Monday, December 31, 2007

Recent Purchases and Gifts

Hi all,
I am not sure that I will remember everything I purchased and received, but here goes:

The Daring Book for Girls (gift for my niece)

The Dangerous Book for Boys (gift for my nephew and for the boys in my house)

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (gift for my father-in-law)

That Book of Perfectly Useless Information by Michell Symons (gift for my husband Craig)

I am America (and So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (gift for Craig)

Sun Tzu was a Sissy & What Would Machiavelli Do (each by Stanley Bing) gifts for Craig

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation by Drew Westen (gift for Craig)

Misunderestimated and Overunderappreciated: The George W. Bush Administration as Seen Through the Eyes of the Tribunes' Syndicated Editorial Cartoonists (this was also a gift for Craig, and for my brother-in-law and my father-in-law -- needless to say this is not a family of bush supporters)

Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Sublte Knife and The Amber Spyglass) for me

Cruddy by Linda Barry

1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die (a gift for me)
  • NOTE: sad to say, I went through the entire list and have only read 67 of them -- maybe I need to be more selective in my reading!!!! Although I have to say that the list is a little suspect in my mind because the greatest book of all time in my estimation (Atlas Shrugged) did not make the list. In fact nothing written by Ayn Rand made the list....neither did Pillars of the Earth....

Received as Gifts

Rachael Ray Anytime Cookbook

Deceptively Delicious cookbook (by Jessican Seinfeld)

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Whisper of the River by Ferrol Sams

When All the World Was Young by Ferrol Sams

  • NOTE to Babs: these two Ferrol Sams books are the second and third in a trilogy that starts with Run with the Horsemen (which was the Atlanta Reads book club selection a few years back) -- I know how you like serial books!!!!

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

The Garden Angel by Mindy Friddle

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

World Without End by Ken Follett

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My December Purchases

In the holiday spirit, I am also including the books that people purchased for me. Because my love of reading caused these purchases, so I feel some good book karma should accumulate to me. :^)

Books I purchased


Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (Coffee Buy the Book)

White Noise by Don DeLillo (Coffee Buy the Book)

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (Coffee by the Book)

The Wrinkle in Time Quintet: A Wrinkle in Time; A Wind in the Door; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; Many Waters; An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle

  • I loved these books growing up. Because I recently finished His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I'm going back and seeking out similar things. I have three of these books in my collection from childhood, and I'm actually not sure if I ever read the last two. I remember reading some of L'Engle's non-fiction, within the last five years, and learning how many rejections she suffered before finally publishing A Wrinkle in Time - her first published novel, and it made me appreciate it all the more.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne (; gift)

The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole (; gift)

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard (; gift)


Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld (Borders)

  • It is highly likely that I will never actually use this cookbook, but I am still holding out hope that I can make one of my children a good eater!

Cancer Vixen: A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (; gift)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy in Action (Borders; two copies; gifts)

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs (; gift)

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner (; gift)

Courting Justice: From New York Yankees v. Major League Baseball to Bush v. Gore by David Boies (; gift)

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (;gift)

Finally, a collection of Montessori books/pamphlets: Parenting from Your Heart by Inbal Kashtan; Montessori Insights for Parents of Young Children by Aline D. Wolf; A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom by Aline D. Wolf; Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the nonviolent Communication Way by Marshall B. Rosenberg; How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin

Books purchased for me

Bella Abzug: An oral history by Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom (B&N)

Run by Ann Patchett (B&N)

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (

Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman (

  • This book was purchased for me by my sister-in-law. It WAS off of my Amazon wishlist, but I can guarantee you that she chose this one as a little personal message regarding her feelings toward me; that is the type of person she is.

The Chronicles of Narnia Boxed Set: The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader'; The Silver Chair; The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (

  • I have three of these books from when I was a child - not in great condition. I think I read all of them, but I am not sure. I am going to re-read them all. This is another set that is part of my Philip Pullman inspired reading.

Home To Holly Springs by Jan Karon (Borders)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Library Thing

Do any of you guys use Library Thing? I'm wondering if it's worth the work to get all my books organized this way.

I think I might try entering just my craft books, mostly because I'm trying to organize my yarn stash at Ravelry and someone mentioned possibly being able to import your book list from Librarything into Ravelry. . .

Anyone used it?

Monday, December 3, 2007

November's Shame

I was thinking I only bought a couple of books this month, but it's not so. Admittedly many of these are gifts for other people (and there are a few things I've left out of the stack, sigh). . .

For dd (age 11):

Secret Santa by Sabrina James.

Could You Would You? by Trudy White, supposed to be a fantastic book for 9-12 yos.

Warriors Into the Wild this is a fantasy series featuring cats -- one of dd's friends really likes it.

Everything You Need to Know About the World by Simon Eliot. Title says it all.

Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set.

Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan. We have the Dangerous Book for Boys, but I can't really read it to ds at night because he always wants to Make Something Right Now, which doesn't work at bedtime (he's 6). Dd is the perfect age for this type of project book.

For dh:

The Tao of Warren Buffet by Mary Buffet and David Clark.

For my mom:

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon.

For my Dad:

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson.

The War Ken Burns.

For my brother:

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson.

For me:

World Without End by Ken Follett.

Deceptively Delicious by Jennifer Seinfeld. (Not sure if I want this, might put it in the neighborhood book swap). . .

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett.

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton, The First Domestic Goddess by Kathryn Hughes.

Cruddy by Lynda Barry.

The Good German by Joseph Kanon.

I bought 4 books from Coffee Buy the book (The Good German, The Hogwarts books, The War, and Deceptively Delicious). The rest came from Borders or Amazon, oh well. . .

