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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Father's Tears Discussion

The official discussion post begins now.

Let's hear your full thoughts on the book.

I prefer to wait till I've finished the book to give a full review but I will say that I enjoyed the stories. They feel more like little snidbits of people's lives than stories with character archs or full plotlines. However, they did tend to make me feel a little down or melancholy as I mentioned before and therefore found it difficult to read more than one or two at a time, and it was hard to pick it up and start for that reason. I had never read anything by Mr. Updike before and am glad that I have this book. I look forward to finishing it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Here Again

Well I've been tied up for a bit. And Updike, well he's been getting the back burner. Mainly because, even though I'm enjoying him, I feel a little melancholy when I read the stories and right now, I don't want extra downers. However, I realize you guys have read it by now, or probably have. I want you to be able to give your thoughts before they completely evade you. (I realize I may be too late for that). So, I propose that we put up a discussion post, I will post a full review when I do read it and let's open a new book. I think this next one will be great because it is the extremely skinny one, which means it will be a little breeze. A good quality during the holiday season wouldn't you say?

So. Is it plan, or would you like to see things done some other way? Let me know.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Anthologist Discussion

The Anthologist

by Nicholson Baker

genre: literary fiction

If singing in the loft of his barn to the lines of poetry he loves doesn't get his introduction to an anthology written, then Paul Chowder will do anything short of doing anything to get it done. A presentation board, a white plastic chair by a river, a game of badminton, a gift of beads, these are the tools of procrastination which not only keep him from finishing his work, his one hope of income, but which drive his girlfriend away. As Paul rambles through his random thoughts on poetry, he reveals his absolute love affair with it and makes some self-discoveries along the way.

How many books of this kind are out there. The self-deprecating, unmotivated, down on his luck guy or girl who walks through a little fire and finds a bit of himself on the other side? Probably enough to fill a semi trailer, no, many many semi trailers. And yet, I truly enjoyed this one. Of course, he appeals to the poet in me with his constant adoration of poets and poetry and words. His knowledge and total gaga attitude completely endeared his character to me. But I liked the oscillation between ecstatic displays of wordy love and the utter mundane of cutting his finger or walking his dog.

Given the character's love of words, the author has required he use that kind of language which should live up to literary prowess. I think he succeeds where very many have failed. Phrases such as "kicked in the spleen by the mediocrity of my own short sentence" or "Their eyelids, which droop and have skin tags on them, like tiny pennants age has hoisted". In the grand scheme of things, the novel mostly rambles like a free association exercise. Which I thought was rather ironic given that writers, poets perhaps more so, take their word choice very seriously. Every word or phrase is vetted carefully and edited and edited to a polished gem. Paul on the other hand, just wanders aimlessly. But it works. It is the scattered thoughts of someone trying to accomplish something they haven't got the will to do.

In the end, the idea of happy endings comes in an altered state, wherein the hero may not get exactly what he wants, but in the words of two other poets, "you might find, you get what you need". The book itself, though skimming a line of near plotlessness, shines through shedding natural light on a world often shrouded in pretentiousness. And that is what I love best about it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Come out come out wherever you are

Just a few reminders.

Did a book opening just below. Hope you guys got a few seconds to grab the next book.

Also, am planning to review and discuss The Anthologist this Friday unless you need more time. Please let me know.

Ball is rolling!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Opening Book Seven Set Two

It's time.

For another edition of I make a grade A fool of myself opening a book.
Actually, I'm rather boring this time. Have a look see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lost City of Z Discussion

The Lost City of Z

by David Grann

genre: Non-Fiction/Biography

Obsession. David Grann, a journalist, sets out to write about the life of Colonel Percy Fawcett and his treks into the Amazon jungle for the Royal Geographical Society. Fawcett becomes obsessed with the idea of a lost civilization, as many have done, in the Amazon jungles which adheres to the legends of a city of gold and riches.

Interspersed with the stories of failed journeys by Fawcett and other crews, Grann lives his own obsession bringing us along for the ride. Given the horrors of trekking through the Amazon, and the fate of so many before him, I felt like a person staring at a car accident but not wanting to look. In the end, Grann's book enlightens more the seduction of discovery for these men than the actual findings. The findings, though astounding, wan in the wake of the near addict obsession of the trek itself.

I am exceedingly grateful that Grann wrote the book for the reason that I loved the trek, the fascination with this obsession, but you would not catch me following such a path unless it were in the form of written words. The book itself carries the expected journalistic style from the author, though it drags in some places and jumps about a bit, the conveyance of each man's feverish need to go routing about in a dangerous jungle kept me pleased and reading.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How bout now?

Hey, wanna discuss Z on Friday? Sounds like you all have that one ready to go! I'm so glad you guys were able to get it and seemed to have enjoyed it.

Things are picking up in my world. Which is good. So what do you say?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm Baaaaack!

Tell me of your homeworld Usul.

Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?

This town needs an enema!

I'd sooner kiss a wookie!

All right, enough with the oddities. Wanna watch a video of a weirdo with a brown book? Ok.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's Open a Book

Thanks for chiming in. Sounds like we could open a book and schedule a discussion for The Lost City of Z soon.

Let's open a book tomorrow. And how do you feel about discussing The Lost City of Z on Friday?

I'm excited to get reading again. How did your summers go and of course, the start up of school again?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Roll Call

So, just wondering, how many of you out there are reading The Lost City of Z, or already read it?

I'm finishing it up. We could get a discussion up and do a new opening.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Opening Book Five Set Two

Can you believe this is the halfway book? Woot! We're rip roaring!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Technically Difficult

So yeah, I don't have a camera right now. I left it at my belle mère's (MIL) and it's a long drive to retrieve it so I haven't and that leaves me without book opening media. However, I may get there by this afternoon and therefore might have a video up by tonight. Because I'm soooooooooo excited to get another book open!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekends at Bellevue Discussion

Weekends at Bellevue

by Julie Holland, M.D.

genre: memoir

Meet Dr. Holland. Witty, smart, compassionate, full of gumption and somewhat abrasive. From med school to her tenure at the infamous Bellevue Hospital in New York, we are given a peeping tom's seat into her world. For many of the us, the population of those that crossed the line into the mentally ill spaces of life are somewhat distant and separated from our own lives. These are the people that either wander the streets talking to their own invisible companions or spend their lives in hospitals where we are shielded from their reality. But here we get a sense of how imminent mental breakdown is in all of us, a fact which the author fixates on quite a bit. We also get to see the afflicted from the medical point of view and even a little from the police who deal with them.

I was surprised to learn how much bravado gets thrown around as a tool for protection. Knowing it happened didn't compare to really understanding how much it affects the people in these fields. In some cases, it went to the point of scary. I spend much of my life in the happy bubble of thought that those employed to protect and aid us (police, doctors) are altruistic humans with only our good in mind. I know of course how naive that is. But seeing just how human those people are caused a bubble burst of larger proportion than I expected. As for the author, I liked her and I didn't. I appreciated how honest she is. I thought that her dealings with her coworkers seemed borderline pathetic and childish. Then again, I've been out of the workplace long enough to gloss over just how ridiculous work politics are. Oh, the stalker guy part was creepy wasn't it? And her chapter on the summer of residency sex was fun.

In all, I'd say this book has a little of everything: fun, enlightening facts, a bit of the scary and overall some damn good voyeurism from a safe distance. Could you ask for more?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding Home Discussion...aka Getting Caught Up

I think it's about time to get caught up don't you? Let's begin with Finding Home today. Tomorrow I will post up a discussion for Weekends at Bellevue and Monday we'll open the next book.

Finding Home

by Roisin McAuley

genre: romance

When a film company finds a house in the countryside for their period film, the question of what makes a home home becomes something of a quest for several people. Sometimes it is the physical land and house that generations of your family tree have lived in. Other times it is where a loved one has been buried. But mostly, it's where you give your heart. In the end, finding home for two key women comes from finding love.

It was said of this author that she 'is the new Maeve Binchy'. I have to confess I've never read a Maeve Binchy. However, I want to now. I loved this book. It is one of those guilty pleasures I think. It may not have the loftiness of some worthy books labeled literary fiction, and yet, it spoke to me on a level of common understanding. Universally held feelings and reactions can be appreciated without that label. And it was enjoyable. It often reminded me of Jane Austen's style in that it moved very quickly with constant interaction. The only gripe I had was the stalker ending. I mean it was fun, but it seemed a bit over the top. It just pushed my bounds of acceptance a nudge too far. But given that I enjoyed the entire book despite that, I'd say that nudge is forgivable.

I'm not often a romance reader other than Jane Austen books. In fact, I wasn't sure if you'd classify this as a romance except that it doesn't really fit any other genre that I can pinpoint. It certainly didn't feel like the trashier romance novels that are my quintessential cliche idea of romance books, which is incidentally why I don't really read them. I pretty much loathe those kinds. But this was sweet, a little exploratory of human nature and the conflict in it had a depth beyond the typical 'fiery woman pushes man away because she thinks he's a rogue even though she's terribly attracted to him until they finally end up together' type of story. All of which is to say that I enjoyed it enough to want to read more by Roisin McAuley and to pick up a Maeve Binchy too.

Your turn.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers Discussion

I am not formally reviewing this because that wouldn't be fair. I never finished it.

I will however say that I'm highly disappointed in it and even reaching toward angry. Yep, angry. Here's why. So many authors work so hard to get a book published. So many people are not reading today. So why, why, WHY would an author waste that opportunity by boring me to this degree? Why write something with so many holes in the first 100 pages that I find myself more disgusted than interested?

100 pages. I forged my way into 100 pages and still couldn't figure out why I should like these two characters. Why I should care about them. And I certainly didn't identify with them in the least. I kept telling my husband, "This is a guy's book." Because from my point of view, it read like an action flick plays. If we throw in enough bullets, nighttime escapades, cops and robbers, they'll love it! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeh. Wrong. Shoot outs are a winner right? Beeeeeeeeeeeh wrong.

