July 31, 2008


Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Translated from the Japanese by Megan Backus
Japanese Literature
1988 Washington Square Press
Finished on 7/30/08
Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it's a kitchen, if it's a place where they make food, it's fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!).

Product Description

With the publication of Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature. Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart.

In a whimsical style that recalls the early Marguerite Duras, "Kitchen" and its companion story, "Moonlight Shadow," are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a very special writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.

Bellezza loved this book and after reading her review, I thought I would, too. I was so surprised when she sent me a copy and I couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately, it pains me to say that it just wasn't my cuppa tea. It was full of so much loneliness and hopelessness, that I struggled to continue reading to the end. I kept thinking I just needed to give it more time, but I found myself plodding along simply because my good friend was kind enough to send me the book.

I guess it's a case of "vanilla versus chocolate." I know Bellezza and I have quite a lot in common, but I'll bet she's a lover of chocolate ice cream. Personally, I prefer vanilla.

I would be very happy to pass on the kindness I was shown and send this to someone who thinks they might enjoy it. Just leave a comment by Wednesday night and I'll draw a name from the hat.

For further reading, go here for an interview with Banana Yoshimoto.

July 28, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Update: I decided to re-read this charming novel in preparation for watching the newly released movie. I finished the book on August 12, 2018 and thought it was just as good as when I first read it in 2008. I love it when that happens!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Contemporary Fiction - Epistolary
2008 The Dial Press
Finished on 7/23/08
Rating: 4.75/5 (Fabulous!)
ARC - Release date of July 29th

“Here's who will love this book—anyone who nods in profound agreement with the statement,'Reading keeps you from going gaga.' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delight. Tart, insightful and fun.”—Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow, A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day.

Publisher's Blurb:

"...I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she'd never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupations has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

The minute I read the above blurb, I knew this was my kind of book. I love epistolary works (84, Charing Cross Road is one of my all-time favorites!) and I love books set during (and post) World War II. I was immediately drawn into Juliet's story and found myself reading late into the night, savoring each letter, dreading the impending finale as it drew near.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful book and a joy to read! I chuckled to myself on several occasions, felt a gentle tug at my heartstrings toward the end of the story, and had a strong desire to book a flight to the island for a month-long getaway! It didn't take long to realize that this entertaining novel will be among my Top Ten for 2008 and one I'll enjoy recommending to friends, family and customers at work.

On booksellers...

I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers—booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no proprietor in his right mind would want to own one—the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it—along with first dibs on the new books.

On literary societies...

None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we'd read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another. Other Islanders asked to join us, and our evenings together became bright, lively times—we could almost forget, now and then, the darkness outside. We still meet every fortnight.

On the Occupation...

Due to your kind offices, I have received lovely, long letters from Mrs. Maugery and Isola Pribby. I hadn't realized that the Germans permitted no outside news at all, not even letters, to reach Guernsey. It surprised me so much. It shouldn't have—I knew the Channel Islands had been occupied, but I never, not once, thought what that might have entailed. Willful ignorance is all I can call it. So, I am off to the London Library to educate myself. The library suffered terrible bomb damage, but the floors are safe to walk on again, all the books that could be saved are back on the shelf, and I know they have collected all the Times from 1900 to—yesterday. I shall study up on the Occupation.

On the evacuation of the children...

Eli left Guernsey on 20th June, along with the thousands of babies and schoolchildren who were evacuated to England. We knew the Germans were coming and Jane worried for his safety here. The doctor would not let Jane sail with them, the baby's birth being so close.

Eli did not come back until the war was over—and they did send all the children home at once. That was a day! More wonderful even than when the British soldiers came to liberate Guernsey. Eli, he was the first boy down the gangway—he'd grown long legs in five years—and I don't think I could have left off hugging him to me, if Isola hadn't pushed me a bit so she could hug him herself.

On the island and slave labor...

My greatest pleasure has been in resuming my evening walks along the cliff tops. The Channel is no longer framed in rolls of barbed wire, the view is unbroken by huge VERBOTEN signs. The mines are gone from our beaches, and I can walk when, where, and for as long as I like. If I stand on the cliffs and turn out to face the sea, I don't see the ugly cement bunkers behind me, or the land naked without its trees. Not even the Germans could ruin the sea.