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My November Purchases

Gosh, I am really feeling like I have a serious book buying problem. I shouldn't feel guilty about this, should I? I'll read them all eventually, won't I?? And I know I'm forgetting at least one other used book from Coffee Buy the Book, which I can't find. And I'm forgetting at least one or two more from Daedalus because I never would buy just ONE book at a time from them. And a third book from BOMC because it was buy 2, get 1 free. Hmmmm... O.k., well, here is a list of the books that I purchased and can currently find:

Rolling Stone Interviews - introduction by Jann Wenner (B&N)

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill (BOMC)

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (BOMC)

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (Borders; I already own an older copy, but I wanted one for notes)

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (Borders)

His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman (Borders)

Caribbean by James A. Michener (used, Coffee Buy the Book)

A Collection of Beauties At the Height of Their Popularity by Whitney Otto (used, Coffee Buy the Book)

The Big Overeasy by Jasper Fforde (CBB)

Freedom Writers' Diary by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell (CBB)

The Good German by Jospeh Kanon (CBB)

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown (Daedulus)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Easton Press - my $40 leather-bound copy)

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig (QPB)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (QPB)

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes (QPB)

After Dark by Haruki Murakami (QPB)

Oh where, oh where did my other books go? Oh where, oh where could they BEEEEEE?? ;^)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The To-Read Pile in my bedroom

I loved when Mary has put pictures on the blog. So, I'm giving it a try. It really wasn't that big when I stacked them. I mean it only hit me right at mid-hip. :^) Hmmm . . . it looks like A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini got cut off at the bottom there . . .

These books were piled in a random order and with an eye to not having them topple over before I could snap the picture. Not exactly sure how I'm going to tackle them. And I have a feeling more will be added to the pile before I get through all of them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My October Purchases

OK, I am going to go ahead and blame it on pregnancy brain, but I cannto recall all the books I bought last month. I DO know that I bought

The World Without An End (although I do not get my hands on it until Christmas -- it is to be a gift from Craig) This si the Ken follett sequel to Pillars of the Earth.

American Gangster (which I am very bummed about. I did not read the fine print and it is a "novelization of the screenplay). I am a huge denzel washington fan and thought it would be good to read the book before seeing the movie. However, I put it aside once I realized I was essentially reading the screenplay.....This was a first for me, and may explain how we end up having so many books published!!!!)

What is the What by Dave Eggers (loved his last book and this one just came out in paperback)

Playing for Pizza by John grisham. (I know, I know, but i just cannot leave his books alone).


The Publisher's Weekly Best Books List

I have only read two books that make the list --
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (fiction) which I HIGHLY recommend -- it takes about 2 hours to read but is very good.

A Long Way Gone (nonfiction) which was not as good as some of the other books in the genre (An Ordinary Man, God Grew Tired of Us)

there were several posted that I want to read, especially Them, which takes place here in Atlanta and is getting lots of good press.

I guess I did read a third book on the list (although not on the recommended list). I read If I Did It. the so-called OJ confession. Skip it!


Monday, November 5, 2007

Publisher's Weekly - Best Books of 2007

"It's the end of the year—almost. A time for reflection, before the resolutions of 2008 send us all scrambling once again. So what did we read this year that kept us up at night, broke our hearts, opened our minds, made us fall in love? Three thousand books are published daily in the U.S., and PW reviewed more than 6,000 of them in 2007, in print and online. From that astounding number, we've culled a best books list covering our favorites in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, comics, religion, lifestyle and children's—150 in all."

Can you believe that 3000 books are published each day? :^)

They certainly all can't be worth reading, but I'm thinking about making it one of my 2008 reading goals to read one book per month off this list.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Current To-Read Pile

And it just keeps growing. I'm also going to note which books I purchased in October - as the month is coming to an end - and where I purchased them, if I can remember!

Painted Shadow: the Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T.S. Eliot, and the Long-Suppressed Truth about her Influence on his Genius by Carole Seymour-Jones (purchased in October through Daedalus Books, hard cover)

In the Mountains of Heaven: Tales of Adventure on Six Continents by Mike Tidwell (purchased in October through Daedulus Books, hard cover)

Book Doctor by Esther Cohen (purchased in October through Daedulus Books, hard cover) - Actually, I'm 18 pages in to this book.

The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama by Thomas Laird (purchased in October at B&N, paperback)

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me by Pattie Boyd with Penny Junior (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, hard cover)

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, hard cover)

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, hard cover)

Confessions of a Super Mom by Melanie Lynne Hauser (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, paperback) - I'm a couple of chapters into this one.

Super Mom Saves the World by Melanie Lynne Hauser (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, paperback)

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (purchased in October at Coffee Buy the Book, paperback)

The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett (purchased in October at Costco)

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (This has been in my to-read pile for quite awhile)

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Beasts of No Nation - Uzodinma Iweala

The Nasty Bits - Anthony Bourdain

Misadventures in the Middle East: Travels as Tramp, Artist +Spy by Henry Hemming

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World by Kathleen Ragan

Well, these are the ones in my bedroom anyway. :^)

If anyone thinks any of these sound interesting, let me know and I can post a bit more about them.

Jen's Book Meme Responses

Hi ladies,

I'm posting Jen's on the blog for her. Just to have it all in one place. :^)



Here are my answers:
1: Hardcover or paperback, and why?Paperback - unless I really like the author , have a collection of similar books in hardback or do not want to wait for the paperback

2: If I were to own a book shop, I would call it... Turn the Page

3: My favourite quote from a book (mention the title) This is horrible, but I cannot think of anything off the top of my head.....

4: The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be... Ayn Rand or Ferroll Sams

5:If I was going to a deserted island and could bring only one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be... Atlas Shrugged, Hands down!!!

6: I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that... would hold the book open on the elliptical machine without breakign the spine or damaging the pages

7: The smell of an old book reminds me of... reading on the screened in porch at my grandparents' house in Pennsylvania

8: If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title) it would be... Dagney Taggart from Atlas Shrugged (if you have not guessed, I am obsessed with this one)

9: The most overestimated book of all times is... The Confederacy of Dunces

10: I hate it when a book...wraps up too quickly (like A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe did!!!).

Monday, October 22, 2007

What fun!

Thanks for sharing, Mary! Here are my answers:

1: Hardcover or paperback, and why?

Paperback - unless I really like the author or can’t wait for the paperback

2: If I were to own a book shop, I would call it...

Babs’ Beautiful World of Books

3: My favourite quote from a book (mention the title)

One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this.
-Don Quixote-

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail
-Ralph Waldo Emerson (But I’m guessing this quote is not from a book)

4: The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be...

Margaret Mitchell

5:If I was going to a deserted island and could bring only one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be...

ONE?!?! I might choose NOT to survive! ;^) Let’s see, I am going to say - Collected Essays: First (1841) and Second (1844) Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson

6: I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that...

