Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Summary: Nov.-Jan.

Here's a summary of what I've read so far. From here on out I'll do a summary of each month ... that will make it much easier!


Books - 5 (1,520 pages)

  • So Many Books, So Little Time (256 pages)
  • Washington Square (256 pages)
  • The Sparrow (448 pages)
  • Ruined By Reading (128 pages)
  • Galileo’s Daughter (432 pages)

Audio Books - 3 (31 hrs, 26 min)

  • Kabul Beauty School (8 hr, 58 min)
  • Lords of the North (13 hr, 7 min)
  • The Shadow Catcher (9hr, 21 min)

Unfinished Books - 1 book, 2 audio

  • Amy’s Answering Machine
  • Farenheit 451
  • Dragon’s Fire


Books - 4 (1,232 pages)

  • Ten Thousand Sorrows (272 pages)
  • After Long Silence (368 pages)
  • Scribbling the Cat (272 pages)
  • Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (320 pages)

Audio Books - 1 (10 hrs, 23 min)

  • The Endurance (10 hrs, 23 min)


Books - 4 (1,864 pages)

  • Children of God (464 pages)
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad (256 pages)
  • Longitude (208 pages)
  • The Other Boleyn Girl (664 pages)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day (272 pages)

Audio Books - 2 (40 hrs, 40 min)

  • The Proud Tower (21 hrs, 27 min)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (19 hr, 13 min)

Unfinished Books - 1 audio

  • The Canterbury Tales

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Me Talk Pretty One Day (Jan. 08)

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris was Anna's pick for our book club meeting next month. I was excited because it has been on my To Be Read list since May. I did a brief blog about the book and our meeting on my book club's blog. Check it out here if you want.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Canterbuy Tales (Jan. '08)

I was supposed to read part of The Canterbury Tales, by Goeffrey Chaucer back in high school, but I never did. So when I needed a new audio book to listen to and saw that this title was available, I thought I'd give it a shot. So far it is not bad! The story is interesting and I really want to know what happens, but I'm not sure I can do all 18 hours of it. The rhyming verse means that I have to pay more attention than usual in order to understand what's going on and I don't know that I'll have the time at work to do that ... but we'll see!

Update: Ok I am really enjoying this! I can see that it would be hard to read, but it is very enjoyable to listen to. I've heard The Knight's Tale and am now on The Miller's Tale.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Jan. '08)

I listened to these just for fun. The library has several sets of Sherlock Holmes tales on their website; I listened to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, and Volume VI. It was wonderful to hear again some of my favorite tales (The Yellow Face) as well as find new favorites (The Grecian Interpreter). I've read just about every Holmes mystery ever written but it has been quite a while. I was able to enjoy the "surprise" endings over again because I couldn't remember them anymore!

Longitude (Jan. '08)

The title of this book by Dava Sobel is actually Longitude: The Story of of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Quite a mouthful for such a small book! I found it fascinating despite its size. I didn't realize how difficult it was for sailors to know their location at sea before longitude could be accurately determined. And the persecution Harrison dealt with from the astrological community was completely unfair - but he really should have seen it coming. I'm glad that his work was recognized in his lifetime. And despite my lack of interest in mechanics of any kind I have a strong desire to see his sea clocks in the Guildhall in London ... I wonder if I'll ever get the chance.

The Proud Tower (Jan. '08)

I listened to The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman audio book over several weeks at work. It was LONG so I can't imagine how long the actual book must be! As with most of the audio books I listen to while working, I couldn't pay close attention to everything, but it was very interesting all the same. It was a look at the social and political mood of the world in the 30 or so years leading up to World War I. That is a time period I don't recall studying much in school. The growth of socialism, the growth - in numbers and political power - of the middle class, the advances and restrictions on new weapons ... all these contributed to the political climate leading up to the Great War. I don't know if I'll ever sit down and read this book in full, but it is a wonderful resource for someone wanting to understand how the world changed seemingly overnight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Endurance (Dec. '07)

I completely forgot to post about this one when I listened to it back in December ... oops! The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander, Michael Tezla, and Marin Rubin is a wonderful audio book. I listened on the way to and from work (and any other time I was in the car alone) and there were several times when I didn't want to get out of the car. I wonder if the printed version includes some of the photographs mentioned in the story. I'd love to see them! Shackleton's expedition has interested me for quite a while ... I'm absolutely amazed by the fact that ALL his men survived their ordeal!