This summer the gorse will begin to grow around the fortifications, and by next year, perhaps vines will creep all over them. I hope they are soon covered. For all I can look away, I will never be able to forget how they were made.

The Todt workers built them. I know you have heard of Germany's slave workers in camps on the continent, but did you know that Hitler sent over sixteen thousand of them here, to the Channel Islands?

Hitler was fanatic about fortifying these islands—England was never to get them back! His generals called it Island Madness. He ordered large-gun emplacements, anti-tank walls on the beaches, hundreds of bunkers and batteries, arms and bomb depots, miles and miles of underground tunnels, a huge underground hospital, and a railroad to cross the island to carry materials. The coastal fortifications were absurd—the Channel Isles were better fortified than the Atlantic Wall built against an Allied invasion. The installations jutted out over every bay. The Third Reich was to last one thousand years—in concrete.

On cooking...

I had a small supper party for him—cooked by me alone, and edible too. Will Thisbee gave me The Beginner's Cook-Book for Girl Guides. It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and writes useful hints—"When adding eggs, break the shells first."

Epistolary novels bring a sense of intimacy to the reader, and the Guernsey characters and location are so nicely drawn, I felt a bit sad, as though I were saying goodbye to a group of new friends as I finished the final page of this fabulous book. I was also saddened to learn that Mary Ann Shaffer died in February at the age of 73. What a shame that she didn't live long enough to see her first published novel. I hope her niece (and co-author), Annie Barrows, continues to write, possibly with a follow-up to this wonderful story. It was a joy to read and one I'll return to in the coming years.

I have a feeling this book will not only be quite popular with book groups, but it's also the sort that is sure to be passed around among friends and co-workers.

Cornflower claims, Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an utter joy of a book, beautifully judged, witty, lively, almost Mitfordesque at times, sparky, extremely touching, and I can't recommend it highly enough. To read her complete review, go here.

You can find The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society website here.

Sunday Paddle

I can't believe it's almost August! Bookfool is already talking about school starting in a week and I've just taken my kayak out on the lake for the FIRST time this summer. The weather has just been so uncooperative (lots of thunderstorms). Plus, we've been busy fishing, biking, swimming, entertaining friends (which means cleaning the house!), or pulling weeds. But it finally happened yesterday. The weather was perfect (not too hot, not too windy, and most importantly, no lightning), so we headed over to Holmes Lake and I spent a lovely hour paddling around, wishing I had remembered to bring my camera. Lucky for you, I have several pictures from last summer that will give a sense of what I saw on Sunday. I hope to get out again later this week while my husband is fishing, so maybe I'll have more pictures to share in the coming days.

July 24, 2008

Thursday Thirteen (Photo Essay)

Doing my part to go green!

I've had this Trek 800 since 1985! It's traveled up and down Highway 101 between Carlsbad and Del Mar (CA), out to Fiesta Island from Kearney Mesa (CA), around Fort Worth, Texas (not too often since it was far too hot to ride!) and on many of Lincoln's wonderful bike trails. And now it's my current mode of transportation to work (weather permitting). I can make it to work (roughly 4.5 miles on the bike path) in just about 25 minutes. When I drive (3.5 miles), it takes me about 10-12 minutes, depending on the traffic and signals.

This is the view from the top of the hill on my street,
heading down toward the bike path.
It's a nice coast down to the bottom of the street,
but it's the last stretch when I'm coming home
and it's enough to make my heart pound.

Rock Island Trail

Highway 2 and 27th Street

Fellow commuters, stopping for their breakfast treats.

Make way for ducklings.

Merging traffic.

Williamsburg Lake

Look, Ma! No gas.

I love my new mode of transportation! It's so peaceful in the morning. The only sound I hear is the wind rushing past my helmet and birds chirping. No iPod for this ride. I prefer the quiet in the morning. There aren't too many people out on the trail at 6:15 am. Maybe a half-dozen cyclists, a few walkers and the occasional jogger. It's much busier on the weekends! I'm not sure how late in the year I'll be able to ride, but I'm already looking forward to cooler temps this fall!

