Monday, December 21, 2009

Writing Down The Bones- Goldberg (Book #90)

Eh. This is a book about writing advice. Maybe its useful for someone afraid to write, who doesn't now how to begin the process of simply getting words down. She talks a lot about writing prompts and spontaneous writing but I'm writing short stories and novels and the advice seemed obvious and unhelpful. The main points, told over and over again in 100 different ways is "write", "don't be afraid of writing", "be honest". Got it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crooked Little Heart- Lamott (Book #89)

I feel bad giving this book a low rating because I think some people will love it but it just wasn't for me. This is a book about a family and insights into their dysfunctionality. I was shocked to learn this book has been assigned reading in 9th grade english. The story is fine in and of itself but I think I've read too much of Lamott's autobiography in memoirs to be able to read the story as fiction and not just small vignettes about her real life. I think I prefer her memoirs to her novels but I will give her one more try in the fictional arena.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happier- Ben Shahar (Book #88)

I truly enjoyed this book written by a Harvard professor on the science of happiness. The book emphasizes finding meaning and purpose in your life, that money does not equate happiness, and remembering that this is it, this life we have, and to be happy we need not wait for a goal to be fulfilled, life is the journey. All of this is cliche but he does it a lot more thoroughly. I think its a must read for people who are confused about where they are in their lives and are searching for what they must do to be happy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Age of Grief- Smiley (Book #87)

I enjoyed Jane Smiley's writing in this book. She deftly captures human emotion and my favorite in this short story collection was her novella, the namesake of this book which has been made into a major motion picture, "The secret lives of dentists."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Traveling Mercies- Lamott (Book #86)

Are you noticing that when I like an author I start devouring everything they come out with? This is why I read this book, Lamott's thoughts on faith. She is Christian, I am Muslim but I was curious as to her thoughts on faith in general and that is pretty much what she focused on. This book is a series of vignettes on different areas of her life and her thoughts about God's hand in those moments. Its a nice gentle read, some parts made me get choked up, some made me laugh. I thought it would focus a little more on the struggle so I was a little disappointed but that was my expectation, not a promsie she made.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gourmet Rhapsody- Barbery (Book #85)

I love reading books that focus on the little things such as books by Alexander McCall Smith but I was disappointed in this book. This is a novel about a food critic who is both loved and hated. We find him on his death bed trying to remember a flavor from his past and we see his childhood and other musings on food. The story also has stories from others in his life. There are too many characters and its hard to know when you start reading whose perspective you are reading. A few titles do tell you but most just have random headings and how am I supposed to know who is narrating when there are at least 10 different narrators in a very slim book? I can tell some will find this book to be a deep and loving reflection on food, but I was not particularly impressed.

American Primitive- Oliver (Book #84)

Sometimes you will sit with a slim book of a mere 60+ pages for months, while you devour 400 page mammoths in a few simple days. I've been reading this book of poetry since at least February but have only today forced myself to sit down and complete it. I love poetry and I love reflections on nature and I know a lot of people love Oliver, she won a Pulitzer for her poetry! But I just could not get into her poems. Some were indeed beautiful but on the whole it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Operating Instructions- Lamott (Book #83)

I like Anne Lamott and as I've shown in my book reading selections of this year, when I like an author I start reading everything they write (Russo, Tropper, etc). I heart this book. Its an honest insight into the first year of raising a baby as a single woman and I found the book both hilarious, honest, and heartbreaking.

Bird By Bird- Lamott (Book #82)

Since I'm in the process of revising my manuscript I figured I'd re-read this book again. I did not like it that much the first go around but I think I liked it more this time. I think my needs were different then, as opposed to now. Then, I wanted to know how to get published and how to write a good book. She isn't writing about this. She's really just writing a long book that essentially boils down to this: believe in your writing and don't give up even if you think it sucks. Also, write the truth. It was a nice read now and a good reminder that all writers struggle a little, even successful ones.

I am Neurotic- Kong (Book #81)

This is a humor book based on a blog ( where people post anonymously about neurosis they have. It's a quick light read with interesting confessions.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tell Me Something True- Cabo (Book #80)

This is a book about a girl whose mother died in a plane crash. She lives in LA with her movie producer father and visits her grandmother in Columbia each year and revisits the memories of her mother. The premise of the story is there is a lot more to her mother that she never was told and the book's blurb says "what happens when you find out everything you thought was true was a lie?" Except that's not true. There is something she didn't know about her mother, but its not earth shattering and it does not invalidate any other part of her life. The story pushed itself as being way more dramatic than it was and I found the constant POV changes a little distracting and unnecessary.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Plan B- Tropper (Book #79)

If you scroll the list of my recent reads you'll see Tropper's books quite a bit. When I like an author I tend to devour their entire list of published books. This was the last of the books I had yet to read by Tropper. I must admit that as is the case with most authors who I read extensively I begin to see themes and though this is kind of cool, it also sometimes can feel like you're reading a variation of the same story again. I can't hold this against Tropper with this book as this is his debut novel, so any books I subsequently read are instead, variations of this, not vice versa.

This is a book about a group of 30 somethings who are very close and are all at various stages in their lives, some sucessful some not so much. They are drifting apart but come together out of concern for one of their friends who appears to have a drug problem. Hilarity and deep moments ensue.

I enjoyed the book as I've enjoyed most of Tropper's books which have a good dose of reality and deep reflection along with laughter at the small absurdities of life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz- Acosta (Book #78)

I should start by saying I doubt I am the target audience for this book, so though I did not particularly love it, that's not to say a Spanish-American reader would not love it. This is a story about a woman whose husband just left for reasons we only find out later, and has to deal with her two children. Diego, the eldest is trying to be the man of the house while he deals with a crush on his friend's sister, and Carmen is furious, a ball of anger at her mother who she perceives to be the reason that their father left. The story trails Ana as she tries to make sense of her marriage, her children, her dreams and an artist on campus whom she is attracted to. I don't mind books that sprinkle other languages into the dialogue but this book took it a step too far. Also, I thought the author focused too much on the daughter-mother hatred and then summed it up in a matter of a paragraph or so at the end. I would have liked more exploration and understanding of the marriage and the husband's reasons for what he did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How To Talk To a Widower- Tropper (Book #77)

I told you, when I find an author I start reading everything they write, and considering the last few books are Tropper books you should not be surprised that again I'm reviewing a book by the same guy. One interesting thing about reading an author's entire work is you begin seeing trends in their writing and the same has been true for Tropper. This novel is about a 29 year old widower grieving his wife's death and writing a monthly column about it. He also is being pushed into dating and dealing with his stepson, a 16 year old sullen kid who is a trouble make but deeply hurt. It's a book about love, and grief and family and he certainly can nail the topic of grief quite accurately.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Everything Changes- Tropper (Book #76)

