lisa2013_1

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Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life's Stages Through Books

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I should have taken notes, but I didn’t want to be back in English literature class; I wanted to read this just for enjoyment. Sometimes I did feel as though I was back in a high school or college class, but I’d probably enjoy the classes given by this author.So, childhood, falling in love, old age, and their experiences; that’s what’s concentrated on in this book.I’ve read most of the books mentioned, which is atypical for me with these types of books about books, so that made reading this more interesting. The books with which I was not familiar, enough was said about them so that I could understand why they were being included. In fact, I got a couple spoilers, but I don’t really mind in this case.Reading this was a bit of a slog at times, but overall very engrossing.But, I think this is the kind of book, given the personal nature of how books touch us, that everyone has to write for themselves.I appreciated that a wide range of types of books and their characters, classics to modern, are mentioned.The biggest flaws of this book for me were that most not my own most influential works were not included (interestingly some were important to me when I was younger but no longer resonate as strongly), and also I think the characters/books written about were a tad too male centric (probably not as much as my perceptions indicated), and most definitely there was a deplorable lack of children’s literature, which has been so formative for me from age two to the present, and presumably the future too. There are many child characters talked about, but not children’s books.I found the old age sections rather depressing; especially the life not lived parts, although, thank goodness, there is almost ample humor expressed throughout. Interestingly, I found these works just as sobering when I was young as I do now, perhaps more so. King Lear (old section, naturally) resonated more with me when I was a teen than it does now. Oedipus too. Re Lear, my father was alive then (oh, those daddy issues sure come up in that play!) In my teens and twenties I got so much from these books. Perhaps I would again, perhaps even more deeply, but even if I should, I’m not likely to revisit them now. I got a kick out of the last section in the part that says it’s so hard to imagine some old characters young and some young characters old; that is often so true.There is a relatively short bibliography for a book of this type. The index is good except that I wish each characters could be found by first name too, not just by last name only; both would have been ideal. I didn’t read the entire index but assume all the works mentioned are there by title.As I read, I often thought of MY books that fit this discussion. That was fun, and a worthwhile pastime, but I couldn’t rate this book with more than 3 stars because the author and I are just different enough. If I’d read this as an autobiography and not as a book about books, hoping to find something wonderfully new for me, I might have rated it higher.I won this from Goodreads’ First Reads giveaway program and I am glad that I read it.
Love Minus Eighty

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I was fortunate to read an “ARC uncorrected proof not for sale” 402 pages, sent to me by friend Melody, who got it for free at the ALA conference. This book is due out on June 11th, 2013, which is more than 7 weeks away, so if anyone would like a chance to also read this in advance, please email me or pm me, and I’ll be happy to pass it on to you. (This is only the tenth time I’ve had an opportunity to read a book in advance of its official publication date; I think it’s really fun to read a book early.)The premise here is fascinating. The world building is superb. I got very invested in many of the characters and their stories. I particularly appreciated how differences in poverty and wealth affected access to all the new technology, a variety of technologies, ranging from extremely nifty to unbelievably creepy, but all plausible, and all germane as it relates to the world today.For an uncorrected proof arc, it seemed surprisingly well done. The cover wasn’t all that appealing, but I was impressed with the lack of errors such as typos.While there were definitely some plot holes and some too neat wrapping up, I was so engrossed I bought it all anyway. And I enjoyed how the fate of two people was left a bit up to readers’ imaginations. The story feels finished to me, but I can definitely envision sequels/a series. I wouldn’t mind finding out what happens to these characters. Overall, I’m pleased with how things worked out.I can recommend this book to fans of speculative fiction, especially those readers who enjoy character driven books and stories about the not too distant future on earth, and those who enjoy reading books that take place in NYC, even if the NYC in the book differs significantly from that city’s present and past.
La Vida Secreta de las Abejas

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Loved this story about a motherless girl who finds mother figures in her life. The book is slow moving & exciting and realistic & fable-like. I felt emotionally attached to Lily and some of the other characters in this book and I cared what happened to them. I found it amazing and a bit of a stretch that Lily showed the courage and resilience she did, but there are real kids who are like that. I shed some cathartic tears and I was really engaged as I was reading the book, but I admit it wasn’t a book I continued to think about for long after I read it.
The Red Tent - 20th Anniversary Edition: A Novel

