Tuesday Top Ten


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to list the top ten phrases or words that draw you to a book – that cause you to pick-up a book at the library or buy it at the bookstore.

  1. BOOKS!  Books about books, bookstores, book groups, libraries, authors – I am truly a bibliophile and will pick up anything that mentions books.  I probably could’ve made my entire list out of book-related phrases, but it felt like it would be cheating…
  2. The Beach – If I could spend my days on the beach, watching the ocean (no matter the weather) with a book in my hand I would be exuberant!
  3. Ireland – The only Irish thing about me is my husband, but I love to read about Ireland, whether it’s a story of work-weary folks struggling to survive or a story of mysticism and belief, it always seems to be a world in which I become engrossed.
  4. Italy – Although I’ve never been there, I love books about Italy – the art, the music, the architecture, the history, the food…  I really need to plan a trip!
  5. Food – I love books about food, especially those that so artfully describe the art of creating it and the joy of consuming it.  I love to cook and while these books always make me hungry, they also inspire me to try new culinary creations of my own!
  6. The South – Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life shivering in upstate NY, but I always love stories of the south – the relaxed pace and the warm air.
  7. Road Trip – There’s something about the idea of heading out on the road, leaving your cares and responsibilities behind, and heading out on an unknown adventure that is always appealing.
  8. Mystery – I admit it, I love a good mystery, and even some not-so-good mysteries – be they thrillers or fun cozy-mysteries I love a whodunit.
  9. Founding Fathers – I am always intrigued by our founding fathers and others from the revolutionary time in our country’s history – admittedly Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Abigail Adams are my favorites, but I will take more than a passing glance at a book about anyone during that time period.
  10. Tech Stuff – Must be the engineer in me still lives on to some extent, I love geek books (maybe not the technical volumes anymore, but still geeky nonetheless) – Skunkworks by Ben Rich and Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder are two that I found inspiring and fascinating.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Much to the chagrin of some of my more loyal followers, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.  I like the idea of non-fiction, but unfortunately, for me, it is too rarely done really well.  I am a storyteller and a lover of stories, reading a book that feels like a textbook, a research paper, or a treatise on someone’s personal opinions (often supported by their own personal interpretation of facts) just doesn’t work for me.  In this week’s top ten I talked about 1776 by David McCullough and how I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped.  I wanted to be told the story of 1776, I did not want to read a research paper on 1776, and while it was a well-written and well-researched book, it still felt like a research paper to me.  Being a fan of Thomas Jefferson (how can you not like a guy who donates 47,000 books to the Library of Congress?), I approached reading this book with some trepidation – I did not want to read a textbook about Jefferson, I wanted to be told his story, and I was not disappointed.

“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson

jeffersonJon Meacham tells the story of Thomas Jefferson brilliantly; while it is well-researched it is never dry, engrossing you in the world, ideas, and actions of this amazing and complex man.  Through his time as a lawyer, author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia, minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President Jefferson understood the delicate balance between philosophy and politics, that big dreams do not become reality on their own.  He knew how to work “the system” to achieve his desired ends, working through both his friends and enemies to achieve his vision for the country.

 “He dreamed big but understood that dreams become reality only when their champions are strong enough and wily enough to bend history to their purposes.” 

Meacham brings forth the complexity of the man, the conflict that sometimes existed between his actions and the beliefs he expounded.  In spite of these beliefs, Jefferson as a politician accepted and understood the realities of the offices he held, mastering the art of power to achieve the ends he desired.

“Our greatest leaders are neither dreamers nor dictators: They are, like Jefferson, those who articulate national aspirations yet master the mechanics of influence and know when to depart from dogma.” 

As a person, Jefferson was well-educated and well-read, interesting and interested in numerous subjects, congenial and kind, a lover of all things French, devoted to his family, friends, and country.  However, Jefferson is certainly not portrayed as flawless, his inability to manage his personal finances, the contradictions between his words and his actions, his hypocrisy on the issue of slavery, are all addressed and show the many sides of this complex and fascinating figure.  Regardless of his flaws, he ultimately worked tirelessly to leave the world better.  He is a man who I would’ve liked to meet, to share a glass of his French wine, to sit and discuss philosophy and art and science and politics, leaving more enlightened and inspired for my time with him.

Title: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Author: Jon Meacham
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 800
Publication: Random House, November 2012

Eleanor & Park

eleanor & parkEleanor & Park is set in Omaha in 1986 and is a quirky, heartwarming, tear-jerking story of two misfits who find each other, and find in each other someone who can love them and accept them as they are.  Eleanor starts her first day at a new school and her wild red hair and crazy clothing is doing nothing to help her fit in.  Park, part Korean and nothing like the rest of his perfect and athletic family, reluctantly lets her share his seat on the bus and the two sit in absolute silence for weeks until he notices that she’s reading his comic books over his shoulder.  Slowly he begins to share his comics and they come to realize that these stolen moments are the best of their days.  Their relationship evolves slowly and beautifully from there, although not easily – Eleanor comes from a difficult home situation with a violent stepfather and an unresponsive mother – Park’s family is unsure about this strange girl he is bringing home – but they have that feeling all of us can remember – that teenage love is pure and true and conquer anything…

“You don’t have to be the kind of beautiful that everyone can agree on. If the right person finds you beautiful, you win. You win forever.”

