Thursday, December 15, 2011


by Stephen King

The first book I read by Stephen King was The Dead Zone, way back in the early 80's. After that I determined to read anything the man wrote; little did I realize what a commitment that would be! I have failed to accomplish reading everything he has written, but I would say I've made a huge dent. At the time, I believed Mr. King capable of amazing stories based on mesmerizing ideas; I was right, he has written some of the most interesting and thought-provoking stories I have read: The Stand, It, Needful Things and The Green Mile to name a few. I'll admit, there have been a few duds, but he mostly bats fourth. This man has an amazing way of making a thousand pages read like a hundred.

In this latest novel, 11/22/63, King addresses time travel, alternate universes and saving Kennedy but altering the future. Some of these concepts are reminiscent of The Dead Zone, perhaps why I enjoyed it so much. Jake Epping first goes back to 1958 to save one of his student's from a horrible life-changing experience. After succeeding here, he decides to stay in the "Land of Ago" to also save President Kennedy from Lee Harvey Oswald. His belief is that this rescue will also stop Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King, among other notable tragedies in the aftermath of that murder; he is hoping to save the world. Not surprisingly, things don't go as expected.

Set aside your notion that King writes horror stories, he writes great stories! At times he gets a bit too political for my taste (he is a raging democrat), but this is easily overlooked for quality. Read this one on your Kindle though to spare yourself lugging around that huge book.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Remarkable Creatures

by Tracy Chevalier

I've been on a stretch of reading historical fiction and really enjoying it. Here is the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two fossil hunters in early 1800's England. When Mary was just 12 years old she unearthed the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified. Mary's findings also included plesiosaur and the first pterosaur located outside of Germany. Because Mary was a woman she received little recognition during her lifetime, however her discoveries reshaped the way scientists thought about the earth's age and the concept of extinction. Elizabeth spent her time unearthing fish fossils. The finds of both women can still be found in the Natural History Museums in London, Oxford and Paris.

Remarkable Creatures is not only a book of fossil hunting, it is a book of the friendships, heartaches and frustrations remarkable women faced during an era when they were disrespected and disregarded.

I have read other works by Chevalier and can attest to her ability to bring to life the period, place and characters she presents. Despite that, this was not my favorite book of hers, I think because even though it is relatively short, it seems rather long. The story does not contain much action and lacks a plot to carry it forward. It was almost like reading journal narratives of daily fossil hunts on the beaches of Lyme Regis in great detail. If you have a great interest in fossils then Remarkable Creatures is for you. It gives great descriptions of many skeletal findings as well as how they are excavated, cleaned and preserved.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Year Another Challenge

I did complete one of the book challenges I set out to last year, the What's in a Name Challenge 4. I liked this one because it wasn't overwhelming and it provided plenty of flexibility for reading preferences but still made me read a few books I might not have otherwise just to meet the category requirement. I did have a lot of trouble finding a book with a size in the title that I hadn't already read so ended up outside of my norm, but it was okay.

Last week I was notified of the 2012 What's in a Name 5 challenge so I quickly signed up. Here are the title categories:
1. A topographical feature
2. Something you'd see in the sky
3. A creepy crawly
4. A type of house
5. Something you'd carry in your pocket, purse or backpack
6. Something you'd find on a calendar

Here's the link if you want to sign up:

As for the reading challenge that I failed to complete, I think I did not give myself enough time based on other obligations. I may look it up and see if they are starting anew in 2012.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

This book was not what I was expecting even though I am not sure what I thought it would be. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is somewhat of a World War II story and somewhat fantasy/science-fiction. The hero is your average sixteen year old American boy who isn't really so average after all. When his grandfather dies, Jacob sets out on a mission to understand his last words and make sense of some peculiar photographs he left behind.

Abraham Portman's parents sent him to a rescue mission in England prior to the outbreak of WWII. As he came to understand the monsters who were killing his people, he decided to leave the safety of the orphanage and join the war. But nothing is really as it appears in this rather eccentric novel. The war is real, the monsters are real and so are the peculiar children in Miss Peregrine's care. Scattered throughout the book are photographs of these curious kids, which just adds another quirky dimension to the story.

Overall, this was a quick and fun read. I did feel like the book was split in two halves and almost two genres (part one adventure and part two fantasy/sci-fi). That may have been intentional since Jacob says his life can be described as before and after the event. Another downside was the ending, which was a little open-ended and could lead to a sequel.... but not so much that you were left hanging. I think Harry Potter fans would like this one.

The House of Seven Gables

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I have always liked The Scarlett Letter and re-read it twice in the past few years as both kids went through high school. For some reason I never gave a thought to reading The House of Seven Gables; I'm thinking because it received such little acclaim when published and throughout history. After finally reading it, I think that was an unfortunate disregard to an excellent novel, and in light of the themes, I almost wonder why this book isn't chosen instead for high school reading requirements.

Some themes that stood out to me were: the sins of the father passing down from generation to generation, the self-fulfilling prophecy, wrongful imprisonment, good overcomes evil but doesn't necessarily repair the consequences suffered along the way. Other things I noticed were comparisons between the young and beautiful Phoebe with the old and unsightly Hepzibah, Judge Pyncheon's  immaculate new mansion with the decaying family house of seven gables and the Pyncheon's with the Maule's.  I loved the writing style, the descriptions, the ideas, the symbolism and thoughts. The characters were well developed and interesting.

In the preface of the book, Hawthorne identifies this story as a romance rather than a novel so that he could include the proper mix of realism and fantasy allowed by that genre and that is why I think the book has been so under-appreciated. The House of Seven Gables is not a romance in the sense of a romantic relationship, rather it is the dramatization of a moral issue using imagery and symbolism with an optimistic ending. No matter how it is classified, it is a true classic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

From the very first page of The Big Sleep I felt as if I were reading an episode of Dragnet (the tv show). The detective, Philip Marlowe, is the stereotypical tough guy private eye, morally upright yet willing to use force or deceit for justice's sake. The characters in the story were also as expected in this type of crime fiction: gangster type bad guys and sexy dumb women, who Marlowe teases and uses as needed but quickly casts them aside as unnecessary nuisances in crime solving. While I say this story was really stereotypical, I must acknowledge that when it was written (1939), this was a ground-breaker for the modern detective novel.

