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Books I Wish She Had Read January 26, 2011

Posted by reddlissa in Family Affairs, Literary Journal, Rants/ Raves, Uncategorized.
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While browsing the web, I found a post about missed reading opportunities and started thinking about my rich reading background.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t a voracious reader.  My mom has a tremendous love of reading and literature and shared that love with my brother and me.  Some of my earliest (and happiest) memories are of Momma reading The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins   and Are You My Mother? , and the greatest Christmas present I received as a kid was the Little House on the Prairie box set which I read at least a dozen times.  Books have always been an integral part of my daily routine and I shudder to imagine a life in which I couldn’t indulge in a quick trip to ancient Rome, King Henry’s Hampton Court, or the dark alleys of crime-ridden Los Angeles.   With this in mind, I offer a quick list of the most influential or memorable books from my childhood:

1.  Little House of the Prairie (Wilder) — I cannot express how much I loved this series.  I still own that box set I got over 25 years ago;  each book is tattered and worn from being read so many times.  I even had my mom make a “Laura Ingalls dress” that I wore until I couldn’t squeeze into it any longer. 

2. Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery) — Contrary to what my students believe, I was not a troublemaker as a child.   I relied on this book to vicariously experience tight scraps, wild adventures, and fierce independence.

3.  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? (Blume) — This book was so taboo in my 5th grade world!  What I remember most about this book is having to put my name on a waiting list at the school library just to check it out…..and the exercise to grow your boobs.  Surprisingly those of us lucky enough to have a chance to read the book never spilled any of its secrets to those poor souls still waiting their turn.

4.  Little Women (Alcott) — I had an illustrated version of this classic that was passed down from my mom and aunts.  I loved Jo and was devastated when she cut off her beautiful hair.  This was one of the first books that I can remember pulling various emotions from me as I read.

5.  Where the Sidewalk Ends (Silverstein) — Every student at my elementary school was required to participate in an annual elocution contest.  Without fail my brother and I always chose to recite a poem from this collection.  This is one of the few books that he and I both loved; we wrote and drew on the pages of our favorite poems 🙂

I’m happy to be able to say that I have passed this love of reading on to my daughter; she would willing spend my entire paycheck at Barnes and Noble.  Sadly I realize that my daughter, for all her reading, has not experienced any of these amazing works 😦

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – Lauren Willig June 12, 2007

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Another great novel on loan from a friend…Thanks MerrieB


Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation-the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?  [from barnesandnoble.com]

I simply could not put this book down!  I managed to read the entire novel in under 24 hours, which means I stayed awake until 2 in the morning, read most of the day, and DIDN’T play WoW…good grief  😀 In all seriousness, while the book had a few annoying and completely unrealistic moments (including Miss Gwen’s encounter with Bonaparte and Amy’s inability to immediately determine the true identity of the Purple Gentian), overall I found it very entertaining.  I know it had many historical inaccuracies but I didn’t go into it with the hope of reading a textbook — I wanted to read something light and semi-romantic that would be short escape from reality .  I found all 3 in this delightful story.

Dork Whore – Iris Bahr June 10, 2007

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Thanks to Heather for lending me this absolutely hysterical novel…

Fresh out of the Israeli army, twenty-year-old Iris Bahr decides to follow in the footsteps of many before her and backpack through Asia.  Unlike the average traveler, however, she has more in mind than seeing the sights: she is on a desperate mission to lose her virginity.  From seedy hotel rooms in Bangkok to opium-fogged jungle compounds, Iris winds her way through Asia and, inevitably, through her own complicated past.  But each adventure, whether heartbreaking or hysterical, brings her closer to the realization that she’s got something more inmportant to lose than just her virginity — her own insecurities.  (from back cover)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  There are parts that made me laugh aloud, parts that left me cringing in fear of what may happen next, and parts that brought back memories of my own experiences and hang-ups.  Although Iris borders on being annoying at times it completely fits the actions and thinking of a 20-year-old so she can be forgiven.  I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a touching yet totally hysterical read.

