Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


Like so many people, I have read To Kill a Mockingbird many times and loved it. While I was eager to read Go Set a Watchman, I was also a little trepidatious after reading a few strong, negative reviews.

These reviews brought up questions for me...How can any second book live up to such an amazing first book, especially if it is following the same main characters? What about the racial issues that some reviewers brought up? Is Atticus really a racist? Can it be so?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a small town lawyer, widower and father of two young children, standing on justice to defend a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. To Kill a Mockingbird is a morality tale, letting us know that fighting for what is right, even against incredible odds, is important. In To Kill a Mockingbird we love and respect Atticus for his strength and firm moral conviction.

His firm moral conviction against racism and prejudice, right?


Go Set a Watchman begins with Scout coming home to Maycomb County as an adult, just as the Supreme Court has ruled on Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954. Scout (Jean Louise), finds out that most of the people in her town, including Atticus, are not supportive of this ruling. Is it possible that Atticus Finch supports segregation?

This is not the Atticus we remembered.

This is not the Atticus that Jean Louise remembered either. Jean Louise revered Atticus. Yet here he is, supporting segregation. In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise struggles to understand how Atticus can disagree with this Supreme Court ruling and how he can believe what he does about race. She feels as though her world is being upended.

What is going on here?

Jean Louise is growing up.

Jean Louise is growing out of simplistic ways of thinking and discovering how complex people and issues are. She changes from thinking that Atticus is all-seeing, all-knowing, and infallible, into realizing that he is human and that he has flaws. Throughout Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise has to reconcile how she rememebered people from her childhood with the realities of how these same people are behaving in her present day. They aren't different people, she is just seeing them through more mature eyes.

I got more depth and insight into these characters than I did in To Kill a Mockingbird. When I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I, like Scout, saw Atticus as a paragon of justice and racial equality. It was an interesting experience to have loved and revered a fictional character so much and to notice how upset I was as I read Go Set a Watchman to discover how different Atticus was than I wanted him to be. Perhaps Go Set a Watchman is not a coming of age story just for Jean Louise. Perhaps it is one for us as well.

Well done.

Thanks for stopping by! If you haven't already gotten a copy of Go Set a Watchman, you can click on the book cover and get it from Powell's City of Books. Be sure and check out our Facebook page here: NOT The New York Times Book Review. You can also send us email using this address: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

A follow-up to Moore's A Dirty Job, Secondhand Souls continues to follow Charlie Asher, Minty Fresh, Lily, and Sophie as they try to figure out how to deal with the whole death and soul vessel retrieval thing.


When we left Charlie Asher in A Dirty Job, Audrey had put his soul into one of the squirrel people, meat puppets she'd cobbled together from spare parts of other animals.

Secondhand Souls opens a year later, our motley crew discovering that people are dying, but their souls are not being collected. This can't be good. They try to figure out how to stop the impending doom, racing against time.

This is a great continuation of A Dirty Job...so fun!

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Secondhand Souls through librarything.com's Early Reviewers program. Thank you, librarything!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wee Free Library!

Look what I found as I was out on my bike ride this morning! About a mile from my house is this lovely Wee Free Library!


It's hard to tell from this picture, but there are almost a dozen books, including a book by Stephen King, a copy of Black Beauty, another kids' book called The Best School Year Ever, and a novel by M.C. Beaton. The front panel looks like plexiglass, and the whole thing looks well constructed to keep out weathery things that could cause harm to books.

This Wee Free Library is a block from an elementary school too, so lots of kids will see it. What a wonderful addition to my neighborhood!

Do you have a Wee Free Library near you?

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Monday, November 2, 2015

You by Caroline Kepnes

I stumbled upon this book at Target. It looked like a page turner and we were going on vacation, so I bought it.


It turns out I did not read it on vacation. But I was right, it was a page turner! When I did get to it, I was intrigued from the beginning. Here's how the book starts. I was drawn in by the second person narration...

"You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it's impossible to know if you're wearing a bra but I don't think that you are. You're so clean that you're dirty and your murmur your first word to me - hello - when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, a pink spun from Charlotte's Web and where did you come from?"

The tone sets the stage, as does the blurry cover art. The person isn't just observing this woman, he is scrutinizing her, judging her, owning her in his mind. Creepy.

