Thursday, August 30, 2007


OK, so I really wanted to be able to like this book. But I read 135 pages and gave up. You will soon see this book in movie form starring Keira Knightley. Time Magazine selected this book as one of the top 100 novels since 1923, it has been named Best Book of the Year by numerous newspapers, and is a Booker Prize finalist. Alas, like so many of it's fellow esteemed books, this book was too dark and contained stuff I just didn't want to read.

The question in this book is whether or not a crime committed by a 13-year old girl can ever be atoned for. But, you know from the beginning this book is not going to end well (and it ends worse than I imagined).

I have to admit I read as much as I did because Ian McEwan is a fabulous writer. Brilliant literature perhaps, but I'm glad I read how it was going to end on Wikipedia before I continued on any further. Unfortunately, I think McEwan loves to explore the faces of evil a little more than I want to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This book was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and is also the choice for my book club this month. I actually purchased this book a year ago when I was waiting impatiently for Bella to show up. I never got to it, but I'm glad I had an excuse to read it now.

The book is set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa in the mid-1950s. Reverend John Ames has been diagnosed with a terminal heart condition in his late 70s. The book is an autobiographical account written to his 7-year old son, the product of a marriage late in life to a much younger woman. The Reverend is a third-generation preacher, and speaks mostly of his rather eccentric grandfather in reflection of his upbringing.

The plot moves slowly through the first half of the book, but picks up some during the last half when Ames' godson, the son of his best friend (also a minister) shows up in town. The spiritual reflections are quite thought-provoking and I will admit feeling somewhat more intelligent for having read this. But it certainly wasn't a book I can really rave about story-wise.

One thing I did wonder about while reading Gilead is how true Marilynne Robinson is to an elderly male voice. Obviously, I'll never know for sure since I am neither male nor elderly (at this point). But, I do think she pulled it off--which reminded me of male authors who I think understand females quite well such as Leo Tolstoy, Alexander McCall Smith and Arthur Golden. It must take a huge amount of talent to write as another gender, to be sure.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Still on my Bill Bryson kick, I decided to check out the LARGE PRINT version of I'm a Stranger Here Myself so I didn't have to wait in the queue. I've decided that reading large print is kind of like watching a black and white movie--you just don't notice it after awhile.

I was super excited to read this book because Bryson lived in England for 20 years, and this book was supposedly his reflections on coming back to America. What I found out when I opened the book is that this is really a collection of newspaper articles he wrote for a British newspaper about American life. And mostly, he doesn't seem too pleased with it. Even his British wife complained that all he ever does is gripe. Not that I disagree with his reflections, it's just that I don't want to read about them one after the other.

There were some pretty humorous moments. The chapter entitled Your Tax Form Explained was a particular highlight for me. But overall, I think I'm Bryson'd out for a bit, even though I still want to read In a Sunburned Country (a book about Australia) at some point.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Calling all Jane Austen fans! If you love Mr. Darcy (and who doesn't) this book is for you.

How an LDS author pulled off an adult romance book, I'll never know. But this book is pure unadulterated mindless enjoyment. Perfectly yummy in every way.

I read it in one sitting (when I should have been sleeping) and I might even have to read it again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Club Favorites

My non-Enrichment book club met tonight. We all submitted a list of our favorite books, so I thought I would pass along the recommendations of others (some of which I admittedly don't like, but many of which I do!).

• Anything by Anne Tyler especially The Accidental Tourist & Ladder of Years
• Poisonwood Bible
• To Kill a Mockingbird
• The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
• The Witch of Blackbird Pond
• A Thousand Splendid Suns
• The Kite Runner
• Where the Heart Is
• The Weaver Takes a Wife
• Morning Glory
• Mutant Message Down Under
• The Diary of Maddie Spenser
• The Screwtape Letters
• The Tenant of Windfall Hall
• The Immortal Wife
• Two from Galilee
• At Home in Mitford
• My Antonia
• The Hiding Place
• Follow the River
• Anne of Green Gables
• Dandelion Wine
• Letters for Emily
• The Persian Pickle Club
• Summer of the Monkeys
• My Name is Asher Lev
• Miss Julia Speaks her Mind
• The Count of Monte Cristo
• Cheaper by the Dozen
• Girl with the Pearl Earring
• Homecoming
• Rumors of War
• Year of Wonders
• The Secret Life of Bees
• Church Ladies
• The Davinci Code
• Uncle Tom's Cabin
• Tara Road
• Scarlet Pimpernel
• Jane Eyre
• I Heard the Owl Call my Name
• My Cousin Rachel
• Crow Lake
• The Giver
• Devil in the White City
• Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

I loved Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. He just has a way of explaining difficult or bland concepts in a way that is interesting and amusing.

A Walk in the Woods is the story of Bryson's journey along the Appalachian Trail in the late 1990s. Interspersed with his travelogue are facts and figures about the flora and fauna, weather, National Park Service, mining, etc. etc. When I think I can't stand anymore trail talking, he gets down to facts and vice versa.

And, he's laugh out loud funny.
(I've kept Melanie, Dan and Corky entertained for days with my retellings.)

You'll find this book in the US travel section of the library (that's the 917 section thanks to Mr. Dewey), but it is NOT a travel book. It really is a book about America--understanding the geography and it's affect on us and our effect on it.

One caveat: I must give the language rating a strong PG-13.

Next up on my Bryson list: I'm a Stranger Here Myself.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The White

I should say at the outset that I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. This book is based on the story of real-life character, Mary Jemison, who lived near Gettysburg during the pre-Revolutionary period. Her family was taken by Indians, and Mary goes on to live among the Seneca, eventually settling in the Genesee Valley of New York.

The story, told in both the first and third person, is really a story of courage about accepting the past and finding peace, fulfillment and beauty in the present. Deborah Larsen does a beautiful job of telling this story--sometimes the prose borders on poetry: In later days the fact that I was a prisoner had not stopped the breeze nor the tubers which grow sequestered in the dark ground nor darkness itself nor the flutterings of moths nor the reedy songs of children nor the pungency of sage.

An enjoyable, fairly quick read. However, you need to be able to stomach a certain amount of Indian-related violence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Princess Academy

This darling book by Shannon Hale is an award-winning Newberry Honor book. It straddles the line between a children's book and a YA book, but at 314 pages, you'll most likely find it in the YA section of your library. It is appropriate for young girls starting around 5th grade.

Part fairy tale and part fantasy, the book follows Miri, a young mountain girl who is sent to the Princess Academy where one of the girls will be chosen to marry the prince. Although it took me a few chapters to get into the book, the story is delightful in every way.

Hale, a friend and (fellow LDS author) of Stephenie Meyer, recently released an adult romance, Austenland, which Meyer has called her favorite book of the summer. I've got it ordered from B&N because I didn't want to wait in the library queue. I'm excited to check out the Goose Girl series, also by Shannon Hale.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Girl Named Zippy

This is the book we are reading this month in our non-Enrichment book club. A Girl Named Zippy is a memoir written by Haven Kimmel. It is the story of her childhood, growing up poor in a small Indiana town during the late sixties/early seventies.

I'm not a huge fan of memoirs, basically because I think they are too good to be true. (Even Haven Kimmel herself doesn't deny that.) Yet, it is classified as non-fiction and is found in the library amongst the biographies. Maybe I just don't have a very good memory or she has an amazing one to remember conversations, facial expressions, and emotions from when she was age 5!

I got a little ADD reading this book. The book is mostly a random collection of experiences. One chapter will be a kindergarten chapter, then 4th grade, and then back to kindergarten again. I need to feel like I'm getting somewhere with a book. I felt like I was sinking in a quagmire of plotlessness. For this reason, I prefer adult memoirs that cover an extended period of time since there is usually more plot and the details are more likely to be accurately remembered.

Having said all that, I loved Haven Kimmel's sharp and witty writing style. I even laughed out loud a few times. I'm tempted to try her fiction series, which begins with The Solace of Leaving Early, since I might do better with a book that proclaims itself as fiction and hopefully has a plot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I enjoyed Stephenie Meyer's third book in the Twilight series much better than New Moon. Having said that, I certainly didn't hate New Moon. But, I'm not sure that I ever get over how much I love the first book in any series. Twilight is still my favorite.

As I've begun to notice how ridiculously popular these books are, I think Mormons need to be especially careful not to view these books as "safe, Mormon material" just because the author happens to be LDS. These books are recommended 9th grade and up by the School Library Journal, and there is good reason for that. Thematically these books require a more mature audience, and I think this is true even more for Eclipse than for the other two. Sexual themes are featured prominently in this book.

I'm certainly looking forward to the next installment (and possibly the last) in this series as well as Meyer's first adult science fiction novel, The Host, out in Spring 2008.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Favorite Books

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • America's Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
  • Anna Karenina
  • Big Stone Gap Series
  • Books by Jane Austen
  • Books by Jeffrey Archer
  • Charms for the Easy Life
  • Easter Island
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring
  • Holes
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • I Capture the Castle
  • Interpreter of Maladies
  • Jim the Boy
  • Lucia, Lucia
  • Maisie Dobbs Series
  • My Sister's Keeper
  • Pope Joan
  • Rebecca
  • Sarah's Quilt
  • Sotah
  • Ten Circles Upon the Pond
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Book of Mormon
  • The Eyre Affair
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  • The History of Love
  • The Namesake
  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series
  • The Queen of the Big Time
  • The Red Tent
  • The Rule of Four
  • These is My Words
  • Twilight

Friday, August 10, 2007

2006 Books

I started keeping track of books I was reading in 2006. I have only a somewhat complete list, but I guess something is better than nothing!

  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
  • Tears of the Giraffe
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls
  • The Full Cupboard of Life
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
  • Nickel and Dimed
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It
  • About a Boy
  • The Diary of Mattie Spenser
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness
  • Rebekah
  • Rachel & Leah
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Thirteenth Tale
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
  • Back When We Were Grownups
  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
  • Stuart Little
  • A Wedding in December
  • Messenger of Truth
  • The Wild Girl