Would help give me easy recall of the details of all of the books I have read

7: The smell of an old book reminds me of...

A cold winter’s day, curled up under a blanket in a comfortable chair, with a fire going, hot cocoa with mini marshmallows at just the right temperature, with a heavy snow falling outside the window.

8: If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title) it would be...

Scarlett O’Hara (as if it even needs to be said - Gone With the Wind)

9: The most overestimated book of all times is...

Of ALL time? I can’t say. Of MY time, off the top of my head - Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

10: I hate it when a book...

I love ends and I can’t follow the characters through the rest of their lives.

Book Meme

Hi ladies,
I saw this book meme and thought it might be fun for each of us to fill out (don't feel like you have to though).

1: Hardcover or paperback, and why?

I love hardcovers but I'm too cheap to buy them generally. . .

2: If I were to own a book shop, I would call it...

I like The Book Worm, or something similarly nerdy

3: My favourite quote from a book (mention the title)

I can't find it right now, but it was a quote from a Joyce Carol Oates short story that said something about a woman being able to take no more and grabbing her scissors. . .

4: The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be...

Flannery O'Connor

5:If I was going to a deserted island and could bring only one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be...

Norton Anthology, or possibly The Bible. . .

6: I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that...

Would turn pages and hold a book in the bathtub or the pool, preventing it from getting wet. I've been thinking about fixing something up with a splashproof cookbook holder.

7: The smell of an old book reminds me of...


8: If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title) it would be...

Junie B. Jones

9: The most overestimated book of all times is...

Anything by Anne Rice

10: I hate it when a book...

is made into a movie. They're always disappointing and I almost always want to see them anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Doing my Part in October

And I spent less than $100 at Coffee Buy the Book today.

Three of these were book club selections (The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon). She has all the Edenwilde book club selections in except for The Good German, I think.

I bought Cormac McCarthy's The Road because when I looked at the Pulitzer Prize winners list from Babs, it was the only winner from the last ten or so years that I hadn't read. I really disliked his trilogy books, which is why I hadn't picked it up before.

On Jen's suggestion, I got a used paperback copy of Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth.

I used to love Anne Tyler's books when I was a teenager and in college but haven't read one in years, so I'm trying out Digging to America.

I also bought Stephen Colbert's I Am America and So Can You. Nuff said.

I heard an interview with Alice Sebold about her new book, The Almost Moon so I asked about it, and they are ordering it.

Now I wish it would rain for about a week so I could stay in with some tea and work my way through these. . .

Saturday, October 13, 2007

my three book purchases

Hi ladies,
I am also a book buying addict, although Craig just asked me to stop for the next month.....guess I have been spending too much!!!!

Anyway, the last three books I bought were
Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer (the memoir of the wife of a polygamist)
Dreaming Water by Gail Tsukiyama (I have loved the two books I have read of hers and decided I needed to read all of hers)
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

I cannot remember everything I bought in September, but I did acquire these last month

Femme Fatale by Pat Shipman (a new look at Mata Hari's life)
eat pray love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown (I am a closet (not so much anymore) Diana-phile)

The book I am most excited about getting next is The World Without an End by Ken Follett. I mentioned at the last book club how great his book The Pillars of the Earth (set in the 900s and following the building of a cathedral in england). this is the MUCH anticipated sequel to this book, set in the 1200's and tracking the descendants of the original book as they face the Black Death epidemic. Anyway, I have already asked Dana from Coffee Buy the Book to reserve me a copy and to bring it to Edenwilde's Shop Til You Drop night on Monday so I can take it home with me!!!!

Speaking of which, if you can, try to stop by the shopping night it is at the clubhouse starting at 7 pm and there are going to be 20 or so vendors. get a start on the holiday shopping!!!!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three Books A Month Club

Through my friend's blog, Mother-in-Chief, I occasionally hop over to Bethany Hiitola's Mommy Writer Blog. I've been meaning to blog about a recent post of hers because I really like the suggestion (which she took from Melanie Lynne Hauser's Refridgerator Door blog) and want to encourage others to embrace it. Yes, it's the three books a month club. I regularly buy 10-15 books a month, through large chain bookstores,, independent bookstores, online bookclubs and most recently Easton Press, so I figured I'm going to book heaven. ;^)
The rule of the three books a month club - no libraries, free book pick-ups, but real, live purchases from any of your neighboring stores. Well, I guess that rules out my purchases, online book clubs, and Easton Press (even though I have agreed to shell out $39.95 plus s/h handling for the next, oh, 9 years or so to collect the 100 Greatest Books of All Time in hard cover, leather-bound, 22-karat gold encrusted glory; a rather hefty investment in the literary world, in my opinion). Can I include my neighborhood Barnes & Noble and Borders as well as Coffee Buy the Book? Point to ponder. :^)
Anyway, the main point of this post is to encourage you to get out and regularly buy books; the libraries are great and utterly, utterly necessary - but if people don't actually buy books and keep the publishers in business, what will be IN the libraries of the future?
I buy books because I am an addict, but I now also try to buy books more thoughtfully - thinking about friends I have who would like to be published, children I have whom I want to inherit a rich legacy of literature in the world. So, what do you think, can YOU buy three books a month?
Here is the list of SOME of the books I bought in September (so many of them, I can't even find them all right now!):

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama
God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christpher Hitchens
Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach
Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline by Lisa Margonelli
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
New England White by Stephen L. Carter
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

But this post made me think, and I have decided that in addition to the dozens of books I get through the aforementioned sources, I am going to make an effort, each month, to buy full-priced books from our wonderful independent bookstore in the heart of downtown historic Roswell. :^)

C'mon - post! What are the last three books you bought new at a bookstore?

Monday, September 10, 2007

I DID IT!!!!

I am so excited to finally figure this out!

Here are some of the titles I have been reading about and wanting to pick up. Anyone have any thoughts or reactions?

Femme Fatale - a biography of Mata Hari taking the point of view that she may not actually have been a spy but rather was framed by her lover to cover his own status as a double agent.

Shattered Lives -- selfbiography of a woman that is one wife to a polygamist. the husband supposed fathered over 100 children.