Creepy, indeed. Kepnes keeps the tension taut throughout the whole book, as this narrator inserts himself into the life of this woman who happened to walk into the bookstore where he works. Events escalate, and...well, I'm not going to say any more. This is a good read!

Thanks for stopping by! You can "like" our Facebook page, NOT The New York Times Book Review. You can also send email to: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

I know I am late to the party, as I am just now reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. It has been on my radar since it came out in 2013. I saw it at Barnes and Noble, and remembered a friend's recommendation ("just READ it!", she said). So I am.


Starting in 2004 during the second Chechen war (I will admit I have been woefully ignorant about these conflicts), A Constellation of Vital Phenomena starts out with Havaa, a young girl, waking after the night she hid in the woods and her father was taken by the Feds. After her father was taken, she stayed the rest of the night with her neighbor, Akhmed, and his ill wife, Ulla.

Akhmed panics on this day after the disappearance of Havaa's father, as he knows that the Feds will likely be coming for the girl, too. He takes Havaa to a hospital that is several miles away to stay with Sonja, a woman doctor he has never met.

Moving between 1994 and 2004, Marra weaves the story of Havaa, her missing father, Dokka, Akhmed, Ulla, Sonja, another neighbor Khassan and his son, Ramzan who is an informer, and their war ravaged country.

While some of this book is intense - some of descriptions in the hospital are pretty graphic - this is some of the most stunning and beautiful prose I have ever read.

If you can, read this passage slowly...

"Sonja stood and walked to the flat, afraid of what she might hear next. At the kitchen table she examinded the glass of ice. Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared. Despite the shock of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn't immediate, more a fade from the present tense you shared, a melting into the past, not an erasure, but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, and the person you once touched now runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in the memory, but your fingers cannot hold it. She raised the glass to her lips. The water was clean."

Not only is the writing beautiful, Marra also captures realities of loss, love, pain, grief and describes them in such a way that I see them with new eyes. I am in the middle of this and am reading slowly, savoring the writing.

Lovely and amazing.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Do you remember watching the movie The Sixth Sense? And when, at the end, you realized that the boy, Cole, had been seeing dead people all along, it changed your experience of the entire movie? (At least that's how it was for me.) I didn't see the twist coming at all, and I loved it.

In Language Arts, we meet Cody and his family. Cody was a happy little boy. He was developing normally until he started to lose language. His parents, Charles and Alison, took him to specialist after specialist to find out what happened and to try to help him get better.

Cody doesn't get better. Shortly after the birth of Cody's sister, Emmy, Charles and Alison's marriage deteriorates. As Cody gets older, and ages out of the system that can provide care for him, Charles and Alison have to work together to find a suitable living situation for him.


We see everything as Charles and Emmy experience this. Kallos weaves together this family's struggle, including back story around Charles, with Charles as a child befriending an autistic classmate, language arts, and, interestingly, Palmer handwriting. Language Arts felt a little melancholy, heavy with this family's desperation to try to help Cody as well as deal with deteriorating relationships.

I was engaged in the story as it was, and then a Sixth Sense kind of twist came at the end that made me go back and reread passages of the book to see how she did it. SO well done!

Thanks for stopping by! Clicking on the book cover will take you to Powell's web page for the book. Check out the blog's Facebook page: NOT The New York Times Book Review. You can send email to us at: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Happy reading!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Second Life by S.J. Watson

I read Watson's first book, Before I Go to Sleep, and really enjoyed it.* I was excited to see her second book, Second Life, at the library!


Narrated by Julia, wife to surgeon Hugh, mother to teenager Conner, Julia has a hidden past. She reveals this past slowly. After the death of her sister, Julia's past starts to get real again. Julia gets involved with a man she meets online. She rationalizes this affair as a way to understand her sister and explain her death.

I found myself not liking Julia, and not believing that she would actually do the things she did with the reasons she gave for doing them. I almost gave up on this book. But it came around for me, and I'm glad I stuck it out. A good read!

*See my write up of Before I Go to Sleep here: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2011/08/good-reads.html

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Rereading a Few Favorites

I rarely reread books anymore. I used to when I was a kid, eagerly, excitedly, as though I were trying to absorb the words and stories into each fiber of my being.

As an adult? I think I've felt as though there are always new books to discover, and that is where my excitement has been going.

