Monday, April 23, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

I've been a fan of Jodi Picoult's for several years now after first reading The Pact.

I found this latest book of hers to be particularly disturbing, primarily due to the timing of its release and my own timing in reading it. In the book, 17-year old Peter Houghton takes several guns to his high school and kills ten people, injuring many others. As the story unfolds, we learn that Peter was a favorite target of school bullies, dating back to his first day of kindergarten. His attorney takes a novel approach to his defense, describing him as having acted in self-defense due to post traumatic stress and suffering from school bullying syndrome. He likens Peter to the battered woman who kills her husband.

The school violence in this book supposedly happened on March 6, 2007. Obviously, Ms. Picoult could not have known that the Virginia Tech massacre was about to occur, but the commonalities between her fictional account and real-life events left me wondering whether Seung-Hui Cho had read her book and used it as a "how-to" guide. I realize that is unlikely, but it still rattled me. I'm left asking myself whether an actual victim of school bullying would find some sort of rationalization for retaliation imbedded in these pages.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grayson by Lynne Cox

This was our book club pick for April. A very short read, I finished it in about two hours I think. The book is a memoir of a woman's experience swimming along side a baby whale off the coast of Orange County, CA when she was fifteen. Part of the book is spent guessing about what exactly is swimming next to her. And the rest of it is spent trying to return the lost baby whale to its mother. This one was not really for me. It was short enough that I didn't hate it. But it was really sappy for me. I guess if I'm going to read a memoir, I prefer it to be funny, or very harrowing (like a book about a trip to Everest or Apollo 13 or something). While the story in Grayson is nice, I think it means more to the author than it does for the reader, at least this reader.

I also finished Death du Jour, the second book in the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. I don't think it was nearly as good as the first in the series. The second half of the book went much quicker than the first half. There was a lot of information about cults which I found interesting but getting to that part was a bit difficult. The story seemed all over the place at first. I'm sure I'll get around to reading the others in this series though. Hopefully, the next one will be a little better.

I'm looking forward to reading The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for our next two book club books. I think I might delve into a little science fiction (or is it fantasy) with my next book, The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue.

Monday, April 16, 2007

More on The Road

The Road also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. See article here....

Maybe with all the hype I need to see what this book is all about. Dare I say it was also chosen for an Oprah Book Club pick. That is slightly off-putting to me, but well the Pulitzer probably trumps that. :-)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slightly New Look

I upgraded the template to the book blog today. I added labels to the posts classifying the books. That way if you remember reading a review of a book but can't exactly remember when, who wrote it, or the title, hopefully the labels will help narrow it down. Or you could use them if you're in the mood for a certain type of book and want to see what has been reviewed in the past.

To add labels to your posts, just add the appropriate label in the space at the bottom of the "Posting" window. Or I can always go back and categorize them later.

I used "General Fiction" for anything that didn't fall into the other categories. If anyone wants to break those down a bit, or suggest labels to help me break them down, that would be great.

Also, sidenote. I found another book "rental" website for you to check out. Kirsten suggested and the one I found was This site is also like Netflix but for books. You can subscribe to paperback books or to audiobooks. I would assume you could get the audiobooks and download them to your computer for later listening. For audiobooks, Allison has also recommended

As always, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Go read this book!

Okay, I suppose I should say more than that. This is such a fun read, a prequel to Peter Pan full of swashbuckling adventure. Recognizing characters who will appear in Peter Pan is neat, and the plot is engaging and fun. It doesn't try to imitate the writing style of Peter Pan at all, but it's Dave Barry, so you know it's funny. I'm not familiar with Pearson, but the two of them did a great job setting out the plot that will lead to Peter Pan.

Nick Hornby

Well, I've read How To Be Good and High Fidelity, and I'm now on About A Boy, so I thought I'd post about the two I've read.

High Fidelity - A very nice read. If you've seen the film, you've read the book--it's amazingly faithful, lifting most of the dialogue intact. It's fun to read, anyway, to see how it was translated from London to Chicago.

How To Be Good - This was a funny, funny book about a marriage in trouble, first through infidelity, then through religious conversion. Amazon's review is better than anything I can say about it:

In Nick Hornby's How to Be Good, Katie Carr is certainly trying to be. That's why she became a GP. That's why she cares about Third World debt and homelessness, and struggles to raise her children with a conscience. It's also why she puts up with her husband David, the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But one fateful day, she finds herself in a Leeds parking lot, having just slept with another man. What Katie doesn't yet realize is that her fall from grace is just the first step on a spiritual journey more torturous than the interstate at rush hour. Because, prompted by his wife's actions, David is about to stop being angry. He's about to become good--not politically correct, organic-food-eating good, but good in the fashion of the Gospels. And that's no easier in modern-day Holloway than it was in ancient Israel.

Hornby means us to take his title literally: How can we be good, and what does that mean? However, quite apart from demanding that his readers scrub their souls with the nearest available Brillo pad, he also mesmerizes us with that cocktail of wit and compassion that has become his trademark. The result is a multifaceted jewel of a book: a hilarious romp, a painstaking dissection of middle-class mores, and a powerfully sympathetic portrait of a marriage in its death throes. It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as we watch David forcing his kids to give away their computers, drawing up schemes for the mass redistribution of wealth, and inviting his wife's most desolate patients round for a Sunday roast. But that's because How to Be Good manages to be both brutally truthful and full of hope. It won't outsell the Bible, but it's a lot funnier.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Wow, I'm behind on my book postings!

I finished this book a month ago and haven't gotten around to posting about it. It was a surprisingly gripping read, considering it's billed as a political/social satire of Thatcherite London, which doesn't sound all that involving. The protagonist (but certainly not a hero!) is Nick Guest, a Henry James scholar at loose ends after graduating university. He stays with the family of a university friend, headed by Gerald, a Tory MP, helping out with their disturbed daughter and dabbling in his newfound homosexuality. The backdrop is London in 1983, 1986, and 1987, so the specter of AIDS hangs inevitably over Nick's life. Nick never really "does" anything, in a career sort of way, and seems to drift through life. You might think this would make him an unsympathetic character, but strangely, it illuminates the life of a gay man in a conservative society. Hollinghurst is an extraordinary writer, with rich, precise prose, and this was a pleasure to read. I will be looking for his other novels as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tournament of Books Champion

Cormac McCarthy's book The Road won!

Here's a link to an article on the final judging.

Has anyone read this? It seems to be everywhere these days.