Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Native Tongue (Suzette Hayden Elgin)

Loved it, loved it, loved it. An interesting piece of feminist science fiction with an exploration of how language defines and therefore creates our reality. It's also my favorite kind of science fiction - an extended counterfactual that explores an alternate reality where women are brought (forcibly) back to hearth and home and young boys now think the idea that women could be doctors or lawyers is a great joke.

Anyway, I got this from ILL so I didn't have time to read it as carefully as I wanted to - but I'll be ordering my own copy of this book (as well as the other two in the triology) very soon.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthmothers (Merry Bloch Jones)

I liked this book - think I would have probably enjoyed it even more if I hadn't read the girls who went away. The "good" thing is that both books picked up on the same major themes about first moms and their experiences, so it helps confirm the qualitative research.

While Fessler focued mainly on the social pressure for women during this era to relinquish, this book, I think, paints a fuller picture of the experience of being a first mom, the impact on different life area, etc. As an aparent, I also found the chapter on relating to a parents and surrendered children particularly interesting. 

I am glad I read it. I can't help but wonder what kind of books will be written about open adoption in twenty years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sudden Prey (John Sandford)

This is one of my favorites since the first few I read. Big thumbs up for finally mixing up the plot a little. Wish they would have stretched out the relationship drama a bit more.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Parenting from the Heart

Didn't like it. At all. Makes me remember why I don't read parenting books as a general rule.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Innocent (Harlan Coben)

Really liked this one... it's one of his earlier books, and it was interesting to see the differences between those books I've already listened to and this one.

One thing about this author - he has this quirk of making repeated mention of some new technology and technology is often a theme in his books. I'm OK with that, but I wish he would be a little more subtle about it. ALso, he tends to repeat phrases throughout his books a lot. I don't know if that's intentional (I hope so) but it bugs the crap out of me.

Other than that, I love his stuff. The plots are always very interesting and generally they focus on what could be a real moral ambiguity. I like that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Primal Wound (Nancy Verrier)

As an adoptive mom I think it was my responsibility to read this book. And I want to preface this review with saying that I am glad that I did and I went into it ready to hear about the impact of adoption on my girls and the negatives attached to being adopted. I know full well that adoption is never the best choice for kids and I have very mixed feelings about adoption in general.

That said, this book was not the masterpiece I was hoping for. I've heard people say such great things about it, but to me, it seemed inflammatory and anecdotal, which is definitely one of my least favorite combinations. Do I think that some (or even all adoptees) suffer because they've been separated from their birth families? Yes. Do I believe that one adoptees experience = all adoptees experience? No.

Perhaps I don't know enough about Verrier - maybe she's been in practice with lots of adoptees and this book doesn't demonstrate that. But from my perspective she drew on a handful of experiences to try to classify and describe an experience that a uniquely personal one.

WHich leaves me scratching my head because I don't know what I expected her to do. But whathever it was, this wasn't it.

All that said, I do know that many adoptees connect with her writing and so perhaps she really has hit the nail on the head. I just don't know.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dedication (Nicola Kraus & Emma McLaughlin)

I liked this book only moderately. I'd give it a C overall. I really liked the younger Katie character but I kind of had no respect for the older Kate she grows into. Katie was witty and slightly snarky which is what I loved about the Nanny Diaries. Older Katie was just kind of sad and pathetic. I also liked their perspective of outsider observing privelage better in Nanny Diaries than I did here - it seemed more... genuine... though jake's handler is awesome.

The switching back and forth in time was interesting but it seems like this has been overdone for me before.

My biggest complaint about Kate is that I didn't buy her ridiculous need for closure. My biggest complaint about Jake is that I didn't believe he could really be two entirely different people as he is portrayed in the book. However, the idea that his mom completely ruined his ability to maintain healthy attachments is an interesting one, I don't think it was explored enough in the book. The back story about Katie's parents' relationship was pretty interesting.

Like I said, overall, just OK.

One thing about these authors... overall I'm really curious about how two people write together. It's an interesting idea.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Knitting Under the Influence (Claire LaZebnik)

A cute little chick lit book about two of my favorite pasttimes... knitting and intoxication. It's really all I have to say about this book which was kind of slow and not as funny as I like my chic lit. That said, I did think it was interesting to find out the topic was close to the author's heart - being a knitter and the mother of an autistic son.

