Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: The Disappearance by Efrem Sigel

This was another LibraryThing Early Reviewer book. And this one was spectacular. Slow to get started, The Disappearance did pick up in pace, and by the end, I couldn't put it down. This novel tells the story of Joshua, Nathalie, and Daniel Sandler, before and after Daniel's mysterious disappearance one August afternoon. But it's not a mystery. The fact that Dan is missing is, rather, the fulcrum on which Josh and Nathalie's marriage teeters. The book tells the story of how their marriage is rent and the question the reader faces is whether the pieces of their marriage can be stitched back together or whether they will flutter apart for good. The undercurrent is, of course, the whodunnit of Dan's disappearance.

I really don't want to say much more about the plot, since I don't want to give it away. But Sigel excels in bringing the pastoral northeastern part of the country to life. He draws the landscape in breathtaking detail, so that the reader knows every inch of the land almost as intimately as Josh does. Josh was a sympathetic character, the distraught father, ceaselessly searching for his missing son. Nathalie, however, was a bit two-dimensional for me, but that could simply be a symptom of the way she expressed her grief; while Josh was spurred into frenzied action by his sadness and anger, Nathalie was stupefied and frozen by hers.

I can't say how much I enjoyed this book, which was wonderful, after the disappointment of the last Early Reviewer book I read. Four and a half out of five Whatevers. I think of myself as someone who requires a great deal of action out of her reading, in order to be satisfied. Despite the fact that there is very little action in this novel, or rather that the action occurs slowly, over a long period of time, I enjoyed the characters and the setting enough that this worked for me. And there was enough of a mystery behind Dan's disappearance that I wanted to hang in there and find out who, in fact, DID do it. Lovely. Just lovely.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

I'm so excited! I got a Kindle for Christmas!!! I kind of suspected I would, but it's awesome, just the same. I also got about six real paper books, a Powell's gift card, and some Amazon gift cards to buy Kindle books with, in addition to a lot more stuff. We always spoil each other at Christmas. More later, I'm off to play with my Kindle. And Merry Christmas to everyone out there in blogland! I hope your day has been as wonderful as mine has!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Finished reading Little Men today. The copy I read was once my mother's, part of the illustrated Junior Deluxe Edition collection of classics that she owned as a child. Far from being distracting, I thought the illustrations well-done and a nice addition to the simple story. This was a re-read for me, as I've read it several times during my childhood.

Little Men is the story of Jo (March) Bhaer and her husband, Fritz Bhaer, whom she met in Little Women, and their school for boys, Plumfield. The story doesn't have much plot, but just describes the daily life at the school, all the little ins and outs of life with a bunch of boys.

I liked the simplicity of the story, the way that life seemed so much less complicated back then. But it was preachy. MUCH more preachy than Little Women. And it was sometimes distracting, even causing me to roll my eyes on occasion.

Overall, I'd give it four and a half out of five Whatevers, with half a point off for the preachiness. However, if you liked Little Women, you might want to read this sequel. I do plan to read the third book in the trilogy, Jo's Boys, at some point in the near future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Finished Diana Gabaldon's Outlander last night before bed. I love this book. I mean, I really, really LOVE this book. This was a re-read for me (of a book I'd originally bought, FTC). I first read Outlander during my third year of law school. I remember being nervous about reading it, thinking, for some reason, that it was high fantasy, instead of the historical romance that it really is. I was afraid I wouldn't like it, since I wasn't much of a fantasy reader (then). But it was on some list of the 100 Best Books of something or other, and I figured, hey, I want to be as well read as the next gal, so I decided to plunge in. And once I did, I never wanted to go back.

The basic story is about Claire Beauchamp Randall, a married British combat nurse living through the aftermath of WWII. She and her husband, Frank Randall, a historian, are taking a sort of belated honeymoon in Scotland. Claire is magically transported back to 18th century Scotland when she leans against some standing stones (along the lines of Stonehenge) in the Scottish countryside. Once there, the book tells the story of how Claire learns to adapt (or not), how she meets her husband's ancestor Black Jack Randall, and how she comes to be married (!) to Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser.

I love Claire and I love Jamie. Next to Anne and Gilbert Blythe, they are probably my favorite literary couple of all time. Claire is high-spirited and independent, in TWO time periods where you wouldn't expect it. The only real problem I have with the novel is that Claire sometimes seems TOO strong-willed. She strikes me as much more of a late-20th-century woman (the book was written in the 1990's) than an early-20th-century woman. But maybe I just don't know enough about women in the '40's. And Jamie. Sigh. He's just about the perfect man. Handsome, intelligent, brave. And slightly stubborn.

The novel goes on to detail Claire's attempts to get back to her own time, as well as Jamie's attempts to escape from the long arm of the law, after him because he has been falsely accused of murder. I can't help but be sucked in once I start the novel. That's why it only took me a couple of weeks to finish an 850-page novel. This is the first book in a seven book series (with one more book on the way, supposedly).

