Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Killing Lincoln

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 13.

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Summary:  This books covers in great detail the time of April 1 - April 26, 1865, including the last few battles of the Civil War, Lee's surrender, the assassination of President Lincoln, and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth.

I love history, and this book was absolutely fascinating.  I was amazed at how thrilling it was - I knew the North would win and Lincoln would die, but the details were so complete that it felt like I was right there.  I even stopped reading the book just as Booth was entering Lincoln's box at the theater, my heart pounding, as if the assassination wouldn't happen if I didn't read about it (I was able to keep the book closed for 5 minutes before finishing the entire thing in one sitting).  The book was well-researched and well-written.

A must-read for anyone with the slightest interest in history.  I can't wait to read "Killing Kennedy" by the same authors.

Quote of the Blog:
"If I am killed I can die but once, but to live in constant dread is to die over and over again." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Belle Weather

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 12.

Belle Weather (mostly sunny with a chance of scattered hissy fits) by Celia Rivenbark
Summary:  A book of humorous essays about life from a Southern writer.

Quick read of fluff.  Although this book wasn't bad, it wasn't really good either.  Easily forgettable.

Although I would recommend the author if you like light, Erma Bombeck type reads, I probably wouldn't recommend this book.

Quote of the Blog:
"Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club's worth of speeches." ~ Allison Glock

Kinsey and Me

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 11.

Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton
Summary:  The first section of the book is short mysteries featuring Kinsey Millhone, the private investigator from Grafton's alphabet mystery series (all were published in various magazines between 1986 and 2003, but they were new to me).  The second section of the book is autobiographical essays written by Grafton after losing her mother. 

This book was a quick read, and I enjoyed it.  I knew I would like the first section because I love the Kinsey Millhone series and I also like short stories.  Sue Grafton revealed a lot of herself in the second section, and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth she showed.  Overall, the book was very well-written.

Recommended.  It is not necessary to have read the alphabet series, and this would be a good introduction to Kinsey if you're a mystery fan but haven't read Grafton before.  

Quote of the Blog:
"What's stimulating about [Kinsey's] presence in my life is that...this allows me to lead two lives - hers and mine." ~ Sue Grafton

Thursday, January 24, 2013


My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 10.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Summary:  An autobiography of Tina Fey, covering her personal and professional life from childhood through the present (published in 2011).

I like Tina Fey, and I liked this book.  I've never listened to an audiobook, but I could hear Tina's voice very clearly as I read, and I might give them a try in these situations (autobiographies that are read by the author). 

Recommended (if you like Tina Fey; that should go without saying, right?).

Quote of the Blog:
“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” ~ Tina Fey

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Notorious Nineteen

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 9.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
Summary:  The 19th book (23rd if you count novellas) featuring Stephanie Plum, accident-prone bounty hunter.  This book centers on the case of disappearing patients from a hospital, and also includes plenty of the antics expected in a Stephanie Plum book.

I'm finding the series less and less enjoyable with each book.  Car blew up?  Check (more than one, actually).  Lulu eating and referencing her former days as a ho?  Check.  Grandma Mazur saying inappropriate things?  Check.  Also, it's been 23 books - it's time to choose between Morelli and Ranger already.

It was a quick read that didn't affect me one way or the other, and I will continue to read more of the series as they come out.  If you've read the series, this latest book is fine to read.  If you haven't read the series, I'm not sure I would recommend starting (but if you do, please start at the beginning - the thought of not reading a series in order makes me cringe!).

Quote of the Blog:
"I did such a gigantic eye roll I almost fell over." ~ Janet Evanovich (Notorious Nineteen)

My Name is Mary Sutter

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 8.

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Summary:  This historical fiction novel is about Mary Sutter, a midwife aspiring to become a surgeon during a time when women aren't allowed to apply to medical school.  As the Civil War starts, she leaves the safety of her home to provide assistance to wounded soldiers.  Mary must find her inner strength as she makes many sacrifices to pursue medical knowledge and help others.  This book also includes details about the Civil War, Dorothea Dix, and Abraham Lincoln.  

This book packs an emotional punch.  Speaking generally to avoid spoilers, this book covers the highs and lows of Mary's professional and personal life, as well as the overall bleakness of the Civil War and the frustration of the doctors that try to save with minimal supplies and sanitation. 

Strongly recommended if you like historical fiction and strong female characters.  

Quote of the Blog:
"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." ~ Audre Lorde

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wife 22

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 7.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
Summary:  Alice and William Buckle have been married for 20 years and are parents to two teenage children.  When Alice receives an e-mail inviting her to participate in an anonymous survey about marriage, she agrees and becomes "Wife 22", corresponding with "Researcher 101" about the details of her courtship and marriage.  As the correspondence becomes more personal, Alice finds herself questioning her life and if she would be happier somewhere else.

I like the author's writing style and this book was easy to read, but I just didn't like it.  I was right there with her for the first 75% of the book, but I was disappointed when the last few chapters revealed such implausible resolutions.

I would read something else by this author, but I wouldn't recommend this book.

Quote of the Blog:
“The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greenest where it is watered.” ~ Robert Fulghum

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dropped Names

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 6.

Dropped Names by Frank Langella
Summary:  Frank Langella has been an actor for over 50 years.  In that time he's met, worked with, and befriended (or, in a few cases, made enemies with) many other famous people, and each chapter of this book tells a story or two about a star Frank has crossed paths with.  It is interesting to note that the only stars Frank mentions in the book are deceased, and the book is arranged in the order of the year the star passed away (as opposed to the order in which they met).  

