Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book #11: Townie by Andre Dubus III

Townie by Andre Dubus III is a memoir of the author's life, focusing quite a bit on his relationship with his father. Mr. Dubus spent many of his teen and young adult years fighting. His reasons, he realized later, were selfish. He had spent so long living in fear of others that when he learned to fight, telling himself it was to protect himself and others, he actually did it to make himself feel good about not being scared anymore.

His fighting also brought about a new aspect to his relationship with his father. They began to be friends. He didn't understand a lot of the things his father enjoyed, nor did his father understand exactly what his son's life had been like since he had left. His father was proud of how he was able to defend himself and others, though. That made the author feel both happy and ashamed.

It was quite interesting to watch the author evolve from a scared boy in a poor neighborhood, to a tough guy that never backed down from a fight, to an educated, compassionate young man, to a writer.

The thing about this book was that although it wasn't the "I-can't-put-it-down" type, it was a book that after I had been away from it for a while, I was anxious to get back to it to see what was going to happen next in the author's life. Quite honestly, it was a slow read. In fact, it took me a month to read it. I'm glad I did, though. It was a peek into a lifestyle that I would otherwise have no idea about the existence of.

I would encourage anyone who enjoys memoirs to give it a try. Even if you don't speed through it in one night, it's a good story.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book #10: Cat Stories by James Herriot

I was loaned this book by a friend who knew I would love it and she was right! Again, it's a compilation of short stories, all by James Herriot.

Cat Stories is a collection of 10 short tales, all about cats. Some are a little sad, but all are sweet.

Cat Stories would make a great gift for the cat lover in your life!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book #9: Angel Cats: Divine Messengers of Comfort by Allen & Linda Anderson

I like to read books which are compilations of short stories and I like to read about cats, so Angel Cats: Divine Messengers of Comfort was a no-brainer for me to pick up.

Since losing my beloved cat, Sebastian, I've been interested in the spiritual connection we have with our pets. Angel Cats had several stories with just that subject. It's comforting to hear about other people and the relationship they have with their cats.

The book is edited by Allen and Linda Anderson who run the Angel Animals Network. Each story is written by a different author and is a personal story about a cat (or cats) they have had in their lives. We are shown glimpses of relationships by reading about the loving, playful, and teaching moments people have with their cats.

Many stories brought me to tears. They reminded me of my own relationships with cats. I also enjoyed the meditation at the end of each story. It assisted me in reflecting on my own experiences.

If you're a cat lover and have had a special cat in your life, you will really enjoy this book. It's one you can sit and read for a long stretch or you can read one story at a time, then spend some time thinking about what you've just read. I also think it would make a great gift for that cat lover in your life!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book #8: Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey

I don't know that I've ever read a novel as frightening and intriguing as Juliann Garey's Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See. It is the story of Greyson Todd, a successful Hollywood studio exec, who battles bipolar disorder-somewhat unsuccessfully.

The book moves between Greyson's younger years, dealing with his father's unpredictability; his time before he left his wife and tried to keep his bipolar disorder under control and out of the spotlight; the time he spent travelling the world anonymously; and his horrific treatment.

There are times in the book that are so scary, you want the scene to stop. How could someone do the things he does? Doesn't he realize what he's doing? His madness is overwhelming, even to the reader.

I started out feeling that his wife was cold and selfish, soon I realize she's not. She's suffered along with him and tried to help him the best she can, but it doesn't keep him from spiralling out of control into his psychosis.

I never wanted to put this book down. Ms. Garey does such a wonderful job laying out the scenes that I had to know more about her. Not surprisingly, she suffers from bipolar disorder. She has the unique insight needed to portray the details of Greyson's instability.

I absolutely loved this book. It was also chosen by Amazon as their "Best of the Month" in December 2012, so I'm not the only one who believes this book is amazing! It's absolutely one of the best books I've ever read and has given me new perspective on bipolar disorder.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book #7: Faith by Jennifer Haigh

After reading a book I didn't enjoy, I was thrilled to read Faith by Jennifer Haigh. It was amazing! I'm talking I-don't-want-to-put-the-book-down amazing.

Faith is a novel set in Boston and narrated by a woman whose brother, a priest, is accused of molesting a boy. I'm sure we all remember the terrible scandal that broke regarding rampant misconduct within the Catholic church. This novel gives the reader an idea of what the families of the accused must have went through.

The narrator, Sheila, is close to her brother Art. From the beginning, she believes that he would never do such a thing as harm a child. Their other brother, Mike, thinks the accusations are true. Through the telling of the story, many other dark secrets are revealed in the family that prefers to keep things quiet.

It's hard not to feel sorry for even the darkest of characters in the story. They all have qualities that draw you in, but then you are left at times disillusioned by their actions.

Jennifer Haigh has written an amazing story. It kept me up late at night, not just from reading it, but from laying in bed thinking about it. I wish the story could have gone on and on.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book #6: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda Janzen's memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress sounded very promising. What's not to like about a book that starts out when the author's marriage ends because her husband leaves her for a guy named Bob he met on

Ms. Janzen tries to take a humorous look at her life, one in which she was raised Mennonite, left the religion, and still appreciated how much that lifestyle shaped her. Unfortunately, I felt like she was trying too hard to be funny and most of the time it just fell flat. Not to mention the uncountable number of times she mentions her husband leaving her for a guy named Bob he met on

I liked the glimpse into the Mennonite life, one that is different from the religion I had imagined. In fact, Ms. Janzen included an appendix that answered some common questions about the Mennonite life. Here again, she just tried too hard to be funny, but it wasn't.

I'm not one to give up on a book, but I seriously considered it with this one. There were 3 chapters toward the end of the book that I enjoyed, but the rest of the book bored me, frankly.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book #5: Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

I once again return to a favorite: the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Explosive Eighteen begins with Stephanie returning from an ill-fated trip to Hawaii. When she gets home she discovers a photo in her bag of a man she has never seen before. She doesn't know where it came from, so she throws it away.

Little does she know, lots of people are after that photo. Of course, nobody believes her when she tells them that she no longer has it. And the trouble begins!

Stephanie is still torn between two men and has her car stolen twice by the same skip. So it's still the usual Stephanie Plum. The usual Stephanie Plum is also funny. Who would get their hair colored and teased in order to gain information? Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter. (You don't see Ranger doing that kind of stuff!)

I was a little disappointed in the ending, I felt like it ended abruptly. Everything was wrapped up, but just a bit too quickly. It seemed rushed to me.

As are the other books in this series, Explosive Eighteen was a fun, light read. It goes fast and makes the reader laugh. It gets my recommendation!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book #4: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

I was lucky enough to receive yet another box of books from my dear friend @kayakgal. The first book I read from the box was Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. I'm so glad I picked it up first. What a fascinating read!

The author chronicles her personal medical mystery in Brain on Fire. Much of the book is derived from her research because she has few memories of the traumatic ordeal. In the beginning, she thinks the is bipolar. Soon, she starts experiencing seizures. The doctors can't figure out what is going on with her. They run tests, conduct MRIs and EEGs, but everything comes back negative. They don't know whether what she is suffering from is physical or psychological. She is obviously physically unwell, but at the same time she is exhibiting signs of psychosis.

Finally, a doctor comes on her case who not only tells her he will figure it out, he actually does. He does much more for her than the doctor who said she simply had a drinking problem.

A secondary part of the story is Susannah's relationships. She and her father become much closer because of her ordeal. Her fairly new boyfriend stuck by her, something I bet many guys would not have done. Her mother, to whom she had always been close, was the person she took her anger out on. However, they too became even closer.

Susannah does an amazing job of putting her story together. Luckily, she had journals, videos, and memories from those around her to turn to. It is fascinating to read about how her illness started and quickly worsened until she was basically catatonic, then how she began to recover and regain her life.

She also does a great job at explaining technical neuroscience in a way that is understandable to those with a minimal knowledge of such medical terms. I'm so glad I got to read Susannah's story and hope the best for her in the future.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book #3: Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

When I heard that Homer the Blind Cat's mom, Gwen Cooper, was writing another book I was very excited. Homer's biography was a favorite of mine, so I knew I would love Gwen's new novel.

