Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I am so far behind with the 888 challenge I don't think I can catch up. Hurricane Ike hit Houston and my life has been hectic. I work for Waste Management. My landfill has been too busy. Our hours were extended. I went through 4 weeks of only seeing my house on Sundays. I was gone during all daylight hours. I didn't have electricity for a month. I had to stay with friends for 2 1/2 weeks. They were 50 miles north and that added an extra hour of driving time daily.

During the last 8 weeks I've only managed to finish 4 books. And they've been books for my Yahoo Groups. I had The Far Pavillions from the library and only got halfway through it before I had to give it back. There's a waiting list for it so I felt guilty keeping it while someone else wanted it.

But hopefully I can get back on track now that things are settling down. But I don't think my 888 has a chance. But I plan on reading all the books anyway. I'll just call it 889.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Regulators

The Regulators by Richard Bachman

Poplar Street is an idealistic neighborhood street in Ohio. The neighbors know each other and (mostly) get along. But one hot, sunny July afternoon things get very bad very fast.

Audrey Wyler has taken in her autistic nephew Seth. His parents, brother and sister were all killed in a drive[by shooting out in California. On their last family vacation, while visiting an old mine in Nevada, Seth was invaded by an ancient spirit who calls himself Tak. Tak lives by draining the energy out of others.

Tak brings all of Seth's favorite TV shows out into reality when his energy levels are high. Seth likes westerns-particularly Bonanza and a sci-fi cartoon with lots of high-tech weapons. And as these weapons kill the residents of Poplar Street, Tak's energy and control grow. Pretty soon the surrounding town turns into the Nevada desert, shutting off any chance of help from the outside world.

I liked this book. It was a quick red and kept me interested although I have to admit I've read it before. But all I remember from the previous read is that I liked it. That's a gook enough reason to reread a book.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

"Heart of Darkness" follows an Englishman, Marlowe, on his travels into the Congo. He has been hired to ferry ivory from upriver, and bring back an ill station manager, Kurtz. He becomes fascinated with Kurtz' reputation. Kurtz is seen as a highly able man who is extremely successful at supplying ivory.

Marlowe is forced to spend several weeks at the port awaiting supplies to repair his boat. He's horrified to see the way the natives are treated. They're disposable. Barely fed, and badlly mistreated. Disposable. They're considered subhuman.

Marlowe is horrified with everything around him and events on the trip are no better. But when he finally meets Kurtz, he truly sees the heart of darkness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A group of British schoolboys are marooned on a desert island. They were being evacuated for safety during a war. Finding themselves alone without adult supervision, they begin to form their own society. And their society soon begins to break down.

This is a new entry on my list of favorites. An amazing book. Golding uses children to explore the darkness in human nature. And the horror of it is, it feels like a logical natural progression from the order and co-operation of the early days to the fear and savagery that builds as time goes by and personalities assert themselves.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Cold Day in Hell

A Cold Day in Hell by Stella Cameron

Christian De'Angelo has just moved to Pointe Judah, Louisiana. He has with him the teenage son of a murdered mobster. Sonny has made friends with Arron, a local boy. And the two have been getting into trouble. One day, someone shoots at them in the swamp. But which boy was the target?

I enjoy Camerons books when I'm in the mood for a mystery. But she sets her stories in the same small towns- 2 that I've recognized so far. With each successive book more characters are added. This is fine when you begin with the first book. But "A Cold Day in Hell" must be deep into a series. There's a lot of people to remember.

That said, the book dept my interest for the two days it took to read. And I wasn't sure whodunit. It's a good, quick read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Index Liborum Liberorum

Index Librorum Liberorum
Toast the taste makers of the religious world

I finished another challenge. This one was difficult.

1.) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert<>France
2.) Les Misérables by Victor Hugo<>France
3.) The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo<>France
4.) Justine by the Marquis de Sade<>France
5.) Candide by Voltaire<>France
6.) The Prince by Niccolὸ AMachiavelli<>Italy
7.) The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene<>England
8.) Paradise Lost by Milton<>England
9.) Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift<>Ireland

Both of the books by Victor Hugo were huge. It was my second time reading Les Mes. Candide and Gulliver's Travels were both fun to read. Justine was a waste of time, money and brain space. It was the only one I agreed with the Vatican on. My favorite off the List was The Power and the Glory. I'll reread that one someday.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost by John Milton

"Paradise Lost" is the story of the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. The book is a 12 part poem. It begins with the fall of Satan from heaven. He then decides to corrupt men to get back at God. It's a wonderful fictionalization of a story we all know well.

