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Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Kind of between books at the moment, what with it being the very end of the year.
Up next:
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Carin's Book of the Year 2012

Wow, this year it was a terrible hard decision. In fact, I had a different book listed for a while, but I had to go back and change it before it posted. I read several wonderful books this year. Should I pick the young adult novel that kept me reading, weeping, until the wee hours of the morning? What about the 1000+ page book that is my best friend's favorite book of all time, and when I finished with it, I wished it went on and on? Or the nonfiction book about feminism that I can't stop recommending to people and read in just 24 hours? Alas, I can't have a half a dozen best books, so here's the one that I think will stand the test of time:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

I have used passages from this book as examples when explaining to my editorial clients how to show, not tell. It was beautiful, profound, simple and yet dealt with major issues (racism, prejudice). I read many, many passages aloud to my boyfriend while I read it, and it's the only book I recall that when he came home and I was early finished I ordered him to be quiet until I was done. It is like a wonderful Masterpiece Theater production -- very British and quiet, and yet lives on within you months afterward. Masterfully written, I find it utterly astonishing that it is the author's first book.

I hope Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali live long and happy lives. And I really hope someone at the BBC has bought the film rights! If you haven't yet, you must read this book!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne

I was intrigued by the book which is set in my hometown of Nashville, and when a college friend strongly recommended it, I decided to buy it for my step-mother for Christmas, and read it myself first.

Delia has to come back to Nashville from Chicago because when her sister Ginna died six months ago in a car wreck, she left Delia her house. Which is a little unusual as Ginna was married with two daughters, but she was recently separated, so everyone assumes that's why she changed her will just a few weeks before she unexpectedly died.

So Delia has to clean out and sell this large, expensive home, deal with her teenage nieces and estranged brother-in-law, and most annoyingly, her mother. Realtors come out of the woodwork, including Henry Peek, who Delia knew back in high school, and is just as cute as ever and is he also possibly interested in Delia? Who is the annoying neighbor Angus to Ginna and why does he say such horrible things to Delia? What secrets was Ginna keeping when she died and why? Can Delia really reconnect with her sister and heal old wounds, even after her sister is gone?

When it starts raining and seems like it will never stop, Delia's family has to pull together to salvage themselves from the Flood of 2010. What Delia learns in this month she spends in Nashville will change her life forever, but what will she decide to do with her new-found knowledge?

I did really like all the references to Nashville (although no locals I know eat at Pancake Pantry - that is strictly for tourists and Vanderbilt students. Also it only would take 5 minutes to get from Bowling Ln. to Tin Angel, not enough time for a long, serious conversation. But these are minor quibbles.) The references were very particular to just the neighborhood around Bowling Ln and West End Avenue, as Delia never seemed to venture even to Green Hills (which is only 10 minutes away.) But some people do live a very small life geographically. I like that the book presents Nashville very well, with only a tiny bit of the music scene, and mostly just regular life, which is how 99.9% of the residents experience it. It was also neat to read about the flood. I wasn't there for it, as the Nashville marathon was the weekend beforehand, but I did see some of the results -- mostly on the news and internet, but I later took some pictures of the house across the street from my father, which was swept off its foundation. To my knowledge, the owners have never been let back in (I know, it's now 2.5 years later!) as it is too dangerous, so they had to abandon all their belongings.

The book was an interesting story about adult sisters and how your relationship is both still tight and yet very distant as lives separate and move in different ways, and yet you do still long for closeness, although it may well be impossible. But that doesn't mean understanding and love is impossible. It was highly entertaining and emotional, and I really enjoyed it. It's of course perfect for anyone who lives in or is from Nashville, but anyone will enjoy it.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The World Until Yesterday


“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 World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the bestsellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse returns to our past in search of a better future.

Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.

The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years—a past that has mostly vanished—and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.

This is Jared Diamond's most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn't romanticize traditional societies—after all, we are shocked by some of their practices—but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World Until Yesterday will be essential and delightful reading.

Publishing December 31, 2012 by Viking.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Bowling Avenue

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!

Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne p.40

"And one other thing: she wanted your help with so many things, but she could never ask. She felt judged by you, and that was hard for her."