A Woman in Berlin -- a first person account of atrocities visited on women in Berlin when the Russians invaded to "save" them from the nazis. the woman was forced to prostitute herself to one soldier in order to avoid numerous rapes by others. I have heard this one is pretty graphic and depressing but also shows a side of the conflict that few are aware of.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I recently became a paid member at, where I am cataloging my recent reads. Well, from post-Naomi recent, which are the journals I've come across so far, where I have been recording the books I read. I haven't decided if I can yet trust cyberspace to solely keep track of such valuable information. But I worked with the site and put in my 200 free reads, and I then felt that I would be willing to pay a lifetime membership (which comes as cheap as $25) to add an infinite amount of books to my library catalog.

You can check it out here -

I was also able to put a widget on my personal blog that links to it.

I thought I would just share this with my fellow reading gals.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Some interesting title in QPB's September 2007 Review

In addition to subscribing to magazines about books, I am also a member of just about every company that sends out catalogs through which to order books and earn points. My interest in these companies has waned since I acquired my Borders Visa several years back, but I can't seem to get off their mailing lists.

I recently perused the Quality Paperback Bookclub's catalog, and I found some potentially very interesting reads:

Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline by Lisa Margonelli
"Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second with hardly a thought. Where does all this gas come from? Ad how much are we really paying at the pump? In this you-are-there travelogue through the economics, politics, chemistrt, and culture of petroleum, journalist Lisa Margonelli works her way backward along the demand-supply chain on a one-hundred-thousand mile journey from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away."

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"In the vein of The Tipping Point, an engrossing look at the one-in-a-million events that shape civilization."

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery
"A leading scientist documents the ways global warming has already irrevocably altered our world."

The Lost Life of Eva Braun by Angela Lambert
"How did an unsophisticated, 23-year-old Fraulein hold the most powerful man in Europe in thrall for thirteen years? Despite 700 biographies about Adolf Hitler, only two have been written in English about his mistress and wife of 36 hours, Eva Braun. The first is out of print. the second, from Angela Lambert, offers a fascinating look at the naive young woman who lived her short life in Hitler's shadow. . . . Alternately horrifying and fascinating, The Lost Life of Eva Braun is a penetrating look at the woman who fell madly in love with history's most notorious monster.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday July 22nd Arts & Books section

There is an article about bookclubs, which I enjoyed perusing. And it made me think of our bookclub a bit because it talks about people being afraid that their book choices will be duds. Their advice: don't worry about it; everyone will be having too much fun being together to hold a grudge. Their tip: Serve extra good food! :^)

There is also an interesting article reviewing a book called God is Dead by Ron Currie Jr. And it is a collection of stories! Can you believe I'm saying it sounds interesting? ;^)"[A] collection of stories which borrows a title from Nietzsche and a setting of the world's worst ongoing genocide - all in a work of fiction that aims to examine the weightiest moral dilemmas of humankind," writes Jonthan Freeman (president of the National Book Critics Circle). "Like Kurt Vonnegut, [Currie Jr.] seems to understand that in the face of grim and grave concerns, humor is a more powerful salt than screed. Still, I can promise you this: you won't be laughing your way to the end of this inspired debut."

What I'm reading right now

Just thought I'd throw this in. Maybe generate some posts about what everyone else is reading?? Besides of course our July book group discussion pick. :^)

Currently I am reading (in no particular order):

Night by Elie Wiesel - His personal memories of the Holocaust and Auschwitz. It's even more haunting, having recently finished Left To Tell: Finding God Amdist the Rwandan Genocide by Immaculee Ilibagiza. What is wrong with humankind??

Absurdistan: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart - This was on the 3 for 2 table at Borders, and when I perused through it, it made me think of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. Now that I've delved into it, I would say the Russian Misha (main character) could very well be a close relative of Ignatius J. Reilly's. - The novel is written as [Misha's] appeal, "a love letter and also a plea," to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to allow him to return to the States, which lovingly and hilariously follows Misha's attempt to secure a bogus Belgian passport in the tiny post-Soviet country of Absurdistan. Along the way, Shteyngart's graphic, slapstick satire portrays the American dream as experienced by hungry newborn democracies, and covers everything from crony capitalism to multiculturalism. [E.g.] The ruling class of Absurdistan is in love with the corrupt American company Halliburton, which is helping the rulers in a civil war in order to defraud the U.S. government. Halliburton, in turn, is in love with Absurdistan for the money it plans to make rebuilding Absurdistan's "inferstructure" and for the plentiful hookers who spend their nights and days by hotel pools looking for "Golly Burton" employees to service.

A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein
Love her, like her, or hate her, she makes for interesting reading. Several years ago, I read her personal memoir Living History and then Dick Morris' attack on her, Rewriting History. I feel like she gets judged more harshly than male politicians. "Oh, she's not sincere." "Oh, she's not telling the truth." "Oh, she's just married to Bill to help her political career." Hillary was her own politically-minded person before she ever met Bill; even detractors who know her, acknowledge that. People that judge her on grounds like these. Do they really see the male candidates as sincere, truthful people who are so altruistic that they don't have anything or anyone in their lives because they help them achieve a goal? I say HILLARY in '08! WOO HOO!! ;^)

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner and Quincy Troupe
I started this book before seeing the movie. Then I watched the movie before finishing the book. And I have to say, I'm ot sure that I will make it through the book. I haven't found Gardener's life before the movie's timeline that interesting. I've skipped ahead a bit to where he is joining the Navy (something reference in passing in the movie). And I'm not sure when I will pick it back up again. I found the movie interesting and inspiring, but I'm finding the book flat.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millan
Again, another book on the 3 for 2 table at Borders ( a personal addiction of mine; I feel that it is just wrong NOT to buy off this table. I mean it's a FREE BOOK!). Millan first published it in 1980, and I have to say that for me, it's inspiration seems a bit dated. Maybe there has just been too much like it in its wake that makes this seem kind of ho hum (of course, I haven't finished it, but it ain't a page turner). My husband Jonathan, who started UCLA in the fall of 1980 told me he was underwhelmed by the book. And he spent a large chunk of his adult life thinking about this kind of stuff. :^)

In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
"Saunders's vital theme—the persistence of humanity in a vacuous, nefarious marketing culture of its own creation" This book really takes me outside of my comfort zone. First, it is a collection of short stories. I don't like short stories. They are short and leave me unsatisfied with character development. Second, this author and this book are described as surreal, avant garde. Respectable qualities in their place; I ususally don't like them in my reading. Best consumed in small doses.

