Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
On a property in western New South Wales a man named Holland lives with his daughter, Ellen. Over the years, as she grows into a beautiful young woman, he plants hundreds of different eucalyptus trees on his land, filling in the landscape, making a virtual outdoor museum of trees. When Ellen in nineteen, he announces his decision; she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each and every gum tree on his property.
Suitors emerge from all corners, including the straight-backed Mr. Cave, a world expert on these famous Australian trees. And then one day, walking down by the river where silver light slants into the motionless trunks, Ellen chances on a strange young man resting under the Coolibah tree. In the days that follow, he tells her dozens of stories-set in cities, deserts, and faraway countries
Eucalyptus is at once a modern fairy tale and a marvelously touching love story, played out against the spearing light and broken shadows of Australia- its land, its history, its people.
To meet Allegra O'Riordan of Chicago, you'd think she was like anyone else- a modern single woman in her thirties; a more or less lapsed Catholic; more or less gainfully employed; urban, independent, irreverent, and smart. But there's a hole in her life, and it doesn't really show until, going through her late father's effects, she comes upon a photograph of her mother. Now, her mother was a prim, unsmiling woman who died when she was three. But this is something- someone- else, a laughing, beautiful, sexy girl, who inscribed the picture to someone Allegra's never heard of.
Astonished and intrigued, she returns to her hometown of Los Angeles to find out more about this mother of hers, only to be met with smiles and evasions and a definite sense that people are keeping something from her- and of course, that only makes her more determined to find out what it is, even though she's beginning to suspect she's not going to like it one little bit...
Meg Landry expected it to be a day like any other- her asthmatic eight-year-old son would step off the bus home from school. But on this day, the boy on the bus doesn't seem to be Meg's son. Though he shares Charlie's copper hair, tea-brown eyes, and slight frame, there is something profoundly, if indefinably, different about him. In the wake of Meg's quiet alarm, her far-flung family returns home and unease sets in. Neither Charlie's father not Charlie's rebellious teenage sister can help Meg settle the question of the boy. They look to her for certainty- after all, shouldn't a mother know her child?
Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest ion college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that there parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's illusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including- perhaps- their aunt.
What do you think of my loot this week? Anything you've read that you are raving about- or not? Or, does anything look interesting to you. Let me know what you think!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:
John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment. John has Alzheimers. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.
With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, a person can go back for seconds- sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more- even when everyone says you can't.
Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered- after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village. Only Billy's mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.
But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle's corpse, he'll do it.
Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose.
Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration... Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.P."- William "Billy" Peters.
So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the grave site, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he's receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too. Although his is far more dangerous...
When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth's climate.
Everything else in Miranda's life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely.
But what Miranda and her family don;t realize is that the worst is yet to come.
Which of these have you read- and did you like them? If not, which one looks the most interesting?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotional trauma, Kristen Anderson no longer wanted to live. One January night, determined to end her pain once and for all, the seventeen-year-old lay across train tracks not far from her home and waited to die.
Instead of peace, she found herself immersed in a whole new nightmare.
Before the engineer could bring the train to a stop, thirty-three freight cars passed over her at fifty-five miles per hour. After the train stopped and Kristen realized she was still alive, she looked around- and saw her legs ten feet away.
Surviving her suicide attempt but losing her legs launched Kristen into an even deeoer battle with depression and suicidal thoughts as well as unrelenting physical pain- all from the seat of a wheelchair.
But in the midst of her darkest days, Kristen discovered the way to real life and a purpose for living.
Life, In Spite of Me recounts in riveting detail the trauma of her suicide attempt, the miracle of her survival, and the life-tansforming power of hope in Christ.
Kristen should never have lived to tell her story. That much is evident from what the paramedic who was at the scene told her and what a train engineer explaining the physics of a train described.
But Kristen has done more than just live. She has fought, excelled, learned, inspired and reached out to others in similar situations- all with the help of God. I am reminded of one of my favorite sayings when I think of all Kristen has accomplished so far.
