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Monthly "READS" > February 2010 reads

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JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Please post here about what you read in February

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
I read five really GOOD books in February, which is fairly unusual. I read two books of stories (one new, one old), a humorous political satire, a book about the most recent campaign (not humorous at all), and a sweet novel.

Ford County by John Grisham - my husband and I both read this last week. I thought the book was very well-done. I am very particular about short stories and think they are a difficult format in which to write. To write an economical piece that is also "complete" has to be a great challenge for a writer, and Grisham has succeeded. Some of the stories were better than others, but all were good.

In these stories, he returns to Clanton, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill. The characters are real and diverse; their development is strong; the plots are good; the stories are clever and engrossing.....and while he does not write about the law, it is in every story in some way. Grisham spins a good yarn. Although the stories are unrelated, because they all take place in or near Clanton, the reader gets a sense of the community as a whole.
I really hated to have this book end.

The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin

Published in 1981, this is the old book of stories. I have no idea how I missed this wonderful collection by an author whom I adore. In fact, I missed all three of her books of stories. The other two are on their way to me in the mail and I am sure I will devour them just as I devoured this one!

Colwin takes ordinary people and turns their stories into such interesting pieces. Her stories are all complete, and left me satisfied, the mark of a good short story writer as I said about Grisham. Real characters, good plots, interesting.

What a loss when Colwin died at such a young age in 1992.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

Reading this was like watching a train wreck. Our political system is so so so screwed up and this book exposes it all, especially the snake pit of national campaigns. What a shame voters did not know all this before the election --- although anyone over the age of 12 probably suspects all this stuff.

With enough money and the right "team", I truly think anyone could be elected, a persona created, a winner crowned. It does not matter to the party or the team who that person is a "game". Watching the behind-the-scenes creation of a political "rock star" was very unsettling to me.

The characterizations of all the candidates seemed spot-on and all of their warts were exposed: Obama's outsized ego , Clinton disliked and in denial, and Edwards as a narcissistic egomaniac. McCain is shown as being so detached that one wondered what he was even doing in the race and Palin.....well, what can one say?

You will finish reading GAME CHANGE and have little respect for our so-called leaders, the incompetent and biased media, and the deceitful campaign directors. You will want to take a shower. It is political porn and I could not put it down!

Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

This book was so clever and such a great political satire. If this is not Buckley's best, then I am in for some treats because I just "found" this could it have taken me so long to find out about him? I have two more of his books on reserve.

I found myself chuckling out loud as I read. Buckley's wit and staccato writing style were amazingly effective. The almost over-the-top characters were finely drawn and his "snarkiness" level was perfect!

No one was immune as far as this author was concerned....all branches of government, the media, reality TV, and our uninformed electorate which believes too much and does not ask enough questions.

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman

I just loved this novel and found it hard to put down.In the midst of a really busy week, I managed to finish it in record time! Poor Ceecee - when the book started off, I could not imagine how her life could change for the better, until the worst happened....and then her Aunt Tootie showed up to save the day/her life. She was a Steel Magnolia disguised as a fairy godmother and guardian angel combined.

The best parts of this book were the female alliances and friendships. The women in this book were so strong, wise, and resourceful, in an era when that was not often the case...or when women had to hide these assets for fear of being labeled as unwomanly.

Hoffman fully explored the theme of getting past one's losses so as to emerge as a better person. She also fully captured the beauty and charm of Savannah.

So enjoyable! I hated to see the book end and am hoping for a sequel from this debut author. What a way to start!

message 3: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 28, 2010 10:11AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) I read only two books this month. However, one was the mammoth 1000 page Stephen King book.

Under the Dome by Stephen King For its genre I gave it 4 GR stars. It's not Kings best, The Stand is. But it still is a good page turner. A bit too many characters that weren't fleshed out. And a disappointing ending. But still a good King read.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath I gave this one 2 GR stars. In my jnl, I gave it a 2 +. I know this is a classic, but I never really connected to the main character which is based on the author. There were some keen insights and phrasing. However, the story line was a bit jumpy and the ending abrupt.

I started but I am still reading:
The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol The state of urban schools is indeed a disgrace. I recently saw Kozol on C-SPAN Book TV. He is a sweet man, who has dedicated his life to this cause. The term hero is bantered about for athletes and other nonsense and thus has lost its meaning. Kozol truly is one, imo.

