Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ebook Challenge

In 2008 I got my first Smartphone and I am lost without it. One of the greatest features I love about it is reading ebooks using Microsoft Reader. I find that I read during waits (doctors, dentist, filling up for gas, etc) and at night if I can't sleep. So, to keep the fun going I am going to join the Ebook Challenge hosted by J. Kaye.

Here is my current list:

1. The Rule of Four Ian Caldwell
2. K is for Killer Sue Grafton
3. Left Behind Tim LaHaye (this one is a crossover with the 2009 TBR Challenge)
4. A Series of Unfortunate Events Lemony Snicket
5. The Can Who Ate Danish Modern Lillian Jackson Braun
6. Hard Eight Janet Evanovich
7. Black Echo Michael Connelly
8. Cat and Mouse James Patterson
9. Naked in Death JD Robb
10. Twilight Stephanie Meyer

I am not sure of the order and many of these will clear some TBR books that have been sitting on my shelves for a very long time.

2009 TBR Challenge

I have been looking at challenges for awhile now and I think it is time that I join one. So, my very first challenge is going to be The TBR Challenge Here is my list (in no particular order)of books I intend to read from the mountain I call TBR:

1. The Celestine Prophecy James Redfield
2. Kit's Law Donna Morrisey
3. Left Behind Lahaye and Jenkins
4. Me Talk Pretty One Day David Sedaris
5. Good Grief Lolly Winston
6. The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein
7. The Reader Bernard Schlink
8. The Notebook Nicholas Sparks
9. Fall on Your KneesAnn-Marie MacDonald
10. Big Stone Gap Adriana Trigiani
11. The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank
12. Tara Road Maeve Binchy

1. A Good House Bonnie Burnard
2. Oh My Stars Lorna Landvik
3. If You Could See Me Now Cecelia Ahern

Review: Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill, the third installment of James Patterson's Alex Cross series is a relentless thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Alex Cross gets pulled into two murders that he is trying solve simultaneously. First, a child is murdered by a serial killer and left by the Sojourner Truth School, in Cross's own neighbourhood. The second is a high profile murder of a Senator by a duo that call themselves "Jack and Jill". The FBI calls Alex to help track down and stop "Jack and Jill" before they accomplish their plan to kill the President. Torn between working with the FBI to solve the high profile murders and working to stop the terror in his own neighbourhood, Cross fights to solve both.

As usual, Patterson does not fail to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. With three serial killers on the loose the story races along. I love the short chapters. Alex Cross is a character who I find I respect more and more with each book I read. 

Review: October Sky

October Sky is Homer Hickam's memoir about growing up in a small dying mining town while trying to escape the cyclical life was really good. I have used the movie several times with my students as a media unit and I was not disappointed at all by the book. 

Homer "Sonny" Hickam Jr. watched Sputnik I fly over the small mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia in 1957 inspiring him to begin to build his own rocket. He recruits his buddies from high school; Sonny, Sherman, O'Dell, Roy Lee and Quentin form the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA) hoping to join the Space Race, escape the town of Coalwood and go to college. 

The BCMA persevere through exploding rockets, destruction of Coalwood Mine property, lack of funds and knowledge to build rockets, and naysayers. They are helped and encouraged by the entire town from employees of the mine who help out after hours by welding nozzles, or leaving scrap wood out for the boys to build shelters to Ms Riley the boys' Physics teacher who provides books for research, opportunity and many words of wisdom, to the people of Coalwood who congregate at Camp Coalwood to watch the numerous launches of the Rocket Boys. Sonny's parents, Homer and Elsie Hickam, both provide their own source of encouragement; Sonny's mother urges him to pursue his dreams and no matter what the insistence not to enter the mines. Sonny's father is an obstacle which challenges Sonny to work harder, be creative and use his gift of persuasion in pursuing his dreams of getting out of Coalwood and eventually getting to work with Von Braun at Cape Canaveral

I truly enjoyed this book, I have seen the movie several times (as part of a media study with various classes I have taught) and the book added so much depth to my understanding. Hickam gives the reader a glimpse of life in a small, dying mining town and the desperation of some to escape while others are desperate to hold on to all they have ever known. I appreciated that Hickam included failures as well as successes in his pursuit, it made the story all the more interesting for me. A great story with amazing characters!

