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Monthly "READS" > August 2009 reads

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Here is the place to post the books you read in August

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
My pitiful August reading list (do three books even constitute a "list"?)

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment 5 stars

I loved the writing style of this little gem of a book, and that the author was able to convey so much with so few words. Her character development was deft and convincing despite the spare prose and I really cared about these interesting people. I was engaged from the first page.

Ruth and Alex, a childless, elderly couple who have lived in the East Village for 50 years, need to sell their apartment --- the stairs to their fifth-floor walkup have become just too much for them to handle. The story takes place over just one weekend, starting with them rushing their elderly dachshund to the emergency vet on Friday night, then enduring an open house on Saturday morning along with a possible terrorist on the loose in the city. Most of the narration is by Ruth, one of the two central characters, but some is done by their dog, Dorothy.

I really liked the respect with which the author treated these two older people and their habits and foibles. I never felt that she was impatient with them, but presented them as they were, and their situation as a realistic little slice of life.

Very well done and thought provoking. A pleasure to read

Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back 3 stars

Claire and Mia Fontaine have done a masterful job of showing what happens inside a reprogramming center for out-of-control teens....mostly teens on drugs who have been "committed" to these facilities by their parents, who have reached the end of their rope, so to speak.

Since this is a "memoir", I was somewhat skeptical of some of it.

I think the book could have used some editing for length and I also found the plethora of details about the seminars attended by the parents and the sessions the daughter attended for two years to be just too many words. I got real tired of all the jargon and lingo, to be honest. It began to sound cultish. I also think that there was a lot of unneeded trivia in this book.

One thing that I found to be unbelievable was that Claire "forgets" that a therapist told her that when Mia became a teenager, the memories and emotions of her abuse as a young child will begin to have an effect her. How could she possibly have forgotten such a warning?!?!?!

But it was a compelling, horrifying inside look at what a family goes through when one of its members is a drug addict. Their desperation led them to do what they did, and I cannot judge them for that as many other reviewers have done.

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear 3.5 stars

This was an audio book and I think I need to take a break from Maisie Dobbs for a while. One reviewer wonders how long the author can sustain this narrative about Maisie, and so do I. The material seems to be getting a bit thin.

BUT - I do love the way Winspear weaves in the period details..she does it seamlessly, not like some authors whose detailing seems to have been applied via post-it notes!


I got up to page 70 of Richard Russo's Empire Falls and decided that I was not liking it at all. The best part was the flashback that started the book. The rest was dull, boring, and repetitive. I hate it when authors hit you over the head with stuff. In 40 pages (after the flashback) I had been TOLD at least 5 times the kind of old lady Mrs. Whiting is.

I read one review that talked about the "unhurried pace" of the book. Unhurried? I would say that it moves as fast as molasses in January! And the theme of people barely making it in some backwater of a town....has been done so many times that it is worn out. Stereotypical and not at all original.

I do not think his writing is anything special either.

I could also pretty much predict the ending just from the first 30 pages.

If you like stories of small towns with people barely in "survival mode", read Ron Rash. He tells the same kind of stories, but with so many fewer words. And his character development is better than Russo's, which just goes to show that you do not have to be so wordy in order to have great character development.

message 3: by Alias Reader (last edited Aug 31, 2009 07:04PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) ***Reposted from Book Nook Cafe

I read the very interesting and provocative book Columbine by Dave Cullen.
Hardcover 432 pages
The book is about the school shooting in 1999 by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who killed 13 people before committing suicide. The author delves into possible reasons why it happened. He also busts the myths surrounding the case. He exposes the attempts by the police to covering up their inept response during the shooting and what they knew of the boys before the shooting.
4/5 GR stars.