I admit, the first few pages intrigued me. They appeared to be dead and yet weren't. They had holes in them the size of should-be-dead, and yet they weren't. Or were they? Or weren't they? Or were they? Yeah. Then we get the boys sneaking around the country looking gray and feeling pale. Where do they go? To their mom's of course! The one place the police would never look for them once their bodies are so blatantly found missing from the morgue. And what do the police tell their mother? 'Someone must have stolen the bodies.' Huh? So we have highly incompetent police, apparently a rather slow mortician and a couple of boys who have no memory of what happened and confidence that if they were thought of as dead, they could go just about anywhere. Huh?

So yeah. I just couldn't get into it. I couldn't get past these hang ups and the more I read the more angry I got that my time felt wasted. I wish I had liked it. I wish I had gotten it. I wish that the whole cops and robbers thing had done it for me. Unfortunately it didn't.

Here's my challenge. Anyone. One of you guys that regularly reads. Someone you know. Heck the author. Please convince me to finish reading this book. Give me reason enough to continue. Get me excited about it. I loathe that I bought this big beautiful book and now fear it will sit lonely upon the abandoned loser's shelf. Make me believe this is a winner and I will finish it. I will give it a proper review.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wow Where did the Days Go

So I was sure that the book opening and review were next week. Huh. I'll push the book opening to Monday. As for the book, how are you guys doing? Anyone reading the Firefly Brothers? I am but its moving slowly. How are you finding it? I don't feel the need to push this one unless any of you want it. I can take some extra time in the next few days and get it picked up. But don't be shy, let me know what you want.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flipping Out Discussion

When the wives of LA police are being shot in the back of the head, of course the police become protective of their families. But these wives were all involved in a real estate scheme to flip houses to sell murder mystery books. As each house is put on the market, so too is a mystery in which the victim dies in the flipped house.

So why would someone want them dead? The enigmatic and extremely egocentric author thinks she has enemies. The wives of the house flipping business have their own suspicions. But mostly for Detectives Lomax and Biggs, the case dead ends, several times. With the DA's office bearing down on them to solve the crime fast, it would be enough to keep their nose to the grindstone. But even when the DA thinks the mystery is solved, the facts that Biggs' wife might be next on the hit list and some of the clues aren't adding up, mean Lomax and Biggs won't stop till they know everything.

If you love fast paced stories with twists and turns. If you've got a thing for murder mysteries and detective yarns. If you enjoy quick witted banter. This book will keep you delighted page after page. Not a heavy literary giant by any means, but exactly the kind of book that makes people love reading. I couldn't put it down. I read it in a record two days. With short chapters and constant action, this book keeps you hungry to turn pages.

If you're already a fan of this book, author Marshall Karp has three more Lomax and Biggs mysteries: The Rabbit Factory, Bloodthirsty and his latest one Cut, Paste, Kill. You could also check out his author web page, his Facebook page, his Goodreads page or follow him on Twitter.

Now it's your turn. What did you like or dislike about this book? Did it satisfy your bookish personality? Or did it fall flat beneath your literary sensibilities?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Book for the Daring and Gordo

Gordo I thought immediately of you when I saw this:

Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do 

This author was on TED talking about five dangerous things you should let your kids do - basically the message being that we've stopped letting our kids try things and they're losing opportunities to learn the process of creating things and tinkering and learning about the world around them through experience.  He's set up a Tinkering school which gives kids these opportunities.  It's not about being wantonly dangerous or careless, it's about teaching them to try things and learning to protect themselves through knowledge.  Pretty cool idea.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wicked the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Discussion


by Gregory Maguire

genre: Fantasy

Nothing is ever what it seems, and stories told are never truly accurate - only vaguely true from one point of view, and most importantly evil is perhaps only as evil as perceived goodness.

As though reading from some lost journals of the family Thropp from which came the famed Wicked Witch of the West and consequently also the Wicked Witch of the East, we are taken deep into their personal lives to see a whole history we never knew from the stories we are so familiar with. We are not taken to the account of Dorothy landing in Oz until the very end because this story is not about Dorothy, it is about a young green girl in search of truth and right and unwittingly a soul.

Born to a promiscuous mother, devoutly crazy father, Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch) grew up as an outcast. Her green skin, strange looks and intense allergy of water sets her so far apart that she becomes the quintessential goth girl of Oz. Sent off to boarding school she sees a life even more confusing and frustrating than the one she endured as her father's example of the consequences of evil to his converts. In her fervor to champion the rights of others, she begins a journey of searching for the nature of evil only to find that evil and good can easily become entangled, and life in pursuit of higher righteousness in whatever form (proselytizing, terrorism against tyranny, or living martyrdom) only produces sorrow. In the end, she seeks forgiveness and finds that this one thing withheld from her, is the one thing that will be her undoing, or from another perspective, it became her salvation.

I found this book so much more meaty that I had ever expected. I was enthralled and repulsed simultaneously by my anticipation of suffering. Even when I thought the book had maybe traversed the passages that scared me, I would turn a corner into another phase of nervous reading. Politically charged with themes of evil, good, individual rights and causes, it forces me to question everything I thought I knew. Is a person fighting for the right cause still good if they choose a path of destruction endangering innocent lives? If we don't agree with their path, does that necessarily make them evil though their intent is right? Is a person devout of faith truly good if they use their faith to raise themselves above others? Are they wrong to think that way even if they might be better than the people around them? Is a person asking for forgiveness truly deserving of it simply because they had enough sense, humility or goodness to ask for it? Would forgiveness truly set that person free if they had been granted it?

I believe the greatest asset of this book toward raising these questions is to highlight that they are truly unanswerable. Sure we have a set idea of right and wrong. Sure we think we could point and say no, that was wrong. But the issue itself has a multitude of angles leading to it that result in a multitude of answers leading away from it. How do you know which of these to choose? The consequences of the choice you make might still turn out as damaging as any other choice. Most pointedly proving this is the way that Elphaba who has fought for right in every way she thought she could, turns completely to rash and harmful, even murderous actions very quickly when she feels cornered.

A quote from page 357 best sums it up, "People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us...It's people who claim that they're good, or anyway better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of."

ADDED:  I've been thinking about this review and the book for a few days and I wanted to add some thoughts.  First, it isn't so much that the evil acts in the book are difficult to define as evil, because they are most assuredly that.  It is though that the people behind the acts are not so black and white which is I think the part that is surprising.  In the sense that we can have a tendency to look at someone who has done something terrible and not be able to see that they are not the embodiment of the act they committed.  It doesn't make their actions or culpability any less, but it does point out how easy it is to fall into those actions if we are not careful.  Or how easy it is to judge others without background information.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How About Monday?

Ok guys. I'm inches away from finishing Wicked. Man it's taken me awhile. So what do you say to discussing it Monday? Then we can give a fond farewell to Brown Books set 1 and throw down a welcome mat to Brown Books set 2!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where I am with Wicked

Yeah so Wicked is turning out meatier than I thought. I'm plugging away at it and enjoying the ride. Thoughts on this book coming soon.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Here I go Again

Hey guys. Sorry about the absence. I was supposed to open a new book on Monday. Glitches and other circumstances led me to the decision to wait - however I did not get her to make a post on that and I am sorry. I am not ready for today's discussion either. I feel like such a heel. But here's the thing. What if we push the discussion to Wednesday? Would that be cool? And then next Friday we could have a new book opening for the new set and kick it all off with a bang. And I WILL keep the schedule.

Stick with me, the next set is 10 books and I think you're going to like the selection!

Friday, March 5, 2010

It Stuck With Me, But That Might Not Be Good

Happens Every Day

by Isabel Gillies

genre: Memoir

She married the man of her dreams. Or did she dream the man she married?

This is a remarkably candid, albeit one-sided, account of the demise of a marriage which basically falls apart in a matter of two months. From the eyes of Isabel Gillies, we are taken through the beginning of her marriage to her 'Adonis' to the moment it all fell apart. She really holds nothing back, even I think when she hadn't meant to reveal things. I'll get to that in a minute, but let's just say there was a lot between the lines.

First let me share a bit about this demise. Isabel begins to suspect something is going on between her husband (who by the way cheated on his first wife, ending that marriage, but not with Isabel) and a new English professor at the university where they were both teaching. Frankly I think she was right, however he might have denied anything happened till after their marriage broke down. Marriages just don't seemingly dissolve over one fight, which is what seems to happen to her husband. They fight over her suspicions and then he shuts off. Granted, as I said this is a one-sided story as it can only be in a memoir. Maybe there were issues before this happened. But the aggravating thing was that her husband refused to even discuss it or try. He simply said "I can't" and that was it. He stopped loving her over night. Or was it? Given that this new professor was typical of the women he was attracted to and given that he ends up 'together' with this woman two or three weeks after Isabel moves out, plus the fact that friends of theirs said, 'when it is just those two and you are not around, it's like they are a couple', all indications point to them having been 'together' in some form or other before either admitted and certainly before the marriage broke.

It was an emotional book. And I like emotional books. However, let's talk about the stuff between the lines. Frankly Isabel comes across as spoiled, clueless and a bit on the arrogant side. Anyone who thinks being poor could possibly entail redesigning a kitchen and sending away for designer wallpaper and fabric to 'do up' your house, has never known poor. Let's forgive her this since she doesn't seem to realize that having a summer vacation home in Maine and spending entire summers there isn't exactly what people living in rundown government apartments would call deprived. But come on. Judging someone's acting career as non-existent from the standpoint of someone who has been on some derivative of Law and Order as a secondary wife character is a bit rich. Thinking her husband is perfect and putting him on a pedestal so high he probably gave up trying, not exactly seeing things with clarity. And when fighting in a marriage is 'fixed' by ending it without resolution and then pretending it never happened, you can't possibly think things are in balance. All of which comes out by Isabel's own words and completely flabbergasted me. Yes, flabbergasted. I was so on her side. Still am actually. I don't care how ridiculous she might have been, I'm pretty sure he knew that before he married her and definitely before they had children together. Ending it because you're attracted to someone else is just lazy and inexcusable. But, I still felt so damn frustrated listening to her. I yelled at the CD player at least twice as her voice droned on about how she couldn't understand what had happened.