Whoa! Delia has just found out the truth about what her deceased sister Ginna really thought about her from one of Ginna's neighbors. It's bad enough to lose a sister, but even if you haven't been the best sister in the world (and who is?), is this kind of vicious honesty really called for? Particularly when there's nothing you can do to fix the situaion? This felt really cruel and very understandable that it would cut Delia to the core.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)

Up next:
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
How it All Began by Penelope Lively

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book review: The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

It is hard to review a book like this, but I review all my books. It was funny, as expected. I learned a little science, which was not expected. Stupid people died. Some survived. Some are now infertile and can no longer contribute to the gene pool. This book is great to read if you're looking for a no-brainer, if you're sick, if you need a book to take to a noisy, busy place that will not involve concentration or thought, the Darwin Awards books are ideal. It was cute, funny, and made me feel very smart. What more can you ask for?

I was given this book as a gift.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Beginnings: Bowling Avenue

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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.

Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne

"The burglar alarm is wailing like a wounded child, and I have no idea how to turn it off."

Even when you do know the code, that's a horrible sound. And I like that she called it "wounded," as our narrator is going into her sister's house without the code because her sister has died.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Last Runaway

“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 Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.

Publishing January 8, 2013 by E.P. Dutton.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

I thought reading this book around the holidays would be perfect timing - it could inspire me to eat less bad stuff and exercise more. Don't know how effective that was, but I did enjoy it thoroughly.

Like his previous books, this is another stunt memoir by Mr. Jacobs (the only stunt memoirist I know of to do multiple stunts.) After reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (including appendices) and following ALL of the rules in the Bible, he now set out on a 2-year effort to become the healthiest man alive (or so he says.) He looked at everything from sleep to toxins to organic food to barefoot running to noise pollution to treadmill desks. By no means did he make any major changes permanently, but what I did find the most interesting were the changes he decided to adapt for the long-term (treadmill desk, a short list of toxins to avoid and foods to buy organic, wearing his noise-cancelling headphones most of the time, and generally being more active.) As usual, one of the things I love most about Mr. Jacobs's books is the assortment of fun facts, such as exercising outdoors is better for you and people who own cats are thirty percent less likely to have a heart attack.

Unexpectedly, there is a bit of a narrative thread throughout the book involving Jacobs's family, particularly his grandfather who seems like an adorable man (he was the lawyer for the artist Christos!) That added a lovely element as you don't often get much of a narrative in these types of books unless the "stunt" is being done in order to achieve a particular singular goal instead of just to do. (And "being healthy" isn't exactly what I mean by a singular goal.) Jacobs is engaging, fun, inspiring in his own lumpiness, and I always zip through his books (and I think this is the thickest one yet!) as they're easy reads. I laughed several times, teared up once and was shocked another time. You might not think a book about health would have such emotional resonance, but I swear it does. As usual, I think his wife Julie is a trooper (I can't believe she'd agree to try one of those cleansing juice diets for her husband's book.) This is a very entertaining, inspiring, and fun book that you ought to read. I am going to now go walk three miles. You should too.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Teaser Tuesdays: Drop Dead Healthy

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!

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs p. 27

"The blue digits on my bathroom scale stop flickering at 169. In Julie's estimation, I've gone from looking four months pregnant to three and a half months."

Once when I was out walking, a random guy said I looked pregnant as I walked by. I should have hit him. (And it wasn't true unless I was still in my first trimester! I was training for a marathon, asshole!) It's only safe to use that measurement with men, and even not always then.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt
Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne

Up next:
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

This book is a hard one to pitch: a 600+ page about the history of the migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West. It sounds dry and very long. But don't let those details stop you -- it's fantastic. (Plus with all the appendices and indexes and bibliographies, the actual text ends on p. 538 which isn't nearly as daunting.)

Dr. Wilkerson approaches this long history (1915-1970) in a unique fashion: she chose three individuals who made the migration in three different decades, with different backgrounds and expectations and reasons for leaving, and she tells their personal stories, with the history, background, and sociology sprinkled in around the edges. This is my new favorite approach to history.

We start with Ida Mae Gladney who migrates from Mississippi to Chicago in the 1930s with her husband and three small children. They had been sharecroppers and the owner of the plantation where they worked was actually pretty nice, all things considered. But they still got to a point where they could no longer live with the daily fear of putting one foot wrong, even without knowing. (Their cousin was beaten nearly to death on the assumption that he had stolen some turkeys which reappeared a day or two later, having just wandered off.) Their children went on to have pretty happy lives and good families.

