June 30, 2016

Looking Back - Night

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Night by Elie Wiesel
Nonfiction - Memoir
1982 Bantam (First published in 1958)
Finished on July 10, 1996
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)

Publisher's Blurb:

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family... the death of his innocence... and the death of his GOD. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

Original Yiddish title: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign/And the World Remained Silent

My Original Notes (1996):

I highly recommend this book. Short, concise and heartbreaking. How could anyone survive the ordeal without losing their mind?!

My Current Thoughts:

It's probably time to read this book again. 

Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must--at that moment--become the center of the universe.

June 29, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday

by P.J. Tracy
Available on August 2, 2016

Publisher's Blurb:

The Monkeewrench crew returns in a twisty, heart-stopping new thriller.

The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.

An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.

This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers—and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror—a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.


Click here to read more about this wonderful series. 

June 27, 2016

The Sculptor

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Graphic Novel
2015 First Second
Finished on February 15, 2016
Rating: 2.5/5 (It was ok)

Publisher's Blurb:

David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the eleventh hour isn't making it any easier.

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world's greatest city. It's about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life... and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface.

Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable fiction.

I'm not sure graphic novels are for me. The Sculptor was entertaining enough to look at on my lunch breaks, and it's a quick read, but it felt a little young for my taste. The ending (which includes a bizarre nightmare sequence) was anti-climactic and confusing. However, the drawings are amazing! There is so much detail to each panel that it's easy to get lost in the art and ignore the writing.

Final Thoughts:

Several of my friends loved this touching novel, but I have to admit that I wasn't moved to tears and was pretty much ready for it to end. I'm not a huge fan of YA books and this felt like just that, the only difference being the detailed artwork. 

June 25, 2016

{Gratitude Lately}

Lately, I've been thankful for

Blue skies and Blue Angels.

Sampling a new wine on Mother's Day.

Dramatic sunrises and soaking rains.

Well... it could have been worse.

Great food and enduring friendships

Leftovers from that delicious dinner.

My daughter's successful career and happiness.

Family visits and birthday celebrations.

Open highways on a beautiful day in Nebraska.

Wild dreams 
and a retirement countdown with this guy!

and, Adirondack Margaritas on the porch.

Happy Sunday, friends!
What are you grateful for this week?

For more Gratitude posts, click here.

June 23, 2016

Looking Back - The Runaway Jury

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
1996 Doubleday
Finished on July 5, 1996
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Every jury has a leader, and the verdict belongs to him. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a landmark tobacco trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake begins routinely, then swerves mysteriously off course. The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juror is convinced he's being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymous young woman suggests she is able to predict the jurors' increasingly odd behavior. Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If so, by whom? And, more important, why?

My Original Notes (1996):

Good, but not great. Somewhat anticlimactic. A typical quick read. Light entertainment. 

My Current Thoughts:

I've served twice as a juror and I find the entire process very interesting. I also enjoy watching medical documentaries. Maybe I was a lawyer and a surgeon in two separate lives, long ago. ;)

As far as this novel goes, I really have no recollection of the plot. Typical beach read.

June 22, 2016

Wordless Wednesday {more or less}

I truly am trying to focus on my own shelves these days, but with all the recommendations from my favorite bloggers, it's difficult to stay on track. I threw together this endcap the other day, just so I could have a visual of all the books I'd like to read this summer. I already own three!

June 19, 2016

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
2006 William Morrow
Finished on February 13, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

Devastating in its power, remarkable in its achievement, The Space Between Us is a searing, addictively readable novel that vividly captures the delicate balance of class and gender in contemporary India--witnessed through the lives of two compelling women.

They are sitting in the dining room, sipping tea, Sera out of the blue-gray mug Dinaz had bought for her from Cottage Industries, Bhima out of the stainless-steel glass that is kept aside for her in the Dubash household. As usual, Sera sits on a chair at the table while Bhima squats on her haunches on the floor nearby. When Dinaz was younger, she used to prod her mother about the injustice of Bhima not being allowed to sit on the couch or a chair and having to use her own separate utensils instead of the ones the rest of the family used.

"Now, Dinaz," Sera would say mildly. "I think there's a slight difference between burning a Harijan and not allowing Bhima to use our glasses. Do you want her lips to touch our glasses?"

Now, watching Bhima sip at her tea, Sera shifts uncomfortably in her chair. Since Feroz's death, she has occasionally toyed with the idea of asking Bhima to join her at the table. Sure, some of her friends would be scandalized at first, and the next time a servant in the building asked her mistress for a raise, the woman would automatically blame Sera Dubash for setting a bad example. But what difference did it make to her what the neighbors said?

And yet... The thought of Bhima sitting on her furniture repulses her. There is this reluctance, this resistance to let Bhima use the furniture. As they sit in companionable silence sipping their tea, Sera tries to justify her prejudice.

