Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

I've had this book forever and just finally got around to reading it. The book begins,
"Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things. They burn your tongue the moment they're spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I've made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old."

The story is told in this first-person voice throughout the book, and we never learn the narrator's name. In fact, when I got ready to post this, I had to go back and make sure that I hadn't just missed her name. I know this was a conscious decision by the author. It fits very well with the loneliness and guilt that the narrator carries. She doesn't feel that she deserves to be known because of that wish that she believes changed the course of her life.

She spends her life avoiding meaningful relationships with people. The only person she believes has ever truly loved her despite her flaws is her grandmother who cares for her and her brother after her mother dies. However, when her grandmother dies many years later, the young woman is thrown into a tail spin all over again. Though they've never really been all that close, her brother convinces her to move to Florida where he and his wife are college professors. She continues to drift through her life until the unthinkable happens. She makes another wish that comes true. She is hit by lightning, which begins another strange chapter in her life. Through a lightning survivor study group at the college, she learns about Lazarus Jones, a man who is said to have died for forty minutes after his lightning strike. Having always been fascinated by death, she seeks him out hoping to learn something from him.

This a short, powerful book. Like most of Hoffman's books, the reader has to be able to suspend disbelief. However, she makes it quite easy to do so. Though her premise is strange, I didn't really question anything about it. The book is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time and one I highly recommend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top Selling Books

USA Today's Top Selling Books of the last 15 years Meme!
I got this from Maggie's blog

Here are the rules: Bold what you've read, italicize what you own, star* books on your TBR list!

1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
2 Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution - Robert C. Atkins
3 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
7 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
8 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
10 Who Moved My Cheese? - Spencer Johnson
11 The South Beach Diet - Arthur Agatston
12 Tuesdays With Morrie - Mitch Albom
13 Angels & Demons - Dan Brown
14 What to Expect When You're Expecting - Murkoff, etal.
15 The Purpose-Driven Life - Rick Warren
16 The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
17 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey
18 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
19 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray
20 The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
21 Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert T. Kiyosaki
22 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
23 Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - and It's All Small Stuff - Richard Carlson
24 The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
25 Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
26 Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
27 The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks
28 The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
29 The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
30 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
31 A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
32 Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss
33 The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
34 Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
35 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
36 Body-for-Life - Bill Phillips, Michael D’Orso
37 New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
38 Night - Elie Wiesel
39 Chicken Soup for the Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
40 The Greatest Generation - Tom Brokaw
41 Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
42 The Celestine Prophecy - James Redfield
43 Wicked - Gregory Maguire
44 Good to Great - Jim Collins
45 Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
46 Eragon - Christopher Paolini
47 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - Rebecca Wells
48 Your Best Life Now - Joel Osteen
49 In the Kitchen With Rosie - Rosie Daley
50 Simple Abundance - Sarah Ban Breathnach
51 A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer
52 A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
53 The Testament - John Grisham
54 Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
55 Deception Point - Dan Brown
56 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
57 Marley & Me - John Grogan
58 Dr. Atkins' New Carbohydrate Gram Counter - Robert C. Atkins
59 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
60 The Brethren - John Grisham
61 The South Beach Diet Good Fats Good Carbs Guide - Arthur Agatston
62 The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town - John Grisham
63 For One More Day - Mitch Albom
64 The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
65 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
66 The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch, Jeffrey Zaslow
67 What to Expect the First Year - Arlene Eisenberg, etal.
68 Love You Forever - Robert Munsch
69 Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss
70 A Painted House - John Grisham
71 The Rainmaker - John Grisham
72 Skipping Christmas - John Grisham
73 Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier
74 The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
75 Life Strategies - Phillip C. McGraw
76 Seabiscuit: An American Legend - Laura Hillenbrand
77 The Summons - John Grisham
78 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
79 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
80 The Runaway Jury - John Grisham
81 Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
82 The Perfect Storm - Sebastian Junger
83 Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
84 The Giver - Lois Lowry
85 Embraced by the Light - Betty J. Eadie
86 The Chamber - John Grisham
87 You: On A Diet - Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz
88 The Prayer of Jabez - Bruce Wilkinson
89 Holes - Louis Sachar
90 Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
91 The Shack - William P. Young
92 The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
93 Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
94 A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
95 The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav
96 Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
97 The Partner - John Grisham
98 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
99 Eldest: Inheritance, Book II - Christopher Paolini
100 The Broker - John Grisham
101 The Street Lawyer - John Grisham
102 A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket
103 The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
104 Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer
105 The King of Torts - John Grisham
106 The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
107 The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans
108 Hannibal - Thomas Harris
109 The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama
110 Running With Scissors - Augusten Burroughs
111 The Glass Castle: A Memoir - Jeannette Walls
112 My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
113 The Last Juror - John Grisham
114 The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson
115 Left Behind - Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins
116 America (The Book) - Jon Stewart
117 The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
118 John Adams - David McCullough
119 The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans
120 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares
121 Sugar Busters! - Leighton Steward, etal.
122 Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
123 The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
124 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life - Don Piper
125 The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
126 1776 - David McCullough
127 The Bridges of Madison County - Robert James Waller
128 Where the Heart Is - Billie Letts
129 The Ultimate Weight Solution - Phillip C. McGraw
130 Protein Power - Mr. & Mra. Michael R. Eades
131 Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul - Jack Canfield, etal.
132 Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer
133 Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
134 Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
135 You: The Owner's Manual - Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz
136 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List - Patricia Schultz
137 Self Matters - Phillip C. McGraw
138 She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb
139 1984 - George Orwell
140 The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
141 The Millionaire Next Door - Thomas J. Stanley
142 The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
143 The Zone - Barry Sears, Bill Lawren
144 The Pilot's Wife - Anita Shreve
145 The Lost World - Michael Crichton
146 Atonement - Ian McEwan
147 He's Just Not That Into You - Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo
148 Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
149 The World Is Flat - Thomas L. Friedman
150 Cross - James Patterson