I also read:
Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles Pierce.
Hardcover 304 pages
I decided to read the book when I saw the author on TV. This was a witty and biting look at our current state of affairs. It is things you probably already know, but Pierce's witting make it a worthy read. There is a small Q&A on Amazon if you are interested.
3/5 GR stars
Idiot America How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

message 4: by Schmerguls (new)

Schmerguls | 257 comments 4603 FDR, by Jean Edward Smith (read 8 Aug 2009) Reading this 2007 biography was been an unmitigated pleasure. It has 636 pages of text, 153 pages of notes, and a 35 page bibliography. Every page is full of interest. I read Conrad Black's FDR biography 2 April 2004, and James McGregor Burns' two-volume FDR biography 21 May 2006, as well as Geoffrey C. Ward's two great volumes (which only covered his life up to 1928) on 15 Oct 1993 and 12 Sep 1995. and Doris Kearns Goodwin's account of the war years (No Ordinary Time) on 9 Nov 1995, as well as other great books, but I really think this book by Smith is as good as any of the other ones I've read. It is fuller for the earlier part of his life but ample for the later years as well. Smith is generally admiratory of FDR but does not hesitate to point out mistakes--the worst were in the second term: 1. the Court-packing scheme; 2. cutting spending and causing a recession, and 3. attempted purges in the 1938 elections. But all in all I found this book a superlatively interesting book and a sheer joy to read.

4604 From the Land and Back, by Curtis K. Stadtfeld (read 9 Aug 2009) This is a 1972 book by a guy born 9 Apr 1935 in Remus, Mecosta County, Michigan. The book tells of his time on the farm of his father up to the time he left to go to college. Some of what he tells of is familiar (chickens, pigs, cows, field work) but when I was a kid we did not "pull stumps" nor gather sap from maple trees. The land does not appear to be very good, and one gets the idea farming in the area today (2009) probably is minor. It is very much a bitter-sweet book. The author is filled with nostalgia for the farm but it does not appear his parents were too happy. Neither Curtis nor his brothers or sister live on farms. The first part of the book is somewhat prosaic, but the final chapters I found wrenching--the decline of rural life in Mecosta County is much worse than here in Iowa, it appears. I found this a poignant book. The author is Catholic and went to a Catholic school in Remus--three rooms for eight grades.

4605 Love, War & Polio The Life and Times of Young Bill Porteous, by Timothy James Bazzett (read 12 Aug 2009) This is an account of the early life of Bill Porteus, a banker in Reed City, Mich. He was born 15 Apr 1920 on a farm four miles east of LeRoy, Osceola County, Mich. In 1927 his father moved to Reed City, Mich. This book tells of Bill's time till 1948. He went to college and then in 1941 into the Army. In Oct 1945 he was struck by polio and this book is mostly about his struggle therewith. He was in the Army hospitals in Grand Rapids, Mich., and in Hot Springs, Ark. The book is very laudatory--one might say hagiographical--of its subject. The author did a lot of research and among other things talked to Charley Bennett's widow--Charley Bennett was a friend of Porteus at the Hot Springs polio hospital, and went on to serve 44 years in Congress. The letters Porteus wrote his wife while he was in the hospital in Hot Springs are quoted a lot, and the author talks interestingly about movies, songs, books mentioned in the letters.

4606 Shelley A Life Story, by Edmund Blunden (read 15 Aug 2009) I have for many years wanted to read a biography of Shelley, and since I picked this up last spring at a Friends of the Library sale (for nothing, on the last day!) I decided to read it. It did not hold my interest well. There are a lot of Shelley's longer poems which are unknown to me or of little interest. The great poems of his are discussed with only a paragraph or so in this book. The account of his death at sea in June 1822 concludes the book and is of interest. I visited his tomb in Rome when I was there--only his ashes were put there.

4607 Eugene V. Debs Citizen and Socialist, by Nick Salvatore (read 18 Aug 2009) (Bancroft Prize in 1983) This is the 36th Bancroft-winning book I have read. It is not a sprightly book but is rather stodgily written. The author was born in 1948 and is quite sympathetic to Debs, though he criticizes him at times. Debs went to work at 15 and thus had not much advanced education. He was never very adept at theory, but apparently was a powerful orator. He ran for President on the Socialist ticket five times, in 1912 getting almost a million votes. The book is kind of plodding, and not till about 1917 did it get really interesting. But even then the book does not discuss the interesting legal aspects of Debs' career with any perspicacity. Debs was born on Nov 5, 1855 in Terre Haute, Ind. and had a residence there all his life. He died 20 Oct 1926 at Elmhurst, Ill., where he was in a convalescent home. He and his wife were not close, but in his fifties he was in love with a married woman. Dismayingly, he drank too much and apparently patronized prostitutes. This book would have been better if it had been more objective. The accounts of socialists squabbling was not interesting, all these years later.

message 5: by Schmerguls (new)

Schmerguls | 257 comments
4608 Turning Point A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age, by Jimmy Carter (read 19 Aug 2009) This is a 1992 book in which Jimmy Carter tells, in spare straight-forward prose, about his race in 1962 to become a Georgia state senator. The crookedness he encountered was amazing, and one must admire the effort he made--and rejoice that he succeeded. I found this book good reading and it told an interesting, almost incredible, story. The author is a great man.

