Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Loving Rachel: A Family's Journey from Grief

I really enjoyed this book. It's written by the mother of a child who is discovered to be blind a few months after birth. There is very open talk about how this impacted her relationship with her husband and then four-year-old daughter, as well as other family and friends.

The mother, Jane, finds herself in a world in which she never imagined herself being. She shares thoughts that most people keep to themselves. Thoughts that felt very familiar when I thought back to my response to my own daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Rachel was born in 1983 and I found it interesting to see that while surely things have changed since then, the emotions are timeless. In that way, the book never seemed dated.

I never felt sad reading this book, though grief is interwoven through the story. I think that may be because I've been there and realize that it's just a natural part of the journey.

The one thing that bothered me a little was the author's apparent obsession with the fact that her daughter could be found to be "retarded." She mentions it many times. If this were one of those stories where everything just ends up being ok in the end and it's all wrapped up with a pretty little bow with a sigh of relief and an expression of, "Whew! We just dodged a bullet, huh?" then maybe it would bother me more. But, like I said, she's honest about how she feels and it is scary to be faced with the unknown, so...I get it.

Where this book ends, Rachel in the World begins. I'm interested in reading that one eventually.

I'd be glad to send out Loving Rachel to anyone who wants to give it a read.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb: Yes, the same Wally Lamb who wrote She's Come Undone (one of my all-time favorite books!) and I Know This Much is True. Wishin' and Hopin' is quite a departure from Lamb's earlier works. Set in a fictional Connecticut town, it tells, from fifth-grader Felix Funicello's point of view, of the months leading up to Christmas 1964. With a colorful cast of characters as Felix's family and his schoolmates at a Catholic parochial school, it's a quick, light read. Forgettable, but fun.

I had thought that maybe my 12-year old could read this when I finished it, it being told from a fifth-grader's point of view, but it's got some swearing and light sexual content that would leave me feeling like an irresponsible parent if I handed the book over to him ;) So, adults only.

My hardcover copy is up for grabs!

The Space Between Us (novel)

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is set in modern-day India and tells the story of two women, Sera and Bhima, whose lives are separated by class, and yet interconnected by gender in an oppressive culture, as well as common experiences. Sera is a well-to-do woman living in opulent surroundings, but hiding the shame of a long, abusive marriage. Bhima is Sera's long-time domestic servant, who lives in a hut in the slums with her unwed, pregnant, orphaned granddaughter, Maya. Maya refuses to identify the father of her child and is ultimately forced to have an abortion. The story builds to a somewhat suspenseful climax, but falls a little flat in the end. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good novel. My copy's up for grabs - just say the word!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

America according to Connor Gifford

America according to Connor Gifford is a nice series of essays on American history written and illustrated by a young man with Down syndrome.

They are short essays that get to the heart of the subject matter. Connor's love for American history and America is evident in his writings.

Sure, the drawings and essays are simplistic, almost childlike and naive, but I love the fact that he is able to distill the spirit of each of these events to its essence.

And I love the fact that a person with Down syndrome can grasp the basics of American history! If any parent has a child in school and the school thinks they should be in "life skills" instead of history class, just bring out this book!

This one's up for grabs, too!


Road Map to Holland

I read Road Map to Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg quite a while ago.

Don't remember the details of the book, but the journey is familiar. I remember not wanting the book to end (and I suppose technically it doesn't, since you can continue following at Pinwheels, although I think she is on a bloggy break at the moment).

Obviously as a parent of a child with Down syndrome I could relate to a lot of this book. Although the details are different we walk the same path.

I'm ready to pass my copy along, so this one's up for grabs.

(Can you see I'm getting burned out on these book reviews now, LOL. They keep getting shorter and shorter!)

This Lovely Life

This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood by Vicki Forman is certainly popular in the disability blogging world.

It's the story of twins born at 23 weeks and the doctors refused the Do Not Resuscitate order. One twin dies and the other is multiply disabled.

It's told with brutal, heartbreaking honesty.

But it's not depressing. You can feel the mommy love she has for her surviving child, even seeking out alternative treatments.

As a parent with a child with a disability, I could certainly relate to many of her feelings.

Definitely worth reading. This one's up for grabs.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was one of our book club selections. Technically, it's Young Adult fiction, for ages 9th grade and up. But it certainly doesn't read like YA!

The book is narrated by Death, which gives it a very unique voice. Death is working very hard during WWII.

The story follows a young girl Liesel who is living with a foster family in Germany. With this family, she learns to read and develops a love of books.

There's so much going on in this book -- her family hides a Jewish refugee, she steals books from the mayor's wife, she has a wonderful best friend Rudy. And Death narrates it all, trying to be detached.

I found the perspective of the war from the average German citizen's side interesting, since so many books are written from the Jewish perspective.

Recommend this book, and pass it on to your high school age kids, if you have them!

This one's up for grabs, too!

Rules

Rules by Cynthia Lord is actually a book for kids, grade level is 4 - 7th grade.

The book is about twelve year old Catherine and her feelings for her younger brother David, who has autism. There's also a subplot about Catherine and a boy she meets (and likes) who is nonverbal, in a wheelchair and communicates with picture cards.

This is a wonderful book to discuss with kids regarding disability. I think it should be required reading for kids in school! Lots of great things to discuss. I bet most school age kids didn't know you could communicate by picture cards!

My older daughter read it a few months ago, at the end of second grade. It was a great excuse to discuss her feelings about her sister. When I read about Catherine's conflicted feelings about her brother, I wondered if my daughter felt that way about her sister.

Definitely recommend it for siblings of kids with disabilities!

This one's up for grabs!

Precious/Push

Precious, the new critically acclaimed movie, was based on this book, Push by Sapphire.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The word I hear often to describe it is "brutal" and that would be accurate. The depictions of sexual abuse are stomach turning.

The book is written somewhat phonetically, sort of uneducated ghetto street language I suppose (not being racist here, not really sure how else to describe it). That also made it a bit difficult to read.

What really made it difficult for me to read is that Precious names her first daughter, who was born with Down syndrome, "Mongo" as in Mongoloid. Ick. I understand why in the context of the story (because Precious is very ignorant and uneducated) but it doesn't make it any easier. And of course the R word is used a lot in reference to Mongo.

