Monday, December 27, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)

So many people have talked about this book that I had to read it. Even though I always know that when a dog is the main character, the end is going to be sad. This one was true to form. Like Marley and Me, this is worth reading as long as you can prepare yourself for the end!

Enzo is the narrator, telling the story of his owner Denny. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter named Zoe and keeps risking it all to become a professional race car driver. Enzo sticks by his side through the highs and the lowest of the lows. Seeing things from a dog's perspective kept the book entertaining. And the overall message will stick with me: That which we manifest is before us. To me, that means focus on your dreams and you will attain them. A good motto.

Read: November/December 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld)

I listened to Prep last fall after reading American Wife, a novel loosely base on Laura Bush by the same author. Reading a novel about prep school was the perfect back-to-school book for fall. Here's the summary from Amazon:

A self-conscious outsider navigates the choppy waters of adolescence and a posh boarding school's social politics in Sittenfeld's A-grade coming-of-age debut. The strong narrative voice belongs to Lee Fiora, who leaves South Bend, Ind., for Boston's prestigious Ault School and finds her sense of identity supremely challenged. Now, at 24, she recounts her years learning "everything I needed to know about attracting and alienating people." Her reminiscences, still youthful but more wise, allow her to validate her feelings of loneliness and misery while forgiving herself for her lack of experience and knowledge. The book meanders on its way, light on plot but saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose.

Read/Listened: September 2010

Ender's Game

Ignore the totally sci-fi cover and pick up this book. Our book club read this at Angela's insistence when she discovered no one else had read it. I was skeptical, but I'm always willing to try a book that comes highly recommended. And it was good, so now I am recommending it to you. Here's a quick summary from Amazon:

Intense is the word for Ender's Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses -- and then training them in the arts of war... The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of 'games'... Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games... He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?

Read: August 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Camel Bookmobile

My Mimi gave me this book and I was intrigued. An American woman moves to Africa to run a mobile library and increase literacy in remote villages. The story is told from three different perspectives. I didn't love the book, and it is hard to pinpoint a reason. Maybe I expected too much from the story? I can't recall exactly. Anyway, here is the summary from Amazon:

Hamilton's captivating third novel (after 2004's The Distance Between Us) follows Fiona Sweeney, a 36-year-old librarian, from New York to Garissa, Kenya, on her sincere but naïve quest to make a difference in the world. Fi enlists to run the titular mobile library overseen by Mr. Abasi, and in her travels through the bush, the small village of Mididima becomes her favorite stop. There, Matani, the village teacher; Kanika, an independent, vivacious young woman; and Kanika's grandmother Neema are the most avid proponents of the library and the knowledge it brings to the community. Not everyone shares such esteem for the project, however. Taban, known as Scar Boy; Jwahir, Matani's wife; and most of the town elders think these books threaten the tradition and security of Mididima. When two books go missing, tensions arise between those who welcome all that the books represent and those who prefer the time-honored oral traditions of the tribe. Kanika, Taban and Matani become more vibrant than Fi, who never outgrows the cookie-cutter mold of a woman needing excitement and fulfillment, but Hamilton weaves memorable characters and elemental emotions in artful prose with the lofty theme of Western-imposed "education" versus a village's perceived perils of exposure to the developed world.

Read: July 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Carrie Diaries (Candace Bushnell)

Carrie Diaries is the story of Carrie Bradshaw as a senior in high school. It is full of high school drama - boys, mean girls, college applications, family drama, etc. Carrie and her best friends are not the popular girls, but they have a lot of fun. Carrie ends up dating the popular new guy, leading to lots of jealousy and cat fights. It made me feel really glad not to be in high school anymore! I liked the book overall and it was fun to see where Carrie got her start. The end of the book makes it clear that there will be a few more books covering Carrie's college years!

Read: July 2010 (from the library!)

Up Next: Camel Bookmobile

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender)

We just finished this book for Book Club, which is one of my favorite things every month. Anyway, after reading this book, I discovered that it is in the genre of "Mystical Realism", which explains so much. The book is about a girl who can taste the feelings of whoever cooked her food, whether she wants to or not. With her gift, she discovers that her seemingly happy mother is hiding some strong feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction. The book is well written and and the main character, Rose, draws you in, but the storyline is just odd. And I felt a bit unsatisfied at the end.

I kept hoping for the book to turn into chick lit. You know, girl ends up with guy who she has been in love with her whole life. Not girl ends up with folding chair.