When I find an author I like, I tend to stick with them for a little while so this is the second Tropper book I've read in the span of a few weeks. This one is about a 32 year old guy working at a nondescript job engaged to a beautiful young woman and who is afraid he might have cancer. The story follows as his estranged father shows up to possibly reconcile, he deals with the potential ramifications of cancer, a job he hates, and being in love with someone other than his fiancee. Though it all sounds ho hum run of the mill, the story is beautifully told and the man can write laugh out loud funny dialogue like few can.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Fortune Cookie Chronicles- Lee (Book # 75)

I feel triumphant finishing this book as I've been reading it for at least four months now. It's not the book is bad by any means, its just that its a book exploring Chinese Fortune Cookies and Chinese restaurants in the US and around the world. Interesting, but by its nature, not a suspenseful page turner. Lee has written an interesting book with fun facts and history about not just Chinese restaurants and fortune cookies but also about Chinese immigrants. Their stories were the ones that kept my attention the most. Overall, a bit lengthy read for me simply due to the topic, but well written and entertaining.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This is where I leave you- Tropper (Book #74)

I was afraid this book would be bulky and heavy like Jonathon Franzen's The Corrections but this was instead a well-written funny book about family. Judd, the main character is in the middle of a divorce and his father died. He is at his childhood home with siblings he rarely sees and with whom he has much built up resentment. This sounds like really heavy duty stuff, and it is but its told so well that you end up feeling uplifted in every way. I plan to read many more of this author's work!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Blue Notebook- Levine (Book #73)

This is a haunting and disturbing novel written from the perspective of a young girl in India sold into prostitution. The author is a white male from the U.S. but reading it you can't believe anyone but the 15 year old Batuk is telling her story. Through her journal we learn how she was sold into slavery at the age of 9 by her father and we travel with her through the nine years of slavery she endured. The scenes towards the end get very ambiguous and I wish I knew more about what happened in the ending sequences but wow was it a gruesome horrific situation. I hope I can get the image out of my mind. Levine writes beautifully and heartbreakingly. All royalties the author gets from the US he is donating to the center for missing and exploited children.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Weight of Silence- Gudenkauf (Book # 72)

I saw this book at Borders and felt intrigued by the title and the cover page. As I stood there a salesperson approached me and said this book was flying off the shelf like hotcakes. I assume this is a very good thing so I did what most people would do, I requested it from the library. This is a very easy read about a girl named Callie, a selective mute who has not spoken since the age of 4. She lives wit her mother, brother Ben, and an abusive alcoholic father, Griff. The story shows her being led into the woods by her father on a drunken angry rampage, and then we see that she does not come back. Neither does her neighbor's daughter and best friend Petra. The story focuses on what happened to each of these children told from each persons point of view. I enjoyed this suspenseful tale very much.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Olive Kitteridge-Strout (Book #71)

I've heard so much buzz about this book I couldn't resist picking it up. The book is a series of thirteen short stories of a town called Crosby, Maine. Each story focuses on different characters though Olive somehow is present in each scene. I normally don't like short-stories because I find the endings too vague and unsatisfying but I did not feel that with this book. Olive is a very complicated woman and Strout does a good job with her. For the most part she is a difficult woman, particularly when the stories are not told from her point of view. But when we see her eyes on a situation I kind of get it, even when she's destroying her daughter-in-laws clothing, or being cruel in the words she uses. Overall, I enjoyed this collection of stories and it has left me thinking about other difficult people in my lives. I wonder, like Olive, are they completely incapabable of changign or understanding how they come across? It helps me at least with a degree of empathy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Juliet, Naked- Hornby (Book #70)

Hornby is another favorite author of mine so it was fun to move from Russo's novel to this one. I would certainly say that this novel was not my favorite of Hornby's. This is a story told from a girl's perspective, Annie. She is 39 years old in a dead end relationship to a man obsessed with a reclusive ex-rocker Tucker Crowe. The story winds together her boyfriend, Tucker Crowe and her increasing longing for more than there is in the yesteryear seaside town she lives in. Hornby writes well so the story reads nice but I was disappointed by the plot and more so by the conclusion. Still, not all bad as it is Hornby after all.

That Old Cape Magic- Russo (Book #69)

Russo is one of my favorite authors even though the more you read his books the more you see such common themes you begin wondering how much of his fiction is from his real life. I enjoyed this book because Russo can write about anything and make it enjoyable. The story is about a man going to the Cape to attend his daughter's friend's wedding. The Cape is where his parents vacationed with him each year and visiting it now, 30 years later brings with his father's ashes to scatter, and a wife who is growing increasingly annoyed with him brings back strong memories of the past and his childhood. Russo has a way with bringing characters to life so I enjoyed the story though it was certainly not one of my favorites.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Angel's Game- Zafon (Book #68)

I devoured Zafon's earlier book Shadow of the Wind so eagerly awaited my copy of The Angel's Game. I must confess I'm disappointed. Shadow was a seamless novel, the story was complex with lots of drama and intrigue but everything tied together in the end. With The Angel's Game, this was not the case. We are left with threads unconnected, with questions left unanswered, and an ending that seems like an easy supernatural way out. He writes beautifully so I kept reading, hoping things would wrap up, but they did not.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange- Smyth (Book #67)

This is a beautiful character driven novel set in Trinidad and Tabago about Celia, a young girl, raped by her uncle and forced to flee. On her way she meets a doctor who takes her in as a maid for his family and the novel follows her life at a steady pace. The author writes beautifully and I felt like each character was well drawn out and I could picture the scenes and settings in my mind. The story also has an interesting twist towards the end which helped this character novel end with a zing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Change In Altitude- Shreve (Book #66)

I enjoyed Shreve's book "The Pilot's Wife" and looked forward to reading this latest book by her. This is a story of a 20 something couple living in Kenya. They start the story going on a hike up Mount Kenya that proves disastrous and has long reaching consequences upon their marriage. The book explores the rift between the couple and the landscape of Kenya a place I can tell through reading that Shreve loves. I wish I was able to connect more with the characters. Except for Rafik a Pakistani journalist, I could not get invest in any particular character. Still, if you like Shreve's books, you will like this one too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale- Setterfield (Book #65)

I have mixed emotions about this book. It was well written, the story is interesting, but somehow I was put off by its attempt to be uber goth. Jane Eyre comes up a lot and I feel the author tried hard to emulate it. Still, its an interesting story about an author Vida Winters who spins marvelous tales but who never reveals her life. She finally chooses the narrator to tell her final tale, the tale of her own life. The story is disturbing, at times it made me queasy, but the ultimate outcome is unexpected and enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Smith (Book #64)