I always think I'll have read more of the books on these types of lists than I actually have. All of the ones that are in italics are ones that I own and plan to read so I didn't * them.

I've been reading a great deal about the economy and how the publishing industry is suffering as a result along with everyone else. I always buy books as gifts whenever possible, and this Christmas will be no different. But, I saw something neat on Book Club Girl's blog. Check it out here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas Swap 2008

I just found this at Nymeth's blog. I participated in this last year as a brand new blogger. It was so much fun. I'm definitely going to participate again this year. She asked that we help spread the word, so that's what I'm doing. Go check it out here to get more information.

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

Well, it's finally happened. I'm a little disappointed in one of Alexander McCall Smith's books. I've read every one of his 44 Scotland Street series, one of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series (there are just too many for me to get started on these!), and all of the The Sunday Philosophy Club series. Up until this point, I've loved them all. They're always funny, witty, insightful and just plain fun. However, this last installment of the Sunday Philosophy Club, The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, fell a little flat for me. Isabel Dalhousie just didn't seem to be herself at all in this installment. The mystery portion of the book, which is never the focus of the novels, was pretty much nonexistent. It could have been left out altogether. I can't really put my finger on it, but she wasn't her normal, witty self. I didn't seem to enjoy those interior monologues of hers in which she struggles with herself over seemingly minor events. I usually find myself smiling quite often while reading these books, but it just didn't happen this time. Maybe it was just me. I'll continue to read these books, but I hope the Isabel I know and love makes a return.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Clubs

Because of rescheduling, both of my face-to-face book clubs met this week. On Tuesday night, we met to discuss The Broker by John Grisham, which I didn't get to read. The discussion was good and everyone seemed to have liked the book -- lots of international intrigue and political corruption. Following the lively discussion, we made plans for our December meeting, which will include bringing our favorite book wrapped nicely for an exchange. Our December meeting is usually very informal. Everyone is choosing to read any type of Christmas book. We also chose our books for the coming year. I don't have my list with me right now, but I'll share that later.