The book was a quick read, but despite the innovative credit due I felt the story was rather disjointed with a confusing mission that never seemed to become clear. Another issue I had was that the detective never made a misstep and knew how to respond to threats almost before they were made. Some of the situations were unbelievable, like when Marlowe was handcuffed (behind the back), yet not only was he able to start a car, he removed a gun hidden in a door panel and used it perfectly to kill an assailant coming straight at him!

On the plus side, the depiction of LA in the 40's was great. The dialogue was full of that generational slang and the writing made it easy to recreate the characters and mood of that era.

I picked this book to specifically meet the final requirement for my What's In A Name challenge; so I have finally completed that task. I really had a hard time finding a book with a size in the title that I hadn't already read.

My rating may not be fair justice to the pioneer of the American hard-boiled detective novel and maybe would have improved had I read a later work. Originally, I wanted to read The Long Goodbye, also by Chandler, but so many reviewers insisted on reading The Big Sleep first that I followed the advice. So for this work alone, from a modern perspective it was okay.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Romancing Miss Bronte

by Juliet Gael

I had planned to expand my reading horizons since I've read so many historic novels lately, but it seems I am trapped in this genre! A friend of mine, with whom I share similar reading tastes, recommended Romancing Miss Bronte, so I took the bait.

Before reading this novel I knew very little of the life of Charlotte Bronte or her family. After reading I feel I have a greater insight into her literary works. Much of her writing is auto-biographical, to the extent that she relied on many of her personal experiences to create characters and themes in her books and poems. The author included several excerpts of Ms. Bronte's correspondence and facts from her travel journals, as well as diaries of close acquaintances when writing this story.

Charlotte lived a dreary, difficult and somewhat tragic life. As a young girl she watched her mother and two older sisters die from tuberculosis. She was forced to abandon formal education in order to care for her father, who was going blind from cataracts, an alcoholic and perhaps schizophrenic brother, and her two younger sisters, while she pined away for a beloved professor. The three sisters together published a collection of poems that fell flat. Soon afterward all three published novels (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey), but only Jane Eyre received accolades. Following this, Charlotte watched as one by one her siblings fell ill and died. More than half of the novel concerns this first part of Charlotte's life; the "romancing" aspect doesn't begin until late in the story, paralleling her life.

I enjoyed learning this information about Miss Bronte's life and thought the author did a good job of maintaining a style appropriate to Bronte's own. Toward the end the story took on a bit more of a romance novel undercurrent than I like, but overall I'd recommend this if you are familiar with the works of the Bronte sisters (and if not, you should become so).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Mistress of Nothing

by Kate Pullilnger

Another historical fiction told from the viewpoint of a servant. This book is based on Letters From Egypt by Lady Lucie Duff Gordon, which details Lady Gordon's necessary escape from England's damp, wet climate to the hot, dry conditions of Egypt. Her her lady's maid, Sally Naldrett eagerly joins the journey. Sally describes much of their travel, the constant battle Lady Gordon faces with her health, social and political aspects of Egypt and her own encounters that have several unfortunate consequences.

The Mistress of Nothing mainly depicts issues related to class and status during the mid-1800's. I found it interesting how both cultures were very driven by similar social rankings and the obvious advantages available to those in the upper echelon. These systems provided almost no movement between groups. The information about tomb robbing and glimpses of Egypt as a modern world trying to grow up between antiquities and ancient architecture also intrigued me.

The basic plot was rather predictable; based on the title one can insinuate where the novel is headed.  Although I've sat on this book a few days before writing this summary, I still can't pinpoint how much of a recommendation I'd give. This year I have read several novels I'd definitely suggest first, but if you're caught up and interested in this era and another class distinction type novel, this is a pretty good read.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Orphan Sister

by Gwendolen Gross

The Orphan Sister tries to let the reader in on the intricate relationship among triplets, where two are identical and the third is fraternal; the "orphan" who serves as narrator. This is also a story about a young woman's struggle to find her own identity and fulfill her desires and goals even though she doesn't seem quite sure what those are.  In this regard, the fact that Clementine is one of three seems to contribute to her own indecision and lack of self confidence. The confusion of the main character regarding her life bled into the format of the story, which led to oft confusing flashbacks that overpowered the present storyline.

The book had several issues that I found unappealing. The main character really sabotaged herself and her relationships with her sisters and her mother, and she was whiny about them. She came across as flighty, indecisive and somewhat of a rebellious teen when she was supposed to be nearly 30 and applying to vet school. The father was totally unbelievable, as was her relationship with him and her conversations and responses to him throughout the book. I just couldn't buy the outcome of the situation with the father (I won't spoil it for you).

Another problem for the author was conveying that particular bond among the three girls. The author repeatedly explained the specialness of the interactions and communications among them, but their actual dealings came across strained and awkward. Whereas I think her intent was to show a unique attachment, she just couldn't pull it off.  Dialogue seemed forced and not really particular to triplets.

Finally, I thought the ending was too tidy. In some instances a story calls for everything to be wrapped up nice and neat. In this one, I think some things would have been better left unsaid. Ms. Gross wanted so badly to leave no loose ends and to have a feel-good ending. Unfortunately, this was a story that really couldn't and shouldn't have had a happily ever after. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rules of Civility

by Amor Towles

Set in New York City during the late 1930's Rules of Civility tells the story of young socialites after the Depression. This story draws heavily on the city and its haunts, painting a picture of a rich and carefree group of friends in their mid-twenties.  While I found the book entertaining and enjoyed the reading for the most part, I am not sure how accurately it depicts real lives of the time.  I would assume that the wealthier class might not have been so affected by the Depression, but a few of the characters while not presented as upper-class, sure lived untroubled and happy-go-lucky life-styles.