Little Earthquakes – Jennifer Weiner March 30, 2007

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Little Earthquakes

In her first and second bestsellers, Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, Weiner came up with female characters so smart, lovable and mordantly funny that they reminded readers that Bridget Jones wasn’t the first single woman to light up a bestseller list or the big screen—there were Sheila Levine, Mary and Rhoda, the Golden Girls. Now, just as the star-studded movie version of In Her Shoesis about to be released, Weiner delivers the interwoven tale of four new mothers who come to form a tight posse in contemporary Philadelphia. The heart of this third-person narrative is Becky, an overweight but thoroughly appealing chef at a chic bistro. Married to an adoring doctor and living in a cozy row house, the warm, nurturing Becky is the latest incarnation of Weiner’s previous protagonists, as Weiner’s fans will recognize as she rushes to help another woman who collapses into sudden, crushing labor pains after a prenatal yoga class (“Being in labor all by herself —no husband around, no friend to hold her hand—was about the worst thing she could imagine,” Becky thinks. “Well, that and having her midriff appear on one of those ‘Obesity: A National Epidemic’ news reports”). The woman whom Becky helps is Ayinde, the gorgeous wife of an NBA superstar. Picturesquely if improbably, she, Becky and another expectant mom, perky blonde Kelly (who was also at the fateful yoga class and lent a helping hand) become fast friends. Eventually, Lia, a beautiful young actress who has left Hollywood for her hometown of Philadelphia in the wake of a tragedy, joins the group. For much of the story, Weiner, a wonderful natural writer and storyteller, renders her characters and their messy, sometimes wrenching lives in details that resonate as the real deal. In the end, alas, she slips in a soapy Hollywood ending. Still, this is a rich portrayal of new motherhood and a fun ride. Weiner’s readers will root for her to trust ever more her ability to float between comedy and pathos, leaving the shallows for true and surprising depths.
                                           from Amazon.com

I absolutely love this book, as I have the other Jennifer Weiner novels.  Her characters say the things I say (or wish I could say) and think the things I’d think, which is perhaps what makes the books such fun to read.  I especially identified with the character Becky.  I finished this novel in three days and wanted to pull an all-nighter on the second night in order to finish but I had to work the next day.  A good read for moms and moms-to-be. 

The Boleyn Inheritance – Phillipa Gregory March 13, 2007

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from Amazon.com … 

Returning to the scene of The Other Boleyn Girl, historical powerhouse Gregory again brings the women of Henry VIII’s court vividly to life. Among the cast, who alternately narrate: Henry’s fourth wife, Bavarian-born Anne of Cleves; his fifth wife, English teenager Katherine Howard; and Lady Rochford (Jane Boleyn), the jealous spouse whose testimony helped send her husband, Thomas, and sister-in-law Anne Boleyn to their execution. Attended by Lady Rochford, 24-year-old Anne of Cleves endures a disastrous first encounter with the twice-her-age king—an occasion where Henry takes notice of Katherine Howard. Gregory beautifully explains Anne of Cleves’s decision to stay in England after her divorce, and offers contemporary descriptions of Lady Rochford’s madness. While Gregory renders Lady Rochford with great emotion, and Anne of Cleves with sympathy, her most captivating portrayal is Katherine, the clever yet naïve 16th-century adolescent counting her gowns and trinkets. Male characters are not nearly as endearing. Gregory’s accounts of events are accurate enough to be persuasive, her characterizations modern enough to be convincing. Rich in intrigue and irony, this is a tale where readers will already know who was divorced, beheaded or survived, but will savor Gregory’s sharp staging of how and why

After reading WideacreI was unsure if I would ever read another Phillipa Gregory novel.  My mom bought this new book in the Henry VIII “saga” and after a brief moment of hesitation, I decided I couldn’t resist another glimpse into the fascinating world of sex, deception, and madness.  I have read Gregory’s four other Tudor novels and absolutely loved them; thankfully this story didn’t let me down.  While I knew how the story would end, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the private thoughts and motivations of Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn.  Gregory gave each woman a wonderfully vivid and deep personality which made the novel worth reading. 

