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, 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.

Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans (2014)

Continuing my streak of Christmas novels, this one intrigued me. A man walks up to a woman in a food court and asks if she could pretend to be his girlfriend for the couple of months before Christmas, so he would not have to attend holiday parties alone. She had seen him in the building, but had never talked to him, but she too is lonely and takes him up on it. The deal is he pays for meals, transportation and sends her a gift every weekday. She just has to be nice to him and maybe hold hands every once in a while in public to uphold the image. Of course they get to know each other, fall in love, etc., but quite a few other issues get resolved through the process. May be worth trying something else from this author.

Going Home by Nora Roberts (2005)

Not the best of Nora Roberts, but it has three short novels from the 80's and 90's. Read over a longer time, so don't remember details. But as I write these up, I realize all of them do tackle the mother (or father) - daughter relationship. Many of the other romances get written in a vacuum, where parents and even friends aren't part of the story, but in all three below, the relationship with the parent is important. The romantic relationships can't really happen until the parental one is resolved, as it has often left a lot or mistrust or other negative feelings.

Unfinished Business (1992)
This one was about Vanessa, a classical pianist, whose father dragged her around the world performing, away from her mother and any other life. After her father dies, she returns to her hometown, starts rebuilding her relationship to her mother and an old flame - Brady, now a local doctor.

Island of Flowers (1982)
Laine spends her last dollars to go to Hawaii to find her father, who left her and her mother when she was little. Now that her mother has died, she found an address and headed out. Turns out he is a wonderful man and has a good looking younger partner Dillon in running a small airport.

Mind Over Matter (1987)
This one was about David Brady, a documentary producer working on a program about paranormal occurances. He finds a special woman Clarissa that he wants to interview, but has to go through her agent A.J. Turns out Clarissa is A.J.'s mother, and though they love each other, A.J. doesn't want to accept that she may have some of the same powers as her mother.

Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (2014)

I really like Cormoron Strike and his secretary/helper Robin, so I thought I would try one more of these books and was not disappointed. The murder is utterly bizzare and gross - I could have used less details on that, but it fit into the strange character - a writer himself - that was murdered, and seemingly described his own death in his last manuscript. Strike systematically goes around meeting the people that were a part of the writer's life, and it seems that most of them would have some reason for offing him, as he was an unpleasant man. With the help of Robin, Strike again solves the case, but it is more than just a private investigator finding the real murderer. All the characters are richly drawn, including Strike himself - with his constantly sore leg stub, where he lost a leg in the Gulf War, and his gruff manner, which somehow still elicits loyalty from Robin, though she too is struggling with a fiance who does not understand her and her enjoyment of detective work. There are some misunderstandings between her and Strike too, and I keep hoping the two of them end up together, but we need that tension to keep going for a while, ala Castle and Beckett or Bones and Booth. Looking forward to the next one.

Important Contemporary Artists of Latvia by Mark Svede (2012)

My friend and art historian Mark sent me his latest work for Christmas. I don't know if I am allowed to call him the author, but all of the text except for the forward were written by him, so I will.  There are six pages of those responsible for the idea, the honorary committee, contributors, art selection committee, organizations that helped, and finally the 9 artists, and the normal attributions. The foreword by New York art critic Eleanor Heartney helps put Mark's essay in context of the never-ending cycle of death and resurrection of painting in the last 40 years in the art world. (Not sure why I didn't publish this months ago.)

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013)

This is an intense book telling many stories. I had not read anything about this book before I started, just chose it based on the fact that I like the author - Elizabeth Gilbert.

First of all, it is a history of the study of botany book. It starts with Kew gardens in England, reminding me of a Philippa Gregory's Earthly Joys. Henry Whittaker is the son of a gardner, who gets caught stealing rare plants and selling them to others, so instead of being hung, he gets sent around the world to collect specimens for Kew. He ends up starting his own business and settles in Philadelphia. He takes a Dutch wife and they have one daughter - Alma.

One more unfinished review. It is the books I really loved and wanted to do them justice that I sometimes don't get around to finishing. This was from early in the year, so I don't remember details, just that I learned a lot about how early botanists worked and the main character, I believe, was a woman botanist, though I could find no historical character that she was based on.