Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: David and Goliath

“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:

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways in which we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways in which the weak can defeat the strong, how the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often cultural determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success.

Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

Publishing October 1, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I did not want to read this book. While the plot description did intrigue me, the reviews I read were very mixed and gave me reason for pause. But it was assigned for book club and I'm very glad it was, because I enjoyed it very much. The fact that I had extremely low expectations may have helped, but best not to overanalyze that.

This book is the story of four women who work in the dovecote at the fort at Masada in 70 C.E., during the two years they are surviving, leading up to the attack by the Roman army. The ancient historian Josephus reported this battle, which was survived only by two women and five children. Alice Hoffman imagines what it could have been like, living under the threat after having escaped the Romans in their original homelands, forging a new life in strange circumstances, and ultimately having to fight again, a battle some lose and who are the survivors? Yael is ignored by her father who treats her like dirt, due to her mother's death during her childbirth. Revka was a happily married baker's wife and mother until Roman soldiers brutally murder her daughter. Aziza wants to be a warrior herself, and is an excellent archer. Shirah is Aziza's mother and is said to be a witch. All the women hold secrets, some of love, some of destiny, some of death. They bond together although they are quite different, and each helps the others in times of need.

This historical aspects were fascinating. I particularly liked the explanation of how vital the doves were to the fort, ensuring good crops on an otherwise rocky and barren mountain due to the fertilizing using their guano. Another thing I liked was that while all the woman did a great deal of work, none seemed to be proto-feminists, anachronistically arguing for women's rights and breaking down barriers, which happens a lot in historical novels. Back then, while duties were most certainly divided by the sexes, no one denied that women's work was work, and they worked pretty much all the time.

The book was overly long and too descriptive, but I managed to go with the flow and wasn't too impatient, but it was slow. It's also not a good beach read, being dense and with a large host of characters with unfamiliar names and long backstories to keep track of. But if you love historicals and like to get lost in a long saga, this book might just be perfect for you!

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

Teaser Tuesdays: The Dovekeepers

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 Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman p. 48

"I had stopped counting off days. I did not wish to be elsewhere even though there was still no sign of my brother and the fortresses of the rebel Jews."

So the Romans have attacked Jerusalem and the Jews, and a group is rebelling and fighting back. They are retreating to a fortress built onto a rugged and difficult mountain with only a narrow mountain pass for access.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Up next:
The Absolutist by John Boyne
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King
Jackson's Way: Andrew Jackson and the People of the Western Waters by John Buchanan

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Beginnings: The Dovekeepers


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 Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

"We had been wandering for so long I forgot what it was like to live within walls or sleep through the night."

This is not the Jews wandering in the desert, but that has happened more than once. It's really neat that this book is based on a true event.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Husband's Secret

“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 Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis from Goodreads:
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

"My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . . ."

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

Publishing July 30, 2013 by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Passing Strange

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!

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss

"When King moved to New York in late 1873, his survey's fieldwork complete, he was a celebrity. The wildly acclaimed author of Mountaineering and tough-minded hero of the diamond hoax seemed the vigorous archetype of a new American man."

He did in fact remind me a little bit of Theodore Roosevelt. But he peaked early, and so was nearly forty at this point and about to meet Ada, but he would never achieve those career heights again.

Book Review: Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss

Issues of race have been in the news a lot lately (hello, Paula Deen?) so reading this book now felt particularly timely to me. I had picked it up almost on a lark and thoroughly enjoyed it

Clarence King was a scientist who helped map out the West (as a way to get out of serving in the Civil War) and became pretty famous in the late 1800s, especially after he exposed a hoax involving a supposed diamond mine and saved a lot of important and rich people a lot of money. He spent time with his famous friends  like John Hay (Lincoln's personal secretary and later secretary of state under McKinley and T. Roosevelt) and James Gardiner and Henry Adams, hanging out in his clubs, and jaunting around the country on various expeditions and explorations. When he was about forty, he somehow met Ada Copeland, an African-American woman twenty years his junior, who he romanced and married, having convinced her he was a black Pullman porter names James Todd. For nearly fifteen years he lived a double life as a married black man with Ada and her children in first Brooklyn and later Queens, and as a single white man in Manhattan and Newport, devoted to his mother and his friends. The stress of the double life, particularly the financial pressures, likely helped lead to his death, but at least he had found happiness with Ada, even if he'd had to go to great lengths to conceal this secret.

