Thursday, September 24, 2009

Racing in the Rain

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So I spent all my free time yesterday reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The story was good, but the point of view in which the story was told is what makes this book unforgetable. When I realized that the whole story was told through the eyes of a dog named Enzo I instantly fell in love. The Art of Racing in the Rain could have been narrated by any other character and it would have been just another story that I would have soon forgotten but because it was a canine narration this story is going to stick with me for awhile.

Enzo is the sweet canine and the constant companion of Denny Swift an up and coming race car driver. When we meet Enzo for the first time he is planning the events that will ultimately take him to the vet to be put down. Very sad I know, but Enzo is ready to leave this world as a very old dog with bad hips and be reincarnated as a human (a conclusion he comes upon from watching too much day time TV, especially National Geographic-so it must be true!). And as Denny makes that horrible phone call to the vet that we all dread to have to make someday, Enzo starts to recall his life with Denny and his family and the rocky road they had to travel. We get to see and understand how it must be to be a dog. How frustrating it is to not have a voice to tell your human that someone is chronically sick or someone is untrustworthy or someone did something wrong. How much he loves his companions and wants only to protect them from what ever frightens or threatens them (possessed zebras included). To remain loyal and give unconditional love. Enzo stays Denny's steadfast companion through the loss of his wife, the conviction of a crime he did not commit, and the fight for custody of his daughter. Through all the ups and downs Enzo is the one at Denny's side giving him unconditional love and comfort. 

I have a sweet pup named Martini (thats her to the right) so I could empathize with Denny every time he drew comfort from Enzo. I understand how it is to love a dog just like as you would love a human, so to be put in the mind of a dog for a few hours made me understand what Martini must think of me!  While I was reading The Art of Racing in the Rain I would stop every once in a while to look down at Martini and ask if she liked watching TV or if she could understand what I was saying, I was only answered with a knowing look and a few thumps of her tail, I don't know exactly what that meant but as Enzo says "Gestures are all I have."

P.S. They are making the book into a movie!  Woohoo!  Staring McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey).  Due to release in 2012.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein

If you like this book you will love: Marley and Me by John Grogen

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Golden Lilies

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One thing I am super passionate about is learning. I want to know about everything. I am known in my family to have a little nugget of information about whatever topic happens to be in discussion. So, when a story has me scurrying to Wikapedia or the library to research a new topic, that story gets a gold star in my book. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was one of those stories that made me get out my trusty notebook and dive into some research about the women in 16th century China. I was immersed in a strange world of foot binding (they call their bound feet Golden Lilies), embroidery, secret languages, and homemaking. I was stunned at the things I was learning as I finished chapter after chapter of this book.

In this story you will meet a young girl named Snow Flower and her friend Lily. These girls were paired up by a match maker as special friends (loatong - translating to "old sames") during their "foot binding years" and the story follows their lives as female soul mates from children through their marriages and finally until death separates them. Because the two girls live in neighboring villages they can only see each other a few times a year but they correspond to each other by writing in a secret language called Nu Shu that is only known to women. Snow Flower and Lily write their little notes on the back of a fan that they send back and forth to each other during their times apart. Eventually, as girl friends often do, they have a tiff and they realize during their period of giving eachother the "silent treatment" how much they truly mean to one another.

My mother-in-law recommended this book to me after she read it for her book club. Since then she has decided that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is her favorite book and I can certainly see why. If you want a beautifully written heartwarming story you are going to get it with this one. And while it isn't in my top faves I very much appreciate this book and would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to curl up with a good book.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See

If you liked this book also read: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Do We Suck Dr. Leary?

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I heart Denis Leary. I always have. He is, in my opinion, the funniest man in the world. Whether he is playing sexy firefighter Tommy Gavin on Rescue Me (you know my thing for sexy firefighters), or hurling hockey pucks on Rachael Ray, or writing articles for Playboy (I do read Playboy for the articles by the way), I have to stop what I am doing and soak up his words because they always have me in stitches. So when I was walking through the book store and saw him gracing the cover of a book called Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy, and Stupid, I knew I was in for a treat! I waited and waited for the library to have a copy available for me to read and on Monday when they finally called to tell me it was my turn to read this book I couldn't run the 2 blocks fast enough to go and pick it up! I flew through it in 2 days and laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

This is a book that you will find in the humor section of your book store so most people would think not to take it too seriously, but the message, although funny, is spot on to the title. It guides you through the web of traits that would make other countries hate us so much they would want to fly jets into our buildings and kill thousands of people. Throughout the book you are telling yourself, 'He isn't talking about me' but then you turn the page and you think, 'Huh, I do that, I think that, I wear that.' and then you realize that you are exactly who he is talking about. He is talking about each and every one of us including himself. In his free flowing rants he shows us our decline over the past 50 years and where we are headed. He offers no suggestion on how to change, only how we are spiraling out of control.

I know this sounds like a book that would piss a lot of people off (and it probably will), but along with offensive rants and dialogue I guarantee you will laugh until you cry. Here is a little glimpse of the prologue to show you what you are in for if you pick up this book:

"It's time to shave your back and pay attention to your kids and buy a bigger-size dress and stop wearing spandex until you lose a hundred pounds. Skinny jeans are meant for skinny people. In case you don't understand the term "skinny" - if your ass doesn't fit into a seat at the ballpark, hockey rink, or football stadium - yer fat. Too fat for skinny jeans.

What would Jesus say? What I just said. Only louder.

And his hands and feet would be bleeding so he'd probably be in a very pissy mood.

So listen up. I'm trying to help you here. It won't be pretty. But it will be damn funny. Strap yourself in. It's gonna be a bumpy-assed, roller-coaster-on- fire type of ride. No helmets allowed."

So lets just say that if that little intro offended you and you didn't laugh then don't read Why We Suck. If it offended you but you did laugh then read on my friend and let me know what you think about it when you are finished.

Why We Suck: A Feelgood Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid
by Dr. Denis Leary

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ladies of the Night

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Every time I think about The Crimson Petal and the White I get goose bumps. I am not all together sure where those goose bumps come from but I get them all the same and that is how I know that this is in my short list for "Geeb's Favorite Books of All Times". It is a long book (895 pages) but from the very beginning you are into it deep. I love the way it starts:

"Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you've read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether."

I feel like in this book Michel Faber became a modern day Dickens. He depicts a dark side of Victorian London with crazy characters that are up to no good and that you both love to hate and hate to love at the same time. Whores and their men; Mistresses and their servants; Masters and their Wives; Children and their Governesses. They all have an agenda here in this book and they are all using each other to get what they want.

The meat and potatoes of this store is about Sugar a lowly nasty lady of the night that catches the eye of William Rackham. Using her womanly ways she seduces William and starts to manipulate her way up the social ladder and right into William's house where he lives with his wife and daughter. I don't even want to ruin a minute of this book for you so I am not really going to expand on the plot line other than these few words.

This book is shocking, hateful, and very very sexy. Be prepared to be offended (if you are the kind that is offended even moderately), and be prepared to not be able to stop reading once you start.

P.S. I was walking through the book shop the other day and I noticed a book called The Apple by Michel Faber. It is a little hardback volume that looks like a novelty book but the back says that it is a collection of other Crimson Petal stories. I am not sure what that means but I will let you all know as soon as I read it!

The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michel Faber

If you like this book check out: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is Potato Peel Pie?

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This book was suggested to me by my Mother-in-Law, her book club had just finished reading it and she just knew I would love it. And I did, but to be honest it did take me a few pages to get into it. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a story written through a collection of letters, and this, I think, is why I was having a hard time getting into the story at first. After the first 5 letters or so I was asking myself why I was reading this book because I just couldn't connect with the characters but then after a few more letters I was so excited to see who the next letter was from and I started to feel like they were my friends and these letters were addressed to me!

The story is about the residents of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel, and how they coped with and survived the German Occupation during WWII. The letters are to and from an author that plans to write a story about Guernsey and it's inhabitants and in the process she not only becomes friends with these people but also becomes a resident of the island and a member of their Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as well. If ever there was an uplifting tale of WWII and Nazi Occupation this would be one. You just want to be apart of this community as it struggled against the Germans and tried to keep some sort of normalcy out of a bad situation.

I will say no more or I am going to spoil it for everyone, and if you want to know what Potato Peel Pie is you will have to read the book for yourself. I will tell you one thing though, after reading this book I have put Guernsey on my "must visit before I die" list.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

If you like this book please read: Suzanne's Diary for Nicolas by James Patterson

Greatest Show on Earth!

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Never judge a book by it's cover; that is what you always hear, but when I saw the beautiful cover of Water for Elephants just knew it would be a good read! As the cover suggests this is a story about the hey day of the traveling circus told through the eyes of a cranky old man in a nursing home. When we first meet Jacob Jankowski he is either ninety or ninety-three (he can't remember) in a nursing home complaining about old age and the way the nurses talk to him like a child. Then Jacob starts to tell the story if his life as a young man during the Prohibition and how he found a life for himself in the traveling circus after his parents died. He meets all sorts of characters like Walter the dwarf clown and his dog Queenie; Camel, the drunk that ends up drinking some moon shine and developing Jake Leg; Rosie the Polish Elephant; Uncle Al the Ring Master; and Marlena, Jacobs first love.