And of course Harry Potter and the Dealthly Hallows - DON'T TELL ME IF HARRY DIES!!!

Other books that I am really struggling to pick up (has anyone else read them?):
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - bought this one because it was getting a lot of good reviews
The MercuryVisions of Louis Daguerre bu Dominic Smith - bought this one because I've become a bit of a historical fiction junky since reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson last summer. It's about the man who invented the daguerreotype. And I do love photography.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vanity Fair Africa Issue

I wanted to post this Link I ran across, criticizing the Vanity Fair Africa issue. I still haven't picked up the magazine yet, so I have no idea how valid the concerns are, but thought you guys might like to see it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Books we discussed at our June meeting

Here is the list of books that people threw out at the meeting (with the exception of Stiff by Mary Roach, which is detailed in the "In non-fiction, Babs recommends . . ." post) as books they enjoyed reading:

Ask A Mexican! by Gustavo Arellano (
Inside cover:
Questions and answers about our spiciest Americans. I explore the clichés of lowriders, busboys, and housekeepers; drunks and scoundrels; heroes and celebrities; and most important, millions upon millions of law-abiding, patriotic American citizens and their illegal-immigrant cousins who represent some $600 billion in economic power.
At 37 million strong (or 13 percent of the U.S. population), Latinos have become America's largest minority -- and beaners make up some two-thirds of that number. I confront the bogeymen of racism, xenophobia, and ignorance prompted by such demographic changes through answering questions put to me by readers of my ¡Ask a Mexican! column in California's OC Weekly. I challenge you to find a more entertaining way to immerse yourself in Mexican culture that doesn't involve a taco-and-enchilada combo.

Cruddy by Lynda Barry
Library Journal: Barry, whose recent graphic novel, The Freddie Stories, took as its subject the dysfunctional family from her newspaper cartoon strip, now takes us into the head of an indomitable 16-year-old. Roberta Rohbeson lives with her mother and half-sister, Julie, in a crumbling neighborhood overlooking a garbage-filled ravine. Roberta's energetic voice carries us along two story-lines. In one, Roberta and a classmate, Vicky, cut school and meet up with a series of low-life young men. Simultaneously, Roberta provides us with a running account of a cross-country crime spree with her father when she was 11. This trip involves three suitcases full of money, lots of alcohol, gore, putrefaction, and some of the most desolate, godforsaken locales in modern fiction. It also contains more violence than this reader can usually tolerate, yet Roberta's wacky, irrepressible outlook makes her story fresh, compelling, and sometimes hilarious. Does Roberta survive? All I can say is, she gets my vote as one of the all-time great unreliable narrators. Recommended for most fiction collections

The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Publishers Weekly: Set in 1896, Carr's novel about a serial killer lose in New York City was a 25-week PW bestseller.

Train by Peter Dexter
Publisher's Weekly: National Book Award winner Dexter's new book is about pain: the men and women who deliver the emotional and physical blows and the limits of those who bend and break beneath them. This is a theme that runs like a dark thread through Dexter's work, from his prize-winning Paris Trout to The Paperboy. In his latest, no one escapes unscathed, and that includes the reader. It's 1953, and Lionel Walk, a black 18-year-old caddy known as Train, works at an exclusive Los Angeles golf course. The members there are cruel and bigoted, the other caddies violent and criminal. Train is badly treated by everyone except enigmatic golfer Miller Packard, who plays a decent game and recognizes that Train has a special talent for the sport. Packard is a police sergeant who comes to the rescue of beautiful Norah Rose when she is viciously attacked and her husband is slaughtered in an attempted boat hijacking. Packard and Norah fall in love, and he moves into her Beverly Hills home. Meanwhile, Train loses his job and eventually finds work as a groundskeeper at the rundown Paradise Developments golf course. He gets the course back into shape, but this hopeful interlude cannot last. A botched tree-removal project ends in tragic farce, and Train is set adrift again. Packard-a rescuer once more-finds Train, turns him into a golf shark and wins thousands on the boy's exceptional talent. In clear, pitch-perfect prose, Dexter moves the relentless story forward, exposing the ironies and dark undercurrents of charitable actions. The calamitous conclusion looms over the novel from the start, and it comes just as the reader knows it must.

Paris Trout by Peter Dexter
Publisher's Weekly: An expertly crafted and bleakly fascinating tale of social conflict and madness in the deep South, this novel centers on the eponymous Paris Trout, owner of a general store and other property in Cotton Point, Ga., during the years just after World War II. A cunning, violent man, with deep roots in the community, Trout has become an economic predator of the town's poor blacks by running a loan service for them out of the safe in his store's back room. The tensions between Trout and the blacks reaches a critical point when Trout, along with a strong-arm goon, murders an 11-year-old black girl and badly injures a black woman while collecting a debt. Into the vortex of this storm are drawn a number of other characters, highlighting the racial and social divisions of Cotton Point: lawyer and gentleman Harry Seagraves, who is repelled by the case; Paris's wife Hannah, brutalized by her husband and in powerful psychological bondage to him; and Carl Bonner, a young, idealistic lawyer who seesaws between his past in the town and his recently acquired sense of being an outsider in its circumscribed society. Trout's murder trial forces Cotton Point to face some dark truths, while setting in motion a chain of events that lead to a crescendo of violence. Dexter (Deadwood, God's Pocket) is a deft and economical storyteller and a cruel but observant chronicler of deep South customs and characters, with something of a Faulknerian feeling for the bullying violence that can lay at the heart of an inbred small town.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
500 Great Books by Women: With honest and compelling prose, Marge Piercy delves into the mind of thirty-seven-year-old Consuelo (Connie) Ramos, a woman who exists on the fringes of life in contemporary New York City. Early in the novel Connie beats up her niece's pimp and is committed - again - to the psychiatric ward in Bellevue Hospital. The novel shifts between the horrible conditions in psychiatric wards and the year 2137, as Connie at first talks to, then time travels with Luciente, a person from that future time. Luciente lives in a non-sexist, communal country where people's survival is ensured based on need, not money. A sense of freedom, choice, and safety are part of Luciente's world; Connie's world is the complete opposite. Though Connie struggles to stand up for herself and others in the treatment centers, she knows that the drugs she is forced to take weaken her in every way. She knows she shouldn't be there, knows how to play the game, and tells herself "You want to stop acting out. Speak up in Tuesday group therapy (but not too much and never about staff or how lousy this place was) and volunteer to clean up after the others." But she knows she is stuck. Connie spends more time "away" with Luciente, trying to develop a way out of her hell. Ultimately Connie makes her plan of action, and the book leaves us with our own questions about Connie's insanity and decisions.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Summer Reading

Last summer I entered a Summer Reading challenge as part of an online bookclub and these were my stacks of books I had planned to read (click to enlarge).

