Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Tsunami Quilt by Anthony Fredericks (2007)

Subtitle: Grandfather's Story.

I love these real life stories for kids. I fantasized about writing my father's or mother's story in a kid book form for my child. But... 

In 1946 Hawaii was hit by a tsunami, and a whole school was wiped out on a peninsula. This boy's grandfather saved himself by climbing up high early, but lost a lot of his classmates. There now is a tsunami museum in Hawaii and a quilt for all those that were lost from this one area.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey & Mercedes Lackey (1992)

This was one of the books I found from my science fiction reading days and I

thought I would try rereading it. At some point I remembered what the final outcome was going to be, but it was still fun to get to that point. I ready quite a bit by McCaffrey and Lackey in my day, and I like these combined authorship books.

Seven-year old Tia lives with her archaeologist parents on a world that they are digging, when she feels ill with some virus that even the advanced medicine of the day cannot cure and leaves her paralyzed. She is considered too old to be transferred into a brainship to be its brain, but she is such a bright, flexible, adaptive child, that they do build her into a ship, and she becomes a brilliant, intuitive ship. She does need a human partner or brawn, and she finds a compatible partner in Alex. They supply archaeological digs and are especially adept at dealing with plague situations. A really intriguing and touching book. Remember liking it back when it came out and liked it again.

Christmas Train by David Baldacci (2001)

This was an intentional reread. I think it was the first Baldacci book I ever read/listened to, and it must have been before 2005, as it isn't even in this blog. I remember it being mellower than his thrillers, but still interesting, as an assortment of people with various issues gather together for an across the country trip on a train at Christmas time.

Tom Langdon is a journalist, who has retired from covering wars and other volatile situations around the world. He is taking the train to see his girlfriend in LA, because he has been banned from flying for losing it during a security check. He decides he will write about the train ride, as Mark Twain once planned to do. (I liked the Mark Twain references.) He runs into his old love Eleanor, so then I remembered the basic ending, but was still surprised at the turn of events. Baldacci writes a good story.

Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (2011)

Not that I really needed another cloak and dagger book, but the most recent one of Gideon Crew books caught my eye and I though it best to start with the first one. It really helps to know how the characters end up doing these crazy things. Gideon's story is that he saw his father gunned down after he surrendered. He was falsely accused of being responsible for the loss of CIA operatives, though he was the one that warned of flaws in a new code. On her deathbed, Gideon's mother tasks him to seek revenge, so the first part of the book is about this revenge and we get to see the skill set he has. He is smart - works in Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He has acting skills - he plays numerous characters to get information and access he wants. He has learned magic, so he is good at diverting attention and slight of hand. In the beginning it wasn't spelled out, but later we find out he is an accomplished art thief, can do more with computers than most, but need help on really geeky stuff, and can fight and use weapons. He has been so focused on his goal of revenge, that he has left out the people part, so has no real friends. So we have the lone wolf again.

The second half of the book has Gideon hired by an ultra-secret divison of the government to discover what a man from China is bringing into the country. Looking at some of the reviews in Amazon, most complained about too many unbelievable plot twists. It was a bit too much, but I understand that their other books are better, so I may try more.

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy (2010)

I remember Maeve Binchy being a feel good author from Ireland, and in this book she again brings together a group of people with unhappy lives of various sorts and weaves them together into a caring community. The main lost soul is Noel, who doesn't finish school, is in a boring, dead end job, has become an alcoholic, lives with his parents, and sees no purpose in life. His life is changed by two people. Emily, a middle aged cousin who appears on his doorstep from America and seems to take over the reorganizing of the whole family and neighborhood, but who has disappointments of her own. And Frankie - a baby born to a dying former hook-up of his. Emily helps involve a whole community in caring for Frankie and helping Noel get back on his feet. The only one that doesn't really resolve her issues, but gets a bit mellower by the end of the book is Moira, the overly strict social worker, who is just waiting for Noel to fail.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside (2007)

Wonderful, down to earth book about turning 60 - in my generation that led a pretty wild life in the 1960's & 70's. Of course everyone is different and I don't always feel like the character Marie (kept being pronounced as "marry") Sharp, who lives in Britain, retired art teacher, divorced a long time ago, one grown son. But she reflects accurately so many of my feelings about getting old. I want to actually buy this book and underline certain passages. HOpefully I can add to this reflection, as the book deserves it, but too many books haven't even made it into my blog, so I will stop here.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

What a delight! This was such a fun book, narrated by Don, a brilliant geneticist living in Australia, who is wired differently. He does not know how to act appropriately in social situations, needs to schedule everything to the minute, says what his mind perceives as scientifically correct, doesn't care how he dresses, does not feel emotions, and so forth. As he tells the story, he explains how he sees it and then what his thought process is to come up with what he actually says - often wildly inappropriate, but funny. I never felt I was laughing at him, but with him.  Though a friend asks Don to lecture on Asperger's, it seems he doesn't tie in the symptoms to himself, and I don't dare diagnose, but... 

