Tuesday, November 28, 2006

There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey To Rescue Africa's Children by Melissa Fay Greene

This is the book that is causing me to rethink my life and try to decide if I am living a meaningful life. Am I doing enough good or should I sell my possessions, move to Africa or India and dedicate my life to something more useful than having a socially conscious job and owning a home.

Haregewoin Teferra was a middle class woman in Ethiopia, a professional woman with an husband who was a teacher and two beautiful and beloved daughters. After her husband passes away she raises her daughters to adulthood. After one of her daughters contracts AIDS and dies, Haregewoin goes into mourning, believing her life is over. Her priest comes to her with a baby that has been orphaned by AIDS and starts her on a journey that transforms her life. She now runs an orphanage that is inundated with the children of the AIDS epidemic.

This is a appalling story of the utter waste of human life that the world has let continue long after successful treatments had been discovered to slow the disease and even reverse it in infants. It is also heartbreaking how painful death is for the millions of adults and children that have contracted the disease. The numbers of dead or dying are almost incomprehensible but threaded through it all is the reality that one person can make a difference.

This is a compelling story where facts are interspersed with personal stories of children that are alive, well and even in some cases, thriving because someone dared to ignore the stigma of AIDS to give these children a home and a chance. Better yet, it is also well researched and well written.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna

This would be an excellent book to use for a women's book discussion group. Set in Sierra Leone, it follows the lives of four sisters, born of different wives (co-wives) of a coffee plantation owner. Each of the women takes a very different path as they navigate the increasingly turbulent social and political landscape of their native county. Ironically, in the end they all end up back in their small village, living in the family compound as they tell their European born niece the stories of their lives.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space by Deborah Cadbury

Space Race is not a book that I would have picked up on my own but I really enjoyed it. Wernher von Braun was the scientist who was destined to find a way to take the USA to the moon. In spite of being a former Nazi with questionable knowledge of the human holocaust taking place around him, he became a star in the USA as he was praised, petted and feted by the press. Sergei Korolev toiled in obscurity for the USSR whose leaders had sent him to a Siberian prison, worked him hard enough to damage his health and contributed to the breakdown of his family.

The lives of the two dramatically illustrate the difference in the approach each government took to the race to get into space. Excellent, well written and surprisingly lively book about the great Space Race.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

By A Slow River by Phillipe Claudel

By A Slow River is a French mystery. I have found that the French literary style is not a particular favorite of mine. I have a difficult time with novels that do not have one sympathetic character (or at least one that isn't too awful). The French authors I have read tend to have a writing style that creates an emotional distance from its characters. Oddly enough, I find this interesting and compelling in French movies. Can't explain why but I will give it some thought.

Anyway, because the murders take place during WWII which creates lots of interesting opportunities for plot twists and turns and I found the mystery a bit unusual, which given the number of mysteries I have read, is saying something. Ultimately though I did not find this compelling or interesting enough to keep me riveted.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Sorry it has been a while since I posted any reviews. I have about five waiting to be written but last week my uncle passed away and today my grandma did. I will try to get some of them written before I have to head home for the funeral.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's happened. The person on the Notable Committee who hadn't turned in any nominations just turned them all in at once. They are all academic, scholarly, really big books. I was afraid of this. I am now up to about 40 books I need to read before January. Be thinking of me as I become a hermit.

No, go ahead, have fun, don't even give me, sitting alone, surrounded by teetering books, a second thought.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Music and Friends

Last night several librarian went out to hear a friend play in a band. http://www.myspace.com/thedannycooke

His band was fine (if a little odd) but the two that came after him were truly awful. Apparently they were trying for a mix between jazz and ambient but ended up with a cacaophony of sound. On the other hand, I can't remember the last time I went out with friends and laughed so much. It made a nice change in the way the rest of my social life has been going.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme

Although this book describes Julia's love of France and the time she and her husband spent there, it is really about the creation of "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" 1 and 2. After falling in love with the food (and the country), Julia takes a cooking class at the Cordon Bleu and finds her true calling as a chef, teacher and advocate of French cooking.

This was such a fun read. Julia's personality shine through and you get a very real sense of who she is. It also vividly shows the loving and happy relationship she has with her husband who was enormously supportive of her newly discovered career while at the same time maintaining his own very prestigious career.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Young Friends Of The Library

The Young Friends of the Library, (21 - 40'sh) in case you are wondering, started a book discussion group at the beginning of the year. We have spent the year exploring international fiction and tonight we discussed a Czech novel, Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal , so I don't have a book from my list to report on today. I can say that that this book has a Kafkaesque quality that made it compelling if not particularly upbeat. It was a very good read and a great book discussion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Music for the Bus

What I am listening to while I am reading on the bus.