Thanks to Sandy & Rick, I was inspired to start biking to work. They enjoy weekend rides, in addition to their daily ride to work. Thanks, guys, for the fun ride this past weekend. I had a blast!

When the spirits are low,
when the day appears dark,
when work becomes monotonous,
when hope hardly seems worth having,
just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road,
without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.
-- (Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes),
in the January 18, 1896 issue of Scientific American Magazine

July 21, 2008

Win This Quilt

I don't usually go so far off-topic with contest announcements, but this quilt is too beautiful to miss out on!! Go here to enter the contest. Good luck! (But not too much, as I want it!!)

July 20, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction - Current Affairs
2006 Penguin Books
Finished on 7/14/08
Rating: 2.5/5 (Average)

"If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else," Mortenson argued to Parade's readers, "then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs."

Publisher's Blurb:

In 1993 a mountaineer named Greg Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Moved by the inhabitants' kindness, he promised to return and build a school. Three Cups of Tea is a story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools -- especially for girls -- in the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.

I received this this book for my birthday last year and was excited when my face-to-face book group chose it for this month's selection. The friend who gave me the book loved it, so I couldn't wait for the opportunity to dive in. Well, as you can see from my rating, I can't say I share her enthusiasm for the book. Not only that, but from what I've heard from some of the women in my book group, it hasn't been their favorite either. I wouldn't be surprised if only a few of us actually finish it, which is a shame, since the last third is really the most interesting. I'm not sure where the problem with the book lies, whether it's my history/political/geographical ineptitude (thank goodness the authors provided two maps at the front of the book!), specifically pertaining to the Middle East region and the conflicts between various tribes and sects, or a lackluster writing style that failed to draw me into Mortenson's story.

And, yes, in spite of my overall reaction to the book, it's a marvelous story. As I finished the book, I realized I was glad to have read it, but what a shame it lacks any literary finesse. From the very first chapter, I found myself nodding off, quickly flipping to the table of contents to figure out how many chapters I'd need to read each night in order to finish in time for the book group discussion. I plodded along, marking pages with sticky notes (over two dozen), hoping that I wasn't the only member in the group struggling through the book. I enjoy reading nonfiction, as it never fails to teach me something, but at the same time it can be intimidating and can sometimes (especially when history and politics are involved) make me feel like a complete idiot.

So, I came away from this reading experience with a little more knowledge about the conflicts in the Middle East than I had going in, but I certainly wouldn't want to be quizzed on any of that information! I have a strong admiration for Greg Mortenson and all he's done as a humanitarian. His passion to help educate the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan is truly heroic. And I don't use this term loosely. The man sacrificed years with his wife and children, traveling alone to Pakistan at least 27 times for months at a time, taking only a meager annual salary of $28,000. But it wasn't just the financial burden and time away from family: Mortenson was kidnapped, probably by mujahadeen, and held captive for six days. He was also caught in the crossfire of a turf war between opium smugglers. I'd like to see a sports hero try to do accomplish all Mortenson has done, while facing life-and-death obstacles such as these. If you still aren't sure of his heroic worthiness, just take a look at all the awards he's won:

Humanitarian Awards:

