Running the Dogs tells the story of Talmadge Cotton, a young boy in Louisiana whose family is snowed in just a day before Christmas in a freak snowsto...moreRunning the Dogs tells the story of Talmadge Cotton, a young boy in Louisiana whose family is snowed in just a day before Christmas in a freak snowstorm. Talmadge's father is stuck out of town, where he works on oil rigs (or something), and the family isn't sure Daddy will make it home. Talmadge's fondest desire is to "run the dogs" alone out in the woods without adult supervision, and this is what he's asked his father for as a Christmas gift. However, with only a couple of days to go, Talmadge lets the dogs run loose and they disappear, leaving him to worry for their safety as well as giving him his first taste of the real woods in the night time.
The book is a sweet little story for the holidays about the pangs of growing up, the disappointments, heartaches, and tribulations, as well as the joys and excitement of the holidays. The setting of Louisiana and the family's traditions as a family celebrating Christmas there are richly detailed in the traditions and foods the family prepares as it is ready to celebrate Christmas. (less)
I admit. The title got me. I'm a sucker for a clever title. And the book was worthy of the title.
Naomi is a typical popular teenage girl, dating the s...moreI admit. The title got me. I'm a sucker for a clever title. And the book was worthy of the title.
Naomi is a typical popular teenage girl, dating the star of the school tennis team, inexplicably best friends with a yearbook nerd, and all around school royalty when she loses a bet to said yearbook nerd and has to go back to the school to get a camera they've left behind. Coming back down the stairs, she falls and hits her head, and awakes to discover she's forgotten absolutely everything about her life after 8th grade. When she returns to school and tries to go back to the Naomi everyone is used to, she discovers that the person she is isn't interested in the person she was.
I sped on through this book, and I really enjoyed it. There seems to be a trend of teen stories about popular teens who feel bad about being mean to the nerdy kids but who don't do anything about it, and this book was no exception. Naomi discovers that she doesn't very well like her boyfriend, and her girlfriends are a bunch of backstabbing weasels, but she still sits with them at lunch and endures their company instead of spending time with the two people she'd most like to spend time with: Will, the yearbook kid and James, the brooding artist who's new at school.
I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say it's somewhat of a surprise how it all comes out in the end, and Naomi is a better person for her bout with amnesia. (less)
The Dogs of Babel is a NY Times Notable book and won a number of awards when it came out. It tells the tale of Paul, a professor whose wife plummets t...moreThe Dogs of Babel is a NY Times Notable book and won a number of awards when it came out. It tells the tale of Paul, a professor whose wife plummets to her death from a tree in the backyard. The sole witness to this event is their dog, Lorelei, and Paul in his grief becomes convinced that if he can only teach Lorelei to speak, he will learn the truth about Lexy's death (was it an accident? suicide? murder?).
The book was absolutely gripping and while the description may sound a bit silly, I started to think about what I would do if the person who gave me my life back and taught me to live again suddenly died and I was desperate to find out why and how. I really felt Paul's anguish and as I learned more and more about the eclectic and mercurial Lexi, I too wanted to know what happened and why. (less)
A shadowy arm of the US Government decides that the best way to ensure Middle East peace is to liberate the women of the kingdom of Matar, the most en...moreA shadowy arm of the US Government decides that the best way to ensure Middle East peace is to liberate the women of the kingdom of Matar, the most enlightened of the Middle East states, particularly in comparison with its neighbor, Wasabia. They enlist disgruntled State Department employee Florence Farfaletti and ask her to launch an Arab TV station catering directly to women. Allowed to pick her own crack team to launch the station, Florence enlists the help of a CIA assassin, a snappy PR man (one of the minions from Thank you for Smoking), and a bureaucratic friend who happens to be gay. The four embark on their mission with the aid of the Sheika Leila, who gets "permission" from her husband to launch the station, which he finds an attractive proposition as he can spend more time with his harem and less with his wife.
This was one great book. It started out quite hilarious and become a bit more serious towards the end as the fatwa against the staff of the station heated up and people's lives are in danger. However, it was a wildly enjoyable read and I highly recommend it. It kind of makes you wonder, "Would that really work?" (less)
Eleanor and Ted's marriage is pushed to a straining point when Eleanor finds out that Ted has been having an affair with his personal assistant Gina....moreEleanor and Ted's marriage is pushed to a straining point when Eleanor finds out that Ted has been having an affair with his personal assistant Gina. The feelings between the characters are complicated. Eleanor and Ted have been struggling with infertility for years. Gina is a single mother whose son Toby has just come to live with her and who hates her guts. Although Ted breaks off his affair with Gina when Eleanor finally becomes pregnant, he can't turn his back on the boy, and when Eleanor miscarries and Ted is involved in a serious accident, things resolve themselves for the betterment of all involved.
I thought this was a really great chick lit type book. I felt for all the characters, even though they each had moments when they were wholly unlikeable. In spite of not usually being in favor of things ending the way they did in this book, I was happy with the way the story resolved itself, and I am now looking forward to reading my second Lolly Winston, Good Grief, which I have on my "to be read" pile. (less)
This is a young adult book about Meredith, a fifteen year old whose father is in prison for sexually abusing her and other children in the neighborhoo...moreThis is a young adult book about Meredith, a fifteen year old whose father is in prison for sexually abusing her and other children in the neighborhood. When her father is locked up, Meredith is promised that she has 9 years of safety coming to her, time to grow up and get out on her own. However, in their wisdom, the parole board decides to let her father out for good behavior after only three years and the book opens on the day he is to come home.