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recommended for: all women who might possibly enjoy a historical fiction novelI thought that I would hate this book but I really liked it. I was not familiar with the bible stories on which it was based. This book is told from the point of view of the women mentioned in the bible and I was not interested in the religious aspect. But I really felt involved with these girls and women and their families over time. I enjoyed the story and really empathized with so many of the female characters. I do love stories told about very long ago where the human qualities of the people then are so recognizable among the people of today. I wasn’t as admiring of the last part of the book (Dinah in Egypt) as the earlier portions. It felt rushed and not as well developed, but perhaps I felt disappointed because I found that many (although not all of) those parts of the story so sad.
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

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recommended for: everyone - except those who never read nonfiction, but maybe they’d appreciate this oneThis book is very readable and entertaining, and so engaging that I just kept reading and didn’t read the notes until after I’d finished the book, which is unusual for me. It’s fascinating knowlege for anyone who has an interest in universal human nature and/or group dynamics.The authors take a bunch of existing studies and do a tremendous job of presenting a cogent thesis about why human beings can exhibit such irrational behaviors. I was familiar with many of the studies cited in the book; I was even a participant in a friend's version of the “different lengths of lines” study described. I recommend this book to everyone, because it shows that even if we believe we’re logical and independent thinkers and reasonable in our decision making, and assume that we possess impeccable common sense, that there are factors at work that often make our assumptions not so. You may be surprised by the findings presented here re loss aversion, pull of commitment, value attribution, diagnostic bias, etc. Even if these concepts are not new to you, the way the information is presented here will make you think. Now that I’ve read this book, I’m confident that remembering the material presented will help me think before I act. I do think of myself as someone who thinks and makes decisions in a logical manner, although even though before I read this, I was very aware of my own aversion to loss, and also my tendency to be influenced by value attribution; the latter is something I’ve actually tried to work on with some success.I’d like to see this book assigned as an adjunct text for many psychology, sociology, economics, business, and education classes. I also hope that it’s read by every person who is in a position of power, especially our elected officials and those such as airplane pilots and others in similarly responsible jobs. Also finding it helpful would be those who work with others, including HR people (although preferably not those who will interview me for jobs since historically I do “very well” in job interviews, even though I’ve always thought they’ve had limitations.)My favorite portions of the book were the part that described the brain centers of altruism vs. pleasure, because that research was brand new information for me, and also the part where Stephen Breyer describes his process doing his work as a Supreme Court Justice, just because I found his explanation so fascinating. I also was extremely entertained by the $20 bill story, and I assume that all readers will find this story enjoyable, unless they were ever one of the final two participants in this or a similar activity.I appreciate that, while this is not a self-help book, reading the book isn’t an exercise in futility; having this information actually gives the readers tools to empower themselves.The formatting of the chapter headings is very clever too, as it ties into the sway/pull theme of the book.
Sarah's Key

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recommended for: all who enjoy holocaust literature, historical fiction novels, well crafted novelsI wasn’t sure how the back and forth chapters between one girl in 1942 and a different woman in 2002 were going to work for me, but this story is so well told.I thought I’d be interested in the 1942 story but wasn’t sure how much I’d become involved with the 2002 story, but much to my relief I enjoyed both stories, although I did think Sarah’s 1942 story was slightly stronger than Julia’s 2002 story. However, I do think my favorite character might be Zoe from the 2002 story.Reading this was chilling, suspenseful, devastating, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. It’s about loss and the destructive power of secrets, both of which are subjects close to my heart, so it was very emotionally powerful for me.I thought that the author created perfect cadence in her writing style; I loved it. I read it in two days as I was loathe to put it down.The tale seemed mostly authentic, occasionally something rang slightly off but I didn’t take note and those moments were ones I forgot because the story as a whole rang true. It’s one of those tales made as vivid by fiction as by a non-fiction account, not diluted at all by the parallel story lines.There were a couple of plot points that I think were meant to be subtle mysteries and that were glaringly obvious to me ahead of the reveal but, even though I noticed them and could tell the author was not being as clever as she meant to be, they did not really diminish my enjoyment of the book, but they did almost cause me to deduct a star from my rating.I was ignorant of the specific event that took place in Paris in Nazi occupied France that’s the center of this story and I’ve read a lot of non-fiction and fiction holocaust books; I really appreciated this one because I do always enjoy learning new things, however disturbing.The back of this paperback (advance readers’) edition has an author interview, historical perspective notes, recommended reading (many of the listed books will now go on my to-read shelf) and reading group questions.This is now one of my treasured books. I am so grateful that I won it at Goodreads’ First Reads program. As soon as I saw it listed there, it went on my to-read list, but given the length of that list I’m not sure when I’d have actually read it; I am so glad that I did.
Wintergirls