This is a classic tale of young Francie growing up in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. This book follows her life as she grows up in poverty. Her mother is a janitor, her father Johnny works sporadically as a singing waiter, and her Aunt Sissy has ten dead babies and goes through husbands like spring coats. This is a book focused on character development. It is a coming of age tale as we see Francie first feel amazed and enchanted by her life, and then as she grows older, we see her disillusionment and her doubts for her future. I enjoyed this book very much, the writing is gentle and beautiful and I fell in love with Francie. The author did a great job making each character feel real and true to life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Goodbye Cousins- Leffler (Book #63)

The title and the cover art intrigued me when I saw this book at a bookstore, so I requested it from the library. The main character was kidnapped as a child by her mother and taken to Europe. Now, an adult she is back in the US living with her cousin and figuring her life out. This book was fascinating but not for the normal reasons. The writing was good, the characters were interesting but the technical aspects of the novel got very much in the way of the tale. As an aspiring writer whose shown my work to others some critique I've received is being careful of my prologue and being easy on the flashbacks. They said that it can take the reader out of the moment and the biggest thing you want is for a reader to be fall into and fully absorb the story. This novel began in fits and starts. The prologue was cute but had no bearing on the rest of the novel. The flashbacks were very disorienting. Lots of plot stories were left hanging. I guess what I'm trying to say is I saw what could have been a fantastic book but turned into quite mediocre due to the mistakes that I've been taught to avoid. So why was this so fascinating? I saw in print what I was told not to do. And I finally understood why.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Houston We Have a Problema- Zepeda (Book#62)

This is a multicultural chick lit about a girl, Jessica, and her struggles in love, work, and family. It's a cute fun read about angst in figuring out who you're supposed to end up with, and whether you should stay in a job if you're unhappy, and the difficulties adult children have with accepting their parent's marriages are far from perfect. To figure it out, Jessica relies on a local fortune teller who gives her ideas on which way to proceed in the complicated areas of her life. The book was fun and a very easy read. I didn't always care for her writing but the story line was endearing enough to help me overlook it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Secrets of a Former Fat Girl- Delaney (Book #61)

This book is a great practical guide to losing weight that doesn't teach you any new secret fad diets but simply gives you motivation to pursue whatever diet plan you are on. She is someone who struggled with weight for years and finally reached her goal. I've read the book three times now and each time I learn something new.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Up a Road Slowly - Hunt (Book #60)

In the lovely book Shadow of the Wind, the author describes how the first book a reader reads and loves remains forever in their hearts much like first love. I agree and this statement prompted me to turn to Up A Road Slowly for a re-read, perhaps my fifteen re-read since childhood. This is a young adult tale of growing up. The story finds Julie, seven years old, recovering from an illness that took her mother's life and hysterical with grief and fear. She is taken five miles up the road into the country to be raised by her spinster aunt Cordelia because Julie's father is busy teaching and her eldest sister busy with school. Julie hates it there at first but overtime she grows up in the home and this is a gentle, slow story about the pain of growing up and the lessons we learn along the way. This book held magic for me as a child and now as I read it fully grown reading this book felt like visiting my childhood once again.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Gift- Hafiz (Book #59)

I read this book ten years ago and re-reading it was a treat just as it was then. This is a collection of poetry by the sufi master Hafiz translated into English by Ladinsky. I enjoyed this extensive series of poems very much. I posted my favorite poem here.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Shadow of The Wind- Zafon (Book #58)

Very few books capture one's imagination and transport them completely into another world. This book is just such a book. It's a book I remember from childhood where you fall into the story and forget everything around you. This is a complex gothic novel translated from Spain about a boy Daniel who discovers a book, the only one of its kind and falls in love with the writing. When he seeks out other books by the author he learns that someone is going around methodically burning all the books by this author. So begins Daniel's quest which unravels in exciting and unpredictable ways. The writing is breathtaking and the insights are profound. This is a book I will certainly be purchasing for my bookshelf soon.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Italian For Beginners- Harmel (Book #57)

Italian For Beginners is a travelogue and chick lit tale all in one. The story follows Cat, a 34 year old single girl who has played it safe her entire life, caring for her father and younger sister and nursing emotional bruises from the abandonment of her mother at an early age. At her sister's wedding she meets a man who reminds her of her passion for Italy, a city she visited years earlier and the man she left behind. On a whim after a seemingly disastrous date Cat decides to take a four week vacation to Italy and perhaps rekindle her relationship with her ex. Things don't go as planned in Italy and she finds herself dumped by her ex and lost and alone until she finds a waitress who agrees to let her stay in a room in her home. So begins Cat's exploration of Italy and herself as she finds out who she truly is and what she really wants.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harry Potter Book 7- Rowling (Book #56)

Unless you've lived under a rock you've likely heard of Harry Potter. This was my second read of Book 7 but I kind of needed to lose myself in a good book and though its a bit lengthy particularly considering I'm on a 100 book challenge and falling behind, it was worth the detour. Not much to say by way of summary except she touches on many issues that go beyond the wizarding world and her last book is by far my favorite.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Benny and Shrimp- Mazetti (Book #55)

This is a very sweet and unexpected love story between Benny and Desiree (Shrimp). The writing reminded me of a charming book series I love 44 Scotland Street. They meet at the graveyard. She goes to remember her late husband, he goes to remember his mother. At first they are annoyed by one another but as the story progresses they grow interested and a surprising love story develops. Shrimp is a cultured librarian living in the city who enjoys the opera and values her education. Benny is a farmer working his family's dairy farm. They are very different people yet they cannot fight their attraction to one another. The story is told in alternating chapters with Benny's point of view and then Shrimp's point of view. Mazetti's work could be another silly romance but her writing is what truly sets this book apart as well as her insight into heavy topics such as loneliness and the lengths we go to escape it. I'm glad she is coming out with a sequel because the ending for me needed more. I wanted to keep reading on about what happened with both of them. Hopefully like 44 Scotland Street she will continue to let us learn more about the characters she created.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Into the Beautiful North- Urrerra (Book #54)

Wow, two books in a row that were riveting from start to finish. This is a story of a small town Tres Camarones, a sleepy coastal town where all the men have left to go North to find work leaving women and children behind. A group of drug cartel people discover this hidden nook and decide to take over. With no men to defend Nayeli, a teenage girl in the village decides, they must go to the U.S and bring back men to repopulate the village and kick out the bad guys. She assembles a small posse with the blessing of Auntie Irma, the town Mayor.