You'd like this book if you love NYC, the post-depression era or people stories (like the Great Gatsby). In general it's a decent read.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Alice I Have Been

by Melanie Benjamin

My knee-jerk reaction to this book is creepy and disturbing .... it makes you look at Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in a whole new way and not necessarily one in which you'd like. However, I must say it is well written and certainly a probable take on the life and relationship of Alice Liddell (the girl on whom Alice in Wonderland was based) and C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll).

In this work of historical fiction, Alice I Have Been presents the life of Alice Liddell Hargreaves as she reflects on her childhood, comes to terms with an unfortunate incident in her past and makes peace with being "Alice." Ms. Benjamin takes liberties only as history leaves gaping holes in this adventurous life, but her speculations seem plausible with what is known. I was particularly intrigued to learn of Alice's royal romance.

That which I found creepy and disturbing was information about Dodgson, his relationship with Alice and his future relationships with other young girls, all of which is conjecture based on his collection of photographs. Mr. Dodgson took up photography as a hobby and seemed particularly fascinated with posing young girls in rather suggestive manners. He kept and collected many of these photos that can be viewed in many places online.

Although the trip down the rabbit hole may be bizarre, until I read this account, I always considered it an innocent tale of a precocious little girl. If you've always loved Alice, you may want to steer clear of this novel, because even though this may be fictionalized, it'll still skew your childhood memories.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Russian Winter

by Daphne Kalotay

Russian Winter presents a glimpse of the life of artists living under the rule of Stalin. The ballerina Nina Revskaya reveals this struggle from a variety of perspectives: her own, her mother's, her poet husband's, and her friends, a musician, another ballerina and a government worker. While they were an elevated class, they did not escape the shortages, the surveillance or the threats experienced by all Soviet citizens living in a communist regime.

Kalotay offers this tale from an elderly Revskaya as she reflects on her life, trying to expel those ghosts that are haunting her in old age. At this same time she is confronted by a man claiming to have a connection to her and her past. For me, the answers to this connection were pretty obvious, but I still enjoyed the writing style and the information on post WWII Russia, the ballet, and jewels. It is apparent Kalotay did her research.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poatcards From a Dead Girl

by Kirk Farber

Here is a guy who can't come to terms with the loss (accidental death) of his girlfriend. Sid has actually suffered two deaths in a short time frame and is struggling to make it over the hump and get on with life. Part of what keeps him clinging to memories are these random Postcards From a Dead Girl he seems to be receiving.

While the concept is good, the result doesn't cut it. The book is very repetitive and for that reason really dragged for me, despite extremely short chapters that made it a fast read. In the final five or so chapters the book picks up pace and interest. Maybe if you knew someone suffering from depression it might give you some perspective on their mindset, but not so sure it was really that insightful, and not sure I'd say was worth reading. This is a chance challenge selection from a Barnes and Noble staff member.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Challenge

I'm considering joining another reading challenge that I happened across the other day:

It's called Take a Chance Challenge and entails reading 10 books each selected in a particular random way. I know I have yet to read one more book to complete my previous challenge, but I'm having some trouble locating a book to read with a size in the title (any suggestions?).

Another reason I hesitate is because my reading becomes more limited once school begins so I hate to be bogged down to the challenge when I find other books I really want to read. One advantage is that I have already read a few books this year that would meet the requirements of a few of the selections so I'm starting ahead of the game.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Bells

by Richard Harvell

Just as Girl with a Pearl Earring brought Vermeer's paintings to life, The Bells gives life to the music of opera and life. Harvell magically uses words which allow the reader to experience sound from deep within, the sounds of song and the sounds that surround us every day. Harvell is a gifted writer and his use of language carries the story.

The main character, Moses, is hyper-sensitive to sound having been raised in a bell tower by a deaf-mute mother. When his mother dies, the young boy is taken in by a monk and introduced to a choir where his extraordinary voice is discovered. At this time in history the Catholic church preserved these angelic voices using castration and thus begins the tragedy of Moses: love, revenge, opera, fame and fatherhood.

I was so caught-up in the writing and idea of this story that I didn't mind its predictability, which generally turns me off, but in this case seemed to fit the operatic theme. This is a book worth reading.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter

by Oliver Potzsch
translated by Lee Chadeayne

This book was on my reading list for several months before I finally broke down. My biggest reservation was the subject matter, German witch torture and trials in the 1600's, because I got my fill of the Salem witch trials when I was in high school; since that time I have pretty much avoided this topic. For whatever reason, I decided to go ahead with The Hangman's Daughter, I'm a sucker for titles!

The premise of the story is a small German town accusing the town midwife of being a witch after finding some dead children with strange marks drawn on their shoulders. The town's hangman and physician begin a mission to clear her name and avoid another witch-hunt, recalling the previous one in 1589 that led to nearly 60 of their women being burned at the stake. The idea had potential, but the execution just wasn't there (no pun intended). The first thing to put me off was the author's excessive use of similes, many that were odd in the context causing me to think about the comparison rather than the story and disrupting the flow of reading. Another thing that bothered me was the sensationalism, particularly during the chase section, which wasn't believable and seemed to drag on only to make the book longer. And a minor thing, I think the book would have been better named The Hangman of Schongau,  more reflective of the plot.

I did think the information about hangmen was interesting and apparently true to history. The author is a direct descendant of the Kusil dynasty, who were apparently the most famous line of hangmen in Bavaria. I also liked the controversy regarding the advance of medical knowledge and treatments that was universal during this time.

The book was an okay read, but not one I would enthusiastically recommend.  I am not sure if something was lost in translation?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Don't judge a book by it's cover, which in this case looked promising based on the title. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is supposed to be a great Southern novel comparable to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, but trust me the only thing they have in common is the Southern (and a great title). I found the story and characters dull and seemed to be reading just to finish the book. Much of the dialogue and storyline seemed unbelievable. I also had issue with the chronology of the narrator, Catherine Grace, because she kept bouncing around in her life from nine to eighteen years old and particularly in the beginning it was hard to decide how old she was at the moment.