And hey, look, I tied my 2007 book count... even if I've been reading a lot of paperback suspense that really shouldn't even count. LOL.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mind Prey

Hmm... definitely liked this one better than the last two. I was especially taken with the creative way the bad guy was dispatched - and no, that's not a spoiler because the bad guy has died in all but one of the Lucas books I've read so far.

It was a good one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Night Prey (John Sandford)

My least favorite of the books to date... maybe I am burning out and need to take a break from the author. LOL.

Problem is despite all the reading I've done, I'm still only up to 1994. 

At least Lucas is still with Weather. I didn't find this bad guy as convincing or interesting, though. Hopefully the next one will be better.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hold Tight (Harlan Coben)

I am really digging this author. I listened to this book, but think I need to switch to reading his other books, except maybe the sports agent / mystery series, which sounds like it might be lighter reading.

Anyway, this book really revolves around the creepy interconnections between people in suburbia, along with the difficulties of parenting a teenager today. Key questions revolved around privacy (and the right to it, or lack thereof). Though I liked the way it was presented at most points, I do think Coben was a little heavy handed... readers aren't totally stupid, they don't need the characters to actually say out loud what the message of the book was. 

In any event, it was a good listen. Overall, I'd give it a B.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gangleader for a Day (Sydhar Venkatesh)

I enjoyed the content of this book but I was really put off by the author's voice. Between his photo on the jacket cover and the way he describes himself, I really think he has a high opinion of his own intelligence and maybe humanity.

I first heard of this book when I read Freakanomics... where, ironically enough, I heard much the same voice. I do love the first hand account of life in the projects, though, and you have to give the man credit for venturing in them, even against the advice of his professors, friends and parents.

Reading this book is painful, when I think about the way I worry about money and I think about the way some other people have to live, I feel like a terrible person. But I guess not terrible enough to really change anything, eh?

The Surrogate (Judith Henry Wall)

One of my TBR books that I read on vacation. Not bad, but not great. It definitely kept my interest though there were times when I was wondering if the dialogue (both internal and external) could have been anymore contrived. Since I have an interest in IF, adoption and other sorts of issues this book appealed to me. I was surprised to find a fairly harsh assessment of the state of politics and the way the religious right is attempting to rule the nation. The reader's guide at the end of the book indicated the author had a real person in mind when crafting one of the big villains, and I can't wait to do some more research to find out who she might be modeling.

Overall, I'd give it a C.

The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

I've heard some people disagree, but despite the density I really liked this book. The dialogue could have been better but I really felt for the characters and wanted them to be OK. I couldn't put it down, despite the fact that it took up a better part of my vacation week to read it. I'm glad that PB recommended it to me.

Overall plot revolves around the building of a cathedral and two generations of families (and monks) who are involved in that building. The attention to detail and the amount of research that must have gone into this is astonishing. Overall, I give it a B+.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are you there, Vodka? It's me. Chelsea (Chelsea Handler)

One of the funniest things I've ever heard. She has an obsession with midgets, and curses like a trucker. What's not to love?

Bizarrely enough, this is also a PB recc.

Silent Pray and Winter Prey (John Sandford)


Am obsessed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Woods (Harlan Coben)

Another recommendation from PB - he listened to it first and thought I would like it.

This has got to be one of the most well-written books I've ever... listened to. In fact, it's so good that I kind of wish I had read it because for whatever reason I think I might have liked it better. Who knows if I really would have?

Anyway, there is too much detail and well-crafted storytelling to even attempt a synopsis, but the book centers around a DA whose sister disappeared as a teenager at summer camp. A victim of a serial killer working at the camp, with two bodies and her bloody clothing found. An interesting subplot involves his father and a rape case that he was currently trying. A lot of discussion of parents and protection and what we do for our children. Highly recommended. A.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eyes of Prey (John Sandford)

Third book in the Lucas Davenport series - I'm finding them very addictive. In this one, Lucas is mentally distressed over the Crow killings - they are alluded to but never really explained, so I'm glad I read that book first.

Story of a serial killer who is crazy - and apparently returns next book. He is a drug addict, obsessed with death and dying - to the point of intentionally killing both adults and children to watch them die. He is also obsessed with the eyes - which leads to the title and some pretty alarming murders.

Baby and girlfriend are only tangentially mentioned, though the end of the book hints at more action next time. Speaking of end - I had NO idea what was coming.

Liked it a lot. In fact, I feel like I've liked each book slightly better than the last.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gods Behaving Badly (Marie Phillips)

OK book. Funny in places. Basic gist is that the Gods of Mount Olympus live in a filthy, rundown flat in London. They hire a mortal cleaner and then she gets killed by Zeus. Her kind of boyfriend has to go on a hero quest to the Underworld. Hilarity ensues.

