Welcome to my bookshelf


I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tough Love

Currently Reading: I'll Go to Bed at Noon

Alcoholics. People on their way to becoming alcoholics. The innocent family members. The not so innocent family members. It is so sad. This is a story about a family that has been torn apart by alcohol. There is a history of the disease within the entire family. The mother is in denial. The father barely drinks at all. Two children have no alcohol problems, but one is married to an alcoholic. The oldest son is completely gone and the youngest is on his way down the path. Uncles have died. Horrible. This is a disease that so many people suffer from, but so few people really understand. In essence it is really about the addiction. It is so easy to say "Just don't drink". But to an addict, it is so hard to abstain, particularly when it is part of one's everyday life. Through my own experiences with AA type programs, I have come to have a better appreciation for what these people go through. My situation is a bit different, but when reading this book, I am equally appalled and sympathetic. I have seen alcoholism hurt people in my own family and almost feel helpless. What can you do to change a self-sufficient adult? When is it crossing the line? So far, the oldest son has now been kicked out of the house and not allowed to return. His mother had such a hard time with this, but the father is standing strong. Is this a mother thing? Ugg. So many thoughts are coming, but so few answers. There isn't enough space to share all my experiences and questions. I guess from this story, I am seeing that we are not alone and sometimes the hardest choice to make is the correct choice. I am interested in seeing how the story ends and what the characters eventually decide to do with their lives. Will the succumb to the drink or will they become strong and overcome the addiction? Will their success or failure give us any answers? We shall see.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Copies of copies

Currently Reading: The Sorceress

He who must not be named. Swords (or wands) with torrid pasts. The chosen one. A sage mentor. Attempted conversion by the evil side. Unique relationships between brother and sister. I could go on and on. All these are present in the fantasy epics that have become popular over the past several decades. This series is ripping off Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. Harry Potter ripped of The Lord of the Rings. I'm not going to even get into the Twilight saga. Who was the original? I of course cannot help but tout the wonders and creativity of Tolkien as the leader of this genre, however even he can be said to have taken ideas from the Arthurian stories as well as even older epics like Beowulf. Now I am not saying that these are not good books. I will forever be looking for more fantasy and sci-fi series that hold my attention and send my mind to far off places. It does seem thought that there comes a time when I find myself being able to predict the outcome long before the final book. (I have a feeling Flamel will die. It has to happen.) What I should be focusing on is the fact that this type of story is still engaging to youngsters and that people are still writing these even in the face of literary critics. I still am wanting an original tale to sink my teeth into. I have never read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books yet, but I can't help but feel that I will find the same thing there too. (Any guidance of whether these books would be worth it would be much appreciated.) So I guess what I am trying to say is that if you want a unique story about wizards and heroes, you may find yourself wanting. If you simply want an engaging escape, by all means. Pick this series up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Winners Here

Currently Reading: The True Memoirs of Little K

Forget the naysayers! I loved it, but am dismayed by how little I new about the Russian revolution. Whenever we hear Russia these days, all we think of is Stalin or Lenin or Communists. But how did they become so prominent in the first place? It is something we should all consider. Again, just like in the Josephine books, I found similarities to things that are happening today in our country as well as other countries across the globe. When I was reading Little K's tale, so much of it sounded exactly like what Josephine had said years earlier. It seems that none of us learn from history. Or perhaps it is just that we ignore it. So enough about politics and back the book itself. Little K most certainly is a haughty old women, but a lot of her complaints are justified. I'm not sure that I could survive in a world where appearances, proper procedures and birth rights were so important. Tick off the wrong person and it is over for you. And then it seems that the soviets felt the same way. The saddest part of the story is the way the soviets decided to take control. It wasn't enough to simply remove the tsar from power. He and his family and anyone remotely connected to him had to be executed and left to rot in an open grave. It speaks to the fear and childishness that was prevalent throughout the leaders of the revolution. Of course you do have to remember that this story is told from the point of view of someone who enjoyed the royal set up and did not want things to change. She almost makes you sympathetic towards tsarist Russia. Still...now I am all confused. Who should we have rooted for? My answer is none of the above, but in politics, that can never be an answer. This period of time requires more investigation.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Old Women

Currently Reading: The True Memoirs of Little K

I hate it when someone gives a book a bad review prior to my reading it. I always come to the book looking to pick it apart and point out all the flaws. This book is for the "book club" that I am in at school. A few people had already started it and said they were finding it to be written in an off-putting manner. So of course when I finally got my copy (faithfully requested through my public library hooray!!), I was already hating it. Now that I have started, I see where they are coming from, but do not think that what they are saying is making the book bad. I have been comparing it to the Josephine books I read earlier this summer in that they are both from the viewpoint of lovers of high level men. What is so different about the Josephine books is that they are written as a diary. You are with her through every action and experience the emotions she goes through at the time. In the case of Little K, she is relating a story as a very old woman. Of course it is a bit dry. She is crusty and old!! I think this story was intended to be more remote and not allow the reader the intimacy of a novel written in memoir fashion. Perhaps this speaks to the personalities of the two different ladies. We shall see. I am not even halfway through and so will post my final thoughts when I am done. So the moral of the story is...keep your mind open and make your own judgments. Of course the Russians will never be as passionate as the French!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ahhh...