What was REALLY neat for me was listening to this while driving in heavy snow - it set the mood perfectly! Heavy snow in Maryland in early December is quite unusual but it was a great setting for the story.

I really enjoyed this one. I gave it to my mom to listen to, but I don't know if she will ...

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Madonnas of Leningrad (Jan. '08)

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean – This arrived in the mail on Wed. Jan. 9. I was thrilled!!! I heard about this book from (I think) the library’s book review emails and thought it would be fascinating, so I added it to my wish list on PBS. I think the big draw for me was the Russian aspect of the book, but I’m not sure. Anyway I started reading it at 9pm; when I went to bed at 11:30, I was on page 180. I completed the rest of the book the next day during my lunch break, except for the additional info in the back which I read the following day. In the end I was a bit disappointed with it. I think she accomplished her purpose – to show what it’s like in the mind of a woman with Alzheimer’s. But I also think there was too little character development for my taste. I found out from the additional info that the author has only done short stories and poetry up ‘til now, so I think that accounts for the brevity of the novel and the lack of depth in the characters. I’ve already posted in back on PBS as there is a 14 person waiting list for it. I hope someone else will enjoy it more than I did.

Here are other reviews of this book, usually by people who liked it much more than I did:
Historical Tapestry
Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker
Book Chatter
Booking Mama

Children of God (Jan. '08)

Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell – I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was NOT disappointed. This is the follow up to her earlier book, “The Sparrow.” While I sometimes got frustrated with that book I never did with this book. It goes more deeply into the characters, both human and “alien”. The culture is much more prevalent that in the first book as well. I am very pleased with this book. I’m planning to give both to Dad together and telling him to think of “The Sparrow” as the background to the real story in this book.

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (Dec. '07)

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, Andrew Thomson – This is a great book! It’s the true story of three people who start working for the UN for very different reasons, and the things they experience along the way. They are in Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Haiti during their careers … and usually at the worst possible times in history. I really enjoyed this book. Even though it talks about some very horrible events it does so in a way that doesn’t make you want to put the book down and never pick it up again. I found it fascinating to read.

Scribbling the Cat (Dec. '07)

Scribbling the Cat, by Alexandra Fuller – A few months ago I read Fuller’s first book, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” and I was hooked. First of all, the title is what caught my attention. Once I started reading I found that Fuller has a completely original voice. Her book told the story of her childhood in Rhodesia where her alcoholic parents were fighting to keep one country in Africa run by white people. The poverty, neglect, and blatant racism that were part of her life are just the background texture to her story. As the reader you know that all these things are completely wrong but the child’s voice telling the story doesn’t. It’s just part of her life and that’s the way things are. Her use of language is unique; she finds ways to describe sounds with sight words, sights with scent words, and so on, all without being wordy. So when I saw that she had written a second book I had to read it; I was not disappointed! That same unique voice is in this book as well. Now she is an adult, married and living in the US, visiting her parents in Africa. She ends up on a journey with a very religious ex-soldier who is falling in love with her … what could possibly go wrong there?! The best (or worst?!) part of this is that everything is true.

Dad really liked this book. In fact, I let him read it before I did! We both felt that Fuller's two books gave us a great deal of insight into our Aunt Hilda. She is my mom's mother's sister. Aunt Hilda grew up in England and moved to South Africa after she was married. She is SO British, and quite a "firecracker" personality. These books helped us to understand her a bit more.

After Long Silence (Dec. '07)

After Long Silence, by Helen Fremont – It seems like every time I get a “bad” book I then get a great book to follow up on it. That’s what happened here for sure. This woman’s experience finding out about her hidden Jewish heritage was interesting, enjoyable to read, and felt personal. She has a way of bring the reader into the story and making you feel the emotions she felt. I passed this one on to Dad right away; we’ll see what he thinks about it.

