31 March 2009

Tuesday Things

Last week we talked about our favorite book(s) - yes, hard - I know :) . This week, I'd like to switch gears - instead of favorites, we are going to look at least-favorites - should be a little easier?? This doesn't have to mean a book that you hated, or one that you didn't finish, although it might be. . .Questions (yes - there are a bunch - answer one or two . . . or all of them!): What is your least-favorite book(s)? Is your least-favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? How have others rated your least-favorite book?

My least favorite book has to be The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. And no, the reason was not all the hype about how sacriligious the book was or the title. My problem was that I just could not finish the book, did not understand the plot, didn't really like what I did understand. I really, really tried to finish this book (I probably read 2/3 of it), but I just could not devote any more of my stolen reading time to something I just did not like in the least. It all started when I found the link to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I bravely signed up for my 1% Challenge and because I had heard so much about this book, it was book number two I started to read. The fact that I would have to admit defeat if I could not finish it made me even more determined. Still, I just could NOT do it! Because I did not finish the book, I did not put it in my LT catalog, nor did I continue with my reading challenge. So that made me doubly irritated. The average rating on LT was 3.87 so at least some people liked it. I read through some of the reviews and there were at least many people who felt just like I did.


25 March 2009

6. Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me

Wah! What a fantastic memoir! Alice Pung has done a wonderful job of explaining in her own witty way exactly what it was like to grow up between two cultures. As an Asian girl growing up in Australia, Alice was insulated by her extended family even as she tried to fit in with the world in which she had to live. While we learn how one young woman experienced acculturation and assimilation, we learn even more about the culture the family brought with them to Australia from the killing fields of Cambodia.

Alice was born in 1981 shortly after her family immigrated to Australia and was blessed and cursed to live with both her mother and her paternal grandmother. The two women continuously used Alice as a pawn in their dislike for one another. Of course, Alice learned to use this to her advantage. Even so, she could not escape having to care for her younger sibling or to venture out into a world that remained foreign to the two older women. It is through these two women that we, and Alice, learn about the culture that was left behind in Cambodia. Alice comments on her grandmother’s character, Yet characters are only fixed through experience, and usually bad experience. Before character there is only personality, and who knows what kind of person my grandmother was back then? (p. 47) In another comment which showed the place of women in culture, a place Alice was determined to escape from, Alice says about keeping house and caring for all of the children in the neighborhood, I was not won over by their sedulous flattery. Girls only matured faster because they had to do more. (p. 94)

Pung manages to explain or dispel cultural stereotypes, even as she tries desperately to live in both worlds, make her parents proud, and find her own way. My favorite repeating cultural wisdom is regarding hurtful words that are often used to destroy the ones we love: Words with bones in them, my grandmother calls them. Words to make the other person fall flat on their back and die a curly death, my mother says. The sharp ones, the ones you can use if ever you need a weapon to protect yourself. (p. 36). Of course, we often only think we are protecting ourselves. In many cases, words with bones in them are intended to choke our victims.

Pung’s writing is very concise and beautifully descriptive. Describing her mother, she writes, But there is only so much the camera can catch. It does not capture the times when she laughs, her head flung back, nostrils flared, like a happy hippopotamus with squinched-closed eyes and blunt teeth, a few of them missing. (p. 243)

I would like to thank Plume and Penguin for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book. The Penguin Reading Guide has a wonderful conversation with the author. Read it here. I look forward to the forthcoming book by Ms. Pung as I expect her writing to only get better as she continues to share her humor and reflections. I loved this delightful memoir.

TITLE: Unpolished Gem: My mother, my grandmother, and me
AUTHOR: Alice Pung
COPYRIGHT: February 2009 (American release); originally published 2006 in Australia
PAGES: 282
TYPE: non-fiction, memoir
RECOMMEND: If you are interested in Asian culture, or even coming of age stories, you will enjoy this debut work.


24 March 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Last week we explored the memes on Library Thing. I also asked for some suggestions, and one of you suggested that we get a little more personal by looking at favorite books, etc. So . . . I'd like to look at favorites.Questions (yes - there are a bunch - answer one or two . . . or all of them!): What is your favorite book (yes - this may be a hard one!!)? Is your favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? Have you looked to see if you can add any information to the Common Knowledge? AND a little off topic, do you find that your 5-starred books are consistent with your favorites, and is your favorite a 5-star rated book in your library? How have others rated your favorite book? :)

I could probably write volumes on these questions! Taking a hard look at my Library Thing library just verified what I already knew - I am an easy grader! Many and sundried things please me. I found that 38% (40/107) of the books I have entered have 5 stars. I looked at the forty books and found that the average star score given to these books was 4.1 so I suppose I am not that far off from the average. Another interesting thing I discovered is that only 5 of my favorites are classics, 6 deal with my favorite topic (the Holocaust), and 11 are children's literature (some overlap with Holocaust). The book with the highest overall star score out of these 40 was In My Brother's Image: Twin Brothers Separated by Faith After the Holocaust - Eugene Pogany.

Now my favorites - if someone were to casually ask me what my favorite book is, I would probably say without thinking I Cannot Forgive by Vrba. This non-fiction work tells the story of the first Jewish person who successfully escaped from Auschwitz. A true testament to survival. Another non-fiction book that I love is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Agee. The author tells the story about three sharecropper families in the Deep South during the years after WWII. It is fascinating. Fiction - I absolutely love Jane Austen and Pearl S. Buck. I have read Pride and Prejudice and The Good Earth a zillion times each. New fiction - my newest love is Astrid & Veronika by Olssen. This is the story of two women, one young and one old, who live on a mountain top in New Zealand trying to hide from the world and find themselves becoming friends.

Of course I know that these statistics are somewhat skewed but it is still fun to take a look. Thanks Wendi for another great week!

21 March 2009

5. The Mighty Queens of Freeville

A big Thank You to Hyperion Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review Amy Dickinson’s The Mighty Queens of Freeville. What a fantastic and relatable narrative which will leave her readers wondering which side of her family tree links up with their own. Never mind that she grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. Each summer I lived with my extended family in Western Tennessee and I am quite sure we must be related somehow because there were many Mighty Queens living in my small town in the Deep South. In fact, the cover could be a picture of my own family reunion when I was about ten. I vividly remember it because my aunt and grandmother had decided that, in spite of my lack of tatas, I needed a training bra. I was not quite sure what I was training for, but my three male cousins certainly knew that they were training for the bra strap snapping championship of the world. After being chased and tortured to the point of tears for an hour or so, I took off the offending bra and hid it in the cabinet under the sink in my aunt's bathroom. I assume they found it eventually, but had the grace not to mention it to me.

While Mighty Queens is not an in depth account of Amy Dickinson’s life, readers get a strong sense of how Amy and her daughter Emily grew up together through bad times and good. A single mother, Amy was devoted to her daughter even as she tried to make sense of her own life. In chapters dealing with her divorce, dating, and coming home, Amy made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Coming from a family of strong women, I could relate. Describing her own family, Amy writes, These are the women of my world – the Mighty Queens of Freeville – who have led small lives of great consequence in the tiny place that we call home. (p. 9)

Although it may seem disconcerting to some readers, I loved the back and forth, the future and the past narrative that flows throughout the book. Amy relates what is happening to what has happened and even to the possibilities of what may happen. In many ways, this is how we all think. As someone who always loves a good short story about the human condition, this style was very pleasing to me. In fact, for me, this stylistic choice added to the character and impact of the book.

As an early and frequent contributor to various NPR productions and the new Dear Abby (Ask Amy) for the Chicago Tribune and 200 syndicated papers, Amy Dickinson has become very successful. As we read this book, we realize that perhaps success has not changed her too much, she is still the daughter of a woman from Freeville, she is still the mother of a daughter from Freeville, and her heart remains with these women with whom she has shared this wonderful, albeit sometimes painful, life.

If my review has not done this book justice and you cannot decide whether you should run out and purchase it, please take a look at the author’s website. I know I am a Mighty Queen; you might be as well.

TITLE: The Mighty Queens of Freeville
AUTHOR: Amy Dickinson
PAGES: 224
TYPE: non-fiction, memoir
RECOMMEND: Because these people were like my relatives, I loved it.


17 March 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Last week we looked at the Member Giveaways section of Library Thing.
Here are the current meme's available:

You and None Other.
Books shared with exactly one member.
Dead or Alive? How many of your authors are dead?
Dead or Alive Comparison How do you stack up against others?
Male or Female? What gender are your authors?
Work Duplicates. Works you have more than one of.

Question: Do you visit the memes section often? Have you visited recently? Have you discovered anything that surprises you when you visit the memes for your library?

I have looked at the memes section before, but like Wendi, I was surprised that there were more memes than I remembered. I wish that I had some time off that did not involve puppy raising so that I could enter more of my personal library into LibraryThing - then I would have a more clear picture of how I compare to others. Still these memes are too much fun!

Dead or Alive?
  • 71.43% of my authors are alive.
  • I found it interesting that 32 of my authors are listed as unknown. I noticed one author that I know is alive because I subscribe to her listserv. I took a look around to see if I could figure out how to declare her alive. I could not find it, can anyone help??
Male or Female?
  • 36.47% of my authors are male
  • not mentioned is that 63.53% are female...I guess they had to pick one or the other, right?

Another good question and I can't wait to see everyone's answers.

LibrarysCat (Scot-Irish - send me a kiss!)

10 March 2009

Tuesday Things

Question: Were you aware of the Member Giveaways Program? Have you posted any books in the giveaway? If so, what are your thoughts on the program? Have you requested any books, and if so, did you win any?On another note - does anyone have any special requests for upcoming discussions??

I have seen the new Member Giveaway program on Library Thing and I have to admit that I have not requested nor offered any books yet. I think there are two reasons for that: 1. I have a zillion books that I have read and not reviewed yet, and I have another zillion books that I need to read and review, and 2. I have to admit that I wanted to sort of sit back and see how it works for a bit. I am not sure why I am hesitant since really Library Thing has absolutely never disappointed me in any way, so I am sure that it works perfectly well. I hope that some of you post about your experiences with this new program!

Future topics for discussion - Perhaps we could turn the focus to books that we have in Library Thing - favorite book cataloged, last book cataloged, least favorite book cataloged, etc. Or even more random - books that start with an L! Guess which book? Provide part of a review and let people guess what book? Good grief, difficult to come up with ideas. Thanks for always providing us with discussion topics.


09 March 2009

4. Anne Frank: Child of the Holocaust

Anne Frank: Child of the Holocaust (The Library of Famous Women series) is a wonderful companion book to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. With additional pictures and details from Anne's life, this book shows how Anne lived before and during the war. There are also historical highlights which firmly place Anne, her family, and her friends in the horrible place and time where their world was frightening and awful. Still the love of these family members and friends shines through in this short biogrpahy.

The book also includes a short glossary, a brief list of references, and an index. These make the book even more useful for research purposes.

TITLE: Anne Frank: Child of the Holocaust
AUTHOR: Gene Brown
TYPE: non-fiction, biography
AWARDS: Many different Best Books awards

Another short book reviewed on my Holocaust Resources blog is The Cats in Krasinski Square. Check it out!

03 March 2009

Tuesday Things

Question: Were you aware of the Early Reviewer Program? Have you received any books from the program? If you have, how have you liked the book(s)? Any other thoughts on the LTER program?

I have been a member of the Early Reviewer program since July 2007. I got a book the very first month that I joined and really enjoyed it. In total, I have gotten seven books, including one from the February batch. Here is the list:

The Guardians
The Break-up Diet: A Memoir
Enlightenment for Idiots
Love Marriage
The Gates of Trevalyn
A Rose by any Name
Everyone is Beautiful

In the beginning, I would obsess over whether or not I got a book and was HUGELY disappointed when I did not get one, and pondered why I didn't get the book I thought was perfect for me. Now, I go in and make my selections - any that look interesting to me and it is serendipity when I snag a book. The best thing about the Early Reviewer program is getting to know all of you. And, like Wendi, I often find out about books that I would enjoy reading through the brief descriptions in the list of books. Overall, I have really enjoyed the books that I have snagged. Only one was not really my cup of tea, although it had the potential to be.

Also like Wendi I have read a ton of books that I have not had time to post reviews for and I am hoping to get caught up with myself soon. However, I am agonizing over my numbering system. I have been trying to keep up with how many books I read each year and now last year is messed up because I did not get the reviews done, and if I am them now, this year will be rather messed up too. AHHH! Someone tell me what to do!


01 March 2009

3. Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

Rena Kornreich was the 716th Jewish female to arrive at Aushwitz and this is her story and the story of her sister and friends. It is a story of survival, love, friendship and sharing. It is a beautiful story in all of its brutality. Rena was only 21 in 1942 when she left her home in Poland to live in Slovakia, hoping to escape the fate of Jews in her native land. Instead she was on the first transport of Polish Jews to the death camp.

Her goal throughout her captivity was to protect her younger sister, Danka who arrived at the camp a few days later. Rena's story is brutal in its detail and heart-warming in its sincerity. The two young women lived to tell about Aushwitz and the deaths there, being moved to Birkenau, and finally marched from camp as the war came near to its end.

Written with the assistance of Heather Dune Macadam, the following sentence describing the suicides of prisoners who threw themselves at the electric fences is full of meaning and sadness:

They hang, charred, in the electric wires of humanity. (p. 144)

It reminds me that this story does belong to all of us. To learn more about the author and her story visit The History Place: Writer's Corner. The authors point out that Rena's Promise is important because it is one of the few narratives from a survivor who was imprisoned so early and also female.

TITLE: Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz
AUTHOR: Rena Kornreich Gelissen with Heather Dune Macadam
PAGES: 275
TYPE: biography
RECOMMEND: Certainly to help us remember