The book didn't strike me to be as uplifting as the movie trailers make the movie out to be. Yes, Precious does eventually stand up for herself and try to better herself, but it's a long, hard climb and honestly, I don't know if she'll get there. The book pretty much leaves that up in the air for you to draw your own conclusion.

This one's up for grabs, too. If anyone's seen the movie, I'd love to hear your reactions to it.

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay was one of our Book Club selections. It tells intertwining stories of Sarah, a young Jewish girl in France during WWII and Julia, a modern day journalist investigating the Jewish roundups in Paris during WWII.

Sarah's story of being rounded up and the tragedy of her little brother was riveting and educational. I did not know much about France's involvement with the Nazis and it was shocking learning about it.

However, Julia's story seemed completely trivial and annoying. While Sarah's story is very weighty, Julia's story seemed fluffy and superficial and it was jarring going back and forth between the two.

Plus the events linking Julia and Sarah seemed very contrived and Julia's story was painfully predictable, like a bad romance novel.

However, it was a quick, easy read. Probably worth reading just for Sarah's part of the story. This one's up for grabs!

Look Me in the Eye : My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's was written by John Elder Robinson, brother of famous author Augusten Burroughs. He definitely shares his brother's twisted humor and knack for telling a story!

I have to say I really enjoyed this book. I found it completely fascinating to see how the mind of person with Asperger's works. He writes about his life from early childhood to the present and how he's changed along the way.

The writing is very straight forward, not surprising coming from the literal mind of an Aspie! The insights into his disorder are very enlightening. I especially like when he discuses how he processes conversations. An early passage about how he realized what the appropriate responses to a classmate showing him a new truck had me cracking up, because it reminded me so much of my older daughter.

He often doesn't come across as a particularly likeable, though. He plays lots of pranks and tends not to care about others' feelings.

I definitely recommend this one! I promised a copy to Lisa many months ago, let me know if you are still interested!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (memoir)

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent: Yup, it's another midwife's memoir. I just can't get enough of this stuff. I swear, if I were younger, braver . . . would I love to catch babies. As it is, I'll settle for reading the real-life accounts of midwives.

I'm pretty sure every single birth story in this book had me crying. There's something so universal about the birth experience . . . and yet each is utterly unique and gorgeous in its own way.

And of course I am partial to the home birth experience. It's hard for me to imagine anyone reading a book like this and not wanting to bring forth new life in the sweet comfort of their own home.

I'm happy to pass this gem along to anyone who wants it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Infidel (memoir/autobiography)

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali: In this book, the author tells of her traditional Muslim upbringing in Africa and Saudi Arabia, her flight from a forced marriage as a young adult, her years of questions about God and Islam and her ultimate rejection of both, her political activism, and finally, her life being under constant threat of death because of her outspoken ridicule of Islam.

I found this book riveting on so many levels, not the least of which was the author's intellectual and emotional journey to her ultimate rejection of both religion and the notion of God. This passage regarding the author's final acceptance and acknowledgement of her atheism, especially, spoke to my own feelings:

"It felt right. There was no pain, but a real clarity. The long process of seeing the flaws in my belief structure and carefully tiptoeing around the frayed edges as parts of it were torn out, piece by piece - that was all over. The angels, watching from my shoulders . . . they were gone. The ever-present prospect of hellfire lifted, and my horizon seemed broader. God, Satan, angels: these were all figments of human imagination. From now on I could step firmly on the ground that was under my feet and navigate based on my own reason and self-respect. My moral compass was within myself, not in the pages of a sacred book."

I still clearly remember the incredulous look on a Christian woman's face upon my telling her that I don't believe in God, and her asking me, "Where in the world do you get your morals from then?" As if without God, morals are impossible. I try to be a good person, a moral person, for the sake of being good and moral, because it makes the world a better place for everyone - not out of some sense of fear of being punished in the afterlife, or out of the hope of being rewarded in the afterlife. I don't believe in God, and I don't believe in an afterlife - which, to me, makes it all the more important to make the most of this one chance at life we have on this Earth.

I have yet to encounter a religion in which hypocrisy, intolerance, and judgment are not integral. How many friends do I have who proudly label themselves by this or that religion but only apply those rules that suit them? How many wars are started by non-believers? How many hate crimes are committed by atheists? Too often, these acts are committed in the name of God. It boggles my mind that so many otherwise educated, intelligent people still subscribe to these notions that I am convinced were created as a means to control the masses.

Hirsi Ali describes life as a Muslim - especially a Muslim female - as often humiliating, violent, oppressed, and brutal. She talks at length about the wide-spread practice of female circumcision (also called excision) in the Muslim faith. Most Westerners are horrified by the concept that young girls' genitals are mutilated in the name of God . . . and yet, many of us think nothing of mutilating our baby boys' genitals in the name of God or social acceptance, and we find ways to rationalize it as being humane in the way it's performed in modern times. Even my own husband remarked that a circumcised penis "looks better" than an uncircumcised one. So genital mutilation for the sake of vanity is okay? Personally, I have a lot of guilt and regret about having my two oldest boys circumcised at birth without any thought except, "That's what everyone does, so that's what we'll do." Circumcision, absent a medical necessity, is a barbaric practice, period.

Eventually, Hirsi Ali escapes her arranged marriage, her homeland, and her religion, and finds peace in being true to herself and in being a good person for the sake of being a member of the human race. But these things do not come without a great price: she is cut off by her family and lives under constant death threats, and therefore heavy security, for speaking out against that which she sees as unjust.

A very compelling and thought-provoking book. Highly recommend it. Say the word if you want it, and I'll be happy to pass it along.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Best Friends Forever (novel)

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner: The story of two women, best friends since childhood, torn apart by a betrayal in high school, and reunited as adults when they realize that their friendship really can withstand just about anything.