Next, George Starling migrated from Florida to New York City in the 1940s. He had gone to two years of college before his father stopped paying for it, and he seemed to resent this for the rest of his life. He worked as a porter on the overnight trains, going back to the South a couple of times a week for his whole life. That added risk, as did his knowledge that the job was beneath his abilities. He had left picking citrus in the groves of central Florida where he was tried to organize workers before he was basically run out of town (he lived in the same area where the Groveland murders took place.) He impulsively married Inez and they had two children who did not do well, one getting pregnant as a teen and the other succumbing to a life of drugs.

Finally, Robert Pershing Foster grew up in Louisiana, the son of a school teacher and principal. He followed his older brother to medical school, and married the daughter of the president of Atlanta University. She was used to a life of privilege, which Dr. Foster aspired to, moving to Los Angeles in the 1950s and establishing himself in medical practice. Luckily, the color barrier had already been somewhat broken for them by the previous generation so they were able to move into a prestigious part of town and a large house, and when Dr. Foster became Ray Charles's doctor, their upper-class life was solidified. They had three girls who also went on to college and good careers.

Along the way, we learn about the issues that drove the migration, how people from an area mostly migrated en masse to another (mostly due to the train or bus lines, but also because once a couple of people from your hometown had migrated to a particular city, you now had a place to stay and someone to help you get started in that city.) One thing I found fascinating was how this migration led to the Civil Rights movement, although probably not in the way you expect. When the majority of the workers in the South left, the South finally had to make concessions. They needed workers and no longer had many to choose from, so they had to treat them more decently and pay them better. But of course it took a long time to get there.

It was also interesting learning how generations of paying African-Americans a fraction of what whites were making for the same jobs, has led in a large way to the current high levels of poverty in the African-American community, as it's very difficult to build up wealth in a family in a single generation. It often takes many, as it takes people who make enough to let the kids keep going to school instead of dropping out to work, making enough to go to college, buy a house, and other trappings of the middle class. People in poverty tend to stay in poverty, and unfortunately for decades, paying African-Americans less and working them harder wasn't just accepted, it was the law.

While reading this book, I was periodically just amazed by what these people went through to secure a better life, what African-Americans in the South were suffering (not that the North was that much better, particularly as the riots in Chicago over keeping minorities out of certain neighborhoods were pretty harrowing, but you were less likely to be killed just for looking at a white woman.)

The stories Dr. Wilkerson included from dozens of people across the decades who went sometimes to great lengths to migrate were impressive. I particularly liked that she included the story of her own parents' migration as well. As the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, she was in a unique position to tell this fascinating story. We hear about the migrations that happened during the Gold Rush era, and the Dust Bowl, but those were small fractions of the population upheaval that happened during the Great Migration, which I think is a seminal point in American history and ought to be more known. Luckily, now there is this fantastic book to spread the word. Very well-written and thoroughly researched, it nevertheless reads with the pace and storytelling ability of a great novelist. Anyone remotely interested in history needs to read this book.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

Book Beginnings on Friday: Drop Dead Healthy

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs

"For the last three months, I've been assembling a list of things I need to do to improve my health."

Egads, it's a terribly long list for him (53 pages!) and I can only imagine how long a list I would make for myself would be. As of now, if I just do the exercises my physical therapist has prescribed and don't eat too many sweets, I think I've been successful on the healthy front. In December, that's about the best one can hope for!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Forgotten Presidents

“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 Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy by Michael J. Gerhardt

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Their names linger in memory mainly as punch lines, synonyms for obscurity: Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge. They conjure up not the White House so much as a decaying middle school somewhere in New Jersey. But many forgotten presidents, writes Michael J. Gerhardt, were not weak or ineffective. They boldly fought battles over constitutional principles that resonate today.

Gerhardt, one of our leading legal experts, tells the story of The Forgotten Presidents. He surveys thirteen administrations in chronological order, from Martin Van Buren to Franklin Pierce to Jimmy Carter, distinguishing political failures from their constitutional impact. Again and again, he writes, they defied popular opinion to take strong stands. Martin Van Buren reacted to an economic depression by withdrawing federal funds from state banks in an attempt to establish the controversial independent treasury system. His objective was to shrink the federal role in the economy, but also to consolidate his power to act independently as president. Prosperity did not return, and he left office under the shadow of failure. Grover Cleveland radically changed his approach in his second (non-consecutive) term. Previously he had held back from interference with lawmakers; on his return to office, he aggressively used presidential power to bend Congress to his will. Now seen as an asterisk, Cleveland consolidated presidential authority over appointments, removals, vetoes, foreign affairs, legislation, and more. Jimmy Carter, too, proves surprisingly significant. In two debt-ceiling crises and battles over the Panama Canal treaty, affirmative action, and the First Amendment, he demonstrated how the presidency's inherent capacity for efficiency and energy gives it an advantage in battles with Congress, regardless of popularity.