Good book? Yes and no. Wonderfully candid. I can't think of a better quality for a memoir to have. But still irritating to take in on so many levels. And I did think about this book for over a week after having listened to it. That is most often a sign of a book's greatness. I'm not sure I could call it that this time. It was just that I was so steaming mad at her ex-husband. Not exactly endorsement. Over all I'd say I was impressed with her style and honesty and that will have to be enough.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Happened Discussion

What Happened

by Scott McClellan

genre: political tell all (non-fiction?)

This book is marketed as Mr. McClellan's opening the door into the highly secretive Bush administration and revealing the things behind the scenes. We get Mr. McClellan's view of the Plame incident, the falsified weapons of mass destruction documents, Katrina and several other of the 'scandals' of that Presidency. What we don't seem to get is very much information beyond what we already knew. For a Presidency clouded in secrecy and scandals that jeopardized and even took lives, I had expected something more. Some information that evokes an 'Aha'. I was disappointed.

Have you ever had a conversation with a girl just after her boyfriend dumped her and treated her like crap and she is so blindly in love with him still that she defends him at every turn? Mr. McClellan is that girlfriend. He comes across as so fervently in love with President Bush and his ideals that I got the feeling we weren't getting anything more than an apologetic ex just saying enough to attempt to clear his own name in his dumping. In a way it is exacerbating how McClellan exonerates the President by indicating he was pushed and influenced by people such as Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. In part this may be true. However, as President of the United States, wouldn't it be part of his job to see through these things? To do what is right in spite of the agendas of those on his team? I would hope that any president would have the intelligence and conviction to pursue the best for the country. It is a little lame to pass the blame onto other people when ultimately Bush was in the driver's seat. Again McClellan comes across almost as a Bush groupie with stars in his eyes.

At one point while discussing the President's reactions to Katrina, he says, "The standard practice of the Bush White House was not to have the president rush to the scene of a natural disaster." Why? Not to interfere with emergency response and that they "never wanted to give the appearance of capitalizing on a tragedy for political purposes." If I remember correctly (and I do), President Bush could be considered the all out front runner of politicians who capitalized on disaster. Terrorist attacks of 9/11 were brought up continuously for years and years after they happened as political push to keep him in office and promote his agendas in the world. This claim concerning Katrina falls flat.

McClellan's points about the atmosphere of perpetual campaign impeding governance are right on the money. However he completely deflates his arguments by defending the actions of the President and his administration instead of focusing on digging into the supports for his debate. I wasn't looking for the President to be literarily drawn and quartered. But I was interested deeply in this perpetual campaign that McClellan talks about and would have liked him to push harder into his reasoning, give a more candid account of the years he served the President, instead of a candy coated ex-girlfriend's defense of the man she hopes to get back with.

P.S. I was going along so well this year and then dropped into the land of the living dead (aka migraine city and sick kids and I could go on). But now I'm back and I'm sorry for the schedule f* up. I will post up the video of the last book opening for this set (24) later today!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Look What's Around the Corner!

OK shouting out reminders.

Monday - we're opening book....

book 24!!!!!! Whoa. Yeah. The last book in the first set. Know what that means?

I'll tell you.

It means you should be watching your mailboxes those of you who've been here for the long haul with me.

It means we're about to start a whole new set. And this next set? Oh think you guys are gonna like some of them. Hopefully all of them. We'll see. (Frankly I hope I like all of them, but books are books just like people.)

It means, pop that champagne guys, you've done an awesome job and I couldn't have made it without you!

Next reminder:

We will be doing the discussion of What Happened a week from today on the 26th. Get your ideas in hand and we'll get down and dirty with politics.

See you on the flip side!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The World Without Us Discussion

The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman

genre: factual fiction?

Mr. Weisman takes a grain of wonder and using fact and knowledge of experts in so many fields, he spreads that grain into an entire world. Our world. The grain: what if we weren't here anymore? What if we suddenly disappeared? What would happen to earth? Amazingly detailed information takes us into a possible future where we witness nature reclaiming her own. It gives the reader a great deal to think about our impact on earth. From the buildings we live and work in, the cars we drive to the food we eat and the clothes we wear, not to mention all our fun gadgets. Are these things bad? Not wholly. But we've changed this landscape far beyond its early state and truth be known, there may be no going back. But perhaps that is the nature of things after all.