Note: Dad read it in December and really enjoyed it. In fact, we both thought mom would like it, but I don't think she'll read it.

Ten Thousand Sorrows (Dec. '07)

Ten Thousand Sorrows, by Elizabeth Kim – This was rather depressing. The author basically gives a litany of the things that have gone wrong in her life. I kept expecting things to get better, for her to make some breakthrough, but it really doesn’t happen. Yes, her life improves, yes, she is doing better now, but the book is completely and utterly depressing. Reading the last few chapters felt like listening in on her sessions with a shrink; they were all about expressing everything you feel, regardless of the consequences. I usually recommend books to my Dad when I finish them … this one went right back onto PBS.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Books My Book Club Has Read

Below is a list of all the books read by my book club, Storie delle Sorelle, since our beginning in 2005; I'll continue to update as we read more. Clicking on the title or author will bring to you to a recap of our meeting on my book club's blog.

List by Title

List by Author

Books I Reviewed at Age 30 (2007-2008)

Here's a list of everything I reviewed on this blog from November 4, 2007 the November 4, 2008. I update it continually (despite the posting date), so everything I've read WILL appear here at some point. Please be aware that some of my earliest reviews are VERY short ... at first I was only jotting down my thoughts for myself. As I got more into blogging my reviews became designed for other people to read and (hopefully) improved.

By Title

12,000 Miles in the Nick of Time
After Long Silence
A Full House - But Empty
Amy's Answering Machine
Cane River
Cannery Row
Children of God
Ciao America!
Dragon's Fire
Eat Pray Love
Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures
Fahrenheit 451
Galileo's Daughter
Genuine Men
House and Home
House of Splendid Isolation
Imagining Argentina
In Defense of Food
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life
Kabul Beauty School
King Solomon's Mines
Last Chance to See
Life Is So Good
Live Your Road Trip Dream
Lords of the North
Maggie Again
Matters of Faith
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Midnight's Children
One Special Summer
Queen of the Road
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Reedeming Love
Ruined By Reading
Scribbling the Cat
So Many Books, So Little Time
Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.
Stone Creek
Suite Francaise
Ten Thousand Sorrows
The 19th Wife
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Avengers: A Jewish War Story
The Beekeeper's Apprentice
The Blood of Flowers
The Book Club Companion
The Book That Changed My Life
The Canterbury Tales
The Endurance
The Glass Castle
The Good Earth
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Lost Diary of Don Juan
The Madonnas of Leningrad
The Mermaid Chair
The Mysterious Island
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Pages In Between
The Planets
The Poisonwood Bible
The Proud Tower
The Shadow Catcher
The Sparrow
The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Zookeeper's Wife
Unholy Grail
Washington Square

Water for Elephants
We Are On Our Own
Why The Wind Blows
Year of Wonders

By Author

Abrams, Douglas Carlton
Ackerman, Diane
Adams, Douglas
Alexander, Caroline (et al)
Amirrezvani, Anita
Black, Holly (and Tony DiTerlizzi)
Borkowsky, Amy
Bouvier, Lee & Jacqueline
Bradbury, Ray
Brooks, Geraldine
Bruno, Nancy
Buck, Pearl S.
Cain, Kenneth (et al)
Chaucer, Geoffrey
Cohen, Rich
Coady, Roxanne J.
Cornwell, Bernard - Book 1, Book 2
Dawson, George
Dean, Debra
Delisle, Guy

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan - Book 1, Book 2
Ebershoff, David
Einhorn, Erin
Fremont, Helen
Fuller, Alexandra
Gilbert, Elizabeth
Gregory, Philippa
Gruen, Sara
Haggard, H. Rider
Halter, Marek
Henkin, Joshua
Husband, John
Jacobson, Mark
James, Henry
Katin, Miriam
Kidd, Sue Monk
Kiernan, Kristy
Kim, Elizabeth
King, Laurie R.
Kingsolver, Barbara - Book 1
Levitt, Stephen
Levy, Matthys
Loevy, Diana
Lustbader, Victoria
McCaffery, Anne and Todd
McCleary, Kathleen
Munro, Angus
Nafisi, Azar
Nelson, Sara
Nemirovky, Irene
O'Brien, Edna
Orion, Doreen
Pollan, Michael
Rivers, Francine
Rodriguez, Deborah
Rushdie, Salman
Russell, Mary Doria - Book 1, Book 2
Sanderson, Brandon - Book 1,
Schwartz, Lynne Sharon
Sedaris, David
Severgnini, Beppe
Sobel, Dava - Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

Somerville, E. & M. Ross
Spoto, Donald
Steinbeck, John
Stoker, Bram
Tademy, Lalita
Thornton, Lawrence
Tuchman, Barbara
Verne, Jules
Walls, Jeannette
White, Phil & Carol
Wiggins, Marianne
Wilson, DL

Galileo's Daughter (Nov. '07)

Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel – I REALLY liked this one! It wasn’t exactly what I expected but it was very enjoyable. I got to see a more human side of one of the greatest historical figures of all time, learn about the life of nuns – and everyday people – in Galileo’s time, and understand better the discoveries he made. This is exactly the kind of book that I like to read. Very enjoyable. I gave this to Dad to read, but I don’t think he’s all that interested.

[note: Dad gave this back to me in January ... he never did try to read it.]

Also reviewed by:
The Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker

Ruined by Reading (Nov. '07)

Ruined By Reading, Lynne Sharon Schwartz – Here’s another one I thought I’d really enjoy … but didn’t all that much. I couldn’t really identify with the author although I was certain I would. She comes from a family where both her parents were avid readers, and they read the “good” stuff (by that I mean mostly classics and other 'important' books). I became addicted to reading because my dad introduced me to “The Hobbit” when I was about 7 years old. I grew up discussing dragons and wizards with my dad, and trying to convince my mom that reading is really great. Somehow my experience and the authors just did not mesh. Luckily this was a very brief book!

Dragon's Fire (Nov. '07)

Dragon’s Fire, by Anne McCaffrey (audio) – I thought I’d really enjoy this one, but again, I think I’ll have to actually read it. McCaffrey is one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy authors and I usually get very involved in her books. I’m not sure if the problem was trying to listen rather than read, or if this particular book is just not as good as her others. This is another one I’ll add to my “To Be Read” list.

Farenheit 451 (Nov. '07)

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (audio) – I tried, I really did … but this was awful to listen to! It was read by the author, and I only heard about 10 minutes before I had to quit. I’m going to read this one instead. I’ll add it to my list!

Check out these other reviews:

In Spring It Is The Dawn

Nothing of Importance

Lords of the North (Nov. '07)

Lords of the North, by Bernard Cornwell (audio) - Now THIS is a great audio book! The plot is interesting and exciting, the pace is quick, and the narrator is excellent! This is the third book in the Alfred the Great series. Uhtred, the main character, is sort of an unhero; he’s not particularly good, nor does he always make the choices I want him to make, but somehow I’m always rooting for him, and hoping that he’ll turn out ok in the end. I could listen to this series again and again.

The Shadow Catcher (Nov. '07)

The Shadow Catcher, by Marianne Wiggins (audio) - Ok, I'm not sure what to say about this one. I was a bit distracted while listening so I'm not sure if I heard everything fully. I found the details of Clara and Edward's young life intriguing but once they were married the book seemed to skip ahead too quickly. But here's my real concern: this book is a novel but it is based on historical fact ... so where does truth end and imagination begin? Did Edward Curtis, famous photographer of reservation Indians, actually spend much of his later life as an openly gay man? Did the author really come across a man who had stolen the identity of her late father? In books like this, I really love when the author includes a Forward or an Afterword that explains things. In his Alfred the Great series, author Bernard Cornwell ends each book with a clear explanation of the facts in the story as well as the liberties he took with them while writing. I would have appreciated that here.