The story follows their struggle to the US and is more about the journey than the ultimate resolution of the story. Urrerra writes very well and I enjoyed this novel very much. The characters are so real and believable that I had to stay up until 2am to see them through. I would love to read more about them to learn how their lives ended up. I particularly love that the woman was portrayed as strong and brave and the leader of the pack.

My only complaint with this novel was the premise of why they had to leave was not adequately laid out. We knew some bad people came but we did not see much example of what happened to perciptiate such a dramatic reaction. It would have been nice to have some chapters devotecd to what was happening back home to help create more tension and a sense of understanding as to why they chose the steps they did.

Still, the novel is really good and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm So Happy For You- Rosenfield (Book #53)

It's been a good long while since I've read such a delightful fun and honest novel about life. I simply could not put this book down, it was unpredictable until the end. I'm So Happy For You is about the nature of friendship between women, particularly two women, Wendy and Daphne. Both have been friends for fifteen years and the novel shows how their friendship formed, and how Wendy perceives her friend. Wendy felt in a comfort zone when beautiful Daphne couldn't get her act together but then Daphne does. She meets a rich handsome guy, gets engaged and pregnant while Wendy struggles with an unemployed husband, months of futile babymaking, and a job she is less than thrilled with. The novel follows how their relationship unfolds as their lives change.

It's funny because I was just talking to a friend about how I feel Im not good at this friendship business. I've experienced so much of both what Daphne has experienced as well as Wendy. Daphne represents so many friends I've had and so does Wendy. This novel helped me reach a better understanding of the nature of friendship making me feel less alone. Rosenfield did a fantastic job capturing a powerful human relationship: female friendship.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hollywood is like highschool with money- Dean (Book #52)

This is a very quick lighthearted read about a girl, Taylor, who moves to LA to work for a studio Metronome as an assistant with big dreams in movies. When she arrives she learns that Hollywood is complicated and you have to know how to play the game if you want to get ahead. With the help of her superior's daughter, Taylor learns how to make it in the industry. Only later does Taylor wonder if its worth it to succeed if the lengths she has to go through are so extreme. The movie reminded me of books I read when I was younger like Sweet Valley High. Entertaining, easy to read. A take-it-to-the-beach sort of book.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frommer's Spain 2009 (Book #51)

I love Frommer's and I enjoyed it for Spain though I do like the Frommer's Guide to Costa Rica and a few other countries slightly better. We enjoyed all the hotels they recommended and I appreciate they include wii fii listings for reach hotel.

Spain- Fodors 2009 (Book #50)

Fodors was good though I am more used to the format of Frommer's. I enjoyed that the hotel recommendations included pros and cons for each hotel. I did find one inaccuracy in the book that cost us a few hours of time but otherwise it was decent.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Garden of Truth- Nasr (Book #49)

This book just may change my life. Dr. Nasr is a Sufi himself and this book is a beginner's guide to understanding Sufism and provides a brief history on Sufism. I was surprised at how little I knew of Sufism and how truly thoughtful and deep it is. My favorite part that I have written and practically memorized is this hadith:

Who seeketh me findeth me. Who findeth me knoweth me. Who knoweth me loves me. Who loves me him I love. Whom I love him I slay. Whom I slay him must I requite. Whom I requite, Myself am his requital.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ornament of the World- Menocal (Book #48)

I'm heading to Spain and wanted to read this book to get a better idea of the history of medieval Spain. This is a very interesting book about the culture of tolerance that once existed in Spain as the three major world religions worked side by side. I enjoyed the vignettes of different historical figures, and felt devastated when I read how the Jews and Muslims were ultimately expelled by Queen Isabella. The book is told with snippets of stories of different historical people and major events. The author jumps around a bit with flashbacks that left me a bit confused from time to time, but over all it is a very good book that leaves me better informed for my trip.

My favorite was a poem by Abd al-Rahman, the man who began the Muslim Empire in Spain:

A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,
Born in the West, far from the land of palms.
I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile,
In long separation from family and friends.
You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger,
And I like you, am far from home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Annie's Ghosts- Luxenberg (Book#47)

What a fascinating read! This was a book I got completely lost in. I love it when that happens with a book. Steve grew up thinking his mother was an only child. She told him stories of being an only child, and the picture of her childhood showed just her with her parents. Decades later, as his mother was on her death bed, he finds out from a social worker that his mother mentioned she had a sister. Who was this sister? Why did his mother never mention her before? These are questions Steve never gets to ask her for she passes away before they can be asked. This is a story about Steve's quest to find out what happened to the aunt he never knew. Steve uses his investigative journalist skills and learns that his aunt was handicapped since childbirth and institutionalized at 21 for mental illness. This story is more than just about his aunt though, it is also about the other ghosts he digs up along the way. Through his journey he describes how mental illness was handled in the past, and explores not just what Annie went through but what many others like her went through before there was greater understanding of mental illness and intellectual disabilities. Although I did feel the story could have been shortened by a chapter or two, I found it to be an easy read.

I first heard of this story through NPR. To read his interview and read an excerpt click here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Get Off Your 'But'- Stephenson (Book#46)

This book is a very inspiring and easy read about ditching your excuses and making the most of your life. Stephenson is a motivational speaker and a psychotherapist. He also has a rare condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta also known as brittle bone disorder. As a result he has always been in a wheelchair and dealt with a lot in his life. However, in his book, Stephenson talks about how he never let his disability become an excuse for him not to make a good life for himself. The book has seven topics to motivate you to better you life and let go of the fears and inhibitions holding you back. I found it an interesting read and I know I will certainly be re-reading this book again.

Pain is inevitable. Eventually, it touches us all. Suffering, however, is optional. -Stephenson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Divorce Party- Dave (Book #45)

This is a well written novel about the nature of trust and of course, about divorce. The story follows two women. Gwyn is having a divorce party honoring her 35 year marriage with her husband and trying to let go gracefully. Her husband told her he decided to become Buddhist and wants to live a different life. She accepts this while she battles with a painful truth. The other woman is Maggie who is engaged to Nick, Gwyn's son. She is going with Nick to Mountauk, NY to attend the party and meet his family for the first time. Along the way she realizes that her fiancee is harboring quite a few secrets. The story moves at a suspenseful clip and makes for an easy read. I enjoyed the book for the most part but towards the end I felt the story was getting a little hokey. Still, I would recommend it to readers.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Confetti Girl- Lopez (Book #44)

I finished this book wanting to give it a standing ovation. This book was beautiful, flawless. This is a YA novel about Lina, and her life after losing her mother. She lives with her father, a book aficianado who is coping with his wife's loss by turning to his books and fumbling with all sincerity to be a good father and mother. Her best friend lives across the street with a single mother who begins the novel hating men and making confetti eggs. This is a snapshot of the life of a middle schooler dealing with love and loss. I wept at least three times reading this book. The writer has a gift with words, and I plan to buy this book one day.

