saturated, did not come on this trip.) Grand total for my book shopping in the last month: 49 books. Wow. So extravagant. But that Need To Buy list is pretty well whipped now.

You can guess what came next of course. The bookcases are due to be delivered on Friday. Luckily, I enjoy putting together furniture.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow

I read Presumed Innocent more than 10 years ago and it saved my opinion of legal thrillers, which I thought had been irreparably damaged by John Grisham. Ever since then, if I hear of a Grisham fan, I always tell him/her, "well if you like Grisham, you really need to try Scott Turow, because he can actually write." While that does remain true with The Burden of Proof, I do understand why it isn't as popular as his other books.

Sandy Stern, the defense attorney in Presumed Innocent, arrives home from a business trip to find his wife dead in her car in the garage, a suicide. Meanwhile, his biggest client, Dixon, his sister's husband, is being investigated by a grand jury, and Sandy needs to figure out what he's hiding and how best to defend him, while dealing with the repercussions of his wife's death. There is missing money, fraud, cheating, a nasty STD, lying, FBI informants, and amidst all this Sandy is trying to figure out the world of dating after more than 30 years off the market.

Normally even in a thriller, I try not to guess what's going to happen. I know some mystery/thriller fans consider this the best part of the genres, however I find that keeps me distant from the action and reminds me that I'm reading a book, so I try to get lost in the story instead and let the revelations come to me as they do to the characters. But this book is written in a leisurely, languid pace that does suit Sandy to a T, but is not as suitable to the legal thriller genre. It did allow - if not encourage - me to ponder the various possibilities and clues, and while the ending was well satisfying but not too obvious (and kudos to Mr. Turow on his big red herring which did completely throw me, but not in a way where later I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.)

Sandy is from Argentina, but of German descent, and he's at the upper end of middle age, living a comfortable, settled life, and he doesn't act impulsively or quickly. It is fascinating how Mr. Turow adjusted the pacing of his book to reflect his main character's personality, but in the end I think it wasn't as effective for the book overall. That said, I did still enjoy the book very much and found it very hard to put down towards the end. The 1989 setting didn't date it very much surprisingly (no email, and Sandy has a car phone, but that's it.) And I liked reading about a character who had been a minor character in another novel, now elevated to center stage. And I still think Mr. Turow can write circles around Mr. Grisham.

I bought this book, used, from a street vendor in NYC.

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:
Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen
The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese
Angela's Ashes : A Memoir by Frank McCourt (audio)

Up next:
Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent
Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College by Andrew Ferguson

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review: Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen

I never would have thought that I'd skip the second book in a series and go to the third, but in this series it kind of makes sense. The third book after Hatchet, goes back and erases the end of Hatchet when Brian was saved, and takes him into winter. I'm really glad Mr. Paulsen did this, as I did think when Brian was rescued just at the end of summer, that it was a bit of a cop-out.

Here we get more survival skills, more of Brian learning about the world, and relying on his ingenuity and observations. He's lonely, but survival is so much more important and all-consuming, that he doesn't have much time to dwell on his problems. I learned some very cool new facts (did you know in the far north - Canada - where it gets brutally cold, trees can explode in winter when the sap freezes and expands?) This book, like the first one, would be especially great for preteen boys. It deals with topics such as whether or not killing animals for food is wrong, and so there are ethical and practical discussion points. And the ending was appropriate, and didn't feel like it ended before the story was over, like Hatchet kind of did.

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, August 5, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Burden of Proof

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 Burden of Proof by Scott Turow

"They had been married for thirty-one years, and the following spring, full of resolve and a measure of hope, he would marry again."

I understand why authors like to give this kind of foreshadowing up front, but I found it awkward. I had to read the sentence about 3 times before I could even decide if it meant that he and his wife were going to have a recommitment ceremony, that kind of thing (no) or if he was remarrying someone else (yes). So I don't think this is very effective.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Home-Based Business For Dummies by Paul Edwards, Sarah Edwards, and Peter Economy

Normally when I read a Dummies book, I don't read it straight through, cover to cover like a novel, but I did with this one. I really wanted to be sure to get the maximum advice

Like all Dummies books, this one is chock full of useful information, and also some general common sense. It's written simply, in a way so as to not intimidate, but to give you the most information at a basic level. It was helpful and I did get some tips (or more often, validation of what I was already doing/thinking). But, it was a bit focused in its scope. I couldn't count how many times they advised potential entrepreneurs to stay at their current job and do the home-based business on the side for as long as possible, to build up customer base and revenue stream before quitting. Well, this book was just revised last year and does mention the current economic downturn, so why does it never acknowledge that some of us have decided to start up our own businesses after an unsuccessful job search? "Keep your day job" isn't very good advice if a lot of the people in your audience already don't have one.

That said, it is a thorough guide, albeit very general both in advice which can't be tailored to your type of business, and also to legalities which vary considerably state-to-state. I am glad to have read it, I am going to keep it as a reference, but I have gotten the bulk of advice on my company from networking and talking with other friends/associates who already have gone through the process. Like all Dummies books, great to have if you're starting at square one, probably a little simplistic if you're at square two.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Skyjack

“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:

Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray
synopsis from GoodReads:

“I have a bomb here and I would like you to sit by me.”

That was the note handed to a stewardess by a mild-mannered passenger on a Northwest Orient flight in 1971. It was the start of one of the most astonishing whodunits in the history of American true crime: how one man extorted $200,000 from an airline, then parachuted into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and into oblivion. D. B. Cooper’s case has become the stuff of legend and obsessed and cursed his pursuers with everything from bankruptcy to suicidal despair. Now with Skyjack, journalist Geoffrey Gray delves into this unsolved mystery uncovering new leads in the infamous case.