But here I am, rereading a few favorites. I went to Powell's last week with my daughter and I bought two books that I used to own and I want to reread.

I found out that I will be the (lucky!) recipient of a book through librarything's Early Reviewers program, Christopher Moore's next, called Secondhand Souls. Yay! Secondhand Souls is the sequel to A Dirty Job, which I loved. It's been several years since I read it, so I want to read A Dirty Job again before I read Secondhand Souls.

I'm really enjoying reading this again. Poor Charlie Asher, Beta Male, right after his wife dies in childbirth, finds out that he's a death merchant and has to collect soul vessels and pass them on to their new owners. That sounds kind of heavy, but, in usual Christopher Moore style, it's smart and funny. And in addition? The cover glows in the dark.


And the other one? A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Recommended by good friends when I was living in a book desert (before the internet I lived in a rural area where there was one small, sad little bookstore that stocked mostly Harlequin romances). When I got my hands on Bryson's book I devoured it, and began a love affair with all things Bryson.


And it's going to be a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte!

As my partner has wisely taught me, books and movies based on said books are different things. Most of the time it isn't even right to compare them. They are different animals. I agree with this. I loved Gone With the Wind the book AND Gone With the Wind the movie, even though the movie left out a lot that was in the book.

Have I been disappointed in a movie based on a book? Sure. Mostly because I was watching the movie with book eyes, the eyes that I wanted it to be the same, or rather, I wanted to have the same experience that I had with the book, which isn't really fair to the movie.

Will A Walk in the Woods movie be as good as the book? It will be different. Is it silly to reread the book before the movie comes out? Shouldn't I just enjoy the movie for what it is and not compare the two? Maybe. And I don't care. I am looking forward to enjoying the book again.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out this blog's Facebook page: NOT The New York Times Book Review. You can also send us email: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Happy reading!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This book has been on my shelf for several years, waiting patiently for me to be ready to read it.


The story is told from the point of view of Alice, a professor at Harvard. She is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. We watch as she and her family struggle with the diagnosis. We watch as she loses her capability to remember and process things as she descends into dementia.

I watched my mom descend into dementia too, which is why I knew this book would be hard and why it's taken me seven years to read it.

My mom's situation was slightly different, just as everyone's experience with any illness is unique. My mom had a stroke in August of 2003. At the time she'd been living alone, managing her very brittle diabetes with frequent blood sugar checks and administering her own insulin at each meal by determining the appropriate dose based on her blood sugar levels.

The stroke affected her memory, judgment and language. When she was in the hospital right after the stroke, and my brother and I were with her, she asked why people kept sticking her with pins. She didn't remember that she even had diabetes, let alone that she had been managing it on her own. At that moment, my brother and I knew that that was the end of her living alone.

In the following year and a half, she recovered some memory and language, and reached somewhat of a plateau. She remembered that she had diabetes, but couldn't remember exactly how to manage it.

And then her memory started getting worse. Her neurologist started her on Aricept and Nameda, just like Alice did in the book, but they didn't seem to help much. Every time we saw the neurologist, she'd administer the ten question test, asking mom if she knew where she was, knew who the president was, knew what season it was. Mom did worse every time.

This was abnormal from a stroke recovery point of view. They did an MRI and she hadn't had another "event" (stroke). Dementia seemed to be setting in. The neurologist didn't make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. At some point, she said, dementia is dementia, no matter what the cause.

For my mom the dementia progressed relatively quickly. In the last three months of her life she forgot how to use the bathroom. She forgot who we were. She talked about waiting for her parents (who had been dead for decades) coming to come pick her up. At the end, she slipped into a coma and died a few days later.

It was heartbreaking to watch my mom lose her memory, her faculties, and ultimately her life.

It's hard for anyone close to someone with dementia, as Still Alice illustrates so well. Lisa Genova sheds light on Alzheimer's and living with dementia, illuminating the struggle for Alice herself, as well as her family. Well done.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about two other books about dementia, The 36-Hour Day and Contented Dementia. You can read that post here (sorry for the copying and pasting): http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-do-you-spell-alzheimers.html

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Love's Promises by Martha M. Ertman

Librarything does it again! I was lucky enough to receive an Early Reviewer Copy of Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families (Queer Ideas/Queer Action), by Martha M. Ertman. Thank you, Librarything!


