Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September Reading Round Up

Well, I know it's early, but the fit's really about to hit the shan in my personal life, things are about to be in disarray for about 5 days with my mom visiting, the book festival, etc. etc. so I figured I'd better do this earlier rather than later.

This has been another good month--10 books read, which puts me at 86 on the year and only 14 left before I break 100. Amazing. Towards June and July I was positive I wasn't going to be able to make 100, and I'm really close. I suspect I'll get there.

As always, spoilers abound, so beware and don't read more than the title if it's a book you really want to read and haven't done yet.

1. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. This is one of my final books for the Armchair Traveler Challenge, and so you've probably already read my review. This is Parkhurst's second novel, and if she keeps it up, she's well on her way to becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved this book, I loved it as much as if not a teensy bit more than The Dogs of Babel, and I loved dreaming of visiting all the places she mentioned in her book. I loved the characters, the writing, the locales. Everything about it was great. Even when it was dancing its way towards a happy ending and everything was sugary goodness, I didn't have any problem with that. Sometimes you just need things to resolve themselves positively. Hell, that's why I read!

2. The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by N. Juster. I've been really into the power of positive thinking and everything happens for a reason and so forth and so on lately. Even when I'm furious and screaming "I hate my life!" I'm laughing on the inside. So Joe gave me this book, which is the sweet story of a straight line trying to win the heart of a dot. The dot is in love with a squiggle, and the line must prove himself worthy of her love by being the best line he can be, while the squiggle remains a squiggle.

Originally published in 1963, this is the sweetest book, and I'm so glad I read it. Even though it was all of 80 short pages, I'm including it because I read it and it mattered to me. It made me want to be the best line I can be, and that's what I'm shooting for!

3. Death Note, Volume One by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Joe is trying to convince me that Manga is where it's at. He got really into the Death Note series and I have been trying to make him read happy things, non-death things, but he's lovin' Death Note, so I agreed to give it a try.

Death Note is a true Japanese graphic novel, which you read from back to front, right to left. I thought it would be harder to do, but it was actually pretty easy. It still doesn't make sense to me why you'd read that way, but I suppose reading front to back, left to right might not make sense to the Japanese. I don't know.

It tells the story of Light, a top notch student with amazing opportunities in front of him for his future, who finds a notebook dropped by a shinigami god of death. He can write anyone's name in the notebook and they will die. Light vows to use the book for the good of mankind, bumping off criminals and thugs to improve the world. Soon the world catches wise to the fact that there is something unusual happening and send a super duper secret agent called L to investigate. Somehow L instantly zeroes in on the fact that the person responsible is a supremely intelligent teenager with ties to the police force (Light's father is chief of police), and the game is on.

The volume ends very abruptly, which Joe tells me is due to the fact that they simply put a bunch of individual comic books into one volume and then create another. He has volume 2, which I may read eventually, we'll have to see!! I liked this better than I thought I would--it's more of a psychological thriller than a psychotic teenager, and I'd have to say I'm interested to see "who wins"--Light or L or the shinigami. I might even let Joe finish reading the series instead of making him switch to daisies and butterflies.

4. Househusband by Ad Hudler. Linc Menner is a man who has just given up his job as a very successful landscaper in California to move to Western New York, where his wife has been hired to be CEO of a hospital. While Jo, his wife, laments her 12 hour days, Linc is left to deal with the whisperings of his neighborhood housewives who don't trust a man around their children (including his own 3 year old daughter), the struggles of maintaining a household, the pressures of being supportive of his wife, and his own struggle to find meaning in a life defined by laundry and cooking.

The book reminded me a bit of an updated version of the old Michael Keaton film Mr. Mom. Linc and Jo have to find their own ways to deal with his being a stay-at-home dad and it's so entertaining to read Linc whining about having to go be arm candy at his wife's corporate events, while she complains that she doesn't get to spend enough time with 3-year-old Violet. When they finally find their balance, it's wonderful. I loved hearing Linc become whiny and dependent and his wife annoyed and distant. It really cracked me up. Good stuff.

5. There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro. *Phew!* I think the title is longer than the book!!!

I already talked about this in my challenge review, but not one of my favorites. It had its moments, but it was just as well that I read it, finished it, and put it away. The book is Laurie's life with the names changed to protect the innocent.

If you love her stuff, you'll probably love this book. I think my sister did--she seemed kinda pissed after reading my review, so I dropped the subject. Try it for yourself, you might like it! The writing was fine, and I guess it was funny, but I don't like it when books and authors try too hard.

To me, this is like Laurie picking you up by the collar, getting right in your face, shaking you, and screaming, "It's funny damnit! Laugh!"

I chuckled twice.

6. Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather Mcelhatton. I actually read this book this summer, and I can't believe I haven't listed it. I did a search through my old entries and don't see it, so I'm including it here.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure? You were in a haunted house and suddenly you were flying over the rainbow on the back of a winged horse? Well, imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure for grown ups. Thus is the premise of Pretty Little Mistakes.

