Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travels in Siberia

Travels in Siberia was a great book. You've heard Siberia in passing, but how much do you actually know about it? I pictured frozen tundra and Soviet labor camps. Those two things are certainly part of Siberia, but there's a lot more. Siberia covers approximately 10% of the world's land.

Frazier first traveled to Siberia in the years soon after the Soviet Union's fall. His book covers multiple trips over several years, all of which were unique. The first trip he made as an early post Soviet tourist flying west from Nome, Alaska. Another trip was a road trip across Siberia with two Russians.

I learned a lot about Siberia. Some of Frazier's book was a serious exploration of issues, such as the gulags or impact of climate change on the tundra. Other parts, notably the part with the two Russian road trip companions, were laugh out loud funny. It was a great example of what travel books should be.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wait for Me! and other Mitford family books

I think the Mitford family is fascinating. They were such a part of history. The Mitfords were an upper class family who seemed to be around every important person and event in England from the 1920s on.

I've read the non-fiction book The Sisters which first introduced me to the family. I also have read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. Those two books are on the 1001 Books You Must Read list and are stories based on the family. The Mitfords show up in other works of literature. Sir Oswald Mosley (sister Diana's husband) has been mentioned in the Maisie Dobbs series.

I really enjoyed the first part of Wait for Me! The book is the memoir of the youngest Mitford daughter, Deborah, who became Duchess of Devonshire. The first half is about Debo's childhood, teen, and early adult years and has lots of great stories about her family members.

However, when it got to the point where her father-in-law, the Duke of Devonshire, died and the family had to pay death taxes it went downhill quickly for me. They had to pay 80% taxes, which yes, is a huge portion of their wealth. But when she's saying how they had to sell off 42,000 acres here and another 11,000 there and all these fabulous works of art. Boo freaking hoo. She even had a catty remark about how a Rembrandt they had to sell was only a drawing/practice/etc and consequently not worth as much as previously thought and haha on the government for that. They still were beyond wealthy and didn't have to work. They even left England to live at their castle in Ireland because they didn't like the socialist/Labour governments of the time.

I had a really hard time caring about her after that point in the book and didn't finish it. I'm sure there were stories that were more interesting towards the end, but I just really didn't want to listen to the author anymore.

The Sisters by Mary Lovell is a great book about all the Mitford girls which you should definitely pick up. It's a great biography as well as covering so much history. I don't recommend Wait for Me! unless the money stuff won't bother you. Debo is not my favorite Mitford.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Molly likes books.

This is Molly. She looks awfully innocent, doesn't she?

She's not.

She likes books. She likes to eat books.

This is the remains of a book.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Dixieland Delight

Dixieland Delight is the story of an author's football season traveling to all the SEC schools. As you may know, I am from the south and went to an SEC school for college.

If you've been to an SEC game, you know what the general atmosphere is like. Travis, the author, is no stranger to SEC football. His grandfather played for Tennessee in the 1930s.

At times, Travis was a bit much. His thoughts come off as somewhat crass and sexist. Overall, the book is funny. If you haven't been to an SEC game and are interested in what it's like, it's definitely true to form. And, I have to admit, I love 'Bama bangs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where I Belong

Where I Belong is the debut novel for author Gwendolyn Heasley. I've seen several blurbs about it on other book blogs over the last few months and thought it would be something I'd enjoy.

I adore sweet chick-lity YA books. I love happy endings and the nervousness associated with first love. I also was interested in this book because of the its small town setting.

I thought Where I Belong was cute. The romance part of the story was somewhat weak. However, Corrinne's relationships with Waverly, her NYC best friend, and Kitsy, her new friend in Broken Spoke, were much more in depth and a stronger part of the book. Those parts alone were worth reading the book. Corrinne's relationship with her family changes as she matures.

I thought the book ended too quickly. I would have liked to have a bit more conclusion. It's definitely a book that is set up for a sequel. I really hate it when books are written this way. If you are leaving the reader hanging at the end, you should keep writing -- the story isn't over. It feels gimicky and like they are only doing it so you buy another book.

Despite not loving the book as I hoped I would, I still enjoyed it. It is similar to, though not quite as good as Sarah Dessen's books as well as Anna and the French Kiss. I'll enjoy seeing what Heasley does next.

Also, I adore this cover.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kid Carolina

Kid Carolina is a biography of R.J. Reynolds Jr, of R.J. Reynolds tobacco fame. I found this book randomly browsing on Amazon one day.

