Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Sometimes I wander through the Fiction section of the library and pick out books that catch my eye. I checked this one out, and the next day a friend mentioned that it was her favorite book. Plus she said that she loved Thomas Hardy. So I started to read it.

It's about poor, young Tess Durbeyfield who is raped. This haunts her and her relationships for the rest of her life.

It took me a long time to get through this one. I had to read it much slower than usual to understand what was going on because of the words and the language. But I persevered. I read a chapter a day for what seemed like months on end. Actually, I think it was months on end. I had to renew the book a couple of times and then finally return that copy and check out another copy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood

Mary's five-year-old daughter suddenly dies from meningitis. To survive her loss and her grief, Mary learns to knit. She joins a knitting circle with women who, on the surface, seem to have it all together, but underneath they are also dealing with losses of their own.

This book captured grief well. I liked it. So much that I even brought it with me to work because I only had 30 pages left. But I didn't get a chance to finish it and after I left the office at 8pm, I kicked myself for having left it in my cubby hole. I thought about going back to get it, but thought it was safer that I didn't. But only that safety factor kept me from running back through the parking lot and up the stairs to retrieve it.

Seven Years by Peter Stamm (translated from German by Michael Hofmann)

I had a day off recently and picked up an unread library book that was sitting at the bottom of my book pile. I thought, “If this book is good, I’m going to spend all day reading it.”

So I started it, it was good, and I did spend the whole day reading it (mixed in with some chores and a nap) and finished it in the evening.

Alexander is married to Sonia, a beautiful, smart classmate and fellow architect, but he can't shake his obsession with an old college flame, Ivona, who is plain, and non-descript. He doesn't understand his passion for Ivona, but he can't resist it.

An intriguing book (it held my attention all day), but I felt a bit off after I had finished it. I felt like I had been in a different world all day (which I kinda had). Plus reading about infidelity is quite disturbing. So yes, I couldn't put it down, but it probably would had been better for my brain if I had read it over a week rather than 12 hours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

This is a graphic novel about the author's "birthright" trip to Israel and her search for more truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict. As she tours Israel, more questions are raised as she listens to tour guide presentations.

I found this graphic novel to be informative. I liked the drawings. Several years ago, I went on a two-week Israel trip so it was fun to re-visit the sights, albeit in drawings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Project: Happily Ever After – Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters by Alisa Bowman

Ms. Bowman found herself wishing her husband dead and so she embarked on a last-ditch attempt to save her marriage. She gave herself four months to repair their marriage, and if that didn’t work she would consider divorce.

First, she chronicles how she met her husband, what their relationship was like, and how unavailable, uninvolved, and unengaged her husband was. She then goes on to describe what she did to try and improve her marriage.
It does seem like Bowman was able to better her situation by reading a lot of self-help books and learning to ask her husband directly to do things that would help her and their daughter out.

However, it seemed to me like her husband was not really a winner to begin with. There’s basic consideration, respect, and emotional engagement that seems necessary for even just a friendship…and her husband seemed to lack these things. For example, Bowman wanted to increase their emotional intimacy, but her husband told her that “Guys don’t do feelings” (p.208) and that was the end of that conversation. What hogwash.

I was confused whether this was a memoir or a self-help book. It tried to be both, but was mostly a memoir with self-help guidance included every so often in large type. For example,
“Little known fact: a man who tells you that he doesn’t want to have children really doesn’t want to have children” (p.60).
I found these tidbits of “advice” to be very annoying and distracting.

I did not like this book, and I am recommending that you skip it. The writer and her husband never appealed to me so I couldn’t root for them. I’m glad that Bowman now considers her marriage “good” and that she offers hope that things can change. But if you’re looking to improve your marriage, don’t start here.

In the “Special Bonus Section,” she writes: “It’s also my hope that you will agree that the $19.95 you spent on this book was the best $19.95 you ever spent.” Actually…I’m really glad that I checked this out of the library for free and didn’t spend any money on it.

Live What You Love: Notes from an Unusual Life by Bob and Melinda Blanchard

The Blanchard family moved from Vermont to Anguilla and started a restaurant. This little book is a collection of stories about dreaming, following your heart, and taking risks. Fun and inspiring.

The Red Thread by Ann Hood

This is a fiction book about a woman who runs an adoption agency that matches Chinese orphans with American families. We read about six families that go through the process of adopting. Interspersed between these stories are the six stories of each orphan – what their parents were like, the circumstances they were born into, and how and why they were given up.

A very sweet book that was sad at times. The struggles seemed real – for both the Chinese families who decide to give up their daughters and for the American families going through the adoption process. A bit predictable, but I did enjoy it.

Swim Back to Me by Ann Packer

A collection of short stories that made for mildly pleasant reading. I feel pretty neutral about the stories and have nothing good or bad to say.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner

The authors were all 20-somethings living in New York City working and dating when they decided to take a year off and travel around the world together. The three of them take turns narrating their trip.

I could not distinguish between each of the women. I found myself constantly checking the bottom of the page where it listed who was writing the chapter. Neither of them had distinctive voices or personalities. If you told me that the book was written by just one person, I would believe you.

Also, the women call themselves the "lost girls." However, it seemed to me that they were pretty privileged, lucky, and had an idea of what they wanted and where they were going. Eh.

Overall, I found this book entertaining, but at some points in the 500+ page book, I did feel like I was with them for an entire year.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Low Standards at my Library

I just read an announcement for my library's Adult Summer Reading Program. Last year, participants were required to read 10 books during the summer in order to receive a prize (a free paperback book). This year, we're only required to read five. Five??? That's it? From 10 to five? Okay, five books is better than none, but I'm quite disappointed at this lowering of standards.