Warning Sign by Coldplay
The Bad Guy by Reel Big Fish
Trouble by Coldplay
You're Pretty Good Looking (for a girl) by The White Stripes
She's a Knockout by Social Distortion
Special Needs by Placebo
Welcome To The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
Pinch Me by Barenaked Ladies
Until The Day I Die by Story Of The Year
I'm Shipping Up To Boston by Dropkick Murphys
Shelter Me by Train
You Can't Lose A Broken Heart by Billie Holiday

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Golden Country: A Novel by Jennifer Gilmore

This is a Jewish immigrant story that follows three people and their families as they struggle to attain the American Dream. This is a richly textured novel that captures the struggles, disappointments and heartache that comes with achieving your dreams. In general I enjoyed this story and cared about what would happen to each of the characters.

One quibble is that this first time novelist uses the word "screamed" far too often. Her characters screamed their way through the novel and this word didn't always seem to accurately describe what was happening at that moment. This was also mainly used with the female characters and made the female characters seem much less sympathic than they otherwise would have been. After a while, it became very jarring for me and threw me out of the story.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Newest Updated Booklist

Here is the newest, updated list. Everything that is in bold print is on my current must read before January list.

Abbott, Lee K All Things, All at Once
Aboulela, Leila Translator
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi Half of a Yellow Sun
Adrian, Chris Children's Hospital
Alderman, Naomi Disobedience
Ali, Monica Alentejo Blue
Allende, Isabel Ines of my Soul
Antrim, Donald Afterlife
Arana, Marie Cellophane
Armstrong, Karen Great Transformation
Arsenault, Raymond Freedom Riders
Baker, Calvin Dominion
Bayard, Louis Pale Blue Eye
Beachy-Quick, Dan Mulberry
Begg, Moazzam Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar
Belozerskava, Marina Medici Giraffe
Benni, Stefano margherita Dolce Vita
Berkowitz, Edward Something Happened
Berne, Suzanne Ghost at the Table
Bigsby, Christopher Beautiful Dreamer
Binelli, Mark Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
Bishop, Ted Riding With Rilke
Bissoondath, Neil Unyielding Clamor of the Night
Blum, Deborah Ghost Hunters: William James And The Search For Scientific Proof Of Life After Death In The Dawn Of The 20th Century
Bonner, Jeffrey P Sailing with Noah
Boudinot, Ryan Littlest Hitler
Boyd, William Restless
Boyle, T. Coraghessan Talk Talk
Brinkley, Douglas Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Brookhieser, Richard Divided Ground: Indians, Setlers, And The Northern Borderland Of The American Revolution
Brooks, Max World War Z
Brown, Frederick Flaubert: A Biography
Bruinius, Harry Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity
Burt, Stephen Parallel Play
Busch, Frederick Rescue Missions
Butler, Robert Olen Severance
Cadbury, Deborah Space Race
Cahill, Carmen Bad Faith
Caldwell, Gail A Strong West Wind
Carr, Cynthia Our Town
Carrierre, Jean-Claude Please, Mr Einstein
Carroll, James House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power
Cartledge, Paul Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World
Cartwright, Justin The Promise of Happiness
Cavanaugh, Jack Tunney
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
Chase, Clifford Winkie
Chayes, Sarah Punishment of Virtue:Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban
Child, Julia and Alex Prud'Homme My Life In France
Christianse, Yvette Unconfessed
Clarke, Susanna Ladies of Grace Adieu & Other Sagas
Claudel, Phillipe By A Slow River
Clover, Charles End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat
Collins, Francis S. Language of God
Collins, Martha Blue Front
Cox, Michael Meaning of Night
Cruz, Cynthia Ruin
Dallek, Robert Let Every Nation Know
Davis, David Brion In Human Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
Davis, Dick Trick of Sunlight
Decker, Shawn My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure
DeKok, Ingrid Seasonal Fires
Desai, Kiran Inheritance of Loss
Deslisle, Guy Shonzhen: a travelogue
Dideon, Joan We Tell Ourselves Stories: Collected
Donovan, Gerard Julius Winsome
D'Orso, Michael Eagle Blue
Drape, Joe Black Maestro