I like biographies and this one promised a bit of mystery as its subtitle was "R. J. Reynolds Jr., a Tobacco Fortune, and the Mysterious Death of a Southern Icon." I recognized the name R.J. Reynolds and know that the tobacco wealth funded a lot of charitable activities in the South. That's about all I knew though, so I was able to read Kid Carolina without any prior knowledge, which made the book seem really fresh. (Sometimes the non-fiction books I read are on topics similar to ones I've read before and I can get kind of bored. I've started another book on China, but put it down because I feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over again. )

Richard Joshua "Dick" Reynolds had huge amounts of tobacco wealth, but wasn't involved in the R.J. Reynolds corporation. He did, however, get Delta Airlines off the ground and was involved in many different business activities. The real meat of the book was about his personal life though. And what a train wreck it was. Just like any train wreck, it was hard to turn away from the mess that was Reynolds's life.

Reynolds had a drinking problem. He killed a motorcyclist in a DUI when he was only 21. He drank himself to death. Sadly, his alcohol problem seemed to take away from the good he did in his life. He gave lots of money to Wake Forest University and the University of Georgia (my alma mater, I didn't know this fact), he presented some forward thinking ideas during the time he was mayor of Winston-Salem, NC, he created parks, and was a good employer. He was a very talented sailor.

Reynolds was on his forth marriage when he died. He abandoned his kids. He trashed his ex-wives. Really, his personal life was one disaster after another.

Kid Carolina was an interesting read and a warning of the dangers of alcohol abuse. Reynolds was a smart guy and had the world at his fingertips. Unfortunately, all too often, he wasted the opportunities he was given and hurt those around him.

It's hard to say what actually happened with Reynolds's mysterious death, but I thought the author did a good job of showing the different information without drawing too many conclusions. It will definitely keep me wondering.

Good biography of him and social history of the wealth of early-mid century US, interesting whodunit of death, and a morality lesson (good one, not preachy) all wrapped up in one. This one was a winner.

In the wise words of The Notorious B.I.G., "It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lord of the Flies

I read Lord of the Flies for the first time about a year ago. I'm currently using it in a class I'm teaching about government. Lord of the Flies seems to be one of those books that people frequently read in high school. I didn't read it then, but when I recently read it was somewhat glad. I don't think I would have appreciated it as much back then.

I mentioned this recently with my reread of Catcher in the Rye, but as an adult, I actually get why books are assigned in high school.

Lord of the Flies is about a group of boys stranded on an island after a plane crash. The boys create their own system of power which gives a great allegory to political life. I think the symbolism is really easy to find, but I don't think it's overbearing. Each of the characters and their power says something about political power. It also says a lot about how people act in the absence of an authority figure.

If you were a fan of Lost, the TV show, I don't know how you couldn't be a fan of Lord of the Flies. Plane crash, deserted island, disputes over leadership, etc. Once on the island, all hell breaks loose and the story is the struggle of the boys' survival.

I obviously found it to be an important enough read to use in class. It's a classic that deserves that label.

The next book on the schedule is Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas for the section on immigration.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips. When I was in college, I read a lot of romance novels. These days I hardly ever pick up one. However, Susan Elizabeth Phillips remains a favorite author of mine.

Phillips has a new book, Call Me Irresistible, that came out last week. I am trying not to buy any books since I own so many so I'm hoping it'll show up at the library soon. But was thinking I wanted to read one of her books, so I checked an old one, Natural Born Charmer, out from the library.

And, yeah, it was as good as I remembered. I just love her books. Many, but not all, of her books are in a series about people connected to the fictional Chicago Stars football team. I think those are her best ones.

I'm sure I'm going to break down and buy Call Me Irresistible.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Abundance of Katherines

My YA reading friends are all big fans of John Green. I didn't know much about any of his books, but I liked the idea of An Abundance of Katherines. The main character has dated an abundance of Katherines. One of my dear friends dated several guys of the same name, so the book stuck out to me, and I've had to on my TBR list for a couple years.

An Abundance of Katherines was definitely worth the read. I thought it was a really smart book.

The book starts off the the main character being dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine (#19.) Colin, the main character, and his hilarious friend Hassan decide to go on a road trip. Colin gets over the break-up, and Hassan makes some important decisions. For me, Hassan was the best part of the book. His humor and view on life kept me laughing the whole time.

I also have Green's Paper Towns which I think I'll enjoy.