The thing I find most intriguing is how highly rated this book is on Amazon. Whenever I have such difference of opinion I wonder if we've actually read the same book. If you want a great Southern novel read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Girl With a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier

I first saw this book several years ago on display at B&N and considered reading it. Many times I have picked it up only to set it down for another selection. When I began the reading challenge and saw a selection for a book with gem or jewelry in the title, I knew immediately I would choose Girl With a Pearl Earring.

The book is set in a Dutch village during the 1600's and tells the story of Johannes Vermeer and several of his paintings, including the book's namesake, by whom it is narrated. Griet is a teen when she takes the job as maid to the Vermeer's. She soon catches the attention of the master and painter who begins to use her as his apprentice, teaching her to grind bones and mix paints. She even suggests a few adaptions to some works that the artist accepts.

What I really liked about this book were the descriptions of the paintings and the stories about how and why each was created (of coarse it is fictional, but fun to consider the possibility). I used this website  to find each painting Griet describes. I also liked the explorations of color and balance discussed throughout the novel. I do not have an eye for these details, but I appreciated getting a glimpse of how an artist might work and look at things.

Now I need a trip to view these paintings in real life: New York, Washington DC, or Amsterdam would do!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

This isn't really a book to like or dislike because of the seriousness of the topic: teen suicide. I am sure suicide should be addressed more openly and I believe Asher was trying to create a discussion starter in Thirteen Reasons Why. As I read this book, I tried to look at it from the perspective intended (Young Adult) and I think the author did present many stressors faced by teens, from fitting in, drinking, drugs and sex to loneliness. Two characters narrate the story, often in alternating paragraphs or sentences.

The main thing that makes this a bit disturbing is that one narrator, Hannah, has committed suicide and has left her story behind in a series of tapes for a number of her peers that she "blamed" for her decision to end her life. The other narrator, Clay, is one of those on the list listening to the tapes as the story of Hannah's troubles unfold. Although I had trouble with Hannah's blame game, it is sadly probably realistic from a teen's point of view. She just took common high school incidents very hard and couldn't get past them, so they started piling up beyond where she could be positive about anything and even to the point of self-sabotage.

One of the main messages I took from this book is our responsibility to others, how our actions affect the lives of others, often in ways we might never realize. Also how important it is for us to be sensitive and maybe even looking for those in trouble.

I honestly can't say if I would want my teen to read this book because I think it gave too much credence to the idea of a suicide victim blaming others and didn't get to a point of how that person could face and deal with their distress.

This was our July book club selection and I realized it can also count toward my book challenge as a book with a number in the title. Killed two birds with one stone!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


by Michelle Moran

When I began reading Nefertiti I thought I would like the story, but as it progressed through time I was just reading to finish the book. I don't know a lot of Egyptian history so as I read, I also did some google searches just to get a perspective on accuracy. This book did make many speculations on what little is actually known about Nefertiti and to some extent that has to be expected in a fictional account. A few inaccuracies bothered me because they weren't necessary for the story line, so why not be factual when you can?

The main thing that dragged the book down for me was character development. The story began when Nefertiti and her sister (Mutnodjmet) were young girls, Nefertiti was egocentric and domineering while her sister was weak and submissive. The Pharaoh Akhenaten was portrayed as a jealous man on the brink of insanity.  Throughout the book they were always acting and reacting in the same fashion, Nefertiti bossing sister, parents and husband; sister expressing self-pity; and Akhenaten doing unbelievable things so the people would love him. Just started seeming unbelievable after a while. The characters just never grew so they started to become dull.

Since so little is known about Nefertiti I found the author's take on the possible history to be an interesting idea (not sure about the plague concept... maybe could have been a plague, but would they really call it Black Death at that time?) The story is narrated by the sister, about whom even less is known, but it does present how tied to (and obsessed with) the crown these families become. The style and perspective is much like The Other Boleyn Girl.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Kitchen House

by Kathleen Grissom

For the most part I liked this book. Ms. Grissom does a good job creating likeable (and unlikeable) characters who endure a host of tragedies. The Kitchen House is told from alternating first person narratives of two characters, both of whom are slaves on a Virginia tobacco plantation. Lavinia's enslavement is presented on two levels, first as an indentured servant to the house and finally as the wife to an abusive, alcoholic husband. Belle's slavery, too is unusual, having grown up in "the big house" the daughter of the homeowner and one of his slaves. After the death of mother and grandmother, Belle is sent to serve in the kitchen house.

Besides these two unusual circumstances of slavery, all other characters are rather stereotypical: slaves, sickly matron, evil plantation master, kindly relatives. The plot is moved forward from one misfortune to the next, but I didn't find it either surprising or depressing and maybe even expected. I liked the characters, the plantation and the concept enough to keep reading, and although the end ties mostly into a nice bow, it isn't perfect.

At times I did not think the voices of the narrators were in accordance with their current level of maturity, particularly Lavinia, who also seemed overly naive and unable to catch on to the obvious. Belle's story seemed to fill in where Lavinia fell short.

I think this is a quick and easy read that gives good representation of pre-civil war plantation conditions.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke

by Sally Gunning

This historical novel takes place during the mid 1700's America in Boston, as the country is struggling with British taxation. In particular the main event is the Bloody Massacre (Boston Massacre) and the varied perceptions of the townspeople of that event. Ms. Gunning shows her detail in research of the period and important characters of the time, even some lesser-known figures. Her main character tries to reveal a woman's viewpoint on the current political and social upheavals. I was interested in all of the historical detail, however I could never connect with Jane Clarke, her dilemmas or her personal unrest. I didn't find the story very engaging and often felt it was slow-paced. Even the climax, the Massacre itself, was just an onlookers dull narrative, which Jane revisits ad nauseam and was disappointing.

If you like pre-revolution history, you may enjoy giving The Rebellion of Jane Clarke a read, it is pretty easy and quick to finish. And clearly the author seems to remain close to historical accuracy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Bonesetter's Daughter

by Amy Tan

This is the story of mothers and daughters, of China and America. Amy Tan brings these conflicts of generation and culture to life in her characters, Precious Auntie, LuLing and Ruth. The first half of the book introduces Ruth, the American born daughter of her Chinese immigrant mother Luling as Luling is quickly deteriorating into dementia. Through this we learn of Ruth's childhood and her frustrations growing up with a mother who failed to learn much English and required Ruth to be liaison between herself and her dead mother.