I'm going to start by saying that I don't love the title or the cover. The title (not the subtitle, but the main title - Love's Promises) sounds like a romance novel, and in fact when I tried to find the Powell's link for the page for this book, about a dozen romance books came up before Ertman's book. The cover, with a white background and red cups, looks like a Christian self-help book to me. I think this is unfortunate, as the contents were something else entirely.

Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families (Queer Ideas/Queer Action) is written by Martha Ertman. Ertman is a lawyer, biological mother to her young son, in a committed relationship with a woman, and is co-parenting her son with his (gay) biological father and her partner. Not a conventional situation!

And that's the point of this book. Many of us are not in conventional marriage or family relationships, and can experience challenges with the legal system's inability to recognize and honor these less traditional relationships.

Ertman uses her own life to illustrate that more and more people are involved in less conventional (she calls them "Plan B") situations that are not directly addressed by family law.

Many of us not in conventional marriage or family relationships could benefit from her insight into the legal as well as the unofficial aspects of creating and honoring all sorts of relationships with contracts. She talks in depth about formal and informal contracts that help define and protect relationships.

I appreciated Ertman's affirming tone as well as her concrete ideas for protecting and recognizing the significance, importance, and rights in the relationships that are most important to us.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Book a Week

I read about a book a week. Here's what I've read so far in 2015. The list is in chronological order (I read Watership Down in January)...

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Show Your Work by Austin Kelon
Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
California by Edan Lepucki
Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
A Matter of Breeding by Michael Brandow
Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill
The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharma Shields
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
Her by Harriet Lane
Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Fever by Megan Abbott
The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire
Love's Promises by Martha M. Ertman
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry




What have you been reading?

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Friday, June 19, 2015

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

I am in the middle of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews and am really enjoying it.

Several years ago, my partner and I discovered Miriam Toews on a trip to Canada when we found and her book Complicated Kindness. Reading this one now reminds me what a good writer she is.


Here are a few passages from All My Puny Sorrows that I love. In this one, I love how this woman takes care of her old dog...

Shadow the dog is too old and arthritic to run but is still very excited by the idea of running so Julie plays a game she calls Run for Shadow and it involves her saying things like shed or fence and then running there herself while Shadow sits still in the yard and barks excitedly. When Julie has exhausted herself playing Run for Shadow she plops down beside me on the back steps and finishes her cigar.

In this next passage, Yoli talks to Elf, her older sister, who is in the hospital after trying to commit suicide...

I came across a man playing his guitar in the park the other day and a lot of people, just people who happened to be in the park, were singing softly with him, so beautifully. I stopped to listen for a while.

What was the song? asked Elf.

I don't know, I said, one line I remember was we all have holes in our hearts. Or maybe he said lives. We all have holes in our lives. And this impromptu choir of park people singing along with him, repeating the lines we all have holes in our lives...we all have holes in our lives...

And then I thought that people like to talk about their pain and loneliness but in disguised ways. Or in ways that are sort of organized but not really. I realized that when I try to start conversations with people, just strangers on the street or in the grocery store, they think I'm exposing my pain or loneliness in the wrong way and they get nervous. But then I saw the impromptu choir repeating the line about everyone having holes in their lives, and so beautifully, so gently and with such acceptance and even joy, just acknowledging it, and I realized that there are ways to do it, just not the ones I'd been trying.

So now you're going to stop talking to random strangers? asked Elf.

I guess so, I said. That's why you're so lucky to have your piano.

Thanks for stopping by! Clicking ont he book covers will take you to Powell's web page for each book. Check out this blog's Facebook page: NOT The New York Times Book Review. Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

You know how, when you're in the middle of a great book, you can't wait to get back to it? When I'm reading a book like that, I find myself thinking about the characters during the non-reading parts of my day and wondering about what's going to happen next!

I just finished a book like that...

I'd looked at Girl With All the Gifts months ago, but didn't get it then. I was in Barnes and Noble last week and saw it again. I started reading the first page...

"Her name is Melanie. It means 'the black girl', from an ancient Greek word, but her skin is actually very fair, so she thinks maybe it's not such a good name for her. She likes the name Pandora a whole lot, but you don't get to choose. Miss Justineau assigns names from a big list;, new children get the top name on the boys' list or the top name on the girls' list, and that, Miss Justineau says, is that.