4609 The First 125 Years An Illustrated History of The Georgetown University Law Center (read 20 Aug 2009) This 1995 book tells of the first 125 years of Georgetown Law School and I found it fascinating and absorbing reading. It is divided into three parts--the years from 1870 to 1920 are called the founding years, the years from 1921 to 1960 the formative years, and the years from 1961 to 1995 the modern era. Since I went there from between 1950 and 1955 it can be seen I am not of the modern era.

4610 Lords of Finance The Bankers Who Broke the World, by Liaquat Ahamed (read 23 Aug 2009) This is a 2009 book on the financial history of the years from 1914 to the 1930's. It shows what an exciting time those years were, and how challenging it was to know what to do. The big mistake was made in 1919 by the short-sightedness of the Allies in insisting on reparations. How much wiser were Truman and Marshall to see that help for the war-damaged world was essential. One shudders to think what the world would have undergone if the opponents of the Marshall Plan, like Bob Taft and his ilk, had been in control at the time. Just as one shudders to think if in 2008-2009 the Republicans and their do-nothing policy had prevailed in facing the awful financial crisis of that time. This is such a good book--its relation of the events of the Hoover years and of the effects of FDR is a joy to read. The author says: "More than anything else...the Great Depression was caused by a failure of intellectual will and a lack of understanding about how the economy operated." The book shows that Keynes was right in 1919, and if his ideas had prevailed much of the bad things in the post-World War One time might have been avoided. How fortunate that FDR and his administration were Keynesians--again how fortunate that Republicans were not in power. This book has to be a candidate for one of the great books read this year.

4611 True Grit a novel by Charles Portis (read 25 Aug 2009) This 1968 novel tells of a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross, in Arkansas in the late 1870's whose father is killed by Tom Chaney. The novel is told in the first person by the girl, who decides she needs to bring the killer to justice. She hires a Federal marshall, Rooster, to help her and then the adventure begins. The killer has gone to Oklahoma Territory. The dialogue is sprightly and often very funny and Mattie is an admirable person. I found the book fun to read and often exciting. They say it has a "cult-like" following and has been made into a movie. I think it is one of the better works of fiction I've read. Kind of reminds me of the great western Shane, read by me 28 Jan 2002, but this is funnier and as exciting.

4612 The Rothschilds A Family Portrait, by Frederic Morton (read 27 Aug 2009) book does a good job on the beginnings of the Rothschild saga. but then degenerates into telling how rich they are and how stupidly some of them use their money--which I found kind of sickening. The book in its later part lost my interest.

4613 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis (read 28 Aug 2009) Solely because this kids' book (first published in 1950) appears on various lists of "100 best books" I read it. It is so fantasy-filled that I could not get interested. Four kids walk into a wardrobe and come upon all kinds of fantastic things, including a god-like lion and an evil witch. It is only 110 pages, but I was glad when I got to the last page. It is the first volume of C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia," which consists of seven volumes. I won't be reading the other six volumes. Fantasy seldom interests me, and this did not.

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls, I have actually read a couple of the books that you did..."True Grit" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".....and I even share your opinions of them!

I always learn so much from your synopses. Thanks.

message 7: by Alias Reader (last edited Sep 01, 2009 08:49AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) Schmerguls, my favorite FDR book is
The Defining Moment- by Jonathan Alter.
It was my #1 read in 2008.

The book really gives you a sense of how the very future of the United States hung in balance.

The Defining Moment FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter

message 8: by Schmerguls (new)

Schmerguls | 257 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Schmerguls, my favorite FDR book is
The Defining Moment- by Jonathan Alter.
It was my #1 read in 2008.

The book really gives you a sense of how the very future of the United States hung in bal..."

