Friday, April 30, 2010

Currently reading

 Just finished "the girl she used to be" by David Cristofano. The review will be up in the next few days. Since I've finished another book, now my attention will turn to "true colors" by Kristin Hannah and "the darkest child" by Delores Phillips.

My take on: New England White

During one of my many, many, many unnecessary trips to Borders, I came across “New England White.” I think the shiny book cover attracted my attention before the subject matter – a murder mystery in the town of Elm Harbor. Hmmm!!! I hadn’t read a mystery novel in years, and thought “why not?”

Lemaster Carlyle, the African-American president of a top divinity school, and his wife Julia are on their way home from a dinner party. Driving in a blizzard, the couple skids off the road where they discover a dead body. Both of them realize they know this person --- Kellen Zant, a colleague who also works at the university. Zant also happened to be a former paramour of Julia’s. All of this juicy information in the first few chapters grabbed my attention. But somewhere along the way Carter lost me.

Clues to the murder are given out ever so slowly. Even the Carlyle’s troubled daughter, Vanessa, gets drawn into the plot. Zant was investigating a murder from years ago. Zant realized his demise was in the making and left clues for Julia to find. The clues were more like puzzle pieces to me, 1000 puzzle pieces that added up to nothing. I say that because it takes 617 pages to solve the mystery. I have nothing against long books, I actually like them as long as they’re engaging. Carter just takes too long to unravel the mystery. The first 100 pages and the final 100 pages did grab me, but many times along the way I thought about giving up. It took me six months to finish this one!! And that has more to do with the writer than my reading habits because I managed to finish four additional books in that time span. But once I start a book I have to finish. Carter’s writing style seems more intellectual, rather than a straight forward mystery novel. I think that has to do with Carter being a lawyer by trade.

While I didn’t particularly care for “New England White,” I’m not giving up on Carter. His first novel, “The Emperor of Ocean Park” is on my list. Why???? The Emperor of Ocean Park is just as long, but I’m hoping it’s better than my first go round with Carter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reading habits

    I'm about twenty pages from finishing "the girl she used to be," and I suddenly I had a thought. When I read a book it usually has to be very quiet. Or the music has to be very low. Even if I have music on while I'm reading it can't be loud, window shattering music. For instance I could never concentrate on the book while listening to "Welcome to the Jungle." Kenny G or any kind of slow jazz is more my speed. Even if the TV is on mute I can easily get distracted by the latest hot topic on Oprah !!! How about everyone else? What kind of atmosphere do you need to enjoy a book?

My take on: Between, Georgia

I don’t know about everyone else, but if I like one book by a certain author I’m certain to go back for more. At the end of God’s in Alabama there’s a teaser to Joshilyn Jackson’s second novel Between, Georgia. Ms. Jackson got me again.

Nonny Frett came into the world amid turmoil. Her birth mother Hazel Crabtree literally gave her up to the Frett family after giving birth in their living room. Ever since she has been caught between two dueling families. The Fretts and the seemingly crazy Crabtrees control the small town of Between, Georgia.

Nonny Frett is raised by her mother Stacia, who is deaf and blind, and her aunt Genny, who is teetering on the edge of insanity. When the granddame of the Crabtree family, the crazy alcoholic Ona, finds out she has a granddaughter there is no peace between the two families. Nonny visits Ona as a young child, but the kibosh is quickly put on that. Ever since Nonny’s aunt Bernese, the head of the Frett family, and Ona trade deadly looks in town. At a moment’s notice Ona can call on her crazy relatives to terrorize the Frett family or better yet sic her dog “The Bitch” (that’s not me using colorful language that is how the dog is referred to in the book!) on Genny.

The first chance she gets, Nonny uses her college degree to get out of town. It leads to a career as a sign language interpreter. A failed marriage to the complicated Jonno follows. But if you can’t guess already the turmoil between the two families constantly draws her back home. Everything soon comes to a head for Nonny. Her impending divorce and a family crisis cause Nonny to finally decide what she wants in life.