1975 US Army Commendation medal
1998 American Alpine Club David Brower Conservation Award
2002 Peacemaker Award from Montana Community Mediation Center
2003 Climbing Magazine "Golden Piton Award" for humanitarian effort
2003 Vincent Lombardi Champion Award for humanitarian service
2003 Peacemaker of the Year" Benedictine Monks, Santa Fe , NM
2003 Outdoor Person of the Year - Outdoor Magazine
2003 Salzburg Seminar fellow, sponsored by Microsoft "Closing Gender Gap with Education"
2004 Freedom Forum "Free Spirit Award" - National Press Club, DC
2004 Jeanette Rankin Peace Award - Institute for Peace
2004 e-Town Achievement Award – NPR radio (Boulder 12/2004)
2005 Men's Journal 'Anti-Terror' Award by Senator John McCain
2005 Red Cross “Humanitarian of The Year” Montana
2006 University of South Dakota Alumni Achievement Award (Graduation Commencement Speaker)
2006 Golden Fleur-de-lis Award from Comune Firenze , Italy
2007 Medical Education Hall of Fame Award, Toledo , Ohio
2007 Brookdale Community College (NJ) - Global Humanitarian Award (Feb)
2007 Rotary International - Paul Harris Award
2007 Mountain Institute - Award for Excellence in Mountain Communities
2007 The Dayton Literary Peace Prize
2007 Kiriyama Award - Nonfiction book contributing to Pacific Rim peace and awareness
2007 Mountain Institute - Excellence in Mountain Community Service Award (Nov)
2008 Citizen Center for Diplomacy - National Award for Citizen Diplomacy
2008 Courage of Conscience Award
2008 Graven Award - Wartburg College, IA
2008 National Award for Citizen Diplomacy - Citizen Center for Diplomacy
2009 Academy of Achievement Award

Mortenson doesn't just build schools. He has also created Women's Vocational Centers, as well as working to bring clean water to the villages. It came as no surprise to read that Mother Teresa was one of his heroes.

I can't write about the wonderful aid Mortenson has provided without mentioning another hero, whom I happen to know personally. My uncle has been helping Guatemalan refugees in Belize for at least the past ten years. He has helped them build a complete village (Selena): church, school, houses, cook house, laundry and latrines. He and my aunt live in Southern California and during the summer they'll sit in the church parking lot on busy weekends and holidays and rent parking spaces to beach-goers to raise money for the Belize project*. They take people from their church and other churches down to help with the building, but my uncle will often go down on his own. He has built a soccer field, and this last trip in May took a big suitcase filled with soccer uniforms. They leave the suitcases there for the people to use as dressers.

It's people like Mortenson and my Uncle Brian that make me wonder what I've been doing for the past 46 years!

Mortenson lingered at the new dispensary, where Zuudkhan village's first health care worker had just returned from the six months of training 150 kilometers downside at the Bulmit Medical Clinic CAI had arranged for her. Aziza Hussain, twenty-eight, beamed as she displayed the medical supplies in the room CAI funds had paid to have added on to her home. Balancing her infant son on her lap, while her five-year-old daughter clung to her neck, she proudly pointed out the cases containing antibiotics, cough syrup, and rehydration salts that CAI donations had bought.

With the nearest medical facility two days' drive down often impassible jeep tracks, illness in Zuudkhan could quickly turn to crisis. In the year before Aziza took charge of her village's health, three women had died during the delivery of their children. "Also, many people died from the diarrhea," Aziza says. "After I got my training and Dr. Greg provided the medicines, we were able to control these things."

"After five years, with good water from the new pipes, and teaching the people how to clean their children, and use clean food, not a single person has died here from these problems. It's my great interest to continue to develop myself in this field," Aziza says. "And pass on my training to other women. Now that we have made such progress, not a single person in this area believes women should not be educated."

"Your money buys a lot in the hands of Greg Mortenson," McCown says. "I come from a world where corporations throw millions of dollars at problems and often nothing happens. For the price of a cheap car, he was able to turn all these people's lives around."

The women and children weren't the only ones learning valuable lessons:

When the porcelain bowls of scalding butter tea steamed in their hands, Haji Ali spoke. "If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways," Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die," he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. "Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time."

That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life," Mortenson says. "We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their 'shock and awe' campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."

I found the following quotes from one of Mortenson's speeches especially powerful:

"I supported the war in Afghanistan," Mortenson said after he introduced himself. "I believed in it because I believed we were serious when we said we planned to rebuild Afghanistan. I'm here because I know that military victory is only the first phase of winning the war on terror and I'm afraid we're not willing to take the next steps."

I'm no military expert," Mortenson said, "And these figures might not be exactly right. But as best as I can tell, we've launched 114 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Afghanistan so far. Now take the cost of one of those missiles tipped with a Raytheon guidance system, which I think is about $840,000. For that much money, you could build dozens of schools that could provide tens of thousands of students with a balanced nonextremist education of the course of a generation. Which do you think will make us more secure?"

This may not be a great work of literature, but it's an incredibly inspiring book. Thirteen-year-old Jake Greenberg of Philadelphia was just one of many inspired by Mortenson's efforts, after reading Parade magazine's April 6, 2003 cover story:

...was so fired up by reading about Mortenson's work that he donated more than one thousand dollars of his bar mitzvah money to the CAI and volunteered to come to Pakistan and help out himself. "When I heard about Greg's story," Greenberg says, "I realized that, unlike me, children in the Muslim world might not have educational opportunities. It makes no difference that I'm a Jew sending money to help Muslims. We all need to work together to plant the seeds of peace."

Maybe more young people will read this book (it happens to be one of five nominees for our One Book, One Lincoln this year) and feel compelled to volunteer, make a monetary contribution, or begin their own project to help the people in Central Asia.

Apparently, I got a lot more out of this book than I originally thought. I would even feel safe in saying that it's worth the effort. In spite of my strict reading schedule, I managed to read all 23 chapters (plus the introduction) in 14 days.

I make it a point to avoid reading reviews about the book I'm reviewing until after I've finished and posted on my blog. This time, however, I decided to see what others had to say about Three Cups of Tea. The majority of Amazon reviewers gave it high ratings, yet there were quite a few who thought it was lacking. Their comments ranged from "tedious," "poorly edited," "lacks focus," to "egocentric," "hagiography," and "hero worship." I had to laugh in agreement when I read one reviewer's statement that the biographer never met an adjective he didn't like. And many felt that Mortenson was selfish to leave his wife and children for such long periods of time, only to return home to hole up in his basement, talking on the phone with associates in Pakistan in the middle of the night. Mortenson may be a hero, but his wife is obviously a saint!

I agree with many that this would have been a fabulous magazine piece rather than a 300+ page book. Or maybe it should've been told by Mortenson in the first person, with a ghost writer like Rick Bragg or Anderson Cooper rather than Relin. It's too bad the poor writing (and lack of editing) detracts from the actual story, as I still believe what Mortenson has accomplished is worthy of recognition.

I'm looking forward to hearing what my book club has to say about Three Cups of Tea. Did any of you love it?

For further reading, check out these sites.

Mortenson's Blog

*4 the World Organization

July 15, 2008

Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini
These Streets

From Amazon.co.uk

19-year old Scottish singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini sounds older than his years on his debut album, These Streets. It's not just his careworn, smooth-as-sandpaper voice, either (although, admittedly, it does help). It's more to do with the maturity of the lyrics, and the casual soulfulness of his delivery. "Last Request" is more the work of a vintage Motown singer than a teenager from Paisley, and it's to Nutini's credit that he carries it off with aplomb. And rather like the soul singers of previous generations, he manages to sing without a hint of hypocrisy about his own sexual exploits ("Jenny Don't Be Hasty") while also questioning his girlfriend's fidelity ("Alloway Grove"). It's the fact that he's so frank, and even a little bit naive, that he manages to get away with it. And though the stripped-down tunes on These Streets don't always immediately grab the listener (the title track, in particular), the songs where Nutini is accompanied by a full band often manage to evoke sunny-day American soul ("New Shoes", for example). This is a strong debut, and considering Paolo Nutini's tender years, bigger things can be expected of him in the future. --Ted Kord

I first heard about These Streets over here and here on Nan's blog. Speaking about New Shoes, Nan says, "It's a lose-your-blues, dance-around-the-kitchen kind of song. Just wonderful." After listening to it and a few other songs on his MySpace site, I couldn't agree more. I rarely buy cds anymore, so I was very happy to receive it from my daughter on Mother's Day. It's definitely one to own! I've had it for just over two months and I can't tell you how many times I've listened to it. Maybe 3-4 times a week. I love each and every track.

As I commented on Nan's blog, I think Paolo sounds a bit like Martin Sexton and Peter Himmelman. He has a soulful voice that I just love. I hope he releases a new album before I wear out the one I own!

Thank you, Nan, for sharing yet another great artist with me. I love the world of blogging. I may never have learned of this talented young man, had it not been for your post.

July 14, 2008

Summer Reading

To enlarge, click on photo.

Last month I shared a list (and photographs) of the books on my Coming-of-Age display. Here's my latest endcap at work. These are some of my favorite light, fluffy reads, as well as a couple of heavier novels. Perfect for lounging by the pool or lazy days at the beach.

Click on the title for my review (and in the case of one favorite new author, an interview):

Summer Blowout by Claire Cook

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Stone Creek by Victoria Lustbader

The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand

Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons

Table for Five by Susan Wiggs

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray

An Ocean Apart by Robin Pilcher

Distant Shores by Kristen Hannah

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason

July 13, 2008

July 11, 2008

Odd Hours

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
2008 Bantam Books
Quit on 7/8/08
Rating: DNF

Product Description

Only a handful of fictional characters are recognized by first name alone. Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas is one of those rare literary heroes who have come alive in readers’ imaginations as he explores the greatest mysteries of this world and the next with his inimitable wit, heart, and quiet gallantry. Now Koontz follows Odd as he is irresistibly drawn onward to a destiny he cannot imagine and to undreamed of places where the perils he will face and the stakes for which he fights will eclipse all that he has known.

The legend began in the obscure little town of Pico Mundo. A fry cook named Odd was rumored to have the extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead. Through tragedy and triumph, exhilaration and heartbreak, word of Odd Thomas’s gifts filtered far beyond Pico Mundo, attracting unforgettable new friends—and enemies of implacable evil. With great gifts comes the responsibility to meet great challenges. But no mere human being was ever meant to face the darkness that now stalks the world—not even one as oddly special as Odd Thomas.

After grappling with the very essence of reality itself, after finding the veil that separates him from his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, tantalizingly thin yet impenetrable, Odd longed only to return to a life of quiet anonymity with his two otherworldly sidekicks—his dog Boo and a new companion, one of the few who might rival his old pal Elvis. But a true hero, however humble, must persevere. Haunted by dreams of an all-encompassing red tide, Odd is pulled inexorably to the sea, to a small California coastal town where nothing is as it seems. Now the forces arrayed against him have both official sanction and an infinitely more sinister authority…and in this dark night of the soul dawn will come only after the most shattering revelations of all.

Burnishing Dean Koontz’s stature as a master of suspense and one of our most innovative and gifted storytellers, Odd Hours illuminates a legacy of mystery and hope that will shine on long after the final page.

I quit! After 125 pages, I just couldn't get interested or come to care about Odd's latest dilemma. I loved Odd Thomas (read it twice), but was disappointed with both Forever Odd and Brother Odd. I really wanted to fall in love with this latest installment, but it kept putting me to sleep! I did, however, discover a couple of passages that were worth noting.

I love the dry wit in this one:

As I confronted the rat, I saw in my mind's eye a scenario in which I startled the rodent, whereupon it raced toward me in a panic, slipped under a leg of my jeans, squirmed up my calf, squeaked behind my knee, wriggled along my thigh, and decided to establish a nest between my buttocks. Through all of this, I would be windmilling my arms and hopping on one foot until I hopped off the beam and, with the hapless rodent snugged between my cheeks, plunged toward the sea just in time to crash into the searchers' boat, smashing a hole in the bottom with my face, thereupon breaking my neck
and drowning.

You might think that I have earned the name Odd Thomas, but it has been mine since birth.


Fragrant with the cinnamony aroma of chocolate-pumpkin cookies that I had baked earlier in the afternoon, brightened only by the golden glow of string lights hidden in the recessed toe kick of the cabinets, the kitchen waited warm and welcoming.

I am no theologian. I would not be surprised, however, if Heaven proved to be a cozy kitchen, where delicious treats appeared in the oven and in the refrigerator whenever you wanted them, and where the cupboards were full of good books.

Maybe I'll have better luck with Koontz's fall release of Your Heart Belongs to Me. Or not. I just never know how I'm going to react to a book by Koontz.