Every chapter of this book bounces you back and forth between modern day in the nursing home and whatever adventure Jacob is reminiscing over during his circus days. I couldn't decided which part of the book I liked the best. When we were in present day I had strong emotions for Jacob. I felt so bad for him waisting away in the nursing home with no family visiting him and when he talked he reminded me of my Grandpa and it just brought tears to my eyes that his good ol' days were over and all he had left were his memories and stories. But then as soon as he started telling stories of Rosie the mischievous elephant that only knew commands in Polish I was sure it was the circus stories that I loved the most. Either way I couldn't put this book down and I ate up every detail of the time era and the way life in the circus would have been during the Prohibition.

This would be another great book turned movie and a little birdie told me that Fox 2000 is well on it's way with the film for a 2010 release date!!!! Hooray!!!

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

If you like this book also read: The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks

Friday, September 11, 2009

They Call Me.... Una... Ahab's Wife

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I wanted my first official book post to be one of my favorite stories of all times, so it was easy to choose this book to start my blog off right. When I was in high school I saw the pastor of my Church reading this book. Rev. Lynn Lindsey always enchanted me because he had an office and a house full of dark wooden book cases packed to the gills with amazing literature. So when I saw him reading Ahab's Wife and then telling me how much he was enjoying it I knew I just had to get my hands on this book! Well it did not disappoint, I have read this book many times and every time I find something else to admire in the writing. Sena Jeter Naslund has done an amazing job drawing the reader in and entertaining them with the pictures she draws with her words.

Even though this story about Captain Ahab doesn't start with the famous line "They call me Ishmael" it still has all the makings of a classic novel, just like it's muse Moby Dick. This story is about Una (Ahab's wife as the title suggests) and her journey through life as a young girl, to an adventurous young woman, to Ahab's wife, and later as his widow. I don't know what exactly got me hooked but from the moment the bounty hunting dwarf dressed in wolf skin barged into Una's home searching for a runaway slave girl, all the while Una is groaning in the pains of labor I was in it for the long haul (how's that for a little tidbit to peak your curiosity). Like I said before, Naslund paints such a vivid picture of the rural wilderness of Kentucky, to the quaint town of Nantucket, (and of course the beautiful but unforgiving sea). I could see every moment of this story while it unfolded as if I were watching a movie (and I do so hope they make a movie)!

Ahab's Wife (or Star-Gazer)
by Sena Jeter Naslund

Entry One.

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Hello Fellow Readers,

Greatings! My name is Lauren (often and fondly called Geeb) and I am starting this blog to keep track of the volumes I read. I have been an avid reader since I was a small child and it has gotten to a point that I can't remember what books I have read, what books I want to read, and what books I have tried to read and just couldn't stomach past page 3. This will just help me out a bit and hopefully inspire others to read some books I have loved in the past (and hopefully discuss them with me as well? Maybe? Hopefully? Hint hint?). I average about 2 or 3 books a month so I am planning on blogging as I finish each book, and then adding in some of my all time faves that I have read in the past to beef up the content of my blog pages. Enjoy!

Some things you need to know about me:

1...I love reading hisorical fiction - if it happened in the past and someone wrote a novel about it I usually love it. From biblical times to WWII erra I am a sucker for any well writen book about the past.

2...I am a terrible speller. So terrible in fact that sometimes SpellCheck can't even help me. So just bear with me and if you see a mis-spelling don't judge.

3...I am married to my best friend and the man of my dreams- they are the same person if you were wondering. His name is Brendan.

4...I have a little boy that will be referred to on this blog as The Nugget.  He is obviously my pride and joy and much to my delight he is a book-o-holic too!  He is only a year old and we read all day long, he just brings me one book after another and backs up into my lap.  His favorite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl.  We have read this book about one million and ten times but I made a promise that I would NEVER EVER say no if he wanted me to read to him {even if that means I have to read about how many strawberries the freaking caterpillar ate... again}.  So The Very Hungry Caterpillar take one million and eleven here we go.....

5...I own my own business. It is a bridal boutique called The Couture Closet. I am not sure why this is important to my blog but I am sure it will come up at sometime or another.

6...In addition to this blog I am the author of 3 others (I am a bit of a blog-aholic). One is about my business  another is about my family, and the last is about style.

7...I have a dog named Martini and I am kinda stupid in love with her so I refer to her often. I am told this is an annoying habit so I apoligize in advance.

My Other Blogs:
Couture Closet (co-author with my business partner)
Montgomery KY (co-author with my hubby)