Ms. Sandweiss has done extensive research, which is particularly evident and frustrating with the lack of materials about Ada. I was amazed at both how useful the census data was, and how much information one can glean from the census data. Without it, Ada would have been a ghost to history. And yet the extensive research doesn't bog down the story. It clips along at a lively pace, keeping my pages turning. Ada, after an extensive court battle against Clarence's friends after his death, trying to secure a trust he told her he had put in place for her, lived to the ripe old age of 103. This woman, who was born into slavery in Georgia in 1862, lived to see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," 101 years later, in a house bought for her by John Hay, who had watched Lincoln draft the "Emancipation Proclamation." A seemingly unremarkable woman had lived a very remarkable life.

Anyone at all interested in American history needs to read this book. Covering an era usually noted for the glossy excesses of the Gilded Age, it shows a segment of history often ignored, how life was like for African-Americans after the Civil War, before the Civil Rights movement and even before the Great Migration. And it shows how the racial laws didn't only negatively impact African-Americans, but white Americans too like Clarence King, who loved a black woman. And it wonderfully demonstrated the lengths people will go to, to be with the person they love.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (audio)
The Group by Mary McCarthy

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Up next:
The Physician by Noah Gordon
The Tyranny Of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History by Geoffrey Blainey
The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Book review: Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids by Julie Salamon

While I never was able to pronounce the name of Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn,  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.

The last bit of the subtitle: "and Diversity on Steroids" initially had me rolling my eyes, and even made me think twice about buying the book, as it seemed flip and unserious, but after reading it, it's quite seriously true and was the fact about the hospital that left the biggest impression on me. Now I lived in Queens for five years, so I thought I knew diversity, but what Mainmonides has to deal with on a daily basis is truly astonishing. More than seventy languages are regularly spoken by patients, and the hospital needs to have translators in all of those languages. The cafeteria is kosher and also serves goat and Chinese food - but you can't get a cheeseburger. One elevator is set up that on Saturdays (the Sabbath), Orthodox Jews won't have to push the buttons in it - it just stops at every single floor. The difficulties and complications of dealing with such a variety of religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds floored me.

Unlike all other books about the medical field that I've read, this one is not from the point of view of a doctor. Ms. Salamon is a journalist and has as much understanding of the medicine going on, as I do. So understandably she focuses on the other lay people in the hospital - the administrators and staff. Running a business of this size with this quantity of employees and moving parts is a daunting task, which was made worse by the brand-new CEO being in a terrible car accident just weeks after taking over, yet she impressively muscled on with her duties, despite pain and multiple surgeries. She was a rather prickly person as well, with a variety of odd quirks, and yet she seemed to have a handle on things even if not everyone liked the way she worked. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of different offices I've worked in, with the politics, personality conflicts, and endless meetings which showed that a hospital is not some glorified exalted workplace, but just a regular, normal business environment where the business happens to be saving lives.

With an extra-large cast of characters, I was at times confused, and yet I found it fairly easy reading (and there's a helpful list of the people at the beginning). It's not for someone looked for a light read or a medical thriller, but it is a must-read for anyone looking to go into the medical field, to learn more about what their day-to-day workplace will be like.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Beginnings: Passing Strange

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.

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss

"Edward V. Brown, the census taker, moved slowly down North Prince Street, knocking on each and every door in this Flushing Neighborhood of Queens, New York."

This may seem like an anti-climactic way to start this book, but the census was a vital and sometimes sole source of information about Ada Todd, the African-American common-law-wife of Clarence King, a white scientist and explorer.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Five Days at Memorial

“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:

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice

In the tradition of the best writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

Publishing September 10, 2013 by Crown.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

The minute I heard of this book, I knew I had to have it! Back when I had just graduated from college and was working two part-time (35 hours per week) jobs, 7 days a week, I had a very brief window every night where I could watch one half-hour show to chill out at the end of the day. Lucky for me, Nick at Night showed The Mary Tyler Moore Show at precisely that time! And I really identified with Mary: young, single, with a small apartment and just embarking on her career. In later years, I identified more with Rhoda, who didn't like her job, dated lunatics, was divorced, her best friend was her sister and her mother drove her crazy. But initially at 22, I aspired to be Mary Richards when I was 30.