In the second half of The Bonesetter's Daughter, Ruth learns about Luling's childhood through her mother's narrative of growing up in a small Chinese village as the bastard child of the daughter of the town bonesetter. This account gives Ruth a better understanding of her mother's behavior and helps repair their shaky relationship.

Tan very eloquently weaves into this story many nuances of Chinese culture and beliefs, especially ghosts, good luck charms, bad fortune and curses. She reminds readers to value our mothers and treasure that relationship. She also reinforces the importance of communication in bridging an understanding between mother and daughter.

I would have liked to see the story go into a bit more detail about the dementia. I also think the end was just a bit too tidy, but overall I liked the book and the message. I think this can be counted for the reading challenge of a book with life stage in the title.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

by Geraldine Brooks

Brooks is a masterful storyteller providing great detail to the times and peoples she is portraying. Caleb's Crossing relates the life and trials of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first American Indian to receive a degree from Harvard, but also manages to delve into a variety of other religious, cultural and ethical dilemmas faced by early American settlers and Native Americans.

Caleb's story is told through the eyes of Bethia Mayfield, a fictionalized character who ultimately steals the show. Bethia is an adventurous and curious young woman with a natural propensity for learning, yet her Puritan culture shuns the education of women. These two characters form an unlikely friendship and manage to secure an education for themselves despite their prejudicial and stifling cultures.

One of the aspects of the story I really liked was the thoroughness in describing both the Puritan and the Indian perspectives on relationships, family, death and God. Brooks does not shy away from boldly verbalizing these positions through her characters. I also appreciate historical accuracy in speech and details and Brooks shows she has done her homework. Her epilogue indicates the scant amount of information available on Caleb yet she manages to create a probable narrative of his life, surrounding him with other characters loosely based on people mentioned in his brief history.

I like the writing style of Ms. Brooks and realize I have read another of her books, which I liked equally, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. I am counting this book to qualify for the challenge of a book with movement in the title.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


My long delay in posting isn't because I have not been reading, it is because the last two books I selected I set aside and had a few days debate about finishing or moving on. I have trouble in not finishing a book once begun, but a good friend reminded me there are so many books I want to read why waste time on ones I'm not enjoying. In the end, I abandoned both books, hoping that the third choice would be a charm.

Both of the books I dumped happened to be collections of short stories. The first of these was St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. I loved the title and wanted to love the book. However, I found it merely a collection of chapter one's for books the author might have begun and couldn't come to completing. I did not find any of the three stories I read to actually be a story, they were each an introduction of characters and a lead in to a story and then they just stopped. I believe I am confirmed in my idea because Russell has just published a book titled Swamplandia! which is based on the first short story in this collection. I may never know whether her new release actually does begin with the first "story" in this collection because I won't read it.

The second book was Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, which I had thought to use as one of the challenge reads. This book seemed to be arranged much as Olive Kitteridge in that each story is connected to a common concept, in this case a 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Towers. The problems for me (in the four chapters I read) were that I didn't really like the characters in any of the stories, which made me indifferent to their plights and that I would have liked the tightrope act to have a bit more prominence (although I can't totally make that case because I failed to finish the book). I keep thinking there may be some redemption in this book and may give it another shot.

 The third book was a charm and will have a post of its own.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In the Garden of Beasts

by Erik Larson

This work of non-fiction tells the story of William Dodd's service as US ambassador to Germany beginning in 1933, the year Hitler was appointed chancellor to the country.  In the Garden of Beasts shifts between the perspective of the ambassador and his socialite daughter as they experience life in a changing country.  From early on, Dodd is apprehensive about Hitler and his regime and expresses his concerns to many in the US. However because of Dodd's unpopularity, these men ignore his warnings, which ultimately comes at a great cost to millions.

Dodd's daughter Martha goes to Germany looking for escape and excitement. She likes to party and she likes men. She gets involved romantically with several Nazi officers, including Rudolf Diels, as well as the Soviet intelligence officer Boris Vinogradov. Martha's sympathies seem to be guided by her romances causing her to ignore or overlook several horrendous eye-witness beatings perpetrated by SS officers.

Larson does a great job relating these lives and circumstances in world history without making the history dull. Readers can perhaps see how this evil fascist ruler was able to slowly enforce his plan and gain the trust of many Germans, confirming Edmund Burke's famous quote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

This book meets the challenge for evil in the title.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Challenge

I have finally succumbed to the "challenge" although I am starting very simply. I've been looking at reading challenges for a few years now and never actually joined any, until now. The What's in a Name Challenge 4 is really an easy one to select because only six books are required before the end of the year to complete the task. Here is all I have to read:
1. A book with a number in the title
2. A book with a gem or jewelry in the title
3. A book with a size in the title
4. A book with travel or movement in the title
5. A book with evil in the title
6. A book with a life stage in the title

You also are not required to select the titles in advance, which provides a little more flexibility in finding something to fit your current mood. As I review my books I will identify those that meet one of the above criteria.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Peach Keeper

by Sarah Addison Allen

In a nutshell, this book was nothing special. The storyline is cliched, the characters were one dimensional and the dialogue was contrived, especially that between the love interests. I kept reading The Peach Keeper believing it would get better, because there was a hint of potential, but it just never really succeeded in taking off. One of the better threads revolved around friendships between women, how they tend to take a back seat after marriage and how women should learn to maintain those connections, but even that concept was forced and unbelievable in this story.

If you like quick, pre-teen romance type books (think Twilight) you may want to pick this up. However,  I am not likely to risk another of her novels that have also been highly rated and recommended on Amazon. Definitely not my style.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The House at Riverton

by Kate Morton

I am always skeptical when books are compared to Rebecca or Jane Eyre so that was how I approached reading The House at Riverton, and my skepticism was well-founded. While Riverton gets off to a good start, it loses pace quickly before reaching it's climactic ending, which was somewhat predictable given the abundant clues throughout the story. Although the end contained a slight twist, it wasn't really a surprise.

