Bibliophage
 
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It is the early 1900's and Jessie has just been released from prison.  She was a horse rustler - someone who stole horses.  And now as part of a 'work release' program she has been given to Fitz,, a local farmer in the area, to work his farm.

She cleans for him, cooks, plows the land, tends to the various animals on the property and unfortunately for all of this - Fitz beats and rapes her.

Desperate to get away from Fitz, she hashes a plan to kill him and run away.  This book is mostly about how she killed him and got away.

I found this book interesting to read - especially because it was written from the perspective of Jessie's dead child.  However, there wasn't a lot in the book that made me think - and I like books that make me think!  So if you are into an easy read - than go for it.  Otherwise I'd skip it.

Rating: 6 / 10 
ISBN: 9780307272195
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons
Edition:  1st American Edition




 
 
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The novel opens with Hattie Kong a retired schoolteacher who's life has been interrupted by a family of Khmer Rouge refugees that have moved next door to her.  Hattie watches them through binoculars and soon becomes concerned about them as they are poverty-stricken.

Hattie goes over to visit them and relatively quickly forges a relationship with the teenage daughter Sophy (pronounced So-pee).  Sophy is sometimes reluctant to continue in the relationship with Hattie, but Hattie is adamant in her quest to help Sophy.

Hattie continues to be worried about the family as Sophy's father is an alcoholic and her brother is mixed up in a gang.  Also, two of Sophy's sisters are with foster families.

This book was as good as the other Gish Jen book I read, Mona in the Promised Land.   Definitely worth the read.


Rating: 8 / 10
ISBN: 9780307272195
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Edition:  1st Edition



 
 
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Dreamers of the Day is historical fiction from the early 20s when the middle east was in a state of flux and a handful of British and middle easterners got together to form the countries in the middle east that we know today.

Primarily it is about Agnes, who is a spinster and is left with a lot of money after all of her family dies from the flu epidemic that has swept the country.  She decides to go to Egypt and there falls in with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell.

While in Egypt, she falls in love with Karl a German traveler (and possible spy) and ends up having an affair with him.

There isn't a heck of a lot to the story and I didn't think it was realistic at times. (For example, Agnes, despite being a spinster from Cleveland in the 20s is somehow literate in middle eastern politics when even the people in the know barely understood the ins and outs of middle eastern politics.)

Plus an overly large section of the book was taken up with her time in Jerusalem where she soaked up all of the touristy things.  I got tired of reading about all of the places Jesus touched.  Finally, what I didn't know about the book when I bought it was that it was a love story - and I'm not overly fond of those.

I think the most irritating thing was how the author portrayed Gertrude Bell.  I am currently reading Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations and she is a much more regal and kind person in the biography than is portrayed in Dreamers of the Day.  Maybe neither version is the real version, maybe it is a mix between the two, but I much prefer the Gertrude Bell of Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations.

Rating: 6 / 10  
ISBN: 9781400064717
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 1st Edition




 
 
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Sigh.  I'm never reading an Orhan Pamuk book again.  This is the 2nd one I've read and I didn't have any luck understanding how the writer wrote with either novel.

This story was about 4 grand kids that go to visit their grandmother for a summer vacation.  All of the grand kids are in the early 20s and are obsessed with themselves.  Not one of them bothers to visit with their grandmother until it is time to leave and then they poo-poo what she has to say, kiss her hand and leave.

Of course lots of things happened between the beginning and the end of the book with the grandkid.  For example, Nilgun, the granddaughter is followed repeatedly by Hasan who is in love with her.  Or Metin, Nilgun and Faruk go partying.

Each chapter is told from the view of one of the grandkids, the Grandmother or Recep who is the son from an affair the grandfather had before he died.  The most frustrating chapters were from the grandmother who often repeated conversations from long ago in her head with her dead husband.  You could never tell when she was talking, or her husband and it was very frustrating to read.

So for me, I'm done with Mr. Pamuk.  You can go read him if you want and tell me what you thought.

Rating: 5 / 10  
ISBN:09780307700285
Publisher: Alfred A. Knoph
Edition: 1st American Edition





 
 
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This book has several plots running through it. The first plot is the love story between Nick and Thayer.  They fell in love when they were both camp counselors and then got out of touch with each other through no fault of their own.

Thayer then meets and marries Aengus, who is a professor of Celtic lore at the local university.  Only there is something slightly off with Aengus.  This is the other plot in the book.  Aengus starts hanging around at a local camp for kids on Burnt Mountain and becomes even stranger to Thayer.

I won't give away the big secret about what is going on - on Burnt Mountain, but I can say it wasn't very believable - and you are talking to the person who loves Vampire, Werewolf and Zombie stories!

The thing that made me cringe most about this book though, was the love story.  If I had realized it was a love story, I would have never read it.  

So there.  if the plot intrigues you enough, go read it.  Otherwise, I'd skip this one.

Rating: 6 / 10  
ISBN: 9780446527897
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Edition: 1st  Edition 


 
 
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Cutting for Stone (as it appears in the hipppocratic oath) means to not perform surgery on a patient if it isn't needed or if you aren't qualified to perform the surgery.

This book is about the surgeries that take place in a hospital in Ethiopia that is run by a nun.  More importantly it is about the lives of the people who perform the surgery.

One of the sisters who works at the hospital ends up getting pregnant by one of the doctors and dies in childbirth.  The story revolves around the  twins that were born and their foster parents (both doctors) that raised them.

Originally connected by skin at the head, the twins were separated at birth.  They both take different tracks to becoming surgeons and in the meantime become estranged because of a girl that came between them.

While this story is truly about the twins, the dead mother is ever present in their lives.  Both of the twins reach back to her when they are trying to make sense of their current lives.

I highly recommend this book for anyone!

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9780375414497
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Edition: 1st  Edition 





 
 
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Harriet is a young girl who's life is shrouded by the death of her older brother 10 years before.  Harriet is a very serious and strong-minded young girl with a lot of spirit and attitude.

She was only a baby when he died, but her family still reeled with the repercussions.  Her mother Charlotte stayed in bed everyday and hardly emerged from her room while Harriet and her sister Allison ran around town and did whatever they wanted.

Hely is Harriet's best friend and together they hatch a scheme to find out who murdered her older brother.  They determine the murderer is Danny, the brother of a local meth dealer. The adventure begins as they start to trail him around town.  And while they don't know what to do with the information that Danny is the murderer, they are determined to get back at Danny.

My mom recommended this book - in fact she loved it so much that she bought me my very own copy.  And I can see why she liked it.  The author is very eloquent and sets every scene so that you can feel, see and breath the same air as the characters in the book.


Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 0679439382
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Edition: 1st  Edition 




 
 
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The Engagements is part historical fiction and part pure fiction.  The author tells the story of 5 or 6 couples and their marriage and engagement rings (fiction) while also telling the true life story of Francis.  She was the copy editor for an advertising firm in the 50's who coined the phrase, 'A Diamond is Forever'.  

I was a little leery about reading this book because I didn't want to read a bunch of love stories, but I felt the story of Francis would be interesting to read.  I absolutely love reading stories about women who forged trails for the rest of us.

And the book turned out to be better than I thought it would!  The 5 or 6 couples that were fictionalized in the story were really relatable and I enjoyed how the author linked all of the characters together at the end of the book.  They weren't just 5 or 6 short stories of these couples with nothing in common but the theme.  

If you want to read a great story about Francis and find out how she survived in the male dominated 50's, then read this book!  The other couples are a bonus to the real story.

Rating: 8 / 10  
ISBN: 9780307958716
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Edition: 1st  Edition



 
 
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The front jacket of this book says it is a novel in 5 parts, but I honestly don't think it is a novel at all.  I can't see any thread that runs between the five parts so to me this book just seems like a book of 5 short stories.

As short stories, they were definitely interesting.  

The first story is about a man who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp after serving in the English military.  

Another story is about a child who is put in the poor house because his parents can't afford to feed all of the children anymore. 

In the 4th story of the book, we read about a couple of hippie musicians in 1971.

All of the stories are really well written and draw you in while you are reading them.  The problem that I found is that they aren't memorable.  When I sat down to write this post, I couldn't remember any of the stories.  I went back to the book and read a dozen pages or so to try and jog my memory about the stories - and I was only able to remember 3 of them.  It is for this reason that I am giving it a lower score.

Rating: 6 / 10  
ISBN: 9780805097306
Publisher: Henry Holt
Edition: 1st Edition




 
 
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It is the late 1700's and Jacob De Zoet is a clerk for a trading company out of The Netherlands.  Currently, he is in Japan auditing the financial books for inconsistencies.  He is not liked by his co-workers because they are afraid that Jacob will figure out that they have stolen from the company.

Jacob falls in love with Orito who was burned on half her face as a child.  Just as he proposes to her, she is whisked away to a nunnery that is next to a monastery.  Orito is forced to live there because of debts her step mother incurred.  The debt is to be repaid by Orito through her skills as a midwife to the nuns in the nunnery.  

If you are starting to get the idea this nunnery isn't like what we'd expect in the U.S. - then you are right!  There are a lot of strange things going on in this nunnery and it is up to Jacob and his Japanese friends to free Orito. 

This is a very satisfying novel.  Even though it is about love, there are so many other things going on in the book, that you don't feel it is JUST about Jacob's love for Orito.  It is about the trading company and the people that work for it and it is about the singular customs and mysteries of Japan.

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9781400065455
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 1st Edition