I think you'd like this more if you had a strong background in Roman mythology, which I did once upon a time but have since lost - it was in 8th grade Latin, after all.

Overall a C.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shadow Prey (John Sandford)

The second book in the Lucas Davenport series. I liked this one better, I think, because I was rooting a little bit more for the bad guys - at least some of them.

The basic idea is that a group of indian assassins are knocking off people who have done them wrong. But there is an interesting subplot about a pedophile who has managed to end up in a position of power.

My only complaint is that there isn't more discussion of his baby and on again / off again girlfriend who was introduced in the first book. Hopefully more in book 3.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In Silence (Erica Spindler)

So I've been on a suspense kick lately. Partly I think it's PB and also partly because I don't have a ton of time to read and the pacing works for me. Plus suspense is pretty mindless reading but not quite as mindless as chick lit. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

This book was quite interesting, though I have to say that dialogue (both internal and between characters) is definitely Spindler's weak point. Her character just say.. dumb and obvious things. She does have a knack for the twist ending though.

In silence is about a small town that resists change at all costs. A secret group is operating to keep citizens in line, using various legal and illegal means. This appealed to me because I am from a small town (though not as small and isolated as this one). She also talks about some social psychological stuff and I like the idea of small towns that are ultimately unhealthy precisely because they cling to their old ways.

I am also kind of fascinated by Louisiana - though I don't really know why. That's why I originally picked up a later book by this author and now I have to work my way back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

See Jane Die (Erica Spindler)

A nice little thriller about two sisters, one a formerly disfigured artist named Cameo and one a police detective. Cameo's husband is charged with murder after several of his plastic surgery patients are found dead. There is also a bizarre assistant in love with Cameo - to the point of constructing fake pictures of the homes and vacations they share in his fantasy life, and a cop romance where the detective sleeps with her partner. Not to mention a psychologist who is lifelong friends with both women, and who has some secrets of his own.

Reminds me a lot of Patricia Cornwell. I liked it OK, but I'm a sucker for an author that can give me a twist I never, ever, considered. I'd give it a B.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rules of Prey (John Sandford)

This started off as a desperation read... you see I had too many fines... I mean hadn't made a trip to the library... to check out books, so I snatched one off PB's pile.

Really I did have an inordinate amount of fines which the nice library man was good enough to help me out with. I couldn't find one of my audiobooks and the fine structure at our library book just increased dramatically, but mostly I guess I am just an irresponsible borrower.

Anyway, this turned out to be a good read and to top it off it was the first book in the Lucas Davenport series. Which includes 17 other books and therefore qualifies it as one of the longest series I've ever tried to read.

I think Sandford is a former / current reporter and two journalists are major figures in this novel about a cop who is JUST this side of being a bad cop - he has killed 5 (now 6) men in the line of duty and has no qualms about planting evidence if he needs to. Which out to make people (especially me, a big flaming liberal) hate him, but really I liked him in spite of myself.

It ought to be interesting to see what the do with the plot of his pregnant girlfriend. I think I will keep reading the series despite the fact that all the titles cheesily have the word "prey" in them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Good Guy Dean Koontz

Read it, liked it, review forthcoming.

Remember Me? (Sophie Kinsella)

This was a fun read from the author of the Shopaholic series. About a woman who develops retrograde amnesia and forgot about turning into a "super bitch boss" during the last three years of her life. I really liked it for a chic lit book, but then I usually do like her books. This one had a more interesting plot I think. Would highly recommend.

Obedience (Will Lavender)

PB suggested I listen to this book and I feel guilty telling him I don't like very much. I guess because what's supposed to be the central theme of the book - obedience and how it was / can be illustrated in social psychological experiments - is very poorly carried out. I don't really see how Milgram really relates to any of this, besides the surface similarities in that each are studies that involved high amounts of deceptions.

in the book, the study we read about.. well... it's not really very interesting and it didn't really demonstrate much of anything about human behavior. I don't know. Glad I finished it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Khalid Hosseini

loved both these:

The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns

wish i had more time to write about them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

No updates since Feb because I'm the Suck...

here are some books I've read lately:

Slummy mummy
dragonfly in amber

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Losing You (Nicci French)

This book was interesting - it depicts two days in the life of a mother whose teenage daughter goes missing. Actually... maybe it was only two. Anyway, the pacing is great. I found some of the mom's actions / suspicions a little crazy but I loved the book until right at the very end.

i don't know why but for some reason I thought there was another twist coming. The last two scenes of the book were awkwardly stilted... so much so that I checked the book jacket to be sure I wasn't listening to an abridged edition. But I wasn't.

