Showing posts from December, 2008

Another Fake Memoir

Oprah, I think you need to hire me as a fact-checker. I'm ready whenever you are!

And have the people promoting their false autobiographies ever heard of fiction? Quite a reputable branch of writing, one where anything goes.

Since this particular book involves the Holocaust, there's an extra strike in terms of lying. Aren't there already enough Holocaust deniers without people who should know better providing them with ammunition by writing false stories in the guise of truth? And what an insult to Holocaust survivors and their descendants--and, even worse, the memory of those who didn't survive.

"As Another Memoir is Faked, Trust Suffers" by Motoko Rich and Brian Stelter
The New York Times

An excerpt:

"The story of Herman and Roma Rosenblat, who said they reunited years later on a blind date in New York, turned out to be fabricated, and over the weekend the publisher of his memoir, “Angel at the Fence: The Tr…

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

If I had chosen Perfect Match as the first Jodi Picoult book to read from my friend's loans, I wouldn't have read any of the others.Nina is an attorney who prosecutes, among other serious criminals, child molesters. Of course, Nina's own son, Nathaniel, is molested at the age of five. Not surprising with the trauma, Nathaniel isn't able to speak for a time, and the wrong people, first, briefly, Nathaniel's father/Nina's husband Caleb and then their parish priest, are, in turn, accused of the crime. The book actually begins with Nina killing the priest in the courtroom. As the book proceeds, there's an interesting twist about who the actual molester is, and then there's another interesting twist at the end about what happens to him.I guess my biggest problem with the book is all about me--I absolutely couldn't identify with Nina. Nathaniel is molested, and all Nina seems to think about is herself--her guilt, her need for answers about who did this to…

New York Times Article

"Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It" by David Sheffield.

A small excerpt:

"Bookstores, both new and secondhand, are faltering as well. Olsson’s, the leading independent chain in Washington, went bankrupt and shut down in September. Robin’s, which says it is the oldest bookstore in Philadelphia, will close next month. The once-mighty Borders chain is on the rocks. Powell’s, the huge store in Portland, Ore., said sales were so weak it was encouraging its staff to take unpaid sabbaticals."

Betty Crocker ~~ Nostalgia

There's nothing like baking and cooking to bring back memories. Certain foods, certain tastes and food-related scents, lift me directly back to moments from my past. So, I wasn't terribly surprised that my daughter, Maya, asked about those "green trees" my co-worker baked for us last Christmas. She loved those spritz cookies, and, like a good mom, I agreed to make them for her this year. We had a great time on Sunday evening, though I still don't like the taste of that particular cookie! Maya was a great supervisor, as well as official egg-cracker, dough-taster, and sprinkle-placer. I'm sure this is one of our holiday traditions from this Christmas forward. Since baking the cookies, I've been thinking a lot about my memories of food.I have my Grandma Miller's (Mom's mom) original version of this reprint of the 1950 Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book. I also have a more recent version of the Betty Crocker's Cookbook that we received as a weddi…

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

Just call this Jodi Picoult week in my life. . . .
So far, having read a grand total of two of her books, I think I understand why Picoult's book are holding such a strong appeal for me. Each of her characters is like a real person. No one is the "bad guy," and no one is the "good guy." Everyone is complex, and everyone has different thoughts and situations happening in life that others can't see from the outside. Just like people in the real world, and something too easy to forget when you're caught up in your own problems and even just daily living. Life is difficult, and no one really knows anyone else very well. In the beginning of Salem Falls, we meet former teacher Jack St. Bride as he leaves jail after serving an eight-month sentence for having a sexual relationship with one of the teenage girls he coached for soccer. He wasn't actually involved with his student, but, as we learn later in the book, he also hasn't lived a perfect life. He di…

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

A co-worker/friend loaned me several different books by Jodi Picoult, and I've been very lax about getting the books read and returned to her. Finally, though, between the pressure of not wanting to fall into the "never a borrower nor a lender be" maxim and learning that Picoult is a big fan of Alice Hoffman's book, I found the motivation to get going on her books. While I don't like everything Hoffman has ever written, what I do like from her, I love. So, I jumped into Picture Perfect last night when my daughter fell asleep early due to being sick. And I kept reading until I finished the entire book, a luxury I don't usually allow myself these days. Who needs sleep, right? Picture Perfect drew me in right from the beginning. The story revolves around Cassie Barrett, who has amnesia at the beginning of the book, and her relationships with her husband, Alex Rivers, a famous movie star (think Brad Pitt's level of fame); Will Flying Horse, a Lakota police offi…

I Won on Free Book Friday Teens!