Starting with a tip from a private investigator into a promising suspect (a Cooper lookalike, Northwest employee, and trained paratrooper), Gray is propelled into the murky depths of a decades-old mystery, conducting new interviews and obtaining a first-ever look at Cooper’s FBI file. Beginning with a heartstopping and unprecedented recreation of the crime itself, from cabin to cockpit to tower, and uncanny portraits of characters who either chased Cooper or might have committed the crime, including Ralph Himmelsbach, the most dogged of FBI agents, who watched with horror as a criminal became a counter-culture folk hero who supposedly shafted the system; Karl Fleming, a respected reporter whose career was destroyed by a Cooper scoop that was a scam;and Barbara (nee Bobby) Dayton, a transgendered pilot who insisted she was Cooper herself.

With explosive new information and exclusive access to FBI files and forensic evidence, Skyjack reopens one of the great cold cases of the 20th century.

Publishing August 9th 2011 by Crown.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This is a rare instance where I was drawn in by a gorgeous cover, but I also had read some good reviews, and the book is about an intriguing medical condition I'd heard of before but didn't know much about (random trivia!), so it wasn't hard for me to talk myself into it. And I'm glad I did.

Sarah is a HR executive at a multi-million-dollar international consulting firm in Boston. She works 80 hour weeks, while somehow maintaining a marriage, two houses, and three children. Although everything is stressful, it's going well, until one day when she is in a hurry and making a phone call while driving in the rain on the Mass Turnpike. A glance away from the road ends in a terrible car accident. Sarah wakes up in the hospital, not realizing it's 8 days later, with dozens of metal staples in her head which feels like its on fire. She also doesn't realize her husband is int he room, because he is on her left side. And she no longer has a left side. At least, her brain doesn't think she does. Due to brain damage, she no longer understands "left", and at first she also doesn't understand that she doesn't understand it. Everything seems normal to her. After a few days in the hospital, she explained it to her husband Bob in a way that was really eye-opening to me. She had him describe what was in the room. She then said, "what if I told you, you're only seeing half of what's in the room? Where would you look to see the rest?" That's what she feels like when someone tells her to "look left." It's like trying to see the middle of her back. She knows it's there but she also knows she never will see it.

There is a long stretch in the hospital and doing rehab. Her estranged mother arrives to help, although Sarah doesn't want her to as her mother has been pretty absent in her life since her six-year-old brother died when she was seven. Bob is struggling to keep them afloat since they were pretty close to the financial edge before this accident, and now their oldest son, in first grade, might be diagnosed with ADD.

It might not sound interesting, what with the hospital and rehab and all, but it truly is. The book is more about relationships - Sarah's and Bob's, Sarah's and her mother, Sarah and the left side of her body. In fact, I stayed up an hour past my usual bedtime to finish it! Sarah is a really real character, easy to identify with. I very much like that she's an ambitious and competitive woman who wouldn't even consider giving up her successful career after having kids, and I also really like that her marriage is quite good. That said, I did find the book a tad predictable. I figured what was going to happen with her mother. I figured what she and Bob were going to do about their finances. I figured out the twist with the poster at the hospital. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing - it shows that Ms. Genova (sorry, Dr. Genova - she's a neuroscientist!) has appropriately set up her plot elements, if perhaps a tad too solidly. And for those of you who hate ambiguity or very realistic (read: not 100% happy) endings, you'll be glad to know everything is wrapped up in a bow at the end. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps a tiny bit simplistic. But I did really like the book, and I highly recommend it.

I got this book used at the Friends of the Library book sale.

Teaser Tuesdays: Left Neglected

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!

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova p. 62

"Before yesterday, Charlie's inability to listen or follow the simplest instruction annoyed me but in the typical way that I think most kids annoy most parents. Now, a tidal wave of fear and frustration rises inside me, and I have to fight to contain it, to keep it from spilling out and drowning us all."

I am not a parent myself but I have enough friends who are that I can imagine what it must feel like, to have your kid, who you thought was only normally annoying, to go to being labelled abnormal: the terror, the frustration, the anxiety.

Monday, August 1, 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:
Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Home-Based Business For Dummies by Paul Edwards, Sarah Edwards, Peter Economy

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (audio)

Up next:
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Peony in Love by Lisa See

Big announcement: I am officially an editor again!

I am officially announcing the launch of Carin Siegfried Editorial!

I was an editor at St. Martin's Press in NYC 2000-2004. I left for a variety of reasons (weather, cost of living, endless meetings) and I knew in relocating that my publishing employment opportunities in the Southeast likely wouldn't include editing. I figured that was okay. After all, I'd also been a bookseller and a buyer. As long as my job involved books, it was fine. And for 6 years that worked out great. I worked in sales, where I learned a great deal more about the industry from a different perspective, but after a while it got stale. You know what doesn't ever get stale? Reading books.

And editing books. I really do love it. It's a kind of weird thing to love - catching errors, noting issues, and basically trying to make someone else's life's work perfect. But it's always been my strong suit. I've always had a keen critical eye, and I luckily was taught from a very young age that I wasn't allowed to criticize something if I wasn't willing to try to fix it myself. I've never been one to read a book and think, "I could write better than that." But I have read books and thought, "I could have helped fix this."

My editing background is in developmental and line editing, but I also took a copy editing class at NYU and I offer that as well as proofreading. In addition, if you have a great idea and need help fleshing it out, I can do that. If you need help figuring out how to get published, I offer that too. I can do everything from researching agents to writing query letters to recommending jacket designers if you want to go the self-publishing route.

Please visit my website: http://www.cseditorial.com/. I am happy to give quotes and discuss projects.