Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

I'm really glad I re-read this book. I bought it years ago. Long enough ago that I wasn't yet married. Long enough ago that I didn't really 'get it'. I knew it was well-written back then, but I never went on to read any more of Shreve's writing, because I don't think I was quite ready for it. I was just a bit too young.
Now, is a completely different story. The entire time I was reading it I was wondering why haven't I read more of her? She is a fabulous writer. She has a great sense of description for setting, character and emotion. I genuinely cared about these people and their lives. Although I'd read it before I still wanted to know what was happening next. What would she find out?
If you haven't yet read The Pilot's Wife, the premise is this: a pilot's wife is woken one night by the airline representitive to face her worst fear, her husband's plane has gone down. As the story progresses you experience her stages of grief as well as discover that perhaps her marriage wasn't exactly what she thought it was. It looks at the question: 'How well can we really know another person'.
Shreve does an excellent job weaving past and present scenes so that you are never lost, but rather getting valuable insight into this relationship.
I really enjoyed this book (much better than the first time around) and look forward to reading more of her books.

Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

This book was a departure from my usual fare. The premise sounded good. A teenage girl from a rougher part of New Orleans is living a depressing home life. She and her brother get mixed up with a 'religious' fellow that turns into a dangerous situation. Sounds interesting, sounds current, sure I'll bite, I'll read it.
What Tusa does well with this story is describe. You forget that this story was written by a man, you really see what life is like for this teenage girl. Unfortunately, I just kept waiting for the story to happen. I wanted to find a reason to like this girl, I didn't. Haley's life is pretty miserable and she doesn't help her situation. Something that caught my attention was the need Haley had to blame God for everything. This is a common misnomer of who God is. People will tell God, 'My life sucks, do something' - as if God is some wish granting genie in a bottle. He's not. He really and truly loves you and has a plan for your life, but you need to take some steps towards him (we have free will) and begin to line your life up with His will. I don't see Haley having any give this way. She keeps telling God to do something, but then continues to make poor choices and wonder in bewilderment why her.
I think Tusa has an interesting idea here, I just wanted to see it in fruition. The novel is short (more of a novella really) and has 3 distinct parts to it. I would love to see what would happen if he developed the story more in these 3 parts, or, took one of these parts and widened it out to make an arc.
Overall, I would say this story was dark, well described but I really didn't care about the characters to make it work, I would have loved to see some growth and development on Haley's part to make it worth reading.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Monday

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve (re-read)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My first 'Weekly Geeks' contribution - All about animals

The Weekly Geeks are a new to me discovery of book lovers. They pick different themes related to books and share on their blogs. This is my first go at joining in.

This week you are asked to share books (fiction or nonfiction) and/or movies which center around an animal or animals.
Which are your favorites?
Which touched your heart the most?
Which have found their way onto your wish lists or TBR stacks?
Is there a childhood favorite?
Have you ever named a pet after an animal from a book or movie?

- Charlotte's Web by E.B. White is the first that comes to mind. I absolutely adore this book (and have since I was about 8 years old). A classic for kids and adults alike

- The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is the next book that I think of when I think of animals. It was recommended to me by my brother and is unlike anything else that I'd ever read. I must have read it at least 5 years ago now and I still wonder about the ending
- I very much enjoyed the role of Judge, Campbell Alexander's dog in Jodi Picoult's My Sister's keeper
-I've never named an pet after a book animal, but I have recently discovered Rosemary Well's McDuff books about a West Highland Terrier, coincidentally my childhood dog was a Scottish Terrier named McDuff so the books give me an opening to tell my sons about my McDuff

-Curious George by the Rey's is right up there (now enjoyed by my sons as well as myself)
-my favorite fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red has a very loveable bear character in it
-I loved Jack the little Bulldog in the Little House books
- I think the animal that I love the most in books is Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, although he is so much more than an animal (which is what happens when you read fantasy)
I'm sure after I hit 'publish post' I'll think of so many more animal characters that I love, funny how many of these books are children's classics

*added the next day - I knew I'd think of at least one more I wanted on here - Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, another children's book I know, but one I didn't discover until I was teaching

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I feel so inadequate to review this book. It has done what few books do which is put me in my place. Not in a bad way, in a very good reminder way. C.S. Lewis was one of the foremost Christian Apologists of the 20th Century. He was not always a Christian, converting to Christianity in his early 30's. He was a gifted writer and noted intellect. He is widely known for the Chronicles of Narnia (which I confess is the only books of his I have read prior to this).
The premise of The Screwtape Letters is this: A senior demon writes letters advising his nephew (a junior demon in the ranks) as to how to avert his human (called the Patient) away from his new found faith in Christ. Of course being written in the reverse takes a little getting used to, but reading through the lines are valuable lessons for myself in my own walk with Christ. I can see the ways in which I falter, the sins which I am succeptable to. I know the only way back is to focus on my Creator. I am so glad I picked this book up (it was on a whim as I glanced through the church library last Sunday). It is one that I should buy and add to my collection. I can see myself re-reading this in part and in whole as time goes on. I would like to read more of his writing. I'm pretty sure that Lewis' Mere Christianity is somewhere in my husband's collection so maybe that will be my next Lewis destination.