"There haven't been any new children for a long time now. Melanie doesn't know why that is. There used to be lots; every week, or every couple of weeks, voices in the night. Muttered orders, complaints, the occasional curse. A cell door slamming. Then, after a while, usually a month or two, a new face in the classroom - a new boy or girl who hadn't even learned to talk yet. But they got it fast.

"Melanie was new herself, once, but that's hard to remember because it was a long time ago. It was before there were any words; there were just things without names, and things without names don't stay in your mind. They fall out, and then they're gone."

I was intrigued. Miss Justineau gives the children their names? There are cell doors? What kind of classroom is this?


I hesitate to say much about the story, as a huge part of my enjoyment of this book was not knowing anything about it and diving in, experiencing everything as I read. This is a thriller, and a good one.

As I was reading, I absolutely visualized this as a movie. It didn't surprise me to learn that M.R. Carey has written a screenplay. Well done!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

Did you get a book for St. George's Day on April 23? In Catalonia, Spain, there is a tradition to give a book and a rose to your lover on April 23. My partner and I celebrate this holiday because...holiday for books!

My partner got me The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go. I'd never heard of it. Sometimes it's fun to dive into an unknown book!


Tristan Campbell receives a letter from a solicitor in London. He is told that there is an inheritance that he may be entitled to. But there are complications. The stipulations of the will state that whomever receives the inheritance must be directly descended from a particular person. This lineage must be proven. Oh, and there's a time limit.

Tristan embarks on a journey, both literal and figurative, to discover if he is indeed descended from the person specified in the will.

He discovers Ashley Walsingham, the writer of the will and a mountaineer who also fought in World War I. He also learns about the love of Ashley's life, Imogen.

Told from Tristan's point of view in the present, and Ashley and Imogen's point of view in the past, Tristan learns about Ashley's part in the war, his love for mountaineering, including one of the first expeditions to climb Mount Everest, and Ashley and Imogen's love affair.

A bit of a mystery, a love story, mountaineering and war history, a travelogue...this kept me turning pages and wanting to find out Tristan's heritage almost as much as he did! Fun!

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Friday, May 8, 2015

A Matter of Breeding by Michael Brandow

When I was nine, my parents wanted to get a family dog. We had a family friend who was involved in showing German Shepherds. She had connections with breeders and through her, we brought Jody into our family.

Jody (his pedigreed name was Jodler von Chicagoland, with the "J" pronounced the German way, like a "Y") was AKC certified and had been a show dog. We got him when he was four years old, and had been disqualified from the show ring because of his hip dysplasia.

We weren't interested in having a show dog. We wanted a family dog. And we got one. Jody was the best. Loyal and loving, guard dog and friend, he was part of our family until the hip dysplasia got so painful he couldn't walk and we had to put him down (this was before hip replacement surgery for animal or human was common).

Brandow could have used Jody as an example to make his point in his book, A Matter of Breeding: A Biting History of Pedigree Dogs and How the Quest for Status Has Harmed Man's Best Friend.


In the book, Brandow goes into great detail about how dog breeding is harming dogs. He describes dogs he knows personally as well as delving into historical and cultural influences that have created the breed focused culture in which we live. He ties the now reviled practice of eugenics with the focus on breed superiority, which he calls breedism. The creation of dog fancy organizations as well as dog breeders in search of the perfect specimen have created a culture more focused on breed superiority than on canine companionship.

This history of breedism and breediness (isn't that a great word?) has resulted in dogs that have been, and still are, often chosen not to be companions, but to be specimens of perfection and status symbols. Brandow drives home the point that all of this - the inbreeding, the focus on show dogs, and the search for breed standards that don't allow dogs to be dogs - is harming animals we claim to love.

Dogs shouldn't have to suffer horrific pain from hip dysplasia, like Jody did. Or die from cancer at a young age like so many Golden Retrievers. Or have haeart and breathing problems like so many bulldogs.

He makes a strong case for the damaging effects of dog breeding and pedigree. He does so with footnotes and references and quotations galore. Brandow does not hide his disgust for breeding and pedigreed pretentiousness, and I felt his contempt come through the pages. I found his hard hitting approach off-putting, even though I agree with him that dog breeding has resulted in suffering for dogs.