I won a copy of Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin from the site Free Book Friday Teens today!! I'm so excited. What could possibly be better than winning a book?

You, too, can register to win a book every Friday at both Free Book Friday (the main site) at

and at Free Book Friday Teens at

Clara the Early Years by Margo Kaufman

I used to love this time of year for the mail delivery. I wish that more people continued with the tradition of sending cards and letters, which has gone out of style in favor of e-mail greetings or, frankly, just being completely ignored by far-flung family and friends. I miss the old days, in this particular instance.

That being said, I received a lovely card and holiday letter from the first friend I made when I moved to a new town at the start of seventh grade and her husband yesterday. They're on the path to international adoption and hoping that 2009 brings a child into their home. I, too, have the highest hopes for their son or daughter to join them this coming year. Although I don't know her husband all that well, my friend would be a fantastic mother, and, since she was also adopted, she has a lot of extra understanding and emotional support to offer to an adopted child.

After reading their letter, I had to re-read one of my favorite autobiographical books, Clara the Ea…

Here's the link to Maya's program on YouTube. Thanks, Keli!!

Just Joined Book Blogs

How Big is Twilight?

How big is the Twilight phenomenon? While not quite the big brand J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter has become, there's still a lot of interest. A search on Cafe Press provides 13,300 hits. A search on Twilight series in Google lands 1,950,000 entries, with searching just for twilight bringing 122,000,000 hits. I'm going to tell myself that at least some of the twilight entries refer to other kinds of twilight, like the place in West Virginia and the time of day.

Summit Entertainment spent $37 million making the Twilight movie. While I wish I had that kind of money in my personal bank account, that's virtually nothing in terms of a movie budget. The first weekend of ticket sales alone generated just shy of the $70 million mark. Ka-ching!

And the books are so much better than this first movie. My hope is that people are reading and not just going to the movie.

As an aside, I treated myself to one of the t-shirts on Cafe Press:

"Yes, I'm a mom.
Yes, I've read Twilight.

One Bite with a Stranger by Christine Warren

I've been a big fan of vampire novels for a long time. Yes, way before the Twilight series from Stephanie Meyer and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series from J.R. Ward, both of which I enjoy immensely, Anne Rice books, some of which I enjoy, and authors like L.A. Banks and Sherrilyn Kenyon, who I don't enjoy at all. That's important background because not all readers enjoy vampire novels, and those that do often have particular authors they appreciate.

Fair warning: If you fall into the category of romance novel reader who prefers reading little or nothing about sex, One Bite with a Stranger by Christine Warren is not the book for you. The sex scenes are plentiful, very graphic, well-written, and very much about s & m, though heroine Regina makes very clear to lover Dmitri that wanting to be submissive in the bedroom doesn't mean wanting to be submissive in life. Fair enough.

Regina and Dmitri meet as the result of Regina's friends forcing her to experience a Fan…

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

My all-time favorite children's book about Christmas remains How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, even from before learning about the original political subtext of the book about getting store owners to close their shops on Christmas Day while reading more about him during the sesquicentennial celebration of his birth in 2004.

Okay, honestly, I just love the Grinch in all of his Grinchiness, political subtext or not.

I enjoy watching the animated cartoon every holiday season, too, especially due to Boris Karloff's voice contributions. I've yet to take the plunge into watching the Jim Carrey movie, since I'm not a fan of his. Maybe this is the year to try the movie since my daughter might enjoy watching that with me.

