Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sister Salty, Sister Sweet

Authors: Shannon Kring Biro and Natalie Kring
Genre: Memoir
Challenge: Alphabet Readers (S title)
Date Finished: February 9, 2008
Rating: 3.5/5

"It took what seemed minutes to formulate the words to express my horrible realization: "Oh, my God. We're becoming...our Barbies." - Page 230

Anyone who has grown up with a sister knows of the constant battle that can be produced by the intense sibling rivalry that exists. I'm not sure why, but it seems that females are always trying to out do each other and this is even more apparent when those females are sisters. I am the oldest of three girls and I could really smile at many points in the book because so much of it held a nugget of truth. From always competing for their parents' attention to allowing their sibling rivalry to play out in their Barbies' lives.

But anyone who reads this book just expecting a few humorous stories about sisters will find so much more. It becomes a story of dealing with issues so much bigger...including one sister's eating disorder, their family's multigenerational dysfunction, and the other sister's intense shyness that seems to border almost on agoraphobia. I was delightfully surprised that this memoir was so much more than what I first thought it would be.

Anyon But You

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Genre: Romance
Challenge: Four Legged Friends
Date Finished: February 2, 2008
Rating: 4/5

I am not a big fan of romance novels, but this fun story I devoured in less than a day! Before the beginning of the story there is an author's note stating that this book is often referred to as "Fred's Book" and it is just that. Fred is the lovable part basset hound, part beagle in the story and from his first introduction in chapter one he is the star of the show. The story begins with the line "The last thing Nina Askew needed was Fred." but the truth is she couldn't be more wrong. Nina has just gone through a divorce and sets out to get a puppy to help with her loneliness. Instead she ends up with Fred, a dog well beyond his puppy years whose breeding tends to cause him to look continuously depressed. Yet Fred is a perfect match for Nina and also the perfect matchmaker. Nina finds love with her downstairs neighbor and with Fred's help perhaps the couple can have that happy ending everyone is always seeking. My only complaint is that the author ties up the story too quickly, with all the couples problems being solved in less than 24 hours. The book is not overly sentimental, nor is it overly mushy or smutty. Instead it is a sweet little story about love and friendship and at times is even laugh out loud funny. I can NOT wait to read more novels by this author.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Author: Moshin Hamid
Challenge: Most Notables Challenge
Date Finished: February 2, 2008
Rating: 4.5/5

"Power comes from becoming change." - Page 97

After reading this work of fiction by Hamid I honestly believe that he set out to write a work of art that would stimulate discussion and through discussion, change. And although the change effectuated by the readers of this novel remains to be seen, I think the author succeeded in stimulating discussion about the ideas and viewpoints stated by the narrator of the story. Personally, the political views expressed at times angered me...heck what can I say, I'm an American and proud to be just that. But that very anger caused me to rant and my rant opened up many discussions I had with not only those who had read the book, but even just those wanting to discuss the politics of it.

The novel itself is a piece of art and a wonderful experience that is a bit different from the norm. The story is told in the form of a conversation, but the reader only hears what the narrator is saying. The only clues as to the American's response to what is being discussed is Changez's (the narrator) verbal response to those actions. The novel moves at a fast pace and is long enough to tell the story, but not so long as to become tedious in its views. What a wonderful work of art.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Title Master Reading Challenge

I really shouldn't join another reading challenge, but I just can't seem to resist, especially when I am able to make my list using books already on my TBR mountain. So, with that said I have decided to join in on the fun of the Title Master Reading Challenge. The idea of the challenge is all of the words in the title must start with the same letter. For now I am starting out with a list of four books since I'm already in so many other challenges, but I wouldn't be surprised if I add to the list as the challenge proceeds. Here's my list:

1. Lost Light by Michael Connelly
2. Fatal Flaw by William Lashner
3. Gerald's Game by Stephen King
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Eponymous Challenge

I have decided to join in the Eponymous Challenge being hosted on the Between the Covers blog. I always love treasure hunt type challenges and this one has the premise of reading books with the Title that includes the name of a main character. Sounds like fun to me! Here are the books I've chosen:

1. Taking Back Mary Ellen Black by Lisa Childs
2. Hannibal by Thomas Harris
3. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
4. Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner

Being Dead

Author: Jim Crace
Date Finished: January 29, 2008
Rating: 4/5

From the back cover: "The story of life, mortality, and love, Being Dead confirms Jim Crace's place as one of our most talented, compassionate, and intellectually provocative writers."

