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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Review: Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi

I read this for Book Club L. This isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own, which is one of the things I like about being in a club. For the first time in the over 9 years the group has been meeting, there were more people that hadn’t finished the book than that had (3-2, usually everyone finishes). And in spite of that, we had a really good discussion of the book.

Stones from the River Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is the story of Trudi, a dwarf woman in Germany before, during, and after WWII. She is an observer of her town, never quite fitting in.

We see a town that seems to be of good people, until Hitler comes to power. Some embrace Hitler as a savior of the German people. Others think it best to go along and not make waves, that everything will be better soon. And others do what they can to resist, either in the open (which quickly gets them captured or killed) or under cover of darkness.

And all through this, life goes on. People are married, they have affairs. Babies are born and kids argue with their parents.

Through all of this, Trudi collects the town’s stories. The stories form a stream, and we see the ripples as the stories impact each other, and as Trudi uses the stories to change her life by affecting others.

I had some minor problems that got in my way while reading the book, but they were the exceptions.

The language in Stones from the River is beautiful. It is unusual for me to say that without combining it with a complaint that it got in my way while reading the book. It did slow down my reading. The book is a slow read, which is probably why my book club had so many members that didn’t finish reading it.

This book made for excellent discussion. The book called for comparisons to other books and movies (I was interested in the similarities and differences between Stones From the River and The Book Thief). We also discussed the echos from the events in this book and current events.

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Posted by on May 30, 2009 in Book Club, books, L, reviews

 

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BEA Twitty Party!

BEA Twitty Party

I’ve attended other Twitter gatherings before.  I take part in various chats, and I tried to take part in the Twitter Book Club, but Twitter melted down on us!

Last night was my first Twitter party, but hopefully it won’t be my last.  I sat on TweetChat watching the #BEATwittyParty messages scroll past, jumping in as often as I could.  I had to resign myself to missing part of what was happening, since the conversation moved so fast.  It was like a large party where everyone was walking around, so you’d hear someone say something, reply to them, but by then they’d be gone and someone new would be near you, and they’d answer you.

We talked food, we talked books, we just chatted.  We didn’t spend much time or energy on the original reason for the party– Pity for ourselves at not being at BEA (Book Expo America) and the BEAtweetup!

A big thank you to The Book Lady (Rebecca) for organizing us, and organizing prizes as well.  I’m looking forward to House & Home, donated by author Kathleen McCleary.

It was great meeting everyone, and I look forward to continued conversation on Twitter and out blogs.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 30, 2009 in blogging, Twitter

 

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Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Irrelevant trivia: I think this is the first time I’ve read a book where a major character shared my last name. It happens with my first name much more often.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
After reading the blurb for this book, I (as usual) had a fairly vague notion of what it was going to be.  The problem was that notion only represented half of the story. I was expecting a coming of age book about a misfit nerd from an immigrant family, exploring their experience in the US. That’s the book I sat down to read, and the book I enjoyed.

There was another half of the book that dealt with the family’s history and ties to the Dominican Republic. This was the most powerful part of the book. It was fascinating and well written. It wasn’t the book I set out to read.

The way the characters were handled in the book was odd. The narrator is a character in the book that wasn’t introduced until quite a ways into the story. As the book skips through time and locations, we are introduced to a variety of characters, and I had a hard time keeping track of them at times.

I found the character of Oscar interesting, as I expected. There was a lot about his life I could identify with, even while other parts were completely. I didn’t have that with any of the other characters, which also made the Dominican sections harder for me to enjoy.  The characters of the narrator, his sister, and his mother were will written, they just didn’t grab my interest in the same way.

I wish I’d tracked the history of the Dominican Republic better as I was reading. The descriptions started out in the footnotes, which I read but didn’t hold on to. They then infiltrated the main story.  I wish I could convince my husband to read this book and discuss it with me– I think there are a lot of parallels between the history of the Dominican Republic (as talked about here) and the Philippines, where my husband is from.

This book is sticking with me, and really needs a second read– one where I know what is coming. I don’t think it is likely I will do so unless we read it for one of my book clubs. I’ll have to decide whether I’ll nominate it.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 27, 2009 in books, reviews

 

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Technical difficulties: Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson

Check the end of my not-quite-a-review for some ranting about my technical difficulties in listening to this book.

Hot Blooded (Zebra Romantic Suspense)Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson

My review

Unfortunately, I will not be giving a full review or rating of this book due to technical difficulties in listening to it.

I’ve read other books by Lisa Jackson, and I enjoyed them.  I don’t find them particularly memorable, but I have that problem with a lot of books, and it is part of why I’m now writing these reviews.