I was not alone. The show was amazingly popular. The first TV show to really show an independent career woman (That Girl didn't really count because she wasn't very independent), The Mary Tyler Moore Show was also groundbreaking for the career women working in television such as Treva Silverman and Susan Silver and a host of other woman who wrote and worked on the show. A huge reason behind the popularity was the brilliant casting and the chemistry between the cast members. As well as the careful work done by Mary Tyler Moore herself and her husband and producer, Grant Tinker.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show also had a very long influence on American culture, from Murphy Brown to 30 Rock and dozens of shows in between. And it had a very long influence on young women of multiple generations. After all, if Mary can make it on her own, can't we all? This world is awfully big and girl this time you're on your own.

A huge thumbs up for any fan of the show, and also for anyone interested in the women's movement and how professional woman in the television industry have gotten where they are.


Teaser Tuesdays: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

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!

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong p. 75

"As the rehearsals progressed, some tension grew among the stars and producers as they tried to get the hang of this new approach. And in the case of Cloris Leachman and Gavin MacLeod, old friction returned."

When I heard what MacLeod did, I don't blame Leachman for being ticked, but it was an accident and I'm glad they settled things and managed to work together, although I don't remember Murray and Phyllis having a lot of scenes together outside of a few of Mary's awful parties.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book review: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

This book has gotten a ton of press lately, and I am impressed with the dialogues it has instigated but surprised and annoyed by the backlash. Ms. Sandberg is just a few years older than me so I really identified with her experiences and her struggles, barring the struggle to balance kids and a job, although I have certainly seen my friends struggle with it and remember my mother going back to work well.

When I was in college in the early 1990s, like Ms. Sandberg, I was reluctant to call myself a feminist (I decided I was a "humanist" since I was interested in equality for all, including for men to be able to more easily do "women's work" but that was really splitting hairs) and I thought the battles for women's rights were over. I was wrong. And now that I have read Ms. Sandberg's book, I realize that despite thinking I have been ambitious and stubborn and have gotten pretty far in my career, I do now realize that I too have been guilty of doing things to sabotage my own career, including not speaking up, sitting in the back of the room or not at the table, and not volunteering for new opportunities but instead waiting for someone to bring them to me. And I thought I was good at this sort of thing! I am not exactly a wilting violet.

Ms. Sandberg's career is impressive, and yes she has had some good luck (although since I define good luck as the moment where preparation meets timing, you can see that luck is largely of our own making) and good contacts (which we are all capable of cultivating more of). I am dismayed by the trashing of her, particularly by women. Before I read the book I heard a lot of people accuse her of saying all women should go back to work (which she pointedly does not say, although she may wish it were, she acknowledges those decisions and that women should be supported in doing so) regardless of income, background, and work circumstances (she most definitely does not say this!) And they all seem to harp on the fact that she has a nanny and the income to easily afford a ton of help. And that is true - and she also mentioned in the book she expected to be called out on that - but what these critics ignore is that she has worked her butt off to be in a position that has that level of income and support. She doesn't come from money. It is her actual paychecks that she uses to pay for the help, and she got those by working (and networking) her way up and so how is that unfair or unattainable?

I think all women do need to be more conscious of how we hold ourselves back, and we need to put ourselves out there more. In the last few years, I started a chapter of the Women's National Book Association in Charlotte, started my own editorial business, and was elected Vice-President/President Elect of WNBA National. I am trying to network like crazy, and I feel very accomplished. But I can still be intimidated by powerful people and am nervous doing things like raising my rates and giving bad news to clients, that I feel men don't worry about. I am going to work on those.

Meanwhile, I am going to give this book to all the female college students that I meet through my college's career center, as her advice would have been so much more valuable when I was first starting out. Ms. Sandberg is inspiring, optimistic, and makes me want to do better. All women should read this book. So should all men but the ones who will are the ones who are already on our team.

Also, I listened to it on audio, which was great. The reader was open and casual and had a friendly tone, which helped.

I downloaded this audiobook from Audible.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids by Julie Salamon
Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (audio)

Up next:
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Beginnings: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

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.

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

"Treva Silverman had always wanted to be the beautiful, funny, smart heroine of a 1930s screwball comedy."

Instead, she helped create and wrote more episodes than anyone else of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a natural successor to those 1930s screwball comedies, and along the way helped recreate TV sitcoms forever, and broke a lot of barriers for women.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Fountain of St. James Court

“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 Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman: A Novel by Sena Jeter Naslund

Synopsis from Goodreads:
How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the realities and heartbreaks that lie behind such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the artistic processes and lives of creative women

Sena Jeter Naslund's inspiring novel-within-a-novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, creates the lives of a fictional contemporary writer and of an historic painter whose works now hang in the great museums of Europe and America. Both women's creative lives have been forged in the crucibles of family, friends, society, and nation.