I am also about to re-read the classic The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for the GR group Book Nook Cafe monthly group read.

message 4: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 211 comments x-posted at M/T Reading Friends

Pretty good month. Here are my February reads:

Top Reads

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
Life Sentences
Laura Lippman
While not quite as good as some of her other standalones, I did enjoy this look at the writing life and how memories and memoirs don't always quite match up.

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer
My favorite of the month. The author wisely kept this book short which ratcheted up the tension and suspense and made the rather unrealistic plot easier to overlook.

Good Reads

The Commodore (Aubrey/Maturin Book 17) by Patrick O'Brian
The Commodore
Patrick O'Brian
Another fun entry in the Aubrey/Maturin series. Stellar narration, as always, by Patrick Tull.

Game Change CD Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann
Game Change CD: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
John Heilemann
Mark Halperin
Look at the 2008 election.

The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald by David Handler
The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald
David Handler
Hoagy and his basset hound Lulu have been hired to ghostwrite the memoir of the new literary genius who is to busy being a celebrity to actually write anymore. I really like the audio versions of this series narrated by Tom Stechschulte

Chemical Prison by Barbara Nadel
Chemical Prison
Barbara Nadel
Police procedural set in Istanbul.


All The Colors Of Darkness (Inspector Banks, #18) by Peter Robinson
All The Colors Of Darkness
Peter Robinson
This is one of my favorite series but this book just was not up to Peter Robinson's usual quality.

message 5: by Shirley (new)

Shirley | 42 comments I read three books this month. I haven't listened to any audio books this year. Between my December 20 fall and the extremely cold weather, I am thankful that most days I've had rides to work so haven't had the audio book time I'd had in the past.

The three books I read were:
1. Wooldridge, Mike and Linda—Teach Yourself Visually Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. Finished 2/7/10. Rating 8; non-fiction. This series was recommended by my distant cousin whom I've only met via internet. I ordered it after enrolling in class by Katie Bartz at the October 23, 2009 Sewing Expo in Kansas City. Her session was excellent and I hope to order her book Digital Photo School—For Quilters and Crafters Book when it is released. It was to have been released in fall 2009, but when Photoshop Elements 8 was released, the publishers are having Katie update it to version 8. The Teach Yourself Visually book was a big help, but I sometimes had problems seeing the referenced icon. For the most part, I did the examples shown. I was unable to get a couple of them to function as indicated in the book. However, between Bartz’s class and the book, I now feel more comfortable with Photoshop Elements. Picasa is still a faster way to upload and make minor edits so I will continue to use it for initial downloads and use Elements for photos that I want to spend more time on. I did learn that the Elements scanning process works better than the scanning program that came with my Canon MP980 so I now use it when I scan things.
2. Hammond, Diane—Going to Bend. Finished 2/17/10. Rating 8; fiction. Two childhood friends, Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy, have been through a lot together. Their lives take a turn for the better after they begin making soup for Souperior’s Café run by two newcomers from LA (Gordon is suffering from AIDS and the friends are very accepting of him). Their friendship survives many hardships.
3. Brunstetter, Wanda E.—A Cousin’s Prayer—Book 2 of Indiana Cousins. Finished 2/28/10. Rating 8; fiction. Katie begins having anxiety attacks following the van accident that killed several including her boyfriend Timothy. She blames herself because she had become frightened after seeing a bee in the van causing the driver to turn around resulting in the crash. Freeman befriends her as he has also suffered from and overcome anxiety attacks. Eunice was trying to win Freeman’s heart, but Freeman eventually realizes that it is Katie that he loves.


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Shirley, I really liked Going to Bend and just a few months ago read another by Hammond, Hannah's Dream: A Novel

She has a new book coming out soon

How is your healing coming along?

message 7: by Shirley (new)

Shirley | 42 comments Actually, it was your review that made me select this book. Thanks for letting me know about the other two books.
I'm slowly healing. Amazing how a fall can cause so much misery.

message 8: by Schmerguls (new)

Schmerguls | 257 comments 4667 A Court Divided The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law, by Mark Tushnet (read 1 Feb 2010) This is a 2005 book by a law professor who at the time was at Georgetown Law, but is now at Harvard. He discusses each of the Justices of that time in turn, sometimes quite critically, but he does say quite good things about Clarence Thomas' ability, though of course he disagrees with him. I found the discussions of the constitutional cases of the Rehnquist Court consistently good reading, though sometimes a little "heavy". The Supreme Court gets tough cases, and one would have to study their opinions more than I have to find Tushnet's comments untenable--actually he doesn't do more than discuss opinions and sometimes categorize them as not well reasoned. The Supreme Court is a most interesting institution and this book was good to read, even though five years old and of course before Roberts and Alito came to the Court.