I don't know why I always think I'll have reading time in the summer. It's so short and we are typically travelling a lot, which means I can't get much reading done -- it's a different story if you are travelling alone or by air, of course.

The only book I read from the top photo was the Time Traveler's Wife. From the second photo, I read everything except the Norton Anthology and the Jane Austen collection (!), but most of these were children's books, quick and easy stuff.

So this year, I am setting no summer reading goals, except to read all the book club picks.

You can see my 2007 reading list HERE. I typically give a very short review, my general opinion of the book. I update about twice a month.

I an enjoying the recommendations so far -- keep them coming!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

graphic novels

I recently read a graphic novel called Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acochella Marchetto. It is the story of a 40 something comic artist living in New York, about to be married and she discovers she has breast cancer. it is her rendition of the diagnosis, treatment and recovery path. I had never really read a graphic novel (other than Nick bantoc's Griffin & Sabine books -- which I LOVED and recommend but am not sure they really count as graphic novels). I really enjoyed Cancer vixen -- I own it but it was hard to find. I had to order it on amazon.

In non-fiction, Babs recommends . . .

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living At Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman When Rita Golden Gelman traveled to Mexico during a two-month separation from her husband, she hoped to satisfy an old craving for adventure and, in the process, rejuvenate herself and her marriage. Little did she know it was the beginning of a new life, not just as a divorcée, but as a nomad of the world. Since 1986, Gelman has had no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. She travels without a plan, guided by instinct, serendipitous opportunities, and a remarkable ability to connect with people. At first her family and friends accused her of running away, but Gelman knew she had embarked on a journey of self-discovery and a way of life that is inspiring and enviable.

Babs says: "I love reading books you can find in the Travel Essay section of the bookstore. This book is not in the humor sub-genre, a la Bill Bryson, which I dearly love. It is in what I would call the inspirational rebirth/transformation sub-genre. I like to read books like this when I am feeling like I wish I were anywhere else besides my cushy life here in the good old U.S. of A!

Own? Yes

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Man in the World by AJ Jacobs
School Library Journal: When Jacobs, a pop-culture junkie and magazine editor, got a bee in his bonnet to read the entire abridged set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to stave off the decline of his recalled knowledge, his wife, family, and coworkers looked on with disbelief, amusement, and annoyance. They thought he'd give up on his quest, but fortunately he did not, for his recap manages to impart the joys of learning, along with a lot of laughs.

Babs says: "O.k., I admit it! I was totally drawn to this book because I too tried to do this as a kid! Now yes, I did not even come close - much like my attempts to read the dictionary from beginning to end (there are a lot of boring "A" words!! :^)) And AJ Jacobs has a nice writing style (as we would hope a magazine editor would) and he is funny. Who among us can't appreciate self-deprecating humor, eh?"

Own? Yes

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Publisher's Weekly: "Uproariously funny" doesn't seem a likely description for a book on cadavers. However, Roach, a Salon and Reader's Digest columnist, has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty. From her opening lines ("The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back"), it is clear that she's taking a unique approach to issues surrounding death. Roach delves into the many productive uses to which cadavers have been put, from medical experimentation to applications in transportation safety research (in a chapter archly called "Dead Man Driving") to work by forensic scientists quantifying rates of decay under a wide array of bizarre circumstances. There are also chapters on cannibalism, including an aside on dumplings allegedly filled with human remains from a Chinese crematorium, methods of disposal (burial, cremation, composting) and "beating-heart" cadavers used in organ transplants. Roach has a fabulous eye and a wonderful voice as she describes such macabre situations as a plastic surgery seminar with doctors practicing face-lifts on decapitated human heads and her trip to China in search of the cannibalistic dumpling makers. Even Roach's digressions and footnotes are captivating, helping to make the book impossible to put down.

Babs says: "A MUST-READ!" C'mon, how often do we get to read entertaining tales about cadavers? All I can really say is - who KNEW?!?!?"

Own? Yes

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott For most writers, the greatest challenge of spiritual writing is to keep it grounded in concrete language. The temptation is to wander off into the clouds of ethereal epiphanies, only to lose readers with woo-woo thinking and sacred-laced clichés. Thankfully, Anne Lamott (Operating Instructions, Crooked Little Heart) knows better. In this collection of essays, Lamott offers her trademark wit and irreverence in describing her reluctant journey into faith. Every epiphany is framed in plainspoken (and, yes, occasionally crassly spoken) real-life, honest-to-God experiences. . . . Whether she's writing about airplane turbulence, bulimia, her "feta cheese thighs," or consulting God over how to parent her son, Lamott keeps her spirituality firmly planted in solid scenes and believable metaphors. As a result, this is a richly satisfying armchair-travel experience, highlighting the tender mercies of Lamott's life that nudged her into Christian faith.

Babs says: "I was familiar with her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and this book looked interesting. This book about faith works in my opinion because Anne Lamott is a real, flawed person."

Own? Yes.

Getting Stoned With Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost
Publishers Weekly: Troost and his wife, Sylvia, move from busy Washington, D.C., to Vanuatu, a nation made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific. As Sylvia works for a regional nonprofit, Troost immerses himself in the islands' culture, an odd mix of the islanders' thousand-year-old "kastoms" along with imperialist British and French influences. This really means that Troost gets to live in a nice house while he gets drunk on kava; dodges "a long inferno of magma and a cascade of lava bombs" at the "world's most accessible volcano"; and checks out the "calcified" leftovers from one of Vanuatu's not-so-ancient traditions, cannibalism. At the end of the book, the couple move to Fiji so that Sylvia will have state-of-the-art medical care when she gives birth to their first baby. While modern-day Fiji provides little fodder for Troost's comic sensibilities, the birth of his son enables him to share some deeper thoughts and decide it is "time to stop looking for paradise." A funny travelogue with a sentimental heart, Troost's latest work genuinely captures the search for paradise as well as the need for home.