Don decides he does want a partner in life, so for his Wife Project he writes up a questionnaire that would get at the traits he wants - no smoking or drinking (though he drinks himself), highly educated, understands numbers, organized, will eat strange things, etc. Of course very few women fit, and when one does, but is a advanced ballroom dancer, he teaches himself to dance all the ballroom dances - just without a live partner or music - you can see that just leads to a hilarious situation. He is used to being laughed at, as it has been going on all his life, so he seems not to mind, but is rescued by Rosie, a bar maid that has come to him wanting to find out who her real father is. It is someone her mother slept with at her graduation party, so the two of them create the Father Project and go off to gather DNA samples from dozens of men.

Heartwarming, as Don learns social skills - by applying his amazing brain to the task and make many people's lives better. Will read the sequel soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Zero Day by David Baldacci (2011)

I like Baldacci, so I thought I would try this series with John Puller. He is a bit younger than Will Robie and Oliver Stone and some of the other main characters I have liked, still coming out of a military background, a former combat vet, now a military investigator. He gets sent to rural WV to investigate a murder of a military man and his family. The book felt too military with focus on types of weapons, etc., but somehow Baldacci gets me to care for these hard core guys. Puller works with the local police chief Sam(antha) Cole, who never expected having to deal with multiple murders in her territory, but keeps up with Puller and backs him up on his complex investigation. There are all these characters in WV, that remind me of my days in southeastern Ohio. Puller helps out the old lady that owns the run down motel he is staying at, which felt a little too sweet, but then I liked him being straight forward with the nasty rich coal mine owner. Anyway, it looks like I will never catch up with all the books Baldacci has written.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 in Review

I take pleasure in looking over what I have read at the end of the year and seeing what kind of reading year it has been. I have to say it has been a good one, once again. I continued to read mostly historical fiction, thrillers/mysteries, contemporary fiction, some young adult, some non-fiction, and much to my own chagrin, Nora Roberts.

Some of the best books of the year have been from favorite authors - Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings about the first women abolitionists, Susan Vreeland's Luncheon of the Boating Party about Renoir's painting, which I got to see weeks after finishing the book, and Elizabeth Gilbert's Signature of all Things about early botanists, especially a woman botonist. Jim Fergus had a great book about white women sent off to marry Cherokee men in One Thousand White Women. The funniest book I read was The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Diappeared by Swede Jonas Jonasson. I started handing that book out as soon as I had finished it. I also really liked autobiographical American Gypsy by Oksana Marafioti, a gypsy born in Latvia that I met at a conference.

I found a new author and series to like - Robert Galbraith's Cormarant Strike books Cuckoo's Calling and Silkworm. I read one more book from Baldacci, Flynn and Silva. I also finished off Deborah Harkness' trilogy with Book of Life, and though I don't usually like vampire stories, this one in combination with a smart witch who uses libraries a lot, had me hooked. I read all of the Inn Boonesboro trilogy from Nora Roberts, as well as some of her old stuff.

I seemed to go retro this year - partially because as I clean out parts of my house I am finding old books I liked, partially going back to reread books or picking up ones I meant to read. This ranged from erotica from Anias Nin and D.H. Lawrence (very mild) to various science fiction, especially enjoying Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land over a long drive to Texas.

I read some powerful non-fiction too, such as On Killing by Dave Grossman and Grace and Grit by Lilly Ledbetter, who's fight for equal pay resulted in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

I am surrounded by books I "should read," but there is only so much time, and I feel I actually get through quite a bit with the help of audio books. I read and listen to books for my pleasure, and to learn about some part of the world, some historical period, some group of people, or even just to think about alternative possibilities in a good story. Thank you dear writers for teaching and entertaining me.

Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013)

Don't believe I didn't write this one up. This is the first Cormorant Strike mystery. He has recently broken up with his gorgeous girlfriend and his private investigator's business isn't doing very well. A temp agency sends him Robin to help out in the office. She has always dreamed of being an investigator herself, and for some reason she gets along with gruff, straight shooting, one-legged war hero Strike. A friend from childhood asks him to investigate his sister's death. Lula Landry is a well known supermodel and hear death has been ruled a suicide, but the brother doesn't believe it, as she had a lot to live for. Strike goes about investigating with intelligence and intuition, fighting his own demons in the process - and ending up leaning on Robin for help. Thoroughly enjoyable read.