Incisive, myth-shattering, and compellingly written, this book shows how even obscure presidents championed the White House's prerogatives and altered the way we interpret the Constitution.

Publishing January 4, 2013 by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: The Warmth of Other Suns

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 Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

"One Sunday, a colored minister in Tampa, Florida, advised from the pulpit that his flock stay in the South. He was 'stabbed the next day for doing so.'"

The plight of African-Americans in the South in the post-reconstruction Jim Crow days was risky and fraught with danger. Although it was unusual that the danger come from their own people, as in this instance, but it just goes to show how volatile an issue it was.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

Up next:
Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries by Molly Caldwell Crosby
City of Glory: A Novel of War and Desire in Old Manhattan by Beverly Swerling
American Ghost: A Novel by Janis Owens

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Beginnings: I Married You for Happiness

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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.

I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck

"His hand is growing cold; still she holds it."

That first line gives me the shivers. It's not supposed to be creepy, but it is a little, to me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: 38 Nooses

“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:

38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In August 1862, after decades of broken treaties, increasing hardship, and relentless encroachment on their lands, a group of Dakota warriors convened a council at the tepee of their leader, Little Crow. Knowing the strength and resilience of the young American nation, Little Crow counseled caution, but anger won the day. Forced to either lead his warriors in a war he knew they could not win or leave them to their fates, he declared, “[Little Crow] is not a coward: he will die with you.”

So began six weeks of intense conflict along the Minnesota frontier as the Dakotas clashed with settlers and federal troops, all the while searching for allies in their struggle. Once the uprising was smashed and the Dakotas captured, a military commission was convened, which quickly found more than three hundred Indians guilty of murder. President Lincoln, embroiled in the most devastating period of the Civil War, personally intervened in order to spare the lives of 265 of the condemned men, but the toll on the Dakota nation was still staggering: a way of life destroyed, a tribe forcibly relocated to barren and unfamiliar territory, and 38 Dakota warriors hanged—the largest government-sanctioned execution in American history.

Scott W. Berg recounts the conflict through the stories of several remarkable characters, including Little Crow, who foresaw how ruinous the conflict would be for his tribe; Sarah Wakefield, who had been captured by the Dakotas, then vilified as an “Indian lover” when she defended them; Minnesota bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, who was a tireless advocate for the Indians’ cause; and Lincoln, who transcended his own family history to pursue justice.

Written with uncommon immediacy and insight, 38 Nooses details these events within the larger context of the Civil War, the history of the Dakota people, and the subsequent United States–Indian wars. It is a revelation of an overlooked but seminal moment in American history.

Publishing December 4, 2012 by Pantheon.

Book Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I loved this book! I kind of wanted to read it already (especially after reading the reviews) but it just didn't make the cut given the length of my To Read list, so when my book club picked it, I was actually quite happy. Plus, I've been reading (Birds of a Feather) and watching (Upstairs, Downstairs) a lot set in the 1930s which made this all the more interesting to me.

To start, it is refreshing to hear a story set during the Depression where people actually have jobs! To hear any History Channel show about the decade, you'd think unemployment was at 90%. It was 23% in 1932 (this book takes place in 1938), which still does mean that 77% of people did have jobs. Including Katey and Eve, a legal typist and publishing assistant respectively. On New Year's Eve, they meet Tinker Grey in a downtown jazz bar, and the three become fast friends. Their lives will come together, split apart, and come together again in surprising ways throughout the year. I don't want to give away too much, although the plot twists, to quote Tinker are "surprising right up until the moment you heard it." Which is only to say that while there are twists, many of them, and several took me by surprise, they characters were so well-developed that as soon as you heard what they did, you realized there was nothing else they could have done.

Another book without quotation marks! I read two in as many weeks. And again, it didn't bother me at all. I thought it made it seem more like Katey was talking to me, relating the story, as opposed to me watching it happen as an outsider. But I hope authors don't get the idea that just because a couple of writers broke the rules successfully, that others who might be less talented should try it. I have heard that this book is just as good, if not better, upon a second reading, once you know everything. And one women in our book club did reread the first half of the book immediately upon finishing it, and agreed.