Babs says: "Troost also wrote another book - The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which if I don't recommend further along in this post, it is because I read it before January 2005. :^) But I would recommend reading that first, as chronologically the events in that book pre-date those in this one. I just really, really like the travel essay genre. I think it's because I wish I were these people, traveling all over the world and making money by writing books about my experiences."

Own? Yes

War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres
The New Yorker: A twenty-seven-year-old hypochondriac, Ayres managed just nine days as an embed in Iraq before retreating to a luxury hotel in Kuwait, and his book is principally about the serendipitous career path that landed him in the back of a Humvee. With self-deprecating wit, he recollects his days as a newsroom intern and then as a reporter covering the dot-com boom for an English paper. He dates his vocation as a war correspondent to the collapse of the Twin Towers and the receipt of an e-mail from London requesting a "thousand wds please on ‘I saw people fall to death,' etc." When the Iraq invasion began, his editors dismissed embedding as a diversionary ruse by the U.S. Army, and put their veteran correspondents far from the front lines, leaving Ayres with an American artillery unit nicknamed Long Distance Death Dealers. Facing his own death during an ambush by Iraqi tanks, Ayres admits that he feels like a coward not "for being scared of war" but, rather, "for agreeing to go to war" and letting "my journalist's ego get the better of me."

Babs says: "I decided to read this book because I had followed almost nothing concerning the war in Iraq (mainly because it started three or four days after Naomi was born and also because it is frustrating and depressing). And what better way to immerse myself I thought than by reading a book by a Brit who had no idea what the heck he was doing there."

Own? Yes

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Publishers Weekly: In this splendid, beautifully written followup to his blockbuster thriller, Devil in the White City, Erik Larson again unites the dual stories of two disparate men, one a genius and the other a killer. The genius is Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless communication. The murderer is the notorious Englishman Dr. H.H. Crippen. Scientists had dreamed for centuries of capturing the power of lightning and sending electrical currents through the ether. Yes, the great cable strung across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean could send messages thousands of miles, but the holy grail was a device that could send wireless messages anywhere in the world.

School Library Journal: Larson's page-turner juxtaposes scientific intrigue with a notorious murder in London at the turn of the 20th century. It alternates the story of Marconi's quest for the first wireless transatlantic communication amid scientific jealousies and controversies with the tale of a mild-mannered murderer caught as a result of the invention

Babs says: "I didn't find this book as compelling as The Devil in the White City because the two stories are not happening simultaneously. The connection is that the invention later helps to catch the murderer; unlike Devil in the White City, where everything was happening all at the same time, lending it better pace and excitement in my opinion. It is still a wonderful read though!"

An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina
Publishers Weekly: For former hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, words are the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal. For good and for evil, as was the case in the spring of 1994 in Rwanda. Over 100 days, some 800,000 people were slaughtered, most hacked to death by machete. Rusesabagina, inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda used his facility with words and persuasion to save 1,268 of his fellow countrymen, turning the Belgian luxury hotel under his charge into a sanctuary from madness. Through negotiation, favor, flattery and deception, Rusesabagina managed to keep his "guests" alive another day despite the homicidal gangs just beyond the fence and the world's failure to act. . . . This tale of good, evil and moral responsibility winds down with Rusesabagina visiting a church outside Kigali where thousands were massacred and where a multilingual sign-cloth now pledges, "Never Again." He once more stops to consider words, the ones he worries lack true conviction like those at the church as well as the ones with the power to heal. For the listener, the words of Paul Rusesabagina won't soon be forgotten.

Babs says: "A compelling read. A reminder of the horrors that have happened in our lifetimes. It's really unfathomable."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

In fiction, Babs recommends . . .

The following, in no particular order, are some of the books I have thoroughly enjoyed since January 2005. :^)

Tales of the City (series of 6 books) by Armistead Maupin

Publisher's Weekly: Maupin's alternately playful and sentimental tales depict an all-too-easily satirized population of transients and toffs living in and around San Francisco

Babs says: "These books are set in SF in the late 70s-early 80s - a very interesting time in that city's history in my opinion. The story started off as a newspaper serial and a couple of years later was published as a book and it went on from there. I raced through these books. I may have enjoyed them because I was living in the Bay Area at the time. There is an entertaining cast of characters (gay and straight) surrounding the main character- MaryAnn Singleton. I also rented and enjoyed the PBS series after I read all of the books."

On June 12, Michael Tolliver Lives! will be released in hardback, and I will definitely be reading it.

Remaining books in series: More Tales of the City; Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore While the Bible may be the word of God, transcribed by divinely inspired men, it does not provide a full (or even partial) account of the life of Jesus Christ. Lucky for us that Christopher Moore presents a funny, lighthearted satire of the life of Christ--from his childhood days up to his crucifixion--in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. This clever novel is surely blasphemy to some, but to others it's a coming-of-age story of the highest order.

Publishers Weekly: A childhood pal of the savior is brought back from the dead to fill in the missing 30-year "gap" in the Gospels in Moore's latest, an over-the-top festival of sophomoric humor that stretches a very thin though entertaining conceit far past the breaking point. The action starts in modern America, specifically in a room at the Hyatt in St. Louis, where the angel who shepherds "Levi who is called Biff" has to put Christ's outrageous sidekick under de facto house arrest to get him to complete his task.

Babs says: "This will go down as one of my FAVORITE books of all time! It is just too, too hilarious, and very interesting, in my opinion. I was raised Protestant. I would say I am "lapsed" now, but I did not find this book at all blasphemous or offensive. I mean it IS fiction. I really appreciated the Buddhist and Hindu sub-plots. I'm always hoping for people to take a wider view of Jesus (one I like to think that he, himself would appreciate) and his place in our world."

