Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Orchid Thief

I read this for my online book group this month. It's one of those books I wouldn't have picked up myself, but I'm kind of glad I read it. It certainly isn't one of my favorite books by any means, but I learned some things, so that makes it worthwhile.

Susan Orlean uses the story of John Laroche, a Floridian orchid grower who has been charged with stealing orchids out of a state park, as a framework for her book. The book, to me, is more about the uniqueness of Florida--the land, the people, the flora and fauna. But, maybe that's what I glommed onto because I love Florida and that's the part I liked.

I actually don't like orchids. I've always thought they are kind of weird and creepy. But, it was interesting digging into the whole "orchid world" and looking at the history of orchids. I'm still trying to figure out why people have been so obsessed by them over time. People do some crazy things for plants!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Host

This book was touted as being science fiction for those who don't do science fiction. And, that includes me. In short, I liked it. It wasn't love for me, but I honestly liked it.

It took me about 30-60 pages to figure out what the heck was going on. But, my husband, the scifi/fantasy guy told me to keep at it, and I'm glad I did. The story is set in Arizona as aliens have invaded the planet and taken over the bodies of humans. Melanie Stryder refuses to leave her host, Wanda, and the two become inseparable as they embark on a journey to find family and loved ones hiding in dark desert caves. It is a story about love and what it truly means to be human.

Three things that bugged me:
1. The cover. Granted, authors don't usually have much say about that.
2. What did Ian look like? I totally missed the description of him in the beginning because I didn't realize I was really going to CARE what the guy looked like. I never had a mental image I was happy with. So, if you are starting from the beginning, pay attention.
3. The name Wanda. It just didn't work for me.

Having said that, I was pretty engaged in the story, although the last half went much quicker for me than the first half. I don't think I'll run out and start reading science fiction by the armload. But, if Stephenie Meyer writes anymore, I probably give it another go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Red Leather Diary

Here's the most interesting part of this book:
Lily Koppel was a gossip columnist for the New York Times when she found the red leather diary in a dumpster outside her building. She decided to track down the owner, who miraculously was 90 years old and still alive.

Here's the rest of the book:
The owner of the diary, Florence Wolfson, grew up among the Manhattan elite in the '20s and '30s. For Florence, life was all about art, plays, music, literature, and sexual experimentation with both men and women. She was self-centered, moody, and melodramatic. Florence grew up with virtually no parental guidance and no religious or moral conviction.

It showed.

I thought in the intervening 70 years that maybe Florence would have learned what life is really about. Instead, when the diary was brought to her, she said she felt that during the rest of her life she had not been true to the "real" person she was--the person from the diary.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth

I've read both Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake and I loved both. This one, not as much.

This is a collection of short stories, although the last 100 pages or so is three interconnected stories. Lahiri's stories and her novel all carry a pretty consistent theme: Indian-Americans who immigrate and the effect it has on their kids and their subsequent relationships among themselves and among others. I find it interesting because I've been there. Even I know what I've been through isn't as drastic, the way parents and children react to living in a foreign land is very different. So, I certainly feel like I can relate.

I felt a little let down at the end of the stories. The whole book had a pretty melancholy feel, and I didn't like the way I felt totally dumped off at the end of a story. Mostly they were great stories and well-written, but I think I would have liked them better in a full-blown novel. It was all just a little samey for me and I feel like she's going to have to mix things up a little bit to keep me interested. If you've never read Lahiri before, read one of her other books first.

P.S. And I totally have to nit-pick on a point of bad research. She had one character who was born in England secure a passport there later in life based on her birth. However, England is not like the U.S. Just because you are born there doesn't mean you are automatically a citizen, and it has been that way since 1982.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Six Random Things

I've been tagged by Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? to come up with six random things about me. This was harder than I thought! Here goes:

1. I need to be warm. I hate being cold. It's depressing, it's dark, it's gray, it's....cold. I have lived from England to California, New Jersey to Florida, and I've decided that where I live now is as far north as I'm willing to go...willingly. My husband and I refer to it as the NTL, or No Tricia Line. It's one of those imaginary lines on maps like the Equator (and being as near the Equator as possible is preferable).

2. I have four kids, but I despise "Mommy Talk". You know, where moms stand around and talk about what parenting book they've just read, how amazing and gifted their child is, why breastfeeding is wonderful, and on and on. Here's the deal: I haven't read a parenting book in five years. End of story. All kids are amazing and gifted. Please don't waste my time convincing me. I'm glad breastfeeding worked for you. It didn't for me, and my kids are still amazing and gifted, just like yours. Can we move on?

3. I loathe paying full price for a book. I almost never buy a book from a book store, though I love to browse. If I'm desperate for a book, I'll buy it online where I can find it cheaper. I prefer using the library, The Book Lady (my local used bookseller), or library book sales. I don't see the point in spending money on books because I will probably never read it again. Life is too short. But, I do love loaning a good book out to friends! It's a catch-22.

4. I've got a bad habit of buying homes and cars. We move on average every two years, and I've gotten a car at least as often. We are coming up on two years for this house and this car and I'm feeling surprisingly settled. Still, sometimes there is that little niggling feeling that I'd like to pack it all up and start over again. I find moving very refreshing.

5. I love reality television. The Amazing Race, Survivor, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol are my favorites. I've been known to watch The Apprentice, America's Next Top Model, Beauty & The Geek, and The Bachelor too. I especially love analyzing the shows to death with my husband, my mom or sisters afterwards.

6. I hate to eat if I'm the one who has to make it. Thinking about what to have and making it are just the most annoying parts of my day. Going out to eat = relief and happiness all the way around.

Now I'm supposed to tag six people. Do six people really read this blog? Um, OK, let's go with Corinne at The Book Nest, Booklogged at A Reader's Journal, Becky at Becky's Book Reviews, Irish at Ticket to Anywhere (thanks for the Weekly Geek link!), Danielle from A Work in Progress, and Nymeth from things mean a lot.

Here are the rules:
  • Link to the person that tagged you
  • Post the rules somewhere in your meme
  • Write the six random things
  • Tag six people in your post
  • Let the tagees know they’ve been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog
  • Let the tagger know your entry is posted

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dreamers of the Day

This is one of those books you really shouldn't judge by its cover. I was totally sucked in and completely fascinated. It probably helped that I wasn't very familiar with the history. Still, the way the author weaved the historical details (which are very accurate) in and out of the plot was just plain skillful.

The story follows Agnes Shanklin, a middle-aged single woman from Cleveland, who decides to travel to Egypt alone after WWI. Her journey happens to coincide with the Cairo Conference of 1921, and she comes in contact with many of the notable figures of the day including Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, and Lawrence of Arabia. As Agnes tours through Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, you get a real taste of the stickiness of politics in the Middle East and a lot of background as to why things are the way they are today.

If you have any interest at all in this time period, or you just love historical fiction like me, I highly recommend this.