One of my favorite books that I owned as a child was I Wish that I had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss. Surprisingly enough, since my parents were teachers, I didn't actually own very many books as a child. Buying books came later in life, though I spent a…

The Bridegroom: Stories by Ha Jin

I really can't drool enough over The Bridegroom: Stories by Ha Jin. I can't say that I "enjoyed" the stories in the collection, which are all sad and depressing, but I'm glad I read them and wished the collection had been much longer.
The stories, set in modern-day Muji City, China, all revolve around actions or decisions and the resulting reactions or consequences. They represent slice-of-life stories, many of which left me wondering about what happened next to some of the characters.
I know almost nothing about China, which is also one of the few places I've never had any interest in visiting. I did enjoy reading my friend's son's blog when he and his wife lived and worked in China for a year, but, of course, the experience and outlook of a Westerner living overseas is very different than that of an ex-pat writing about China from his new home in America. Reading these stories made me want to learn much more about modern-day China and the lives of t…

Cowboys are My Weakness by Pam Houston

As if you needed any, here's proof that my thoughts and views on books, and any and everything associated with books, have absolutely nothing to do with critical appraisal, acclaim, bestseller status, or anything else. My opinions are all my own, and I'm willing to share them with anyone interested in reading about them.Except for the final story, which I consider a very moving portrayal of two friends and a woman seeking to find her true self and my reward for reading until the end, I hated the short stories in Cowboys Are My Weakness: Stories. I found the heroines in all of the stories, besides the final story, pretty much identical. They all considered themselves smart, educated women who just had a little problem with meeting their ultimate goal--the right, worthy man. The men they actually already had or met during the stories, were, of course, incapable of commitment, often cruel or at least unkind, and a waste of their time.Maybe that just makes her female characters sm…

Quote to Live By

"There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it." ~~Bertrand Russell

My personal reading habits seem to delineate fairly well along those lines! I can think of very few books I place in both categories. Yes, I'm back to talking about The Scarlet Letter again, I suppose.

New York Times 10 Best Books of 2008

This is the time of year when seemingly everyone gives some version of their own best books list for the year. Being the New York Times gives this list a certain cachet in literary terms. What author wouldn't be excited to find him/herself included on this list? Compare that to an author having a work chosen as Oprah's Book Club selection, which means money, money, money and popular cachet, but not literary cachet. I would take being on the NYT list any day. . . .

--Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories by Steven Millhauser (Fiction)

--A Mercy by Toni Morrison (Fiction)

--Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Fiction)

--2666 by Roberto Bolano, originally published in 2004 in Spanish, translated into English by Natasha Wimmer (Fiction)

--Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (Fiction)

--The Dark Side: The Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer (Nonfiction)

--The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (Nonfiction)

--Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes…

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Another hospital book club selection I wouldn't have chosen to read on my own is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

I don't think anyone can hear about Pausch dying too soon and leaving behind a very young family without feeling saddened by their loss--and his. A caring parent wants to see his/her child/ren at least somewhat settled and established in life before leaving. I can only imagine how difficult leaving everything he wanted them to know about him behind in a taped lecture and a book instead of being there every day to show them who their father is and what he believes about life, helping to raise them, and just being there for them.

That being said, and certainly not to minimize his death, what an incredible opportunity to fully know and understand that your time is truly finite and limited. He had to go through every second with his wife and sons thinking how lucky he was to have them. Bittersweet, true, but savoring the little moments is something almost impossible fo…

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen for the hospital book discussion group. This is one of those books where I infrequently looked at the back blurb and thought, "Ugh. That's right. I have no interest in ever reading this book." Since one of my goals for starting the book club was to read books that I wouldn't normally choose on my own, consider that goal successfully met.

I really, really didn't enjoy this book at all. I wouldn't have even kept reading beyond the first couple of chapters if I didn't "have" to read the book for the club. However, I'm the only person in the group who didn't enjoy the book! Reading truly is an individual experience, and I should note this book is a frequent book club selection and received a lot of critical acclaim.

The book is about Jacob Jankowski, a retired, 90-something-year-old veterinarian living in a nursing home. The majority of the book is comprised of Jacob's memories of traveling with the…