I've tasted tears before. They're salty, just like the water below, and I wonder if the ocean is made of tears from all the peple and all the animals that have lost their mothers. After a while my dad comes and sits beside me. "I miss her," I say. "He says, I miss her too, m'ija." Then he puts his arm around me and we spend a few minutes filling the ocean together.

On Hearts: real hearts are reddish purple -- like bruises. No wonder it hurts to love.

B as in Beauty- Ferreras (Book #43)

They say don't judge a book by its cover, I also should add you must not judge a book by its title either. B as in Beauty on title alone struck me as potentially an ultra uppity perky chick lit novel, but since Tee recommended it and it arrived on my doorstep thanks to a contest I won on her site, I had the perfect incentive to pick up and read it.

This book is about a fat girl (self proclaimed) who hates herself and is losing at love and work but along the way learns what it is to be proud of who she is. She learns this in the most unlikeliest of manners but the book sucks you in that you suspend disbelief and you float along.

I love books where I can lose myself. Doing the 100 book challenge means that sometimes I feel the need to read quickly and get frustrated with too much detail. Not this book A good book makes you forget you are reading, you feel you are experiencing the tale as it unfolds. B as in Beauty did that. I know after I complete my challenge this will be a book I will certainly re-read.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shopgirl- Martin (Book #42)

I've heard good things about this book but I always hesitated because Steve Martin was the author and he's an actor. I pictured it a foray of an egocentric actor thinking, writing? How hard could it be? I borrowed it from the library because I saw good reviews and it was short. I've been reading some doozy long books lately and I needed a breezy short one. I read Shopgirl in one sitting and though I expected to dislike it because the main character was one of those depressed wanderers and I thought oh great, its just going to be a bunch o kids experiencing agnst. Yawn. But the book rocked! This is a novella about a girl and her relationships but its more than that. It's about loneliness and what loneliness can drive us to, misunderstandings, jealousy, feeling lost in ones life, and the differences between men and women. All of that in a short little book. I really found Martin insightful and I know I will be reading other work by him now.

It's Pain That Changes Our Lives- Martin

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hungry Woman in Paris- Lopez (Book #41)

I was super psyched to read this book about a woman in Paris searching for herself and what she wants. Canela leaves the US for Paris after breaking up with her fiancee and the tragic suicide of her beloved cousin. She attends cooking school and learns about herself and life. I thought this would be the perfect chick lit novel to get lost in but instead what I got was a poorly written novel with strange obscenity. But let's leave the obscenity to the side for a moment. As an aspiring writer the number one rule I hear is "SHOW don't TELL". This novel was all telling telling telling. There was very little expanding on any character other than Canela, the main character. Huge issues like her helping a woman escape an abusive relationship were explained in two pages with a paragraph summary of "she found a job and there were promises of more to come." I have heard that her screen play "Real Women Have Curves" was excellent and I still want to see it, but I think I'd leave the novel writing for another day.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

For Writers Only- Burnham (Book #40)

This is a book for writers who need a bit of encouragement. Burnham has quotes on every page from different writers on the art of writing and she talks about different aspects of writing and provides some of her own personal reflections on the topics. Her writing is gentle and soft. I think the second half was better than the first half but this could be because the second half resonated more with me at where I'm at as a writer. The first half is about finding the proper space, finding time, etc. The second half is fear of rejection, re-writing, etc. Those apply to me more. It was a nice book, not a book to get real advice though, its along the lines of a "quotable quotes" book or "words of wisdom" gift books that help inspire you but won't take you past the gate. Good for what it is.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Portland Noir- (Book #39)

This is an anthology of dark short stories about characters residing in Portland. The Noir series take place in many cities and countries around the world. I picked this one up since I'd just come from Portland and wanted to get a flavor of the town through the eyes of certain writers. Some of the short stories are very good. My favorite was Virgo about a newspaper editor who messes with an ex by fixing her horoscope. My least favorite was by Luciana Lopez about a woman who lives in a house where a murder took place and she wants to know what happened. The stories vary in quality of writing and they are too heavily focused on stalkers told from a stalkers point of view. It got kind of old by the last story. Not a heavy thinking type of read, just okay.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What I talk about when I talk about running- Marukami (Book #38)

I read a portion of this book at the fabulous Powell's bookstore in Portland, OR and immediately checked it out from my local library. This is a book by a writer who became a marathon runner. The author is from Japan and this book is translated so I don't know if I can disparage the author's style of writing since its translated. The book is about running and how he prepares and how he thinks about running. It feels like you are reading a diary. I think runners may appreciate the story more than I did.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Waiting For Daisy- Orenstein (Book #37)

I have enjoyed Orenstein's other books and this book is no different. Its an honest and very easy to read memoir of her struggles to conceive. I very much enjoyed the read. She is a good writer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You- Behrendt (Bok #36)o

It may seem strange for me to read a book written for singles understanding men, but I had read a fiction book by the co-author Tuccillo and felt myself lost in a well written chick lit novel. Since I am of the variety who devours everything written by an author I love, I picked this book up too. This book is okay. I understood a lot of Tuccillos first novel by reading it, but the message is very simply for this book: If a guy acts vague, distracted or uninterested, or treats you bad, or cheats on you, or exhibits any other strange behaviors, he is just not that into you. That's it. The book is writte in a Q&A style with question after question with the same response: He's just not that into you.

I think there are important lessons for women to learn.... about how men's minds work but this is a black and white approach to a gray situation. Relationshps just aren't as simple as the author makes them. Still, I think a single woman would benefit from the main point: You are too fabulous to spend your days pining after someone who does not care.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Odes To Common Things- Neruda (Book #35)

When I saw the title I thought it would be a silly book of poems about objects. No, Neruda is a simple but inherently deep poet. His lyrics flow, and I loved that this book had the Spanish version. Though I could not fully understand the Spanish, I loved the beautiful words. I long to read it in Spanish because I know that is where the fullest beauty of his poetry resides. I enjoyed these poems very much. Some of them, I know I will someday know by heart.