The storyline itself is fairly familiar: an elderly woman reliving her past and revealing her secrets, and is a quick read with an easy plot to follow. Much attention is given to the changing attitudes and castes in post-WWI England, in particular relating to house maids and other servants. The story flips from present-day to past and presents those in the past with greater detail to those character's concerns than the present day parts.

I'd recommend this book as a good summer beach read. It keeps your interest without taking much effort.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Oracle of Stamboul

by Michael David Lukas

From the start, Lukas does a great job of presenting and portraying the characters in The Oracle of Stamboul. Each person is well developed, interesting and colorful. He also manages to offer compelling descriptions of this ancient Turkish city. Lukas does lean very heavily upon the use of similes and metaphors, which often distract from the flow of the text as the reader tries to make the same association.

This story is set during the end of the Ottoman Empire and does touch on several of the conflicts faced by Sultan Abdulhamid II as his empire is struggling to survive. Sadly, there are some historical inaccuracies, which although they don't take away from the book, could easily have been correct and not impacted the storyline either. So, why not get it right?? Like who is the father of Abdulhamid II.

The story had potential that ultimately was not met, but was given a good effort. It was a quick and easy read but personally I think this book would fare much better being marketed as adolescent fiction. I would recommend this to some of my book club friends to read with their kids over the summer; there are some good topics for discussion.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Tiger's Wife

by Tea Obreht

After reading this book, I've realized I tend to like books that are a bit quirky, yet well written. The Tiger's Wife fits that bill perfectly. Tea Obreht is very skilled in crafting sentences and language usage, which seems to be becoming a lost art. At times I think she gets a bit carried away with wording and description taking readers down some unnecessarily long paths, but for the most part enjoyable.

This is the story of a young woman, Natalia coming to terms with the death of her beloved grandfather through some lessons and fables he shared with her as she grew up in his household. One of the tales is of the tiger's wife, a deaf-mute married to an abusive butcher in a small town. The other is the tale of the deathless man. These inner-stories were fresh and creative and were cleverly interwoven into Natalia's present-day life. I found it a bit perplexing though that Obreht delved into the minute details of so many characters of these fables but seemed to neglect giving such thorough accounts of those in the present. Another puzzling aspect of this book was the lack of passion or opinion given to some of the more tragic events in the story, for example the horrid abuse perpetrated on the tiger's wife or the ravaging of towns during the war.  I think this indifferent approach makes it hard for readers to connect with the story.

Overall, I liked the book and in particular the writing. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kings of the Earth

by Jon Clinch

Hmmm. It's hard for me to identify my response to this story. It took me several days to finish reading and I can't exactly explain why. It is not a difficult read, but it does take some concentration because of the constantly shifting time line and the variety of perspectives and voices. And while Kings of the Earth was a straightforward tale, I couldn't seem to connect with or care about the characters (and there are so many of them)! I found it easy to set the book down and not really anxious to pick it back up again.

This book is based on the Ward brothers of New York, three extremely eccentric and backward rural men. When one of the brothers dies, a police investigation and interrogation lead to another of the brother's being accused of his murder. Sadly, these guys don't understand what is happening to them. Although this would seem like a good story plot, it somehow doesn't materialize in this book.

Clinch does a very good job portraying these reclusive brothers, their family and neighbors, and their unconventional lives from childhood through adulthood. I guess all the hopping around didn't lend to a very cohesive book. Since I don't like giving spoilers, I'll just say that after all the work to get to the end, it comes fast and leaves so many loose ends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Paris Wife

by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife is a narrative of the first marriage of Ernest Hemingway to Hadley Richardson as told from her perspective. This unlikely pair lived a jet-set life in Paris during the 1920's when it seems everyone who was anyone appeared on the scene there. Writers and artists were the celebrities of the day and lived the wild lives we read about in the tabloids today.

Ms. McLain portrays Hadley as a misfit among this crowd who struggles with self esteem, confidence and backbone. Hadley gets into this marriage determined to support Hemingway as he launches into his writing career and then she watches helplessly as their relationship disintegrates and Ernest finds other love interests. Hadley's position and lifestyle is nothing I can relate to but it is a well written and interesting fictionalized biographical account of these Paris years. I guess I now should read A Movable Feast to see this time from Hemingway's own perspective.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is more fable than novel. It is a quick, uplifting and thought-provoking tale of a young man in search of his Personal Legend. During his pursuit the boy encounters omens to guide him, helpful friends to encourage him and challenges to strengthen him. Coelho weaves into this journey several accounts from Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious tradition and forms a connection through the hand that writes the stories of our lives and the history of the world.

A lot of familiar wisdom is spoken in this story: pursue your dreams, don't give up, listen to your heart, you are the creator of your future, focus on your goals and don't get side tracked by burdens or the world around you and many more. This is a story that could offer new revelations for a reader based on their current life circumstances. It could bring to light different inspirations for different readers.

Definitely no literary masterpiece but it's worth the read.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

by Novella Carpenter

Once I have begun reading a book, I rarely fail to finish it; my thinking, "surely this will get better." If Farm City had not been a book club selection, I definitely would not have finished it. The more I read the less I liked it.

The biggest turn-off for me was the voice and attitude of the author. Ms. Carpenter has a holier-than-thou approach to her urban farming and seems to think she deserves an award for her gardening and animal raising prowess. She also goes on and on about her dumpster diving expeditions, her fears about killing the animals she is raising for food and her ghetto neighborhood. It seems Carpenter's motive for farming is not so much her ecological commitment as her desire to elevate herself above non-farmers/grocery shoppers/those who are not as green as she. Additionally, she is anxious to share so much of the grossness she encounters in great detail it becomes monotonous.