This is chick-lit at its finest: a light, quick read with a fun, somewhat implausible plot, and a happy ending all tied up neatly. There are some potentially serious subject matters thrown in to balance out the plot, such as rape and a brain-damaged sibling, but they are treated so lightly that it's difficult to take them too seriously. But this kind of literature doesn't claim to have social philosophical relevance. So read it for the escapism; Jennifer Weiner is a master at this kind of story-telling.

I borrowed this book from a friend, so can't offer it up for grabs; sorry!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Girl With the Gallery (Biography)

In addition to being a writer, I'm also an artist. Last week I began contributing a new column to The New York Optimist. It's called, The Art Virgin, and will follow my journey into the art world, working closely with New York art aficionado/guru Bob Hogge (Monkdogz Urban Art). When I went into cahoots with Bob a month or so ago, he recommended that I read Lindsay Pollock's book, The Girl With the Gallery. The book chronicles the life of Edith Gregor Halpert.

You're probably wondering who the heck that is. Well, this woman was not only instrumental in saving American art in the early to mid-1900's, she was also surprisingly critical in establishing New York as the art capital of the world. During the depression and the two great wars, Halpert pressed on in her deep belief in the value of art. She was a creative tigress when it came to sales and marketing, which (as you can imagine) was not expected of women during those times. I'm sure many a frown came her way. Did she care? Hell no! She focused on what she believed in with an unflinching eye, and said to hell with stereotypes, perceptions, traditions, etc. In fact, if you read between the lines of Pollock's book, it strikes you that those concepts weren't even in Halpert's interesting head. She was a true American cultural hero. The real deal at a time with everyone needed a New Deal.

Pollock's book is filled with details about the business machinations of the art world at that time, many of which spill over into today. Apparently, Halpert kept meticulous records over the years, giving Pollock lots to work with in piecing her book together. If you know a thing or two about art, you'll come across many a name you recognize. You'll likely be surprised how instrumental Halpert was in developing the careers of many of her generation's greatest artists.

Halpert grew up in a not-so-great scenario. The family's need to penny pinch taught Halpert the value of money, great sales technique, creativity, and gumption. She took off to New York at age 16 and never looked back. As a teenager and young woman, she actually forged a professional career in the big city when the majority of women who worked (not many) where pinned down to specific types of non-professional jobs. By her mid-twenties, she was ready to break out on her own, and had the skill to open her own art gallery. The rest is history--history that you should know if you have any interest in art or New York.

Pollock's book may not be for everyone, but those who want to know more about how the art world works (and why) should most certainly pick this one up. Also, if you'd just like to read a n inspirational example of someone who had vision, integrity, smarts, creativity and heart, it's for you.

Edith Halpert is one of my new heroes. She definitely belongs on my list of honorary members of the Aberration Nation.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Tiger's Child (memoir)

The Tiger's Child by Torey Hayden: This book is the sequel to One Child. In One Child, the author recounts her experience with a severely disturbed six-year-old girl, spanning a period of five months as a special education teacher. One Child ends in such a way as to leave the reader hopeful of a happy ending for the little girl, Sheila.

The Tiger's Child dispels that hope of a happy ending for Sheila. The first several chapters of The Tiger's Child summarize One Child, although I would recommend reading One Child in its entirety before reading The Tiger's Child.

One Child was extremely compelling and hard to put down, but at the same time, very difficult to digest with the telling of the horrific abuse this little girl suffered. Abandoned at age four - literally pushed out of a car on a highway in the middle of the night - by her teenaged mother, Sheila is placed in the care of her alcoholic, drug addict father where she is mostly neglected, often beaten and occasionally sexually abused, living in extreme poverty without such basics as running water or electricity (right here in the good old U S of A!). At age six, Shiela is placed in Ms. Hayden's special education classroom as a temporary measure until an opening at the state hospital (mental institution) is available for the child after she perpetrates a horrible act of abuse on another child. During the five months Ms. Hayden has Sheila in her class, however, she manages to connect with the little girl and draw her out of her rage and pain. The book ends with the end of the school year, with Ms. Hayden moving on to work towards her doctorate and Sheila being advanced a grade as a result of her apparent genius-level IQ.

The Tiger's Child picks up seven years later. During that seven years, Sheila and Ms. Hayden have all but lost touch. When Ms. Hayden locates Sheila, she is a sullen teenager living with her father who is still up to the same old tricks - booze, drugs, running from debtors, and repeated stints in prison and detox. The author discovers that Sheila has spent much of the past seven years being bounced from foster home to foster home, and it comes to light that her father pimped her out for sexual favors to his drug dealers when she was a small child to pay for his drug habit. Ms. Hayden reestablishes a relationship with Sheila, only now it is a personal rather than professional relationship.

Like One Child, I found this book hard to put down, and maybe even more disturbing than One Child. I found myself angry at the author much of the time, because I think she could have done so much more for Sheila. She chose to reenter Sheila's life on a personal level, and yet continued to be instrumental in sending her back to her father time and time again, even knowing the horrific things her father had subjected her to. It seemed to me that she only made a half-assed committment to Sheila, assuring her unconditional love and friendship, but never really doing anything to rescue this child. That bothered me A LOT.

Even after reading this book, I find myself extremely hungry for more about Sheila, but a Google search indicates that "Sheila" was a psuedonym, and I've been unable to find any information about what happened to her after the end of this book, except for a short blurb on Torey Hayden's website.

I'm going to offer this book up for grabs to my book club, as we are scheduled to discuss One Child next week. I do recommend both books though.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Joy Luck Club (novel)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Ahhhhh . . . I really wanted to like this book more than I actually did. It's one of those books that I've heard about for so long from so many people that I became convinced that I should read it and was supposed to come away thinking was a really good book. But in truth, I only thought it was so-so. It took me forever to get through it - and it's a slim book at under 300 pages. Although it's classified as a novel, it felt to me more like a collection of related short stories, and it just didn't hold my interest very well. It's about four Chinese-born women and their four American-born daughters. In many ways, the themes are universal: the push and pull between mothers and daughters, the struggle for mothers and daughters to find common ground between each other while respecting their separateness. And some of the themes in the book are specific to being Chinese and Chinese-American. It's well-written, but it just didn't grab me - not until the very end.

It's up for grabs - just say the word!

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Child (memoir)

One Child by Torey Hayden: This is the current selection of my book club; I never would have chosen such a book on my own, as it recounts the horrific abuse suffered by a six-year-old little girl who ends up in the author's special education class to await placement in a state hospital (I assume this was the technical term for nut house) after tying a three-year-old little boy to a tree and nearly burning him alive. During the five-month stay in the author's classroom, the author/teacher manages to break through this disturbed little girl's shell and make what is probably the first loving connection the girl ever experiences. It's a quick but difficult read - definitely not for the faint of heart. And although I was resistant to reading it, knowing the basis of the story, I was drawn in enough that I now want to read the sequel, Tiger's Child.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga (memoir)

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga by Carol Leonard is the author's recounting of her early years as a midwife. Inspired to become involved in women's health by her own traumatic birth experience, the author began working at an abortion clinic when her son was still a newborn. From there she began her midwife apprenticeship, without even knowing what a midwife is, by shadowing a country doctor who still made house calls and delivered babies at home in the 1980s around New Hampshire. Ms. Leonard eventually becomes a skilled and sought-after midwife in her own right, builds a practice, becomes an advocate for midwifery and helps institute legislation to legalize midwifery, falls in love with and marries her back-up obstetrician, and . . . well, I don't want to give the rest away.

It's a good story, covering a period of about ten years, full of drama, adventure, and love - and, of course, riveting birth stories. I love the birth stories! Made me relive my own - especially my two at-home births - and pine for another. One story in particular spoke to me - one in which the midwife catches a baby with Down syndrome. Like my own experience having Finn at home, I saw the parallels between the author's experience and what must have been my own midwife's experience when Finn was born: suspecting something but not wanting to alarm or distress the parents, and wanting very much to preserve the loving, peaceful atmosphere of the baby's entrance into the world.

One thing I noted is that this is a self-published book. It's well-written and professional-looking, but a tad unpolished, I thought. Still, a very good read, and I'm willing to pass it on now to anyone who wants it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society plus The Belly Dancer

'As Seneca says, "Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb"' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Jews and belly dancers. What do they have in common? Well, they haven’t always enjoyed the best treatment by others. Of course, this is an understatement with regard to Jews. Much has been written about the injustice thrown their way, while the mistreatment of belly dancers has not been widely chronicled. You may be thinking, dare you compare the two?

Look, people are people. My blog, Aberration Nation, focuses on the fact that life generally stinks; however, amidst that stink, it's beautiful , miraculous, and filled with hope. It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Christian, a belly dancer or a hip hop dancer. What happens to you is important. In light of this, I felt compelled to write about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Dial Press) and The Belly Dancer (Berkley Books) together.

Both books highlight the mistreatment of a specific segment of the population during a particular time in history. For the Guernsey book, it’s World War II, and for The Belly Dancer it’s the Chicago World’s Fair during the late 1800’s. While these two books are quite different, they relay a common message that standing up for what’s right amidst discrimination and bigotry is honorable. In the end, doing so brings us one step closer to everything being right with the world, despite any hardship or sacrifice that may befall us.

The two books actually have quite a bit in common. Both are a quick, delightful read. While they each include moments of brutal honesty and heart wrenching pain, they somehow make it easy to take in. Neither are what I call “life changing” reads, but one doesn’t get the feeling that this was the intention. DeAnna Cameron’s book reminds me of all the Barbara Cartland books I devoured when I was younger. The Belly Dancer effortlessly transports the reader to a different place and time, relaying a common situation that existed, teaching a little history, and ultimately leaving the reader satisfied. Similarly, the Guernsey book transports the reader to the English Channel Isles, taking folks on an interesting leap back in time to meet a slew of interesting characters whose common plight results in a happy ending and another satisfying read.

I recommend both books! I just hope more people will choose to stand up for what’s right in the real world. Maybe then we won’t have to keep depending on fictional characters such as Elizabeth and Dora to show us the way.

__________________________

The Belly Dancer is up for grabs! I borrowed the other book from my neighbor ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The World's Religions (non-fiction)

“Comforts of togetherness should not lead to structures that will restrict the dynamic character of God’s continuing revelation.” Huston Smith

Being raised in the Deep South entrenched in a fundamentalist Christian environment, I rarely heard anything positive about the world’s other religions. I remember once hearing that a friend’s mother had decided to become a Hindu or Buddhist. The words associated with the story were demonic, sin, lost, tragedy, and rescue. It sounded like a scary situation.

So now I’m all grown up, and a writer. And after forty-three years of a combination of blindly believing what I was taught, and questioning and contemplating it all, I’ve decided to write a new novel that delves into the greatest mystery of all time: God. Well, that’s a big nut to try and crack with 80,000 words, interesting characters, and an earthly plot.

What can I say? I love a good challenge, the impossible, the stretch, the things other people are either too smart or too dumb to touch with a ten foot pole. So I plan to start this novel next month. God will narrate.

My novel writing always begins with research, so to learn more about the world’s religions, I went to the bookstore to see what kinds of books would help. There were quite a few written by Christian ministers. And then there was the 50th Anniversary Edition of Huston Smith’s, The World’s Religions (HarperOne). I spent at least an hour reading the backs of each book. I considered buying several. Ultimately, the back cover of Smith’s book, coupled with its phenomenal 50-year shelf-life convinced me to lay out 17 bucks for it, and believe the thick paperback could ultimately serve as the basis of my research.

From the back cover:

Huston Smith’s masterpiece explores the essential elements and teachings of the world’s predominate faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the native traditions of Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

Emphasizing the inner-rather than the institutional-dimension of these religions, Smith devotes special attention to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and the teachings of Jesus. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.

Of course, the entire time I was reading Smith’s book, my well-meaning mother’s voice rang through my brain, telling me Smith was all wrong, and that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. Everything else is evil, and furthermore, the end of the world is neigh. Perhaps many of you agree. That’s fine, but I believe that gaining an objective understanding of how individuals throughout history and across cultures have embraced what they believe to be God can only strengthen my own personal ideas about God, the meaning of my own life and, ultimately, my death. As a human being, I deserve to decide for myself. We will all die someday, and we will do it alone. We all hope to grasp, even if in some small way, how our own life can have meaning in relation to the millions who have shared our planet. Sometimes, although I don’t understand the arrogance involved, I envy those who are so sure they know all the answers. I’m still searching. Sometimes lately, I think of myself as a single blade of beautiful grass, perfect in its role, and wonder if God simply wants me to enjoy being green, swaying in the breeze, providing a cushion for a tired foot, food for a hungry soul, or just beauty for those who can look at me and appreciate what it is I am. Perhaps it is just that simple. I’d love to just relax and live out my purpose. So it is in the context that I set out to learn more.

The World’s Religions brilliantly melts the religions mentioned above into the basic messages conveyed by the phenomenal, even ordained/supernatural, individuals (and in the case of Judaism, the people) whose sparks originally set them ablaze. It’s interesting how these basic, and interestingly similar, messages were quite simple at the onset yet society managed to complicate them a hundred times over. Smith calls the basic common religious messages, the wisdom traditions. All rooted in love, they speak of avoiding murder, thieving, lying, and adultery. They also push humility, charity, and veracity. Whether or not we as individuals successfully adhere to these ideas moment to moment, day to day, year after year, it seems obvious that the vast majority would agree that these ideas serve as basic excellent goals for living. Bathe them in love for one another and we just might have a perfect world. Smith delves into and defines these goals as viewed through each religion.

Smith also explains the traditions and cultures that support each. In the end, Smith’s eloquent and intelligent explanations relay how important and real God is to the human race, but also just how convoluted and confusing we’ve managed to make it. Smith doesn’t tell you what to believe, but he does attempt to answer the critical question of how “we comport ourselves in a pluralistic world that is riven by ideologies, some sacred, some profane?” His answer is that we listen.

Smith says, “Those who listen build peace, a peace built not on ecclesiastical or political hegemonies but on understanding and mutual concern. For understanding, at least in realms as inherently noble as the great faiths of mankind, brings respect; and respect prepares the way for a higher power, love—the only power that can quench the flames of fear, suspicion, and prejudice, and provide the means by which the people of this small but precious Earth can become one to one another.”

It’s tough for me to read and write about a book without also considering other books I’ve recently read. (I see life in connected patterns; perhaps that’s one reason I’m a writer.) During the time I was reading The World’s Religions, I also read the Dalai Lama’s book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality as well as Carlotta Walls LaNiersA Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School (review coming soon). The Dalai Lama’s book focuses on the vase and deep well of knowledge that still eludes us, while LaNier’s book relayed how, not so very long ago, extreme, unfounded hatred and bigotry existed in our own backyard. In today’s global society, there is still much room to grow. According to Smith, there will never be one world religion because people and cultures are so vastly different, nor should there have to be. All we need is love. It is the root of our quest, no matter where we live. Smith points out that love and understanding (which comes from listening) are reciprocal. I wish Little Rock had exhibited more love and understanding in the late 1950’s. I wish there was more today in Tibet.

When I was growing up, I heard an awful lot of people speaking, desperately trying to give to the world what they thought was salvation. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of listening going on. Smith writes that Thomas Merton once said that God speaks to us in three places: in scripture, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger. We must have the graciousness to receive as well as to give, for there is no greater way to depersonalize another than to speak without also listening. I've been depersonalized in this way so I deeply related to this message.

Smith’s book gave me exactly what I was looking for during my hour spent in the bookstore Religion aisle. It taught me the basics of the world’s religions in a refreshing, unbiased way yet also gave me a lot to think about. I plan to think about all those things as I write my new novel. Once finished, I’m not sure if my opinions on God and religion will have changed but something will change. After all, that’s one of the reasons I write. As for today, my religion is love.


Huston Smith is widely regarded as the most eloquent and accessible contemporary authority on the history of religions. To learn more about Smith and his work, go here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Help (a novel)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: At over 400 pages, this book kept me reading! Set in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi on the brink of the Civil Rights movement when racial tensions ran violently high, it's the story of a young white woman who aspires to be a journalist. Under the cover of darkness, she collaborates with a group of black maids in the community to write an expose about what it's like to be a black domestic working for white families. Although the book is published under Anonymous, this endeavor turns her white friends into enemies. Written from the alternating perspectives of the three main characters, the nuances of each character and relationship in the book is given a feeling of authenticity by everyone's clear flaws and the lack of tidy endings in the story.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!

The Middle Place - Read and Ready


I've been meaning to post about this book for a while now. A long while. I keep carrying it with me, back and forth to work, hoping to find a few minutes to write down my thoughts.

Lisa sent this one to me. She reviewed it on her other blog.

I enjoyed it. Yes, cancer was a central theme and I learned a lot about how it can affect a family and I truly felt for this mom with her loving husband and really young daughters, but what jumped out at me and had me in tears at times was the relationship between the author and her father.

See, I didn't have that kid of relationship with my dad. Still don't. I envied that they called each other on the phone and that he came and visited her, even while in the midst of battling this horrible disease. I would just sit back while reading and go, "Wow. That really happens, huh?"

In one part, the author, Kelly Corrigan, is surprised by this huge engagement party. What she does upon entering the room gave me chills:

I started to make out some of the faces in the barely lit room...Then a voice came shooting clear at me through the noise and the dark and I ran straight into Greenie [her father], and we rocked back and forth just laughing while the people around us held their hearts and wiped their eyes. Even my mom, who was as happy as I had ever seen her, waited patiently while Greenie held me to him and said, " I knew he was out there, Lovey. A man who loves you as much as I do. I told you we'd find him."

Heart. Breaking.

I mean, really.

The end threw me for a loop though. Possibly jealousy on my part, but I didn't see it coming.

If you'd like to read this book and see for yourself, let me know and I'll put it in the mail right away.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twilight (novel)

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Let it be said that I only read this (actually, I listened to the audio version on my iPod) because it was chosen for my book club. I had no interest whatsoever in delving into this book/series, maybe merely because it's so incredibly popular, which for some reason makes it a turnoff for me. But, like my friend Jodi has pointed out, I could've voted against this choice for our book club, and I didn't!