Edsall, Thomas B Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power
Egan, Jennifer Keep
Eggars, Dave What is the What
Elliot, Jason Mirrors of the Unseen
Ensler, Eve Insecure at Last: Loosing It in Our Security-Obsessed World
Faulks, Sebastian Human Traces
Fenton, James Selected Poems
Finkel, Caroline Osman's Dream
Forbes, Charlotte Good Works of Avela Linde
Forbes, Peter Gecko's Foot
Ford, Richard Lay of the Land
Forna, Aminatta Ancestor Stones
Fountain, Ben Brief Encounters With Che Guevara
Frazier, Charles Thirteen Mooons
Freedman, Dave Natural Selection
Freudenberger, Nell Dissident
Fuentes, Carlos Eagle's Throne
Gallagher, Tess Dear Ghosts
Gaston, Bill Sointula
George, Margaret Helen of Troy
Getty, Sarah Bring Me Her Heart
Gibbons, Ann The First Human
Gien, Pamela Syringa Tree
Gilfoyle, Timothy Pickpocket's Tale, The Underworld of 19th Century New York
Gilmore, Jennifer Golden Country
Gluck, Louise Averno: Poems
Grande, Reyna Across a Hundred Mountains
Greene, Melissa Fay There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey To Rescue Africa's Children
Greenfield, Robert Timothy Leary
Groom, Winston Patriotic Fire
Guene Faiza Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow
Haddon, Mark Spot of Bother
Hampl, Patricia Blue Arabesque: a Search for the Sublime
Handler, Daniel Adverbs
Hayes, Terrance Wind in a Box
Heaney, Seamus District and Circle
Helms, Sarah Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins And The Missing Agents of WWII
Henderson, William Haywood Augusta Locke
Hendricks, Steve Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country
Henriquez, Cristina Come Together, Fall Apart
Hix, H.L. Chromatic
Homes, A. M. This Book Will Save Your Life
Hoose, Phillip Perfect, Once Removed
Horne, Jed Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City
Hughes, Robert Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir
Idibly, Rayna Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, A Jew - Three Women Search for Understanding
Jacobson, Sid 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation
Jennings, Kevin Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son
Jenson, Liz My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
Johnson, Steven Ghost Map
Jones, Edward P. All Aunt Hagar's Children
Joseph, Peniel E. Waiting 'Till the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
Julavits, Heidi Uses of Enchantment
Just, Ward Forgetfulness
Kammen, Michael Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture
Karr, Mary Sinners Welcome
Kazin, Michael Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
Kehlmann, Daniel Measuring the World
Kelly, James Patrick Feeling Very Strange
Kenneally, Thomas Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia
Keret, Edgar The Nimrod Flipout
Khadra, Yasmina The Attack
Khoury, Elias Gate Of The Sun
Kinzer, Stephen Overthrow:America's Century of Regime Change
Knighton, Ryan Cockeyed: A Memoir of Blindness
Kosco, Bart Noise
Lansens, Lori Girls
Larson, Erik Thunderstruck
Lawrence, Starling The Lightning Keeper
Lawson, Mary Other Side of the Bridge
Ledgard, J.M. Giraffe
Lehrer, Jim Phony Marine
Lerner, Ben Angle of Yaw
Li, Laura Madame Chian Kai-Shek: China's First Lady
Lloyd, Seth Programming the Universe
Long, Dustin Icelander
Lord, Graham John Mortimer: The Secret Life of Rumpole's Creator: The Unauthorized Biography
Lucey, Donna M. Archie and Amerlie
Lynn, Barry W. Piety and Politics
Maathai, Wangari Unbowed
Mackey, Nathaniel Splay Anthem
Maguire, James American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds
Maheu, Layne Song Of The Crow
Malarkey, Tucker Resurrection
Marchetto, Marisa Cancer Vixen
Marcus, Greil Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice
Markoe, Merrill Walking in Circles Before Lying Down
Masters, Alexander Stuart: A Life Backwards
McCarthy, Cormac Road
McCauley, Stephen Alternatives to sex: a gay and obsessive-compulsive post-9/11
McKay, Ami Birth House
McMichael, James Capacity
Mendelsohn, Daniel Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
Merridale, Catherine Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945
Messud, Claire Emperor's Children
Miller, Joe Cross-X: A Turbulent, Triumphant Season with an Inner-City Debate Squad
Moffett, Kevin Permanent Visitors
Mosley, Walter Fortunate Son
Munro, Alice View from Castle Rock: Stories
Naslund, Sena Jeter Abundance
Nazario, Sonia Enrique's Journey
Nielsen, John Condor
Notley, Alice Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005
Ours, Dorothy Man O'War
Padel, Ruth Tigers In Red Weather: A Quest To See The Last Wild Tigers
Pardos, John Safe for Democracy: the Secret Wars of the CIA
Pearce, Fred When the Rivers Run Dry: Water the Defining Crisis of the 21st Century
Perry, Michael Truck
Phillips, Julie James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
Pitlor, Heidi Birthdays
Pomfret, John Chinese Lesons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China
Powers, Richard Echo Maker
Prager, Joshua Echoing Green
Robbins, James Last in their Class
Robertson, Jason Sense of the World
Russell, Karen St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves: And Other Stories
Rust, Elissa Minor The Prisoner Pear: Stories
Safina, Carl The Voyage of the Turtle
Sallis, Eva Fire, Fire
Sancton, Tom Song for my Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White
Sanders, Scott Russell Private History of Awe