I would not recommend rushing out to buy this book in its hardbacked glory (sorry, Sara), but if you stumble across it at Half Price Books someday and need something interesting, then it would be perfect.

And do not be deceived by the lovely piece of cake on the cover. This is not a book version of The Waitress!

Read: July 2010 (on a Kindle!)

Next: Camel Bookmobile

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I love, love, loved this book! I read it on our trip to Spain in a matter of three or four days. The novel is comprised of a series of letters that reveal the story of Juliet, an author who visits the island of Guernsey after WWII and becomes enamored with the island's residents. During the war, they island was occupied by the Germans. The captive residents formed a book club and banded together, protecting each other and bravely finding ways to keep their humor and humanity. Such a touching story. Please read it.

Read: March 2010

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

In an effort to add more classics to my list, I got A Tale of Two Cities from the library on CD. There is a reason this is a classic! I was mesmerized by the story, which is set during the French Revolution in Paris and London. Themes of redemption and revolution, love and loyalty, tie you to the characters and the story. I admit to reading Spark Notes to supplement my understanding of the story at times, but I really loved this book. It is so well written. Definitely going to read more classics soon. Any suggestions?

Read (Listened): June 2010

Savor the Moment (Nora Roberts)

This is the third book in the Bride Quartet and, as you can tell from the title, focuses on the pastry chef and her search for true love. Could he be her best friend's older brother?? Oh the drama. Just as predictable and girly as the first two, but I still loved it and can't wait to read the last one. Perfect for reading by the pool on a lazy Saturday.

Read: July 2010

The Girl who Played with Fire (Steig Larsson)

This is the second book in the trilogy and I enjoyed it even more than the first. This time Lisbeth Salander is accused of murdering two journalists. Only Blomkvist believes in her innocence and sets about trying to help her. We learn a lot about her past and her twisted family. Definitely another page turner. And if you're like me, you have to finish a series once you start.

Read: June 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Steig Larsson)

When we picked this book for book club, none of us knew anything about it except that it was on the best seller list and was getting a lot of buzz. It was not at all what I expected. Set in Sweden, the novel centers on Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who is hired to solve a mysterious disappearance, and Lisbeth Salander, an misunderstood computer hacker. Although the beginning was slow and it took a while to get used to some of the Swedish names, the book quickly becomes a page turner as the two uncover the truth.

Just a warning: there are some pretty creepy things that happen, but I think the book was overall worth reading.

This is also the first book I read on the Kindle! I borrowed my mom's (and have yet to give it back).

Read: May 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me

This is the story of Ron Hall and Denver Moore - a wealthy Texas art dealer and a homeless man - who build an unlikely friendship. The book makes you think about our calling as Christians and about what it means to love and give. Although sad at times, the book is very moving and worth reading. But it is not preachy and it is not a devotional - just a true story that makes you think about how blessed we are.
Read: April 2010
Length: 200-ish pages
PS - Apparently they just wrote a second book called What Difference Do It Make. Has anyone read it?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Innocent Traitor (Alison Weir)

I listened to this book during my commute, which took several weeks, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot about Lady Jane Grey. Alison Weir has written several biographies on the Tudors, so I feel like her novel is very accurate, even if some of the events are fiction. You really feel sorry for Jane and how her family made her take the crown and then abandoned her when she was named a traitor. Overall, a very good book, especially if you love Tudor history like I do.

Listened: March/April 2010
Length: 17 discs (that almost as long as Harry Potter!)

Flabbergasted & Delerious Summer (Ray Blackstone)

After spending WAY too much time reading the Left Behind series in high school, I have tended to stay far far away from religious fiction. It tends to be too cheesey for my taste. And do not even get me started on religious romance novels (except for Francine Rivers, obvi).

But Ray Blackston hits the right balance. Entertaining without being cheesey or preachy. Flabbergasted tells the story of a guy who moves to South Carolina and winds up meeting some church-hopping single girls. And falling in love.

A Delerious Summer is about another guy, a missionary, who ends up in South Carolina on furlough and meets the same group of church-hopping single girls. And falls in love. Admittedly, the descriptions sounds cheesey, but I enjoyed both books. Both are told from the male perspective, which I think takes out some of the cheesiness. Plus Blackston's depiction of the singles department in many churches is dead on. And don't blame me if you are dying to go to the beach or the rain forest after reading these!

Flabbergasted: listened to it sometime in 2006? Or 2007?
Delerious Summer: listened to it in March or April 2010?

Bed of Roses (Nora Roberts)

Bed of Roses is the second installment in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet series. I read 80% of this on our trip to Spain. It was the perfect, easy read for a vacation - no brain power involved. And even though the book is entirely predictable, I enjoyed reading it! Who doesn't love a fluffy love story every now and then?