So, what did I think of it? Well, I found it to be a pretty well-crafted story. Imaginative. Creative. I am always interested in how an author is able to develop characters and plot, and I think Ms. Meyer did a fine job here. However, the story itself didn't really appeal to me. This book and the entire series was written for teenagers, and in fact is located in the teenager/young adult section of the book store. And I can definitely see the appeal to the mid-teens to mid-twenties set. But I really don't understand the huge appeal it seems to have for older adults! Maybe it's just me - I personally have no desire to relive my high school years.

I'm not a fan of romance literature, and this has plenty of sticky, gooey romance in it. Ick. Also, the whole damsel-in-distress aspect of the story infuriated me at times. And I think the relationship between the two main characters is illustrative of a wholly unhealthy male-female relationship - one in which the female is weak and silly and ready and willing to throw her entire life away on the first guy who comes along at the tender age of 17 (hmmmm, maybe I have such strong feelings about this because it reminds me of my own youthful folly that ultimately ended disastrously), and the male is dominating, manipulative, and controlling. But, as in a lot of romance stories, it's played off here as something we should all want: true love. Blah. I believe in true love, certainly, but not like this.

The story was interesting enough to keep me listening to the end, and the climax scene was suspenseful, but I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More books up for grabs

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck













The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison





















Embers by Sandor Marai










What I Know Now by Ellyn Spragins










Any interest in any of these, please email your mailing address to me at bloggymamaATgmailDOTcom. Ecki, I know you wanted Aberrations, so email your address to me and I'll get it mailed to you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Books up for grabs!

Lisa recently sent me Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and the memoir, Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah.

Lisa wrote up good reviews on these books already, so I won't repeat ... but I will add that it was a very interesting pairing - since these books overlapped a lot of the same history, but one was fiction and the other a non-fiction memoir. Personally, I really enjoy historical fiction, and actually learned quite a bit about Shanghai and Chinese history in general that I really just had no idea about. I preferred the story in Shanghai Girls (even if the ending was a bit abrupt), as the memoir was interesting, but rather dry and incomplete in parts.

So if anyone is interested in reading them now, just let me know!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to the crew!

We have a new contributor: Penelope Przekop, artist, author of the novel, Aberrations, and blogger of Aberration Nation. Check out this book review that Penelope wrote: Chick Lit vs. Wit Lit.

Welcome, Penelope!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Aberrations (a novel)

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop: Penelope is the author of a blog called Aberration Nation, which examines, discusses, and celebrates diversity. A while back, she approached me about interviewing me for a piece on her blog (you can find the three-part interview here, here, and here). Penelope is a cool and talented chick! In addition to blogging, she is an artist and novelist, and this, Aberrations, is her debut novel. It is the story of Angel Duet, a young woman who has narcolepsy and is searching for the truth about her mother's death, a woman who died before Angel ever got to know her and who has taken on mythic proportions for Angel. It is also a story about relationships and self-discovery. As an aspiring writer, I am always intrigued by the creative storylines and characters that authors are able to bring to life. This is a story worth reading!

My copy is up for grabs, so say the word if you'd like me to pass it along to you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife


Last night a friend and I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife, as we had both read the book. The movie seems to be getting not-so-great reviews by critics, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I thought the adaptation was very well done, and the actors were very believable.










The Time Traveler's Wife, a novel by Audrey Niffenegger, tells the story of a man who spontaneously hurtles back and forth in time due to a genetic anomaly, and the woman who loves him from the time she is a little girl and first encounters the time traveling stranger in the meadow where she plays. One the one hand, it's a sweet love story, but also frustrating, as it's difficult to imagine such a tortured existence for both the ever-disappearing man and the woman who loves him. I remember finding it difficult to keep track of timelines (and kept wondering how on earth the author came up with such a complicated plot - was she on acid?), but when I finally just surrendered and stopped trying to keep track of when in time exactly the current events were supposed to be taking place, I really enjoyed the story.

It's impossible, of course, to fit an entire book into a movie, so quite a bit is left out of the movie, but it still flows. I kept wondering, though, if someone who had not first read the book would enjoy the movie as much and understand exactly what was going on. I think it might be difficult, but maybe not.

If you read the book and enjoyed it, the movie is definitely worth seeing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Bean Trees (a novel)

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver: I bought this book because I loved Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible so much. The Bean Trees was apparently her first novel, published more than twenty years ago.

This is the story of Taylor Greer, a girl who grew up poor in rural Kentucky and when in her early 20s decides to pull up stakes and drive a dilapidated Volkswagon across the country, making the decision to put down roots wherever the Volkswagon finally gives out. She ends up in Arizona, having acquired an abandoned American Indian child along the way. The Indian girl's story is heartbreaking, and Taylor develops attachments to other people with heartbreaking stories in Arizona, but really this is a story about resilience and happy endings. I liked the book more and more the more I read.

I love a book with a cryptic title, one that you go through the book wondering, "Why that title? What does it mean?" And then you come across a single passage, buried in the book, and suddenly the title makes perfect sense. I won't give it away - read it and find out for yourself!

There's already someone who wants this book, so I won't put it up for grabs, but I do recommend it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Without a Map (memoir)

Without a Map by Meredith Hall: I reviewed this book a while back here, and passed the book along to a friend. She read it and returned it to me today, so I'm putting it up for grabs again. It's really good.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Audiobooks

Anyone done this? Books on tape or CD or MP3 or whatever? I never have, but I'm seriously considering it. Mainly because my book club has chosen Twilight as an upcoming selection, and it's a book I've been resistant to forever. I had hoped to never have to read it (that, along with Harry Potter). I'm wondering if it might be easier to listen to it than to actually read it. Thoughts, opinions?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Karina Has Down Syndrome (non-fiction)

Karina Has Down Syndrome by Cheryl Rogers and Gun Dolva: I will say right off the bat that this book was a huge disappointment. I am still trying to figure out why it cost me $25+. I was expecting a pretty substantial hardcover memoir for that, but in reality it's a very thin paperback, just over 100 pages, that I finished in a couple of hours (I guess I should have paid more attention to the product description on Amazon).