I loved this book, proving to me yet again that there are wonderful stories to be found in the young adult genre, and that they can be engrossing to those of us who are more adult than we are young!  😉  I have struggled with finding the words to describe what makes their relationship so enduring – it is quirky, funny, sweet, gritty, awkward, difficult, pure and honest – there are shared X-Men comics and mix tapes (remember mix tapes?!) that make me reminisce about my own teenage days – there is friendship and acceptance and hope, even when it seems there should be no hope left.

“The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.”

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publication: St. Martin’s Griffin, February 2013

Tuesday Top Ten


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to choose the books that you thought you wouldn’t like and did – or those that you that you would like and didn’t.  This was a tough list for me – I try to read without expectation – and often it’s not until after I finish a book that I realize it failed to meet/exceeded expectations I didn’t even know I had!

First, five books I didn’t like as much as I thought I would:

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I did like this book, just not as much as I thought I would given all of the hype surrounding it.  Sometimes I think the more a book gets talked up the more likely I am to be disappointed by it…
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Another book that received a lot of attention (thanks to Oprah) and build-up that I found disappointing.  I wanted to hear more about the actual trail, the things she saw and the people she met.  Instead it seemed like a frustrating story about a person destined to make poor choices and shift blame onto others.
  3. Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Award winners are dangerous – subconsciously the expectations are high which makes it easier to be disappointed.  While the language was beautiful I was disappointed by the story and the characters.
  4. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara – This showed up on my to-read list after reading The End of Your Life Book Club and since it was number 22 of the best English language novels written in the 20th century I thought I couldn’t go wrong.  It wasn’t awful, I just didn’t understand it being in the top 100.
  5. 1776 by David McCullough – This is a wonderful book about the first year of the American Revolution, well researched and showing a seemingly unbiased account of events.  Unfortunately, I am a lover of stories and I wanted this book to tell me a story – it often felt too much like a textbook to me (although a very well researched and well written one) and I’m not a fan of most textbooks.

Now onto five books that I liked much more than I anticipated:

  1. Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I wouldn’t want to have a top ten list without this book in it somewhere!  Truthfully, I picked up this book at the bookstore and looked it over a number of times before I actually bought it.  Another holocaust book?  Nah – not today…  I never imagined the heartbreaking beauty that would be captured in those pages.
  2. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – I went through a period during my teenage years where I read a lot of Stephen King and a lot of Dean Koontz until I was honestly bored by them.  When my husband picked this one up and encouraged me to read it I was doubtful, but I love Odd and have become a true fan of this series.
  3. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – I expected to like this book, it’s about a bookstore after all!  I didn’t expect to love it, to love the melding of technology and antiquity, to become so engaged with the quirky set of characters and their quest.
  4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I heard a lot of wonderful things about this book which made me a bit wary.  I wonder if buzz about a book will actually start to lower my expectations??  But the buzz around this story was well deserved and as Eleanor & Park fell in love I fell in love with them.   My review is coming soon!
  5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I was a fan of the author’s first book, Between Shades of Gray, but admittedly was concerned about her ability to write again so masterfully about a different time and place.  If anything, I ended up being a bigger fan of Out of the Easy, and was completely engrossed by both the setting and the characters.

Jack Reacher

one shotOne Shot is the ninth book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and was recently made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.  In the books Reacher is 6’5”, 250 lbs, with a 50” chest, blond hair and blue eyes – Tom Cruise?  Not seeing it, but since I haven’t seen the movie I can’t complain too loudly – I’ve heard that it actually works…  I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve actually seen the movie!

Anyway…  Reacher is a former military policeman who now wanders the country freely – no vehicle, no luggage, no home, no credit cards – and manages to get entrenched in one disastrous situation after another.  Not only is he a really large and well-built and apparently good-looking guy, he is smart, resourceful, and does not hesitate when doling out justice according to his own moral code.  Much of his world is black and white with very little room for gray, he always sticks up for the innocent and the downtrodden, he always gets his guy (often brutally) and he always saves the day before he moves on and leaves another love-struck woman behind him.  While the books are mysteries, they are heavy on the action and the suspense, not simple whodunits.  The stories in the series are smart, suspenseful and fast-paced with just enough humor and romance thrown in to keep all that action from getting boring.

In One Shot six shots are fired from a parking garage into a crowded street leaving five people dead.  The police quickly gather a watertight case against James Barr, a former military sniper.  Barr denies his guilt and only asks for one thing – Jack Reacher.  Reacher is already on his way having seen the story on the news, but he and Barr have a history, and he is no friend of Barr’s.  When Barr is severely beaten while in prison, Reacher, Barr’s attorney, his sister, a reporter, and a private investigator will have to find out what actually happened and bring about Reacher’s own brand of justice.  Like all Reacher novels that I’ve read, this one keeps you guessing (who’s the traitor, what part did Barr play, why did any of this happen?) and in suspense until the very end (even though you know – logically – that Reacher isn’t going to die – there ARE more Reacher books!).

If you like action and suspense in your mysteries, this series is definitely worth checking out at your local library (and if you don’t like it they have an excellent return policy!).

Title: One Shot
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: Delacorte Press, June 2005