Booky Meme February 25, 2007

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This was “stolen” from MerrieB

Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?
Horror…I’m not into Sci fi or fantasy

Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?
For the most part trade paperback.  The only time I buy hardback is if I am absolutely dying to read a new book and can’t handle another moment of anticipation.

Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
Brick & Mortar on occasion – I need to hold a book before I can buy it.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
B&N simply because it is closer to my house.

Hitchhiker or Discworld?
I honestly have no clue what this refers to.

Bookmark or Dogear?
Neither.  I just remember the page number.

Asimov’s Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?
Neither…as I said I don’t read fantasy and sci-fi

Alphabetize by author, Alphabetize by title, or random?
I arrange my books by height, although I try to keep series together.

Keep, Throw Away or Sell?
Keep the ones I really love or know I’ll read again in a few years and sell the others.

Keep dust-jacket or toss it?
The few hardcover books I have still have the jackets.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?
I hate dustjackets– they are always in my way!  I won’t open a book until the stupid thing is safely stashed in my bedside table.

Short story or novel?

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Harry Potter (I’ve never read Lemony Snicket).

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I read until I don’t want to anymore then I toss the book on the table.  It doesn’t matter where I am, middle of the chapter, middle of a paragraph, or middle of a sentence. 

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time?”
Never thought about it but I guess “…dark and story night.”

Buy or Borrow?
Buy, although I’m not picky about whether the books are new or used.

Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?
Book reviews or browse.

Lewis or Tolkien?
I’ve never read Tolkien so by default it’s got to be Lewis.

Collection (short stories by the same author) or Anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Collections.  The only anthologies I have are from college.

Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?
ummm…just as long as it isn’t stupid I don’t really care.

Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?
Every afternoon when I get home from work and every night before I turn out the light

Standalone or Series?
Series for most things.

New or used?
Used unless it is a series I collect.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
We Need to Talk About Kevinby Lionel Shriver

Top 5 favorite genre books of all time?
Too many choices.

Favorite genre series?
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Currently Reading?
Easy Preyby John Sandford

People of the Raven – Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear January 8, 2007

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The Gears’ 12th entry (after 2003’s People of the Owl) in their richly imagined series of novels about the peoples who populated North America in the distant past follows a familiar pattern. Using their archeological backgrounds and talent for research, they have incorporated recent evidence that “there were Caucasoids—traditionally described as light-skinned people—in North America between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago” into this tale of rival cultures in the Pacific Northwest at a time of momentous change. The dominant North Wind People and the various villages of the Raven People are increasingly intermixed, but also increasingly at odds. The leaders—warriors, matrons, healers, holy men and elders—of both groups face tremendous pressures and decisions as dwindling resources and increased competition drive them toward war. There’s nothing primitive about the powerful mix of intrigue and ambition, statesmanship and strategizing, betrayal and self-sacrifice that the principals demonstrate. One can quibble with the Gears’ tendency to use capitalization in odd ways and to describe two major female characters in physical terms geared to modern tastes. Overall, however, they succeed in blending a great deal of information about how these hunter-gatherers lived (food, lodging, weapons, etc.) together with the universal search for love, power and wisdom. It’s a combination that will surely satisfy readers addicted to the series.  [from amazon.com]

This is perhaps the 10 Gear book I’ve read and once again I enjoyed every page.  This book was a bit different from the others I’ve read — the focus was more militaristic and traced the strained relationship between 2 groups (tribes) that are forced to work out ways to exist in the same area.  One of the things that I’ve liked about past books is the focus on the spirituality of ancient Native Americans.  This particular book only hints at the religious and spiritual aspects of ancient life in the Washington area 9,000 years ago.   Although the missing religious tone of the book is lacking, the intricate double and triple crossing schemes of the different Great Chiefs and Matrons more than make up for these missing details.  Overall a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

Cell – Stephen King December 26, 2006

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Cell - Stephen King

In Cell King taps into readers fears of technological warfare and terrorism. Mobile phones deliver the apocalypse to millions of unsuspecting humans by wiping their brains of any humanity, leaving only aggressive and destructive impulses behind. Those without cell phones, like illustrator Clayton Riddell and his small band of “normies,” must fight for survival, and their journey to find Clayton’s estranged wife and young son rockets the book toward resolution.   [from Amazon.com]

I haven’t read a Stephen King novel in several years; I was addicted to his work in my early teen years.  One day I was in Walgreens, killing time while my daughter was at her guitar lesson, and randomly purchased this book.  I honestly had no expectations when I started to read but I should have known that anything written by King would be a good read. 