Meredith's mother is willfully oblivious to the damage this man has caused to her only daughter, as well as to Meredith's best friend Andy, who was also abused by him and who lives across their condo complex. Meredith's father returns home and makes her mother promises about starting fresh and having another baby while trying to pick up where he left off with Meredith.
The book takes place in a very short period of time, less than a week, as Meredith decides she has to do something about her father's lack of reform in prison. It is a quick read, I read it in a couple of hours.
Due to the subject matter, this was incredibly challenging to read, despite its brevity. I wanted to love Meredith, though it was difficult, which I thought was a beautiful part of Wiess's writing--most abused kids don't allow themselves to be loved. I was actually scared when her father returned to the condo, and I wanted to smack her mother silly. So the writing was definitely fantastic. A "cannot put down" book to be sure. Get a copy if you can and read it! (less)
Wanda Hickey is one of those humorous coming of age stories in vignettes a la Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. The true stories tell of Jean S...moreWanda Hickey is one of those humorous coming of age stories in vignettes a la Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. The true stories tell of Jean Shepherd's childhood in small town Indiana, where his family and his friends are the main players on a stage of hilarity. Being Polish, I was particularly taken with the story of Josephine, a Polish girl from East Chicago upon whom Jean sets his sights, and whose Polish family he describes with a gusto that makes me love my own family all the more. Other great stories include the wonderful tale of the trip to the fair and of course the title story. Told with charm, wit, and a little bit of the ole "awwwww!" factor, this was a great read. One of my favorites of this year. (less)
A winner of the Pen Hemingway Award, Housekeeping is the story of Ruthie and Lillian, two girls left orphaned when their mother drives herself off a c...moreA winner of the Pen Hemingway Award, Housekeeping is the story of Ruthie and Lillian, two girls left orphaned when their mother drives herself off a cliff and into a river. They move in with their grandmother, who promptly dies and leaves the girls to the care of their two aunts, who are so anxious and nervous that they call upon the girls' mother's sister. Sylvie comes into town and immediately the girls lives are transformed. Not necessarily for the better. Eventually Lillian leaves and goes to live with a teacher and Ruthie becomes a younger picture of her eccentric aunt.
Housekeeping is one of the two best books I read this month. It was written like poetry, and the pages seemed to flow into one another like the river that plays so prominent a role in the entire book. Lillian and Ruthie's lives are disrupted by the deaths of the women close to them, and turned on their heads by this strange woman who has strange ideas about everything. For instance, when the town suffers through a flood, rather than go to a shelter or escape the waters rapidly rising through their home, Sylvie simply moves the girls to the second floor of the home and they live there until the floodwaters subside. Sylvie then begins to collect tin cans, and doesn't seem to mind that the girls are skipping school on a daily basis, even when the sheriff arrives. Eventually, Sylvie decides to leave town, and Ruth goes with her, leaving her sister, about whom she writes my favorite line in reading, "Having a sister is like a warm window in the dark."
I absolutely loved this book, go read it. Now. (less)
Ann Patchett is probably best well known for having written Bel Canto which I am best known for not having read. But I was browsing in Borders one day...moreAnn Patchett is probably best well known for having written Bel Canto which I am best known for not having read. But I was browsing in Borders one day and happened upon Patron Saint and was finally moved to purchase a book after several months of not having bought any really. The story centers around St. Elizabeth's, a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky in the 1960's. One night, a woman named Rose enters the home, unwilling to share her secrets, stating that her husband has died and she will give her baby up for adoption. However, St. Elizabeth's is perched on the site of a dried up spring that produced miraculous healings, and when Rose's time to deliver approaches, she finds that she cannot go through with her plans to give away her baby and leave.
The book is peppered with a cast of interesting characters, including the nuns who run the home, Rose herself, Son the caretaker, and the other expectant mothers who come in and out of the home. It was a compelling read, not only to discover how Rose's past will rectify itself, but also how her years of story telling affect the life her daughter ultimately will lead. Rose is not, to me, a particularly sympathetic character, but I did find her compelling. The book ended a bit abruptly for my tastes, but definitely no neat happy ending on this one, which made up for the quilting book. I read this one at a more leisurely pace than some of the others, and I enjoyed it a lot. Solid chick lit, so if you're into that, give it a try. (less)
Ruby and Rose are identical twin girls born conjoined at the head. Their birth mother flees from them after they are born, and they are taken in by th...moreRuby and Rose are identical twin girls born conjoined at the head. Their birth mother flees from them after they are born, and they are taken in by the attending nurse, Lovey and her husband, Stash, a native Slovak. The girls grow up in a small Canadian border town, and as they learn that they are dying, they decide to write their autobiography. The story spans their growing up and their life together, as well as Lovey and Stash's lives together.
I really, really enjoyed this book, it was probably one of the top 10 I've read this year. My only minor quibble with the book was the sheer number of time the author wrote "we are conjoined". Every freakin' page. Judy and I would call each other and ask, "Hey, did you know these girls are conjoined?" It got to be a joke. Last night we were sitting in the car, and I said, "You know, I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've come to a serious conclusion after a lot of thought." Judy kind of tensed up, since a lot's been going on lately, and she said, "What?! What's up?" and I said, "I think they were conjoined." and we both got the giggles.
The other quibble I had with it was the girls' trip to Slovakia, which in my opinion was set up to be a huge, disastrous experience, and in fact, after I read it, I thought, "uh huh, and?" But there were other parts that made up for it. Great book, I really liked it. (less)