Satrapi, Marjane Chicken With Plums
Satterlee, Thom Burning Wyclif
Saunders, George In Persuasion Nation
Schaller, Thomas F Whistling Past Dixie
Schama,Simon Rough Crossings: Britain the Slaves, and the American Revolution
Schneider, Paul Brutal Journey: First Crossing of North America
Schrag, Peter California: America's High Stakes Experiment
Seife, Charles Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from our Brains to Black Holes
Self, Will Book of Dave
Sheehan, Aurelie History Lesson for Girls
Slatalla, Michelle Town on Beaver Creek
Slavitt, David William Henry Harrison and Other Poems
Sloan, Richard Blind Faith
Smith, Lee On Agate Hill
Smith, Patricia Teahouse of the Almighty
Soyinka, Wole You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir
Stargardt, Nicholas Witnesses Of War: Children's Lives Under The Nazis
Stone, Peter Heist
Straight, Susan A Million Nightingales
Tallis, Frank Death in Vienna
Thomas, Scarlett End Of Mr Y
Tomlinson, Jim Things Kept, Things Left Behind
Trudge, Colin Tree: A history of What Trees Are, How they Live, and Why they Matter
Trueblood, Valerie Seven Loves
Umrigar, Thirty The Space Between Us
Unsworth, Barry Ruby in Her Navel
Vallgren, Carl Johan Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred
Walter, Jess Zero
Walter, Philippe Christianity
Waters, Sarah Night Watch
Wa'Thiong'O, Ngugi Wizard of the Crow
Weber, Katharine Triangle: a Novel
Welland, Sasha Su-Ling Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journey of Two Chinese Sisters
White, Richard D. Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long
Winters, Kathleen Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Woodrell, Daniel Winter's Bone
Wright, Lawrence Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Yeh, Jane Marabou
Yehoshua, Abraham Woman in Jerusalem
Young, Ralph F. Dissent in America
Zoellner, Tom The Heartless Stone

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Short story collections are tricky. At their best, each story flows into the next, telling a different story but with an interconnectedness that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. I adore Neil Gaiman's fiction. I find it clever, full of subtext and extremely inventive. Having said that, this collection didn't work that well for me. Individually I enjoyed all of the stories and a couple pulled me into their world (at least for a short time). I found myself thinking about them afterwards but...(don't you hate that word?) the flow wasn't there for me. The transition from one story into the next wasn't seamless and I could put down the book without having that pull to get back to the next story.

This is still a great collection and does include another Spider tale (yeah!) so for fans is well worth reading. It probably won't make my notable final list although the other committee members may disagree with me. (Silly committee members.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is a wonderful gothic tale that reminds me of Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, etc... The main character is a reclusive woman who works in a bookstore owned by her father. Together they spend afternoons sitting in the bookshop reading (sounds lovely doesn't it). She prefers the classics, proper stories with proper endings. She also writes short biographies about obscure people. One of these biographies catches the attention of a famous modern author who is notorious for her changing stories about her life. She asks her to come and write the "real" story about her life. What follows is a story with twists and turns , insanity, twins, murder, betrayal and secrets.