Anyway, I did like it. I particularly liked how the bad guy was right there all along. Would rate it higher but the ending was not good. B+

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Girls Who Went Away (Anne Fessler)

This book was hard to read. As an adoptive mom, I hate to think about the pain that someone else had to experience in order for my husband and I to have children. I know that it sounds trite and dramatic, but I hate that our joy is someone else's hurt.

While I think (a lot) of coercion still exists in the adoption industry, I do think that moms today have more societal support to parent, if that's what they want to do.

I posted on my other blog about some of the passages that actually struck me and moved me to tears. It was a good read and my heart goes out to the moms portrayed in the book.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Loving Frank (Nancy Horan)

I am a big Frank Lloyd Wright fan and this was one my Christmas gifts for PB (yes, he is that sweet!).

I had no idea that Frank and Mamah's relationship was so dramatic and I *certainly* didn't expect things to end the way they did. It's amazing the lives that people lead and you don't even know about it.

Loved the book from beginning to end. I thought it was really interesting to watch Frank try to love Mamah - she was such a fiercely independent woman, and she seemed totally out of synch with the era she was born in. It was also interesting to see how that independence caused so much pain to the people in her life - including (and maybe especially) her children and her sister. I had less sympathy for her husband, but only because in the book it didn't seem like he recognized Mamah's intellect and respected it.

As always, I wonder how much is true and how much not... the fictionalization of a person's life is an interesting thing. But overall, definitely on my list of top faves. A+

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Sister's Keeper (Jodi Piccoult)

OMG. loved, loved, loved, loved, loved this book.

Do you get the idea I liked it?

Great premise - baby is selected via genetic testing to serve as a donor for her old sister with a rare form of leukemia. At age of 16, sister files for medical emancipation for her parents to avoid donating a kidney, the latest in a long line of treatments that helped extend her sister's life.

The story is told in a crash-like multi speaker perspective with all the main characters. The end was positively shocking but also somehow satisfying.

Can't say enough good things. There were two quotes I liked about parenting in the book. Unfortunately I only copied down one before returning the book to the library. Here it is:

... kids don’t stay where they are supposed to. You turn around and find her not in the bedroom but hiding in a closet; you turn around and see she’s not three but thirteen. Parenting is really just a matter of tracking, of hoping your kids do not get so far ahead you can no longer see their next move.

In an interesting side note apparently this movie is in production and the F.anning sisters were in negotiations to play the main roles. However, it seems D.akota balked at the idea of shaving her head. Which, hello??? And has since been replaced with A.bigail Bre.slin. Honestly I couldn't be happier about that. Bres.lin is freakin' adorable.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster)

I really liked Bitter is the New Black. Jen Lancaster is just flat out hysterical and laugh out loud funny, which is something I really do when reading.

But I didn't like this book as much. Don't get me wrong - there were still unbelievably funny, LOL moments, but in this book it seemed like more of them were cringe worthy - mean spirited and snarky for the sake of being snarky.

I can only guess that this is because there can only be so much funniness in one life and now she's doing stuff so she can write about it later - not that that's what she's doing, but that's what this book felt like.

There was also more of her politics in this one, which is fine, but personally offputting for me.

But I guess the damned funny parts were worth it.

First TBR book - The Abstinence Teacher (Tom Perrotta)

So... I am going to go against the grain and officially not like this book.

I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either. Or, well, even like it.

I found the main character annoying in that she never really stood up and said "NO!" she wouldn't teach the silly abstinence only curriculum. I also was REALLY annoyed that crazy abstinence cheerleader lady got her job in the end and STILL NOTHING HAPPENED.

I was really happy the rockstar-reformed-addict-soccer coach person left the crazy church. The Promise Keepers rally cracked me up. And I liked that Carrie finally stood up for herself.

Anyway, not much more to add. It's done now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Fancy Pants (Susan Elizabeth Phillips)

So I really don't know why I persisted in reading this book. I have a compulsion to finish books that I start, especially if I realize they suck after reading more than the first few chapters. There's just nothing I really liked about the book - the plot rambled, a lot, the characters were unlikable... heck I didn't even like the kid characters and how do you dislike kid characters?

I guess that's enough said.