I've had pedigreed dogs. I've had mixed-breeds as well. When my kids were young, we had Bas (short for Sebastian). Bas was a mixed-breed stray who we brought into our family. He was a cuddle-sweet dog, energetic, adorable and loving, who slept on my daughter's bed.

I admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for German Shepherds. Brandow might be disgusted with this, perhaps seeing this as me buying into and perpetuating the pedigree culture.

But what I realized after reading this book is that I love German Shepherds, not because they are purebred, but because they remind me of Jody. I also have a soft spot for small, black dgos with velvet ears. They remind me of Bas.

Jody wasn't a great dog because he was a German Shepherd, and Bas wasn't a great dog because he wasn't purebred. They were great dogs. Period.

My big takeaway from this book is if you're going to get a dog, get a dog to love. There has been, and still is, a huge culture revolving around breed superiority, which doesn't seem to get to the heart of the many great reasons to bring a dog into your life.

Thanks for stopping by! You can find out more about Michael Brandow on his Facebook page. You can check out the Facebook page for this blog: NOT The New York Times Book Review.

Librarything has an Early Reviewer program, where members can receive (free!) copies of books. Members can request a book, and if they are chosen to receive a book, the only requirement is that that person writes a review for librarything. I was one of the lucky ones this month! Thank you, librarything!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber

I'd never heard of Postcards from a Dead Girl (P.S.) when I stumbled on it in the stacks at Powell's. I liked the cover, and how it started...

"The postcard is everything, but looks like nothing. An inconsequential sheet of pressed pulp decorated with a few drops of ink, it barely exists in the physical realm. But this one has got hold of something inside me that feels like forever. I follow the looping lines that make up Zoe's penmanship, the soaring arcs and inky swirls. I try to understand the true implications of her words, the hidden message behind the surface one. What a ridiculous phrase: wish you were here."


Sid is receiving postcards in the mail from his dead girlfriend, Zoe. The postcards arrive from all over the world, and come months after she died. Sid alternately loves getting them, and is confused and frustrated by them. How is it that he is even receiving them?

He has no idea. Sid spends time, the goodwill of friends and relatives, and money - money he doesn't have - trying to find out.

We start out with Sid and the postcards. As we read on, we find out that he's a guy with a job at Wanderlust, a call center selling travel packages. He is a bit of a hypochondriac. He has a dog named Zero. He talks to his dead mother in a wine bottle.

I love how Sid sees the world, notwithstanding the dead mother in the wine bottle and the postcards from the dead girlfriend. Here he is at the doctor having one of his hypochondriac fantasies explored...

"The doctor searches my eyes back and forth, back and forth, like the manic expressions of soap opera actors on Univision just before they shed tears. He talks softly then, but forcefully, 'Let's not worry about anything until we see what we've got, okay? It might be nothing at all.' His face changes then, possibly into what he feels is a compassionate smile, but it comes off as slight dental discomfort."

And I knew exactly what kind of expression was on the doctor's face.

I really liked Sid. I wanted him to figure out his life and stop making bad decisions. He's likable, but no one in his world knows it because he's being kind of a jerk. Because he misses Zoe. Which, even when he's making bad decisions, is endearing. Will Sid figure it out? You should read it and see.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

A Holiday for Giving Books

I just now realized that one of my favorite holidays is almost here! April 23 is St. George's Day. On this day in Catalonia, Spain, lovers exchange books and roses. Did you get that? THERE IS A HOLIDAY FOR GIVING BOOKS.

You can read my first blog post about this wonderful day here: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-new-favorite-holiday.html

I first heard about this several years ago when I received an Advance Reader's Copy of The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The accompanying letter from the publisher talked about St. George's Day, which I'd never heard of. I eagerly shared this holiday information with my co-workers at Barnes and Noble. We wondered together why Barnes and Noble wasn't all over this. A holiday FOR GIVING BOOKS? It seemed like a no-brainer. (Not that I am always in favor of companies finding yet another reason to sell stuff to people, but this is BOOKS.)

My partner and I are both avid readers, and we have enjoyed celebrating St. George's Day together. There have been years we've missed it (maybe just one year) when she was traveling for work. But I think it's a pretty great thing. It kind of seems like a holiday just for us.

Will you be celebrating St. George's Day?

