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Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve

>> Sunday, May 31, 2009

Genre: Memoir
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 215
Support Your Local Library Challenge #24, The Southern Reading Challenge #2

I’m not normally a big memoir fan, but when I read this
review at Maggie Reads I put this one on my TBR list. Since Warm Spirngs is in Georgia, I decided to include it for the Southern Reading Challenge.

“Traces are little whispers of life in muscles destroyed by the polio virus.” Susan Richards Shreve had polio when she was a baby and doesn’t have any real recollection of her life without paralysis in her right leg. But there were traces of life in those muscles so in 1950 eleven year old Susan went to stay at the Warm Springs Polio Foundation. She spent much of the next two years there undergoing surgery and therapy and for most of that time her parents and little brother remained in their Washington, DC home.

I was born after the introduction of polio vaccine, so I only know what I’ve read of how the epidemics impacted people. This memoir was quite interesting and although I hesitate to use the word enjoy for a story of an ordeal I cannot imagine going through as a child, I thought it was a very good book.

Shreve combines her own story with bits of history of Warm Springs and FDR, polio epidemics, and society in the forties and fifties. She was a very determined young girl who dreamed of the day she would leave Warm Springs completely healed. In retrospect she explores the sense she had that her illnesses put a burden on her family and the guilt she felt for that. She explores her complicated relationship with her mother. She also talks about happy (and sad) times visiting and helping in the babies ward at Warm Springs. Shreve grew up to become a novelist and her early development as a storyteller may be a result of her illnesses and also some of the motivation for her determination to succeed.

Although a loner, she developed some friendships with other children at Warm Springs, as well as important relationships with some of the nurses, doctors and the Catholic priest. Parts of this book are incredibly sad, and parts are remarkably triumphant. All in all an interesting look at a time and place that the polio vaccine has put firmly into the past.


Library Loot - May 29

>> Friday, May 29, 2009

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I made some progress on a better library balance this week. I try to keep what I have at home to a manageable level. I read 3 and only checked out 2 so I’m not feeling stressed by my library books right now.

New this week are:

Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer. I’ve never read any of Heyer’s books, but I keep seeing all kinds of reviews that make me want to try one. This one looked fun.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A classic I’ve never read. I decided that I want to go the audio route on this one and when I discovered this version by Recorded Books on the library website I seriously did a little chair dance. It’s read by Barbara Rosenblat. She’s one of my very favorite audiobook readers. It’s 15 cds and I really don’t know when I’ll get around to listening to it, but I’ll get it loaded onto my ipod for when I’m ready.


The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

>> Thursday, May 28, 2009

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 308
Support Your Local Library Challenge #23, The Southern Reading Challenge #1

I loved Joshilyn Jackson’s first two books, but for some reason this one hadn’t worked its way up to the top of my TBR list until I decided to include it for this year’s Southern Reading Challenge. Jackson is from Alabama and definitely has a talent for writing southern characters that can be outrageous and touch your heart at the same time.

While this book was an enjoyable read, it just didn’t grab me quite as much as her first two books did. Maybe it was because the setting was primarily in an affluent suburban area in Florida. While there were parts of the story that took place in smaller, less urban places that sang with the kind of uniqueness that I’m used to from Jackson, it just didn’t feel like the book took me to such a sense of ‘place’ as her others.

Laurel Hawthorne lives with her husband and daughter Shelby in an gated community in Florida. When Laurel is awakened one night by the ghost of a young girl, she discovers that girl’s body in her backyard swimming pool. With her world thrown into a tailspin, Laurel finds herself reaching out for stability and reassurance to her workaholic husband, her troubled daughter, and her headstrong and wild sister Thalia. Laurel tries to protect Shelby from the investigation just as she’s tried to protect both Shelby and her husband from her own past. Laurel’s family ties to a backwoods Alabama community of DeLop and a long held family secret are only parts of what is threatening the stability of Laurel’s world. Thalia seems to want to make Laurel face her troubles, but at the same time seems to be going about it all wrong.

There was a lot going on in this book. Two mysterious deaths, family issues between sisters as well as mothers and daughters and spouses. Although the focus of the story was on Laurel and her sister Thalia, there were so many other elements that it ended up feeling a bit unfocused to me. All in all, I liked it, but I’d recommend “gods in Alabama” and “Between, Georgia” before this one.


Audiobook – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

>> Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Genre: Fiction
Series: #2 in the Hitchhiker’s series
Publication Date: 1980
Read by: Martin Freeman

The craziness that began with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy continues in this second volume of a trilogy that is now 5 parts. Douglas Adams was some kind of genius. The combination of Science Fiction, comedy, and fable just kept me giggling as I drove and listened to this one. If you haven’t read or listened to The Hitchhiker’s Guide, do so, then continue with the series. Since they were originally written as radio shows, they really work well as audiobooks.