Love Saves the Day is a work of fiction, but the two cats in the book, Prudence and Honey, are based on Homer's real-life sisters, Scarlett and Vashti, both now at the Rainbow Bridge.

Prudence lives a happy life with Sarah, her Most Important Person, until one day, Sarah doesn't come home. Prudence then goes to live with Laura, Sarah's daughter, but is sad and confused about all of the changes. Laura is going through her own confusion and sadness. Through the hard times, Prudence and Laura start to bond.

Prudence is a very proper cat. She is dismayed when humans show bad manners toward her. She also doesn't understand when humans don't pick up on her very clear signals. Sarah was always polite and knew how things were supposed to be done. Laura and her husband Josh need training in these aspects. It's a task Prudence takes on, all while trying not to lose her Sarah-memories.

Love Saves the Day is very moving. All of the love between the characters is beautiful. You will most certainly need tissues. I cried a lot!

Harvey gives it two paws up.


Sarah and Laura have a very strained relationship. Chapter 13 finally explains the reason for this distance. I cried a lot during this chapter. It took me back to last February, watching our apartment building burn down. We, along with all of our neighbors, lost our home. One neighbor in particular was not allowed to go back in to get his cat.
It was almost as if Gwen had been there that night and fictionalized the scene. In the book, Sarah and Laura watch their apartment building get torn down while their upstairs neighbor begs to go back in for his cat. At one point, I was sure Gwen was trying to kill me. I sobbed trying to get through chapter 13. Gwen did a beautiful job describing a horrific moment in people's lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book 2: The Long Quiche Goodbye-A Cheese Shop Mystery by Avery Aames

I love cheese. I really love cheese. When I spotted a series called "A Cheese Shop Mystery" I knew I had to read the first book. Written by Avery Aames, The Long Quiche Goodbye is a cozy mystery with Charlotte Bessette acting as the novice detective while she is busy running her family's cheese shop, Fromagerie Bessette.

At the grand opening of the store, Ed Woodhouse is murdered right outside the front door. Charlotte's Grandmère, also the town's mayor, was found near his body, covered in blood. She claims innocence, but is arrested.

Charlotte goes to work trying to figure out who the real killer is. Could it be Kristine, Ed's wife & Grandmère's opponant for mayor? Maybe it's Meredith, Charlotte's best friend. Charlotte comes up with many different suspects, each of whom she thinks may have good reason to kill Ed.

I felt the book moved a little slowly in the beginning, but once it got rolling it was easy to stick with. A bonus of the book is that the cheese dishes mentioned throughout the story are actually shared at the end of the book with their full recipes!

I'm definitely going to read the next book in the series, Lost and Fondue. I have to find out what happens with Charlotte and hunky Jordan!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book 1: Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski

I decided to read Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski first thing this year. I lost my dear kitty Sebastian last June and have had a very hard time dealing with the grief. I wanted to start the new year with a fresh look at the loss and try to move on.

I'm so glad I read this book. It helped me put things into perspective about my loss. Mr. Kowalski talks about the cycle of life in a way that helped me accept things. He also spoke about the afterlife, which put my mind at ease.

There is a section of readings at the end of the book that can be used in a memorial ceremony for a deceased pet. They vary in length and style. Some are biblical passages and some are quotes from books. Whatever your religious views, you should find something that fits your needs.

I would suggest this book for anyone who has lost a beloved pet. This is also a book that I would consider gifting to a friend who is dealing with this type of loss.

The book is short. I read it in just a couple of hours. It's a book that I know I will read again sometime in the future, as our pets just don't live as long as we would like.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Reading Challenge

I wasn't able to complete my 2012 reading challenge. I only read 20 books and I had set a goal of 40. I'm slowly rebuilding my library after last February's fire, so I have plenty to read! I'm going to try for 40 books again this year.

We are moving into a new home next month and it's my dream to have my own reading nook in the basement. I even have a cozy reading chair picked out! I might add a few updates about that to this blog as it comes along.

I would like to re-read Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain this year. I also have a book of daily devotionals for pet lovers. Everything else is up in the air. As I find books that look good or are recommended to me, I'll read them.

I'm looking forward to a year of great books and I wish the same for you!

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Amy has read 0 books toward her goal of 40 books.