"You alone can do it, but you can't do it alone"
Kristen's story is an inspirational message of hope to those who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. There are people who love you and want to help. You don't have to travel the road alone. 3.5/5 stars
Suicide Warning Signs: (from Kristen's book)
- appearing depressed or sad most of the time
- having no hope for the future
- feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or trapped in a situation, and having excessive guilt or shame
- talking or writing about death or suicide
- withdrawing from family or friends
- acting recklessly or impulsively
- a change in personality, sleeping or eating habits
- decreased interest in most activities
- dramatic mood changes
- giving away prized possessions
- writing a will
- poor performance at work or in school
- strong anger or rage
- abuse of drugs or alcohol
- self hate
Monday, May 17, 2010
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Reserving a book at the library just because numerous book blogs rave about it is usually- for me- a recipe for disaster. The book gets set up in my head to be a fantastic life altering tome. reading it is usually deflating and disappointing.
While I wouldn't say The Help was disappointing, I would say it was not near what I hoped it would be, although I do think it would make an excellent choice for book clubs.
Prejudices. The Help is full of them. Set in the south in the 1960's, slavery is no longer permitted. But similar to slaves, the black servants and housekeepers of the well-to-do housewives who employ them are treated just as bleakly.
I was really naive to believe that in the 6o's- the decade of peace and love- the attitudes towards blacks were better then this. I knew blacks were still segregated to a certain extent but the ignorance and small mindedness of the families featured in this story was unbelievable.
Bathrooms being built in garages or outside for the help so diseases wouldn't be caught from them sickened me. These were the housekeepers who cleaned their homes and raised their children and yet were considered unclean themselves. How degrading it must have felt for them to be viewed as no better than animals.
And the prejudices didn't stop there. Minnie's white boss deals with prejudices of her own, being misjudged because of where she lived or what she wears.
Skeeter decided to take on prejudices by writing a book about it and opening the eyes of the town in which she lives.
The Help was an eye-opener for me, and for that it deserves a higher rating in my book then I would normally have given it. I didn't love-love it, but it was an excellent story and one worth my time as well as yours. 3/5 Stars
Friday, May 14, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:
Josh Goldin was savoring a Friday afternoon break in the coffee room, harmlessly flirting with co-workers while anticipating the weekend at home where his wife, Dori, waited with their eight-month-old son, Zack. And then Josh's secretary rushed in, using words like intensive care, lost consciousness, blood...
That morning, Dori had walked into the emergency room with her son in severe distress. Enter Dr. Darlene Stokes, an African American physician and single mother whose life is dedicated both to her own son and navigating the tricky maze of modern-day medicine. But something about Dori stirred the doctor's suspicions. Darlene had heard of the sensational diagnosis of Munchhausen by proxy, where a mother intentionally harms her baby, but she had never come upon a case of it before. It's rarely diagnosed and extraordinarily controversial. Could it possibly have happened?
When these lives intersect with dramatic consequences, Darlene, Dori, and Josh are pushed to their breaking points as they confront the nightmare that has become their new reality.
In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.
Armed only with the collected works of Nietsche, an astrological love guide, and an arsenal of bravado, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads. As they ventured off the map deep into Chinese territory, they were stripped of everything familiar and forced to confront their limitations amid culture shock and government surveillance. What began as a journey full of humor, eroticism and enlightenment grew increasingly sinister-becoming a real-life international thriller that transformed them forever.
At the tail end of 1946, the United States Navy sent an expedition into the stark cold of Antarctica to photograph the terrain from the air and lay claim to the huge continent at the bottom of the globe. Many of the navy's men on the expedition were fresh from service in the recently ended World War II. This is the story of nine of those men, facing an enemy of another kind.
As their plane flew above the most desolate part of that continent, the weather threw a "whiteout"- a combination of a slanting sheet of ice on the land and low clouds that makes it seem the air ahead is clear when it is not. The blinded plane slammed into a mountainside and exploded. Three men were killed; all the others were injured, most of them seriously. Their only shelter was the badly damaged fuselage. They had a food supply intended for a few day's trip, and no way to communicate with their would-be rescuers.
For thirteen days the men waited for discovery- or death. Even when they made contact with another seaplane, which led them from the air, they had to struggle, wounded, several miles through blizzard winds, snow, and ice to reach safety.
Still trying to keep my library books to a minimum so I can get through the pile before its due date. Have you read any of these and what did you think? If you haven't- which one sounds the most interesting?