If you haven’t noticed I tend to like books that involve some kind of family strife. I’ve got no answers on that. I can relate more to family matters than the latest sci-fi novel, which I will read some day. The subject matter of Between, Georgia might sound overly dramatic, serious, but Jackson does it with spot-on humor. She explores what it truly means have family and a sense of belonging. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's happening

Two authors connected me to review their books!!! Lois Greiman and Pola Muzyka!! Pinch me. I thought I would have to wait at least a month or two before I graduated to that stage. I guess it helps to be a member of a book blog forum because as I type this I just got e-mails from two more authors.

My take on: The Help

This book was taunting me for weeks, “BUY ME! BUY ME!” I read about it online, I read the book jacket. I thought I can’t wait to read this. There was just one hitch, The Help is still in hardcover. I rarely buy hardcovers unless they are deeply discounted. I always wait for the paperback because it is so much cheaper. I saw the hardcover for 30% off at Borders, and kept saying in my head, “Resist temptation! Resist temptation!” I did resist, but that same day at Target I saw that book for 30% off and other books deeply discounted. Needless to say, I went into Target for lotion and came out with lotion and four more books, including The Help!!! I don’t know about the rest of you but it is very hard to pass up books.

The Help takes place in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s told from three different points of view. Aibileen is a wise black maid, helping raise yet another white child. Minny is her wise-cracking friend, who is also a maid. Minny’s mouth has gotten her in trouble more times than she can count. Now both of them take a huge risk to help a white woman, Skeeter Phelan, with a seemingly impossible task – let the world know what it’s really like to live and work during the civil rights era.

Aibileen works for Elizabeth Leefolt, cooking, cleaning and serving as a surrogate mother to her daughter Mae Mobley. She bites back her tongue as Miss Leefolt and her friend Hilly Holbrook talk about race relations in Jackson. Miss Hilly is one of those people who believed black people were oozing with diseases. It’s Miss Hilly who convinces Miss Leefolt to build a separate bathroom in the garage for Aibileen, so she can’t infect the Leefolt family.

After being blackballed by Miss Hilly, Minny finally has a new job as a maid for the seemingly crazy Miss Celia. Minny works under secrecy because Celia would rather let her husband, Johnny, believe that all she’s doing all of the cooking and cleaning. It leads to some rather hilarious episodes. When they think their shenanigans are about to be discovered by Johnny’s early return home from work, Minny is reduced to hiding in the bathroom. As Minny put it, “My eyes grow sharper in the dark. After a minute I see myself in the mirror over the sink. Crouched like a fool on top of white lady’s toilet. Look at me. Look what it’s come to for Minny Jackson to make a damn living.”

Skeeter is returning home after graduating from college. Despite a degree, Skeeter isn’t sure what the future holds for. Her mother wants Skeeter to fix her wild hair, get some better clothes, and most important – get married. Marriage is one of the ultimate status symbols in the social circle at the time. Unsure of what to do, Skeeter would normally turn to her beloved childhood maid Constantine. But Constantine is gone, and no one will tell Skeeter why. Struggling to find her place, Skeeter fights in secret against the racist initiatives her friends Hilly and Elizabeth want to put into action. This fight leads her to Aibileen, Minny and others like them to expose the hypocrisy going on in Jackson, Mississippi.

I was a little skeptical at how Kathryn Stockett – a white woman – could make material like this believable. I read her author’s note at the end before I actually read the book. Stockett is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and she admits she's not an expert on race relations. She admits to growing up with a maid, whom she loved like family. That fact does give her some perspective on the maid/child relationship. Despite my reservations, Stockett succeeds in making the material believable. After the first couple of pages, I forgot all about the author herself and focused on the story. Every couple of chapters is told from the point of view of Aibileen, Minny or Skeeter. Stockett does a great job of making sure their voices, mannerisms and personalities are all different, as they all struggle with the same problem – finding their place or purpose in the world.

