Archive for May, 2008

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , on May 25, 2008 by Lisa

This review is also posted at Books. Lists. Life. I am copying it here because a certain someone else from this blog also recently read it and I’d like to spur her review.

Grave Surprise is the second book in the Harper Connelly series. Since being struck by lightning as a teen, Harper has had the ability to find bodies, and to tell what killed them. In this book, Harper and her brother/keeper Tolliver have come to Memphis to demonstrate her talent when Harper discovers a grave that contains not one, but two bodies. Through coincidence (or not) they become suspects in the murder of the unexpected body.

When I read the first in the series, Grave Sight, I liked it but didn’t love it. I had the same response to this one. While I enjoy Charlaine Harris, I definitely prefer the Sookie Stackhouse books to these. Harper is a good character and has a lot of potential. She has flaws (sometimes contradictory- her leg is weak to the point of needing help walking at times as a result of the lightning, but she enjoys jogging?), she isn’t sociable and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for herself. Tolliver is a bit of a cliche- not traditionally good looking but has a woman in every town clamoring for his attention. While I like the idea of a brother-sister team, this isn’t one that I enjoy. I find the relationship between the two of them incredibly creepy. This is somewhat addressed in the book, but before I got to that point I almost put the book aside for good.

The plot itself was ok. The mystery had plenty of clues and I’m sure the average reader could figure it out. I really like the “senses dead people” idea and will certainly continue to read the books, but they won’t be at the top of my wish list.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Posted in Christine, Fiction, Literature, Non-Fiction, South on May 23, 2008 by muerta

With all the great new books out there, sometimes it is nice to curl up with a classic.

After reading Gone with the Wind (my ultimate excuse for attempting to get out of Literature 101; “but look, I am reading Gone with the Wind!  I don’t need this course!”), I asked Lisa if I should read the sequel.  I have seldom seen Lisa passionate about a particular issue but reading the sequel to Gone With The Wind received an resounding “No.”  I assumed that Rhett Butler’s People would lack recommendation as well, but I wanted to continue on a Southern theme.  Hence, I gravitated toward Lee’s Mockingbird (having seen the movie at least twice) and enjoyed every word.

There are few books that I truly savor.  Harper Lee deserved to be slowly enjoyed and digested, like a good winter meal on a particularly cold day.  The images that she creates within your mind are majestic and believable.  While the main theme revolves around racism and Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson, the subtle subplots constantly move the story forward.  You can not help but to love Calpurnia as she watches Jem and Scout, and admire Atticus for taking on his impossible mission– knowing that he is Don Quixote but willing to take that chance.  The reader witnesses racial separatism from a child’s eye, and realizes the ridiculousness of judging an individual because of skin color rather than quality (or “breeding” as Aunt Alexandra would remind us).  And then there is “Dill,” who is without a literary doubt, Truman Capote and Scout’s best friend beside her brother.  I loved the line that Atticus gives us when Dill shows up at their house one summer, “From rape to riot to runaways, I wonder what the next two hours will bring.”

I could talk about how this was a child’s realization of her perceived father vs. her real one, but Harper Lee tells that story so well that it should be left to the women like Miss Maudie to explain that history.  But instead, I shall just leave the story to stand as it is, a semi-autobiographical book which tells of growing up in a small southern town where one small outspoken girl learns the pain of having to walk in the shoes of other people.  Having been there, done that, I can only say that Harper Lee tells an accurate story.

My friend Kathy (another literary nutcase) tells me that the best southern female writers usually only have one good story to tell.  I tend to agree, with a sarcastic nod.  Harper Lee may have only had one good story, but like a good serving of biscuits and gravy, it is well worth the time to enjoy.

Thanks Lisa.  🙂

TBR Challenge: The Non-Runner’s Marathon Guide For Women by Dawn Dais

Posted in Gina, Non-Fiction, TBR Challenge on May 21, 2008 by Gina

With a subtitle of “Get Off Your Butt And On With Your Training,” how can you not love this book.

 Almost four years ago, after developing gestational diabetes,  a doctor told me that I needed to do something drastic to keep from developing diabetes when I am older.   She suggested training to do marathons which is what she had done.  I was stunned at the thought of it.  My husband supported me as I tried to make changes to our lifestyle.  We began eating healthier and exercising regularly.   I walked –occasionally jogged a bit– but never really trained for a marathon.  It was always in the back of my mind.  Almost a year ago, I found the book and put it on my wish list over at PBS.  Just as soon as it arrived, I cracked it open and continued my journey. 