I was initially intrigued by the book because an excerpt I read online indicated that Karina, the child with Down syndrome who is the subject of the book, was born at home two weeks before her due date. Since this was how Finn's life began exactly, I felt destined to read this book. While there are parts of the account that are moving, and I could certainly relate to some of the mother's expressed anguish, for the most part the book reads like a report or article - it all seems pretty detached although it is the mother's personal account. The book covers Karina's first six years - in just over 100 pages! - and it was only after I started reading that I realized she was born in 1990, so I had to keep reminding myself that so much has changed in the last almost 20 years for children born with Down syndrome.

So, did I do a good job of selling you on this book?! It's up for grabs if anyone wants it. And just think, it'll save you 25 bucks!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (novel)

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan: In this debut novel set in post WWII Mississipi, Hillary Jordan writes convincingly in the six different voices of the main characters, who include a man bent on being a farmer, his lovelorn brother damaged in his soul by the war, his unwilling wife, a black tenant farmer, his wife, and their son who fought heroically in the war but comes home to the same old prejudices which dictate how a person is treated depending on the color of his or her skin. Set in the deep south in an era in which active racial hatred was very much alive, this novel tells the story of a white family trying to tame the land on which they live while quietly fighting their inner demons, and how they ultimately cause the destruction of the black tenant family eking out an existence on their land.

I was sucked into this story from the very first line and could hardly put it down; it took me four days to make my way through its 340 pages. The author writes so convincingly in both the male and female voices, as well as in white and black voices. It's hard not to like most of the characters, while still seeing their very realistic human flaws.

I really loved this book! I can't offer it up for grabs here, unfortunately, as it's the current reading selection of my book club, so I am obliged to pass it along to someone there. However, if you're looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend this one!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This was one of my local book club selections. Not a book that I would have normally picked up, since I don't really go for WWII era novels, but I'm glad I did!

The book is written entirely in letters, to and from the main character, a writer named Juliet. It took a while to get used to the format, but after that I fell in love with all the characters, and there were a lot of charcters! It was a bit hard to keep them all straight.

It's not a big book, and it's an easy read, but there's just so much going on! There's the historical angle of the occupation of the island of Gurnsey by the Nazis. There's a romance between Juliet and a persistent suitor. There's a mystery or two. There's the process of an author writing a book. Some of it is a bit improbable and contrived, but it's still fun.

I suppose my only complaint is that maybe it was a little too light. I wanted to know more about subjects that were touched on, such as how the islanders sent their kids away during the war. And some of the references to authors and novels had me completely lost (who the heck is Charles Lamb?).

This is one that I'm happy to pass along! Just let me know if you're interested!

The Last Lecture

First of all, this is not "the" last lecture by Randy Pausch that you can find on YouTube . It's more like a book that capitalized on the last lecture's popularity.

It's full of little essays on the meaning of life as seen through the eyes of a man with a terminal diagnosis of cancer. Lots of advice left for his three young kids that he would never see grow up. Too bad the guy was a computer geek, since I found his writing to pretty average. Many of the blogs I read by regular moms are better written!

I found it hard to read all at once. Too much advice on how to live your life to take in one sitting! He struck me as a bit arrogant and seemed to have all the answers. It's an ideal bathroom book, I suppose, inspirational in small doses. It's like those "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books.

I was disappointed. I was expecting something much more profound. But I suppose dying from cancer doesn't automatically give you otherworldly insight.

Definitely ready to pass this one on! Just let me know if you want it!

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck (memoir)

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck: Several friends have recommended this book to me over the last year since Finn was born, because it's an account of a woman's experience having a baby with Down syndrome. I have mixed feelings about the book: it was engrossing and kept me turning the pages, and I loved the author's wit and sarcasm. However, I have to say that this book is more about what the author perceives to be paranormal experiences than it is about having a child with Down syndrome. The Down syndrome aspect seems to be secondary - which may have been the author's intent. I am a complete skeptic - disbeliever! - about the paranormal and supernatural, so I read about her experiences with a grain of salt. It was entertaining, but not life-altering for me. Her espousal of the notion that her son with Down syndrome is otherworldly bothers me, but that's just me. There were many passages in the book that moved me and brought tears to my eyes, and I think the messages of acceptance and taking one's life into one's own hands and claiming one's own happiness are powerful messages.

This book was passed along to me by Chrystal, and she has given me the go-ahead to pass it along, so if you want it, just say the word :)

My Sister's Keeper

This book was actually rejected by the book club I'm in as being too trendy, LOL. But I read it anyway. And I didn't see the movie.

Everyone probably knows the storyline by now -- younger sister is genetically created to be a match for her cancer stricken older sister. Younger sister decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation.

I didn't like any of the characters for the first half of the book. They are all very flawed. But by the time of the trial, I was crying along with everyone. There's a lot going on in the book, and I did find it enjoyable once I stopped hating everybody. A very interesting bunch of characters, that's for sure.

As for the ending, yeah, I hated the ending. Seemed like a cop out to me. I heard they changed it in the movie, but I don't know how they could have made it any better, just different.

And I now have even more respect for all those who are going through cancer.

My copy is ready to move on. Just leave a comment -- please include your email, too, so I can contact you!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah (memoir)

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah: Subtitled The Memoir of An Unwanted Chinese Daughter, this is a real-life Cinderella story. In fact, the author apparently wrote a children's version of her memoir titled Chinese Cinderella. Having read this on the heels of Shanghai Girls, it was interesting to compare the autobiographical perspective with the fictional perspective of many of the same historical events, places, culture and customs.

In this book, the author, born in Shanghai in the 1930s, recounts her life growing up with an evil stepmother and wanting more than anything to be loved and cherished by her parents. I have a thing for memoirs recounting awful childhoods, and I've read far worse than this, but even so, my heart went out to this girl/woman, and I identified with so much of her struggles. Reading about her stepmother, who is really just a very narcissistic, self-centered, cold person, I am left with the conclusion that people like this suffer from some form of mental illness. There is just no other explanation. Although the author manages to build a happy and successful life for herself eventually, it is maddening to read how even well into adulthood, she couldn't seem to escape from the emotional bondage of her parents until they were both dead.