The book was smooth, charming, felt like an accurate slice of real life from the era, and also from an interesting segment of society - a freshly middle-class girl, and one who came from money but had rejected it (not that New York City would recognize Iowa money anyway) who are both striving for more, and also debating whether they really want to take the step on the next rung, and the price it will cost them. A wonderful book, perfect for book clubs, or just for anyone interested in the era or just in a well-written novel to get lost in.

I bought this book at the new independent bookstore in my hometown, Parnassus Books.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: I Married You for Happiness

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!

I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck p. 12

"In the morning she will make telephone calls, she will write e-mails, make arrangements; the death certificate, the funeral home, the church service--whatever needs to be done. Tonight--tonight she wants nothing."

I can't imagine what it would be like to sit and watch someone you love die, but she seems very practical which appeals to me.

Book Review: The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

I have had trouble getting around to this review, because I am having trouble deciding what I think of this book.

Alice's father reads to her at night before bed, and they make their own challenge to  first do 1000 nights of consecutive reading, which turned into 3218 or until she left for college. Her father was a beloved school librarian who adored reading out loud (he pre-read everything they read, so he'd be prepared with voices and hard words. He also edited content occasionally.) The premise is of course, awesome, and I was eager to hear about how the books strengthened their relationship and helped them through the tough times after Alice's parents divorced, when her older sister went away to college, and when her father was forced out of his job.

But I didn't quite get that. Most of the book were anecdotes about the family cat or Alice's grandfather, or when she'd get sick at school and have to go to her father's school and sleep on the floor behind his desk. The majority of the chapters, while technically chronological in that they all started with a day and number, they read very episodic. There wasn't much of a through-plot, aside from keeping up with The Streak. Which quickly took on more of the air of trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records than about literature. Very few books were even mentioned outright (considering the many hundreds they must have read) and rarely were their topics anything pertinent. Dear Mr. Henshaw was mentioned as the book Dad was reading to Alice's older sister when she asked him to stop reading to her, but it's never again mentioned despite the not-great divorce. At one point it felt like it could have been a book about marathoning or trying to jump rope every day for 10 years, and it wouldn't have been much different. While I did very much feel Alice's father's love of reading with his students at his school library, that love seemed leached out of their reading together by the insistence of never missing a single night, not for sickness, late-night theater rehearsals, or prom.

I do admire what they do, I think parents often stop reading to their kids long before they should (just because kids can read on their own doesn't mean you should lose that special time, and the inspiration of a love of reading it hopefully will instill), and the book did bring back very fond memories of my parents reading to me and my sisters. But it was a bit of a disappointment for me. I think my expectations may have been high. The book is cute and a lovely distraction filled with nice books, but it just didn't come together enough for me in the end. That said, it wasn't something unenjoyable or something that I wouldn't recommend to the right person. I just wanted more.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck

I went into this book certain that it would be depressing, and I couldn't have been more wrong! You can't blame me though when you hear the premise. Nina's making dinner when her husband Philip comes home from work. When she calls him for dinner, she finds him on their bed, dead of an apparent cardiac arrest. The book takes place over that night, as she sits with his body, waiting for morning when she will call the doctor and their daughter and make all the arrangements. She spends the night remember all of the important moments of their relationship and marriage, some good and some bad.

The title itself should have been a clue, but I read it in an accusing tone when instead it should have just be a straightforward, factual tone. This is one problem with print. It's also a problem of my assumption. The vast majority of novels about marriage are about how bad it is. What makes this novel refreshing isn't that Nina and Philip didn't cheat on each other, didn't have secrets from each other, and didn't have regrets - because they did. The refreshment comes in that they didn't make those flaws the centerpiece of their marriage - they were low-drama people and they built around their problems instead of opening wounds and rubbing salt on them. And this book certainly is a strong argument for discernment over honesty.

Normally I'm not crazy about books that happen in one day (in fact this one is more like 8 hours) because they try to cram too many things into one day, but this book is the opposite. In fact, after Philip's death (which technically takes place before the book even begins but not by much), nothing happens. Nina drinks a bottle of wine and puts on a couple of jackets, but that's it. The real events of the novel take place over 40 years. I also am not a fan of no-quotation-marks dialogue, but again it makes sense, because Nina really isn't talking to anyone, she's just remembering conversations. It was confusing once or twice, but that was more due to a lack of dialogue tags than the lack of quotation marks.