Mother's Day Give Away

5 Minutes for Books is offering a wonderful prize package for book lovers. Check it out!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

I waited a while for this novel to come in to the library. Jodi Picoult has quite a following right now and I admit that I'm one of those working my way through her books. I find her books quite easy and quick to read, but the stories are good and interesting. Most of her books touch on a hot issue. The one focuses on euthenasia. It's a side of euthenasia that I hadn't thought about before. What would it be like to be living in such a state of pain and agony, knowing that you are deteriorating every day and may not live many more of them. Would you choose to die? Would you ask someone to kill you? Or would you wait it out? Is it our choice to make? I had previously read Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers that addresses this issue and I really enjoyed her perspective. I like that Picoult takes this issue and parallels it with a dying marriage. Do you kill the marriage? Do you kill the cancer patient? Do you give up? Do you live on? Do you work it out? I'm for marriage. I'm for life. I don't think any of these questions are easy. But add another voice into the arguement. It would be interesting for a book club to read both books and discuss them to see what they come up with.

It's Monday

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Books I missed

When I was writing out my list of books I've read so far this year, I knew I'd missed a couple, so I checked back. Sure enough I caught 2 that I'd missed blogging about (probably because I'd already blogged on the series previously and haven't had much more insight, I'm just enjoying the read). The Good Husband of Zebra Drive and Miracle at Speedy Motors are books 8 & 9 in the No. Detective Ladies Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Still very enjoyable and looking forward to reading Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (#10).

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

I'm not a huge fan of Philippa Gregory. She's one of those authours that I think I should like better than I do. Some of her books I really like, the others, I'm not so keen on. Her book on Anne of Cleeves was my favorite so far. I think because she gave me insight into a historical figure that I didn't know much about. Anne of Cleeves is an interesting character to read in fiction.
The Other Queen however is based on a character that much has been written, Mary, Queen of Scots. I find it difficult to get into a book where I already know a lot about the character and have read better books based on her life. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George was a much better read. Both authors have different takes on Mary. I guess the question is which history do you believe? As with other books by Philippa Gregory, she takes some literary licence with her character. It's a different Mary than I'm used to seeing. More interesting to me were the secondary characters, Bess of Harwick and George Talbot. These were people that I hadn't really seen before. In fact little is known about George Talbot, so watching how she developed his character was quite intreguing.
Overall, I like that Philippa Gregory gets people interested in historical characters. I just hope that her readers get urged on into further reading to really learn who these people were and why they are remembered. I also hope that her readers take care to note that her writing is historical fiction and that they look to sort out the facts from the story.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Read Your Own Books

Challenge rules:
1. set a goal for how many of your OWN books you'd like to read in 2009
2. read from your own collection between January 1st and December 31st, 2009
If you would like to join this challenge read here

Here's my start list, those with an asterix (*) are ones that I own and have read this year.

1. Stuffed by Patricia Volk*
2. This Year it Will be Different by Maeve Binchy*
3. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy*
4. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy*
5. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy*
6. Vanity Fair by William Thackery
7. The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
8. Testimony by Anita Shreve