The story opens at midnight beside a beautifully illumined fountain of Venus Rising from the Sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished her novel about painter Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, a French Revolution survivor hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Though still haunted by the story she has written, Kathryn must leave the eighteenth-century European world she has researched and made vivid in order to return to her own American life of 2012.

Naslund's spellbinding new novel presents the reader with an alternate version of The Artist: a woman of age who has created for herself, against enormous odds, a fulfilling life of thoroughly realized achievement.

Publishing September 17, 2013 by William Morrow.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: An Age of Madness

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!

An Age of Madness by David Maine p. 34

"Why's everything such a big deal with you? Except the stuff that really is a big deal, that really should be talked about, that's the stuff you'll ignore for the rest of your life--"

This is said by Anna to her mother. It's not off base, but Anna won't talk to her mother about the big deal stuff either so it's more than a bit of a hollow accusation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: An Age of Madness by David Maine

This was a tricky book. The narrator is extremely unreliable, and you don't really see that coming, as she is a psychiatrist, a profession well-respected for their honesty and ability to see things as they are and see though people's subterfuges.

I don't want to give away too much (and unlike the back cover copy, I am not going to intentionally mislead you in order to not give away a spoiler. Don't read that copy. It's bad in that you will think you're about to read a very different kind of book.) Regina and her daughter Anna are grieving a terrible tragedy in their past, and neither is doing it well. Regina has thrown herself into work at the mental hospital, and Anna is acting out and flunking college. They seem to both hate each other, even though each other is all they have. They each blame the other both for their parts in not foreseeing the tragedy and for their terrible relationship with each other.

Meanwhile Regina starts dating a younger man from work. She deals with her parents and her in-laws. And she worries fruitlessly about Anna who doesn't want her help and in fact rebels against it pretty vociferously.

I was worried about a male author writing a convincing female lead, and I think Mr.Maine has done a great job with that. And while I normally don't like unreliable narrators, I understand why he did it, and I think he pulled it off very well. It's also believable why Regina would not tell us the whole story and why she's even trying to hide the truth from herself. But in the end, it was hard to like this book because it was so darn depressing. Now, I am not one of those people who thinks every book should be filled with sunshine and roses and that any tragedy in a book is awful - in fact I think the opposite, that without some kind of difficulty there isn't much of a plot so there must be something to overcome. But this book was just so relentlessly sad. And neither Regina or Anna was very likable in my opinion. Now, I also don't have to like the characters but in a book like this, I think you do want to root for them, especially is it is primarily a character study without much plot to speak of. In the end, while it's very well-written and even masterfully laid out, it was just too much of a bummer for me. Which makes me sad because I liked Mr. Maine's previous book that I read very much. It was however good for discussion at my book club, except that as no one identified with Regina or Anna, no one argued for either of their actions. But there are a lot of fascinating topics brought up and a lot of interesting issues for discussion.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

At this halfway point in the year, I was thinking about how many more books I want to read this year and I realized to my annoyance that 10 of them will be assigned for my book clubs. Luckily I know at least 2 of those are ones I suggested so they're from my own personal To Read list, but I think I want to quit one of my book clubs in order to have more freedom to read the books I want to read.

Books completed last week:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult's Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It's Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner by Jen Lancaster
The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life With Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids by Julie Salamon

Up next:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Beginnings: An Age of Madness

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.

An Age of Madness by David Maine

"Freud would say I'm a lousy mother."

I think Freud was a jerk and very outdated and I wouldn't really care about his opinion on anything. That said, this assessment isn't untrue.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: No Regrets, Coyote

“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:

No Regrets, Coyote by John Dufresne

Synopsis from Goodreads:
On Christmas Eve in Eden, Florida, Wylie "Coyote" Melville, therapist and forensic consultant, is summoned to a horrific crime scene. Five members of the Halliday family have been brutally killed. Wylie's rare talent is an ability to read a crime scene, consider the evidence seen and unseen, and determine what's likely to have happened. The police are soon convinced that the deaths were a murder-suicide carried out by a broken and desperate Chafin Halliday, but Wylie's not so sure.

As Wylie begins his own investigation with the help of his friend Bay Lettique--a poker-playing sleight-of-hand artist with links to the Everglades County underworld--he discovers a web of corruption involving the police union, Ponzi-scheming lawyers, county politicians, and the Russian mob. What follows is a heart-stopping, edgy novel that introduces a completely original crime solver.