When I put this book on the list, I had thought it was a sort of fictional story based on fact. What I hadn't realized is that this book a)has no real story, it's more of a written documentary and b) it is full of information about not just a possible future, but the state of our world now and the history of it and us in it. This part fascinated me as much as the peering into the future. I did not know that ages ago, there were giant animals that have gone extinct like camels and sloths. I of course knew about mammoths and saber tooth tigers - I suppose these are the iconic cliches of those now extinct herds of animals.

I didn't enjoy this book the same as others. Other books have that 'can't put it down quality'. This book beckoned me like a playground. Every time I took it up I had so much fun learning. I was constantly surprised by the things I learned and my level of enjoyment. It was like being a kid again, discovering some subject that draws you into obsessive knowledge seeking, minus the petty teasing and rivalry of school. This one gets a high high recommendation from me. So worth the time to read and though it's not a traditional novel, I can see myself reading this book more than once. I think it will be like those movies that you watch and find that you see something new each time. I look forward to that.

Your turn: how did the book affect you? Did you enjoy it or was the style of it not your thing? What parts of the book did you love or hate? Go.

By the way, I feel like such a bad mother, I missed my first deadline this year. I have a good excuse though. My SIL had to go to the hospital last night, so we hosted her children for dinner and worried about her which made me completely forget my pet project here. I am sorry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Writer Writes

On Writing

by Stephen King

genre: instructional/memoir

Many authors put out books about writing. Most of them fall into two categories: 1) the book about getting started or getting out of writer's block and 2) the book with exercises in every chapter to teach you writing skills. This book falls into neither category. Half memoir, half writing instruction, Stephen King's voice comes growling through with nuggets of wisdom and almost grumpy admonitions. And every word rings true.

I have only read Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King before picking up this book. I now plan to read at least four of his books. He impressed me quite a bit with his no nonsense style and forthright language. He's funny, sarcastic and a little wacky too. But most of all, he's successful and there's a reason for it. I think you'll find a lot of that reason laced throughout these pages. He's got gumption and talent. Those two things are necessary in a writing world from what I've been told. A lot of great writer's never get their names known because despite their talent, they're afraid of rejection. Without facing that fear, no writer will ever get published, let alone have the discipline to sit down and write every day. Beyond those two qualifications, he digs deeper into elements of writing and the importance of understanding the mechanics of language. He highlights proper presentation when selling yourself or your work to publishers, magazines and ultimately agents. He gives practical advice from the experiences he's lived. And nothing could be more valuable than that, given the source.

Some quotes I loved:

"You must not come lightly to the blank's writing damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business."

"The adverb is not your friend...I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

Lastly he tells the account of being hit by a van while out on one of his daily walks and how that affected him as a person and a writer. It moved me considerably. Not having known much more than the titles published by Mr. King, I found this book a fun discovery of a writer I now admire.

Even if you're not interested in being a writer, this book is an enjoyable read. At least the first half, the memoir part, I believe appeals to anyone. The sections on writing might not be your cup of tea, and yet, his style and humor creeping out on every page make it more than just instructions on writing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Twenty-Three Opening

She Waxes Patriotic

The Partly Cloudy Patriot

by Sarah Vowell

genre: collection of essays

Sarah Vowell, sporting a voice like no other, has a passion for history and civic life to rival the greatest sports fan. In this collection of essays she takes us through a wide range of clever thoughts on patriotism, history and individual involvement in the political atmosphere. She takes time to delve deep into subjects such as what it means to be patriotic even when you extremely dislike (to put it lightly) the President (George W Bush at the time of writing) or musing on her almost macabre delight in vacationing at historical sites of mass death or political assassinations.

I am no history buff. Sarah Vowell's utter love of the subject draws me in and makes me start making lists of places to see or books to read. This of course I may not ever accomplish, and yet to even get me excited enough to believe I will takes a great amount of conviction. And she's got it. I love reading her because she uses dry wit and clever thought process while making parallels with pop culture icons like Revenge of the Nerds or Buffy the Vampire Slayer so that even the layest of lay people can get where she's coming from. No dry history or sociopolitical text book is this.

Pick it up for a delightful, if short, read. Or better yet, get it on audio and enjoy the unique quality of her only slightly grating voice. The cool thing about her audio versions is that she employs people like Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, They Might Be Giants, Michael Chabon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It Came It Came It Came!

You cannot believe how utterly difficult it is for me not to open this.


We are now reading The World Without Us.

We will be having a book opening video up on Monday for book 23.

Plan on having your thoughts ready to share next Friday the 12th for the discussion of The World Without Us.

See you then!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My heart is aflutter. I have just been notified that my shipment of books are on their way! That would be the next set of Brown Books. Woot!

This time, I'm giving myself an added handicap. I know the list of books, but I will not be looking at them before they are wrapped. My husband has agreed to be the wrapper for this round. That way, I won't even know the size and shape of the books and therefore, I will get an added element of surprise.

I'm just so excited.