Good stuff!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Angels Rest by Charles Davis

This is the story of a young man trying to make sense of the murder of his father, supposedly by his mother. Up until that point life had been more or less idyllic for Charlie York. A loving mother, a respected father who adores him and although not popular, Charlie has a few good friends he can count on.

All that changes after his mother is arrested. Left in the care of an elderly black man in a racist white town, he is tormented by classmates and hounded by adults. After Mr. Lacy is taken out, stripped down and forced to walk back to their house in freezing weather things go from bad to worse.

This was a beautifully written saga of small town Southern life and the coming of age of a boy facing difficult choices.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Let It Be Morning by Sayed Kashua and Miriam Shlesinger

This is set in a small Arab village in Israel and was a very interesting look at the struggle that everyday life can become in Israel for this minority. Focusing on the life of a journalist at a Jewish newspaper, the protagonist has moved back to his small village as his assignments (along with his paycheck) dry up in the face of increasing tension in Israel. Shortly after moving home the village is surrounded by tanks and the village is cut off from fresh supplies of food, water and waste disposal. As the mood in the village becomes more tense the desperate villagers start to become less and less civil, even to the extent of sacrificing some of their workers in a vain attempt to get the tanks to leave.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies

Goodbye Lemon is one of those edgy, contemporary novels. Think of it like a really depressed American Nick Hornsby novel (About A Boy). The main character, Jack Tennant, is called home when his father suffers a drinking related stroke. After the death of his brother when Jack was five his family fell apart, he and his brother blame his father for being drunk and not watching him, his mother has become a control freak and his father, has managed to stay perpetually drunk. Now the brother has descended into the same kind of drunkenness and has decided that the answer to their problems is for the two of them to kill their father.

Not surprisingly, Jack is affected by the craziness, starts drinking, drives his girlfriend away, loses the (not-so-great) job he has and in general falls apart. Don't worry, the end of the novel, is redemptive and he rebuilds his life in new and surprising ways.

I actually really liked this novel. If he would have ended up a drunk in the gutter it actually would have been a more interesting novel but I do like a bit of hope at the end of my literature.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


You know, because I am on this book award committee, I have received almost all of the books on my post lists from the publishers. This used to be a great source of enjoyment for me. Kind of like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one and even better yet, it occured at least once a week. Now I am starting to become a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of books in my house and when a new box comes I don't think "oh goody, more books". Instead I think "Oh my god, where am I going to put these".

My goal has always been to stockpile enough books so that if I was stranded in my house for three months I would not face the possibility of running out. I had already achieved that goal before I started the committee and now I can safely say that if there is a disaster and I can't leave home (ignoring the utter lack of food in my house) I could stay there for a year, minimum, without running out of new reading material.

In less work intensive years I could easily do 40 - 50 books a month. You do the math:)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tucking Your Lawnmower in for the Winter

I got this in a gardening newsletter and had to laugh. This seems like something that I would do, right?

If you are done mowing for the year, be sure to service your
mower before putting it away. Make sure you drain the gas tank of
gasoline-powered engines or use a gasoline stabilizer. Untreated
gasoline can become thick and gummy. A few drops of oil squirted inside
the spark plug hole (after you remove the spark plug) will help
lubricate the cylinder. While you have the spark plug removed, replace
it with a new one.

If your equipment has a battery, clean the battery terminals,
which usually corrode during the season. A wire-bristle brush is a good
tool for doing this. The battery can then be removed or connected to a
battery monitor that will keep it charged over winter. If you remove the
battery, be sure to store it in a protected location for the winter
season (a cool basement works best).

Now is also an excellent time to sharpen mower blades so
they'll be ready next spring.

Sharpening rotary mower blades is fairly straightforward. The
following steps will guide you through this process:
* Check the blade for major damage. If you can't fix it, it
likely will need to be replaced.* Remove grass and debris from the blade
with a moist cloth. Dry before beginning to sharpen the cutting edge.
* Remove nicks from the cutting edge, using a grinding wheel
or hand-file.
* If using a grinding wheel, match the existing edge angle to
the wheel. If hand-filing, file at the same angle as the existing edge.
* Grind or file until the edge is 1/32 inch, about the size of
a period.
* Particularly with a grinding wheel, avoid overheating the
blade as this may warp it.
* Clean the blade with solvent or oil, much like if you were
cleaning a gun, for optimum winter storage. Avoid use of water as it
will promote rust.

Following these tips can help you better prepare your mower
for winter storage and also save you some steps this coming spring. (WU)