Leaving Tangier- Jelloun (Book #34)

A very new book, I'm surprised this novel ranks so low on Amazon. I found this simply browsing a library and I'm glad I read it. This is a story about immigration and the desperation that can cause someone to want to leave their homeland. This novel written by a Moroccan and translated into English, revolves around the immigration desires of Moroccans to Spain. The story focuses primarily on Azel, an educated Moroccan who cannot find a job and is taken in to be the personal everything to a rich Spaniard Miguel. The story also delves into his sister's life, and a few others along the way. The author alternates chapters with each of their stories. This is a somber novel but it helps me understand how universal the plight of desperate people are. What I mean is, it helps me understand why people are willing to take the risks to become illegal immigrants. This is not just a US thing. It's beyond our borders. The story shows how dark such immigration can be.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Princess Remembers- Devi (Book #33)

This book is the autobiography of a former Indian princess. The book chronicles her life and political trials as India went from being ruled by monarchs to a democratic system. I liked her cool descriptions of her palaces, and activities but there was little warmth. I just could not connect with her. Its interesting though as a historical insight into life in India once upon a time.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Guide- Narayan (Book #32)

As a child I loved watching the Indian movie "Guide" with my family. The story is about a con-artist who ends up on the banks of an abandoned temple and is mistaken for a Swami. The story delves into his past and his present. I remember my parents saying it had very good dialogue. Anyways, browsing the library I came across this book and realized the movie I watched was based on this book. The book is a very easy read and is certainly well written, however, I feel as though I preferred the movie. A lot of the book focuses on Rosie, his lover, and her dancing. Narayan simply does not, or perhaps, cannot, fully describe the beauty of Indian classical dancing with his words. The dancing was my favorite part of the movie. So in this sense, though I loved the book because it reminded me of the movie I cannot help but wonder how much I would love the book without the movie. Certainly it is a profound book about self deception and human nature, but its merits as a book are different from its movie version.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

South Beach Diet Guide (Book #31)- Agatston

I've done South Beach in the past and it does work though the effects do not always say, however I do not blame the diet for this because I typically do phase I with the rapid weight loss and ignore the other phases meant to ease you into incorporating fruits, sugars back into your daily life. This is a nice concise book letting you know what you can and cannot eat with South Beach. The internet just had so much conflicting information on phase I so if you know the basics of South Beach already and are just looking for a food guide and other basic information, this is a good book for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How To Be Single- Tuccillo (Book #30)

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I wanted a novel to lose myself into and browsing through the library with nary a review in hand I picked this book assuming it to be a fun chick lit with little meaning. It was fun and it was about women and it definitely had chick lit aspects, but it did not follow the standard formula. This is a novel about a writer traveling the world searching for how single women around the world fare. The story also follows the writer and her three friends who are single under difference circumstances as they struggle to find love. Tuccillo can WRITE. Her story is beautiful and though the ending is very unchick-lit it still satisfied me. I almost felt like this novel was part chick-lit and part non-fiction since a lot of things she talked about are in fact true. Loved this book.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

11 minutes- Coelho (Book #29)

This book was all right. Coelho's books often follow a topic in a fable like narrative. I enjoyed two of his books, the Alchemist and Veronika Decides To Die. However, this book was just okay. There were a few beautiful quotes that I loved and I get his message but overall I don't like being hit over the head with a message and that is what happened here. It was an okay novel.

My favorite quote: Life moves very fast. It rushes us from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Runaway- Munro (Book #28)

I like short stories to a certain extent but what I often don't appreciate is the lack of closure most provide. These stories are no different, yet I liked them just the same. There are about seven stories in this collection. Three stories focus on different times in one woman's life and I loved those the most. I wish I had read these stories with a book club because there is so much to talk about and discuss. There is a great degree of depth and symbolism, etc that just makes you wish you could share the reading with someone. I liked reading these very much.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Polysyllabic Spree- Hornby (Book #27)

Nick Hornby is one of my favorite writers but I had to check the book out twice to make it through this one. This is essentially a compilation of articles written by Hornby for The Guardian about the books he's purchased and the books he's read. It's very very cool when he reviews a book that I've read and I love when he gives small tid bits into his views on writing, but most of the book covered books that I haven't read, and are not available in my library to check out. So all in all, it was an okay book but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to everyone unless they are a) looking for recommendations on book buying from a great writer or b) if you are like me, a Hornby nut!

Monday, April 06, 2009

I'm a Stranger Here Myself- Bryson (Book #26)

This is a humorous series of articles compiled into a book about Bryson's experience of living in the US again after having spent 20 years in England. Essentially this book, published in 1999, is a blog in print. Each entry reminds me of something I would read while surfing the web. He's funny, though sometimes he gets into Andy Roony territory, whining incessantly about how things have changed too much. I know many find him hilarious, I thought he's entertaining but his exxagerations were so extreme they raised eyebrows for me. In any case, this is an interesting well written and easy to read book, it is over ten years old though so some of his observations or comments no longer apply as technology, etc have since advanced. It's a light read and I did enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jonathon Livingston Seagull- Bach (Book #25)

This is an allegorical tale of a seagull who dreams to find his own way despite his flock branding him and outcast for daring to dream a different dream. This is a metaphor for life about how you should not waste your life conforming if you think you have a gift and you should pursue it despite all the naysayers. That's a beautiful message, I suppose, but I just didn't like this book. I thought it was tedious in how it learned to fly, and I got the point of the book but didn't appreciate the story in which it was told. This was a book, that despite being incredibly slim at about 125 pages with tons of pictures, that I almost gave up on because I simply couldn't bear to turn the page.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Life of Pi- Martel (Book #24)

I passed up on this book many times due to the premise: a 16 y/o castaway rolling through the Pacific with a tiger? It sounded ludicrous. I ended up checking it out from the library just to give it a try and found myself turning the pages without the ability to stop. This is a novel more than just about a sea faring adventure. It begins with character development and background information critical to appreciate the second half of the novel when he is stranded in the Pacific. You leave this story half believing his story and half doubting, you find yourself contemplating the nature of God, and the human spirit of endurance. It's a beautiful story and one I may actually buy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye- Salinger (Book #23)

I believe Mystic recommended this book to me and I have to say I enjoyed it very much though I am amazed at its popularity. I can see a young person, a teenager, relating to this novel and its theme of alienation and feeling misunderstood. There is one part in the book, where he wakes up to his English teacher petting his head in the middle of the night, and he says this has happened to him at least twenty times in his life, that made me feel the true power and skill of Salinger's writing. It was an interesting book and I'm glad I read it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Recently Deflowered Girl- Hyacinthe Phyppe (Book #22)

After reading huge rambling sagas I wanted a nice short book that could help me maintain my 100 book challenge, and this book was it! It's out of print now but the link I provided gives you the full text of this 47 page "advice" book filled with hilarious situations and the author's humorous advice on handling that particular situation. I can only imagine the controversy it caused in the time and place it was published!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Caramelo- Cisenros (Book #21)

Considering my goal is to read 100 books in 2009 I'm not sure why I'm latching on to novels that are over 400 pages in length equivalent to two books, but I'm glad I made it through this one. This is a sprawling novel told from the eyes of young Celaya. She describes her journeys to Mexico from Chicago with her large family and weaves in stories of her grandmother's past, and her own current life and struggles. The story is told very pretty, and reads almost like a poem instead of a novel. At times this threw me off and could get disconcerting, but on the whole I got over it. She has some beautiful insights into life, and what amazed me the most about her novel is that though Mexico is pretty much as far from Pakistan/India as you can get, the similiarties in culture and values was unbelievable. Her book illustrates how similar human beings are.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Bean Trees- Kingsolver (Book #20)

It took me a little while to get into this book due to the very particular dialect of Kentucky and slang the narrator used, but overtime I grew to accept it as part of her personality and ultimately found her way of phrasing things charming. This is a novel about a fiesty girl traveling the country in a beat up car hoping for bigger pastures ahead. On the way she is given a little Indian girl to take care of by a random stranger, who she takes along with her to her final resting spot in Arizona. The premise didn't sound that great to me but the novel is lovely and heart wrenching. Kingsolver can write very well, and I have found in her a writer whose work I will continue to read for some time to come.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Revolutionary Road- Yates (Book #19)

I feel like giving a standing ovation after finishing this book. What an amazing classic I missed out for all these years! A friend said that she does not read books that inspired movies if she watched the movie, but this book is a perfect example of how, no matter how wonderful a movie adaptation may be, most times (exception: Atonement) the movie pales in comparison to the book adding strokes of depth and texture that a movie simply cannot for it cannot directly take us into the minds of the characters as has as it may try.

Having seen the wonderful movie, I walked away shaken. This is a story of a young couple with two children wanting more from their life than the boredom of the suburbs. They decide to uproot and move to Paris. She'll work as a typist and he can find himself. The perfect plan until flaws emerge within it and then ultimately larger flaws unravel like the thread on a nice cuffed sleeve and threaten to perhaps tear apart their entire marriage.

The book is very well written, you read it effortlessly, and though not a great deal happens in the book until the very end, you read it with your heart in your throat regardless.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Diary of a Bad Year- Coatzee (Book #18)

An unusually written book chronicling the happenings of an elderly writer along with his ruminations on a variety of topics that he is compiling for a German book. Each page is split in three parts with 1) his thoughts on a particular topic (some of which I found powerful, the later ones I found myself skimming through) 2) His thoughts in his daily life as he interacts with Anya his typist and neighbor 3) Anya's thoughts and her conversations about him with her boyfriend Alan who has duplicitious designs on his bank account. Overall I think it was an interesting read, though towards the end, I was beginning to tire of the format in which it was written.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao- Diaz (Book #17)

A book in a league of its own, is how I would term this book. Junot breaks all the rules I'm to stick by as I write my own novel with his un-italicized reversions to Spanish, and his lack of quotes for any spoken dialogue. The book is told in street slang and goes over the lives of more than just Oscar, but his entire family, and the curse they believe afflicts them. As he writes, he teaches us as only narratives can, the horror that Truillio inflicted on the people of the Dominican Republic by showing us its effect on people we can imagine to be real. I think some knowledge on Spanish is helpful as he does fall in and out of Spanish, and the context clues are not always enough to get by. I liked this book but it took some getting used to because it is written so unconventionally.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Skipping Christmas- Grisham (Book #16)

A friend who loves sharing humorous novels with me told me to check out this book, a departure for Grisham's usual legal thrillers. Grisham writes well and I enjoyed this story about an empty nester couple who decides to take a cruise to the Caribbean instead of celebrating Christmas the year their daughter is out of the country. The neighbors and their community take this quite badly, and hilarity ensues. I thought that the book was clever and cute. I don't celebrate Christmas so there was the matter of not being able to relate to a lot of it, but I'm sure for those who do celebrate Christmas, this was doubly humorous.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Geography of Bliss- Weiner (Book #15)

LOVED this book. There are some books that merit highlighting and re-reads, this is one of those books and I plan to buy it so I can read it and write my thoughts in the margin. Eric Weiner traveled the world particularly to some of the happiest countries in the world (and one sad one- Moldova) and did NOT give resounding conclusions. Instead he shared what he learned in a journalistic but well written prose. I found this book thought provoking and inspiring but also I felt as though I visited each country with him. He has such vivid descriptions you feel like you have traveled the world without having left your couch. Oh, and I'm moving to Iceland.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Story of a Marriage- Greer (Book #14)

After a nice high of awesome reading it figured I'd hit a dud. This book makes me cringe even when I think of it. The voice of the MC does not resonate as authentic to me, the plot is unbelievable, and the writing is... UGH. It's not that the guy writes bad, its just that he uses sooooooo many similes and metaphors that it is beyond overkill. She sees her husband sleeping, and then we are subjected to ten metaphors of how he is sleeping, like a cat on a perch near a mountain top while thinking of mice. (Not in the book, but you get the idea). In theory this could have been an interesting story, and some of his insights were nice, but for the most part this was a novel by an author thoroughly in love with the sound of his own voice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Night at the Lobster- O'Nan (Book #13)

A beautifully written slim novel trailing the last night of work for Manny the manager of a Red Lobsters shutting its doors for good. The book is literally about this last night as Manny deals with a staff that is quitting by the hour (why stay when they are being laid off anyways), a love conflict he's struggling to resolve, and customers who range from mildly amusing to vile and nightmarish. I really enjoyed reading this book, an exploration of a character who is struggling to make it through the day, trying to be a good person, and figuring out his life. I like the subtlety of the book, how small details that give insight. An example: While Manny would never admit this since [Eddy] and him are friends, Eddie, being eager to please, is that much easier to boss around. This could have been written as a simple cliche, yet he said an age old saying of "teaching people how to treat you" but in a way that makes you pause and reflect just a bit. I liked it. Worth a read!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On My Own Two Feet-Thakor/Kedar (Book #12)

I checked this book out hoping it would be a lot like my favorite advice book by women for women: Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work. It is a good book I think for people who know very little about saving money and about managing finances. I'd say if you're just graduating high school or college and are starting your first job this book would be helpful.