Fingers crossed

I tossed my name into the hat to attend the Book Blogger Convention next month in NYC. I heard about this event a little late, registration has been open for months. Keeping my fingers crossed!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Currently reading

Reviews of The Help, Between Georgia and New England White are in the works. The first five book reviews I will be posting are books I've read in the last two and a half months. I'm currently reading "the girl she used to be" by David Cristofano and "True Colors" by Kristin Hannah. I'm about 100 pages into reading "True Colors" and 130 pages into "the girl she used to be." I have to admit Cristofano is getting more of my attention right now. The story is just too good to put down right now. True Colors is equally engaging, but Cristofano has sucked me in a little bit more!! Happy reading every one!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

My take on: gods in Alabama

Arlene Fleet made a deal with God, she vowed never to return to Possett, Alabama. After graduating high school in 1987, Arlene left her hometown on the hopes that God would keep her secret. She vowed to stop lying. To stop messing around with boys, all in hopes of God keeping her safe from her deadly secret. For ten years she’s been avoiding her friends and family. But now, her past shows up on her Chicago doorstep.

To make matters worse, Arlene’s African-American boyfriend Burr wants to meet her conservative white family. Her stern Aunt Florence has been trying for years to get Arlene to come back. According to Aunt Florence, Arlene’s mother has been on her death bed for nine years. Her mother is borderline crazy and her “good girl” cousin Clarice did all the right things, got married and had children.

At age 15, Arlene’s life changed forever when she killed Jim Beverly her sophomore year in high school. Back then Arlene was a wild promiscuous teenager, but after that tumultuous night she made her deal with God. The deal is now off. Now living in Chicago, a friend from Arlene’s past starts asking questions. Questions that could destroy her life. After ten years of running, Arlene must now go home and face her past.

I came to his book purely by accident. I was looking for some books to add to my shelf. At the time it had been so long since I read a book. I was getting mad at myself for getting away from reading. I let my job and the TV get in the way of my love of reading. So I just did a basic search under women’s fiction on Barnes and After sifting through pages and pages of books I read the summary for Gods in Alabama. Usually if the summary sounds interesting and there are good reader comments on the book, I buy it. I found Jackson’s writing very straight forward and full of sassy humor. It’s one of those books that can be read in a day, but I’ll admit it took me about two weeks. Why? I let myself get distracted by the world of Jack Bauer and how the passengers of Oceanic 815 will get rescued. I made a promise to rededicate myself to love of reading. Hopefully you all can help me with that!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My take on: The Glass Castle

After being disappointed by another memoir, which shall remain nameless, I was intrigued by the Glass Castle. Within the first two chapters, Jeannette Walls pulls you into her dysfunctional world.

One of Jeannette Walls’ first memories was boiling hot dogs on the stove, at the tender age of three. Before she knew it, Jeannette was in the hospital suffering from burns to her right side. Even then a young Jeannette had to learn to be resilient. Walls and her three siblings lived as nomads under the guise of their complicated parents Rose Mary and Rex. Rose Mary Walls preferred to be a free spirit, choosing to explore her artistic side sometimes at the expense of her starving children. Rex Walls was a dreamer who did all he could to get his children to live as fearless as he did. It worked when they were young, Jeannette was his biggest defender. He filled his children’s heads with dreams of finding gold that would make the family rich. But alcohol would quickly change Rex Walls from a charismatic dreamer to a fall down drunk. As Jeannette, Lori, Brian and Maureen got older they learned to rely on each other. Brian and Jeannette often teamed together to combat the neighborhood bullies. When food was scarce the Walls children got creative. From eating margarine to pulling half-eaten food from the garbage. On the rare occasions their parents were employed money was still hard to come by. Rex would rather donate money to the local bar or toss money at an unattainable dream – building the Glass Castle, a grand home he hoped his family would one day live in. Rose Mary would waste money on art supplies and books. All the while the Walls children went to school hungry in dirty clothes.