Currently Reading: The Alchemist (not the one you are thinking of)

Since I just started this one, I am going to talk about Jack. Whoa. Talk about a page turner. So Jack finally meets up with his Dad and you are surprised at every turn. The picture that is painted prior to Jack's latest search is completely different from the truth. Jack's father has another family and yet still cannot remain still. The only constants in his life are his tattoos and his organ playing. The novel ends exactly where it started. Jack's father is playing the organ and the audience is enthralled. Even more so is Jack. How exciting that he finally gets the opportunity to know who his father is and where he comes from. It seems like so often people are simply legends. What you know about them, you learn from other people. It is unfortunate for Jack that such an important character in his life is simply a hodgepodge of tales told by people with different agendas. I am happy for Jack. He finally finds not only his father, but another family in which he finally belongs. Jack has gone through so many trials, physically, mentally and most especially emotionally. Abuse of all kinds is a main theme in most of Irving's novels. The moral of all his stories is really that you need to seek whatever method of experience a catharsis that works for you. Jack's final plans may not be what most people would choose and yet you feel satisfied because he is satisfied. And not only that, you are satisfied because the story has ended and you are not feeling abandoned, however you know that the story is just beginning for Jack. I love John Irving.

And now a note on The Alchemist. This is the first in a series for young adults regarding Nicholas Flammel. Think Harry Potter but more goth. I am very excited because several students have expressed a liking for the series. Even some who are not your "typical" readers. This is always a good sign. (Although many of the kiddos did love those Twilight books. Silly little dears.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Update on Jack

Currently Reading: Until I Find You

Just over halfway done. Which is a book and a half in itself. One of the fantastic themes in John Irving's books is that you get to grow up with the characters. Jack was a young boy when we first met him. He manages through his "formative" years and is now a thirty something man. When Jack was younger, we followed along with him and his mother as they followed his father. They end up residing in Canada and Jack has the most interesting childhood. His mother as well as his best friend have now died and Jack is back to the location of his first journey. He is now the follower. Seeking out the truth. It seems that both his mother and his memory blurred the facts of his father. At each stop, we revisit familiar characters and they finally tell the other side of the story. It is an interesting parallel. Jack finds more and more inconsistencies. It is so sad. I suppose I will have more to say as I have much more book to read, but I thought it was about time for an update.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Permanence

Currently Reading: Until I Find You

Jack and his mother are on a quest to find his father who left them before young Jack was even born. His mother is a tattoo artist and is inking her way across northern Europe, following the trail of a man who plays the organ and gets music depicted all over his body. My main question is why? Why is this guy so important to find? Is he really worth all this effort? Many of the secondary characters ask this as well, but Daughter Alice, that's her tattoo name, never responds. I am drawn in already and the tale has hardly begun. When I picked up this book, I was daunted by its sheer size. It is 820 pages of very tiny text. Of course, it is by John Irving, and so I took it on anyways. Now that I have started reading, I find the length is the least thing on my mind. I often find that I don't want his long stories to end and so am grateful for the length. More time to get to know these crazy people. There has been some hinting at getting to know Jack better when he is older (he is only 4 now) and so I am suspecting that this may be like A Widow for One Year with the beginning part taking place far earlier than the bulk of the book. We shall see.

One of the most intriguing parts of this tale is getting to meet all Daughter Alice's customers. The people who get tattoos are such a mixed lot. And their reasons are all different. I have never thought about getting one, nor never will as I think they are a bit tacky. The weirdest part is that most people (in real life too) who get these permanent marks on their bodies are really not very grounded nor sure of themselves as human beings. You make this statement because you are told this is a way to make a statement, but is it really what you will think forever?

Now for my brief religious rant. The mom is a choir girl who is seduced by the organist at their church. Really? And he gets religious music tattooed all over the place. I hate the hypocrisy of the god loving folks!! No, I won't make that generalization. Restate: I have the hypocrisy of most of the god loving folks!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Density

Currently Reading: Great House

I don't get it. I hate it when I don't get it. I know that there are a bunch of separate stories going on and that they are all tied together by this desk and a Chilean man. That's about all I know. I keep getting the narrators confused. Is it because they are so similar? Sometimes even women and men are tough to distinguish. Ugg. I don't like the frustration I am feeling. What makes things worse is that if I am not totally into the book I tend to read extra fast and gloss over certain bits. I never skip whole paragraphs or anything, but I do unconsciously omit certain phrases. This is not good when I am not understanding the book to begin with. I think that this may be one I will keep and try again. I got to the end and it was OK, but still, I feel like I was not able to keep up with what Krauss was saying. Note: this was not a bad book. Just one that takes a special person to get I guess. So if you are looking for a challenge, give it a go. Now I am off to treat myself to a bit of fluff before jumping into Irving again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cliff Dangler?