I'd say don't waste your time, but I do know a few people who might like this book.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

O Pioneers!

by Willa Cather

This is a beautiful novel of the land and of a young woman who belonged to it. The author tells the story of early settlers in Nebraska, their hardships and struggles with the land and life. She introduces a strong young woman who has big ideas and great determination of will not very common in that generation. This character is really ahead of her time. Cather also introduces a number of complicated relationships both between family members and between men and women.

I really liked how Cather used the land when alluding to characters and life circumstances. She focuses on the harshness of the land, it's beauty and its eternal quality. The story shows human reliance on the land and peoples struggles to make it conform to their wishes.

The introduction of my copy defines a classic as literature that has withstood the test of time and is not bound by place, time or customs. It speaks to us today as it did to the past and will to the future. O Pioneers! is definitely a classic. I would also recommend her other renowned novel My Antonia (*****).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Alienist

by Caleb Carr

Many reviews labeled this novel an historical mystery, but I am not sure mystery is really the right category. The Alienist tells the story of the blossoming field of criminal psychology as the main characters seek a serial killer in 1896 New York City. From the outset the reader generally knows whodunit, the main question is WHY these murders are happening and based on this information can our heroes predict the next attack in order to stop the killer.

Carr does a great job bringing the Gilded Age to life through the sights, smells and activity of the late 1800's. His descriptions of restaurants, operas and NYC ghettos bring the story to life. He has included so many facts of the time as to make the created characters seem real. One aspect I found particularly intriguing was his use of Theodore Roosevelt as NYC police commissioner; he included such details of Roosevelt's actual life including some aspects of his childhood, college studies and other information maybe little known to most readers. Carr also includes other real people like James Riis, JP Morgan and William James who each played a significant role in NY during this period. I found myself googling these people to get additional information. This book brings out the historian in the author.

The book was lengthy (500 pages, small print) but rarely seemed long. Many of the details relating to the murders were grotesque (I could have done without that) but the facts that attribute to the development of criminal science and forensics that are prevalent today are very interesting.

If you're a fan of historical fiction this is one of the better ones I've read. But be warned, the forensic details are gruesome and the general theme of serial killer hunting young boys is not pleasant either.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown

Why did I like The Weird Sisters so much? Maybe because I am one of three sisters and this book nails the birth order stereotypes without being conventional. Each sister battled some personal issue true to her character and her place within the family.

Maybe it was all the Shakespeare references, which made this family a bit eccentric. Never mind that I haven't picked up any Shakespeare since high school, the citations were familiar and fitting enough that it didn't matter.

Maybe it was how a love for reading was portrayed. In particular, I loved how this family left books sitting around the house picking them up at random to read, not necessarily finishing or starting a book in order.

I also liked the first person voice, which made the reader feel an immediate part of the family. I thought Ms. Brown was clever to combine these sisters voices in telling this tale so each problem encountered was addressed by all three sisters sounding as one.

The actual story is rather common (sisters return home to take care of sick mother and manage to heal their own wounds along the way), but the way this one is told, the perspective and the details make for a fresh story.

If you have sisters this is a must-read, but even if you don't you'd probably still feel you fit right in.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pictures of You

by Caroline Leavitt

Perhaps I was so disappointed in this book because of the high recommendation in Bookmarks magazine and the great Amazon reviews. After reading it, I really don't understand such high praise for this corny story that was so often unbelievable. First, there were many instances in the book's timeline that just didn't add up, like when Isabelle is discharged from the hospital several days after the accident and is searching online for news stories and finds one published a day after the wreck stating that the boy and other driver were admitted and released.... she didn't get out until a few days after that news story was supposedly written. Another glaring time line issue is when the boy, at age 29, is written up as one of Boston's best OB's and that 5 years prior, as a doctor, he lost one of his patients.... must be Doogie Howser.

There were also so many issues with unbelievable events. A father who lets his 9 year old son, who is a chronic asthmatic, stay home alone after school and all during the summer..... the father who is so worried about his son but never seems to know where he is...... the accident with these women from the same small town who just happen to both be on the same road 3 hours away on a foggy day..... how quickly these two grieving people fall madly in love...... none of it works.

For me Pictures of You was such a letdown. I wanted to like it, but there was just too much wrong. There are a few ladies in my book club who I am sure would love it, though.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

by Stieg Larsson

This book was very long and could have done with better editing, but it was a good ending for the Millenium Trilogy. In enjoyed all three books but would recommend they be read within a closer time frame than I read them. In particular, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a continuation of The Girl Who Played With Fire so readers should allow time to complete both stories in succession. Many characters have very similar names, which can become confusing, and remembering the dramatic events of the second book is helpful to the final story.

This book has many different stories going at the same time and some of them don't really seem necessary to advancing the main plot. That being said, I still liked the book. It has a lot of action, interesting characters, social and legal controversy, and closure. I liked Salander, she was a unique character who had many different sides. Although she was asocial, she maintained a few distinctive relationships that enabled her to remain acceptable.

This book addresses constitutional violations within a secret government division that has set itself up outside of the law. It exposes political and police corruption but respects the judicial system. All three of these books included lots of computer hacking making me skeptical of any type of internet security. Salander and her hacker friends show how vulnerable computer storage is.

What a shame that Larsson's writing career ended so suddenly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter

by Tom Franklin

This book is marketed as a "great southern mystery;" great, questionable; southern, very much so; mystery, not at all. 

Tom Franklin is very descriptive and writes an easy to read novel, which quickly immerses the reader into the south. He did an excellent job of developing his characters, creating interesting relationships between them and making some side -themes that could lead to interesting book club discussions.

Some of the issues I had with the book were that although much attention was given to detail, in many cases the detailed explanations were often unnecessary to development of the story line. Another problem was that while the author wanted to portray racism in the 70's, the concept was repeatedly stated in the story, but the actions, behaviors and dialogue of the characters did not reflect a racist community. I also had trouble believing when the most significant murder was solved, which is the crux of the entire story, the police in the story don't pursue it. I think the author struggled in creating mystery. Each time an incident arose that could lead to a mystery, the author conveyed the results before developing any suspense.

I might have liked Crooked Letter better if I hadn't read it expecting a mystery.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Still Alice

By Lisa Genova

A sad and descriptive story of devastating memory loss through Alzheimer's disease. 