The story starts with the newly murdered bodies of Joseph and Celice on the sands of a beach and moves backward and forward in time from that point in time to tell the stories of their lives and the the story of what happens after death. The chapters describing the decomposition of the body can be a bit tough to stomach for some readers, but Crace handles it in such a scientific and yet eloquent way that even those passages add to the over all beauty of the book itself. As a reader, I did find it hard to connect with Joseph, Celice and their daughter Syl, but again I believe that was the author's intention. Its easy to sympathize and express shock at the death of someone lovable, but by taking the lovable part out of the equation the author is showing that death is still a part of life and there is still beauty in it. The book itself is unlike anything I've ever read and will probably continue to stick out in my mind in the months and years to come because it is such a unique novel...handling a common subject in such an alternative way.


Author: John Smolens
Challenge: Every Month is a Holiday (January-Snow)
Date Finished: January 7, 2008
Rating: 4.5

From the moment escaped convict, Norman Haas wonders onto the property and into the life of Liesel Tiomenen this wonderful page-turner grabs ahold of the reader and doesn't let go until the final word. Not only is there action, but also a mystery to solve and abit of go old fashioned romance. Cold is not overly sentitmental or predictible, but it also not outrageous in its explanation of what happened and why. Instead it is a truely believable story about how sometimes a person makes bad choices, how bad things can happen to good people, and about doing what is right and getting one's life back on track.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Royalty Rules Challenge

I have decided to join in the fun and participate in the Royalty Rules Challenge being hosted on the Magic of Ink blog. Here is my list for this challenge:

1. A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell
2. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
3. The Gilded Chamber by Rebecca Kohn
4. Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

People of the Book

Author: Geraldine Brooks
Challenge: The Pub 2008
Date Finished: January 29, 2008
Rating: 4.5/5

“Well, from what you’ve told me, the book has survived the same human disaster over and over again. Think about it. You’ve for a society where people tolerate difference, like Spain in the Convivencia, and everything’s humming along: creative, prosperous. Then somehow this fear, this hate, this hate, this need to demonize ‘the other’ – it just sort of rears up and smashes the whole society. Inquisition, Nazis, extremist Serb nationalists … same old, same old. It seems to me the book, at this point, bears witness to all that.”

This quote from People of the Book is in my opinion a total characterization concerning what this novel is about. The story focuses on a book restorer who sets out to restore a Haggadah (a book used in the passover celebration). While restoring the book she finds part of an insect wing, a shoddy binding, wine stains, salt crystals and a white hair. Each of these small things tells part of the interesting history of this one special book and it becomes clear that the true main character of this story is the book itself and not the individuals trying to save it. I loved the book! The writer really caught the essence of the struggles of the Jewish people throughout history and really drew me into the story. It is not an "on the edge of your seat" kind of book, but if the reader is looking for a wonderfully engaging story with a bit of a historical feel to it this book is a perfect fit for that type of reading.


Author: Lisa Jackson
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Challenge: TBR 2008
Date Finished: January 5, 2008
Rating: 4/5

The story is very fast paced and a wonderful puzzle to figure out. All of the clues are placed in the story for the reader to be able to discern who the killer is without making the clues so balatantly obvious as to offer no challenge at all. The main characters are likeable and the story is engaging. The killer's reasoning for selecting his victims seems a bit far fetched and the ending is a bit predictable, but if the reader is looking for a fast paced, thrilling little mystery this book is just that.