I had the ARC of The Space Between Us for over a decade before I finally decided it was time to give it a try. I'm so glad one of my friends kept encouraging me to read this book. It was outstanding! The details of Umrigar's story create a strong sense of place and I had no problem envisioning Sera and Bhima's lives in Bombay. It's been years since I read Rohinton Mistry's excellent novel, A Fine Balance, but as soon as I began reading The Space Between Us, I had the same reaction and fell deep into the world of India.
In the old days, at least the women were spared the elbowing and jostling that occurred each time a bus appeared like a mythical beast at the stop. But in today's Bombay, it was everybody for himself, and the frail, the weak, the young, and the old entered the overflowing buses at their own peril. Bhima felt as if she barely recognized the city anymore--something snarling and mean and cruel had been unleashed in it. Bhima could see the signs of this new meanness everywhere: slum children tied firecrackers to the tails of the stray dogs and then laughed and clapped with glee as the poor animals ran around in circles, going mad with fear. Affluent college students went berserk if a five-year-old beggar child smudged the windows of their gleaming BMWs and Hondas. Every day Serabai would read the newspaper and tell Bhima about some latest horror--a union organizer being bludgeoned to death for daring to urge factory workers to agitate for a two-rupee wage raise; a politician's son being found not guilty after running over three slum children on his way to a party; an elderly Parsi couple being murdered in their beds by a servant who had worked for them for forty years; young Hindu nationalists writing congratulatory notes in their own blood to celebrate India's successful test of a nuclear weapon. It was as if the city was mad with greed and hunger; power and impotence; wealth and poverty.

I love this passage about the ocean:
And now she finally understands what she has always observed on people's faces when they are at the seaside. Years ago, when she and Gopal used to come to here, she would notice how people's faces turned slightly upward when they stared at the sea, as if they were straining to see a trace of God or were hearing the silent humming of the universe; she would notice how, at the beach, people's faces became soft and wistful, reminding her of the expressions on the faces of the sweet old dogs that roamed the streets of Bombay. As if they were all sniffing the salty air for transcendence, for something that would allow them to escape the familiar prisons of their own skin. In the temples and the shrines, their heads were bowed and their faces small, fearful, and respectful, shrunk into insignificance by the ritualized chanting of the priests. But when they gazed at the sea, people held their heads up, and their faces became curious and open, as if they were searching for something that linked them to the sun and the stars, looking for that something they knew would linger long after the wind had erased their footprints in the dust. Land could be bought, sold, owned, divided, claimed, trampled, and fought over. The land was stained permanently with pools of blood; it bulged and swelled under the outlines of the countless millions buried under it. But the sea was unspoiled and eternal and seemingly beyond human claim. Its waters rose and swallowed up the scarlet shame of spilled blood.

Final Thoughts:

This was an excellent read! I didn't want it to end and found myself slowing down as the ending drew closer. This certainly isn't a mystery, but at one point near the end of the book, I was dumbstruck after a detail was revealed. "Wow! I never saw that coming," I thought.

Umrigar is a great storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her novels. As luck would have it, I own a copy of The World We Found, which was published in 2012 and sounds quite enticing!

June 16, 2016

Looking Back - A Lantern in Her Hand

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
1994 Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press
(Originally published in 1928)
Finished on June 25, 1996
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

First published in 1928, A Lantern in Her Hand has outlasted literary fashions to touch generations of readers.

In this classic story of a pioneer woman, Bess Streeter Aldrich modeled protagonist Abbie Deal on her own mother, who in 1854 had traveled by covered wagon to the Midwest.

In A Lantern in Her Hand, Abbie accompanies her family to the soon-to-be-state of Nebraska. There, in 1865, she marries and settles into her own sod house. The novel describes Abbie's years of child-raising, of making a frontier home able to withstand every adversity. A disciplined writer knowledgeable about true stories of pioneer days in Nebraska, Bess Streeter Aldrich conveys the strength of everyday things, the surprise of familiar faces, and the look of the unspoiled landscape during different seasons. Refusing to be broken by hard experience, Abbie sets a joyful example for her family--and for her readers.

My Original Notes (1996):

Wonderful! I loved this heartwarming novel and got very choked up as I read the last chapter. Such fun to read about Lincoln and Omaha! Aldrich's descriptions of the weather and vegetation are so true and familiar. I could relate so much! What a terribly difficult life the pioneers lived through (or didn't!): Sod homes, winter & summer elements, grasshoppers, childbirth and illnesses, etc. Abbie Deal made me think of my grandmother for some reason, especially in her later years, when her children were grown. I highly recommend this book and plan to read more by Aldrich!

My Current Thoughts:

I was so surprised to see that I didn't mark any passages when I read this back in 1996. I know it was such an interesting novel to read as a newcomer to Nebraska, especially since I don't remember reading any novels set in San Diego while I was living there. It's always fun to recognize specific locations and landmarks when they're mentioned in a book and I felt the same way after reading Willa Cather's marvelous novel, My Antonia.