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

The harrowing story of a school shooting told from the perspective of the mother of the perpetrator. Through a series of letters to her estranged husband, we learn that Eva never really wanted children when she had Kevin and he challenged her every step of his childhood. Kevin was a difficult child who grew into an angry and disturbed teenager who eventually plans and executes the murder of his teacher and several classmates. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a haunting story that I find myself thinking about even months after finishing the book. Although I enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin, I really struggled with this book. I had a hard time believing that a child can be evil from birth. And I am still not sure of Eva's role in the whole thing...nature vs nurture is almost a judgment call that I am not willing to make. 

A couple of years back, I was able to take some Threat Assessment training with Kevin Cameron. The first "credo", if you will, is "No one ever snaps," there are always warning signs, it is just whether we see, or are willing to see the signs and act upon them. Kevin had many classic signs of a student who was either a risk to himself or others and yet there seems that there was little intervention, of course the timing of the incident in the book being before Columbine, Taber and numerous other incidents since is likely why. 

This is a fascinating and powerful book. I had never stopped to think about the parents of a child who murders. I found myself questioning the tone of Eva's recollections simply because she was looking through a "hindsight is 20/20" lens and Kevin's actions would taint any one's recollections of the past.

Review: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who...series by Lilian Jackson Braun has been on Mt. TBR for so long that it was time for me to check it out by reading The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.

James Qwilleran was once a top reporter who is trying to make his way back into journalism. In order to do so he takes a position covering Art for the Fluxion. Qwilleran rents a basement apartment from G. B. Montclemens, the Fluxion's despised art critique and his quirky Siamese cat "Koko". When Montclemens is found murdered Qwilleran and Koko team up to solve the mystery.

While I didn't love this book, it was a quick, cozy read. The characters are what made the book for me, especially Koko. His antics were always quite amusing.

Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter came highly recommended to me by friends and readers who I trust explicitly, especially when it comes to good books. Which is why I was so surprised when I really didn't take to the book.

During a horrible winter storm, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own twins. The first child, his son, was born healthy. While his daughter had Down's Syndrome. Recognizing the difficulties the his daughter would encounter throughout her life, David Henry gives her to the nurse assisting and in order to take the child to a home for disabled children. Then David explains to his wife, Norah, that her daughter died.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a story about living with deceit. It explores how David Henry's lie affected him, his wife and son, and Caroline Gill who disappeared with the infant put into her care.

I had a hard time with this book, especially with the character of Norah. In all fairness I have never been in her situation, but I couldn't understand the level of her loss when she had Paul who needed her. Considering that the birth of the twins took place in 1964, David Henry's choice to send his daughter away made sense in some ways to me. Not necessarily the choice I would hope to make, but in context of the time I could see why he felt the way he did. In all, it was a good book I especially liked the character of Caroline Gill and her determination to give Pheobe the best life possible.

Review: The Shack

The Shack is the story of one man's struggle to come to terms with the loss of his daughter, his past and the anger he feels towards his Maker. One morning, Mack (Mackenzie) Philips receives a cryptic note from God inviting him to return to the crumbling shack where four years ago his youngest daughter was brutally murdered. What happens next is a journey of forgiveness and understanding for Mack as he meets and confronts the Holy Trinity.

The Shack was The Book Caucus' first book and while it began many great discussions, I have mixed feelings about this book. It was an easy and intriguing read, however I often became frustrated by the oversimplification of the Bible's teachings. Young's interpretations seemed a little "too good to be true". What I did like about the book is that it challenged me to consider my own beliefs about God and forgiveness. Having said the above I have passed on my copy to friends to ignite more discussions. If anything it is an interesting book to check out and not a bad read at all.