Easily, easily five out of five Whatevers. READ THIS BOOK! Especially if you like historical romance, except then you've probably read it already. There are a few sex scenes and some swearing (but especially British/Scottish swearing), so those who are squeamish, beware. I don't mind that stuff at all, but if you do, I swear the rest of the book is good enough to make up for it. The amount of research that must have gone into the book is simply astounding. Gabaldon certainly knows her Scottish stuff. I am pretty sure that, if you give this novel a chance, you'll be diving into the other six volumes ASAP. I read them all back-to-back the first time, but I'm spacing them out now, to more fully enjoy them!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

1001 Books

My best friend came down in June for a long weekend get-away to Fort Myers. While there, we happened upon an outdoor mall, in which we happened upon a bookstore, in which I happened upon this book. I'd been thinking about the book for a while. I'd read the lists and challenges of other bloggers who had perused the gigantic tome. I'd wondered how many of the 1001 I'd read. But I wasn't planning on buying the book. Except...we were on vacation, the first time I'd come out of my funk and tried to have some fun, some time to myself, since Ricky's diagnosis. So I threw caution and our budget to the wind and I bought it. I told myself it was an investment, that Ricky would like to look at it, too, that it was useful for the many unknown but invaluable works to which it could open my eyes.

So I bought it. And I read a few entries. And I lugged it home and promptly set it on the shelf and forgot about it. Until this weekend. For whatever reason, I felt like opening the book and figuring out just HOW MANY of the 1001 I'd actually read. It was difficult to determine, because many of the classics I'd read so long ago I couldn't remember WHETHER I'd read them or, if I'd read them, whether I'd finished them. I didn't want to count a book I hadn't finished. However, at final count, if I didn't miscount, that is, I've read 47 of these books. Not nearly enough. So I'm going to challenge myself to a perpetual 1001 Books challenge. I'll keep hacking away at the list and maybe I'll get a few more read before ANOTHER revised and updated edition comes out. I hope so.

How many of the 1001 have YOU read?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Salon: Pre-Christmas Excitement!

It's been awhile since I posted anything other than a review, so I thought a little updating was in order. We're learning to live with Ricky's MS, so our lives have settled down a little since the beginning of the year and his diagnosis. I'm working two jobs (my regular job as a PD, and my second job teaching Business Law at a local college), so it leaves me little time for reading, especially when I use the weekends to catch up on all the non-work-related stuff that needs to get done. But the semester is winding down at school, and we've almost reached the holiday lull in the court system, so I'll soon have plenty of reading time. I've pretty much given up on cleaning, in order to have some free time, and guess what...the world hasn't ended yet. I've been baking cookies for the Christmas cookie exchange at work, doing my Christmas shopping (I'm actually ALL DONE...this is probably the earliest I've ever finished shopping), watching football, and making plans for our long road trip to Ohio to see my family for Christmas. I need to get our tree up tonight and then...Christmas can come whenever it wants!

I'm incredibly excited about our trip up North. We decided to drive this year, because I thought it would be less stressful. I didn't want to deal with trying to make a connection while hauling Ricky and all our crap through a busy airport. Add in all the new security measures, and the fact that flying stresses me out in general, and I'd rather drive, so we can take our time and go at our own pace. This will be the first year that Ricky has ever come home with me for Christmas. That's right, despite being together for four and a half years, he's never come to the old homestead for Christmas. Usually he would have to work, but since he's receiving disability now, it frees him up for holiday traveling.

In reading news, I had a very productive couple of weeks. I read two books within about a week of each other, which I haven't done in a VERY long time, and I'm now re-reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I bought the newest book in the series with a gift card last Christmas and I want to read it soon, but I definitely needed a refresher on the events in the series, so I decided to read them all over again before tackling An Echo in the Bone. I first read the series during my last year of law school/studying for the Bar/my first year of practice. So it's been a good four years or so (at least). I love these books, so I'm flying through the first one. Hopefully, I'll be keeping up this pace, especially with the amount of free time I'll have for reading, once we get to my parents' house.

And, okay, I caved. I asked for a Kindle for Christmas. I was going back and forth on whether I wanted to ask my parents for one. I wasn't sure I was ready to leave actual REAL books behind yet. I have so much on my TBR shelves that it seemed almost unfair to ask for an e-reader on which I can't read any of those books. And I hadn't done any research as to whether I'd prefer a Kindle or a Nook or a Sony. But when my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, it just kind of popped out. And then I found myself really excited about the prospect of getting one. And if I DO get one, I'm sure I'll find a way to balance the books I currently own with the books I may purchase for the Kindle.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, with lots of reading time and many, many books under the tree!