100+ Book Challenge 2009

I've decided to join the 100+ Book Challenge 2009 hosted by J. Kaye. Here's my list so far, I'll keep it updated as I go.
1. Stuffed by Patricia Volk
2. Evergreen by Belva Plain
3. The Golden Cup by Belva Plain
4. Tapestry by Belva Plain
5. Harvest by Belva Plain
6. Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
7. The 10th Circle by Jodi Picoult
8. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
9. Why I Hate Canadians by Will Fergusson
10. Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
11. How to be Canadian by Ian and Will Fergusson
12. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
13. Friday Nights by Joanna Trolloppe
14. This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy
15. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
16. The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy
17. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
18. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
19. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
20. Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
21. Mercy by Jodi Picoult
22. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
23. Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa
24. The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
25. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
26. Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
27. Thames Does Not Rhyme With James by Paula Danzinger
28. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
29. Resistance by Anita Shreve
30. Charlie All Night by Jennifer Cursie
31. Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes
32. Testimony by Anita Shreve
33. Debutante Divorcee by Plum Sykes
34. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
35. For Better For Worse by Carole Matthews
36. Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve
37. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
38. 4 Blondes by Candace Bushnell
39. Trading Up by Candace Bushnell
40. Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell
41. One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
42. Where or When by Anita Shreve
43. Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
44. Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
45. Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
46. All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve
47. The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle
48. For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani
49. The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
50. Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswani
51. A Lady Raised High by Laurien Gardner
52. A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve
53. Looking Back by Belva Plain
54. Daybreak by Belva Plain
55. The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick
56. The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick
57. Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
58. Julie and Julia by Julie Powel
59. Monday's Child by Louise Bagshawe
60. Wild Orchids by Jude Deveraux
61. Otherwise Engaged by Eileen Goudge
62. Immediate Family by Eileen Goudge
63. Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding
64. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
65. Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jennifer Lancaster
66. Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
67. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Mornan
68. Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
69. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
70. Summer of the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson
71. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
72. Learning Curves by Gemma Townley
73. It's Not About Me by Max Lucado
74. The Girls by Lori Lansens
75. Sisters by Danielle Steel
76. Honor Thyself by Danielle Steel
77. The Priest by Francine Rivers
78. A Mormon's Unexpected Journey by Carma Naylor
79. Seven Sunny Days by Chris Mansby
80. Bungalow 2 by Danielle Steel
81. The Rogue by Danielle Steel
82. A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity by Kathleen Giles Sidel
83. The Warrior by Francine Rivers
84. The Devil in the Junior League by Linda Francis Lee
85. Fame by Karen Kingsbury
86. Forgiven by Karen Kingsbury
87. Found by Karen Kingsbury
88. Family by Karen Kingsbury
89. Forever by Karen Kingsbury
90. The Prince by Francine Rivers
91. Redemption by Karen Kingsbury
92. Remember by Karen Kingsbury
93. Return by Karen Kingsbury
94. Rejoice by Karen Kingsbury
95. Reunion by Karen Kingsbury
96. Sunrise by Karen Kingsbury
97. Summer by Karen Kingsury

It's Monday

This week I'm reading: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

and how am I doing with my classic?

I did it. I bought Vanity Fair (one of 2 classics that I plan to read this year) and started it a few weeks ago. I'm really enjoying it. It's written in a completely different style than I was expecting. Look forward to continuing on and putting in my 2 cents about it once I finish.

March Catch Up - lots of Maeve Binchy and a little Joanna Trollope

I know I'm sadly ignoring this blog. I haven't stopped reading, I've just been devoting my time to fixing up my other blogs and now I need to re-focus my attention here.

At the begining of March I went back on a Maeve Binchy kick. It all started with This Year it Will be Different, a collection of short stories that Jonathan picked up for me while in England. He knows that I adore Maeve Binchy's writing and was pretty sure that I didn't have this one on my shelf. He was right. What I didn't know while diving into it was that these short stories all centred around Christmastime. You know what? It didn't matter. They were still great. I once read that sitting down with a Maeve Binchy book is like sitting down with a pot of tea and your best friend for a good chat (& gossip). So true. You get to peek into these people's lives a little. You don't know the whole story, (and especially in these short stories you don't know how everything turns out), they are just snippets. It amazes me how she can take a story and in just a few short pages turn it completely around. Her books just come to life so readily. They are wonderful.
Next I opened (or re-opened) The Copper Beech. This was another that Jonathan picked up in England for me, not knowing that not only did I have it, but it is my favorite of hers. (I think the different cover threw him off). This one is distinctive of Binchy's style. She combines her gift for telling short stories into a novel format. It all centres around the same village in rural Ireland a time ago. Each chapter (or section) focusses on one character, but what is interesting is how these characters are viewed by the others when their turn comes around. I find this story absolutely engaging and delightful.
Jump back a bit and I re-opened Firefly Summer. This was a much earlier book of hers. Although it is still Binchy, the style differs somewhat. It's a longer more concentrated novel. It still has her charm, and it still takes me in a direction I wasn't expecting.
This was completely contrasted with Binchy's newest novel Heart and Soul. If you ever want to see how a writer develops do just that, go from one of their early works to something brand new. What was so lovely and surprising was the reprise of a cast of characters I had thought we'd not see again. I had supposed that Quentins would be the last of these Dubliners that keep bumping into each others lives. So going through this book was a little like old home week. Of course not all of the characters were ones we already knew, most of them were new, but had some relationships with others from other stories. (Evening Class, Tara Road, Scarlett Feather, Night of Rain and Stars and Quentins). I'm just glad that she is still writing. I read once that she had decided to stop, but I guess the stories won't leave her alone :o)

And non-Binchy: Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope is one of those authors I discovered a few years ago, read all that she had put out and then left. I was rifling through the shelves at the library and saw this one which I was pretty sure I hadn't read yet. I was right. It's only about a year old. Trollope is an English writer with this book centring on a group of women in London. They have an unlikely friendship, meeting on Friday nights. The cast of women range from a young, single wandering type to an older woman in the retirement stage of life (she's the glue holding them together). The story weaves in and out of these lives quite nicely. A good little book.