Can you tell?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Wish for Beyond the Grave

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

genre: Literary Fiction

You live in a small town. Most people know most other people and you feel secure in your close knit community. The unthinkable happens. A girl goes missing. You later hear through gossip chains and the news, she was murdered. Your small town world becomes a place less safe, you feel shattered. You attend the funeral. You know the family a little. You try in some way to give condolences but you know that nothing you say or do could penetrate that kind of sorrow. What you don't know you learn in this book. What happens to a family that loses a daughter and sister this way? How do they hold it together? Or do they at all? What does loss like that mean? And you learn that there are never pat answers or perfect endings.

Told from the point of view of the murder victim, this story imagines a life after death for the dead and the living. It is eerie and sickening as we are navigated through the rape and murder of this character. But then we are taken on an unexpected journey as flies on a wall peering into the private horror of a family that must go on. Each reacting in their own separate ways, it is a train wreck of emotions.

I think this book is one of those books that evoke the love it hate it phenomenon. People will likely either be enthralled with it or they will be repulsed by it. It is not a book for young or squeamish people, though I would point out that the scenes about rape and murder are actually fairly tame. I was surprised to find that I only cried once, though I felt myself on the verge many times. In any event, I myself fit in the love it category. I listened to this one on audio and there were moments when I became the character. An author that kidnaps me that way counts as successful to me. It is the ultimate goal of storytelling, to take people into the story and make them forget where they are. I spent several days afterward thinking about this book, the characters and my own questioning nature on the subject of death and afterlife. If there were a heaven, even though it was not perfect, I would want it to be as described in this book. I found myself wishing it were true.

I don't think you'll truly know if you are a lover or hater of this book unless you pick it up and give it a try. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What's Coming Up

As you may have noticed, we are now starting book 22. That means including The World Without Us we have three books till we're done with the first set!

In light of that, I spent a lot of time thinking over how to proceed with the next round. Since you guys all expressed an appreciation for the surprise effect of not knowing a single book I picked, I went ahead and made the new list and ordered the next set of books. This time however, I only ordered 10. It seems like a much more logical number. Think of it as the Brown Book Club converting from Imperial to Metric. So, by the time we finish the first set, we're going to be ready to start the next. In between there we'll have a celebratory post in which I will virtually shower you all with golden statue awards and giant bags of swag and giant checks signed by the ghost of Ed McMahon. Or we'll just post in and get emotional. Or not.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Am America (So Can You) Discussion

I Am America (So Can You)

by Stephen Colbert

genre: comedy

Succinctly put, this book is a raging plethora of exaggerated political hubris and paranoia presented as postulation. Colbert outlines all of the things 'attacking' the American way and Christianity. These things he presents as gospel truth. Heavily leaning against liberals and homosexuals, he takes the GOP stance to the utmost of ridiculous. He is obviously being sarcastic.

Once again, I went into this thinking, "Hey I like this comedian, I'll love his book" and was sorely disappointed. Not that I didn't laugh. But I was cringing a lot too. I began to wonder who he truly was making fun of and if any of the people reading this book held such ludicrous ideas as truth, would they think he was encouraging them? He certainly went into distasteful territory in my opinion. I don't mind an in your face comedian. And I get sarcasm. But this was too much for me to laugh at. And that is where my disappointment lies. It was vitriolic while trying to be tongue in cheek and I lost the laughter after about three or four chapters.

Example: "..until that great day when all humans can't see color, those with darker skin should take the Invisible Man's brave example and wrap themselves in the white bandages of unity so that we all truly look the same color.
"You see, White people are already wrapped in bandages: the skin God gave us to protect ourselves from racism."

or on immigration: "We need to build a 2000-mile long wall along our southern border...We don't want these Mexican Jumping Beans hopping over whenever they feel like it...something that can be seen from space, with double-wall construction, machine-gun nests and a flaming moat..."

Like I said, I'm not immune to the fact that he's using exaggeration and causticness, it's just that it feels like it goes too far without enough punchline humor to counter it. I think he's funnier in person where inflection and tone and the visual imagery of making fun of himself and those he's supposedly supporting help to make that balancing effect.

Did anyone else read the book? How did you feel about the humor? Were there passages you especially liked or hated?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Due to technical difficulties, my book opening video will not appear here tonight.  I am sorry.  I am going to attempt this again first thing tomorrow, if it still doesn't work, I'll just do an announcement.

Sorry for the delay.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't forget

Book Opening tomorrow!  This will be book 22.  We're nearing the end.  And rounding the corner to a beginning.  What a great year we're going to have.

So tune in tomorrow and catch our latest video of us being...complete idiots.  But at least idiots in love with books.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not my Best Year

It is January.  This is a book blog.  Therefore by association I feel compelled to write a Best of 2009 list or acknowledgement of lists post.

I can't.  Why?  I've been so out of the mainstream, I hardly knew the lion's share of the books listed in all the lists of lists that I perused.

I can tell you that my "To be read" list grew to Mount Everest proportions.  If I ever make it to the top, I'm mounting a plaque.  Here set the foot of a book lover whose eyes gave out.  Well, hopefully I won't be crying at the eye doctor too soon.

According to my records, I finished exactly fifteen books last year.  Oy the feebleness.  I did manage to start about double that.  But that doesn't count.