Publishing July 15, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I heard about this book a lot when it was out in hardcover last year, and while parts, like the massive tribute to 1980s pop culture, but at the same time it was a science fiction novel about the most massive video game ever invented and a teenager hunting for "Easter eggs" in order to win a ton of money, and that wasn't quite as appealing. Luckily the great reviews and pop culture won me over and I suggested it for my book club's annual sci fi selection.

And the above plot description does work, but it's so much more than that. The book is set in 2044, and we've pretty much destroyed the planet. Luckily this massive online "game" has been created that takes the place of the real world for most people most of the time. Our protagonist, Wade, even goes to school in it. You can shop, fall in love, get married, travel, and do pretty much everything you can do in real life. Without your friends knowing who you really are, and so you can reinvent yourself. The creator of this world left his entire fortune to whoever can figure out the virtual treasure hunt he programmed into the game, and for years thousands of people have been searching. After five years, the hunters have dropped to hundreds, including Wade, and then one day Wade figures out the first clue. And solves the first puzzle and gets the first of three keys to the treasure. And now the hunt is on! And some people are willing to kill to solve it.

The book was fun and a rollicking adventure along the lines of a medieval quest tale, which tests your knowledge of early Matthew Broderick movies, 80s new wave lyrics, and other pop culture trivia that totally hit my personal sweet spot (I wonder if the author is exactly my age!) A couple of our book club members found the world-building and back story to drag a little but I didn't notice that one bit. I think if you get into the story, the background becomes so integral that you don't at all mind it. I liked Wade and his friends, I very much liked the anticipation and suspense built into the quest, and the nagging worry that you don't know if anyone is who they say they are. There were some fun twists with that at the end, not all of which I predicted, and I really liked Wade's growth as a character through the many months this takes place over.

While this book is a no-brainer for any science fiction fan and gamer, it really does work for people with only a very passing knowledge of that world. For the record, the last and only video game console I have ever owned was an Atari 2600, which we got after Nintendo came out and the Atari became obsolete, but we loved it anyway. I rocked at Kaboom! and Bump and Jump and Haunted House and Pitfall. It didn't hurt my understanding or enjoyment of the novel one bit. I thoroughly loved it and recommend it very highly.

I bought this book at B&N.

Teaser Tuesdays: Ready Player One

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!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline p. 26

"This message had been embedded in the log-in sequence by James Halliday himself, when he'd first programmed the OASIS, as an homage to the simulation's direct ancestors, the coin-operated video-games of his youth. These three words were always the last thing an OASIS user saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one:
READY PLAYER ONE"

This sets up well that Halliday, despite creating the ultimate computer system of the future, is in love with the computers and games of the past, and so despite being set in 2044, this book is filled with pop-culture references from the 1980s.

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
none. The Dovekeepers is long and dense. I should finish today or tomorrow.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Up next:
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B. Smith
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
Unexpectedly, Milo by Matthew Dicks

Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

Oddly, this book was exactly what the title says it is. Budo is an imaginary friend to Max. And he's telling us his story.

Budo is lucky in a lot of respects. Max is very concrete, so Budo looks just like a human (unlike some imaginary friends who look like a puppy or a fairy or a popsicle stick or a paper doll.) Also Budo is still here even though Max is ten. Most imaginary friends don't last past kindergarten. But Max needs Budo. Max doesn't have any real friends after all, and he doesn't get along well with everything in his world. Especially not with Tommy, the bully at his school. And then, something goes wrong. Horribly, terribly wrong. And Budo is the only person who can help Max. But Budo can't help Max. Yet he must figure out how.

I really don't want to say anymore and risk a big spoiler, so suffice it to say at this point I really couldn't put the book down. Before, I was thoroughly enjoying it. The book is sweet, wildly creative, and very thoughtful, but once the plot twist kicked in, it also became thrilling, edge-of-my-seat nail-biting exciting, and I did think about staying up all night to finish it. While I didn't do that, I did dream about the book which is bizarrely rare for me, so you can see the book really got into my head. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is a novel I want to run out and stick in everyone's hand. I am rarely evangelical about a title, instead trying to tailor recommendations to the recipient, but this time I just want to say everyone should read this. It's truly wonderful. And is a must-read (and would make a great gift) for any teacher, particularly one gifted and caring like the fabulous Mrs. Gosk. Mr. Dicks is a teacher in real life and works with a star teacher Mrs. Gosk and put her in his book! What a tribute.

I bought this book at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.