I have a special edition from Barnes & Noble complete with the illustrations of Gustave Dore. That's half the beauty of the book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The hunchback is Quasimodo. He was orphaned at the age of 4 and adopted by Claude Frollo. Frollo is an archdeacon at Notre Dame. Quasimodo is the bell-ringer. He loves the bells but they have left him deaf. He is also deformed. He's an outcast in Paris.

Claude Frollo is devoted to learning. And he falls desperately in love with Esmerelda, a beautiful young gypsy dancer. One night he attempts to abduct her with the help of Quasimodo, but an army officer thwarts their plan. Only Quasimodo is caught. Esmerelda gives him water and he also falls in love with her. He's never had much human kindness. But Frollo isn't giving up. And Paris society decides Esmerelda is a witch and must hang.

Naturally, being Victor Hugo, the book is a commentary on humanity. This time in Paris in the 15th century.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Cell by Stephen King

Clayton Riddell is having just about the best day of his life. Someone is finally going to publish his comic book. He stops for ice cream. But while in line, the people around him suddenly go nuts. He quickly realizes they had all gotten a "Pulse" through their cell phones. Now Chaos rules the city.

So Clayton and another cell-less man named Thomas McCourt decide to find safety together. After picking up a couple of other normal people they start heading north. Messages are beginning to appear that lead people to an area without cell coverage. And Clayton is desperate to get to his family.

I love Stephen King, but I didn't much like this book. It was easy reading with King's usually flippancy and his humor popping up. But there was something far fetched about this story. (King far-fetched? Nah!) But with all the talk about people's brains being short-circuited and rebooted, it just didn't catch my imagination the way most King books do. But being King, it's still worth reading.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Gold Metal Reading

Booking Through Thursday

You, um, may have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now, so that’s the genesis of this week’s question, in two parts:


Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?
And, Second:

Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
(Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)

No, No, and double no.

I did watch the USA girls gymnastics the other night and I'm keeping up with the medal count but that's about as far as it goes. I also own all my mothers figure skating books but I haven't read any of them.

I read Playing for Pizza which is about a football player. Does that count?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Optimist's Daughter

The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

1973 Pulitzer

"The Optimist's Daughter" follows Laurel McKelva Hand as she copes with the death of her father. Laurel was raised in the South but moved to Chicago to follow an art career. Laurel and her young step-mother take her father to Mississippi for burial.
In her fathers old house, Laurel must come to terms with the past.

It's a simple little story, but it has a big emotional impact if you've lost a parent.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré

Alex Leamus is a a British spy working in East Berlin. He's just lost his last operative. So he decides it's time to retire. But the bosses want him to do one more job. That's to take down a particularly vicious German agent.

So the stage is set to look like he is self-destructing. He begins a desk job at the agency but is fired because of thefts. He gets a job in a library, a cheap boarding house room and begins drinking. He then assaults a local grocer and lands in jail.

So naturally the East-Germans begin to try to turn him into a double-agent. Once he's taken to East Berlin, he has to call on all his experience to stay alive.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is the story of a woman's affair in the late 19th century. She is the wife of a government official and lives in the upper echelon of society. Upon arriving in Moscow to mediate between her brother and sister-in-law, she meets a military officer named Vronsky. Vronsky had led Kitty to believe he would be "making her an offer" but upon meeting Anna he forgot Kitty completely. And Kitty had just refused an offer from Lenin. Anna Karenina is a long book that tells the story of many people. And they are all well defined characters. It's hard to leave one character for a couple of pages, but then you get wrapped up in the next character.

Anna Karenina is a story of love gone bad and love gone right. Tolstoy uses his characters to explore Russian society, from the aristocrats to the peasants who work for them. Religion, agriculture, politics, society, culture, the list goes on.

Anna Karenina is a Great Book. One of the best I've ever read.FirstCrime and Punishment and now this. I can't believe I was ever scared of Russian literature. I'm ready to take on War and Peace.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Prince

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Machiavelli was born in 1469 in Florence, Italy. His father was a poor lawyer and his mother was a poet. Being a natural politician, he entered into government service. He often accompanied diplomats to neighboring countries, but being of "low" birth he was only an assistant. But his shrewd observations were noticed.

Machiavelli lived in a very volatile era. Italy was divided into city-states. France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were continuously invading these territories. The Medici family had controlled Florence for a century, but in 1494 Charles VIII dove them out. Florence becomes a republic until 1512 when the Medici family regain power. Machiavelli is ousted from government and exiled to his country farm. Here he begins writing.

The Prince was his attempt to regain favor with the Medici's and return to government service. In The Prince he attempts to council a new ruler on the methods he should use to keep his kingdom secure. He writes advice on the military, the public, nobility, foreign relations, etc. He picks through battle after battle and explains what went wrong and what should have been done.

The Prince
is the book which gave rise to the current Machiavellian definition-cunning and deceptive. He writes " looks at the outcome." This has been take to mean "the end justifies the means." But what Machiavelli is saying is that people don't care what a prince does as long as it benefits them. This is true enough.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Justine by The Marquis de Sade

Justine follows a young girl from the age of 12 to 26. She's determined to be virtuous but circumstances are against her. She keeps getting kidnapped and imprisoned by perverts. Of course, she usually walks into the situation. Some man will tell her he'll give her a job and then lock her in a dungeon when she follows him home. She'll try to talk him into leading a virtuous life and he'll rant on about how Nature makes a man what he is and he shouldn't ignore Nature.

I read this for the ILL challenge, but it is certainly not my cup of tea.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Vacation Spots

Booking Through Thursday

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday?

Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip?

What/Where are they?

I usually take something with me. Usually?? Always!! I can only remember once going ot a bookstore while on vacation and that was somewhere near Austin or Dallas. I can't remember which so needless to say I'd never find my way back. I do have good memories of it though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The last priest in Mexico is running for his life. The government has decided all priests must be killed or forced to marry. The Power and the Glory is about an unnamed priest who is traveling among the poor towns trying to serve his church as best he can.

He's what's known as a "whiskey priest." During one night of drinking he fathered a child. He remembers better times where he was living good in the priesthood, not thinking much about the poor people in his parish. And now he's hiding from the authorities and depending on those same poor people to help him. He's tired of hiding but considers surrender a sin akin to suicide. He only sees his failures, not realizing he is making a difference in some peoples lives still.

This is a wonderful book. The priest is a great character---full of humility. And he has a nobility he is unaware of.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is the story of the Trask family. It's centered on Adam but it includes his father and his sons. Cyrus was injured early in the Civil War. But over time he convinces everyone, even himself, that he had a glorious military career. He eventually winds up in a DC cabinet position. And he forces his youngest son, Adam, into the army.

After the army, Adam returns to his Connecticut home which is being run by his brother Charles. The two do not get along. Charles has always resented Cyrus' favoritism of Adam. One day a young girl shows up at their door. She has been beaten to a pulp. Adam takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health.

Cathy is a bad seed. She murdered and robbed her parents. She then took a turn as a prostitute. Her pimp beat her and left her for dead. But Adam builds a picture in his head that has no basis in reality. He marries her and takes her to California. She doesn't want to go but Adam doesn't hear her.

After they settle in the Salinas Valley, Cathy gives birth to twins. But she has no interest in being a wife and mother. She shoots Adam and leaves to work in a brothel in a nearby town. Adam is left to raise the twins with the help of his Chinese servant.

East of Eden is about the struggle between good and evil within all people. Adam's son Cal has a dark side that he struggles against. It's the same side that his mother embraced.

I enjoyed this book. But out of the four Steinbeck's I've read it only ranks third.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Nathan Price has taken his family to live in a remote, primitive village in the Congo. He is fanatical and can't meet the natives halfway. He refuses to give an inch to their ways, insisting that only his way is right. His wife was once a fun-loving girl who has slowly become passive to her husband. And she's beginning to realize the Congo is no place for her family.

The story switches back and forth between the 4 girls in the family and told by their individual prospectives flavored by their personalities. As the political climate changes, life around them changes also.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge II

I completed part one of the Book Awards Reading Challenge and read some really great books. This years Part II will be 2 books fewer and 2 months shorter. I'm looking forward to it.

Here's my list:

The Alex Awards
1.) The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini 2004 winner
2.) Water for Elephants by Sue Gruen 2007 winner

The National Book Awards
3.) The World According to Garp by John Irving 1980 winner
4.) Middle Passage by Charles Johnson 1990 winner

5.) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 1949 winner
6.) The Stranger by Albert Camus 1957 winner

Pulitzer Prize
7.) Ironweed by William Kennedy 1984 winner
8.) Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler 1989 winner

9.) Beowulf by Seamus Heaney 1999 winner

Hugo Award
10) Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clark 1974 winner

Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge Completed

I finished the BookAwardsChallenge.
I had 17 books on my original list. But somehow I had different books on my handwritten list. I picked up my original list for this post but on my sidebar I have a list of 20 books. I'll have to do better when I join BookAwards II.

1.) The Remains of the Day---Kazuo Ishiguro---1989

National Bood Award
2.) Cold Mountain---Charles Frazier---1997

Newbery Medal
3.) Up a Road Slowly---Irene Hunt---1967
4.) From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler---E L Konisburg---1968

Nobel Author W/ Pulitzer
5.) Sinclair Lewis 1930---Arrowsmith 1926
6.) Pearl S Buck 1938---The Good Earth 1932
7.) John Steinbeck 1962---The Grapes of Wrath 1940
8.) Saul Bellow 1976---Humbolt's Gift 1976
9.) Toni Morrison 1993---Beloved 1988

10.) The Executioner's Song---Norman Mailer---1980
11.) Lonesome Dove---Larry McMurty---1986
12.) The Road---Cormac McCarthy---2007
13.) To Kill a Mockingbird---Harper Lee---1961
14.) Gone With the Wind---Margaret Mitchell---1937
15.) The Known World---Edward P Jones---2004
16.) Gilead---Marilynne Robinson---2005
17.) Middlesex---Jeffrey Eugenides---2003

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

1937 Pulitzer Prize

Gone With the Wind is a story of the Civil War and it's effect on Southern culture through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara. Scarlett is a spoiled, self-centered, shameless 16 year old when the war begins. She's in love with Ashley Wilkes who plans to marry his cousin Melanie. So Scarlett marries Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, to make Ashley jealous. But the war begins and Charles is soon killed. She has a son now that she doesn't want. And she has to be "in mourning" in proper Southern society. Used to being the belle of the ball, she finds this very difficult.

The war hits Georgia hard. The book details the hardships of an army who has no government footing the bills for arms or provisions. They have to take what they need from the communities they pass through, leaving the citizens with nothing. The rich are reduced to paupers.

I've never paid alot of attention to Gone With the Wind. I want to read all the books my book club read before I joined. So when I joined the BookAwardsChallenge I found out this one won a Pulitzer. I have to admit I dreaded it. But I was surprised at how much I liked it. It is an amazing book. Everyone should read it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Up a Road Slowly

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

1967 Newberry Medal Winner

Up a Road Slowly
follows Julie Trelling from the ages of 7 to 17. The book opens immediately after her mother's death. During a hysterical outburst Julie is sedated and wakes up to find herself moved into her spinster aunt's home where she spends the next ten years. The book has no major plot, just a simple story of a girl growing up. It follows her through childhood pettiness, adolescent jealousies and burgeoning adulthood.

This was another of my favorites when I was a child.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

1968 Newbery Medal

Claudia is a 12 year old girl who decides to run away from home. Being the careful planner she is, she decides to invite her 9 year old brother Jamie along. Jamie is a miser. So Claudia knows he can bring some much needed funds along. And Jamie agrees because he feels a sense of pride on being the one Claudia invites.

So the two head to New York. Claudia's plan is to live a t the Metropolitan Museum of Art until her parents learn to appreciate her. The two sneak around and hide for a few days and then Claudia sees the statue. She calls it her angel and begins a quest to prove it was sculpted by Michelangelo. Along the way she decides to visit the old woman who donated it to the museum, Mrs. Frankweiler.

Claudia is on a quest to feel special. Such a secret will do this for her.

I read this book when I was a child. It was one of my favorites growing up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

1930 Nobel Prize for Literature
1926 Pulitzer (declined)

Martin Arrowsmith is an aspiring biologist. He's very serious about his work but he can't seem to get to it. First he marries and has to practice medicine so he can afford a wife. When that doesn't work out he moves to a larger town to become a public health officer. After that he gets on at a top-notch reasearch facility. But Arrowsmith's problem is that he doesn't know how to play the game. Everything from small town gossip to big town politics to big city jealousies get in his way.

This was an enjoyable book. It had no big ideas. Just a small one--sometimes there's no particular cause for failure.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Piscine Molitor Patel decides his name will be Pi once his classmates begin to pronounce his name as pissing. He is not quiet so decisive when it comes to choosing a religion. He is a practicing Hindu, Christian and Muslim by the age of 16. He's a very likable boy.

His father owns a zoo. But politics cause him to uproot his family to take them to America. On the way the ship sinks. Pi had gone investigating in the middle of the night and wound up in a lifeboat by himself for a while. But it's not long before he is joined by a few fleeing animals. But very shortly the tiger has made meals out of the others. Now Pi must fight for survival not only against the ocean, but also against the tiger.

Life of Pi is a delightful book. Pi uses his fathers teaching along with his religious views to make sense of his situation. He sees God in everything and it helps keep his spirit up while he waits for rescue.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

2008 Pulitzer Prize

Oscar is a nerd. He's fat. He lives in the typical teen-age boy's genre of sci fi, fantasy and comics. And his biggest goal in life is to loose his virginity.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is the story of a Dominican family who are living in the US. Oscar's mother was the daughter of a rich man who fell afoul of the dictator Trujillo. The family fortunes were lost and a safer home was sought in the US.

The book skips around in time telling the story of Beli's life in the DR and her children's, Oscar and Lola in New Jersey. It's language is flowing with alot of Spanglish scattered in. Even the footnotes are interesting and sometimes funny.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Humboldt's Gift

Humboldt's Gift
Saul Bellow 1976 Nobel Laureate

1976 Pulitzer Prize

Charles Citrine is a young man who loves literature. He sets off to New York City and meets the great poet Von Humboldt Fleisher. But in the early 20th century the fate of poetry is bleak. Humboldt's gifts are no longer being appreciated. But Charlie has success writing for the stage and the cinema. Humboldt thinks he has sold out his art.

After Humboldt's death, Charlie learns Humboldt has left him something in his will. The book is set in a four month time frame, but while Charlie tries to retrieve his legacy he reminisces about the past and the paths he and Humboldt took.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

"Fahrenheit 451" is the story of the awakening of Guy Montag. He's a fireman in a society where a fireman's job is to burn houses and the books in them. Slowly Montag becomes curious about why people would defy the law to keep the forbidden items. People are expected to spend their time in front of the television walls.

Montag accidentally reads a line in a book during a burning. Soon he has several books hidden in his house. And he meets an old man and a young girl who gives him the courage to think...something that is frowned upon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1940 Pulitzer Prize

The Great Plains were hit with major dust storms during the early 1930's. The Dust Bowl was caused by drought and farm mismanagement. Combined with the beginning of the Great Depression, farming families were unable to hold onto their land. Around 500,000 people were forced to leave their homes and go in search of work. The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family as they try to find a new place for themselves.

As the book opens, Tom Joad has just been released from prison for killing a man in a bar fight. He returns to his family's farm to find everyone gone. A passing neighbor tells him the family is at Uncle John's but will soon be leaving. Handbills advertising for pickers for California fruit have been distributed and people are heading west.

So after selling what they can't talk with them, the Joad family goes west. Thirteen people, 1 dog and everything they have left on one truck. But once on the road they find people from everywhere are doing the same. And some are returning because there are too many people and not enough jobs. Giant farm conglomerates are paying slave wages. They've built company stores with exorbitant prices. They have the police arresting anyone who even whispers "union". And if a profit can't be made, crops are destroyed rather than giving them to the starving migrants.

Steibeck tells the story of one family trying to survive. But he also writes sections about the era in general. These help explain how conditions got so bad and what should have been dome to ease the hardships the migrants faced.

I loved this book. It was incredible. Of Mice and Men is my favorite book. Looks like I'm destined to be a Steinbeck fan.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Trends

Booking Through Thursday

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My tastes have definitely changed. During my teenage years I read romance. When I got tired of those I switched to nonfiction. Now I'm on a classic kick. But I'm building a TBR pile of modern novels I plan to attack once I finish the challenges I've joined. I guess these days anything goes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is a bored housewife. A farmers daughter educated in a convent, Emma married the first man she met whim she returned home. Charles Bovary is an uninspiring, unambitious health official for the village/

After Charles assists the Marquis d'Andervilliers, the Bovary's are invited to a ball. Emma thinks they've "arrived". But there is no invitation the next year and Emma becomes depressed. Charles moves her to another town thinking she needs a change of scenery. She meets a law student, Léon Dupris, and the two are attracted but nothing happens. So Léon leaves to continue his studies.

Rich landowner Rodolphe Boulanger meets Emma and decides to seduce her. They carry on an affair for several years, but slowly Emma decides this is not enough.She and Rodolphe decide to run away together. But Rodolphe sends her a Dear John at the last minute. Depression and illness hit Emma again.

After her recovery, she meets Léon again. They begin the affair they missed the first time they met. But, as usual with Emma, this is eventually not enough.

First published in 1857, Madame Bovary caused quite a stir. Considered obscene, it was put on trial the following year. With all the publicity, the book went on to be a bestseller.

There are few likable characters in the book but it's still a great read.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin was and anti-slavery novel written before the Civil War. As the book opens, Kentucky farmer Arthur Shelby has been forced to sell two of his slaves because of debt.

The first, Uncle Tom, has a wife and children. He's sent to market down the Mississippi, but on the way he is befriended by a child named Eva St. Clare. After Tom saves her from drowning her father buys Tom. But circumstances eventually led Tom to be sold to Simon Legree. Simon Legree is one of the worst villains in literature. He beats his slaves, uses the women as sex slaves and fosters mistrust among the slaves. He's pure monster.

The second slave sold was a small boy named Harry. After his mother, Eliza, overhears the Shelbys discussing the sale she decides to run away with her son. She heads north to Canada in hopes of finding her husband. She finds them but by now they are being hunted by slave hunters. But the Underground Railroad is helping them along.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was a very influential book for a very short time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre is a young orphan being reluctantly raised by her aunt, Mrs. Reed. After fighting with her cousin John, Jane is sent to a charity school. But the headmaster is underfunding the school while providing a luxurious lifestyle for his own family. Cold housing and poor nutrition finally causes a typhus outbreak. Many of the students die and conditions at the school bring in new donors and overseers.

Many years later, Jane begins to teach at the school but the marriage of another teacher causes Jane to yearn for something else. So she advertises for, and receives, a position as governess. Her student is the ward of Mr. Rochester.

Jane and Rochester fall in love and plan to marry. But at the alter the wedding is stopped. Turns out Mr. Rochester already has a Mrs. Rochester. And she's locked up in the attic.

"Jane Eyre" is the story of a woman who keeps the faith. It's equal parts romance and suspense. It's a thoroughly delightful book.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Hawaii by James Michener

"Hawaii" is about Hawaii. From the volcanic birth through the mid 1950's. It's written in sections with each section covering a different period in history.

The first is the story of the Bora Borans and the forces that drove then to leave their homes and take off across the ocean not knowing where they were going. The next section covers the missionaries arrival. While some try to convert the primitive people, others decide to begin buisinesses. As time passess and success reigns, more workers are needed. So other sections tell of the arrival of the Chinese and the Japanese.

Hawaii is an ambitious book. It covers an entire history in just 900+ pages. But it's a fascination history. I have to admit the names got confusing after awhile. For generations the names of the original missionary famillies were wsed over and over. You've got Bromley Hale, Hoxworth Hale, Bromley Hoxworth, Whipple Hoxworth, Whipple Janders, Janders Hoxworth, etc. Thank goodness there's a geneology chart in the back of the book. It's invaluable in keeping all the characters straight over the generations.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Beloved by Toni Morrison
1988 Pulitzer Prize

Sethe is a former slave who escaped with her children to her mother-in-law's home in Ohio. Shortly after arriving, slave hunters track them down. Sethe performs a desperate act to protect her children from slavery.

Years later, Sethe's sons have run away, her mother-in-law has died and the town has ostracized Sethe and her remaining daughter Denver. And there's a ghost in the house. A former fellow slave shows up. Sethe hasn't seen Paul D. since she left the plantation but the two decide to try to build a life together. But coming home from a carnival one day, they find the mysterious Beloved sleeping in their yard. And Beloved slowly begins to control the household.

"Beloved" is a story about ghosts. Ghosts in the house, ghosts in the soul and ghosts of the past.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Mayday!

Booking Through Thursday

Quick! It’s an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you’re stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??

And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember….

Would it be cheating to get one out of my car? I've usually got a couple in the truck in case of emergency (no pun intended). If someone else took me to the airport, I'd either pick up a paperback in an airport shop or play Yahtzee on my phone. Unless Dean took me to the airport. He's always got books in his car so I'd take one of his.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

1997 National Book Award

Set during the Civil War, Cold Mountain tells the story of Inman, Ada and Ruby. Inman is a soldier. After being severly wounded in battle, he practically has to heal himself. No one thinks he'll live so they din't waste their time on him. While at the hospital, he decides he's had enough and packs up and walks home. Meanwhile Ada has lost her father and is trying to live on the farm, but she has no clue about how to survive on her own. She's been raised and educated to be a city lady and cannot fend for herself. So along comes Ruby, a backwoods girl whose father left her to raise herself mostly.

The book tells the story of the journeys the three make, either physically or emotional. It's a calm, slow story about people and survival.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Angle of Repose

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

1972 Pulitzer Prize

Lyman Ward is suffering from a bone disease. He has recently separated from his wife and has moved into his grandparents old house. Lyman acquires old letters his grandmother, Susan, had written to her friend. These letters lead him to write a biography about his grandmother.

Susan Ward had been a writer and artist but marriage to Oliver had led her to the old west. Oliver was an engineer. But problems on jobs usually forced them to move on to other jobs. Sometimes Susan had to return east while Oliver took particularly difficult jobs.

Angle of Repose simultaneously tells the story of Susan and Lyman. Susan has difficulty adapting to the west where her desire for culture is in short supply. And Lyman is trying to come to terms with the drastic changes in his life that have come on so suddenly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Les Misérables

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean. He lost his parents very young and his older sister raised him. But when he was 25 years old his brother-in-law died. His sister was left a widow with seven children. Jean helped provide for them, but during one period of unemployment he steals some bread. This act gets him 5 years in prison. Various attempted prison breaks eventually lead to a total of 19 years before he is free.

But times in France in the early 19th century are hard and soon after his release, Jean robs a bishop of his silver. He's caught by the police, but the bishop covers for him. He makes Jean Valjean promise to use the silver to become an honest man. But before he commits to this, he steals a coin from a young boy and is identified as a repeat offender.

Years later, after changing his name, he becomes a rich factory owner. One of his employees dies, and Valjean sets out to find her child. But he has raised the suspicion of a policeman named Javert. Once Valjean finds the child, Cosette, He takes her to Paris to raise as his own.

Hugo uses Jean Valjeans life to expound on politics religion and society in general during the turbulent years following the execution of Louis XVI. He adds chapters on history as the book progresses to help set up the events to come. So, educational as well as entertaining. All in all, one of the best books I've ever read.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Vocabulary

Booking Through Thursday

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

I usually try to figure it out on my own. But I do alot of my reading at work between trucks. So if I'm sitting in front of the computer I'll go ahead and look it up. I use Word Reference alot. It's been very handy for Spanish and French.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen

Nell Caulder is married to businessman Richard. They have a four year old daughter named Jill. At a party in Greece filled with movers and shakers, an attack leaves Richard and Jill dead. Extensive facial damage leaves Nell in need of reconstructive surgery. A bit on the plain side, she is now made beautiful. And ready to go find whoever was responsible for the death of her family.

Nicholas Tanek knows who arranged the attack. Now he has to figure out how to catch him. And Nell is forcing him to let her help.

I read this about a month ago. It kept me entertained at the time, but with the passage of time I've forgotten alot of it. You're told right away who did it so there's not much mystery. But I will read more of Johansen's books.

Monday, April 14, 2008

So Big

So Big By Edna Ferber

1925 Pulitzer Prize

Selina Peake had been living with her father in Chicago. He was a gambler. When he won, they lived high off the hog. When he lost...well, Selina learned to roll with the tide. But Simon gets shot in a bar by a woman aiming at someone else. So, at the age of 19, Selina has to earn her own living or return to two maiden aunts, a destiny she refuses to contemplate. She's accepted as teacher for the Dutch school at High Prairie. She boards with the Poole family.

Selina eventually marries farmer Purvis DeJong and the have a son, Dirk, to whom she gives the nickname So Big. But 8 years later Purvis dies and Selina is left alone to raise the boy and work the farm. Selina is determined that So Big will grow up to appreciate beauty.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at the Marcia Blaine school for girls. Six 10-year-olds girls are assigned to her. But Miss Jean Brodie is no ordinary teacher. She's a progressive teacher in a conservative school. She admires Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. She's in love with a married man but moves in with someone else. And she is willing to discuss her love life with "her girls".

Miss Brodie has decided to mold her girls into the "crème de la crème". And they soon do turn out to be distinctive. Miss Brodie is just as likely to talk about her love life as she is about art. She is less likely to talk about math or science. The headmistress, Miss Mackay, disparately wants a reason to dismiss her.

"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is a novella. It's a small book that tells of the lasting impression Miss Brodie has on her girls. The story is told out of sequence, giving hints about what is to come. In the first few ages you learn one of the girls will betray her. But it's not until the end of the book that you find out who or why.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Bennets live on Longbourn estate. It is entailed to a male heir. But the Bennets have 5 daughters who must all marry rich to live comfortably after Mr. Bennet dies.

As the book opens, neighboring estate Netherfield is soon to be occupied by rich, young unmarried Charles Bingley. He brings along sisters, a brother-in-law and his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Bingley is attracted to the eldest sister, Jane. Mr. Darcy, when asked to dance with Elizabeth at a ball, states she is not attractive enough. Overhearing this, Elizabeth decides Mr. Darcy is too prideful.

"Pride and Prejudice" was almost named First Impressions. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy size each other up and immediately let their first impressions color their judgement of the other. It takes a lot of work and time for them to see each others true character.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Lit-Ra-Chur

Booking Through Thursday

When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?

The first thing I think of is the Classics. Which leads to another question--What qualifies as "classic"? The line between book and classic book is just as hazy as the line between fiction and literature. I've developed a recent appreciation for the classics. But trying to categorize between literature and fiction gives me a bellyache. It's a real problem when I try to add books to Librarything. But fiction, literature or unadulterated crap, I'll read it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver was born in a workhouse orphanage. His mother died at childbirth without revealing her identity. At age 9, after being transferred to the workhouse proper, Oliver draws the short straw and has to ask for more gruel. ("Please, sir, I want some more.") This gets him branded a troublemaker. He's put in solitary and notice is placed offering 5 pounds to anyone who will take him.

Oliver is soon placed as an apprentice to an undertaker. But after several months of abuse from his coworkers and the undertakers wife he runs away. On the outskirts of London he meets the Artful Dodger who takes him to Fagin, who trains boys to be thieves and pickpockets.