4668 The Fire Ship, by Peter Tonkin (read 3 Feb 2010) Someone said the author of this book is comparable to Alistair MacLean and Hammond Innes and I have read lots of MacLean's books and some I enjoyed greatly, and much enjoyed Innes' The Wreck of the Mary Deare (read 31 May 1998). So I thought I would read something by Tonkin. This book of his was published in the U.S. in 1992 and tells of an oil tanker taken over by terrorists in waters near Iran. Captain Mariner and his wife Robin set out to recapture the tanker. Lots of ship talk, and daring things done by the good guys, as they come upon the tanker and find it abandoned and the hostages moved to an oil rig. A swarm of locusts gets into the act, and there is much shooting. The ending I thought not clear and the good guys suffer many losses. I conclude Tonkin is not the thriller writer MacLean is, and that I need not read any more of Tonkin's books.

4669 The Imposter How a Juvenile Criminal Succeeded in Business and Life, by Kip Kreiling (read 4 Feb 2010) This is a didactic book, less than straightforward. It is designed to inspire one to improve one's life. The author had a very dysfunctional life and left home at 13, did drugs and crime, and left that life at 17 but fell back into it. But now he is a motivational speaker and has some sensible ideas, such as urging optimism and that placebos often will cure illness. I am too old and never had his problems, but some might be helped by what he says.

4670 The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth (read 6 Feb 2010) This 1971 book tells of a fictional plot to kill Charles DeGaulle in 1963--the O.A.S. people seeking his death hire an English professional killer who has no criminal record. The book details how he is hired and how he meticulously prepares for the killing. It shifts from the would-be assassin to the French police, back and forth, and one's interest is never lost and the book is never dull. It was fun to read, though one always knew the killer would not succeed since we know DeGaulle was not killed. A very good story, easy to read and to get caught up in. And a neat ending.

4671 Republican Gomorrah Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, by Max Blumenthal (read 10 Feb 2010) This book recounts some of the recent scandals involving Republicans--Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Bob Livingston, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, etc., and those involving right wing clerics like Ted Haggard. It is a devastating book showing the hypocrisy of some of the"family values" ministers and Republican politicians. The book culminates in a discussion of the Palin vice-presidential selection, showing that Palin and some of her backers were more intent on promoting her than McCain in 2008. Interesting reading.

4672 Profiles in Folly History's Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong, by Alan Axelrod (read 13 Feb 2010) This is a facile account of 33 events of bad decisions and why they were bad. They range from the Trojans moving the wooden horse into Troy in 1250 B.C. to the Iraq Was in 2003 and the mishandling of Katrina in 2005. Most of the accounts cover in 10 pages or less events pretty well-known, and many of the events I've read whole books on. Consistently interesting but not overly profound, The author has written over 60 books but this is the first one I've read.

4673 Methland The Death and Life of an American Small Town, by Nick Reding (read 14 Feb 2010) This is a 2009 book about methamphetamine and how it ravaged Oelwein, Iowa, and caused and causes such harm to smaller towns. Some of what he tells is indeed frightening. Meth is highly addictive because it feels so good and for anyone to try it is extremely stupid since it risks a ruined lifetime. It is so devastating that it is hard for me to see why anyone would try it. The book is not well-organized and jumps around a lot both as to place and time. My solution to drug lords is to eliminate the demand and then they will disappear, so each person is responsible that he or she not be part of the demand.

4674 A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, by Norman MacLean (read 16 Feb 2010) This book is made up of three parts. The first part tells of fly fishing and was a total bore to me. The second part tells of the author working as a logger in 1927 and 1928 in Montana. Not an inspiring account but of interest for the description of logging in the days when it was really hard work. The third part (all of the stories are semi-autobiographical fiction) tells of the author's work as a watcher for fires for the Forest Service, and of a card game and a big fight--a pretty interesting account.