So I am challenging myself this year.  Including the books we read, I'm aiming to read at least one book a week.  (Or in the end, the average of such by the end of the year.  I'm not disillusioned enough to overlook the fact that some weeks just go to hell).

Some of the books I'm hoping to sink my teeth into include:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - The winner of the 2010 John Newbery Medal for outstanding children's literature, a story of middle school years, coming of age in New York city by a girl obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - I've never read it, and if I want to read the above, I figure I really ought to read this one first.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - another I must read before I do something else.  I'd like to see the film Peter Jackson, in spite of the scathing reviews so far.  I want to read the book first.  This one has actually been on my radar for quite some time, but I shied away from it.  No more.

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent - as Amazon puts it: "an investigation into psychiatric practices and questionable diagnoses" and "a personal exploration of mental stability".  To be honest I just happened to stumble on to this one, one of those click click click and suddenly I'm somewhere I never expected to be.  Quite a rabbit hole indeed.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre - a humorous expose of all the science and medical scams we're inundated with from media.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - almost completely off my radar, the recommendation I read for this felt like a slap on the back of the head.  "Why haven't you heard of this book?" was the thought running through my head.  And as far as I've read, don't let the fantasy aspect of it fool you.  It is a serious novel clothed in fantasy.

I won't bore you by going on and on.  But these were some of the highlights of things that jumped out of the Best Of lists I've read so far.

So now, you tell me:  What sort of challenges are you setting for your reading year?  What are the books you've added to your to be read list from the Best Of lists?  What books would you say are the top books of 2009?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mudbound Discussion

by Hillary Jordan

category: literary fiction

Mudbound is the name of a farm, so dubbed by the wife who'd been reluctant to move there. When the rains come, the farm becomes isolated from the nearest town. That fact sets an entire stream of events into motion that inevitably lead to despair, deceit, pain, resolution, self-discovery and love.
Land sickness is described as the disease the farmer feels who is tied to his land, inextricably in love with it. So much so, that those infected with land disease often go blind to the effects the land exerts on those they love around them. You will not find any bucolic imagery of farming here. The land is hard, and the people on it often become hard with it. In a town in Mississippi just after the second world war, when racial tensions still ran higher than any flag flown, Henry and his wife Laura, buy Mudbound. Rather, Henry buys and as a dutiful wife she follows, however reticently.
Never having defied her husband, she finds herself thrown into situations that test her inner strength and her beliefs about deep-seated rules of racial boundaries and her deep-seated sense of right and wrong. She begins to make demands of her husband, standing up for people in defiance of his will. Strain on the marriage inevitably ensues. Add a cruel old man as the father and father-in-law into the mix and the tension thickens to pudding consistency. Then Henry's brother moves in with his ghosts of the war, and Laura begins to feel a passionate side of herself she never knew. Henry and Laura's relationships to all these people and the tenants on their farm, including a black family who become substantially entwined with their daily life, are the whirlwind this novel's plot revolves around.

This book does not indulge in flowery language. It is simple and direct, infused with its own style of elegance. Jordan's choice to write from each character's point of view chapter to chapter, heading them with only the name of the person speaking seems daring yet, I think, the only satisfactory way to tell this story. Any one person's point of view would never convey the widely varied ideals and perceptions that are essential to understanding the full story, and a narrative voice could never be personal enough to dig into the emotion of it. Throughout the novel I felt a sense of looming danger, yet it never felt depressing or too frightening to continue. There was a longing for things to go right when I knew there was no way they truly could. Jordan skillfully tapped into my emotions and drug me along like a fish on a hook. I found it hard to draw myself away from the story, even after forcing myself to put the book down. I can't say the ending surprised me all that much, but the range of feelings that I wrangled through to get there did.

I would definitely recommend this book. Not a difficult read, but certainly a worthy one.

Now, your turn. What did you like or dislike about this book? Or both? What are your post reading impressions? Did it stay with you and why?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Book Examiner

So I recently found myself clicking through to an article at the Book Examiner about annoying phrases used in book reviews. Then I dug into her site further and found articles about formats of book reviews and how impotent most reviews are and voila I had a Brown Book resolution staring me in the face.

I'm going to do my best to never use the words listed in this article.
I'm going to attempt to use a format similar to the one she lists in this article.
I want to get more comprehensive and foster higher interest in the books we're reading.
Which also means I need to be on the ball here and follow my schedules. (Um, ahem)

So. Here we go.

How many of you are reading Mudbound? I'm planning for us to discuss this one next Friday. If you want more time let me know, we'll futz with the schedule. We'll be opening the next book on Monday. Look for a rip roaring opening video!

Let's get the last few books of this set romped through and then let's do another! Shall we?

For the next set of books, I'm thinking we should wrap up 10 to 15 books instead of the amount I did last time. Secondly, I was leaning toward picking the books again so that you guys will have the socks surprised right off your warm and tingly little toes. But, I'm open for democratic shoot down of my dictatorship, so let me know what you think. And did you have fun last year?