I adore the times spent with my fellow members of the Paige Turner Book Club...but I have a literary appetite that simply cannot be sated with just one book a month. This blog is a place for me to talk about more of my reading adventures. Reviews, summaries, highlights, warnings, praises and quotes. Because after all, it can be a jungle...er...savannah...out there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

Characters and story-lines and shenanigans abound!  What a delightful tale. 

Things I knew before I started listening to this book:  1) There would be lots of intersecting plots as the story followed the tenants of a particular apartment building.  2) The story would be narrated by an observing spirit/presence.

Things I failed to observe:  Keyes' story is set in Dublin, Ireland...and the main character would become the delightful narrator -- who gave a whimsical and pitch perfect performance.  Never in a million years would I have been able to give as much spunk and pizazz to the story as the narrator captures with each breath.  If you've never entered the world of audiobooks, I order you to pick up this recording, kick back (or drive on) and escape.

As to the story itself, I enjoyed it.  (It doesn't hurt that the ending is completely satisfying.  *wink*)  It took me a minute to catch on to what was going on.  But there *are* four floors/sets of players to get to know.  Also, Keyes does something very interesting with the time-line in the story.  Time is moving forward and backward all at once.  But once you get into it, it's easy to fall under Keyes' spell.  I found myself rooting for all the players...even the ones who are a bit rough around the edges. Also, I found it impressive that Keyes could explore some keep and heavy subjects, while keeping the overall tone of the book light and quirky.

I'll be looking to read more from this author.  Maybe I can convince my book club to come along for the ride.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

This is one from my TBR pile.  My sister gave it to me over a year ago and assured me that it was hilarious and that I would really enjoy it.  For some reason, I was dubious.  Despite the cleverly written back cover, I was sort of put off by the title.  So I just kept passing it by when it came time to grab my next book.

But a few weeks ago, some friends and I took a bus ride up to Philly to support the USA soccer team in their friendly match against Turkey before heading to the World Cup in South Africa.  It's a 3-hour drive each way, and I went prowling for a the perfect book to take with me.  Skinny Dip won the prize.

I got a good feeling when one of hte other bus patrons passed me and said, "Oh, that's a great book.  You'll love it."

This is a snippet from Amazon's review: 
Charles "Chaz" Perrone fancies himself a take-charge kind of guy. So when this "biologist by default" suspects that his curvaceous wife, Joey, has stumbled onto a profitable pollution scam he's running on behalf of Florida agribusiness mogul Red Hammernut, he sets out right away to solve the problem--by heaving Joey off the deck of a luxury cruise liner and into the Atlantic Ocean, far from Key West. But--whoops!--Joey, a former swimming champ, doesn't drown. Instead, as Carl Hiaasen tells in his 10th adult novel, Skinny Dip, she makes her way back to shore, thanks both to a wayward bale of Jamaican marijuana and lonerish ex-cop Mick Stranahan, and then launches a bogus blackmail campaign that's guaranteed to drive her lazy, libidinous hubby into a self-protective frenzy.
It's ridiculous.  It's over the top.  It's funny... Have you seen the Sprite commercial that focuses on a group of writers sitting outside a Hollywood studio?  They're all just tapping their pencils and looking lost.  But then a pirate ship, a panda, a cheerleader, and a martial arts fight all start falling out of the stratosphere, and when the main character takes a drink of sprite they all 'splash' into his imagination and you hear him say, "Ok, I got it.  We'll start with a cheerleader..." 

That's how I imagine Carl Hiaasen came up with some of this characters and plot devices.  They're just that ridiculous.  (For example:  A woman made independently wealthy because her parents died in a plane crash while transporting their juggling circus bear home from the specialist who needed to treat the bear's impacted tooth.)  But you forgive him.  Because it's just so entertaining.

So thank you Amanda.  I should have trusted you.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Can you judge an audio-book by it's CD-sleeve?  I'm going to answer with a very decisive, "sometimes."  *grin*

The cover art of this book grabbed my eye:

And the story was very satisfying.  It's a coming of age tale, with a bit of love, and a tad of the paranormal.  I really enjoyed it.  The main characters are just at the beginning of high school, and the language and tone of the plot fits them perfectly.  The narrator of the story sounded like she was in high school too, which I wanted to find fault with, but just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Her voice just fit the part.

It's a great summer listen, that looks at the whimsical side of life without delving into vampires and werewolves.  I recommend it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reading Update

It's about time for another update...don't you think?

Raw Stats:

39 books read.  (up from 12 in March)
18,072 pages.  (up from 5,601 in March)
28 new (72%).
11 re-reads (28%).


    TBR Challenge - Goal:  12 books.  Completed: 5 books.  I'm still on pace to finish by the end of the year.
    Audio Book Challenge - Goal: 20 books.  Completed: 11 books.  I can't believe I'm getting ready for the 12th book of the Wheel of Time!  This series has been a constant presence in my car since January. (You haven't seen any reviews/reports yet because I'm waiting to finish the whole series first.)
    Support Your Local Library Challenge - Goal: 50 books. Completed: 27 books.  I'm in love with the library! 

      Books I'm reading right now:

      Star Trek by Alan Dean Foster - Thanks to a tip from my friend Heather, I get to listen to Zachary Quinto perform this book based on the new movie.  It's fantastic!!
      Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver - a Bible Study assignment.
      All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - Recommended by one of my former students who couldn't believe I hadn't read it when I was in high school.  It's supposedly one of the most loved war novels of all time. 

        Coming up:

        The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan - then I'll be officially caught up!
        The Eleventh Commandment by Jeffrey Archer - a thriller.
        A Chance to Die:  The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot - from my TBR list
        In My Hands:  Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Opdyke - a book club assignment

        There are seven books I have read but haven't blogged about yet, but that's not too bad.  I'll work on remedying that situation soon.  Is there anything I should add to my list?

        Tuesday, May 25, 2010

        The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

        I picked this book for my book club for two reasons.  1) It was a Hugo Award winner.  2)  It's an alternate history that looks at the world 20 years after WWII, but as if the Axis powers had won. The book follows several characters as they navigate their lives in a United States that has been parceled out to both Japan and Germany, with a buffer zone in the center.

        Bottom line:  It was wierd.

        I forced myself to finish hoping that it would all make sense at the end.  But it didn't.  It just left me with a very unsatisfying "huh" feeling.

        Thankfully, I had some insight into one of the major plot devices because of another book I've been reading:  Watching the Tree by Adeline Yen Mah.  Thanks to Yen Mah, I sort of understood the I Ching (Book of Changes).   But Dick takes the I Ching and uses it in a completely different way than Yen Mah described.  Based on what little I know, I would say it was a completely wrong way.  (But I'll be the first to admit I'm not an expert.)

        In addition to the the wierd and disjointed plot, I found the characters and the writing dry.  It was hard to root for any of them.  Maybe I'm just not into the storytelling of the time period.  But there it is.

        Even with it's award and it's fame, I would skip this book.

        Monday, May 24, 2010

        My Struggle With Faith by Joseph Girzone

        I knew that Joseph Girzone was the author of "Joshua" series. I didn't know that he was also a Catholic priest.  So when I saw this book on a library shelf, I was immediately intrigued.

        I'm glad I picked it up.

        I learned a lot about the Catholic faith:  about the sacraments of confession, about their take on marriage and communion, about a lot of things.  (I found it fascinating that while catholic and protestant ideas can be very different from each other, we often use the same passages as our inspiration.  We just interpret them differently.)

        Girzone's tone is very conversational and approachable.  I loved that he was able to share (and even critique) without getting preachy or nasty or bitter.  He's not afraid to let the reader know when he doubts, when he's still figuring things out, or even when he disagrees with the stance of the Church.  Sometimes on very big things like the necessity for priests to be celibate, or the process of marriage annulment.

        The more I read, the more I felt like I had discovered a kindred spirit.   For example:  In one passage he writes "It was not easy for me to keep digging and digging for a ‘reason for my faith.’… In their dedication to dogma, they lost total sight of the gentle, forgiving Jesus they were supposed to be representing.  Instead, the did more damage to the name of Jesus and to people’s faith than heretics did with all their strange theological ideas. ….It was downright depressing."  I've had similar thoughts in my long relationship with the church.

        Girzone's book is full of honesty and compassion.  If you're curious about the Christian faith, (or even if you have a disappointed view of the Church as an institution), I would strongly recommend this book. 

        Monday, April 19, 2010

        Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

        Somehow in the blur that was my week, I managed to find time to read the latest House of Night novel.  On one hand, I'm glad that I'm all caught up.  On the other, now I have to wait for the new books to come out.  The wait will be terrible!

        This one was probably my favorite of the series.  The theme of "choice" is front and center.  It reminded me of the sage words of Albus Dumbledore:  "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  There are several major characters that face the choice for good or evil.  Another type of choice was also there -- to follow stereotypes and expectations, or to be true to yourself.  Not an easy stand, but one that's worth making.

        So in the middle of the fun and the fluff, I keep finding a lot of great stuff in this series.  Tempted keeps the high pace and the teenage drama.  But it held some new twists that really changed the game.  After a cliffhanger ending, it will be a long wait for the next chapter!