Monday, July 27, 2009

A Concise Chinese English Dictionary For Lovers - Xiaolu Guo

This Novel is about a young woman named Z who moves from a village in China to England to attend an English language school. She doesn't know anyone in London and spends her days writing in her journal about learning English and living in such a strange and new country. Then she meets a man, an older bisexual man whom she moves in with and falls in love with. She only has a year long student visa in England - so there definitely is potential for some heartbreak!

This book was at times hard to read because of the broken and choppy English (obviously it got better as the story went along and her English improved). This could be due to being an English teacher for so long and reading students essays exactly like this till I thought my head was going to explode. But the way Z expressed her feelings is beautiful. It makes your skin tingle and makes you smile. Her love for this man (who is lost himself) is so big that it takes up her whole life. He is her first love (though at an older age) and I can relate with those feelings in your chest that make you feel ill because you are either so happy or so scared of how much you love the other person. I have never read a book like this before. It was lovely. Most of the Asian literature I read is historical fiction. It was nice to sit down and read a novel set in present day that is easy to get through and makes you feel something.

Rating - 4

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yes Man - Danny Wallace

This book is about Danny Wallace. Danny has been staying in a lot lately and saying no to most of his friends requests o do things. One day he gets on a bus, sits beside a bearded Asian man, they start talking and Danny tells him about his boring life. The bearded man tells him he needs to say yes more. That is where the book starts - Danny Wallace spends the year saying yes to everything (really EVERYTHING!!). I loved in the book that there were five different degrees to saying yes - 1 were easy things that you would say yes to anyway and 5 being things that you would NEVER say yes to.

This book is hilarious. I read Danny Wallace's book Friends Like These a few months back and enjoyed it so much that I needed to find another one! This book makes you laugh but it also makes you want to change your life. It makes you think about what would happen if you did say Yes more or even spent one day saying yes to everything. Would your life change? Would you meet some interesting people? I think I may give it a try.

Rating - 4

Friday, July 24, 2009

Petite Anglais - Catherine Sanderson

I am going to France next week and due to the fact that I cannot for the life of me find a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I decided to read this because it takes place in Paris and was recommended to me by a fellow book blogger. This is the true story of the life of British ex-pat who begins to write a blog about her experiences of living in Paris as a working mom, living with her French boyfriend in a relationship that seems to be failing. It is pretty much an account of how blogging changed her life (seemingly for both good and bad).

This is not a particularily feel good book. A lot of people didn't seem to like it because the narrator cheats on her partner for someone she meets through her blog. I agree that cheating is bad but it does happen. It was a bit uncomfortable to read about because you know it did happen and you feel pretty bad for Mr. Frog (her boyfriend) and for their daughter Tadpole. But I also felt for Catherine as well. Leaving an unhappy relationship is hard and sometimes its easier to take that step if you have someone waiting for you outside the relationship. As we learn from Catherines's story - this is not the healthiest option and usually ends in another heartbreak because it is really hard to begin a relationship on the coat tails of an old one (at least one that will last).

When I first opened this book I found it a bit boring and didn't think I was much interested in reading another true story (I had just read a biography of a British pop singer). But I sat down and actually got so into it I couldn't put it down. I finished it in a few sittings and really enjoyed it. I have read a lot of reviews saying that Catherine is a hard to like character and is self absorbed - I just think she is honest. She made some bad choices but really, who doesn't? She learned from her mistakes and I believe that she is better of for making and learning from those mistakes.

Rating - 3

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Quick synopsis:
This book set just after WWII, with the main character being Juliet Ashton. Juliet is an author in London who gets a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey named Dawsey Adams. He had a book that she had sold to a second-hand bookshop that had her name an address in it. He wrote to her to ask for information on other books by this author and through these correspondences (as well as letters with other people from the island) Juliet gets to know the people of Guernsey, what the went through during the war and the German occupation, and how the The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society was formed.

This book is written in the form of letters. I didn't know that when I borrowed the book from the library and I am glad that I didn't because I probably wouldn't have read it. I typically don't like reading books written in letter or email form but since I had it and people had liked it I thought I would give it a try. It was a really nice book. The characters were lovely and I found myself laughing out loud to some of the things they wrote about. Because it was in letter form it was like reading one long conversation - and I really liked it. The characters were well developed and I loved how much they cared for each other. This would be a really good book club pick.

It was a fast read and left me feeling good inside. I admit that I had some tears in my eyes when finishing up the last few pages at Starbucks this morning. But they were good tears. Some times its nice to read a story that has a happy ending!

Rating - 4

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ines Of My Soul - Isabel Allende

This novel is set in the 1500's and is about Ines Suarez - a Spanish woman that sets of to Chile to find her husband but instead she falls in love with Pedro Valdivia and helps him to conquer Chile. The story is told by an elderly and dying Ines to her stepdaughter Isabel. She tells the story of the hardships of venturing to Chile as both a Spaniard and a woman. The story is based on the real life of Ines Suarez and the men she loved. It made me realize that I need to really read some more history books because I hardly know anything about what happened in South America.

I did enjoy this book. It was heavy to read because there is not much dialogue but the writing was interesting and kept me captivated. It was hard to read about how awful the Spanish explorers treated the indigenous population of South America and how they felt they were less then human. I had to keep remembering this book was written from a woman's point of view in the 1500's and not the views of the author. I love Isabel Allende and always enjoy her books. I especially love the fact that most of her stories are adventure novels involving really strong women. She is a really smart author and I hope everyone reads one of her novels!

Rating - 4

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta

This book was excellent. A short synopsis of the book is that it is about Ruth, a sex-ed teacher who is forced to teach abstinence based curriculum (even though she does not believe in it) and Tim, a recovering drug-addict who is also a born again Christian and coaches Ruth's daughter's soccer team. It all comes to blows when Tim prays with the girls at the end of one game and some of the parents are not happy about it. There is a lot more to the book but I am terrible at reviews.

I liked the book being from Ruth and Tim's very different points of view. It made it less one sided and more interesting. The idea of teaching only an abstinence based curriculum was so interesting because it has been in the spotlight the last few years (especially in America with George Bush). My personal opinion is that teenagers deserve to have all the facts even if some people do not agree with them. It was interesting that Ruth had to give the kids information that she knew was not totally true - just used as a scare tactic to make kids not have sex (even though she knew that wasn't going to work and they were still going to do it anyway just without the correct info on contraception!). She was a strong smart woman but just didn't want to lose her job.

Tim was a sad and lost character. He didn't seem to really believe in the things he was saying - but he sure did want to believe in them. He was trying to change his life any way he could and church seemed to sort him out and change his life for the better. But as you will see when you read the book (and you better read it!!) sometimes people just want to believe even when it is not right for them.

I have never read any of Tom Perrotta's books before. I had seen the movies Little Children (which I really liked) and Election (which I didn't) and really didn't know what to expect with this one. I am certainly glad I read it and would encourage others to do so as well!

Rating - 4

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ahhh, The Library

I arrived in England on Sunday evening. First thing I did Monday morning was head to the small local library that is a 5 minute walk from my husbands house. We went in and while he got a card (and made sure that could use it without him being there) I took a look around to see what I could find.

Straight off I loved the small sections all over the library that said things like "Newly Returned" or "Librarians Picks" or even better "Ones That You All Like!". I found 4 books right away that I wanted to read - and that was without even looking at the shelves! I got a Meg Cabot YA novel called Size 12 Isn't Fat (never read one before), some short stories by Diana Gabaldon, Billie Piper's biography and The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (which I am reading now and really love so far!). I have been real library deprived for so long that I was too excited for this one.

The next day we went into town where the main library is. We stopped there even though I had only finished one of the books I got the day before. This was a bigger library and had quite few really good finds. There I got Ines Of My Soul by Isabel Allende, The Camel Bookmobile (which I reviewed below), Petite Anglais, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Not too bad for my first week in England.

I can't wait to finish these books up and get some more!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Camel Bookmobile - Masha Hamilton

The Camel Bookmobile is about a traveling library that brings books to rural areas of Kenya. The camel bookmobile visits one nomadic village called Mididima where lives are changed forever (in many different ways and not always positive). The book has many characters and every chapter is narrated by a different character. Some characters are Fi Sweeny is a librarian from New York who is a consultant on the Camel Bookmobile project; Matani is the teacher in the village who doesn't feel at home in his community because he was sent away as a teenage boy to the city for schooling; and also Taban (also known as Scar Boy), a boy who was disfigured by a hyena and is pretty much an outcast of the tribe. There are many more characters but I don't want to give too much away!

The book was an easy and interesting read. I liked the idea of it and I was really pulled in by the cover of the book (I have the British version which has a different cover then the American one). As I have said in previous reviews - I love books about books and this book is about the love of reading and stories. It is also a book about how cultures need to be preserved and children need to learn about their heritage so that the knowledge doesn't die away. A really good read and I would be happy to add it to my reading collection!

Rating - 3

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fatherland - Robert Harris

I bought this book for my husband because he had read Pompeii by the author and loved it. Well I had nothing to read so I grabbed it before he even got to it. This was a good book. Really really interesting as a historical novel as well as a murder mystery. says "Fatherland" is set in an alternative world where Hitler has won the Second World War. It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday, Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb. As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth - a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history." It was an intriguing idea and I got so involved with it the moment I started it. I really liked the characters, especially Xavier March. He was defiant in his own way in a situation where that usually lead to being tortured or killed. As we know, the Nazi's were terrible and the things that were done were horrific. But what if they had won the war and the German people really didn't know (or were forced to turn their heads at) what had and was still happening to people who were moved to the "East". This is what this book was about.

It was a fast paced book that is a pleasure to read. Now I have a new author that I need to get a few more books from!

Rating - 4

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Shack - William P. Young

This is a hard review to write. I brought this book on my flight to England yesterday and made the fatal mistake of bringing a book I didn't really know anything about and then I was stuck with it for my entire flight. It was a rookie mistake that I rarely make - I always have a back-up...but not this time. says "Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives as the shack on a wintry afternoon and walk back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever." My mom bought me this book - as she is a flight attendant and saw a bunch of people reading it on her flights. I don't think she read the back of it so I can't blame her.

I really really didn't like this book. I think I threw it on the empty seat next to me at least 10 times in anger and frustration. The main reason was how poorly written it was. It was choppy and not enjoyable. The way the conversation flowed was not the way people actually speak - it made it hard to read. Though I am not religious, I do think that the idea of the book was interesting and had the potential to be good. People love books like this and it is too bad that it was so hard to get through. I have read loads of reviews on this book since I finished this and at least I feel better knowing I am not the only one who feels this way about this book.

Rating - 1

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs

Another interesting mystery to add to the "Bones" pile. This Temperence Brennen mystery is set between Guatemala and Montreal. says "Temperance Brennan is helping her Guatemalan colleagues identify the remains of villagers who were "disappeared" 20 years ago when she's called in to consult on four more recent disappearances. Is there a serial killer loose in Guatemala City, or is the fate of the young women who've gone missing--including the daughter of the Canadian ambassador--connected to the murder of a human-rights investigator looking into the decades-old massacre?"

I really liked the setting of this novel and it made me want to learn more about Central America and the human rights violations that have went on there in the recent past. It also made the travelling bug inside jump up and down because I have never been to Central or South America before. I also love Temperence Brennen's character in the novels. It is so very different from the show that the only thing similar is the name. She has a new love interest in this novel (plus the old one) and I would like to see how that plays out in the next book.

What I didn't like about this novel was the ending. It started out strong but the ending just didn't fit right for me. It was almost like it was just thrown in there by mistake or had to be finished up quickly. It wasn't a bad book but it wasn't as good as the others that I have read by Kathy Reichs. I will definitely continue reading her books because I always look forward to a smart murder-mystery!

Rating - 3

Saturday, July 4, 2009

If You Could See Me Now - Cecelia Ahern

I found this super cute book at in a discount bin in Bodrum. I told myself I was not going to buy anymore books but then I decided I really did need some chick lit. I had read a book by this author previously and really enjoyed it so I was excited to take this to the beach in Greece with me! says "Living in her own house in a small, posh Irish town, 35-year-old Elizabeth Egan is an uptight interior designer and adoptive mother to her six-year-old nephew, Luke, whose mother, Elizabeth's 23-year-old sister, Saoirse, prefers boozing to parenting. Saoirse's behavior reminds Elizabeth of a painful past—the alcoholic mother who abandoned the family, leaving Elizabeth to care for her baby sister and forgo her own childhood, and the emotionally distant, controlling father still waiting for his wife's return. Unlike the other women in her family, Elizabeth adheres to a fastidiously well-ordered existence—no mess, no complications, no love. But all that changes with the arrival of Ivan, a goofy and spontaneous man intent on infusing much-needed fun and tenderness into Elizabeth's frigid persona. The catch is no one can see this ageless man from the land of "Ekam Eveileb" save Elizabeth and her nephew. Through Ivan, Elizabeth becomes the woman she's always been too afraid to be." It is a book about love and about make-believe.

This book was really fun and really sad at the same time. I found that Cecelia Ahern's novels have such a sadness to them but have a magical aspect that doesn't leave you depressed. I really like that. I loved the character of Ivan. He had such a childlike, carefree quality about him that made me miss being a kid and kind of excited to have my own someday! Life is so serious when you get older that you sometimes forget that the world will not stop spinning if you don't do the laundry or pay the bills on time.

This was a sweet, easy read.

Rating - 3

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Swan Song - Robert McCammon

I am on vacation now. I love vacation. And I love vacation books. They are always fun to pick out and I always remember the books I read on vacation because my focus is usually solely on them. This book was no exception. My mom had been reading this book for a while and raving about it so when she brought it with her on her trip to visit me I decided to read it as soon as she was done. It took me a few days to read because it is about 1000 pages. But its not hard to read..its actually an easy read with and interesting topic. Review says "Swan Song is rich with such characters as an ex-wrestler named Black Frankenstein, a New York City bag lady who feels power coursing from a weird glass ring, a boy who claws his way out of a destroyed survivalist compound. They gather their followers and travel toward each other, all bent on saving a blonde girl named Swan from the Man of Many Faces." This is one of those end of the world books where nuclear war has destroyed most of the world (or at least the United States). People have compared this to The Stand and I totally understand why after reading it. It is a lot like The Stand, not just with the theme but with the characters as well. \

Now at first this bothered me because I LOVE The Stand. It is one of my favorite books. I remember seeing the mini-series when I was younger and didn't read the book until a few years back. But after I got into Swan Song and started liking the characters I wasn't too bothered with the similaritles. There is more of a supernatural element to Swan Song and there is more graphic violence and destruction. But the characters are really interesting and there is an excellent story line. All in all it is a great vacation book!

Rating - 4