This book is hilarious.  If you want to run (or walk) a marathon (or half-marathon), this book is for you.  If a marathon is not on your to do list, I would recommend it to you anyway.  Dawn Dais is straight forward and full of fun notions about running.  Her journal entries are “roll on the floor” funny at times.  She is straight forward with the readers on the negative aspects of running and marathon training.   She lays out the important details for those who are following the training schedule.  What type of clothes should you wear?  What are the essentials?  What is GU? (I didn’t know either, don’t worry she explains it all.) 

I am wrapping up my third week of training.  It is exhilarating and empowering.  I find great delight in choosing which half marathon I am going to finish.  It is between Chattanooga in November and South Carolina in December.  This book is a winner all the way.

 

 

 

Bonk by Mary Roach

Posted in Lisa, Non-Fiction with tags , , on May 20, 2008 by Lisa

With a subtitle like The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, how can you resist reading this one? Bonk is Mary Roach’s third book exploring a taboo topic. This one, obviously, is about sex. The previous two- Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife were both pretty popular. I’ve read Stiff and I have Spook in my giant TBR.

It’s a little odd to me to talk about a book about sex.  I admit, I didn’t take this one around with me. Despite this, it was a great book. The prologue is called “Foreplay” if that gives you an idea of the book. Roach is hilarious- the book is full of footnotes and it is clear that she can’t help but make mention of irrelevant things she finds amusing. For a book about science, and don’t be fooled, it IS about science, it’s incredibly easy to read. (The same could be said for Stiff.)

What did I learn from the book? Way more than I ever dreamed about the sex life of pigs. How penis implants work. How erections happen. If female orgasm is necessary for conception. How Kinsey did his research, and where. It was fascinating. I’m not going to go into greater detail, I can’t imagine what kind of people are gonna find this blog now anyway, and I’d just as soon stop here. If you are at all interested in this kind of book, I highly recommend it as a great read.

Literature Virgin Shoots and Scores

Posted in General, Literature, Non-Fiction on May 16, 2008 by muerta

Hi Christine,

Final grade = 101 A

Prof

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , , on May 13, 2008 by Lisa

By the authors of The Nanny Diaries, Dedication is the story of Katie and Jake, who used to be high school sweethearts. Now in their 30s, Kate has spent her entire adult life listening to Jake sing about their relationship and break-up over the airwaves. Jake is back in their hometown for the holidays and Kate rushes home to confront him about it all.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the present and their past. It starts in 7th grade and ends at prom- when Jake vanished without a word until they heard him singing about Katie on the radio. Jake has taken advantage of their friends and written about every ugly secret they ever had in high school. I really enjoyed the parts from high school. Jake was a jerk… or was he? Some of what he did was explained… maybe. The chapters about the current day were much less satisfying. One interesting thing is that the characters are about the same age I am, so the flashbacks to high school felt pretty familiar. The clothing, the makeup, the trends- all that was pretty amusing. I don’t want to give away how it ends, but I was a bit disappointed in the very end. I’m not sure if there were a skillful buildup to the end or if it’s a bit of a cop out. I can’t decide if the story actually works or not. It was an entertaining book but it won’t go on my top ten.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Posted in Fiction, Young Adult on May 11, 2008 by muerta

At the High School, in one of our English classes, the teacher showed the Showtime movie of this book, Speak. And while Showtime took a few liberties and changed the ending a little bit, both the movie and the book were worth experiencing.

The story is about a young girl who (during the summer) gets raped at a party, and while in shock from the experience, calls the police from the party– and it ends up that the party gets busted up and everyone gets into trouble. Now is the first day of High School and has to face everyone who was at the party. No one knows what happened to her, but she has been abandoned by all her friends and has no idea how to cope with what has happened to her. While surrounded by negativity everywhere and caught up in feelings of hopelessness and fear, she is assigned to an art class and finds that she enjoys it. However, throughout all this, she remains mute and is barely able to converse with anyone about anything. But as she expands her artistic ways, she also begins to come out of her shell and realize that she needs to speak out about what happened.

I like how the author is able to write this character in the first person when 90% of the time, she is not talking. I like how you don’t know what happened until the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. I like how the character develops and transitions; it appears more real than some adult books I have read on the subject. It is a fast read and a good one, particularly if High School was not your most favorite part of your life. The movie is just as enjoyable although the endings are different between t