It's a very good book and one I recommend, especially if you like memoirs, Cinderella stories, and/or enjoyed Shanghai Girls! It's up for grabs if anyone wants it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Expecting Adam


I heard this book mentioned, over and over again, after I gave birth to my daughter and received her Ds dx. I assumed it was a memoir and perhaps not the kind in which I would have an interest. I totally judged this book by its cover. I mean that literally. The cover is kinda creepy.

If I recall correctly, the author, Martha Beck, Oprah guest/Life Coach, tried to sell this book as fiction at first. And I can see why. The story is somewhat unbelievable. Whether that's good or bad is for each person to decide.

But there was something about it that drew me in. I think Martha writes beautifully and she's obviously intelligent, even witty. I went along for the ride and I was disappointed when it ended. I wanted to know what happened next. And when I say "next" I mean up through yesterday.

I feel like I'm being cryptic, and maybe I am, because I don't want to give too much away. I sent the book to Lisa a couple of days ago and I really am looking forward to her perspective.

The basics are that Martha is a mom of a toddler, married, and pursuing her PhD at Harvard. She has an unplanned pregnancy and the little boy she's carrying is pre-natally diagnosed with Ds. And then a lot of stuff happens. The End.

Stand by for Lisa's review and, if you're still interested after my "stellar" review, be sure and put in a request to have it mailed to you.

Midwives

Joined a book club a few months ago, and Midwives by Chris Bohjalian was the first book I had to read.

It's the story of a midwife, Sibyl, who has to perform an emergency C-section in the middle of an icy winter night and the mother dies. But was the mother dead beofre Sibyl performed the C-section or did the procedure kill her?

Sibyl is put on trial for the mother's death.

The story is told by Sibyl's adult daughter Connie (she was a teenager at the time of the trial) through a series of flashbacks, and each chapter is prefaced by an excerpt from Sibyl's journals.

I loved the characters in this book. I was rooting for Connie and Sibyl through the whole book. The way Connie describes events as an adult remember what it was like to be a teen in a difficult time is fascinating. And having the journal entries helps give an idea of what was in Sibyl's mind without distracting from Connie's main storytelling.

I did have a couple of problems with the book. A minor one was every now and then Connie throwing in something that was not part of the timeline of the events leading up to the trial or the trial itself. Sometimes it was enlightening, but more often than not it was just irrelevant and distracting.

My major issue with the book is how, aside from one fate-changing incident, the trial was a let down. Throughout the story there are hints of a conflict between the medical establishment and the lay midwives, and I was hoping more of that would come to light during the trial, but it didn't. I really wish they had gone more into the conflict, since it is an issue that is relevant even now.

It's a good, entertaining and easy read, though.

Incidentally, Chris Bohjalian is a man, which completely blew me away. He really managed to get into a woman's mind regarding childbirth. Amazing for someone who has never been pregnant!

Anyway, I'm done with my copy and would be happy to pass it along, just leave a comment!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Another new contributor!

Look who's joining us: Ecki aka Datri of Opposite Kids!

Water for Elephants


Um, it's completely obvious I stole that image from Amazon, isn't it!?

Anyway. My mom read this book in her book club and she really liked it.

I read it - and I really liked it, too. I really connected to it, it was touching and compelling. My brother read it and he was disappointed, 'Well, it didn't really go anywhere."

And that's true - it doesn't go very far, but I really like a touch of history in my books, and this was an easy, enjoyable read.

The book bounces back & forth between a man in a current day nursing home and his time with a traveling circus as a young man, during the Great Depression. The thing is, I hate circuses. They seem dirty and cruel - but this really opened my eyes as to how circus's used to be - when they were rare and entertaining (and dirty and dangerous). Book summary on Amazon.

If anyone hasn't read this book yet and would like to, just holler!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See


Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - In all honesty, I bought this book because the cover is so beautiful. After what I saw as the disappointment of Peony in Love, I wasn't sure what to expect of this book. It lived up to, and even surpassed, in my opinion, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. This is the story of two sisters, who are the closest of friends and, at times, the bitterest of rivals. Born in Shanghai in the 1930s into a live of privilege and plenty, their world is shattered with the invasion of the Japanese. They make a harrowing journey to America where they build a new life, trying to reconcile the conflicting feelings they have between homesickness for their home country and Chinese culture and beliefs, and wanting to embrace the American dream. I really loved this book!

It's up for grabs, just say the word.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Embers by Sandor Marai

Embers by Sandor Marai:

Originally published in 1942 and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a decaying empire and the disillusioned wisdom of its last heirs.

In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General’s beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together following a hunt in the nearby forest--a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever. Embers is a classic of modern European literature, a work whose poignant evocation of the past also seems like a prophetic glimpse into the moral abyss of the present


This is the current selection for my book club, which is why I read it. The above synopsis is from the back cover. I don't know that I agree that "a duel of words" takes place; it's more a narrative. I really enjoyed the story, and found it to be very visual and haunting. There is also an air of suspense, although I found the ending to be anticlimactic. Worth reading, though!

I'm not putting this one up for grabs, as I've already promised it to someone in my book club.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Disability is Natural

Jen, I got my used copy from eBay today and, wow. It's about fourteen thousand pages. Did you actually read it cover to cover? Can you suggest certain chapters or sections?

Choosing Naia

I got this book from the lovely Chrystal, who had reviewed it on her other blog. If you want to know about the book, you'll have to read her review, because it is wordy and overly drawn out and I just can not get into it.

First of all, I thought I'd be really intrigued by reading the story of someone with a prenatal diagnosis and how they adapted and learned about DS and then their feelings when the baby finally arrived. But instead I find I'm really annoyed by the prose. It read (to me) like a man (the author) was doing a dramatic voice-over for every detail of these people's lives. Voice of a book is important to me, and this was just dragging me down.

So. I didn't finish this book, I am ashamed to say. I didn't even make it to the birth of Naia. That's hard for me to admit - I used to finish a book regardless of whether or not I liked it, but now I have better things to do with my time, I guess.

Did I sell you on it? Anyone want to take a stab at a book that I was too lazy to power through?