Friday, July 30, 2010

Veil of Roses

Veil of Roses is an interesting book. It is the story of an Iranian woman who visits her sister in the US with the intention of finding an Iranian man to marry so she doesn't have to return to Iran.

It's a weird (and for me, successful) mix of serious gender issues, life in Iran, immigration to the US, a friendship story, and chick lit. I know, weird. The portrayal of life in Iran fit with other books I've read: Persepolis, Funny in Farsi, and Girls of Riyadh (which I know is in Saudi Arabia, not Iran.) The fish out of water bits were funny and the love story really cute.

Be prepared for the odd mix of silly love story and serious issues relating to Iran. But, definitely pick it up!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ambulance Girl

Ambulance Girl is a memoir of author Jane Stern. Stern was suffering from depression and was a hypochondriac when she decided to become EMT. Odd.

Stern explains why she chose to do so and surprisingly enough it makes sense. Some of the book is her personal struggle to handle life, while some of it is what being an EMT entails. I was more interested in the EMT information than Jane's life. While I did find her struggle and triumph in becoming an EMT interesting, I was fascinated by her EMT stories. I'd never really thought about the job of an EMT and finished the book being impressed with all they do. I certainly could not handle being an EMT.

It is somewhat hard to be sympathetic to Stern. At some points, I almost wanted to tell her to buck up. There's a section near the end where she really questions what EMTs do and I really agreed with her. In most of her other quirks and worries, however, she was kind of annoying.

Yet despite all of her issues, she became an EMT, which is really impressive, and spent lots of time volunteering as one. As I mentioned, I was very interested in the EMT stories, but I bet a person in a health care field (having wacky stories of their own) wouldn't find them so entertaining.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July Library Book Sale

My library added a new book sale in July. (It used to be November and April only.) I, of course, volunteered and bought books. Since I'm really trying to get my books I own but haven't read (2010 challenge) pile under control, I did a really good job or not buying lots of books.

I grabbed a few books I'd already read that I wanted for my collection (The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Monster of Florence, and To Kill a Mockingbird), a few kids books (American Girls and Little House on the Prairie books), and a very few new books (The House at Riverton, which I was thrilled to get for $2 and Confessions of an Economic Hitman.) And, I donated more books than I bought!

In 4 days, we raised $6600. Everybody wins!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Truth about Forever

Some of my book friends read a lot of young adult. I don't read near as much, but I do have some favorites. Many of my YA favorites are novels by Sarah Dessen.

The Truth about Forever was the last Dessen book I hadn't read. Luckily, it was worth waiting for. The book has some similar themes to Dessen's other books (some loss--a divorce, death-- summer time, dreamy potential boyfriend--where were guys of this quality when I was in high school?!), but are fresh in each book.

After having read all of Dessen's books, I think my favorite is Along for the Ride. The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, and Lock and Key are tied for a close second. The first one I read was This Lullaby, which I picked up because my friend Jessica raved about it. I wasn't thrilled with it when I read it, but I've decided to reread it since it was the first non-Twilight YA book I'd read in a long time. (Not that YA books aren't as good, they are just different.)

If you've been thinking about picking up a YA book (other than Twilight) definitely pick up one of Sarah Dessen's. Or Meg Cabot or Megan McCafferty.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Secret Adversary

Since I have so many paper books to read, I am trying to hold off on buying books for my Kindle. There are hundreds of free pre-1923 books available. (These books' copyrights have expired.)

Agatha Christie's first two novels are pre-1923. I consider myself an Agatha Christie fan and hadn't read The Secret Adversary, so what a deal. The Secret Adversary is the first Tommy and Tuppence book. Christie wrote several Tommy and Tuppence books, but there aren't near as many as Poirot or Miss Marple stories.

I'm glad it wasn't the first Agatha Christie I'd read. I don't know that it was good enough to make me keep reading her novels if it had been the first. Give me a Poirot book instead!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

River Town

One of the 25 point categories in the summer challenge is to read a book about the experiences of a Peace Corps volunteer. When I first read this challenge, I thought, "Great." I am trying to do the whole challenge with books I already own and thought this category would be a bust.