In the end, I found the book somewhat optimistic, although I'd really call it more realistic with a happy ending. Not happy, in that Nina and Philip had planned to be together (and Philip had planned to be alive) much longer, but none of us get to choose when and how we die, and in the end Philip's life seems to have been overall happy, fulfilled. I am not entirely sure I understand the ending (which makes me happy that my second book club will be discussing this, tomorrow), and there were a lot of unexplained/untranslated French words and phrases, but that notwithstanding, I liked the book a lot, and it was short. If you're looking for something literary but not depressing or too taxing, this book is perfect.

I checked this book out of the library.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

Up next:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs
Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Beginnings: The Warmth of Other Suns

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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 Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

"The night clouds were closing in on the salt licks east of the oxbow lakes along the folds in the earth beyond the Yalobusha River."

Very atmospheric beginning, which bodes well for a giant nonfiction book covering a history of 55 years, which looks daunting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Rules of Civility

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!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

"To her credit, Eve was making an honest go of it in New York. She had arrived in 1936 with enough of her father's money to get a single at Mrs. Martingale's boardinghouse and enough of his influence to land a job as a marketing assistant at the Pembroke Press--promoting all of the books that she'd avoided so assiduously in school."

I like this girl, Eve. To have Daddy's money but work anyway, and want to make your own way (albeit with a leg up. It is 1936 after all.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
None. I am in the middle of reading Warmth, which is enormous, when I had to pause to tackle Civility, for my book club on Thursday.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Up next:
The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore
The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
What I Learned at Davidson by Allie Coker-Schwimmer

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Beginnings: Rules of Civility

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

"On the night of October 4th, 1966, Val and I, both in late middle age, attended the opening of Many Are Called at the Museum of Modern Art--the first exhibit of the portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930s on the New York City subways with a hidden camera."

This book takes place in the 1930s, and this is from the Preface. But even though there is a frame around the story, they introduce the time of the actual story right away. I'm not always crazy about a frame--they frequently are superfluous--but I'll reserve judgment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: The Dead of Night

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 Dead of Night by John Marsden p. 45

"Homer was quite impressed to hear that we were so well-known, so notorious. "let's show them we're still in business," he said, smiling his slowest, most dangerous smile."

This book seems to pick up right after the first one as this "notorious" reference is directly talking about the climax of Tomorrow, When the War Began.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Dead of Night by John Marsden
The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Darwin Awards Countdown to Extinction by Wendy Northcutt

Up next:
Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
The Fine Color of Rust by Paddy O'Reilly

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Review: The Dead of Night by John Marsden

The first book in this series, Tomorrow, When the War Began, ended on such a cliffhanger, I couldn't help but read the sequel. In this Australian YA series, Australia has been invaded by an unnamed country (it is implied that it is Asian, but that's really all we know.) It has been a few months now, and Ellie and her friends who were camping out in the bush know a little bit more: New Zealand and New Guinea are helping, but those are small countries. The politicians escaped to America which is considering helping in non-military ways (this is the one thing that really didn't ring true for me as of course the U.S. loves military intervention, and I would think that an ally as strong as Australia would merit a truly ferocious ass-kicking, BUT if the country in question were one as potentially militarily strong and also economically vital like China, well, I guess we might think twice. But really we shouldn't. No one gets to invade someone else. But I'm going off on something that was just mentioned in passing.)

The teenagers have been scavenging in town and have supplies and food, but they are still desperate for news of loved ones, and they're also growing increasingly tired of having too much responsibility, having to make too many important decisions with little to no information, and they really want to hook up with some other rebels, which they've heard on the radio are out there. So most of them (leaving one with the supplies at the campsite) set out to find the adults. Will they find them? Will they like what they find? Will they continue to find ways to thwart the invaders? Will they survive? Will they be captured? Injured? Killed?

This dystopian novel doesn't beat around the bush at all, with death definitely an option, and there is a sex scene although it's handled both with subtlety and safety (condoms are used). These books certainly should appeal to teens. They have a lot of similarities to the Hunger Games series in fact, except that it's happening NOW, not in the future (albeit, the book was written in 1994 and I did snort at a mention of "electronic mail" but overall it feels like now.) The book luckily has a glossary of Australian slang terms like "fair dinkum." I whipped through it, staying up late to finish it in just two days. While some questions are answered, and the ending is heartbreaking, more questions are left unanswered, and so book 3 is now going on my To Read list.


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

I checked this book out of the library.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Beginnings: The Dead of Night

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. 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 Dead of Night by John Marsden

"Damn this writing. I'd rather sleep. God how I'd love to sleep."

Sorry about three sentences, but they're so short! It makes sense that Ellie doesn't really get to sleep -- she's living in a war zone.