I went on to read the sequel to this book (A White Bird Flying), but don't recall how I liked it. I'm sure I'll come across my journal entry for it in the coming months. I do look forward to re-reading A Lantern in Her Hand sometime in the future. I wonder if it will have the same impact on me now that I've lived in Nebraska for 20 years.

June 14, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

D.N.F. (Barely even started!)
ARC discard pile

June 12, 2016

The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
Patrick Hedstrom Series, #1
2010 HighBridge Audio
Reader: David Thorn
Finished on February 8, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Winner of the 2008 Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, France's most prestigious award for crime fiction. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this electrifying tale of suspense from an international crime-writing sensation, a grisly death exposes the dark heart of a Scandinavian seaside village.

Erica Falck returns to her tiny, remote hometown of Fjallbacka, Sweden, after her parents' deaths only to encounter another tragedy: the suicide of her childhood best friend, Alex. It's Erica herself who finds Alex's body--suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. Erica is bewildered: Why would a beautiful woman who had it all take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedstrom, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex's childhood. As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik's curiosity gives way to obsession--and their flirtation grows into uncontrollable attraction. But it's not long before one thing becomes very clear: a deadly secret is at stake, and there's someone out there who will do anything--even commit murder-to protect it.

Fans of Scandinavian greats Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell will devour Camilla Lackberg's penetrating portrait of human nature at its darkest.

I love this series! And, I didn't find this first installment nearly as convoluted as Stieg Larsson's books, which makes it even more appealing to continue reading more by Lackberg. David Thorn is an excellent reader and his accent is wonderful. I found it interesting to listen to the audio and glance at the print edition to see how certain names are pronounced (not at all what I thought they would be!). I had lots of ideas about who might be the murderer, but it wasn't obvious, and at one point, I felt like my jaw literally dropped to the floor!

Final Thoughts:

A winning introduction to a new series. I downloaded the second book before I even finished this one, it was that good.

June 9, 2016

Looking Back - Hamlet

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Fiction - Drama/Play
1963 Signet Classics (Originally published in 1602)
Finished on May 28, 1996
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Among Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet is considered by many his masterpiece. The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father, the King, and then taken the throne and married Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.

My Original Notes (1996):

Another book club selection. I'm so glad we decided to read this classic! I've never read any Shakespeare and I'm glad to have finally had the chance to do so. Hamlet was a good play to start with. It wasn't too difficult, especially since I read the Cliffs Notes as I read the play. After finishing the book, I watched the video, starring Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, and Helena Bonham Carter.

My Current Thoughts:

Yes, I admit that I never read any Shakespeare in high school. I grew up in Southern California in the '80s and somehow managed to graduate without ever reading a single Shakespeare play. I have no idea why it wasn't required reading! Will I read it again? Probably not. I'm not a big fan of the classics, but I'm glad I finally got around to reading the play.

June 7, 2016

A Month in Summary - May 2016

Like most readers, my mental TBR list is a mile long, but I can't afford to buy everything I want to read, so I decided to focus exclusively on library books during the month of May. I spent about an hour perusing the shelves at one of my favorite branches here in Lincoln and brought home an armful of books to sample. Well, after starting and stopping more than I finished, I'm glad I utilized the library and didn't spend my hard-earned money on books I wound up not reading! I checked out seven books, but as you can see, I only finished two of those! The others are either audio books or two ARCs that I zipped through once I had run out of library books. But what a month! There are a couple here that really knocked my socks off.

Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins (Borrowed - Library) 2/5

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (Borrowed - Audio) 4.75/5

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Borrowed - Library) 4/5

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (Own) 4.5/5

Her by Harriet Lane (Own) 4/5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Borrowed - Audio) 2.5/5


Triple Dog Dare Challenge - Definitely not as good as the first four months of the year. 2 of the 6 books read were from my own stacks (the other 4 were library/audio books).

6 books
6 novels

1 historical fiction
1 childrens

1 teen
4 new-to-me-authors 
2 print
4 audio
5 female
1 male
4 borrowed
2 from my stacks 

Favorite of the Month: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Reviews to follow  

June 2, 2016

Looking Back - The Awakening

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Fiction - Classic
1992 Bantam Classic (First published in 1899)
Finished on April 23, 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threaten to consume her. Originally entitled A Solitary Soul, this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here, a woman engaged in self-discovery turns away from convention and society and toward the primal, from convention and society, and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the senses. The Awakening, Kate Chopin's last novel, has been praised by Edmund Wilson as "beautifully written." And Willa Cather described its style as "exquisite," "sensitive," and "iridescent."

This edition of The Awakening also includes a selection of short stories by Kate Chopin.

My Original Notes (1996):

Wonderful! Beautifully written. Reminded me of Edith Wharton's books. Lots of water symbolism. Would enjoy seeing it on film!

My Current Thoughts:

I still own my copy of this book, but after thumbing through it and reading all the passages I highlighted, I doubt I'll read it again. 

On the Sea:
The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplations.

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.