I agree that is a good book to read. My comment on it when I read it was as follows:
4210 The Defining Moment FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, by Jonathan Alter (read 16 Sep 2006) This is a non-profound book about FDR's 100 Hundred Days, but it spends a lot of time telling of FDR's career leading up to the 100 days from Mar 4, 1933 to June 17, 1933, including an insightful account of the 1932 Convention which he says almost did not nominate FDR. This book is a lot of fun to read. There are a few minor errors, which I point out in my review on Amazon: Reviews for The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope: Books: Jonathan Alter

Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) Schmerguls back in the 1980 I used to teach True Grit to eighth graders. It's a favorite of mine. If you haven't seen the movie, it's fun too.

Nancy (Hrdcovers) (TheReader23) | 13 comments I was hoping to read more this month but with my mother's stroke (she's doing better) and my daughter having her second baby before her other baby has turned one, it's been a pretty hectic month. So I only ended up reading three books.

Breakfast At Sally's by Richard Lemieux "2" -- On the cover of this book, it says "One homeless man's inspirational journey." Call me insensitive; call me unsympathetic; call me jaded; but don't call me someone who thought this book was inspirational. I teetered on despising it. I get the whole homeless thing and how it happens and how it happens many times to people who had great jobs and have lost everything...even their families. But the thing I don't get, and the thing I'll never get, is why don't they just get a job? Okay I know that a job at McDonalds or in a retail store is not going to give them the kind of life they are used to but at least it will give them a bed to sleep in and a stove to cook on. But instead, this particular homeless person (author) decided to live in his car and take handouts from people who actually went to work every day and made money so they could be able to donate this same money to places who in turn feed the homeless. I could go on and on with my rant but I'll stop here. This book was recommended by a doctor friend of mine and it's the last recommendation I'll take from him. By the way, Sally's refers to the Salvation Army.

The Narrows by Michael Connelly "8.5" -- After finishing The Narrows, I realized it was the 16th book I had ready by Michael Connelly which means I have read more books by this author than any other. This book brings back a lot of characters from other of Connelly's books....Rachel Walling of The Poet fame, Terry McCaleb of Blood Work and A Darkness More Than Night and Robert Backus also of The Poet fame aka the poet himself. Once hoped dead at the end of The Poet, we find out at the beginning of this book that he's alive and well. Another great offering by Connelly.

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo "9" -- I can't help myself....I just love the way Richard Russo writes. There are many authors out there who write stories with very little dialogue and, most times, they are not my favorite books simply because the author's storytelling capabilities aren't good enough to pull this off. In Russo's book, I didn't care if the characters said one word to each other because the story he was telling was just so interesting that I failed to notice the lack of discourse. Russo has so many subplots in this book, one of which is the story of a childhood summer on Cape Cod where young Jack meets young Peter Browning and has the most idyllic two weeks of his life as Peter's family is everything Jack wishes his was and Peter is the friend he always wanted. Four decades later, it is this story (Summer of the Brownings) that Jack is destined to tell and it's something he's had in the works for years but he can never seem to finish it. It makes me wonder if this story (That Old Cape Magic) is also something that Russo has been dying to tell for years and perhaps he too has been sitting on it for a long time. This is only one of the stories Russo tells. He goes through Jack's life with his academically snobbish parents, Jack's marriage to someone he makes unhappy, Jack's desire to be rid of his parents' influence and, most importantly, his desire for a place to scatter their ashes. This book is chock full of everything an avid reader is looking for. I can't say enough about it.

On to September and I started it off with a book by yet another favorite author of mine....Christopher Reich...Rules of Vengeance.

message 11: by Bunny (new)

Bunny | 254 comments Nancy (Hrdcovers) wrote: "I was hoping to read more this month but with my mother's stroke (she's doing better) and my daughter having her second baby before her other baby has turned one, it's been a pretty hectic month. S..."

Sorry to hear about your Mom, Nancy. Glad she's doing better. My daughter had her second son too soon after her first son, too, so I remember just how busy that was. They're great now at 6 and 7. That first year (well, her husband was sick, too, so it was really hard) - This month should be smoother :)

Nancy (Hrdcovers) (TheReader23) | 13 comments Bunny -- As you can imagine, it certainly wasn't planned. While she's pulling her hair out right now, I'm sure down the road, it will be great.

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