Monday, May 10, 2010
I picked this up at the library several weeks ago at the same time I picked up a lot of heavy war-themed books. I figured a little levity to balance things out would be much needed and that is just what I got.
Shoe Addicts Anonymous is the humorous tale of four women addicted to shoes- expensive shoes, and not the means to purchase them.
Lorna is debt-ridden by bills she ignores a little too long. Electricity is cut off and car in danger of being repossessed just so she can buy another pair of shoes. Helene is the wife of an ambitious politician who cuts off her credit cards when he catches her in a lie. Sandra is an agoraphobic phone sex operator who tries to keep her clients on the phone as long as possible to be able to afford the newest pair of shoes she's salivating over. Jocelyn is the young nanny who is looking for a way to get out of the house to keep her insufferable boss from finding her more work to do that is not in her contract.
When Lorna realizes she needs to quit spending money on shoes she can't afford she comes up with a plan. She organizes a Shoe Addicts Anonymous group for the "sole" (pun shamelessly intended) purpose of trading designer shoes with others.
What she and others get though, is more than a new pair of pumps. This mismatched group form a lasting friendship that fills the ache of loneliness and encourages recovery.
A delightfully and sometimes wickedly funny tale that kept me laughing at the end of a hard day. I listened to this on audio format in my car. Because of the language sprinkled in here and there I did keep my windows rolled up but the chuckles definitely outweighed the winces!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Zookeeper's Wife is a true story of a Polish family who were involved in an underground effort to hide Jews from the Warsaw ghetto during their escape from the Nazi Germans.
Jan, Antonina and their son Rhys ran and lived at the zoo. They loved their animals and took good care of them. During the holocaust the zoo was shut down and the animals were transported to other zoos around the country.
Jan was the head manager of the zoo who had to find another job when the zoo closed. His job on the outside brought him in close proximity to the Warsaw ghetto and he is single-handedly responsible for transporting hundreds of Jews out of the prison that was their former home.
Antonina had to be on constant alert in the villa they lived in. Any knock on the door could mean detection of the Jews she has harboring or death for her and her family for abetting their escape. Because of her background caring for animals and learning their subtle cues and behaviors she became adept at reading homo sapiens as well. When suspicion was aroused she easily deflected it, coming up with an alibi or excuse that was easily accepted by the German's living in a camp based literally right outside the fence of the zoo. What daring and bravery it took to run this underground movement right under their noses!
Rhys, their young son, was a smart boy who never questioned the appearance or disappearance of various "guests". Often bringing plates of food to the "animals", (families who were given animal names like the Sables, the Mink, or the Badgers depending on which cage or house of the zoo they lived in) he kept their living their a secret.
I was interested in this book because of it's very different spin on the horror of the Holocaust. They German's were so anti-Jew and anti-Polish that not only did they want to eliminate all their people, but their culture, plants and animals as well because they were not considered pure enough.
The descriptions of trying to breed backward a purer horse to get back to more ancient genes instead of one that had been bred with Polish horses was fascinating. Ripping up beautiful rose gardens within the zoo because they were Polish hybrids was too small-minded for me to understand.
With language woven so poetically throughout the book, Diane Ackerman weaves a tale that seems too unbelievable to be true, but one that really hit me in the gut. A fantastic non-fiction find!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Traditionally, March is always my busiest month of the year. I don't know why it works out that way but it does. This year, March was even busier than usual
and I became extremely overwhelmed. Aside from my fulltime job and this blog, I also have my life blog which I keep up for my brother in California and a few sisters-in-law that read it, and a Boy Scout website that includes a blog as well as their advancements and ranks. There was zero time to give my book blog anything...so I didn't.
This blog is only a few months old and I had been trying to keep up with other bloggers out there who are career bloggers posting every day or several times a day. I admire you, I don't know how you keep up! I have decided that I can not do that and keep my sanity. I enjoy blogging about the books I have read, sharing my opinions with others and reading all of yours so I will not give it up- I will just be a little more low key posting only once or twice a week rather than daily.
I have a few reviews to catch up on, for even though I was really busy I only quit blogging not reading! These are a few I have read that I will start reviewing soon:
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
Little Bee by Chris Cleeve
The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
A.D. 62: Pompeii by Rebecca East