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut Timequake's a mongrel; it is half novel, half memoir, the project of a decade's worth of writer's block, a book "that didn't want to be written." The premise is standard-issue Vonnegut: "...a timequake, a sudden glitch in the space-time continuum, made everybody and everything do exactly what they'd done during past decades, for good or ill, a second time..." Simultaneously, the author's favorite tricks are on display--frequent visits with the shopworn science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, a Hitchcockian appearance by the author at the book's end, and frequent authorial opining on love, war, and society.

Babs says: "It was the new Vonnegut, and a good friend recommended it."

Own? Yes.

Against Gravity by Farnoosh Moshiri
Publishers Weekly: Iranian-born Moshiri's poignant, semiautobiographical third novel (after 2003's The Bathhouse) carefully observes the effects of loss on three people in 1980s Houston. Ric Cardinal is a devoted social worker; his former client, Madison Kirby, is a bitter former philosophy professor stricken by AIDS; Madison's neighbor, Roya, is an Iranian political refugee with a young daughter. Each protagonist narrates a story, and it is Roya's tale, which bears some resemblance to Moshiri's own, that most compels. While the other two fall prey to such utterances as Madison's upon meeting Roya for the first time ("Something stirred in my guts again and I wanted her the way I'd never wanted a female in my life") and are either sinner (Madison) or saint (Ric), Roya simmers with complexity and nuance. As Ric tries to counsel the increasingly difficult Madison and contend with his own schizophrenic teenage son, Roya recounts her days of wandering through the Middle East ("I didn't mention my dark thoughts—despair, dread of the unknown future, and the constant presence of death, real or imagined, in my dreams and wakefulness. Madness at times''). Her unlikely journey to Houston proves just as alienating, and Moshiri deftly conveys Roya's plight—and ultimately her courage—which are the novel's greatest strengths

Babs says: "I like to make a point of reading authors that round out all of the white anglo-saxon male authors I read. As I recall, either Bookmarks magazine or Bookbrowse recommended it."

Own? Yes

Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliott Perlman
Publishers Weekly: By copping the title of William Empson's classic of literary criticism, Australian writer Perlman (Three Dollars) sets a high bar for himself, but he justifies his theft with a relentlessly driven story, told from seven perspectives, about the effects of the brief abduction of six-year-old Sam Geraghty by Simon Heywood, his mother Anna's ex-boyfriend. Charismatic, unemployed Simon is still obsessed with Anna nine years after their breakup—to the dismay of his present lover, Angelique, a prostitute. Anna's stockbroker husband, Joe, is one of Angelique's regulars, which feeds Simon's flame. When Angelique turns Simon in to the cops, he claims he had permission to pick Sam up; his fate hinges on whether Anna will back up his lie. Most of the perspectives are linked to Simon's shrink, Alex Klima, who writes to Anna and counsels Simon, Angelique and Joe's co-worker, Dennis. The most successful voices belong to Joe, who's spent his career on the edge of panic, and Dennis, whose bitter rants provide a corrective to Klima's unctuous psychological omniscience. Perlman, a lawyer, aims for a literary legal novel—think Grisham by way of Franzen—and the ambition is admirable though the product somewhat uneven. Simon's obsessions, his self-righteousness and his psychological blackmail, give him a perhaps unintended creepiness, and the novel, as big and juicy as it is, may not offer sufficient closure.

Babs says: "I read this book in May 2006, but it is starred in my list of books as having enjoyed it. SO, I can't say that its alleged unevenness or its possible insufficient closure dampened it for me. I really enjoyed the structure of the book and I would agree with the statement that it was "big and juicy"!"

Own? Yes

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day

Babs says: "If you liked Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, then this book is one for you. It deals with some interesting ethical issues about the value of human life. Ishiguro writes wonderfully!"

Own? Yes

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks
Publishers Weekly: Twelve Hawks's much anticipated novel is powerful, mainstream fiction built on a foundation of cutting-edge technology laced with fantasy and the chilling specter of an all-too-possible social and political reality. The time is roughly the present, and the U.S. is part of the Vast Machine, a society overseen by the Tabula, a secret organization bent on establishing a perfectly controlled populace. Allied against the Tabula are the Travelers and their sword-carrying protectors, the Harlequins. The Travelers, now almost extinct, can project their spirit into other worlds where they receive wisdom to bring back to earth—wisdom that threatens the Tabula's power. Maya, a reluctant Harlequin, finds herself compelled to protect two naïve Travelers, Michael and Gabriel Corrigan. Michael dabbles in shady real estate deals, while Gabriel prefers to live "off the Grid," eschewing any documentation—credit cards, bank accounts—that the Vast Machine could use to track him. Because the Tabula has engineered a way to use the Travelers for its own purposes, Maya must not only keep the brothers alive, but out of the hands of these evil puppet-masters. She succeeds, but she also fails, and therein lies the tale. By the end of this exciting volume, the first in a trilogy, the stage is set for a world-rending clash between good and evil.

Babs says: "This book is not one I would usually read, but I just found the topic appealing - and the author's name intrigued me. And I admit, I patted myself on the back for supporting a Native American author. I have since learned John Twelve Hawks is a pseudonym and his publishers provide no information about him other than he lives "off the grid."

Own? Yes

Windflower by Nick Bantock
Booklist: In Griffin and Sabine creator Bantock's latest mix of story and art, Ana, a spirited young woman with a passion for dance, awakens on the morning of her wedding with a sense of dread. She is betrothed to Marco, and the wedding will mean that Ana's people, the Capolan, will abandon their nomadic ways and settle in a lush valley. Both Ana and her grandfather believe doing so would be a mistake, and when a storm breaks out during the wedding, she decides to run away and seek Felix Bulerias, the famed dance instructor her grandfather believes can help her convince the Capolans that the wedding plans are a mistake. Ana journeys to the town of Sedona, where she meets four very different men: the seductive Boreos, the dreamy Zephyr, the wise Mr. Hamattan, and the heroic Sirocco. Ana is drawn to all four for different reasons, but she gradually discovers their motives for befriending her are suspect. With lush, rich writing and beautiful illustrations on each page, Bantock and coauthor Ponti weave a mythological tale.

Babs says: "I bought this book because it is beautiful - physically beautiful. I enjoyed the Griffin and Sabine series for its unusual presentatio as well as its content, so I thought I would give this book a try. Glad I did!"

Own? Yes