Last night, I met with my other group, and we had a local author/speaker come in to talk to us. It was really nice. Fred T. Morgan is a Stanly County (NC) native who worked his entire career as the Features Editor at the local newspaper (Stanly News & Press). However, his passion is researching the local folklore, ghost tales and other colorful stories from the area residents. He has written seven books. Several of the books are collections of ghost tales that he listened to growing up. He said that his family spent evenings telling stories in front of the fireplace -- all trying to outdo each other. His last two books depart a little from the supernatural tales. Uwharrie Bizarres is a collection of true stories from local residents. Morgan says that this is his favorite of all his books. His newest book is called Come to the Lobby, which is a collection of stories from his days in the news room. It seems that he was the person that was called to the lobby to talk to anyone walking in with information they felt was newsworthy.

I bought several of his books, including a couple copies of his newest for Christmas presents. I think my dad and uncle will enjoy these stories. I'm sure I'll enjoy reading the stories, as well. However, I enjoyed his talk probably more than I'll enjoy the stories themselves. He was fascinating. He's in his 80s and he's full of life and energy. He shared the story of how he came to be a book lover at the age of 8 years old. The librarian at his school physically pulled him into the stacks and opened a book in front of him. She told him to take it home that he would love it. It was full of adventure and fun. He reluctantly took it home and was immediately drawn into the story. I wish you could hear him tell about his experience. He described her as the stereotypical librarian (including the glasses and the bun). He worked in the library for several years as he got older. She would send students to him for reading recommendations. When He got to high school, he began to neglect the school library and the librarian, but he continued reading. She died and was buried before he ever heard about her illness. He says that he regrets to this day that he never thanked her for taking a personal interest in him as a child and putting him on a different path as a lifelong reader and writer. He asked everyone there to always thank the librarian for the help we receive, which made me feel good.

He does his own research, usually in person. He doesn't own a computer and says that he has no desire to learn. He writes in long hand on a legal pad and types out his manuscripts on his old manual typewriter. He's not a famous author and not known outside of this area of North Carolina, but he is a treasure just the same.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

I have actually been reading even though I haven't been posting. I've finished two books that I really enjoyed since I last posted here. Before I get too behind, I thought I better go ahead and just give you my (very) brief thoughts.

The first book is The Sister by Poppy Adams. This is a book that reminded me a little of The Thirteenth Tale. Sisters and the bond they share throughout life plays a big role in both of those books. Both of the books have that Gothic element to them, as well. I actually finished The Sister around Halloween, which was perfect timing. Another similarity is the unreliable narrator. However, in this book, you don't know that right away. The reader picks up subtle hints along the way until finally you realize that things are not as they appear. I really enjoyed this one. My only little qualm with the book is the long, detailed descriptions of the study of moths. I know that this played a role in letting the reader figure out things about the narrator, but I did find myself skimming some the longer passages. I highly recommend this one. Hopefully, this author will continue writing. I'd like to see what she comes up with next.

The other book I finished is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. These two books couldn't be more different. I find that I've been doing that quite often lately. Instead of reading a lot of the same kinds of books, I'm going in totally different directions every time I choose a new book to read. This one was just pure fun. Miss Pettigrew is a middle-age spinster (she's only 40!) who is in desperate need of a position as a governess so that she can pay her rent on her flat. She shows up at the lavish apartment of Miss LaFosse, a nightclub singer. From the minute the door opens, her life is changed forever. She is swept up into a life that until now she has only experienced through her one guilty pleasure -- "talkies." She goes from one outlandish situation to another as she slowly begins to realize that life hasn't passed her by after all. This is a quick, fun read. I know this was made into a movie last year, but I didn't see it. I may have to see if I can rent it. I think it would be hilarious on film.