The story is a bit freaky and I found myself answering my cellphone with a bit of hesitancy for a few days.  Hypothetically speaking I suppose King’s fictional tale could one day  come true…God helps us.  Any King fan will likely enjoy the novel as will anyone looking for a fantastical view of what the future might bring.    

Getting Out of the House – Isla Dewar November 28, 2006

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Nora was devastated when her mother, Maisie, told her she preferred her older daughter, Cathryn.  Heartbroken but not altogether surprised.  After all, Cathryn was clever, good-looking, just about perfect, really.  Nora was awkward, and prone to daydreaming and telling fins.  Who wouldn’t prefer Cathryn, Nora thought?

But now, living in Edinburgh, removed from her childhood home and her volatile mother, Nora is happy.  She has a lover she adores, a close circle of friends with whom she can banter and joke, and a job that befits a dreamer and a fibber.  Life is beautiful.  But when Maisie’s world unexpectedly falls apart, she and Cathryn think it is obvious Nora be the one to pick up the pieces.  Nora doesn’t think it obvious at all.

Escaping her family was Nora’s first step to self-fulfilment.  But when she has to deal with betrayal and the surprising consequences of a love affair, she finds, at last, a way to forgive and even learn to love the people she left behind.                             (From the back cover) 

 This is one of the many novels I picked up while in Scotland.  An easy read about a out-of the box daughter trying to break away from her overbearing and slightly insane mother.  A few parts were predictable but there were also a couple of surprises.  The dialogue between Nora and her friends is witty, and I loved trying to follow the convoluted trains of thought of both Nora and Brendan.    I especially enjoyed the references to parts of Edinburgh I had visited.  I recommend this novel to anyone in the mood for a family drama that’s relativley light-hearted and quick to read.    

Literary Meme August 2, 2006

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Stolen from Ephiany

1. One book that changed your life?
I’m going to have to choose the entire Little House on the Prairie series.  These books sparked two fires that have yet to be extinguished: my absolute love for reading and my fascination with history.   

2. One book you have read more than once?
There are so many books that I re-read but I think my favorite is Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos.  The depraved schemes of the Marquise de Marteuil and Vicomte de Valmont never cease to make be gasp in both horror and respect.  What a fabulously awful world!

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The Holy Bible for a few reasons.  The most obvious reason is because it would take me quite a bit of time to read the entire thing from cover to cover, which is very handy on a deserted island where activities are probably limited.  Also, the New Testament is something familiar to me and reading my favorite passages would help comfort me in such a scary situation.  Finally, I would certainly have plenty of time to study and reflect on the deeper meanings of the Word, something I don’t take the time to do in my regular life.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Big Troubleby Dave Berry.  I picked this book up from the bargain table at B&N one day simply because I liked the cover art.  When I started to read, I couldn’t put the book down nor could I stop laughing.  The satire, irony, and outright jokes actually made me cry I was laughing so hard!

5. One book that made you cry?
I know I have cried while reading but for the life of me I cannot recall the title of a specific book that brought me to tears.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Hmmmm…time travel mixed with Tudor history with a touch of aliens and told from the viewpoint of the court jester

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
nothing comes to mind right now

8. One book you are currently reading?
Dead and Buriedby Quintin Jardine.  I picked it up in Scotland because Jardine is a Scottish author and I Wanted to try something new.  So far I am having a bit of trouble following the story because I don’t understand the hierarchy of the Scottish police department and justice system but hopefully things will move past that soon enough.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.  I’ve started it 3 times but never made it past the 4th chapter.

10. Now tag five people
I’ll leave this open to whoever may be interested