While this book is no great work of literature, it is very thought provoking. The author is clearly familiar with the slow progression of this aliment and gives detailed descriptions of the effects on both the patient and those who care for them. The characters in the story were likable and relatively realistic, although the dialogue seemed a bit forced.  The great thing about this book is how in depth the author went to present the digression of thoughts for an Alzheimer's patient. Much of the story was generated from the mind, thoughts and actions of the main character, which brought to light the internal struggles and frustrations of the person who is slowly losing their memories and capabilities. 

This book reminds readers of the humanity of those suffering from dementia and offers ideas for treating them with compassion. Read this book if you know of someone with Alzheimer's or just to gain a better understanding of those who are dealing with it in any way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

It's a classic, what else can I say? Bronte knew how to tell a story incorporating drama, romance, suspense and tragedy. 

The first time I read this book I was in high school. Between then and now (30 years later.. YIKES!) I've probably re-read it five or so times, and I still love the story. One thing that I contemplated this time was how different it would be to read Jane Eyre as an adult having never read it before. I think it would be amazing to experience this book without already knowing what is going to happen. A few years ago our book club decided to read a year of classics, several of which I had not previously read. Maturity brings an entirely different perspective and understanding to these great works.

The last two times I read Jane Eyre were prompted by it having been a book club selection. This month our group decided to read it again since a movie remake will be released at the end of the month. I'm not sure how they could improve on the Masterpiece Theater production, but it will be fun to see. 

This reminds me of the long list of classics I want to read but just haven't. I need to get back on the wagon :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Parrot and Oliver in America

by Peter Carey

I chose this book because I had read many great reviews, but maybe I just don't know enough information about Tocqueville and his Democracy in America, which is the basis for this book, to have gotten as much from it as others. The book is very well written, contains many detailed descriptions and a few statements on the main character's reflections of life in America. I was a bit disappointed that not more emphasis was placed on these impressions, but instead focused on the relationship between Parrot and Oliver. 

These two characters narrated the book in alternating chapters, however I often found it confusing to recall whose "voice" was speaking due to the similar nature of their person. Oliver is a descendant of French nobility while Parrot accompanies him to the US as his servant, so some disparity of language should be evident, but it is not,  I am sure this was an intentional attempt by the author to display the equality of people regardless of their social status, but I frequently had to check who was "talking" for reference and clarity.

In general, the book is well written, but I think it is a bit more fictional history than historical fiction. Don't expect to come away with a greater understanding of Tocqueville's impressions of America.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt

by Beth Hoffman

Ceecee Honeycutt had a tough row to hoe! Although the story is predictable, the author does a good job of creating and developing unique characters who are rather quirky and enjoyable. The storyline is a typical tragedy to triumph novel, but lacks somewhat in flow. The book is a quick read when you aren't looking for anything deep.

Death With Interruptions

by Jose Saramago

Unmitigated satire. I found this a fun look at "death" taking a break from her work, bringing to light the complications of an eternity on earth through one country's experiences. The first half of the book expounds on the social issues of living forever in great detail. The second half of the book delves into the character of death and her inner turmoil with earthly relationships. 

Too bad Saramago couldn't have blended these two halves instead of running two separate short stories. His perception of the character of death brought the second half of the book to life. 

Reading this writing style can be a challenge at first, as he uses very little punctuation.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

by Ann Weisgarber

The American Dream? I guess for some, but the Badlands wouldn't be for me!

This was an interesting tale of early 1900's expansion. The unusual basis for the marriage and detailed descriptions of struggles to farm and ranch in a grueling environment provided some intrigue. Reading about that drought made me thirsty :) The book portrayed a very uncommon perspective on racial tensions as well, not only for Black Americans, but a sort of hierarchy: White, Black, "Agency" Indians.

For me, the ending was disappointing and a downer. So much was made of the 14-year struggle to survive in these harsh surroundings for such an ending..... don't want to give spoilers (anyway, the ending may not bother you).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was the donor of the HeLa cell. This was the first human cell to be replicated and continually replicate outside of a person, thus providing the basis for much scientific research leading to many life-saving medical cures. (in layman's terms)

I liked how Ms. Skloot gave very detailed information regarding the HeLa cell and its advances in science. She conveyed the message without using difficult terminology, making the book accessible to everyone. She also managed to present two sides of a difficult and controversial subject. She told the story of the Lacks family and their frustration, misunderstandings and hurt throughout the scientific discovery process. She also explained how current practices (at the time) led to the family's discontent.

One troubling aspect for me throughout the story was the impression I had that the Lacks family mainly wanted to be monetarily compensated for the use of these cells in scientific research. Today, that would be common and expected, however at the time of cell extraction, Dr. Gey followed ordinary procedures and practices. When his experiment was successful, Dr. Gey freely gave the cells to any researcher; not using them for personal gain, only looking to possible advances in medicine and science.

I think this book has something for everyone; science, relationships, tragedies and triumphs.

Even Silence Has an End

by Ingrid Betancourt

An amazing story of captive survival in harrowing jungle conditions. Ingrid Betancourt was captured by the FARC and held hostage for over six years. She describes the situation and circumstances of her capture and captors, her fellow hostages, her mental struggles and the physical torture endured by the group. This book is written from her perspective and gives only slight consideration to the others enduring this alongside her. Many of the reactions of Ms. Betancourt had repercussions on the entire band of prisoners, but not much credit is taken by her of those consequences. She does a good job of explaining her mental processes and why she responded to the torture as she did.

The writing style is lacking and the time line is often confusing, but the story is amazing and demonstrates the courage of those held hostage.


I do have a reason for my long hiatus, but not a good excuse, because I was reading all along, just failing to post. Looking back, I regret this because it has been my only method of keeping track of my reading. I do not have a great memory of books I read and frequently when people ask me what I am reading I have to struggle even to recall the title. So I've realized I need a method of tracking my reading for two reasons: it helps with my memory (makes me sound old), it provides book club ideas when I select reading material for my group.

So I am back!