After zigzagging across the country from the deserts of California, to the deserts of Phoenix and Battle Mountain, Nevada the Walls finally settled to the house on Little Hobart street in Welch, West Virginia. It’s here where the Walls children start building their own dreams. Dreams of moving to New York and starting anew. Rex Walls did his best to sabotage those dreams, including stealing their money, but his children fought hard and made lives for themselves. Jeannette became a successful journalist, Brian a cop and Lori an artist. Maureen struggled but ultimately broke free of her parents.

For months I saw this book in the display case at Borders. I finally read the book jacket and thought this is worth a try. Generally, I avoided memoirs because I’ve become so engrained in reading fiction. But, The Glass Castle is one of those books that truly makes you appreciate what you have. When Rex Walls steals money from his children to prevent them from leaving, I got angry at a person I didn't know. I couldn't fathom how a parent would intentionally sabotage his own children. There is such an ease to Jeannette Walls' writing. You don’t feel like this is something she made up, you can feel her pain and embarrassment as she went through life.

To e-read or to not e-read???

Barnes and Noble Nook

Sony e-readersiPad

Amazon Kindle

     Going to a book store is always a great joy for me. Looking through the stacks to find a book I've never read. I can lose hours on end in a bookstore, and that would all go away the day I buy an e-reader. They're a marvel of morden invention, but I feel reading was already a simple task that didn't need to change. There are some benefits to owning one, so lets explore!!

     The No. 1 thing all e-readers have going for them is they save you space!!! My room is cluttered with space. The Nook uses 3G wireless technology and WiFi to dowload books, and can store up to 1,500 books. Kindle also uses 3G, depending on which one you buy it can store 1,500-3,500 books. The iPad uses 3G and WiFi, but since it's a cross between smartphone and mini laptop the amount of storage is anyone's guess. The Sony Reader Daily Edition uses 3G, while other Sony products have to contect to a computer to download. Suppose one day there is a system overload or the product just stops working all together??? What then? It just seems easier to reach in a bookshelf.
     It certainly sounds tempting to buy one. If I were going on a long vacation I can understand the temptation of having hundreds of books at my fingertips. But the one thing stopping me is COST!!! Kindle can range from $250-$489. The Nook is around $260. Sony e-readers vary from $174-$399. For the moment the iPad STARTS at $499. I'm sure the iPad cost will go down once the craze is over.
     The iPad and Amazon Kindle DX lead the way in screen size at 9.7 inches. The rest range in size from 5-9 inches. The Nook and Kindle boast that there is no glare from there screens. The iPad and Sony Reader Daily Edition can read in portrait or landscape (that's vertical or horizontal if you're drawing a blank) view. That's a plus since the landscape view makes it seem like you're reading a real book.
     All of them allow you to adjust the text size. For a person with poor eyesight, like myself, that is a plus. Without my glasses or contacts the book has to be right up against my nose!!!!
     Battery life varies on all of them. It can range from hours, to a week or 10 days. What if you're stuck in a place where you can't charge?? Hmmm!! Imagine you're reading a mystery novel and you are 20 pages from finding out the killer and what happens "LOW BATTERY !!!! LOW BATTERY!!!" You rush to try and finish the final pages, you're two pages away from solving the mystery and what happens ..... The screen goes dark!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Call me crazy, but you will never have to make sure the hard copy of the book is charged before you leave the house!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Up, up and away!!!

     This is just a guess, but it's probably not a good idea to start a blog at 3:48am!! But I just wanted to get started.  Coming soon will be my thoughts on the latest toys of the moment. The iPad, Kindle and nook. Call me crazy but I don't think technology could ever take the place of a book.
     It will take me some time to work the kinks out. I will be learning as I go. In the coming days I will have reviews on The Glass Castle, The Help, God's in Alabama, Between Georgia and New England White. One of my main goals with this blog will be to get through the 60+ books I've bought in the last year!! Hopefully I will make it.
     Until then good night!!