This book was almost like a collection of short stories since each chapter stood independently from the others.  Like most short story collections, some chapters were better than others but overall, it was a good book.  I find it interesting that this is labelled as a biography because I don't feel I know any more about Frank himself after reading it.  It was gossipy but not terribly meanspirited.  He acknowledges in the beginning that this is based on his memory and may not have been exactly how the meetings happened, and I believe that becomes obvious as the stories are read.

If you're familiar with "older" Hollywood and are interested in behind-the-scenes stories, this book might interest you too.  I don't regret that I read it, but I probably wouldn't have missed it if I hadn't.

Quote of the Blog:
"She never lets the truth get in the way of a good story" ~ Mike Mally, my dad (describing someone prone to embellishment)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ready Player One

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 5.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Summary:  In the year 2044, most people escape the bleak real world by spending their time in OASIS, a virtual reality unlike anything else.  When the creator of OASIS passes away, his will states that he has hidden an "Easter Egg" in OASIS, and the first person to solve all the puzzles (most of which have a 1980's theme) and find the egg will inherit his entire fortune.  This book is told from the viewpoint of Wade Watts as he becomes the first person to solve the first puzzle, and his quest to become the victor.

I really really enjoyed this book.  It was well-written, and unlike anything I've read before.  Part of the reason I enjoyed it was because of all of the references to the 80's that I *shudder* to remember (9 years old, wearing head to toe denim as I rock to Debbie Gibson), but I don't know a lot about video games and it didn't take anything away from the story.

Highly recommended.  Trying to describe what the book is about was difficult, so even if it doesn't sound like the kind of book you might like, read the prologue and see if you're interested enough to continue. 

Quote of the Blog:
"Going outside is highly overrated" ~ Ernest Cline (Ready Player One)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Following Ezra

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 4.

Following Ezra by Tom Fields-Meyer
Summary:  This memoir is written by a father about his son Ezra, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.  He shares experiences and memories from Ezra's birth until his bar mitzvah at thirteen, although the book isn't written in chronological order. 

I have a personal interest in autism and have read a lot about it.  I thought the book was well-written and enjoyed it while I was reading it, but it wasn't difficult to put down.  It was heartfelt and humble.  Ezra may not be the son they expected, but they've done a terrific job of adapting their family to meet Ezra's needs and celebrate him just the way he is.  What I appreciated about the book, and what made it different from some other memoirs about autism that I've read (there are so many to choose from!), is that it's strictly a personal story - there are no statistics or opinions about causes, treatments, etc. 

I'm neutral about my recommendation.  I would definitely recommend it to someone that had already shown interest in the book or the topic, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're not familiar with autism or are looking for more of an informational guide.

Quote of the Blog:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Friends Like Us

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 3.

Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox
Summary:  Willa has two best friends - Jane and Ben.  She is initially thrilled when Jane and Ben meet and hit it off, then becomes increasingly unhappy as they fall in love and she feels left behind.  This fiction novel is about relationships and the balance between finding your own happiness and protecting the happiness of your friends.

I liked this book.  It was easy to become absorbed in the story because it felt so real - imperfect characters living their lives.  At times, I almost felt uncomfortable reading it, like I was looking through the window at people that thought they were having private moments.

Recommended if you like what I refer to as "Seinfeld" books - seemingly about nothing, subtle writing, but still affecting.

Quote of the Blog:
“A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other...Maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever” ~ Dave Matthews Band

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bitter is the New Black

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 2.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Summary:  A non-fiction book covering about 2 years of Jen's life after she and her husband both lose their jobs due to downsizing.  The book starts with their household income of $250,000 and Jen's outlandish shopping habits, continues through unemployment checks and moving out of their penthouse, hits rock bottom with car repossession and potential eviction from their "ghetto apartment" (her words), then bounces back at the end with her book deal.  

I think Jen is a great writer, but this book was difficult for me to read due to my (ahem) "frugal" nature (I don't care how much money you have, $7000 for a couch that nobody can sit on is ridiculous!).  I appreciate how she is completely honest about her faults and doesn't try to make herself sound better than she is - she learns some lessons, but doesn't completely change.  She would drive me crazy if I knew her in real life, but since I don't, I was able to enjoy her stories and laughed out loud more than once.

If you've read other books by Jen and liked them, I would recommend this one as well.  If you've never read her before, I would recommend reading one of her other books (like Jeneration X or Such a Pretty Fat) instead.

Quote of the Blog:
“In other words? The bitch had it coming. And I am that bitch.” ~ Jen Lancaster

On a personal note, this is the first book I've read using an electronic device - again, due to gentle book posse peer pressure.  I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would, but I will still read actual books whenever possible.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Still Missing

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 1.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Summary: Annie O'Sullivan was abducted and held captive in the mountains for a year.  This fiction novel is told entirely from Annie's point of view (each chapter is one session with her shrink) and covers both what happened in the mountains and her struggle to move forward with her life after she returns home.

I loved this book.  I forced myself to put it down so I wouldn't rush through it too quickly (also, the darn kids insisted on eating today), but I still read it in a day.  Since the story was told from Annie's point of view, finding things out at the same time she did made it very easy to feel the tension.  To avoid spoilers, I will simply say that the story development was amazing, and my heart was racing the entire time. 

Highly recommended.

Quote of the Blog:
 “That moment when you finish a book, look around, and realize that everyone is just carrying on with their lives as though you didn't just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback.”  ~ Jamie Craig