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharma Shields

Nine year old Eli Roebuck lives on the border of Idaho and Washington with his parents, Greg and Agnes. One day his father goes to work and his mother brings home a guest, a Mr. Krantz. At the end of the visit to the Roebuck home, Mr. Krantz, a huge, hairy creature wearing a pinstripe suit, walks into the woods with Eli's mother, leaving Eli behind. She does not come back.

Thus begins The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac.

We follow Eli as he struggles with being abandoned by his mother - Why did she leave him? Did she really leave him for Mr. Krantz? Was Mr. Krantz Sasquatch? These are urgent questions for Eli, and he spends his life trying to find the answers, becoming a world renowned expert on Sasquatch.


The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac is at once fantastic and normal. Eli and the people in his life are believable and their personal struggles are relatable, even if there are extraordinary elements. Shields seamlessly weaves the pedestrian in with the peculiar, delivering a good read. Well done!

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Her by Harriet Lane

Who doesn't love a delicious psychological thriller?

The copy I have of this book has a different cover than the one pictured here. I like the tagline on my cover..."You don't remember her, but she remembers you..."


Nina starts out narrating. Nina is a successful painter, living with her second husband and teenage daughter, Sophie. Emma had a brilliant career, but is staying home with her small children and her husband, Ben, and is struggling with the overwhelmingness of being a parent.

Nina sees Emma in her neighborhood and realizes that she knows Emma from her past. Nina inserts herself into Emma's life, wondering if Emma will remember her. Emma and Nina alternate narration as they each describe their interactions from their own point of view. How do they know each other? What is going on in this relationship?

Compared in a blurb to What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal: A Novel (which I loved), this is similar in that both women tell the story from their perspective, and we don't know the magnitude of their impact on each other until the end.

Her kept me guessing, the suspense and tension vivid until the last page. So fun!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Li, Yanagihara, and Kline

Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li
There's been a death. Shaoai has finally died of poisoning, after surviving a compromised existence for over 20 years. Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran were younger than Shaoai, but lived in the same quadrangle in Beijing at the time she was poisoned. Told alternately through their eyes, when they were teenagers and also as adults, Li's skillful weaving of their lives and how they were affected by Shaoai, the poisoning, and each other, is brilliantly done. I love the title.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Norton Perina is a scientist who, because of lack of direction, agrees to a stint in Micronesia exploring an unknown tribe. Narrated by Perina, with detailed footnotes by his supporter and protege, Perina describes the day to day life of this tribe as well as the startling discovery that many of the members of the tribe live incredibly long lifespans. Though traveling with other scientists, Perina is the one who discovers why. After his return to the U.S., Perina ends up adopting dozens of native children, rescuing them from a life of destitution. Perina's narration of his work, and his life with the children has a dark and creepy slant. This was a good, dense, and somewhat disturbing, read.

Orphan Train: Novel by Christina Baker Kline
Molly is a teenager assigned to perform community service instead of serving time in juvenile hall. Her assignment is to help an older woman, Vivian, sort through her things so her family doesn't have to after she dies. Vivan and Molly have a tenuous relationship at first, Molly doesn't want to be there, and Vivian doesn't seem to want her there. As they sort through Vivian's things, and Vivian's story is revealed - how she came from Ireland to New York and then to the Midwest on the Orphan Train - their relationship changes and grows. I didn't know anything about the actual Orphan Train before I read Kline's book. Illuminating and a good read!


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Friday, March 6, 2015

Three New Books

I was wanting some fiction to read. I finished Michael Brandow's A Matter of Breeding and have been struggling with that review (stay tuned for that review!). My partner got me And the Band Played On, which I started, but the print is really small and even with my reading glasses, it's a been a little laborious. I also just finished The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac, which I really enjoyed. The last trek to the library only netted me a DVD of Alien, the first in the franchise which I've never seen (I know, I know, so it's jolly well time I'm seeing it now, right?)

Today was a day off. I let myself go to Powell's. Not a trek I make often, as it takes half a day and I usually don't have (or allow myself) that kind of time. Today I did.

I brought home three tantalizing books, all ones that I am eager to read right now...


Two of the three were on my radar already. Orphan Train: Novel was one I've been eyeing for a while.

I read about The People in the Trees on one of the lists I posted on the blog's facebook page, and it sounded intriguing.

Kinder Than Solitude was new to me. But I liked the cover and it starts well.

So now the only decision is which to read first. Ah, sweet dilemma!

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