Monday, April 30, 2012

The Dance of Connection by Harriet Lerner

The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or DesperateThe Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Harriet Goldhor Lerner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with all of her books, Harriet calmly and clearly helps you to understand how to handle things in a simple clear concise fashion to communicate your goal in a time of criss. Now if only I could have Harriet there holding my hand during those moments! Of course, this is where practice comes in. Thanks Harriet for another fabulous book.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

Veronika Decides to DieVeronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Rating 4.6 of 5

Veronika, at 24 years old, has a perfectly nice life, yet something is lacking. Inside her is a void. So, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. Coelho deals with many topics in this book - suicide, Adam & Eve, sex, love - all of which raised a visceral reaction in me. I found it amusing how strongly "programmed" I am and it took me a bit to be able to get past that and hear his message. Then, soon I found myself agreeing with him! It takes an exceptional author to deal with emotional topics and to persuade the reader over to understand his way of thinking. My head is still reeling.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Running the RiftRunning the Rift by Naomi Benaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the most recent winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Award for fiction about the Rwanda Genocide. It is told from the perspective of, Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Tutsi boy who dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medal winner in track. This book captures the horrors of what happened as well as capturing the culture.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife: A NovelThe Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
Rating: 4 of 5

I enjoyed this book a lot. Not only was it interesting to hear about the lifestyle in 1920’s Paris and to learn about Hemingway and the circle people that he surrounded himself with (Picaso, Joyce, Fitzgerald, etc.) but the attitudes were so different back then. I think the author did a wonderful job of making the characters, even the unsympathetic ones, come to life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The Buddha in the AtticThe Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
My rating: 3.6 of 5 stars

This starts in the 1920's with the Japanese women getting on boats as 'picture brides' enroute to their promised husbands in San Francisco and covers their journey until WWII when they are sent off to internment camps. The unique narration is told in the first person plural - from the viewpoint of multiple women. This means you just have to let yourself go with the flow of the book which quick immerses you and helps you to understand the multiple viewpoints that went towards making up how "the Japanese" felt. While interesting, it also means there are no characters to get to know or feel attached to and no specific story line.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I just finished this book and am feeling the ripple effects of the words, phrasing and plot. This will be one that I turn over and over in my mind.  I can see why this won the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

This is one of those books where, the less you know about it the better so, I won’t reveal too much here. This book is told by Tony, one of a group of three friend in high school. Their group is joined by a fourth, Adrian. The telling varies between their high school years and a middle aged Tony. I am in awe of Julian Barnes. His writing is amazing. It seems deceptively simple and yet captures so much. I have never found someone explain the elusiveness of memory….the remembering and forgetting, and reinterpreting the past…so clearly. This book was a wonderful journey. When Tony reread his letter, I felt like I needed a shot of whiskey as I was reeling with shock. There were so many times along the way I thought I saw what was coming when, in fact, Barnes allowed my smugness on the smallest of scales while the core secret didn’t unfold until the last pages. Don’t read anything more about this book or it will spoil it. Go quickly and devour this book for yourself.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is about Chris McCandless/Alex Supertramp going off in to the Alaska wilderness, surviving for 100+ days and his sad death. I find it interesting that this book raises so many strong opinions in people, myself included. People tend to think that Chris McCandless was either a total wacko or someone to be admired. I wavered between these two camps throughout the book. While it is difficult for me to relate to someone going off into wilderness unprepared (or even prepared!) I feel that Jon Krakauer did such a good job of capturing Chris’ spirit and intentions, that by the end of the book, I was more in the “admiration” camp. Yes, Chris was young and misguided but, he was definitely true to himself. I think this postcard that Chris sent captures it all:

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Dreams of Joy: A Novel by Lisa See
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the continuation of Shanghai Girls - where Joy naively believes in Red China and runs away to be a contributing member of their society as well as to find her father. Pearl follows to rescue her daughter. The father, ZG, is a peripheral character with the dual stories of Joy's life in the country and Pearl's life in Shanghai being the central story lines.
Dreams of Joy: A Novel

Some of this book seemed very contrived - how easily a girl in her young 20's could manipulate and trick the leader. How everyone else is the bad guy - Joy's husband and his family, Pearl's house boarders (except of course her boyfriend Dunn) and Joy and Pearl and anyone close to them are pure and without blame, etc. Also, they make contradictory statements - that Baby Samantha screams so loudly and then later, they say that she is born under the sign of the boar and the boar always suffers in silence. (I guess she is a boar at selective times) How does Joy know that 'chicken feathers' are a sign of distress but her mother Pearl has never heard of this? Some things just didn't connect.

Still, this is an interesting look at Communist Red China. This book was entertaining but I didn't think it was as good as The Shanghai Girls.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Art of Hearing HeartbeatsThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quiet beautiful book that is about a man who leaves his wife and adult daughter and disappears. Four years after his disappearance, they find a love letter to a woman named Mi Mi in Burma (where her father was from).

The daughter decides to travel to Burma to the village where Mi Mi lives and encounters an old man named U Ba. U Ba tells her the beautiful story of her father’s and Mi Mi’s childhood. It unfolds like a quiet Asian fairytale.

This novel was so rich that it made you see, smell and feel the things that were going on.  You have to be able to let go to enjoy this fairytale....and believe in love.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White

If You Ask Me by Betty White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Betty White and listening to this book only increased that feeling. She is a wonderful classy lady with a big heart. This book is short and sweet. Definitely nothing earth shattering.
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)
 It is her disjointed ramblings on various subjects that will make you chuckle at least a few times and, if nothing else, confirm that she is indeed as sweet as she seems. I am so glad that at 90, she is as popular as ever.