Arthur Dent of the late destroyed planet Earth and his friend Ford Prefect (originally from somewhere near Betelgeuse) continue their adventures with Trillian (also a refugee from Earth), Zaphod Beeblebrox (the 2 headed, 3 armed ex-president of the galaxy), and Marvin (a paranoid and depressed android).

After that it starts to get a little crazy. The part where the spaceship is seconds away from doom, and the computer is totally focused on making Arthur an acceptable cup of tea just had me giggling all the way home from the store. The titular restaurant literally is a dinner theater where the attraction is the final destruction of the universe. Grammer lessons are included because after all, when you can jump around in time the whole concept of being limited to present, future and past tense is a bit limiting. In the first book we learned that ultimate answer is 42, but what is the question?

The randomness and humor of this is thoroughly entertaining and I can’t wait to listen to the remaining 3 books in this “increasingly inaccurately named trilogy”.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

>> Monday, May 25, 2009

Series: #1 in a trilogy (which I did not know)
Genre: YA, Science-Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 374
Support Your Local Library Challenge #22

First of all: “End of Book One” ??? How did I not know this? And how soon can I get on the library waiting list for the 2nd book (which comes out in September)?

Sheesh! OK, I know that not being aware that this is the first in a planned trilogy is my own fault. It’s because when I first started seeing reviews of this book I skimmed them because this book falls into two genres I rarely read: YA and Science-Fiction. I noticed that people liked it a lot, but it really didn’t start catching my attention until the number of positive reviews just kept growing and growing. Enough of my blogger buddies who share my reading taste praised this book that I just had to give in and get myself on the library waiting list. At that point, I continued to skim the ever growing number of good reviews so I wouldn’t get spoiled before reading it. See – my fault.

Now I’m going to add myself to the endless list of bloggers who have really enjoyed this book. I’m eagerly anticipating the second book.

Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old living in District 12 of the nation of Panem in what used to be known as North America. The Capitol rules over and is supplied by the 12 districts. There used to be 13 districts before a failed rebellion. Now, to remind the citizens that the Capitol is in charge, the annual Hunger Games are televised and watching is mandatory.

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
When the drawing to select this year’s tributes is held in District 12, Katniss’ younger sister Prim’s name is the one drawn. Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place.

It’s like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, meets Stephen King’s (as Richard Bachman) The Long Walk and The Running Man, meets Mark Burnett and reality TV.

This was such a good book. The combination of the insane pageantry surrounding the “games’ with the tension and action once the games actually got started made it difficult to put down. I knew early on that Katniss was a bit of a rebel because her hunting that provided food for her family had already made her a rule-breaker who questioned the government’s rules. But once she put herself in her sister’s place as tribute she was forced to play along with the rules. I loved rooting for Katniss and loved watching her develop. September seems like a long way away. The book definitely didn’t end without a valid resolution to the story, so don’t fear that. Instead look forward to more.

This is a book that lived up to the hype.


Higher Authority by Stephen White

>> Friday, May 22, 2009

Series: #3 in the Dr. Alan Gregory series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1994
Pages: 420
TBR 2009 Challenge Alternate #6, Support Your Local Library Challenge #21

Although this is the 3rd in the series featuring Boulder, Colorado psychologist Dr. Alan Gregory, he’s more of a supporting character in this book.

Gregory’s fiancé Lauren Crowder travels to Salt Lake City to provide moral support and money for her sister’s sexual harassment lawsuit which is being handled by a former classmate and friend of Lauren’s, Robin Torr. The lawsuit has many elements that make it politically tricky. A high level Mormon leader has been appointed to the Supreme Court and Lauren’s sister is alleging that his female chief clerk (also a Mormon) is the harasser in the case.

Then, people involved in the case start getting brutally murdered. Who (or what) is behind the killings? The Church itself?, some fanatic?

This was an OK thriller and mystery. The author has clearly done a lot of research into the Mormon Church and culture and that part was fascinating. However, there were elements of the story that annoyed me. These include the lack of presence of Dr. Gregory for much of the book, and Lauren’s sister who seems to be absent with no real good reason, leaving Lauren and Robin to pursue the case without input from their client.

Despite the flaws, I thought the book was interesting enough, but not something I would go out of my way to recommend. I do hope the next in the series gets back to Alan and the psychological thriller type stuff that I enjoyed in the first two books.


Library Loot – May 20

>> Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I’m negative on the library balance this week. Returned one, but checked out 2 more. At this rate, I’ll never get to the books I own. I can’t help it. I go into the library and books jump into my arms.

Here’s what I currently have out from the libraries:

Higher Authority by Stephen White
I’m reading this one now. It’s a mystery involving a sexual harassment suit against the Mormon chief clerk for the first Mormon Chief Justice. I’m not sure where it’s headed yet, but I’m pretty sure the LDS church will be the bad guy. I’ve enjoyed Stephen White’s other books in this series, but Alan Gregory has not had any real presence in this one yet. I don’t think I’ll finish it before it’s due on Friday, but since there’s another hold on it I can’t renew. Guess I’ll have a late fee.

I’ll get to these soon:

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
I heard about this one from the Mystery Lovers group on Goodreads. It looks promising.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
All the positive reviews have convinced me to give it a try even though it’s not my usual type of book. I think this will be my next book.

This is what I checked out this week:

Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve
I heard about this one from when I read this
review at Maggie Reads. This is one of my books for the Southern Reading Challenge.
by Joshilyn Jackson
Another book I’ll be reading for the Southern Reading Challenge. I enjoyed Jackson’s first two books but haven’t gotten around to this one yet.


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

>> Sunday, May 17, 2009

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 534
Support Your Local Library Challenge #20

What an excellent book! Thanks again go to my friend Eleanor because when she rates a book 5 stars, I pay attention.
Her review on Goodreads convinced me to get on the library waiting list and I’m so glad I did. I’m actually going to miss reading it now that I’ve finished.

Dr. Marion Stone was born in 1954 and grew up at a mission hospital in Ethiopa. His mother was a nun from India, his father was a talented English surgeon. His mother died after giving birth to Marion and his twin brother, their father abandoned them and disappeared that same day. Raised by two doctors during a turbulent time in Ethiopia’s history, the two boys did not lack for family. Marion and his brother were close friends as well as rivals. It’s incredibly difficult to summarize the story without rambling but I will say that Marion ends up working in a poor hospital in New York where past betrayals reenter his life and the story comes full circle.

Moving between India, Ethiopia, and America, this is a story of families formed and families destroyed. The writing is wonderful and the characters will stay with me for a long time. Even the detailed medical information and descriptions are well written. When I was trying to tell The Hubster about the book I ended up rambling hopelessly because the story is complex. He said it sounded a bit like the style of The Kite Runner and I think he’s right. There’s somewhat of a similar feel although it’s a very different kind of story than The Kite Runner.

I got emotionally involved with this book. The characters became very real for me. Even the minor characters had an impact. It really reads almost like a memoir rather than fiction.

Don’t miss this one. It’s that good.


Library Loot – May 14

>> Thursday, May 14, 2009

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I’ve never done a Library Loot post, but as much as I use my libraries and considering I’m participating in the Support your Local Library Challenge this year, it’s high time I started doing so on a regular basis.

I’m fortunate to be able to have access to two very excellent county library systems. I work in one county and live in another so both are easily accessible and rarely am I without one or more library books checked out.

Here’s what I currently have out from the libraries:

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
I’m nearing the halfway point in this one and really enjoying it.

Higher Authority by Stephen White
I think I need to read this one next because someone else has a hold request on it so I won’t be able to renew it. I’d rather go ahead and read it than wait and request it again later.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart
I heard about this one from the Mystery Lovers group on Goodreads. It looks promising.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
All the positive reviews have convinced me to give it a try even though it’s not my usual type of book. It’s another one that has holds that prevent renewing, but I just checked it out today so I have it for three weeks.

These are the Books on CD that I’ve had out long enough this week to load them onto my ipod for later listening.

Miss Julia Paints the Town by Ann B, Ross
A fun light series.

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters
I just finished #6 in the series so needed to get #7 on the ipod.


Audiobook - The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters

>> Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Series: #6 in the Amelia Peabody Series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1991
Read by: Barbara Rosenblat

This is such a fun series to listen to in the car. The stories are engaging, the characters are becoming old friends now that I’m in the 6th book of the series. The bits of humor have me getting looks from other drivers when I’m laughing out loud to myself while alone in the car.

Amelia Peabody and her husband Radcliffe Emerson are Egyptologists and Archaeologists exploring in the late 1800’s. As usual, their plans to spend the annual season at a dig in Egypt go a bit awry. Before they even leave England, they are asked by surviving family members to search for a long lost explorer and his wife, who went missing in Egypt 14 years earlier. When the Emerson’s travel plans are thwarted by an apparent epidemic of dying camels, they find themselves in the middle of the desert facing death. Well we know that’s not going to happen, don’t we?

Are the Forth’s still alive? Is there some sort of secret lost civilization still thriving and undiscovered by the expanding British Empire? If so, will the Emersons be able to resist the opportunity for study and exploration? Will that put them and their son in danger? Of course it will, and that’s what makes this series such fun.

This book is more of a downright adventure story than archaeological mystery which is a bit of a nice change. The reading by Barbara Rosenblat is well done and entertaining. She gets just the right amount of sarcasm in just the right places to just crack me up in the middle of an adventurous romp through the desert.


Mother's Day

>> Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mom, her older sister, and Grandma (1952)

Mom would have been about 16, her older sister in her late 20's and Grandma 49 years old.

I don't usually do any sort of Mother's Day post because at this point in our lives, we're childless orphans so Mother's Day is pretty much a non-event at our house. However a few weeks ago I received this picture in the mail (a different aunt had found it among some pictures she was sorting). I liked this picture a lot and decided to post it today.

Happy Mother's Day to all of my friends who mother me when I need it most.


Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

>> Saturday, May 9, 2009

Series: #4 in the Blossom Street series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 393
Support Your Local Library Challenge #19

This is one of two series by Debbie Macomber that I read and enjoy. The other is her Cedar Cove series. They make great ‘palate cleansing’ type books on my menu. After a darker or heavier book, this is the kind of light relaxing stuff I enjoy.
The Blossom Street series has a yarn shop on Seattle’s Blossom Street as it’s central location. Each book in the series includes some returning characters as well as shop owner Lydia and a few of the characters from previous books. Each book focuses on a few characters who take a knitting class at the shop from Lydia. Of course friendships are developed,, secrets are hidden and revealed and much tea is consumed. Like all of Macomber’s books, the focus in on women and their lives and the reader knows that everything will most likely turn out for the good in the end.

As a nod to the yarn shop locale and the author’s love for knitting there are also patterns included in the books related to whatever Lydia’s current class is knitting.

A nice light, predictable, enjoyable read.


The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

>> Thursday, May 7, 2009

Series: #1 in the Simon Serrailler series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 438
Challenges: none

This is a British mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing and the mystery are both well done.

I was pleased when I first opened the book and found a map of the Cathedral town of Lafferton at the very beginning. I love books with maps! There’s a pretty extensive cast of characters in this one, but getting to know them and wondering which ones may or may not be recurring characters is fun. If I hadn’t known that this was the first in a series featuring DCI Simon Serrailler, I would not have guessed, because he actually plays more of a supporting role in much of this book.

The story opens with a disappearance. The Hill is an area of Lafferton where people walk, run, bike, and just enjoy the day. But when people start disappearing with no trace and don’t seem to have anything in common, it begins to take on a possibly sinister feel. Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham has recently transferred from London to the smaller town of Lafferton and takes an interest in the missing persons cases and feels that somehow they are connected.

At the same time as this storyline is developed, there is also another about alternative medicine practitioners (some good, some simply charlatans). DCI Serrailler is (according to his father) the black sheep in a family of all physicians for choosing to go into police work instead of medicine. Serrailler’s sister plays a role in this alternative medicine storyline. The reader knows that the plots will connect, but discovering how that develops is what is so well done.

Interspersed are occasional transcripts from a tape by an unknown character. Is it the killer? Is it someone the reader already knows?

The first part of this book took me a little while to get into, partly because of the number of characters introduced, but before long I couldn’t put it down and was quite annoyed when I actually had to go to work and get on with real life and put the book down. I’m looking forward to returning to Lafferton in the next book in the series.


Southern Reading Challenge Three

>> Monday, May 4, 2009

Yay!! One of my very favorite challenges is back for another year. I decided to drastically reduce my challenge participation this year, but was holding a space in my planning for this one and Maggie’s post yesterday just made my day.

The Southern Reading Challenge is back and I’m in for another year.

It's that time of year!

The time when you pour a glass of lemonade or sweet tea and take your official summer spot on the porch. Lean back in that chase lounge surrounded by geraniums and ferns, and begin the summer long journey into Southern culture.

Yes, it's hot!

Yes, it does get uncomfortable, but it is well worth the effort as you discover our unique "Southern" point of view.

You may choose to read any style of Southern book such as Appalachian tales, Civil War sagas, Gothic myths, Grit lit, and heart-wrenching biographies. Click here for ideas. Just as long as you read three (fiction or nonfiction) between May 15th and August 15th.

Thank you, Maggie – I’m not sure which three I’ll read, but here are the books that qualify that are already on my TBR list. I should have no trouble reading three of these


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