This book follows the florist, Emma, as she falls in love and pursues her own happy ending. I can't tell you more than that without giving the whole thing away. Can't wait to read the next one: Savor the Moment. It comes out soon!

Dates: March 18-28
Length: 330 pages

My Life in France (Julia Child)

I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about how Julia Child developed her love of french cooking. In this memoir, she relays several interesting stories and gives you a sense for how she came to adore french food and became interested in learning to cook. Some parts of the book were a little dry (too many details about people they met, etc.) and I had to skim a bit. But overall, the book was worth reading. I was happy that I had seen Julie & Julia first because it gave me a sense of the people/places in the book. I kind of want to rent some episodes of her cooking show just to see how she really was in person. And maybe, just maybe, I will try one of her recipes someday!

Time: March 1-12 & April 1-7
Length: 300 pages
Bonus: This was a library book! Thats why the dates are weird. I had to return the book before our trip and then re-check it when I got back!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

Hmm. I liked it and I didn't. Did you read the other Dan Brown books? Well, this one is veeeeeeeeery similar feeling to Angels and Demons, except in DC instead of Rome. Robert Langdon gets summoned to DC. A mysterious guy sends him on a crazy quest deciphering a masonic symbol. A beautiful woman is in danger. Someone is held captive. Time is of the essence. Etc. Etc.

While the book felt a tad formulaic to me, Dan Brown's writing style and short, cliff-hanger chapters still draw you in and make you want to keep reading. I stayed up really late a few nights because I needed to know what happened. It was also cool reading about some of the history of DC. Its a good book overall, but I do wish it wasn't so similar to the other books.

Read: Feb. 1 - 14
Length: 500 pages (hardback)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

29 Gifts (Cami Walker)

Not really sure how to describe this book. Its part memoir, part challenge, part new-agey weirdness. The author, Cami Walker, was diagnosed with MS a few weeks after she got married. She had several bad episodes with MS, throwing her into depression and challenging her new marriage. Then her friend (a new-agey healer) challenged her to give a gift to someone every day for 29 days. The book chronicles her experience with the challenge and how her outlook on life changed.

The overall idea of giving a gift everyday - whether its giving money to a homeless person or buying your friend a cup of coffee - is good. Giving helps you focus on other people and not just yourself.

Be warned that the book has a lot of new-agey stuff about religion, healing, etc. And you have to buy it in the Self-Help Section of the bookstore. But the overall message is good and I did learn a lot about MS.

Vision in White (Nora Roberts)

Cheesey girly romance novel centered around a wedding planning business? Yes. But a very enjoyable cheesey girly romance novel. And what girl doesn't secretly want to work in the wedding industry? This book is the first in a quartet that centers around four best friends who start a wedding business together. This one is about the photographer (hence the name - Vision in White) and how she finds love.

The next one is about the florist - Bed of Roses.

If you're in the market for a quick, fun, girly book, then I recommend this book!

Added bonus - I got this one at the library. But the second book has a loooooong wait list, so it might be awhile!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

I. Loved. This. Book. It was so good! I listened to it on CD from the library, which really helped bring the characters to life. Either way, this is a must read. The story is told through the perspective of three women in Mississippi in the 1960s - two black maids and one young white woman. They weave together stories of what its like to be a maid in a white household in the Sixties. The characters really grip you. I didn't want it to end! Sometimes I would sit in the parking garage for an extra few minutes because I couldn't turn it off. I highly recommend.

The White Queen (Philippa Gregory)

Another British historical fiction, but I loved it! This is set during the War of the Roses (before the Tudors) and I didn't know anything about this time period. It was really interesting to learn about a different dynasty. The main character, Elizabeth, is a noblewoman who marries the victorious prince in a war for the English throne. They are crowned King and Queen, but must continuously defend their throne. If you like historical fiction, this is a good book!

Length: 400 pages
Time: November 2009

Bonus: This was a library book!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the one with 12

One of my resolutions this year is to read at least one book every month. Usually I am pretty good about this, but sort of slacked at the end of 2009.

Here's the list for 2010 so far:
  • 29 Gifts (for book club!) ~ Cami Walker
  • The Lost Symbol ~ Dan Brown
  • My Life in France ~ Julia Child
  • Cleaving ~ Julie Powell
  • Her Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenger
  • Vision in White ~ Nora Roberts
I feel like there are more books on my list, but I can't remember now. What's on your list?