NOTE: Another blogger gave me a link to the new DVD version of Curtis's original photographic presentation - it's worth checking out!

Kabul Beauty School (Nov. '07)

Kabul Beauty School, by Deborah Rodriguez (audio) - This was a great follow up to "Reading Lolita in Tehran". It was interesting to hear the perspective of an "average" American living in Afghanistan ... and not in the NGO compounds. Her decision to agree to an arranged marriage was strangely romantic to me, despite the troubles she had over the years with her new husband. I recommended this to Mom and am looking for an audio version to lend her (this one was downloaded from the library).

Here's a link to another review of this book from My Random Acts of Reading blog.

Amy's Answering Machine (Nov. '07)

Amy’s Answering Machine, by Amy BorkowskyOk, I could have done without this one. I read the first few pages and then relisted it on PBS. I heard about this book years ago, and actually listened to the author on a talk show once. She is VERY funny, and so is her subject matter. But I got the book to give to my mom for Christmas and it is NOT a good mom-gift book. Although it is very funny there’s too much ‘mom-slamming’ for me. Hopefully someone else will enjoy it more.

The Sparrow (Nov. '07)

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell - This was an unsettling book. You know within the first several chapters that something very bad has happened but you don't know what or why or how. I found myself speed-reading trying to find out, and even worse, I felt anxious! I really enjoyed it though. The plot is interesting and unusual and the ending causes you to examine your spiritual beliefs very carefully. Without being preachy, the author presents her belief that although there is an all-powerful God out there, He is under no obligation to protect and preserve those who love Him. I'm now looking for the sequel to this, called Children of God. I can't wait to read it!

I heard about this book in The Book Club Cookbook (I think!). It was recommended as a good "first time" sci-fi book for people that are new to sci-fi. Personally I love sci-fi/fantasy, at least specific authors, but many of my friends do not. I read this with the intention of recommending it to them, but I'm not going to. Personally I don't think it's a good way to start someone off in this genre ... you'll just have to read it to see why.

Washington Square (Nov. '07)

Washington Square, by Henry James - Our book club recently read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and this book was mentioned many times. As I'd never read any Henry James I decided to try it out. I enjoyed it, but not as much as my favorite classic ("Pride and Prejudice"). I liked Dr. Sloper at first although his cruelty does become more evident later and I generally disliked him by the end. I found however that I couldn't really get attached to Catherine, nor care too much about her story. I'm not sure if it was her character or the writing style that contributed more to that.

So Many Books, So Little Time (Nov. '07)

So Many Books, So Little Time, by Sara Nelson - I read this short book over a two day period. It was a quick read, but I must admit I did not have as much in common with the author as I expected to. I don't keep all the books I read, and I don't generally like the same types of books that the author does. BUT we do have some other things in common, like judging people worthy of friendship based on the books they like to read, and a general dislike of reading aloud as a child. It's a fun book and I would recommend it any any avid reader as a light break.

[As a side note, this was one of the books that gave me the idea to keep track of what I read.]


My project for my 30th year is to keep a list of all the books I read (or listen to) for 12 months, starting with my 30th birthday on Nov. 4, 2007. Now why would I do such a thing?!

I am a fanatical reader, always to be found with a book in hand. Recently it hit me that I can't recall some of the books I've read, nor do I have any idea how many I consume ... hence this project. Of course, it coincides with my big 3-0 so it seemed the right thing to do.

About the birthday thing, it is really not a big deal to me. I've been married since I was 20, have an almost 6 year old son, and my life is pretty good. Turning 30 didn't matter much to me. Of course that's not the case for everyone, and literally everyone I know had to make some kind of comment about this "big event" ... enough that it started making me a bit concerned! But that's over and done now. It's January and it so doesn't matter anymore!

Now back to the purpose of this blog (ok, that sounds like "We'll now return you to your regularly scheduled program."") I've been keeping track of every book I read since November, as well as my comments about each one. Each book will have it's own post, grouped by month read ... at least, that is the plan! We'll see how it goes!

By the way, please feel free to comment wherever you like ... I'd love to know that someone out there is reading this!
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