Turns out I own two books about Peace Corps experiences: River Town and Nine Hills to Nambonkaha. I guess since I own about a million books, something was bound to fit.

I love reading about China and Africa, but for whatever reason I picked up the one about China: River Town. Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer from 96-98 in Sichuan province, where he taught English classes at a teachers college. The area where he taught is near the Three Gorges Dam. He visited many sites that are now underwater.

China is an intriguing place. Since Hessler lived in Fuling (a remote area with the only foreigners being him and another Peace Corps volunteer) for two years, the book gets into the nitty gritty of Chinese life--the poverty those at the bottom face, the upheaval the Cultural Revolution brought, the Communist Party, the family relationships, and so on.

Really fascinating.

Other great books about China:

The Girl from Purple Mountain
China Road
Lost on Planet China

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kindle v. Nook

With the recent drop in price of both the Kindle and the Nook, I decided it was time for me to look at e-readers.

Since I live in the middle of Wyoming, I didn't have the chance to try either one out. So, I bought both with the intention of making my decision after test-driving them.

I chose the


-The Kindle's screen was crisper.

-I liked the feel of the Kindle better.

-The Nook showed up with a bum battery. I know I could have gotten this replaced, but it didn't make me feel great about the Nook. (Also, since then, a friend with a Nook had the frame crack. B&N mailed her a new one, but this doesn't seem to be a rare issue. Perhaps because the Nook's frame is all one piece of plastic and the Kindle has separate buttons for page forward, etc.?)

-Since I don't live close to a B&N, the freebie books in the store weren't something that mattered to me.

-The Kindle was easier to navigate even though the Nook has a touch screen. The touch screen was really slow.

-The lending feature on the Nook was cool, but only lending a book once for two weeks at the most didn't overcome the other issues.

-The Kindle works with, which is where I get many audio books.

I really agreed with this article about the differences between the two. I think I just liked the feel of the Kindle better, though that certainly plays in with the crispness of the screen, the frame buttons, and the navigation that I mentioned.

I'm definitely glad I tried them both so I was sure I got the one I wanted.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Heretic's Daughter

I was pretty disappointed by this one. My online book club talked about books related to the Salem Witch Trials. This one came highly recommended, so I immediately picked it up since I'd enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane so much.

But I thought it was just ok. It and Deliverance Dane are very different books even though they cover the same historical event. Deliverance Dane has more mystery and the dual present day and historical plot lines. The Heretic's Daughter is more a narrative of what happened to one family caught up in the hysteria.

I guess that The Heretic's Daughter was kind of boring. The plot was slow to start. There were all kinds of events and details that seemed unnecessary. You know exactly how the book is going to end from the beginning. (I've read other books that have a predictable end, but you don't know how you are going to get there. In this book, both the ending and the how are totally obvious.)

I hate it when you think you are going to love a book and it falls so short. It looks like Kent has another book coming out this fall. I will not be reading it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Beethoven's Hair

Beethoven's Hair is the story of a lock of Beethoven's hair-- how it got from him to a couple Beethoven fans in the 1990s and what the hair can tell us about Beethoven himself.

The book had two things I really enjoy reading about: history and (basic) science.

The hair was cut from Beethoven after his death. This was a common practice in the era. It eventually ended up in an auction at Sotheby's and was purchased by two American collectors. The collectors tried to track the hair's path to them. Somehow it was given to a doctor in Denmark who was helping Jews escape from the Nazis, but they could only guess at who gave it to him. (I love the story of how the Danes helped the Jews escape. Pick up Number the Stars by Lois Lowery for an easy version of what happened.)

The collectors also decided to have the hair tested to try to determine what health problems Beethoven had. Their results were interesting. I think it's fascinating how science can give answers 150+ years later.

Overall, even though the book had some interesting sections, it wasn't anything I had to keep reading.

Another book t-shirt!

If you like it, it's still available on woot.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shutter Island

Holy moly.

Many of the girls in my book club read this several months ago and raved. I am a huge wimp, though, and thought it sounded scary so I wasn't interested. A few months later I was looking for a new audio book and figured I'd give Shutter Island a try.

Then I waited several more months after downloading it, still thinking it was too scary. (It isn't scary.)

I finally started listening and was immediately caught up in the story. Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall, is sent to Shutter Island, site of a mental hospital for the criminally insane because a patient had gone missing. I don't want to say any more about the plot because I don't want to spoil anything and because you just need to read it.

I'm not sure if it'll make my top 10 list for the year, but it's definitely in the running. The movie is also really good and a great adaptation of the book.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Big Year

A big year is a competition in which birdwatchers try to see as many different birds as possible.

I don't know anything about birdwatching, but this book was still really interesting. It almost made me want to head out with some binoculars. But then, I realized I'd just rather read.

The 1998 competition was between three very different men. As the book unfolds, you start cheering for them, some more than others. They traveled around the United States (all but Hawaii) and Canada to find the 645 native species and the rare birds that show up because they got lost on their migration or swept up by a storm.

I read it for the unpronounceable author's name category for the book challenge. It was a good quick read. Plus, I learned about birds. If you like birdwatching, you'll like it. And, even if you're like me and know nothing about birdwatching, it's still worth the read.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I'd read this book of Sherlock Holmes stories when I was 12 or 13. I recently reread it and remembered many of the stories. How could you forget The Speckled Band?

My family and I visited London when I was in middle school. We visited 221B Baker Street. I picked up a cool illustrated copy while we were there. I also remember listening to the audio versions of the stories while we'd lay out on our deck and look at the stars.

Sherlock Holmes stories give me warm fuzzies from these memories.

I enjoyed the reread. The mysteries were really fun. I remembered a couple of the outcomes, but not all of them. I like how they are told from the view point of Dr. Watson, who despite seeing Holmes solve mystery after mystery, is constantly in awe of his methods.

If you haven't read them and like mysteries, I highly suggest any of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Bobbsey Twins

In addition to Nancy Drew, I really enjoyed another children's mystery series: The Bobbsey Twins. I didn't have as many Bobbsey Twins books growing up as I did Nancy Drew, but I still had many. The Bobbsey Twin series was created and published by the same people that sold Nancy Drew books. The Bobbsey Twins first came out in 1904, more than 25 years before Nancy.

The Bobbsey twins are two sets of twins: Nan and Bert who are 12 and Flossie and Freddie who are 6. I love the name "Nan." I might have had a crush on Bert. They live in the rather generic sounding town of Lakeport, and as expected, find mysteries where ever they go.

As the characters are young, so too is the target audience. The book indicates the suggested reading level is second grade. The Secret of Jungle Park is in the new series and is 87 pages of big print with several drawings throughout.

The story was a bit unrealistic; what parents are going to let their 12 and 6 year olds run around at an amusement park by themsleves? I've got to learn to suspend my disbelief when I'm reading these children's books.

All in all, it was a fun reread of a book that I'm sure I read when I was little. I've also got some of the old Bobbsey Twin books. I'll have to pick one of those up to see how they are.

Check out Lovely Little Shelf for more Friday Flashbacks.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Hmmmm. I expected to like this one.

I read it for the challenge category of read the first book in a series and decide if you'll keep reading it.

I'd had it a few years. I thought I'd like it since it is a mix of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and mystery.

But, it wasn't anything special to me. I probably would have put it down if it weren't for the challenge.

It's probably a good thing I didn't love it. I don't need to find a brand new series to read. And it's another book knocked off my personal 2010 challenge and the seasonal club one!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

Wow. This is a fabulous book. I was expecting to enjoy it, but it was better than I would have guessed.

I was really impressed with Roose's writing, especially considering he wrote this while in college. The memoir has plenty of relevant statistics and information.
Roose enrolled at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's college) during the spring 2007 semester, taking a semester break from Brown. He's a liberal guy with a minimal religious background. I was interested in reading this and when one of the challenge categories was "Read a book by a person, about a person, or about a subject that you totally disagree with or dislike. Then write a post and explain if reading the book altered your opinion at all or only furthered your dislike or disagreement," I thought it was perfect. (I sure as hell wasn't going to read Sarah Palin's book.)