The Whore's Child- Russo (Book #11)

I love Russo's books. This is a short story collection and I loved it just as I love Lahiri's short stories in "Interpreter of Maladies". He has a way with insight and introspection and character development that makes each character come alive and real to us as they must be in his mind's eye. This is my third Russo book and I'm beginning to see a lot of patterns in his novels and stories. In fact, in this collection, one story is almost identical to a longer novel of his that I recently read, "Straight Man". Because of the themes and patterns I saw recurring I felt that not only was I learning stories by a writer, but I was learning a bit of Russo the man and the life that he lives, the past that seems to seep into his words. The thing I love most about Russo's writing is that he writes about the truth of our world and he even faces us to certain horrors inherent in our lives, yet somehow we leave his stories thoughtful, perhaps inspired, but never fully desolate as such stories may inherently suggest. Beautifully written.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tao Te Ching (Book #10)

This is a sacred text and I will assume that I read a bad translation. Some parts of it were beautiful and filled with wisdom I understand but most of it I just did not understand. I don't think I've ever felt so confused since I studied "Securities Interests and Liens" in law school. I'm not going to rate it, but it was interesting, just a bit confusing to read.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Straight Man- Russo (Book #9)

When I put a book down and feel sad that its over I know that I just read a wonderful one. I should not be surprised that Russo hit it out of the park with this book since at this point I think I could read a book about him describing paint drying and find it riveting. This is a story about a professor in a mid-life crisis. That's putting it very simply. His books are character driven studies of the human psyche told with humor and charming insight into life, not sugarcoating the hard truths either. I haven't intended to read books on "the meaning of life" this year but it seems nearly every book I read has this theme lately. Maybe life is trying to teach me something. In any case, this book is beautiful and will leave me thinking for days to come.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

78 reasons why your book will never be published and 14 reasons why it might (Book #8)

Reason #1: You haven't written it yet. When I read this book about six years ago I read that paragraph and set the book down in the Border's book shelf, because he was right, it will never be published if I have not written it. Now that I have written it I found his words of wisdom useful, slightly discouraging but strangely motivating as well. Some of his advice is repetitive, but overall the messages contained in the book are important for aspiring writers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Martha Stewart's Cookies- Stewart (Book #7)

I've always wanted to bake cookies from scratch, though I spend time on learning more complicated desserts, somehow I never got around to making cookies from scratch which is why I checked this book out from the library. I liked the tips on how to prepare your ingredients such as making sure butter and eggs are at room temperature before stirring. I will be copying quite a few recipes to make for later, if you invite me to your home for dinner, be prepared you may be getting cookies soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Reading Changed My Life- Quindlen (Book #6)

This is a very slim book clocking in at just about 80 pages. I wanted to read a tribute to reading which is the reason I picked this book up from the library. This is truly an ode to those who love to read. She writes about how there has always been in nearly every decade and century, bemoaning of the death of fine literature, and she also looks down on those who are book snobs. Reading is not just for the sake of judging its merit, but reading is also to empathize with others, to feel less lonely, to understand the world around you, to travel without leaving your sofa. In short, if you want a pat on the back to keep on reading though the others may call you a bookworm, check this short book out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Persepolis 2- Satrapi (Book #5)

Persepolis 1 was incredible and so I was glad I checked out the second part as well so I did not have to wait too long for the sequel. The sequel is good, but it pales in comparison to the original. This is the story of Marjane now older and begins with her in Austria. She is alone and a foreigner and struggles through adolescence with no one to console her. This novel was a lot darker and I liked Marjane a whole lot less. Despite that, I am impressed with her candor and how she tells the truth even when she must know how others will judge her. She is unapologetic. So if I am to base this on me trying to learn the truth of Iran and of this particular girl, then its wonderful, but if I am to base it on what I think of what she chose in her life, then its pretty depressing and in some ways unforgivable. However, that being said, though I disagree with her choices, I still think she has the right to make them (well, all but one involving the boy on the steps). If you read the first, you should certainly read the second.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Persepolis- Satrapi (Book #4)

My jaw dropped open while I read this book and remained so throughout. What a wonderful wonderful book. This is a graphic novel, my first, and quite unintentional as I thought this was actually a novel. This is a non-fiction story of a childhood during the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the resolution. It is funny, engrossing, and absolutely heartrendingly tragic. She brought humanity to events that often seem removed, and the beauty of her narrative has no choice but to quite literally break your heart.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Fitzgerald (Book #3)

This is a short story now a major motion picture that I read via daily lit. I would not normally consider a short story as a "book" but this particular book (TCCBB) was actually sold separately like a book instead of within a volume of short stories, so a book it is, and I shall count it as such. The movie from what I see of its trailers seems very serious and haunting. The book was more light and slightly funny. The book I dont think was ever meant to be taken literally, its basically a story about a man who was born old and died and infant. He lived his life in reverse. Its a story worthy of a few re-reads to get more out of it each time, and with its short length that probably won't be a problem.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Awakening- Chopin (Book #2)

I read this book when I was 18 and I remember some of the themes sticking with me, when I saw that it was offered for a daily reading on dailylit I subscribed to get daily e-mails with excerpts. Unfortunately (or not) dailylit lets you get the next installment immediately after reading the one e-mailed to you, so I finished the 65 parts of the book in three days.

The wife and mother of this book, a young woman of 28 decides to begin living her life without people telling her what to do. This is a good book about a woman coming to a spiritual awakening. It was written and published in an era of American history where women did not have the rights they do now. They wrote under nom de plume's and their sole role was a mother and wife. This book sought to break the mold for women, to show a woman choosing to shed what was conventional, and pursue her heart. I hope later to read up on the contextual history of that time and how it relates to her novel.

A quote I particularly liked: She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.

I love that quote because so often women are expected, even today, to give themselves completely, and often they are left broken and desolate as though they themselves are not true people. I know someone whose mother abandoned them much like this mother did, and that mother had a similar husband and similar circumstances in this day and age... her story is fictional but what she says in some ways still rings true for some people in some societies, today.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss- Santiago (Book #1)

Never judge a book by its cover. It's a saying but how often I judge books just like that, and by judging this book by its cover I nearly passed up on a delicious and wonderfully written book.

This is a novel about a woman named Graciela told from three perspectives: Graciela's, Caridad and Impresiaro. C and I are from the village of her childhood in a small poor town in Cuba. The story trails their lives from before the revolution and then what happens afterwards up into when they arrive in the United States and the struggles they face when here.

This story is beautifully written. There are so many layers and so much to learn from it. On one hand, its a story of the loneliness of immigration. Sure people choose to come here but it can be an isolating feeling to leave what you know for what is wholly unfamiliar. I grew up in Miami where there were many many Cubans and there was a resentment at times by those of us who did not speak Spanish at how some Cubans seemed to refuse to learn English, this book talks about that and how some of these women refused to learn because they felt they were going back soon, they feared that learning meant admitting they were staying. The story is also about three women who went through hell and back, and how gossip can hold you back and how instead working to improve yourself and hoping against hope can make dreams come true. At its heart this is also a novel about redemption.

I love stories that teach me about life elsewhere, that help open my horizons and help me remember how similar we all are at the core of it. I recommend it to all.