Currently Reading: Silence of the Graves

Whoa. Did not see that coming. This is fabulously written in that it keeps you guessing. You think you know what the answer is, then he introduces another fact so you change your mind. Then something else comes up and you are forced to alter your thinking again. I loved it. As this is a mystery, the main plot comes from finding the means, motive, and evil doer, however, the people are such a prominent part of the tale. Sure the mystery part of the story wraps up in the end, but what is cool is that the personal story is a cliff hanger. Now you need to read the next one. Not to find out whodunit, but rather to see how the characters react to this final change in their own story. This is such an interesting way to write a series. They are connected and yet separate at the same time. You can read this one without having read the previous, however, it is so much more powerful when you already have a relationship established with the main characters. This allows you to follow their thinking better as well as realize how the mystery plot elements affect them. You can make predictions and judgments in a more appropriate manner. Definitely another one you ought to read.

Next up is Great House by Nicole Krauss.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Familiar Folks

Currently Reading: Silence of the Grave

I love reading books with recurring characters. Maybe not the same story, bu the same main personalities hold force. I think this is one of the many reasons I love all those Star Wars books. I love seeing how the people change and grow. This is the second in a series of books that feature a detective in Iceland. He is not involved in the same case any more, but his personal story overlaps from the previous books. I am enjoying getting to know him better as well as learning what has happened in his life since we last met. You may notice that I am not using names. This book not only takes place in Iceland, but is written by an Icelandic author. The names are absolutely crazy and I cannot get the pronunciation or spelling down. I know that I am probably reading them wrong, but I always find that the story is so much easier to follow when you stick with one pronunciation and then focus on the story. I am not too far into this book so can't say much about the story. I am enjoying the writing style though. His sections move from present time with the detective to a past, back story involving totally different people. I am excited to see how they come together. I'm sure there will be a subsequent post.

One note for those of you who liked the "Girl" books. This is very similar in terms of subject and setting. If you enjoyed those books, look this one up. The author is Arnaldur Indridasson. (See what I mean about the names?)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Important Words

Currently Reading: Timeline

I cannot resist all this science stuff. And this one combines it with history and so all the better. I went to the library last week and of course got a bunch of fluff. This explains the lack of posting. I am embarrassed to say that I have been embarrassed to post any of the other books. Oh well. This one involves time travel, but not really time travel, more travel between multi-universes. Interesting. They just got back to the past and it is weird. How would you react in such an unfamiliar environment? Nothing is what you expect and nothing is what you are used to. Even the English language was different back in the day. It makes me think about the last posting about how the modern day house was derived. As we change and adapt, our way of classifying, naming, and describing things also changes. The history of language is an incredible tale. Each language started on its own but was influenced by other languages that its speakers heard. It is also influenced by new inventions and ideas. Democracy is a fabulous example. What does it mean to you? What does the dictionary tell you that it means? Sometimes these are two very different things. It is amazing what emotions are evoked when a simple word is brought into play. The experiences that you yourself have had play a large roll in what that word means to you. Religion, for example, conjures up many different thoughts and feelings in whoever hears the word. I know that my thinking heads straight in the opposite direction of others. So sure, they spoke English way back when, but the English is certainly not our English. Objects change too. A belt wore under the clothes? Who'd have thunk it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's in a Name?

Currently Reading: At Home

Apparently a lot. This is a nonfiction tome about the origins of modern home life. I expected it to be about the rooms that evolved into our current vision of an ideal "home", but instead this book is actually about how modern day life came about. Nutrition, clothing, medicinal practice, appliances, etc., all are covered in this weighty tale. Bryson goes behind the scenes to tell the tale of what caused people to develop the ideas that produced such inventions as the sewer system, staircases, and even glass windows. Their temperaments are also explored. It seems that we revere some folks who were quite honestly jerks. I found myself learning a lot. All the words play a large role in this book. Why is it called a cabinet? What is a washroom, loo, or bathroom? It is interesting how people lived in the industrial era and their priorities at times seem preposterous. But that was what was the norm in their time. Over the decades, people's priorities have changed and the modern house is all about comfort now, something unheard of not too long ago. Today we take many conveniences for granted. This book is a good one for showing why and to whom we should show appreciation for the comfort in which we live today. Can you imagine a life without electricity or bras for that matter? All in all, it was a very interesting tale. I will say that it takes a lot of mental capacity to get through and so fluff is needed next.