I'm not really the evangelical Christian kind. At all. The whole evolution v. creationism argument blows my mind. I'm all for abortion rights and gay marriage. So, Liberty University sounds like my idea of hell. Students can't watch R rated movies or dance. They aren't allowed to hug a member of the opposite sex for longer than 3 seconds.

Roose found the majority of the people he met at Liberty to be friendly and nice people. He did a great job of humanizing his fellow students.

But, I couldn't get past the constant gay bashing, or his spring break mission trip (he refers to it as, "gentle Christian students condemning strangers to hell in Daytona Beach."), or the anti-intellectual attitudes ("My biggest that you'll become educated beyond your obedience," said a pastor to one of Roose's classes.) or the classes that teach doctrine such as women should submit to their husbands and such.

One of Roose's course is Evangelism 101. He has test questions such as:

God wants to be your_________.
a) Slave
b) Best friend *
c) Priest

Is this a college class or a kindergarten Sunday school class?!

It was a fascinating read and while Roose showed the students in shades of gray instead of only black or white, I still shake my head. Roose continued his friendship with many of the other students after he leaves and goes back to Brown. I really understand this as you get to know a person, but for the group as a whole? Omigoodness. Of course, I'm sure they'd say the same thing about me.

I'm sure this review makes me sound harsh, but I just disagree so fundamentally with their beliefs. I'd say this book only furthered my dislike for ultra-conservative evangelicals and one of their institutions.

I've read several religion books to try to enlighten myself on it all. I loved Take this Bread by Sara Miles (a woman's conversion to Christianity) and Sundays in America by Suzanne Strempek Shea(woman visits a different Christian churches each week for a year.) I also have C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain and Christopher Hitchens's God is not Great to read. I don't feel like I'm unfairly viewing the group portrayed in Roose's book.

Reading by the Campfire

When we go camping, my favorite thing is to read by the campfire. (This means, of course, that your fire is going before dark.) Luckily for me, in the Wyoming mountains even over the 4th of July weekend, it's not too hot for a fire.

My book club has a quarterly challenge. There are 35 categories, with topics like black cover or set in a major city or a one word title. We've been doing them for a year and a half. Despite reading enough books to finish a challenge, I still haven't done so.

This time I am gunning for it though! I've planned out about half of the books and put them in a pile next to the bed. I am trying to do it with only books I already own.

I brought two books along: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (book about girlfriends) and Vision in White by Nora Roberts (romance.)

I've read seven Sarah Dessen books. While they aren't my favorite books ever, I do really enjoy them. I liked Someone Like You, but it wasn't my favorite Dessen book. I liked Lock and Key, Just Listen, and Along for the Ride better.

Someone Like You is about two friends, one of whom gets pregnant. It sounds like it might be really cheesy, but Dessen's books aren't cheesy at all. If you haven't read any young adult, pick one up. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Speaking of cheesy: romance novels. I used to love romance novels, but somewhere along the way I got sick of their cheese. I know that fiction of all kinds can require a suspension of disbelief, but I didn't like how neat and easy everything was, as well as how formulaic: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Misunderstanding separates boy and girl. Understanding leads to happily ever after. The end.

I'd picked up Roberts's Vision in White at a library book sale somewhere along the way. In the months I've had it, I hadn't looked at it. But, the romance category is in the challenge. I enjoyed it, but am not feeling like I need to pick up another romance novel any time soon. That's part of the challenge though, to pick up books you might not otherwise.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Love, Rosie

I really enjoyed Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern. She also wrote P.S. I Love You, which was made into a movie. I read P.S. I Love You a few years ago and remember liking it. I also have her book A Place Called Here, which I may pick up soon since I enjoyed this one so much.

Love, Rosie is the story of a couple who grew up together, but didn't realize they were in love. Marriages, kids, and life all prolong their (and ours, as the readers) agony. It was definitely a book in which I wanted to yell at the main characters to wake up and recognize what was right in front of them.

It is chick lit, but definitely not the standard formula. It is an epistolary, a book that is in the form of letters, emails, a diary, etc, which I really love.

The ending was predictable, but it was well worth the read. I cried. And it wasn't just getting teary. It was a gasping sobbing snotty cry.

So far, I'm impressed with Ahern.