4675 The Four Musketeers The True Story of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis & Athos, by Kari Maund & Phil Nanson (read 18 Feb 2010) This is a 2005 book which purports to tell the true story of the persons who Dumas based his stories on: D'Artagan and the Three Musketeers. They existed, but had no such relationship as Dumas portayed. I read The Three Musketeers and its sequels with much appreciation in 1972, so this book was of interest, especially in telling of the Dumas book and its effect. The Dumas book began appearing in 1844 and has never been out of print. But in general the time I spent reading this 214 page book was not well spent.

4676 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy A Trilogy in Four Parts The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Life, the Universe and Everything So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, by Douglas Adams (read 22 Feb 2010) This book appeared on the list of the Radcliffe students in 1998 as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century., of which I have now read all but 11 of that list. It has a cult following--651 of the 880 reviews on Amazon give it five stars. It was a chore to read. I thought it all so stupid and pointless, though once in awhile one did have to laugh. Illustrative of the idiotic drivel: "The only thing nicer than a phone that didn't ring all the time (or indeed at all) was six phones that didn't ring all the time (or indeed at all)" Reading this book was a waste of time . I read it in 4 days because I was so eager to finish reading it so I could read something worth reading.

4677 Game Change Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (read 25 Feb 2010) This is a 2010 book by two New York journalists about the 2008 election. It covers in absorbing detail the primary race between Obama and Hillary, the primary wherein McCain got the GOP nomination, and then the election campaign from August to November 2008. This is all very recent and the events are still vivid in one's memory but I found the book fascinating and could not stop reading. It is especially good since one knows, despite the crises along the way, that it will all come out for the best in November 2008. This book is sheerly attention-holding and a great joy to read, even if every expletive is undeleted.

4678 The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr (read 27 Feb 2010) I read Harr's A Civil Action with much appreciation on Mar 8, 1998, but that is not surprising since legal matters and trials are of huge interest to me. This book of his is about the painter Caravaggio (died 1610) and a painting of his, The Taking of Christ, which was lost and finally rediscovered in 1993 in Dublin, Ireland. The story of this event is superbly told--one would never think such a story would make a thoroughly enjoyable book but Harr makes it every bit as exciting as he did the legal action in a Civil Action. I found fantastic what he told of the art history world and all the work that goes into not only painting but the restoration that was done on the painting, which was hanging in a Jesuit residence in Dublin, the Jesuits having no idea what a treasure it was.. The entire account is full of high interest and is the best book I've ever read about a lost painting (I suppose the only one).

I think it was an eventful month of reading.

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls, regarding Day of the Jackal.....I read the book then saw the movie (back in the day) and was on the edge of my seat while reading and watching, even though, like you said, I knew DeGaulle had not been assassinated. A masterful job of writing, IMO

message 10: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (last edited Feb 28, 2010 07:21PM) (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Schmerguls wrote: "My solution to drug lords is to eliminate the demand and then they will disappear, so each person is responsible that he or she not be part of the demand. ..."

If only wishes could come true.

message 11: by Bunny (new)

Bunny | 254 comments Schmerguls wrote: "4667 A Court Divided The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law, by Mark Tushnet (read 1 Feb 2010) This is a 2005 book by a law professor who at the time was at Georgetown Law, but ..."

Oh, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite stories :( But, then, I come from a family of airheads, so that might explain it :) We do love absurdity around here.

message 12: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (debatl) | 105 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: "Shirley, I really liked Going to Bend and just a few months ago read another by Hammond, Hannah's Dream: A Novel

She has a new book coming out soon"

I read Going to Bend a year ago or more, but did not know she had other books. Will have to put it on my list,as I did like Going to Bend. Hannah's Dream sounds good too. Thanks

message 13: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Richiesheff wrote: "I read Going to Bend a year ago or more, but did not know she had other books. Will have to put it on my list,as I did like Going to Bend. Hannah's Dream sounds good too. Thanks.."

She wrote one between Going to Bend and Hannah's Dream:

Homesick Creek

message 14: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (debatl) | 105 comments I just looked back on my past lists and I read Going to Bend in 2006. I gave it a 3.5, but I still e remembered the title and I definately remembered the cover. Will have to check the other books out. Thanks for the heads up.

message 15: by madrano (new)

madrano | 444 comments Schmerguls wrote: "I think it was an eventful month of reading. ..."