But Oliver hasn't got the heart to be a criminal. He finds a benefactor but is kidnapped and returned to Fagin. Eventually assigned to help with a burglary, he is wounded and left for dead when he cries out and warns the occupants of the house. He winds up living in the house with a new benefactor.

"Oliver Twist" is a sentimental novel. Dickens paints a harsh, but accurate picture of living conditions for the poor. Oliver is just a poor little boy trying to get by but it seems the entire English system is against him.

This is my third Dickens novel and I have to say they all exceed "great." And for some reason I really liked the photograph on the cover of the B&N edition I have.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Cover up

Booking Through Thursday

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

Not knowing the difference between trade paperback and mass market paperback I had to do some research. I found this. So I have to go with trade paperback. At my local used book store they have a small section of trade paperbacks and that's where I head first. I like the size of them in my hands. If I have to have a particular book, I will stoop to the smaller mass market books. In that case, the older the better.

The covers very seldom influence my purchase. I'm reading alot of classics lately and covers don't matter at all, although the Barnes and Noble collection choose some really good covers, usually artwork based on the book. I don't much care for movie tie-ins, but after a movie is out the used bookstore is usually flooded with them and they are too cheap to resist. But you have to be very careful to get the complete book and not just the movie pieces.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Queen of the Slayers

Queen of the Slayers by Nancy Holder

My guilty pleasure--Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was 45 years old before I found it. It's a very witty program.

The book was pretty good. It picked up right after the TV series ended, but it doesn't have that Whedon touch. This is the first book I've seen based on the series, but Holder has written dozens. She did a good job on the characters. I could hear some of them as plain as if I was watching them. But at times she throws in little things from the series as if she's trying to prove she watched it. Sometimes they were totally unnecessary.

The premise is set after the Hellmouth is closed. All the demons are P.O.'d about losing their favorite lair, so they're raising a ruckus all over the planet. And turns out the Borgia's were vampires who wound up trapped in another dimension and are trying to get back to rule Rome. A distant ancestor is dating a girl who is now one of the potentials. And she decides she wants to be Queen of the slayers and begins gathering girls to her side. So Buffy and the Scoobies are spread between Ohio, England and Rome trying to get control of the chaos.

It's still goofy, but it's great fun.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-The End

Booking Through Thursday

You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?

(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)

None of the above. I'm usually reading two or three books at a time. I'm in a Yahoo group that reads books in sections. And I'm reading Les Mes right now too. I've got the unabridged version and when Hugo moved into 40 pages about the battle of Waterloo or 60 pages about the French history I'll set it aside and pick up a quick read for a break. Since this book is 1500 pages, I've managed to squeeze Oliver Twist and Pride and Prejudice in.

I'm in the 888 and ILL challenges too, so I have quite a TBR pile (table-I need to take a picture) and sometimes I'll see a title I "have to read right this minute" and set aside the book I'm into then.

It's a strange system, but I'm enjoying myself.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Killer Bodies

Killer Bodies by Michael Fleeman

Someone gave me this book I read it in one day. There's not much to it. Two famous body builders kill their personal assistant. Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan were both famous in the body building world. He was self-destructing and she was on her way up when they met and married.

But together they murdered their live-in assistant. And from the book I'm not sure how or why. The author gives some possible motives such as she was stealing from them or Melissa and Craig had an affair. The body was burned in the trunk of a car, so the coroner couldn't determine a specific cause of death. It could have been strangulation, fire or a drug overdose.

I didn't get the feeling the author had any sources besides public records. He didn't even know when Melissa met the couple. I think the only reason the book was written was because Titus and Ryan were famous in their little pond. There weren't enough facts to make an interesting story out of John and Jane Doe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
Sheba Hart is the new art teacher. She is married and has two children. She has just taken her first job at St. Georges. She drifts into an affair with one of the students, 15 year old "Conolly.

Loner Barbara Covett has 35 years teaching experience. She lives alone with her cat. She is intrigued by Shelby and slowly cultivates a friendship with the younger woman.

As the book opens, Barbara is secretly writing about Sheba's affair. The world has found out about the affair and Sheba is daily news fodder. She has lost everything--her family, home and job. She and Barbara are living in her brother's house while he is away.

I enjoyed this book until I got to the end. And then it just bombed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Playing Editor

Booking Through Thursday

How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:

__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.

Notes on a Scandal would have been a much better book if it had had an ending.

Naturally, the most recent books came to mind first. I have even posted this one on my blog. When I finished it I jut thought "Is that it?" Everything felt up in the air to me. Which is a shame because I really got into the book and liked it up to the last page.