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recommended for: those who treat young people with eating disorders; not necessarily for those suffering from EDThis book was absolutely mesmerizing! I was completely engrossed and I really enjoyed it. This book gets five stars and not four from me, despite a couple of flaws, because Lia seemed so real and the writing style was wonderful and the language was lovely.I’d highly recommend this book to those treating and caring for those suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and certain types of mental illnesses. I think it would be very educational for some, and useful for those they’re trying to help.I’d be reluctant to suggest it to young people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or severe depression because, as with just about every single book about these subjects, it could be a harmful trigger. It’s not that the book glorifies these ailments, but the graphic descriptions of coping methods could set some off on a dangerous and self-destructive path. Then again, I’m sure this book will appeal to sufferers and it has the potential to actually help them, especially if the book is discussed.As when reading all books about anorexia nervosa, or people starving for whatever reason, reading this made me want to eat! Too much!I cared about Lia and also her step-sister Emma, and I very much enjoyed the numerous references to other young adult and children’s books & authors. The fact that Lia is a reader is impressive. I read a paperback advanced uncorrected reader copy. There were lots of strike thrus and other copy that made me unsure what the final book will be. Pages 224-225 were completely blank with no text. The novel in this form was 278 pages, 282 pages with the acknowledgments.One “error” drove me nuts. Lia (the main character) and her best friend Cassie and also Lia and a friend Elijah play the Hearts card game, apparently with a deck of cards and not on a computer, but you need a minimum of three players, not just two, in order to play Hearts. (I did message the person who provided the ARC to me about that, and also about one of the author’s choices of wording that didn’t ring true to me. Apparently, the final copy of the first edition of the book is printed, but she’ll message the editor about my concerns, and if they agree with me it’s possible changes will be made in future reprints.)I had very recently read this author’s book Speak. (I had seen the movie years ago. The movie was good; the book is great.) Unlike Speak, which despite the serious subject matter was hilarious, this book was not filled with humor. There were a very few mildly amusing parts but it’s a much darker novel than Speak. It really gets into the mind of an eighteen-year-old girl (told first person by her) suffering from anorexia nervosa and depression. The story is compelling, at times actually terrifying, and I did cry, but reading it was well worth the painful feelings I experienced.
The Time Traveler's Wife

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recommended for: time traveler & romance & children's lives book fans, those who appreciate a good novelThis has become one of my favorite books. I read it for my book club. It's an extremely intricate and complex time travel story of a man/boy and a woman/girl and those they know. A love story told through time. It can be challenging to figure this one out but it came together beautifully. I don’t want to give away any of the ingenious plot, as I found it so much fun to determine for myself what was going on.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

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The only reason I finished this book, by practially skimming the last 2/3 of it, was because I was reading it for my book club. Otherwise, I would have put it down within a couple of hundred pages at the most. I had anticipated really enjoying it; it had been on my to read list for a long time.
Middlesex

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recommended for: anyone who loves novels-special interests: Greek Americans, hermaphrodites, epic family storiesI enjoyed this epic of a book about multiple generations of a Greek American family. The main protagonist is a hermaphrodite, and I found his/her story interesting but no more interesting of that of other family members. Good book about family, the immigration experience, and I learned some things I didn’t know about modern Greek history. Some beautiful imagery. I found portions of the book highly disturbing, unnecessary, and some plot points were not quite convincing either, although plenty rang very true. And the story held my interest. The book was thought provoking: especially about why we each have the gender identity we do.
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