Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

This was definitely a hard book to put down. Once you start, plan on spending some time to finish it because you will want to know how it ends. The book starts out with a young girl who is a loner type child. In her mind she is a detective and tries to solve mysteries in her neighborhood and at the local mall. She then ends up disappearing and the story jumps forward about ten years. The story is still at the mall and revolves around two employees. They begin to form a friendship and the little girl's disappearance comes back for both of them. This is when the story really goes into motion. It is a great mystery while also telling an intriguing story. This was a quick read at 240 pages, and very enjoyable!

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors. My favorite book of his is probably The Buffalo Soldier. I enjoyed reading his new book during the summer of 2008. I had read that he took a real life story and wrote a fiction account of it. This story takes place during World War II. It is about a family that has to leave their home and cross the country to safety. The family takes a POW with them. This is where the love story begins. As the family and the POW journey across the country another soldier joins their group. They face many hardships along the way and struggle to survive. It was a different type of focus than most stories about WW II survival. This book had a great plot and character development. Bohjalian is a talented writer and I look forward to more of his books.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

This book had been on my list to read all summer. I finally started it on Wednesday, August 20th and finished it on Sunday, August 24th. Just in time before I head back for another school year. This was an amazing book. It starts out nice and slow and gains momentum as it heads toward an explosive ending. I absolutely loved this book and enjoyed every page. It was an interesting book because each chapter was told from the point of view of a different character. When one chapter would end with one character the story would continue in the next chapter with another character. It was an interesting way to tell the story. Mudbound takes place during World War II in Mississippi. The McAllan family moves to a rural cotton farm. The Jackson family begins working for the McAllan's. They each have a family member that fought in the war. The two families collide with conflict and everyone in both families are effected. This book has a great story line, amazing characters, and is the perfect page turner.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Carry Me Home by Sandra Kring

I can't remember how I came upon this title, but I'm glad I did. This book had one of the most memorable characters I have ever read about. His name was Earl, but had the nickname of "Earwig." The story takes place during the 1940's and during World War II. Earwig's older brother Jimmy gets drunk one night and signs up for the National Guard. The next thing the family knows is he is being shipped out and fighting in the War. The story is about how his absence effects the family members and others in a small town in Wisconsin. Earwig is simpleminded, but what is wonderful about his character is that he can sometimes see and know more than the others around him. The book was well written and just a great story about family, friendship, and survival during difficult times in our lives. This was a great little find!

The Night of the Gun by David Carr

I took a break from my fiction reading and read this memoir. I do enjoy reading memoirs, but often wonder how they can remember all the details they write about. This memoir had a little different take. In order for David to write his book he went back and interviewed people from his past to get the "true" story of what happened during the 1980's and 1990's. He grew up in Hopkins and worked his way to become a writer. Along the way, he got into drinking, some light drugs, and ultimately heavy drugs. His life took a downward spiral and he knew he hit rock bottom when he left his twin girls in the car on a winter Minnesota night and went into a crack house and couldn't remember how long he had been in the house. The book was told in two parts. Part one was about his life leading up to the drug use and the drug use itself. Part two was his work in rehab and rebuilding his life afterward. Even after rehab he hit several stumbling blocks. It was interesting how he would write about an event he remembered and then go interview a person who was there. Sometimes they had the same memory of the event and sometimes they didn't. This was a great memoir because it wasn't your standard "drug use/rehab" story.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III

If you read "The House of Sand and Fog" by this author, you know what a great writer he is. He does write a bit on the dark side, but writes a wonderful page turner. The same is true of his new book. This was the first book I read on my summer break and it was a great way to start off my summer. This story takes place over the weekend right before 9/11. The main setting of the book is in a Miami strip club. One of the dancers has to bring her child to work with her because she is a single parent and her babysitter backed out on her at the last minute. She doesn't want to bring her to her workplace, but has no other choice. On that same night, one of the "highjackers-to-be" is in the club. There is also another man in the club who is down on his luck and trying to escape his problems. As the night wears on; the dancer, the child, the foreigner, and the young man all cross paths and the night goes from bad to worse real quick. Again, this story was on the dark side, but I couldn't put it down. Dubus sure can write a page turner.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

America America by Ethan Canin

This was another title I kept seeing on many different lists of books to read during the summer of 2008. When I saw it on the "BN Recommends" table, I thought it was time to buy it and read it. I was not disappointed. The story takes place during the 1970's and present day with flashbacks alternating between chapters. Corey Sifter comes from a working class family. He is an honest and hardworking kid who gets a lawn job at the Metarey Estate and his life is forever changed. The Metarey family is backing a political candidate that will run against Nixon. As Corey becomes more and more a member of the family, he realizes how different his life is from the rich and powerful. When political scandal erupts, Corey has to decide between making the right choice and living with a wrong decision that will effect the rest of his life. This was another book that I could not put down. The writing was very strong and it was just a plain good story.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

What a book! This is 562 pages of wonderful storytelling. When Edgar was born he couldn't talk. This remains true for the rest of his life. He lives on a Wisconsin dog farm with his parents. They raise a very special type of dog. When Edgar's uncle appears on their doorstop, he brings trouble with him. After a tradegy strikes the family, Edgar leaves the farm with several dogs and begins the adventure of his lifetime. Wroblewski is an excellent writer. I found this to be a quick read even though it is 562 pages. This book is going to become a classic on my bookshelf!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I had seen this book on many "must read" lists for summer 2008. When I see a book on 2-3 different lists, then I figure it must be worth reading. This book was worth reading. At first I wasn't sure if I would like this book because it is told from the point of view of Enzo who is a dog. After a few pages of reading I forgot that the story was being told from a dog. It is the story of Denny and Enzo and their life together. Things start to change when Denny gets married and he and his wife have a child. The story really gets going when Denny's wife gets sick and her parents come into the picture. Denny is a race car driver, but the lessons he learns about racing (Which he shares with Enzo) can be applied to real life and the life you live. Even if you aren't a dog lover or a racing lover, I know you will enjoy this book. Also check out the author's other book called "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets."

How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets by Garth Stein

I loved this story. I had read his current book, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" earlier this summer. Look for that review soon. I decided to try another of his books and I'm so glad I did. This is the story about Evan who is a struggling rock band member trying to make it out in Seattle. Evan finds out he has a son from 14 years earlier. Once he meets his son things are never the same. While the story of Evan and his son is being told, you also learn about Evan's childhood, upbringing, and disfunctional family. This was a fast paced book and I found myself not being able to put it down. You need to read both this book and "The Art of Racing in the Rain."

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I had followed Randy Pausch's journey via television and magazine articles. Everytime I went to BN to get a book I would see his bestseller on the shelf. I finally bought it yesterday and read the whole thing today. What a great message to send to not only his three children, but to the rest of the world. I will definitely be taking some of his advice and applying it to my own life. I also know I will be teaching my students some of the same life lessons he taught his students. This is both a motivational and emotional read that I know any reader will enjoy.

A Long Time Coming...

More times than not when I finish a book I will say "That was the best book I've ever read!" Both of my kids look at me and say "You say that about every book." I guess that means I'm enjoying the books I'm reading. And isn't that the whole point? I always tell my students that good readers share the books they are reading. I have always enjoyed sharing the titles of the books I've read with my family and friends. After reading "The Last Lecture", I decided to take this sharing to the next level and try out the "blog" land. We will see where it takes me. I hope you enjoy the site and the books that are listed here. They are "The Best Books I've Ever Read!"