I did enjoy it in spite of the problems, and am currently checking out the next book in the series.

The technical difficulties

I listen to about half of the books that I read.  I currently download these from 3 sources: Audible.com (where I pay for them) and (through my local library) Overdrive.com and Netlibrary.com .

Until very recently, all downloaded audio from Overdrive and Netlibrary was in WMA format, which meant that it couldn’t be played on an Ipod.  As I don’t own an Ipod, this was fine with me.  I selected a player* that worked well with audiobooks in this format, and life was good.

Now, both services are switching to MP3 as their format.  In theory, this is a good thing.  I’m hoping that my experience with this book was a fluke or was fixed by a firmware upgrade to my player.  I’ll find out soon.

The details

I got off to a bad start, through no fault but my own.  Netlibrary’s WMA books are one really long file, but this book was broken into 11 files of about 1.5 hours each.  Somehow I managed to start listening on part 2.  It took me half an hour to realize the author wasn’t just making interesting choices in how she introduced characters, but that something was actually wrong.  I listened to the first part without additional incident (that I noticed.  My timeline was a little scrambled due to what I’d already heard).

I made it part way through the second section when again, something was wrong.  I couldn’t rewind or fast forward on my player without the book going wonky, and I suspect, but I am not certain, that there were other playback issues as well. 

I hoped the problem was just with that part, but that did not prove to be the case. When I had a problem on my player, I would move to my computer for the rest of that section. I ended up listening to the last third of the book on my computer, which isn’t ideal for me, but I made it through the book.

I’m hoping that the problems were particular to this book (unlikely) or were fixed by a firmware upgrade (somewhat more likely).  I didn’t spend much energy on trying to characterize the problem.  Quick scans of various message boards didn’t show any discussion, but I didn’t look very hard.

If the problem happens again, I’ll put some real effort into troubleshooting.  I just hope the problem is easily resolved.

*I use a Creative Zen player.  I’ve been very happy with it up until now.  I’m a big fan of the bookmarks for use with audiobooks.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 24, 2009 in books

 

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Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really want to give this book 5 stars simply on the basis of being a really good read. I can’t quite justify it, so consider it a 4 3/4 star rating, since it is a compelling, entertaining and thought provoking experience. I kept looking for opportunities to listen to just a few more minutes.

The Hunger Games shows us a far future, where civilization as we know it has been destroyed. A new society has been set up. Each district has a well defined role, and all are kept under very tight reign by the government. One of the tools used to keep the people frightened and under control is the Hunger Games. Teens are picked by a lottery system for a fight to the death.

The book introduces us to Katniss, then follows her into the pomp of the Capital, then the horror of the Games.

I really enjoyed getting to know Katniss, and seeing the other characters through her eyes. The character is smart, tough, and able to do what needs to be done, taking care of her family after her father dies and her mother is crippled by depression. She is able to take her skills into the games, but also her compassion.

I was impressed how well the author walked the line of keeping the book exciting and compelling without it being icky or frightening.

I do have to say that parts of the book felt familiar. I’m not sure if this book will stick with me, or if I’ll want to reread this book when the sequel comes out in September. I can say I’ll be watching for the sequel, and quick to read it when it is released.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2009 in books, reviews

 

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What do my ratings mean?

questionsSeeing a question in the subject, you might be expecting an answer here.  But the answer is “I need to decide”.

I need to figure out if my ratings reflect how good a book is, or how much I like a book.

I wish those were the same, but really, I liked Twilight quite a bit.  It really wasn’t good, but I found it enjoyable.  I didn’t like The Visible World at all, even though I could recognize it as being a high quality book with lots of positive characteristics.  Often they coincide, but not always.

Books are rated compared to what type of book they are.  I don’t expect the same complexity of plot in a mystery for kids as for adults.  I expect more characterization but less depth from a romance than a literary novel.

I think for now, my ratings will reflect how much I like a book, with some influence from how high quality it is.  I’ll let the review speak to any differences between those.

After all, there is only so much that one number can tell you.

If you rate books, what do your ratings mean?  What would you like to see?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2009 in blogging

 

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All the book blogs in one place?

too many books

I recently discovered Here Be (Book) Reviews.  Bloggers can submit their blog to be indexed.

The site has a list of recent book reviews, and a search engine for looking through its collection of older reviews.

I think it will be great resource for finding out about books and finding new blogs to read.   Check it out!

(I hope to have a review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins up later today.  We’ll see if that happens, I have real life things I should be doing.)

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2009 in blogging