I admire the variety, Schmerguls. I've read several & fully agree on your assessment of Day of the Jackal. I appreciated A River Runs Through It but read no others by MacLean. However, i'm a Big Fan of Douglas Adams. As Bunny notes, it may take an airhead attitude to appreciate his work, but there i am!

The Lost Painting was an excellent book & i learned much about such losses from the work. It was incredible how things turned out. Harr managed to keep this reader involved & wanting more.

Thanks for the title about historic folly. Sounds good.


message 16: by Leslie/cloudla (new)

Leslie/cloudla | 71 comments I had my head buried in Wolf Hall all month, and still didn't finish it. I found the pronoun usage confusing, and while I loved the subject matter, (Thomas Cromwell in the time of the Tudors) it was a chore to read and put me to sleep. I read the first half, then skipped around the second half so I would know how it ended for my book group tonight. It was this year's Booker Prize winner.

Schmer- our newspaper today had a big article on a new HBO series based largely on one of your favorite books, The Old Breed. Eugene Sledge's son lives here and they had a nice interview with him. I am looking forward to seeing it. Debuts Sunday March 14.

I have heard people raving about Game Change and after the 2 reviews I just read about it, I will have to put it on my list.

I am almost through listening to John Grisham's Ford County and having a great time doing so. He does the reading and I think all the stories remind me of watching a train wreck!

The only other book I read this month was Lit by Mary Karr. It was OK, if you want to read about her alcohol/drug recovery. I think she is a good writer, but still liked her first book, The Liar's Club, the best. I kept getting her mixed up with Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle. What a pair those 2 are!

message 17: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
I just found that Grisham talks about FORD COUNTY on the Amazon page. I am going to listen to it in a is in four parts.

message 18: by Cryleo (new)

Cryleo | 45 comments The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
Little Lady Agency

Melissa and Honey are as different as day and night but they are actually 2 personalities in one body. Without being too confined in the said subject, Homey Melissa is very much aware on when she transformed into the daring Honey. So its not that she's psycho or anything. Chic flick with integrity lol. Most of all, I like Melissa's guy flatmate character -Nelson.
Light reading; it seems that this is all I'm capable of lately.

message 19: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 54 comments My reading was somewhat curtailed in February. At the beginning of the month, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My mother is of an age, where she has chosen not to have treatment for the disease. She is currently home being cared for by my siblings, me and hospice workers. Coming to terms with this emotionally been exhausting along with working in a field with a truly busy season falling at this time. My concentration for reading is not great and in the evening I am physically and emotionally exhausted. For February I finished Acqua Alta by Donna Leon, whih I begain in January and read most of Flower Net by Lisa See


message 20: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 1608 comments Mod
Oh, Meredith, I am so sorry to hear about your mother. So sad.

My siblings and I (and 5 hours a week of Hospice) took care of my mother when she was dying. There is no way to express the exhaustion (emotional, physical, and mental) that we felt.

My thoughts will be with you.

message 21: by Bunny (new)

Bunny | 254 comments I hope the doctors are able to make your mother comfortable, Meredith. That would seem to me to be the biggest issue for her and for you, as well as the sheer sorrow of it all. And I hope she doesn't suffer too long ~

message 22: by madrano (new)

madrano | 444 comments I am sorry to hear this, Meredith. My best thoughts to you & your family at this time.

message 23: by Cryleo (new)

Cryleo | 45 comments Very sorry to hear about your mom, Meredith. Hope you and family are coping well and be strong for each other.

Donna in Southern Maryland (cedarville922) | 133 comments Mod
Meredith wrote: "My reading was somewhat curtailed in February. At the beginning of the month, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My mother is of an age, where she has chosen not to have treatment fo..."

Meredith, I lost my Daddy in 1997 to Pancreatic Cancer. He was 84. I treasure the 4 months I had with him at the end. The Hospice people were Angels on earth, and were able to help alleviate the pain, almost to the very end. As sad as a time as that was, I now look at it as a gift, for we were able to talk and laugh and cry, and say the things we needed to, but may not have if we didn't know the end was near. My heart goes out to you.

Donna in Southern Maryland

message 25: by Suep (new)

Suep | 15 comments my thoughts and prayers are with you and yours, Meredith. Hospice is amazing. May peace be with you all.

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