I loved it. I had my fingers holding the pages, just in case I didn't like where my story was heading, and I always seemed to turn into some drug-addicted nymphomaniac, which I wasn't crazy about. At the end of each story I died too!!! But along the way, I joined the circus, went to Italy, became a doctor, headed for the rain forest, and a zillion other possibilities, and it was a lot of fun seeing what my choices would lead to.

If only life came with that type of manual. Hmmm, Arkansas, don't like where this is heading, let's go back to Boston and try a different path...

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is this month's book club selection, believe it or not, a YA book about a young man chosen for an extraordinary task: to receive all the memories of joy, pain, love, hope, despair, forgiveness, anger, etc. for his community, which lives in detached Sameness. Jonas comes to realize all that is lost in giving up one's feelings and emotions in order to create a "perfect" society, and must make difficult choices in his quest to save himself and his people from themselves.

I won't get into this too much, since book club is Monday, but suffice it to say, I was both intrigued and sickened by this book. I look forward to a great discussion. I loved it.

8. Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell. Again, one I've reviewed for the challenge already, but what the heck. I'll try to add something.

The story tells of Beth's journey to China with her friend Alex, who has decided to adopt a little Chinese daughter and bring her home to America. However, upon receiving the child, Alex decides the whole thing is a huge mistake and that she doesn't want the baby any more. Beth has a series of dreams and visions (which were a bit beyond the pale in my view) and realizes that she must bring the baby home to raise her because they were separated in a past life.

Ok, putting aside the craziness of the past life thing and visions of the Virgin Mary, it was a great book. Beth's growing attachment to the infant and her struggles with Alex to ensure that the right thing is done was heartwrenching, and her tales of what she encountered on the streets and in the villages and cities of China were fascinating. I loved reading this one! If you're interested in China or adoption, you might enjoy this book, for sure!

9. The Martian Child by David Gerrold. David Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care system. One day, while looking through a book of adoptable children, he came upon a picture of Dennis, a troubled young boy that the social workers had labeled unadoptable. Dennis was convinced he was a Martian, got into fights with other kids, and destroyed property. But David was ready to take him on. Together, they built a family.

This was a great book! I happened upon it by accident in Borders and I read it immediately. Gerrold does gloss over almost all of Dennis's behavioral problems, making lists like "of course, he got into trouble, stole money, destroyed books, but he was a great kid". So we never really know much about the real struggles they went through.

The book instead focuses a lot on Dennis's obsession with being a Martian. Gerrold finds other examples of children who think they're Martians too, and speculates that they might, in fact, be Martians! Of course, he doesn't pursue this line of thought, for fear he'd be found crazy and put the adoption in jeopardy.

The book won a Hugo and a Nebula Award, which I gather is a big deal in the Sci Fi community. However, it really was just a heartwarming story of a dad and his son, and the growing pains a kid in the system faces as he struggles to become part of an average family in America. I have great respect for foster parents--I am a volunteer for the Orphan Foundation of America, which helps youth aging out of the foster care system, and I listen to the kids I mentor talk about it and wonder how the system and the families can be improved. It's a tough, tough job. I'm glad it worked out for these two.

10. The Garden Angel by Mindy Friddle. Last but not least comes this debut novel of one of South Carolina's homegrown authors.

From Salvation can come from the most unexpected places, and an unlikely friendship between two women--one strong and determined, the other scared and uncertain-- provides the solutions to challenging problems confronting both. Faced with losing her family's home, a rundown mansion in a once elegant part of town, Cutter will do anything to protect her ancestral birthright. Faced with losing her husband to another woman, Elizabeth isn't sure what she can do to reclaim Daniel's love. And when the other woman is none other than Cutter's sister, the likelihood of finding the help she needs from Cutter seems even more improbable. As Cutter runs out of options for halting the sale of her grandmother's house and Elizabeth runs out of time to save her marriage, their unorthodox friendship ends up being the one thing they both can count on.

I loved this book. I found myself hating it--it's very slow and languid, kind of like a hot Southern summer day, and you kind of have to pick your way through it, but it's a wonderful story and written beautifully. Friddle is the type of writer I aspire to be: she makes you work for it, and makes you want to work for it. By the end, I couldn't put it down. And the book comes with a pretty happy ending, which made me even happier. Things don't always work out exactly the way we want, but they usually work out for the best. Good stuff!

So that's it for this month... Closing in on it... Hard to believe. I won't be getting any reading done for the next few days, so I'll get a late start to October.

To sum up where I am:

The Excellent: Lost and Found, The Garden Angel

The Great: The Martian Child, The Giver

The Good: The Line and the Dot, Death Note, House Husband, Pretty Little Mistakes, Forever Lily

The OK: There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell

Totals for August:

Books Read: 10
Pages Read: 2648

Totals for 2007:

Books Read: 86
Pages Read: 27,532

4 pearl(s) of wisdom:

nettiemac said...

OH! The Line & The Dot!!! They even had a cartoon about that --- I always liked that (and the Squiggle too).

Eva said...

I love The Giver! I read it for the first time in 4th grade, and since then I've tried to reread it once a year. :)

Nicola said...

Great selection of books there! I loved the Giver too! Are you planning on reading the sequels?

Debi said...

Sounds like you'll hit 100 without even breaking a sweat! Way to go! I can only dream of reading 10 books in a month...and dream I do.