Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My first memory of Little Women was as a child when I accidentally spilled a cup of water on my mom's copy that she had as a kid. After that, it was a waterlogged copy of Little Women. Sorry, Mom! Maybe I still needed to use a sippy cup? Or maybe you should have kept your beloved childhood books on a higher shelf? Anyway, it's waterlogged, and this was 20+ years ago, so what can you do.

This was my first time reading Little Women, and I think it's because I was always afraid to touch my mom's copy again after it was waterlogged because it seemed really fragile and crinkly.

Set during the Civil War, Little Women is about the March family, specifically the four daughters, Meg, Beth, Amy, and Jo. They each have different personalities and talents. The story follows them as they grow up and go through all of the fun and disappointment that comes with, well, growing up.

My experience of reading Little Women was just okay. I wasn't that impressed or interested. I think I would had liked it better if I had read it as a young girl. But as you read above, the copy around the house was too crinkly and so I didn't pick it up. Ah well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Aaron is a thirty-something man who works in publishing. His wife dies suddenly when a tree falls on their house, and this book tells about his grieving process and how he learns to say goodbye.

This is the fifth Anne Tyler book I've read. I enjoy her writing because it's about ordinary people and ordinary life which is also extraordinary if we take the time to think about it. She also doesn't skirt around the mess that life inevitably brings.

I can always trust Anne Tyler for a good, solid, satisfying read. This one was no different.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt, translated by Joel Agee

A young girl is found murdered, and a police detective pledges to her parents that he will find the killer. This pledge becomes a lifetime obsession for him.

A short, quick, and smart read that kept me riveted. It's clever, and at the end, it had me saying a very satisfying "Oh...!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Reading Encouragement

Summer has hopefully brought you a bit more down time to relax and pick up a good book. Just sending some summer reading encouragement to you!

PS: If you come across any great books, you know that I'm always interested in hearing your recommendations!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The First Husband by Laura Dave

Annie Adams has a longtime boyfriend and a job she loves. One day, her boyfriend, Nick, comes home and breaks up with her. Annie marries her re-bound boyfriend three months later, and then Nick comes calling, feeling regretful and apologetic. What to do?

This book is like a summer fling. Not very memorable or significant, but super-fast and fun while it lasts.

Well, I have to admit that I've never had a summer fling, but that's how I imagine they are like. Am I right? Can someone confirm? Hehehehhe.

(I heard about this book from

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles + Guest Review

I asked my friend over at Notorious MLE to write a guest review of this book. Below is my review followed by hers. I encourage you to check out her blog if you want to read a fun and thoughtful blog! =D

Elaine says:
This book starts with a preface that takes place in 1966 as a couple strolls through a photography exhibit showing pictures from 30 years earlier. Katey Kontent is surprised to find two photographs of an old friend, Tinker Grey. One photo is of him as a wealthy, young guy and the next one shows him as a poor fellow. Thus begins a flashback to New York City in 1938.

This story follows three friends, Katey, Eve, and Tinker. The story focuses mostly on Katey Kontent as she climbs the social and professional ladders. Tinker is the bachelor of the moment, but as Katey gets to know him better, she finds that Tinker might not be everything he appears to be. Eve starts out as Katey's roommate, but things change between them once they meet Tinker.

I liked the time period this book was set in. And I did like the main character, Katey. I enjoyed reading this book, but I can't rave about it. I didn't find myself glued to it, but I finished it nevertheless. So I am giving this a lukewarm recommendation. If you're looking for something to read, go ahead and give it a try, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it.

Notorious MLE says:
Like Elaine I can't say that this book really grabbed me but strangely the farther I am from reading it the more I like it. I originally read it as part of the "Phenomenally Indecisive" online book club and I grew to appreciate it more after I read through the discussion thread. (You can find that here: What I appreciated the most about this book was the unique voice, it really feels feels like New York City in the jazz age, it's stylized, listless, naive and hopeful all at once. I find that books in the jazz age can tend to overdo the "hey there baby doll" slang but this one didn't, it felt perfect, raw real and detached.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys thinking about characters, motives and themes then I think you'd enjoy this book. I enjoy doing that in a group setting but not for recreational fun and I believe that is one of the reasons I didn't find this book especially compelling on first read. I'm going to call it kale, a healthy choice but an acquired taste.

Monday, July 9, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This was recommended to me by faithful blog reader, Karen. Thanks, Karen!

Here's what she wrote when she recommended it:
"A novel I recently read that was disturbing, but so well-written and intriguing that I couldn't put down is We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It is not the kind of book I would normally read, but it was very good. It's not a happy book, though by any means."
That pretty much sums up the book.

It's written from the perspective of Eva, a mother who never really wanted to be a mother. Her fifteen-year-old son, Kevin, shoots seven of his classmates, plus a teacher and a cafeteria worker, and is currently in prison. Eva writes a series of letters to her estranged husband in which she tries to figure out what made Kevin do this. Was it because she never really liked Kevin that he turned out like this? Or was it because Kevin was such an unlikable kid that Eva never really liked him?

Disturbing, very well-written, dark, disgusting in parts...and I could not put it down.

Warning to my junior readers: this book contains mature, adult content!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien

John Wade is running for a US Senate seat, but after stories of atrocities he committed as a soldier in Vietnam come to light, he loses by a landslide. After the election, John and his wife, Kathy, spend some time together at a cottage by a lake. But within days of their arrival, Kathy has disappeared.

This book is fiction, but based on true events. It's part mystery, and part exploration of secrets and what happens when we don't speak about things that we've seen or done, and how those secrets can unravel relationships.

This is not lighthearted beach reading. It's a rather serious read that contains some graphic descriptions of war violence. Not for the beach, but good if you're looking for a quality read. If you don't like reading about war though, I'd suggest you skip this book.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone

Human trafficking was mentioned at church one Sunday, and I thought, "I don't know anything about human trafficking."

So I took out the little notebook that I keep in my purse and jotted down: "Research human trafficking."

The next step was to email my friend, Carisa, who I knew had done some research on human trafficking, to ask for book recommendations. She recommended Not For Sale.

This book combines the stories of victims with the activists/"abolitionists" that are working to free these modern-day slaves.

This is the most difficult book I've read so far this year. The narrative style makes it easy to read, but the content is so horrifying that I had to renew this book twice in order to finish it. I just finished it, and it's due tomorrow, nine weeks after I checked it out.

I found myself not wanting to read this book because it is so painful and disturbing that human trafficking is a present-day problem. But instead of leaving the reader feeling helpless and overwhelmed about it all, the book ends with hope and ways to get involved to fight human trafficking.

If you want to know about this topic, I would recommend reading this book. But, I'm telling you, it's not gonna be an easy read! 

Here's the website that tells more about what Not For Sale is working on: