Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: A Dog Year by Jon Katz

Book Info:
A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me by Jon Katz
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Random House (May 6, 2003)
ISBN-13: 9780812966909
Genre: Non-Fiction, Pets
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 4/5

In his popular and widely praised Running to the Mountain, Jon Katz wrote of the strength and support he found in the massive forms of his two yellow Labrador retrievers, Julius and Stanley. When the Labs were six and seven, a breeder who’d read his book contacted Katz to say she had a dog that was meant for him—a two-year-old border collie named Devon, well bred but high-strung and homeless. Katz already had a full canine complement—but, as he writes, “Change loves me. . . . It comes in all forms. . . . Sometimes, change comes on four legs.” Shortly thereafter he brought Devon home. A Dog Year shows how a man discovered much about himself through one dog (and then another), whose temperament seemed as different from his own as day from night. It is a story of trust and understanding, of life and death, of continuity and change. It is by turns insightful, hilarious, and deeply moving.

If you've ever loved a dog this book will speak to you. If you've loved a Border Collie, or another working breed, you will completely understand this book in a way that others may not. It seems most dog owners can tell you stories of their dogs escapades and bad behavior, but Border Collie's can be in a world of their own.

Katz's writing is wonderful. I felt as if we were friends sharing stories about our dogs and the joys and challenges they bring. Katz doesn't hesitate to tell the stories as they happened, which doesn't always put him in the best light, but the stories always ring true.

This is the first book of Katz's that I've read, but it won't be the last. His stories aren't all sunshine and roses, but they are the truth about having and loving a dog. I would recommend his books to dog lovers even if you don't normally read non-fiction. 4 stars

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Blurb

Suggested by Jennysbooks:

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: “What words/phrases in a blurb make a book irresistible? What words/phrases will make you put the book back down immediately?”

I usually don't read book blurbs, and if I do, I skim them just enough to see if anything about the book looks interesting. I prefer to know as little as possible about a book before reading it. This way, I don't have any preconceived ideas or expectations about the book.

So, to actually answer the question, I don't think there is a specific word or phrase that catches my eye. If I am browsing a store for a book, a stunning cover is much more likely to catch my eye.

On the other hand, if a description includes any words hinting at a bodice ripper, it goes back right away. I don't mind a little romance or sex in the books I read, but I don't want that to be the focus. The good thing is, you can usually stay away from these books by the cover alone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 Recent DNF Books...

It's been a while since I last set a book aside, but in the last month or so I've had 3 unfinished books. None of them were terrible, they just weren't really holding my attention.

A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria (July 21, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781439101957
Genre: Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher/Book Tour

I really wanted to like this book. I enjoy multicultural fiction and it had been a while since I'd read any. I read between a third and a half of A Disobedient Girl and had a hard time staying engaged. The story and the characters were interesting, but didn't keep me drawn into the book. I found that I kept putting it aside to read other things.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Hyperion (September 29, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781401323820
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Publisher

I have a friend who loves the show Castle. When this book arrived she snapped it up and quickly read it. I, on the other hand, have never watched the show and had no connection to the characters. I read 50 of the books 200 pages, and while it was a quick read and would have been easy to finish, there just wasn't anything special about the book for me.

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Penguin (December 29, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780143115977
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher

I didn't get very far in this book, only about 25 pages, before I set it aside. Usually I read more of a book before I quit, but those 25 pages took me a long time to get through. I haven't read anything by any of the Bronte sisters, and maybe I would be more drawn into the story if I had, but right now this one isn't working for me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Book Info:
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Paperback: 304 pages Publisher: Random House (September 30, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780812971835
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 4.5/5

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn't always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive's own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life -- sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

I received Olive Kitteridge a while back from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I put the book off because I was a bit intimidated by it being a Pulitzer Prize winner. I was afraid the book was one that I would struggle through, and I am happy to say these fears were completely unfounded. Olive Kitteridge was very readable, very enjoyable and one book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to others.

Olive is a fascinating character. I love how you get to know her through stories that feature her, as well as those where she plays a very small part. Olive isn't the most likeable character, but she is one that I got. I understood her motivations and her reactions, and I think most people can find a little of themselves in her. I was a little surprised at how small a role Olive played in some of the stories, but each glimpse and mention of her added a little more to her character.

I loved the format of Olive Kitteridge. The novel told in stories worked wonderfully. Olive was the force holding all the pieces together, but the stories of Olive's neighbors were beautiful too. I loved the small town feel, where everyone knew each other and their paths often overlapped. I have Strout's other books and can't wait to dig them out now. 4.5 stars

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...One Question

If you could ask your favorite author (alive or dead) one question … who would you ask, and what would the question be?

This is kind of a hard one for me. I don't usually give as much thought to the authors as I do to the books themselves, but a favorite author has almost moved himself to my avoid, I would ask Stuart Woods

Why did you feel it was necessary to become a James Patterson clone and put out 4 books of crap a year?

I used to love Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series. They were smart, funny and always full of snappy dialogue. Now, they (and his other series too) are full of improbable story lines and shallow characters. Woods hasn't quite moved to my avoid list, but he is pretty darn close.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Bottom Line, #4

The Bottom Line is a feature to designed to give quick and dirty reviews of books I've read, but I either don't have the time or the inspiration to write full reviews on them.

Deeper by Megan Hart
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Spice (July 1, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780373605323
Genre: Erotica
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 3.5/5

I don't usually read erotica so I didn't know quite what to expect with this book. It was a little tamer than I thought it would be but the storyline was decent. I could see myself picking up another one of Hart's books if I just wanted something different to read. I also read this one on a Kindle which was a fun change.

Blue Heaven by C.J. Box
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 23, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0312614836
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 2.5/5

Blue Heaven started out promising, but kind of fizzled by the end. I expected a little more from the story, but it wasn't bad. There were a few times I found myself rolling my eyes at the dialogue and a I found a couple of the narrators voices terribly annoying.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: HarperFestival; (October 28, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-0061649691
Genre: Young Adult, Children's
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 4/5

I'd heard great things about Gaiman, but hadn't had the chance to read him before. I really enjoyed this audio though. The story was a little predictable, but not to the point of being boring. What I enjoyed most though was Gaiman's narration. His voice was smooth and the inflections perfect. I'll listen to another one of his books for that fact alone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Review: The Siege by Stephen White

Book Info:
The Siege by Stephen White
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult (August 4, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780525951223
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 3.5/5

In The Siege, Gregory's longtime friend Sam Purdy takes center stage in a story that feels ripped from tomorrow's headlines. As a lovely weekend approaches on the Yale campus it appears that a number of students -- including the sons of both the Secretary of the Army and newest Supreme Court justice -- may have gone missing. Kidnapping? Terrorism? The authorities aren't sure. But the high-profile disappearances draw the attention of the CIA and the FBI's vaunted Hostage Rescue Team.

I recently participated in a series reading challenge on Paperback Swap. The goal of the challenge was to get caught up on some of the series that I seem to be forever behind on. I didn't start any new series but did get caught up on 3-4 of my existing series.

I had recently read Dead Time (review) and took the opportunity of the challenge to rush out and purchase The Siege, which was listed as the next book in the Alan Gregory series. Dead Time ended with some marital strife between Alan and Lauren and I was looking forward to continuing with this story line. If I'd paid a little more attention, I'd have noticed that The Siege didn't focus on Alan. In fact, Alan made a 2 page appearance at the end of the book and that was it.

While I was disappointed that The Siege was a true Alan Gregory book, The Siege was very good. It was one of those books that makes you wonder if the situation in the book could really be carried out. The Siege is a solid mystery, but I wish it hadn't been listed as a Gregory book. While Purdy is familiar to series readers he could have been replaced by anyone and the story wouldn't be any different. 3.5 stars

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Weeding

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I used to keep a lot of my books, but now I rarely re-read anything, and because of this I have a hard time having them just sit around. I have about 15 boxes of books that I've read and no longer want, but I haven't bothered to sort through them since my last move 3 years ago.

I try to weed my shelves on a regular basis because I am always running out of room. Currently I have 3 bookshelves, double-stacked, full of unread books. There is no way that I will ever read all these, let alone all the books constantly arrive. And, since I have no more room in my house for more shelves all my books must fit on these shelves.

When I do weed out books I try to get rid of those that I won't read soon, or that I can easily get from the library. Usually this means about 10-15 books at a time that are sorted out. Most of these books get donated to the library just because I have an excess of credits at both Paperback Swap and Bookmooch.

Do you weed out your bookshelves?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

by Jenny McCarthy
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (December 12, 2005)
ISBN-13: 978-0738210070
Genre: Parenting, Non-Fiction
Source: My shelves
Rating: 2.5/5

Oh, the joys of pregnancy! There's the gassiness, constipation, queasiness, and exhaustion, the forgetfulness, crankiness, and the constant worry. Of course, no woman is spared the discomforts and humiliations of pregnancy, but most are too polite to complain or too embarrassed to talk about them. Not Jenny McCarthy!

After reading the massive Admission (review), I was in the mood for something short and sweet. And, since I am over halfway through my pregnancy I thought I'd better read a pregnancy book before I had the baby...Unfortunately, my feelings on Belly Laughs can be summed up in one word. Meh.

Was it terrible? No. Belly Laughs is a quick read (about an hour), but I was expecting something a little more. Something that someone hadn't mentioned before. Or more embarrassing stories. Or more humor. Just something.

Since I have at least McCarthy's second, if not third book, I'll probably read them. But if you don't have these already I'd recommend borrowing them from the library or a friend. 2.5 stars

Friday, October 9, 2009

Review: Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Book Info:
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; (April 13, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780446540704
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: LibraryThing/Publisher for review
Rating: 4/5

For years, 38-year-old Portia Nathan has avoided the past, hiding behind her busy (and sometimes punishing) career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her dependable domestic life. Her reluctance to confront the truth is suddenly overwhelmed by the resurfacing of a life-altering decision, and Portia is faced with an extraordinary test. Just as thousands of the nation's brightest students await her decision regarding their academic admission, so too must Portia decide whether to make her own ultimate admission.

I received Admission from LibraryThing's Early Review program and was excited about reading it based on some very good reviews I'd read on other blogs. Once it arrived, though, it fell to the same unfortunate fate as so many books and languished on my shelf for way too long. Once I picked it up I got into the story quickly, and wished I'd started it sooner.

I never gave much thought to the college admission procedure, but I loved reading about it. The process is complex and wonderfully interesting. The admission officers have a tough, but very rewarding job, and I found the behind the scenes information fascinating.

Portia has her history with an old boyfriend hanging over her head, and this is hinted at throughout the book. The situation isn't revealed until about 3/4 of the way through the book, and I found it to be a little unneeded. At this point in the book I was already invested in the characters and happy with where the story was going without this 'twist'.

Overall, Admission is a fascinating story, if a little wordy. For me, the book could have been shorted considerably and not lost any of its appeal. The same arguments about which students should get into Princeton popped up multiple times, and I could have done without the third or fourth rehashing of this issue. But, even with the length, I would still recommend Admission. 4 stars

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Would You Lie?

Since I missed answering this question last week and there isn't a new one up, I'm going to go back and get caught up.

Suggested by Monibo:
Saw this article (from March) and thought it would make a good BTT confessional question: Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?

I am going to assume that the article isn't referring to required school reading and lying about reading those books....

The fact the two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading a book doesn't surprise me. I would expect to see similar results for the US as well. Also, the fact that most people lie about reading the classics doesn't surprise me either. For most people, me included, the classics seem to be books that you read in school because you have too. I am slowly trying to get caught up on reading those I missed.

I haven't ever lied about reading a book, but there are lots of books I wish I'd already read so I could discuss them with others. Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person in the world to read a book, but I don't see any benefit to lying about it.

Have you ever lied about reading a book?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Challenge: Books To Read Before I Die - 2010

I am always looking for ways to reduce my TBR pile. I have well over 1,000 books in my house that I still haven't picked up, and unless I prioritize them, who knows if I ever will. Don't get me wrong, these are all books I picked out, and books I want to read, but it always seems like there is a new, must-read book on its way to me, and some of the books on my shelf get neglected.

So, this challenge, being hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea, is perfect for me.

Here are the guideline for the challenge:
-Between now and December 31, 2009, make a list of between 10 and 20 Books to Read Before You Die. (depending on interest, this may be an annual event challenge).
-The books on your list can come from your stacks or the library, and be in print or audio format.
-Next, make a tentative list and and post it on your blog. Finalize your titles by December 31, 2009. (No changes to the list after that date).
NOTE: If you don't have a blog, you can still sign up and join in the fun.
-Once you've created your post with tentative titles, THEN sign up using Mr. Linky, by pasting the link to your post, along with your name/blog name. This is how you will be registered.
-All bloggers who complete the challenge will be entered in giveaway to win an Amazon Gift Card.

My Titles:
1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
8. The Birth House by Ami Mckay
9. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
10. Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres
11. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
12. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón